Me, my selves, and Mel Brooks

Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, and personalities, and have them relate to other characters living with him.

Mel Brooks

Amen, Mel. (Ahem, with the addition of “her skin,” “her ability,” and “with her,” thank you very much.)

Ever have one of those weeks (or months) when you feel like you’re juggling too many balls–but also too many names, identities, and personalities? And not only on the page.

I am a creative writer (“dang it,” she pounds fist on desk), but I am also a writer and editor for modest pay universities and etc. It is this latter personality that lately has taken precedence over the former (because the fruits of this personality can buy actual fruit, or veggies, or ice cream from the truck that smartly parks itself at our neighborhood pool.)

Fear not, one of two looming work deadlines met, I am seeing the light. (Sometime, I’m going to see how many myriad scads of mixed metaphors I can cram into a single post!) Back to my creative endeavors I WILL BE (soon-ish).

In the meantime, I enjoy my work that allows me to pick the brains of academics young and seasoned and learn things I’d never come to on my own, like the powers of biofilms, the miracles of flexible solar cells, what rotorcraft even is. Really, I remind myself, it’s all creative, right? Who knows, maybe this work will create burgeoning new identities in my fiction.

I talked in my last post about list-making, reining in those cows. (Another metaphor gone awry.) I’m trying to be better about writing it all down, so I see what I must do, and what I AM DOING. (Sleeping past 8am, now that the kids are out of school, for one. Big, big win!)

Creative right now:

Reading: A Gentleman in Moscow (read me gush about it on my FB page.); next up, Warlight

Listening to: Above Us Only Sky, audio novel by my uber-talented author friend from my MFA program days, Michele Young-Stone

Submitting: yesterday, a travel-ish short story of mine set in India to the literary travel mag, Nowhere; agent query submissions coming soon (see next line)

Editing: that last 40 pages of my historical novel manuscript–woo to the hoo!

How’s your creative list looking? What are you reading, writing, loving right now? Let me know here or at FB.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are what we read

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OK, I don’t buy that entirely, but I do believe in “garbage in, garbage out,” in most things.

That’s why I try not to read crap. I mean, no one tries to read crap, but the older I get the less guilt I feel for starting a book and not finishing it.

What I’m saying is…books have a great power over me. For this reason, I expect a lot from them, as I would from any encounter that will suck up, what 6, 10, even 12 hours–for a doorstopper.

I ask a lot from a read, which generally has to tick 2 or more of these boxes: subject matter I want to know more about; believable characters; language that I envy.

Truth is, I have become an old man (as far as reading habits). I am that crotchety guy at the bookstore who wants to get his history, his humanity, and his poetry all in one tome.

Is this asking too much of one of my fave genres, historical fiction? Of course, as soon as you say, “genre,” literary types are thinking, well you might get your history and your humanity, but the language won’t sing. On the other hand, historical fiction buffs don’t want their story bogged down by MFA-grad-style poetic language acrobatics. Walking a tightrope indeed!

Am I oversimplifying. Of course. Are there novels that tick all the boxes? Yes. Since we’re talking historical fiction (in which I’m up to my eyeballs, as I’m working on a historical novel manuscript), I’ll throw All the Light We Cannot See out there as pretty stellar. In the WWII vein, I’d also add the less recent Snow Falling on Cedars. What do you think?

This weekend I hope to finish Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, which ticks two of my boxes, and that’s OK.

Let’s chat books. What are you reading? How many of your boxes does it tick? Is it informing what you’re writing?

 

 

 

 

a bit of writerly advice

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Free image courtesy of KathrynMaloney at Pixabay.com

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.

Hart Crane

Where I am, we’re soaked in more than words today (flood watches and warnings galore), and I’m happy for sump pumps and hopeful for drier weather, tomorrow.

As for the world of words, I abide by Crane’s advice to flood oneself with words–but I didn’t always. It used to be, I was careful to read one book at a time, careful that it not remind me too closely of the one-and-only-one WIP I was drafting, revising, or editing. These days, I’m not so careful. I’m usually reading three or more books at a time: one craft, one novel, one story collection. I’m usually working on my novel manuscript and a short story concurrently. And, of course, brainstorming the next blog post.

And this doesn’t include the research, reading, and writing I do for a living–for universities and health systems. It used to be I kept this work separate in my mind from the “creative.” But, words are words–and being awash in words of all kinds seems to help this writer pull “the right ones” out when needed (mostly, kinda).

What about you? How best do you write? Any tips you can share?

 

Hold up, wait a minute: Rust Belt Girl on ice

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Lake Erie, iced. One of the Lake Erie Islands (Green Island), is in the distance. (Thanks for the pic, Dad!)

Hold up, wait a minute. Hold up, wait a minute…

Nope, you haven’t stumbled on a 90s music blog (but if you now have that old club song in your head, you’re welcome!)

Here at Rust Belt Girl, I promised a new thread this new year: a journey into the terrifying abyss that is the world of book publishing. That’s agent querying, novel synopses, novel submitting, etc.

How’s it going so far?

Um. Yeah, that.

Let’s just say, like so much of the Rust Belt at present, this Rust Belt Girl is on ice–at least as far as that project.

What happened?

Shall I add another metaphor into the mix? Well, I got the cart before the horse (ie: the agent query letter, synopsis, etc.) before the manuscript itself. And, really, the horse is a little bit lame. Not so much that it has to be put down or even put out to pasture. (Yep, I’m just running with this metaphor.) But maybe re-shod, rested, exercised–certainly made stronger. Race horse strong.

Who says?

A former writing teacher of mine, an author and editor whose feedback I trust wholeheartedly.

What now?

Thaw out? Get back on the horse? (Can I stop talking about ice and horses?)

Really though, I’m revising my novel manuscript (yet again) because I only get one chance with agents, and I don’t want to blow it. I’m really trying to “re-see” this story that’s been with me for years; these characters that I’ve known longer than I’ve known my own kids, which is a little crazy. It’s not an easy task to really re-envision an 86,000-word manuscript, and so I can’t rush it.

“Time is a great editor,” said my editor friend.

So, bear with me if this thread takes its time.

I mean, there’s an order to things–like seasons and horse-drawn things, right?

In the meantime, more writing advice I pick up from experts along my way; more reading (and emulating!) great books; more author interviews.

And…in the publishing vein, more submitting short stories to journals and magazines. Keep your fingers crossed (and frost-bite free) for me.

Happy weekend! What’s on tap for yours? ~ Rebecca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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)

Read more

“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?

 

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)

 

 

 

Thank you, thank you all, thank yinz

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You will be on my Thankful Tree this year.

No matter where you’re from–Rust Belt, Sun Belt, or elsewhere. No matter how you say, thanks, I hope you hear this bit of gratitude.

I delivered this blog in May, and like most five-month-old offspring, it is still in the babbling stage. During this developmental period, I’ve learned a lot about my native Rust Belt, its history and its present, and how it’s portrayed in fiction and nonfiction. I’ve called upon memories of growing up in Ohio–the distinct sounds and tastes that take a girl back home, if just for a moment. I’ve learned how I want to represent my home, creatively. I’ve learned blogging is much more than writing. It’s connecting. And I couldn’t do that without you.

Thanks for following!

Rust Belt Girl (Rebecca)