About Me

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Writing Inventory

A generous friend helped me with a reading, and some feedback on my short play. He talked about the play reflecting a region in folkways and mores. At first, I wasn’t certain what he meant, but my mind took over, as I was dreaming, and I woke up realizing I am influenced by my surroundings, the era I grew up in, and where I live now in the suburbs of a sprawling urban area. I’m also influenced by the impact of my childhood, both joys and trauma, everything I’ve ever done and known, and my current experiences as the mother of a teenage boy, and as a librarian.

I’ve written two short stories involving homeless men, one of them a newspaper vendor running away from his life as a journalist after the unexpected death of his fiancĂ©, and one of them an alcoholic artist who hangs out at a train station, separated from his wife and children, and longing for redemption. I knew I was directly influenced by seeing such men standing on street corners, or hanging out at the library where I work, and the downtown library where I used to work. We often dismiss such men as invaluable members of society, but what do we know about their backgrounds, and who they are?

My first short story, after ten plus years of writing novel length fiction (story starts, novels-in-progress), poured out of me, after a first line, surprising me completely, because I didn’t know I was going to write about teens working at the mall and Hot Topic, a teen/young adult clothing store, frequented by young punks and goths, and aging tattooed store clerks with red hair and face piercings. A teenage girl escapes assault, when a teen working as a custodian rescues her from a group of boys. A few days later she goes back to the mall to find him, recognizing her restless attraction.

My realistic short play, one story novella, and one novel-in-progress, all involve alternative rock musicians and the women they meet and turn to in a time of crisis. They are not the same characters, in the play, the story, or the novel, but, as I have admitted before, the male characters, who are not Billie Joe, were inspired by Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day.

It’s not so much that my son led me to Green Day’s music; it’s my husband and I who were led to Armstrong, first through the song and the album, American Idiot. We saw him perform live in 2005, and the attraction began, but it is Armstrong’s photograph on a Rolling Stone cover that made all the feelings coalesce, and I began to write the stories.

The novel began before the play. Part of the attraction in writing about the “Billie Joe” characters, is the exploration of the difference between the public and private persona. Who are these people we admire? Why do we demand so much of them? Do they realize how much they have helped us? Will they accept help from a stranger, when we know so much about them, at least what is printed in books and magazine articles, and from their music?

Another one of my stories involves a children’s librarian who is not me or any one person that I know. She is dying, with some hope of recovery, from cancer. She becomes mesmerized by a story time dad, because she is so lonely, and grieves for the loss of the children she may never bear. It’s a very short story, and I have some hope of its publication. It was rejected with a very kind note from Susan at Glimmer Train. I haven’t submitted it anywhere else recently, but I believe I’m working up the gumption to start submitting my work again.

The fantasy novels come from another place. I may enjoy writing them the most. I have come to believe the fact that well written fantasies embrace universal truths. It is in fantasy, that my deepest feelings can be expressed. It is all there, fears and attractions, independence, courage, sensuality, tragedy, and transcendence. It is the most difficult and complex fiction to write. There are no dragons in these stories, no elves. There are newly created magics, and intertwining relationships. And there is hope in the face of the impossible. I complicate the requirements with multiple points of view.

My substantially written novels-in-progress include two realistic, two historical, and two fantasy fictions. I have three more novels substantially started. All require completion and revision. I have numerous story or novel starts. Sporadically, I write poems. The demands of work, marriage and motherhood make it difficult for me to stay focused. I write in spurts, and by the time I write again, it’s often on a new project. The act of writing is cathartic, but I want my efforts to mean something, and be read. I’m not sure how to accomplish this. And I thank my friend for helping me.


  1. It's wonderful you have someone you trust with your writing. I show my novel only to my husband, that's it.
    I might put pieces up on my blog at some point.

  2. Hi Maggie,
    For the longest time I was hesitant. When I took my writing classes I had no choice, and I learned to value feedback, even when it stung, because it was balanced with encouragement and validation. I was lucky to have a few classmates willing to keep returning the favor for a time, and now I have several people I can call upon, now and then; and I reciprocate with feedback. This particular friend is not used to doing this, but I value his opinion, so I appreciate his input all the more.

  3. You had me at Hot Topic.

    Seriously, I would definitely read that in a heartbeat! Such a worthy subject!

    Thanks for these thoughts on your sources of inspiration.

  4. Hi Storialist,

    Thank you for your comment. I'm adding your poetry blog to my poetry blog listings! ~ Annie

  5. Annie, you are amazing. It's all I can do to work on poems and stories. But you have many things in progress that sound wonderful.

    I especially love the idea of the sick librarian falling in love with the story time dad. I mean, that is good. I love it, even without reading it (the idea). I also love Hot Topic as a setting. My daughter tells her friends that she can't keep her mother and grandmother out of that store. My mom and I like the snarky t-shirts. Ha!

    You're right about the influences. We are so shaped by it all. I'm glad you have feedback for your work. That's such a good thing. It gets lonely sometimes (and also hard to see our own mistakes). Best wishes for continued success.

  6. Hi Julie,

    A few years ago, when my son starting asking to go into Hot Topic, my husband and I had to get used to the "sights and sounds." Then, he couldn't keep us out of there. We always wanted to go, too, and I have several Invader Zim Gir shirts and band T-shirts to prove it!

    I "crave" feedback, because it gives me some idea if I'm on track with a story or poem, if it's conveying what I think I'm conveying, and if there's a better way to say it. If you ever think you have some free time to help with a few things, I'd love to hear from you. I've appreciated your help and encouragement when I began to post a few poems.

    I'm happy about your chapbook coming out, and your new poems being published! I always look forward to reading your poems and stories. I read them and I learn something new about a character, and about myself.

  7. Wow, you have been working so much. I am in admiration. You are so hard-working and inspiring, Annie.

  8. Hi Lori,
    Thank you. I'm always happy when you come to visit me. Now, if I'd just get back to working on some of them, I'd be even happier!

  9. Hi, Annie. I'd love to give you feedback. I meant to tell you a long time ago that you're welcome to e-mail me. I'm a little slow if I'm not home (a week or so may pass), but I always answer.

    I don't know if my feedback's any good, but it's sincere. I tend to look at the strengths and focus on those. I guess that's a leftover from the old teaching days. Some people like critical or tough feedback, and that's hard for me to do. But do feel free to pop in anytime. Or let me know if you want me to e-mail you. Have a good one!

  10. Hi Julie,

    Thank you for offering. I've looked for an e-mail link on your web site, and I've never found one. If there is one, please tell me where, or you can use the e-mail address on my profile, so we can establish a link.