What’s better than being both compelled to, and compliant in, sharing your work as a writer?
Thank you, Lizz Schumer, Goddard Alum, for tagging me, linking me to your visceral writing that awes me and scares me at the same time. I will tag two people to do this who are so alive with writing energy: Anne Panning, an award-winning writer of fiction, my writing mentor, and unofficial life-coach. And also Sarah Freligh, whose poetry rips me away from myself, and whose Poetry Bootcamp rocks my world.
I’m lucky to have them in my writing community.
Writing, for most of us, the sitting at a keyboard, pecking away at keys and at our brains, is solitary–and almost looked down on for being solitary. I love the solitary act of writing, but writing is not engaging unless the writer does some real work, investigates their presence in the world, becomes a private eye–not just to their own lives–but to the mysteries of the lives and places around us, what’s between the shingles and the dry wall. To use a bit of my father’s love of the insulation world, to jump into the fiberglass and the cellulose until you’re itching in your sleep and you wake up with bleeding nail scrapes and hard scabs for picking.
So here it is: a way to propose what we plan to offer, a way to support writers whose work we admire and whose process we are curious of.
What is the working title of your book?
My project is a collection of short fiction based on news articles unearthed from archives in Brockport, NY, so I have an inkling that the title will arise from one of the stories that I am in the process of writing. The title is important because it cannot alienate those who aren’t from Brockport. These are stories inspired by a history that all towns have lived through. It just so happens that I’m obsessed with examining Brockport as a way to explore the human condition, how a small-town university, a canal, a former center of industry, how all of these things unique to my own roots, creep into the world. That said, I’ve considered a couple–The Local Rag, From Where I am, but ehh, it probably won’t be either of these.
What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Wartime housewives, untethered college students, rogue pets, and barnstorming doctors wave up from the history of a town, each meeting, and often battling, life on their own terms–in grief, anger, tragedy, surprise and love.
How long did it take you to write?
It is still in the works, but as far as I’m concerned, this love of community and sense of place has been growing since I was child beneath the noontime siren of the village and the ding of the Skippy truck’s bell or the mesmerizing spill of the bubbled puddles that fell from rain outside of the Kleen Brite factory. I can’t honestly say that I can separate any part of me from this project. It is as much in my bones as marrow. I linger extra long in Java Junction’s restroom to read the newspaper ads from The Brockport Republic that plaster its walls. I nearly slept with a collection of local ghost stories called Valley of the Ghosts under my pillow when I was ten. I refuse to leave SUNY Brockport, the college I attended for six years because I love earth beneath it. I, admittedly, have spent hours researching the lives of strangers on Ancestry.com simply because they were “murdered” by a dog in Brockport’s Erie Canal in the 1930s. So I guess that is how this all started, as an obsession that I finally realized. These are the stories that inform my writing.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
But I have two little boys for whom I want to preserve every bit of their history–family, local, anything to do with where they come from–just for them. I want to be sure that writing, which keeps me away from them physically and mentally, comes back to them to show how the people we love are not as bound up in place and time as we might think.
Also, my husband, who is just completely supportive and way more generous with patience (and I am ashamed to say this) than I am.
My family is supportive of me writing a book, and the energy that I devote to it, even though I am sometimes skeptical of it myself–a recognized addition. Though my mother does wonder why I am consumed with people who are already dead. For me, there’s real guilt there.
What genre does your book fall under?
Realism. I struggle with labeling it as historical fiction because it spans from the 1920’s-1980’s, which feels almost too recent to consider history. But, I can’t deny the historical research I’ve had to do in order to write these stories, so yeah, of course, there’s history.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a move rendition?
Ha. My favorite character in any of the pieces I’ve written so far is, strangely enough, the college-aged version of Joel Rifkin before he “became” the serial killer. He attended SUNY Brockport for a bit in the late 70s, and stole bottle of soy sauce from the Convenient Mart next to the train tracks. That was the only thing on his record when he was arrested for murdering 17 women much later. I imagine his character to look like a cross between Wes Bentley from American Beauty and Michael Cera. Their impossible love-child.
What else about your book might pique readers’ interest?
These are the quirky anecdotes that have been lost in everyday life. These are the stories we wish our great grandparents told us. These are the parts of our world that we don’t know enough about, so we have no option to forget.