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 fiancé, 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.