What makes clams happy?

Granted this is a fairly trivial topic, but ask an anxious writer how many ways there are to lose time while fretting over a passage and you’ll get a lot of interesting answers. So I was walking Jesse the dog on a bright fall morning, thinking about my chapter one. He was scampering about in the leaves, happy as a clam, I thought idly. Then: wait a minute. What makes clams happy? How would one know a happy clam from a sad/bored/angst-ridden/or merely contented clam? The phrase doesn’t even have the alliterative value of “healthy as a horse.” What do clams even have to be happy about?

So of course I looked up this pressing question. First off, an open clam, to a vivid imagination, might seem to be smiling, goes one theory. Well I guess so, although certain wood fungi could sort of look like smiles and nobody says “happy as a wood fungus.” Second, the full original phrase, early 1800’s referred to clams at high tide, when they were free to do whatever they do without fear of predators — carefree, glory hours of clams. See, The Adams Sentinel (of Pennsylvania), August 1844: “Crispin was soon hammering and whistling away as happy as a clam at high water.”

So now I know. And now I can start my revision of the first chapters, happy that they are improvements, trying not to be low-tide anxious about what cascading changes these changes will make in successive chapters.

 

 

 

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Workshop on Point of View for the Knoxville Writers Guild, Sat. Feb. 18, 2017, 10am to noon

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Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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