Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Stories that Link Us

Yesterday was one of those strange days, when I looked at my watch in the evening and thought, how did it get to be so late in the day?

Perhaps it was in the way that it started.  I got to my office to find the door wide open, the chairs blocking my entry.  I peeked around the corner to see a man on a ladder with his head up in the ceiling.  Yes, an ongoing attempt to fix the air conditioner--I ducked back out and completed a few on-campus errands.

During the day, I attended a training session for one of our new programs, had a donut festival for a colleague whose last day will be next week, went out to lunch, answered some student questions, continued to try to hire faculty for our summer quarter, attended to paperwork, and had a soothing tea time.

I got home and decided to sink into a book, which my friend had loaned me once she and her mom had read it:  Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Before We Visit the Goddess.  What a treat of a book!  I read a little over half of it before my spouse returned from choir practice, and I was tempted to stay up late to read it.  Instead, I finished it when I woke up this morning.

It's a book of linked short stories that covers three generations of women.  The grandmother never leaves India, while her daughter elopes with illegal paperwork to America.  The third generation daughter, born in the U.S., has a different set of challenges.  It's a book that links the stories in interesting ways, with a variety of characters coming to the forefront--now that I have the plot, I'd love to read it again, because it's an amazing work of art, along with a good story.

I am working on my own collection of linked stories, in addition to the older collection that may be mostly finished, at least until a character pokes me and says, "Tell this story."  My new collection looks at a group of former college activists as they turn 50.  I thought about having them know each other in college, even being on trial for their actions, but it's not evolving that way.  I'll keep writing the stories--maybe later I'll understand how to link them more closely.  Or maybe I'll decide to keep the link loose, with the only similarity being that each character a former college activist who has aged into midlife.

I like that Divakaruni's stories, taken together, work as a singular narrative of a family, a plot with rising action, a climax, and falling action. But it's good to remember that collections of linked stories can be different.

This morning, I returned to one of those stories, the one that I wrote that incorporates the real life incidents of the death of Prince and a kiss at a bus station.  I'm to the stage of revision where I'm simply tinkering with words--I'm calling it done now. 

I am so happy with this story, although if a different ending presented itself, I'd try it out.  It's interesting to think that it's a story I never would have developed, had Prince lived to old age.  Or maybe it would have come in a different way.

I am interested in the ways that all these stories connect us, all the ways that I can connect them as an artist.  I'm interested to see where this collection takes me.  And at some point, I should return to the previous collection to start making some decisions about which stories to include, and which to save for some later point or to just submit on their own.

It's also time to start submitting them.  I need to be more intentional about that in the coming year.

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