Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fiction Harvests, Past and Present

Today I have my fiction lunch with my friend who writes all sorts of things.  I've probably referred to her as my poet friend, my Hindu friend, a fellow drama geek.  She is all these things and more.

I know for sure that I wouldn't have written any of the short stories that I've written in the past year if we hadn't scheduled deadlines and pushed to meet them.  I think I'm about to realize that I have enough stories for my linked collection.  In fact, I think I'll realize that I have more than I need. 

What a luxury!  I can discard some of them.

What agony!  Which ones aren't necessary?

Well, the short story that I wrote for last time's fiction lunch.  I tried alternate narrators, first person, two parents.  I suspect that their voices sound exactly alike.

In fact, my worry is that all my first person voices sound exactly alike--like me.  Will it matter?  Most of the characters who narrate my stories are, in fact, very similar to me:  female, middle class, U.S. citizen, coming of age in the last quarter of the 20th century.

I was working on my story and trying to remember last names that are typical of South Carolinians.  I was drawing a blank on information that I once would have sworn I'd never forget.

I remembered a novel that I was writing in 1999, when we first moved here, and I was both thrilled to be living here and terribly homesick for familiar, Southern landscapes.  I filled that manuscript with familiar names and places and stories that I once would have sworn I'd never forget.

I read through 30 pages or so, even though I quickly found some last names to use in my current short story.  I was charmed by the novel, even though the agents and publishers where I sent it when it was finished were not as charmed (although they offered encouragement).

I recognized similar themes that I continue to work today:  how do we live our best lives as artists?  How does place and family affect us?

In my current short story writing for the linked collection, I'm always intrigued by how my stories weave/wobble back to certain themes and imagery.  There's lots of creativity going on.  Quilts make appearances--do they always mean the same thing?  We can never escape family issues.  There's a theological stream that sometimes lies deep and sometimes bubbles to the surface.

Some of you might be saying, "Hey, I recognize those themes and images from your poetry!"  Yes, indeed.  I've got my little plot of land that I continue to farm.  Hopefully the harvest will be abundant.

And in the meantime, it delights me:  the writing, the discoveries that I make as writing, the past manuscripts, my hope for the future.

And more:  it sustains me.  I feel lucky to have this rich earth (both literal and metaphorical) to call my own.

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