Saturday, June 22, 2013


Portage is French for “You can’t get there from here”. At least it sure feels like that sometimes. That isn’t the technical definition, but that is exactly what it feels like when you’re on one. Never been on a portage? Bet you have.

Life is full of portage moments. For example when you’re trying to call customer service – I’m afraid you can’t get there from here. Or if you’d like the deliciousness of an iced decaf latte from your favorite indie coffee shop - at noon on a Tuesday – sorry, you can’t get there from here. Not in your fifteen minute break anyway. Or when you’re trying to understand why some two-year-olds are having a meltdown. Portage is the act you engage in while trying to reach your goal. There is a promise of success in the word. That hope is what keeps you driving up and down the aisles of the mall parking lot the busiest shopping day of the year. Likelihood and logic is always trumped by strong feathered hope. So no matter how futile you know your efforts are, you hope to reach your destination, and persevere. Good luck with that.

In order to reach the fishing camp we must portage in. It is on a rock island. Sounds glam? Keep in mind Alcatraz is a rock island, okay? Though that trip only required one boat, and a felony I suppose. I’ve never been to Alcatraz, even though it is now a tourist spot and I’ve often set out to go there. The sea lions at the pier always grab my attention, and I just never get to the boat. So you see, it once again proves my point that portage means you can’t get there from here.

Writing to the end of a novel often feels like a portage. I know what is going to happen, but the characters are exactly like the above mentioned two-year-olds. They’re doing their own thing, for reasons I cannot seem to fathom. I keep my hands on the keyboard and hope that this world I’m bringing to life will eventually make sense. It works like that. You just have to wait for it. Persevere. In the case of preschoolers you might need to wait until they’re out of college. Some things cannot be rushed. Novels are like that too. They grow organically like a child, and if you’re very fortunate and patient, you get to see what happens.

My first real novel is coming out later this summer. 8-15-2013. Getting it to you feels like a portage at the moment. The edits alone felt like a piece of forever. The manuscript is currently with the publisher, but I’m still peeking at it and moving commas a bit. I suspect my editor would like to get me a shock collar when it comes to commas anyway. She is supremely patient though. All the marketing that goes with a book seems like a portage to this writer. It wasn’t that long ago that I was writing the book and wondering if I’d ever get to the end. One of the scenes in particular sticks out in my mind. I’d like to share it with you. This is an excerpt from Warrior of the Ages by S. R. Karfelt (moi). All rights reserved. 

Easily darting past the man, the Police Chief expertly moved Beth along in front of him, one hand firmly on the small of her back. He didn’t reply. Sherman Kelts raced behind him fussing until the cop opened the back door of his patrol car and put a giant hand on the top of her head, shoving her just slightly less politely into the back seat. He tucked himself into the front and shut his door firmly right in Sherman’s pink face.
Beth piped up from the back of the squad car.
“That was rude. Did you know he’s a lawyer?”
The Chief’s good-looking partner caught Beth’s attention. His dark eyebrows shot up in mock surprise and he commented with a friendly grin, “Uh, oh.” The man swiveled completely in his seat and gave her such a welcoming smile that for a moment Beth forgot she was being arrested and felt like they were old friends. That would be if she had any old friends. Smiling blue eyes glanced towards her arms, which were uncomfortably wedged between her and the seat.
 The cop apologized. “I’m really sorry about the handcuffs. Twist around and I’ll take them off. Are you Clan Huron?”
Before Beth could even open her mouth the dark haired cop spun around, facing forward, looking straight out the window. The Chief glared in his direction. Something about his expression suggested a shouted reprimand though not a word had come out of his mouth. Beth could see from the side view mirror that all traces of the nice cop’s smile had vanished. Odder still, the cop then immediately slumped against his seat and closed his eyes. It was the worst acting she had ever seen, like a kid trying to get out of school and pretending to be sick. What the heck was that about?
The Chief was watching her in the rearview mirror and he offered up his first words since he’d slapped the handcuffs on her.
“He has a problem with his blood sugar.”
Beth snorted, for pity’s sake what was wrong with this guy and why on earth did they let this nut be the Chief of Police, for that matter what was up with his pathetic little sidekick?

That scene in the book, like all scenes in books and movies, are a portage, designed to get you someplace.
In the end all those little portages in Warrior of the Ages worked just the way I’d hoped. Not that I always ended up where I thought I would. Just like the trips to Alcatraz, sometimes I realize that my destination is the sea lions and not the rock.

I've unfairly dropped you into the middle of a scene in the middle of a book. But I wanted to share a scene with you. That's a portage I've been busy with, and why I haven't been tossing handfuls of glitter around the globe as often as usual.

Do you ever get caught up in a portage? A ‘you can’t get there from here’ journey? Tell me about it, I’d love to know where you ended up.

1 comment:

  1. That is the definition of a military move. Which is why I'm sitting on the living room floor and sleeping on an air mattress over a month after officially moving in. I miss chairs...