The following is an excerpt from The Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook. By Sally Martin I have a confession to make. I live in South Euclid and think it’s pretty freaking awesome. This The post When Your Neighborhood Just Can’t Get No Respect appeared first on Belt Magazine | Dispatches From The Rust Belt.
I like some writerly distance. Well, more than some.
For me, in order to write fiction, it has to feel like science fiction—building a world from thin air, not memory. Recalling real places stops my flow. Of course, memory is at work all the time, but not in a conscious what kind of trees were those? how long was that dock? kind of way.
How does memory work for you? In your reading, your writing?
All that is to say that I’ve never been in an Eagles club (The Fraternal Order of Eagles), though every Rust Belt town has one. Yet, I chose such a club as the setting for a flash fiction piece I wrote, called “Six Places I Have Slept,” published in the spring 2017 issue of DASH Literary Journal.
Also, I’ve never been a man. Yet, I find it freeing to write from the perspective of one—a struggling one, who in later stories, turns rather mean. How to know this character better, I wondered?
How do you get inside the head of a character who is unlike you?
I’d jot one quick list, I told myself, to “get” this man. The result (after much revision):
“Six Places I Have Slept” (an excerpt)
1. A single cot in a storage closet with a bucket and mop. Cut into the foam mattress, shoved six inches deep, is my Army-issue retractable pocket knife, because here is the Eagles club with buddies, not friends. Drink lets us wear the masks of friends for a night. Like paper mache, those masks, fragile. How easily the war stories, jokes, and slaps on the back—the endurance breaks under the weight of memory and shame. Retractable legs make the cot go flat. Prop it against the wall, open the door, and I was never there. If memories were retractable. If shame could be folded away.
I am a long-winded writer (no surprise there), so I don’t write much flash fiction. Still, I liked “Six Places…” enough to send it out and endure the story-submission process. Surprise–major surprise–it got accepted!
4. The edge of my wife’s hospital bed after the birth of our son. A heatwave, no air, and, fully clothed, I clung to the edge. A blade of space separated me from her and him—ruddy and rooting at her breast like a thing. Not a boy yet, not a son, but a tiny vessel to be filled. I hung back. Like, you can’t stand too close to a painting or you see the making of it, the dots and strokes, and not the creation. Sometimes, I think I haven’t caught up yet with my little pack, joined the fold, formed a whole.
So, I was beginning to feel like I “got” this character, who’d helped me get a publication credit. And, I was beginning to feel like maybe I could write more flash.
What’s your favorite form? Long or short? The novel? Short story? Flash?
And then a funny thing happened: DASH editor Irena Praitis let me know that “Six Places I Have Slept” will be nominated for ThePushcart Prize this fall.
6. In my son’s crib, behind the slats like bars. We joked, Daddy in a cage. No joke when you got the croup and bleated like a sea monster, two years old. Cured you with steam from the shower, but you wouldn’t let me in. After, you were not tired, like the buzz of last call, giddy; you finally fell asleep on my chest. Me, curled in a crib, arms around you, listening to your summoned breath like pulling life from black water.
Visitors tour Carrie Furnace in Rankin, PA – an abandoned steel mill saved from destruction and designated a National Heritage site. It is now used for art space, music, festivals and tours.
Ryan Thompson blows glass art at the Glass Pavilion in Toledo, OH.
Allison Hurley and Dan Lake take a break for lunch on an overlook with a view of Cleveland’s innerbelt bridge being dismantled.
The great thing about blogging is the connections you make.
In a post a while back, I called for photos of the Rust Belt–and was subsequently linked to Howard Hsu, a photographer living in Seattle, who was kind enough to let me feature his work on my site. This post, and my previous post, feature photographs Howard took on his Rust Belt tour in 2014.
Been to any of these places? Were you as surprised as I was to learn that Toledo was once a major glass-making hub? Visited any of these spots since 2014? How have they changed.
Here’s what Howard Hsu, photographer, wrote about his Rust Belt visit:
Transition and reinvention in the U.S. rust belt in 2014–Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Toledo.
The former bastions of the 20th Century industrial machine–empires built on auto, steel, glass, rubber and large-scale manufacturing–that changed the modern world but now struggle to keep up.
From art to biomedical and robotics to urban farming and community programs, each city is searching for ways to transform its economy and perhaps identity.