Friday, May 25, 2018

Stories and writing

The story I wrote that will be published in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Word Fountain, the literary magazine of the Osterhout Library, came to me almost-but-not-quite fully formed three years ago, back when I was meeting with the remnants of my old writing group at Zummo's Cafe on the east side of Scranton in the months following the closing of The Vintage, our old home base. (The group did not survive the closing very long.) I knew what the story was about; I knew who the main character was, and what he did, and what happened to him in the end. I just didn't know how to tell it. I kept writing sketches that would show, not tell, but were taking the story in directions that ultimately didn't get the story told. In the end I did an exercise that I've found useful when editing images: I asked myself, what is this story about? Anything that didn't help to get the point across had to go. I slashed and burned, cut out long passages scenes I had lovingly written, and started over, again and again. In the end I had something I was happy with, and submitted it. On May 31, 2018 you can hear me read it at the Word Fountain Release Party at 6:00 PM at the Osterhout Library in Wilkes-Barre.

I have two - three - four stories that are in the works. Three of them are "reality turned up to 11" stories: one about the music industry, another about the travel business, a third about the increasingly broad chasm in sexual attitudes between men of a certain mindset and women of a certain other mindset. A fourth is a fantasy, an attempt to weave mythology into the mythology-deficient landscape of Northeastern Pennsylvania, inspired by and influenced by Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood and Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I've been having a hard time trying to find the right point of view for this story. I think I've found it, but it's a point of view I have absolutely no right to take, one that will require an imaginative projection into - well, into being someone completely different from myself.

I stopped at the Mill Memorial Library's book sale last week and hit the jackpot: I got a paperback copy of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere for  just a few pennies. (I paid three dollars for that, a hardback copy of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, a third book whose identity escapes me, and a National Geographic magazine all about Mars. I could also have picked up a great many advanced texts on quantum physics, which led me to wonder who the hell had owned those books originally and how they came to be part of the library sale.) Reading the first two chapters terrified me: was my fantasy story plagiarizing a Neil Gaiman story I had never read? But soon the story diverged from what I had in mind. I haven't finished it yet. We'll see where it goes.

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