Monday, August 4, 2014

From mule to clog by Ciara Gold

This is a revamped post from my blog that was posted a year ago but I thought it was fun so thought I'd resurrect it.

18th century mules
At the time I'd just joined a critique group that is no longer active. I miss the comaraderie shared by those with a common love of writing. Needless to say, at the time, they were very helpful. As we were all established authors, this group wasn't as chatty as I'm used to, but that's fine. What they were was very talented. Sure, I can probably get by without critiques but my writing won't be quite as sound. Let's face it, once you've committed the thought to paper, it's hard for the author to see the small problems that the reader might encounter. Your work always needs fresh eyes.

That said, one of my new critique partners read through a first chapter I'd written and commented on my use of the term clog. To be quite honest, I'd found a reference to some 1870 style shoes in which it was common for women to wear "mules". I also found a reference to clogs. The mules look like bulky slippers and can be rather elaborate. In some areas, mules were associated with prostitutes. The clogs are less frivolous and more serviceable. Mules typically didn't have a back at the heel whereas the images I found of clogs could have a back or not. A clog is a shoe with a wooden sole. Most think of clogs as being all wooden but this isn't necessarily the case. Clogs were often associated with the poor working class. When someone calls them slippers a more dainty image pops in mind. I'd used the term clog and slipper interchangeably and I could see her confusion.

Quite frankly, part of the confusion was mine. I hadn't yet cemented in my own mind what that shoe might look like so I began some more research. What I discovered were the full wooden clogs. Now why would that work in my western story? Wooden clogs are typically Dutch or German, after all.

There was a brewery in Odgen, Kansas that was run by a German imigrant. His workers wore wooden clogs while working in the brewery. They did so to keep the floor clean and the shoes themselves were cleaned daily. My story begins in Dodge City, Kansas and so I think it quite feasible for one pair of wooden clogs to journey from Ogden to Dodge. Too fun.

Finding this jewel of information led me to an idea for my story, one that I hope will enhance the imagery I'm trying to create. Things like this are a writer's spice.

A huge thank you to those wonderful critique partners for setting me on this course of investigation. Well, heck, a huge thank you to all critique partners in general.


Caroline Clemmons said...

I love that post, Ciara. I had no idea a show with wooden soles was worn in the US at that time. Cool research. Everything sparks an idea, doesn't it? And I agree that critique partners are a must. I would hate to be without mine to keep me grounded.

Ciara Gold said...

Weird. I responded yesterday and evidently it didn't take. Grr on blogger. Anyway - thanks bunches Caroline.