Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mathematical writer?: Guest blog post by Sheila Deeth

I’m a mathematician and a writer.

I used to think the best thing about math was that answers were always right or wrong—no in-betweens, no opinions, no debatables. But I learned better. The best thing about math has nothing to do with answers. It’s the point where you’re trying to imagine how something might work. Could it be this? If I tweak it like that? Can I build a counter-example? A whole wide world of what-ifs. Studying math in college expanded far more than my numerical horizons.

I thought a math degree would be good training for a job (which it was, for a while), but in the end it’s just as good training for writing stories, as I’ve learned when trying to watch how my stories grow.

My latest book, Flower Child, was born when our local writers’ group challenged us to do something based on a song. The song I chose was John Denver’s Rhyme and Reason, and the line I took was “The children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers.” (You can see were the title came from now!) But the rest is what-ifs.

What if my childhood misconception of conception—that children grew from seeds in celestial fields with angels on guard—wasn’t so crazy after all? If I tweak it a bit, to deal with the case where the seed-child isn’t born… If I apply some boundaries perhaps—real children on one edge, angels on the other—and give my child an existence somewhere in between… If I let the child grow in the flow of words—like letting a program simulate the math, then reading off the results…?

It sounds kind of crazy I know, but I get the same satisfaction from seeing a story run its true course as I do from solving math problems. There’s something beautiful about the way math settles down into patterns of curves and lines; you look at an equation, letters simplified to make a sensible form, and you know it’s right—it’s just the way it has to be. Variables slip and slide in just the right order, adding, subtracting from the flow…

I hope you might think there’s something beautiful about my stories too. With luck, my imaginary characters will become as real to you as they are to me—just like imaginary numbers, existing in a universe all their own which is still, somehow, inconceivably, totally inseparable from reality.

I’m a mathematician and a writer, and there’s really no contradiction after all.

About the author: Sheila Deeth grew up in the UK and has a Bachelors and Masters in mathematics from Cambridge University, England. Now living in the States with her husband and sons, she enjoys reading, writing, drawing, telling stories, running a local writers' group, and meeting her neighbors’ dogs on the green.

Sheila describes herself as a Mongrel Christian Mathematician. Her short stories, book reviews and articles can be found in VoiceCatcher 4, Murder on the Wind, Poetic Monthly, Nights and Weekends, the Shine Journal and Joyful Online. Besides her Gypsy Shadow ebooks, Sheila has several self-published works available from Amazon and Lulu, and a full-length novel under contract to come out next year.

Find her on her website: http://www.sheiladeeth.com
Or find her books at: http://sheiladeeth.weebly.com

About Flower Child: When Megan miscarries her first pregnancy it feels like the end of everything; instead it’s the start of a curious relationship between the grieving mother and an unborn child who hovers somewhere between ghost and angel. Angela, Megan’s “little angel,” has character and dreams all her own, friends who may or may not be real angels, and a little brother who brings hope to her mother’s world. But Angela’s dream-world has a secret and one day Angela might learn how to be real.

Where to find Flower Child:
On the publishers’ website:

On Amazon

On Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/91467

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  • At 9:05 AM , Blogger Aubrie said...

    I'm so bad at math....maybe I need to look at it a different way like you do.

    Great post!

  • At 9:27 AM , Blogger Catherine Cavendish said...

    Great interview and I loved 'Flower Child'.

  • At 10:37 AM , Blogger Gypsy Shadow Blog said...

    Wonderful imagery, well-written, Sheila. My math skills were mediocre at best when I was in school; it wasn't a subject I liked much, but suddenly as a young adult, I could see all the principles sort of click into place . . . like on a Rubik's cube, and I could watch (FINALLY) the everyday applications of math at work.

    Now I can actually see the mathematics behind art, design, graphics, music and writing as well. I love symmetry, and symmetry is much easier if you approach it from a mathematical standpoint.

  • At 1:26 PM , Blogger Sheila Deeth said...

    I wish we were better at teaching the beauty of math in school instead of just the mechanics. But I'm glad you discovered it Charlotte. That Rubik's cube makes a good example.

  • At 1:27 PM , Blogger Sheila Deeth said...

    Lots of my math friends were musicians too Aubrie. I remember one teaching us to appreciate the mathematical joys of Bach.

  • At 9:30 PM , Blogger Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

    Great analogy between math and writing, Sheila. I like to compare my genealogy research to my protagonist's insurance investigations.

    Dawn, I enjoyed reading several of the entries on your blog and I RSS'd so I'll be back!

  • At 6:01 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Sheila, thank you so much for stopping by here on your blog tour! Good luck with your book. :)

  • At 6:02 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Aubrie: I am bad at math, too. It has always been my worst subject. But I have found that writing about math has actually helped me to understand it better. :)

  • At 6:03 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Catherine, thank you for commenting. I am eager to read Flower Child. :)

  • At 6:04 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Charlotte, it's interesting you mention that. There was a program on TV not too long ago about how math is used in everyday designs and how mathematical principles are even applied in nature.

  • At 6:05 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Hi, Gail. Welcome to the blog. Thank you so much for visiting and deciding to follow the blog! I will be checking your blog out, as well.


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