You’re the tops! (A shameless Top 3)

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Who doesn’t love a “Top”  list?

Top 3. Top 10. Top 100. We attach ourselves to the superlative and feel tops–if only for a moment. And that almighty numeral: even an English major gets to feel like a statistician.

So, without further ado…

A Rust Belt Girl Top 3 (according to you)

with related recommended viewing for the new year:

Number 3: A blog is born, my first-ever post, covered my rationale for starting this blog. (Among my reasons: an online search for “female and Rust Belt” turned up rust-colored ladies’ belts for sale by JCPenny.) For those of you who made it to post two, thank you!

Number 2: Life in Lima and more–from Intensity Without Mastery’s Michelle Cole (along with the second installment) featured a collaboration with the photographer and blogger with an honest eye for life and art in the Rust Belt. (Bonus points for pronouncing “Lima” correctly!) Look for more collaborations in the blogosphere in 2018.

(And, drum roll, please…)

Number 1: The big kahuna, the winner of the most views goes to my Interview with award-winning Akron, Ohio, author and journalist David Giffels, who answered all of my pressing questions about his books–including Furnishing Eternity coming out January 2–along with his teaching, his hometown, and even Lebron. Be on the lookout for another conversation right here with David on his latest memoir early in the new year.

Until then, may your days be merry and bright and your New Year’s celebrations be tops…

Happy 2018!

~ Rebecca

 

 

 

 

 

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“A Partridge in a Blog Tree”: a 2017 sing-song wrap-up and 2018 tease

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Image courtesy https://blog.cheapism.com/where-to-see-new-years-eve-fireworks-15226/

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true self gave to me…one healthy kick in the pants.”

Is that right? Are we already on the fifth day? I’m still languishing in a sugar cookie stupor. Still digging out from leftover potatoes au gratin. Still trying to convince my family of the legitimacy of stale crackers and cheese rinds as a basic food group.

Sure, I will disconnect the sugar IV, menu plan, and get back to the proper care and feeding of my brood. I might even exercise. I will resolve! But it’ll probably be next month–which is next year.

In the meandering meantime, I will look back on the 2017 fun we’ve had here at Rust Belt Girl, you and me, thanks to inspiration from my native Rust Belt and its storytellers keeping it real.

Sing along to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” if you like.

In my first month of blogging, my Rust Belt gave to me

a blog borne from necessity (I didn’t say the cadence would be right)

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Blogger Recognition Award (woot woot!)

 

 

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I never win.

Raffles, bingo, coin flips–the universe generally tilts away from me.

So, I was surprised and honored to be nominated by Riya at High Noon Journal earlier this month for the Blogger Recognition Award!

Riya is a fairly new blogger charting the course of her life as a twenty-something. I admire her for detailing her journey as a young woman, currently living in China, far from her native India. Riya talks about her upbringing, what spirituality means to her, how to live a good life, and just what good luck is. With luck, we will be seeing much more from her in the coming year.

For my part, I feel lucky that Riya stumbled upon my blog. Thank you, Riya! Read more

ALL THE WAY HOME and the back- and heart-breaking art of the DIY

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I was sixteen before I knew a dad who didn’t drive a pickup truck.

Of course, this speaks as much to my limited teenage powers of observation as it does to my rural Ohio upbringing. Still…

My dad’s life was–and is–in his truck. A dad without a truck? How else would one: haul his 84 Lumber finds to turn the attic into proper living quarters;  bring home fresh-split logs–and the log-splitter–to stoke the wood stove in winter; tow a rotted shell of a boat to be restored from the ribs up–in the workshop designed and built yourself.

In my eyes, my dad was the original DIY-er, before that catchy name was put to skillful industriousness, craftsmanship, and thrift.

As such…reading award-winning Akron, Ohio, author David Giffels’ memoir All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House felt like going home. Cursory jacket copy summary:

With their infant son in tow, David Giffels and his wife comb the environs of Akron, Ohio, in search of just the right house for their burgeoning family…until they spot a beautiful, decaying Gilded Age mansion. A former rubber industry executive’s domain, the once grand residence lacks functional plumbing and electricity, leaks rain like a cartoon shack, and is infested with all manner of wildlife. But for a young man at a coming-of-age crossroads–“suspended between a perpetual youth and an inevitable adulthood”–the challenge is exactly the allure.

The tried-and-true tropes of female coming-of-age couldn’t be more different than those Giffels explores in this man vs. house tale. But in the reading of this heartfelt and oftentimes harrowing (as in Giffels hanging upside down out a second-story window to paint exterior trim) memoir, I completely understood his feeling compelled–even obsessed–to DIY.

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Throwback Thursday: Why half the world should read IN ZANESVILLE

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Even if you’ve never been there, you’ve heard enough to know the American Midwest isn’t sexy. I’m hardly the first Midwest native to admit to being from a Regular ‘Ol American Place.

The Midwest is “flyover country”–its detractors call it–between the glittering East Coast and shining West Coast. Yep, no matter how many Northeast Ohio boosters try, most of the U.S. will never be convinced of the beauty that is the “North Coast.” And that’s okay.

But…the insult that really stings: “Ohio is flat.”

It stings–not just because it’s a blanket generalization and untrue of my rolling Ohio hometown. (In fact, it stings more than memories of the same thing being said about my 6th grade chest–and that stung.)

It stings because flat is sameness. And don’t we (even States–if States had egos) want to feel special, unique, memorable: the opposite of same, boring, forgettable?

I am more than a home state booster; I’m a home state narcissist. You see, I picked up Jo Ann Beard’s novel, IN ZANESVILLE (pub. 2011), thinking it was set in Zanesville, Ohio.

It’s not. It’s set in Zanesville, Illinois, which, I sheepishly admit, is pretty much the same. In fact, it’s the sameness, the universality of the experiences of the novel’s fourteen-year-old narrator, that makes this novel so special–and yet relate-able to any reader who is or was ever a girl. And that’s about half the world. Read more

Re-post from Belt Magazine and musings from a would-be do-er.

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By Frank Bures Photo by Garrett MacLean When Richard Florida’s new book came out earlier this year, I saw some of the reviews and was intrigued. It was called The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class — and What We Can Do About It. I…

via Richard Florida Can’t Let Go Of His Creative Class Theory. His Reputation Depends On It. — Belt Magazine

Rust Belt Girl here with regret that I can’t devote more time to a proper post. However, this article from Belt Mag got me thinking…and regretting.

I regret that I’m not more of a real do-er, a maker of things–vital things. I’m the daughter of a (retired) draftsman, whose structural engineering projects studded (or, rather, supported) the built Cleveland landscape of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Buildings didn’t fall down around us like so many toppled snowmen–because of my dad. My brother is an accomplished marine engineer who designs hulking I-don’t-know-whats–ferries, yes, ferries, among other projects necessary for human progress. My (oh so young) sister works at the same engineering firm, and while she doesn’t design and build, herself, she knows the field, trods the landscape in steel-toed boots, and has mastered the language. That girl can talk “longshoreman” with the best of them.

I talk about…mostly…talk. I am a member of the Creative Class (or creative class).

I am a purveyor–sometimes even a perverter–of words. Marketing and communications work doesn’t feel so much like doing, perhaps because I enjoy it. But it’s also far removed from the making of things–like buildings or boats. I conduct a lot of interviews for my job; I learn about students inventing new kinds of batteries and solar cells–the technology of tomorrow–and I compile the ideas, synthesize, organize. And, yes, sometimes I create…a line or phrase or word that feels new.

But mostly, I work in an infrastructure of words that relies on a real infrastructure–of made things.

So, New Year’s resolution time: my work won’t change, and I don’t have engineering chops. But, I can do more than report. This year I do more do-ing–at least on my own time.

I start with my village, which sits on a river and creeks that are being choked by some invasive species I can’t name (because I haven’t conducted that interview yet). This spring, I will don boots and tromp in the muck. I will test the murky water. I will pick up trash.

Yes, creating is important. But, I think it’s clear the creative class can’t solve all our cities’ problems. I will still write, building worlds from my mind and the doings of others. But I will do, too.

How about you? (Dr. Seuss rhyming moment, sorry!) 

Have a resolution to share?

 

 

 

The Cost of Being a Regular Ol’ American Place

Rust Belt Girl here, reblogging this wonderful essay that tries to answer the question: What does it mean to be a Midwesterner? Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. ~ Rebecca

Longreads

Some places have easy-to-describe landscapes: Southeastern California is hot and dry. Southern Mississippi is swampy and green. Culture is something else, though — even though the Midwest’s flatness seems to define it, people mistakenly conflate its geography with its culture, which eludes easy description.

In The Hedgehog Review, Phil Christman recounts his struggle to make sense of his native Midwest after he moves back there with his wife. People call the Midwest “flyover country” and “the American breadbasket.” They comment on its orderly grid of roads and towns and its endless fields. But when locals tell Christman this is “the middle of nowhere” and “just like anywhere,” he not only realizes a place can’t be both anywhere and nowhere, but that viewing the region as average and normal works to the Midwest’s own detriment. As he wonders what normalcy in America even is, he questions what effect the Midwest’s sense…

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“Sleeping Naked”: the final snippet

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Family in Charm City

Endings are tough, aren’t they? So, as I (sadly) tie a bow around my completed “Thanksmas” holiday with family, I present here the ending to my short story, “Sleeping Naked.”

Yep, the final snippet. Nope, still no nudity.

For those who missed it, the first two snippets of this short story, which appeared in Carve Magazine years ago, are here:

Snippet #1 of “Sleeping Naked”

Snippet #2 of “Sleeping Naked”

And so, for the conclusion to “Sleeping Naked”:

When we last met these characters, the mother–you, in this second-person point of view–has come home to discover that her pre-teen daughter, Cheryl, is missing. Hardly mother of the year, you consider the steps you should take to locate her. You consider what relative might be feeding Cheryl her dinner. You canvas the house again and again.

You are a young mother–still attractive, even sexy. Your daughter can be difficult and makes you feel older than you want to. A night without your daughter is a luxury you feel–after a drink or two–that you almost deserve. Just one night to yourself, you think with relish, as you sink into the middle of your bed and fall asleep…naked.

What kind of woman are you? What if she never comes back?

Around five o’clock, you awake to an upset stomach, make your way to the bathroom and throw up.

Over thirty hours. Gone. You crash on the couch and then drag yourself down the hall. You’re still nauseous.

You stand in the hallway, in your nightie, facing the closed door to Cheryl’s room, like some kind of gatekeeper.

You pace back and forth in front of the door until you hear a rustling sound in the room. Then there’s a slice of light, from the lamp she’s turned on, seeping under the door, and you crouch down on the floor to bathe in it. Then the slice of light is gone, and you bury your mouth and nose into the carpet, and you cry without making a sound.

You sleep for an hour or so, until you’re woken by the sound of Cheryl vomiting into her metal trashcan next to her bed. You wait there, outside, until the springs in her mattress stop squeaking. From your crouching position, you try the doorknob. It’s not locked. You remember your deal, but you break your end. She’ll owe you a tantrum the next time you have a man over. The door squeaks when you open it, and you move to her bedside and grab the trashcan, which you empty in the bathroom and set in the kitchen sink to be cleaned tomorrow. You go back to her room, step inside and close the door.  You pull back the comforter on her bed. She’s sleeping in her clothes, dirtied from the bushes under her window. You crawl in next to her. She stirs, but doesn’t wake.

The End

Writers and readers, how do you feel about an unreliable narrator, an unlikable main character? Does the second-person point of view soften the mother’s character at all? Can you understand her…just a little bit?

What are you reading and writing right now? How much like you are the characters you create?

 

“Sleeping Naked”: snippet #2

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Image courtesy of LoboStudioHamburg via Pixabay.com

A good friend wrote me yesterday and shared this thought on perfectionism from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life… Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness…

This reminder came at the perfect time, as I am currently wrapping up another season of journal-submission-frenzy. That’s when we writers offer up our fiction and poetry to the journal gods (disguised as fiction and poetry editors) and we pray they deem them worthy, these bundles of words we’ve worked and wrenched and polished and punished. Ah, perfect, we think as we hit “submit.”

But is it perfect? Or, can we wring the life out of our words with so much attention focused on making each one perfect.

I’ve said before, it’s humbling to look back on my writing from years ago. That’s another kind of writerly distance. They’re far from perfect, but old stories give us a window through which to look at our old selves.

So, without editing it, I’ll provide snippet #2 of an old short story of mine, “Sleeping Naked,” that was published in Carve Magazine years ago. (If you missed the start of the story, here’s snippet #1.)

When we last met these characters–the mother, you, in this second-person point of view, and pre-teen daughter, Cheryl–you have come home to find Cheryl is missing.

You think about what you should do, where she could be. You think about taking  steps toward finding out, but instead you fix yourself a drink. (Hey, nobody’s perfect!) And you really do expect your missing daughter to come through the door any minute now…

Snippet #2 from “Sleeping Naked” by Rebecca Moon Ruark:

Maybe Cheryl’s being held up by your mother’s incessant gossip. It wouldn’t be the first time. Your mother has no idea what it’s like to raise a child in the nineties, all the nuts out there. You touch the goose bumps on your forearms. It’s getting cold out on the porch so you open the sliding glass door and go back to the living room. “God,” you whisper more to yourself than to Him, but still it startles you because you haven’t so much as said his name since your wedding, “please let her be there.” No Cheryl. You should pick up the phone to call your mom, but it’s too late, so you pick up your drink again and walk down the hallway to her room. You say your prayer. “Let her be there, let her be there,” like you’re some kind of magician. She isn’t in there, in her room. You rest your head in your hands for a minute, sitting on her bed, looking at her matching pink and purple comforter and pillow shams that really need a washing. The whole room, in fact, needs to be cleaned. “Shit, please God.” You look around like you half expect her to crawl out from under the bed, but she doesn’t. Part of you wants to scream, like in the movies when the sound is amplified, and the camera, shooting from above, makes everything swirl; then it all goes black. Read more