The sound of your story

 

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“Your voice sounds even weirder than normal.”

That’s my son talking, razzing my recorded voice again. (Yep, we’ve been here before.) For some reason, my resplendently nasal Northeast Ohio accent shines through especially when recorded.

No, I don’t sit around vanity-recording, but I conduct–and record–a lot of interviews for my job. (Luckily, I’m on the end that talks less.) And, then there’s something new on the creative/publishing front:

I’m recording a flash fiction piece of mine to divert my attention from work for a day submit for publication (and a nice award) to the Missouri Review‘s 11th Annual Miller Audio Prize.

Truly, I thought about having a friend read my submission (talking about you, R.!), which is allowed. This friend is a poet, and so she has had more practice reading aloud (in that soothing NPR announcer kind of way), but she also just has a lovely speaking voice–clear and pleasing to the ear.

Then, I thought, no, this story of mine takes place in my native Cleveland; the characters are Clevelanders. The voice should sound like it.

And so, for authenticity’s sake, I sought out the digital recording and editing app, Audacity. I’m learning to loop sounds for background (of seagulls; yes, we have seagulls–or lake gulls, anyway–on Lake Erie). And I’m re-learning how to cut out the extra-long pauses and goofs and “ums” in a sound file. My only previous experience editing sound files was during an internship with the online journal, Blackbird, in school, which was a long time ago.

What struck me this time around is how instructional it can be to look at the patterns of sound, like here:

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The flat lines are pauses between sounds, so I can quickly see when a pause is longer than the others–and decide whether that’s intentional, for dramatic effect, or not. (Like, I was sipping my coffee.) The blips are sounds, and to look at them can help me decide whether my phrases tend to be of the same length–and whether I meant it that way, or not. The higher the blip the louder my voice. Do I get a bit louder at the climax? Or softer? Did I do that on purpose?

This is a work in progress, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Have you ever tried to see your writing in a different way–by hearing it in a different way? How’d it go?

 

 

 

 

What to do with sacred art when churches close?

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Image from the Museum of Divine Statues in Lakewood, Ohio, courtesy of The Plain Dealer

If the Rust Belt is a bastion of anything, that thing might be Catholicism. Or, maybe not–given that about 40 Catholic churches were shuttered in Cleveland, Ohio, alone over the last few decades.

As the city’s population waned and its churches closed, some of the sacred art was shipped out to existing and new churches; some wasn’t.

Thanks to a good friend and follower of Rust Belt Girl for putting me onto the story of Lou McClung. A makeup artist with his own cosmetics line housed in a former Catholic school, McClung bought the closed St. Hedwig Church (named for a beloved Polish queen) in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, Ohio, in 2011, and began restoring its statues. In an article in a 2017 issue of Catholic Digest, McClung said:

I do restoration artwork across the country and I thought it was important to remember where all of these statues came up. The art represents the immigrants and all their hard work and sacrifices that made these [now closed] parishes possible.

The artist lovingly restores the statues and researches and shares the provenance of each piece in the Museum of Divine Statues he founded. Lately, McClung’s museum has been receiving religious artwork not only from the Cleveland area but from all over the country.

Other Rust Belt locales preserving shuttered churches and their art include the Buffalo [New York] Religious Arts Center and the Jubilee Museum in Columbus, Ohio.

McClung’s restoration work for his Museum of Divine Statues is beautiful. Great pics can be found at these sites:

http://www.cleveland.com/style/index.ssf/2017/02/lou_mcclung_restores_curates_m.html#incart_river_home

https://patch.com/ohio/lakewood-oh/new-life-for-shuttered-catholic-church-in-lakewood

 

 

 

Me talk pretty one day*? Probably not.

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Mentor-on-the-Lake (pronounced Menner-on-the-Lake), Ohio. Photo credit: Bill Moon. Thanks, Dad!)

“You sound funny,” my son said.

“I know. I’m from Ohio.”

Too many of my conversations with my kids begin this way. But it’s true:

I sound funny here in Maryland. I am a linguistic fish out of water. My Maryland-born kids and I may speak the same language, but regionalisms and accent say a lot.

This time, my recorded voice was one half of a mock interview conducted by my son. I played the author of a book he’d read for a second grade school project. He sounded normal; I sounded every bit of my Cleveland-area upbringing.

Of course, growing up, I thought I sounded normal. Because Clevelanders “do naht hayev ayaccents.” Whether you cop to having an accent or not, they can raise spirited debate; they do in my house, where my Maryland-native husband’s “league” somehow rhymes with “pig.” Huh?

Accents seem to be having something of a heyday. Last month, a Bawlmerese–that’s Baltimore-ese–video went viral; in it, innocent words like “water,” “Tuesday,” and “ambulance” are murdered to become “wooder,” “Toosdee,” and “amblance.”

Back in my native land, Cleveland’s Belt Publishing has just published How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland, who says:

Accents are part of our regional identity. And there is a feeling that these distinct accents aren’t as distinctive as they used to be.

In addition to regionalisms (like “pop” instead of “soda”), accents are a way to represent one’s native place. I do this with not a bit of shame! My “plaza”–hold your nose and you’ll get the a-sound right–is my son’s “plahza”; my “pajamas” is his “pajahmas.”

In this article, McClelland explains that the Cleveland accent is the Inland North accent, “marked by a raised ‘a’ that makes ‘cat’ sound like ‘cayat,’ a fronted ‘o’ that makes ‘box’ sound like ‘bahx.'”

What does all this mean for us writers?

Accent can be portrayed in our writing, and it can work well if done with a deft hand. In my current WIP, I’m writing characters who have an Italian accent, which often drops the “h” sound and rolls or taps the “r” sound–there’s a real musicality there. Not easy to write, but worth it to try.

Veering into dialect can get a little dicey. This Guardian article puts it plainly:

“Do ‘dialect-lite’ or be damned.”

Whether blogging or engaging in other creative writing, accent can provide interesting subtext.

Does your accent shine through? What do you say funny? I’ll start, below.

Comment here or join this Rust Belt Girl on FB.

*Title borrowed from the amazingly funny David Sedaris’s book of essays: Me Talk Pretty One Day

 

I’ll drink to this: Cleveland vineyard does good

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Image of Mansfield Frazier. Photo by Jan Thorpe for Good.

“Oh my God, we’re in Hough,” my mom said.

I was a teenager at the time, sitting in the front passenger seat beside my mom, who was driving, her nose just inches from the windshield, as she strained (pre-GPS) to find her bearing–inspecting road signs, as we passed boarded-up houses and sketchy markets we viewed out of our periphery. (One of inner city Cleveland’s most notorious neighborhoods, Hough wasn’t the sort of place you looked at head on.)

And then she did it:

She locked the car doors with a resounding “click” I was sure could be heard by all in a mile radius.

“Oh my God.” A devout Catholic, my mom wasn’t one to take the Lord’s name in vain. So I knew this was serious–being lost in Hough–but I also felt shame. Here we had been in Cleveland, taking in the sights at the art museum, grabbing a bagel or bialy in University Circle, maybe? I don’t remember if we were heading back home from a theater performance at Playhouse Square–or maybe I had had a ballet rehearsal.

Anyway, a few wrong turns and we were in Hough, the site of riots during my mom’s years as a student at nearby (Case) Western Reserve.

We got out of Hough; my mom found her way back through the parts of the city she’d known as a  student and young married woman, and we made it back to our house in the country.

It wasn’t until later that I contemplated those who never got out of neighborhoods like Hough; and much later that I contemplated those who didn’t want to.

Reading The Cleveland Anthology, I came across a piece by Mansfield Frazier called “A Vineyard In Hough.” Yep, a vineyard.

Here’s how it started: Frazier, who writes about “the problems of the underclass” and his wife, who holds a master’s degree in social work, didn’t want to be “arm’s length liberals,” so they moved to inner city Hough in 2000 in an attempt to “recreate a vibrant middle class neighborhood.”

There, they created a vineyard, a sustainable green project that encourages neighbors–including recent parolees–to work together on a project that creates “a much stronger social fabric.”

My mom passed away almost 12 years ago now, and in that time Cleveland–and Hough–has changed. I like to imagine how a trip to Hough might go now.

If you can’t pick up a copy of The Cleveland Anthology, here is a great article by David Sax on Chateau Hough, which uncorked its first bottles in June 2014.

What does urban revitalization look like where you live?

Cheers to the weekend! ~ Rebecca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Followers–woot, woot!

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Apple may have their hot new Roman numeral-named phone. But I’ve got “C.”

That’s right, I hit 100 followers! A lot to some bloggers; a pittance to others; a gracious plenty to me.

Thanks for letting me stretch my reading, reviewing, and writing skills–and for witnessing my bumbling and stumbling into the blogosphere, as I try to plant my Rust Belt Girl flag. I know time is scarce and there are oh so many blogs. I appreciate every single one of you who tunes in!

A few more numbers of note since my blog was born on May 16, 2017:

1,628 views by 793 visitors from 37 countries around the globe

25 posts (not counting this one) including 2 author interviews, 2 book reviews, 2 story excerpts, 1 prize nomination (fingers crossed), 1 guest photographer, 1 sweet pie chart, and more references to pierogis than I can count.

225 likes and 103 comments (not all from me!)

What’s next? More, more, more. And new stuff, too. I’m currently smack dab in the middle of a short story/flash fiction submission frenzy; the more I get published, the more I can sample here (fingers and toes crossed).

I’m also interested in more collaboration with my fellow bloggers: photographers, authors, reviewers—from any and everywhere. Contact me if you’re up for it!

As always, I’m doing the Rust Belt Girl thing on Facebook, too. Find me—and self-deprecating Cleveland jokes—here.

~ Rust Belt Girl (Rebecca)

 

 

 

Whose side are you on, anyway? What’s in a name?

 

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The Cuyahoga River, flowing into Lake Erie, divides Cleveland into East and West sides. Photo credit: Kenneth Sponsler/Shutterstock

Does your town take sides? Take names?

Growing up in the Cleveland, Ohio, area of the U.S., the first question asked of a new acquaintance was: “What side of the city are you from—East Side or West Side?” Once that was settled (if you were still talking) and you exchanged surnames, then came the second question: “What kind of name is that?”

There’s a lot to the East Side/West Side rivalry this article delves into if you’re interested. But today I’m talking—and taking—names. What’s in a name? If you’re a Rust Belt native, a lot.

My husband, not a Rust Belt native, thinks the name question is gauche (okay, he doesn’t say gauche, but that’s what he means: tacky, uncouth, even rude.) I wouldn’t ask the question of my neighbors in the Maryland town where we now live, a town that was established in the 1600s. Here, talk of family names and countries of origin quickly gets really old—literally. (Of course, there are many exceptions—newer immigrants and many “come here’s,” like me, from other American places.) Still, for many longstanding Maryland natives, the Old Country—with its telling surnames—is a distant memory. They are Marylanders, plain and simple.

Being from the Rust Belt is a little more complicated. On a recent trip back to the Belt—the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area to be specific—I made it my mission to have pizza. (Maryland is known for blue crab, not pizza, for good reason.) It’s true, Beaver, Pennsylvania, doesn’t have a particularly Italian ring, but it has a lot of Italians—who, thankfully, know their pizza. The next town over still had their banners flying for a Serbian food festival. The local grocery store featured homemade pierogies from a purveyor in town. Okay, we’ve established that the way to my head is through my stomach. But, really, the Old Country feels a little less distant in the Rust Belt.

On that trip back to the Belt, I visited with cousins and an aunt, and we talked about old times. We looked at black and white family photos shot in the 40s and 50s. “Looks like the Old Country,” said my husband of photos of barely-clad kids splashing in a tin tub in their Cleveland yard. We also talked about names: Polish names in my family’s Buffalo, New York, area towns; Italian names in a cousin’s new Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area town; a lot of German names in my Ohio hometown.

Me? I am the granddaughter of a Rossenbach and a Heineman. Next year, my most famous (or infamous, depending on how you like your wine) German-extracted relations, will celebrate 130 years of Heineman’s: Ohio’s oldest family owned and operated winery. The Old Country making it big in the New Country!

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My paternal grandmother, born Martina Heineman, at left. My dad, the pouty boy, at top right.

Whether examined through the lens of food and drink or neighborhood or family name, we are—to a large extent—who we came from. And who you are matters a lot to me, a writer, curious to a fault.

So, I’m not apologizing before asking you, “What kind of name is that?”

What our hometown’s brand says about us and a re-post from Belt Magazine

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Cuyahoga River on fire, 1969. (Image courtesy of imgarcade.com.)

If there’s a city that is the butt of more jokes than Cleveland, I don’t know it. From burning waters (yep, that really happened–a long time ago) to crash-and-burn sports teams, my native city could use a re-brand. Or, so say the branders.

In this digital age, when we worry about our personal brand–imagine our grandparents pausing to consider what message they were sending with a profile pic?!–cities and states are also fighting to be presented in the best light.

Branding is such a big deal that Ohio’s Governor Kasich proclaimed that “Rust Belt” sends the wrong message; he likes “Tech Belt” for Ohio. So far that moniker hasn’t stuck.

My native place is rusty; its past is a bit sullied. Cleveland’s the opposite of slick: a brander’s nightmare. But we’ve been through the wringer (time and again) and come out tougher. Remember the “Cleveland: You Gotta Be Tough” t-shirts? The fact that native Clevelanders can wear defeat as a badge of pride, and laugh off the past while striving for a shinier future–that’s what makes me proud of my hometown.

Would you re-brand your hometown? Give it a catchy slogan? What would it be?

From “The Mistake On The Lake” To “Defend Together”: The Long (And Amusing) History Of Trying To Rebrand Cleveland — Belt Magazine | Dispatches From The Rust Belt

As the Cleveland Indians prepare for a postseason run as defending American League champions, fans are showing their support by purchasing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Defend Together.”

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Who needs branding when you’ve got this guy? (Image from Beltmag.com.)

That Hometown Sound

WMMS_logo.svgThe soundtrack to my adolescence and young adulthood in Northeast Ohio was unusual. While my peers were listening to Depeche Mode on the radio or catching a live show at the Grog Shop, I was in the ballet studio. While my high school classmates listened to the CHS band before Friday night football, I was in the ballet studio. Dancing to Miss Jackson (nasty or not) in the Burger King parking lot? Me? Not unless that parking lot had ballet barres and wrap-around mirrors.

You get the picture. Instead of memorizing every word to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s classic, “Baby Got Back,” I was enduring mandatory games of Name that Tune in the ballet studio. As in: pianist on the baby grand in the corner plays a few bars of classical music and we bun-heads guess the composer and piece. (Tip: Tchaikovsky is always a safe bet when betting on ballet music.)

My personal soundtrack during my formative years–and by extension my entire budding identity–felt terribly inaccurate. On my pathetic playlist: a little Whitney, some Tears for Fears, my parents’ Herb Alpert and Brothers Four records, and a smattering of Russian ballet compositions I couldn’t name.

Forgivable if I lived just anywhere. But I lived outside Cleveland, Ohio, rock ‘n’ roll capital. (Just go with me on that.)

My soundtrack’s saving grace: Cleveland’s rock station, WMMS. Really, I knew I wasn’t cool enough to blare that kind of music, while driving my parent’s Chevy Cavalier through the snow to and from classes and rehearsals, pink tights on, hair in a tight bun. Never could I have sported a t-shirt with the rock station’s mascot, the Buzzard, with the necessary cool-girl aplomb. -6f153e909dd14774

But I would listen to these rockin’ sounds of my city, and that tagline that gets me jazzed even today. Please enjoy this blast from Cleveland radio past:

What is your hometown’s sound? Let’s talk!

Find Rust Belt Girl on FB, too.

 

 

 

 

RUST BELT BOY & holy pierogi

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Cleveland and Pittsburgh have always enjoyed something like a sibling rivalry. Unlike the relationship between Cleveland and Akron, or Cleveland and Chicago, Cleveland and the ’Burgh are too close in size for one to take the other under its wing like a little sister city, or to aspire to big-brother city coolness. So, rivalry it is—or always seemed to be, to this Northeastern Ohio native.

Later this summer, I will travel through (or around) both cities on my way to visit my dad in Port Clinton, Ohio—home of the annual Perch, Peach, Pierogi and Polka Festival. Along my way on the Pennsylvania and Ohio turnpikes, I will cross a lot of pierogi territory.

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