Today at work, Steve had his annual review. It didn’t go well.
I filled my mouth with wax and let it cool there until it hardened and took on the ridges of my palate and the folds of my tongue, then I opened wide until my jaw ached, but the wax could not escape.
If isolation is the writer’s default, The Bitter Kind by Tara Lynn Masih and James Claffey offers an intriguing alternative: a true collaboration, woven of two voices, each author contributing a character who appears in their earlier work.
My mother’s first major retirement project took her to a genealogy library to prove our family was indeed descended from William Brewster. Elder William Brewster sailed with his wife Mary and two of their five children on the Mayflower in 1620. I inherited her research notes and did virtually nothing with them for years except to carefully preserve them.
He does not have a top hat or a white rabbit. He will not pick your card. Doves will not fly from his cloak. He won’t saw you in half. Well, not literally.
Prose poem, flash fiction, micro-fiction fragments, segmented miniaturist vignettes; whatever the label, the undergirding question of definition and categorization is: Can it survive in readers’ minds?
A wild strand of hair sprouts from Erin’s head, aiming vertically but with a sharp kink, as though it suddenly changed its mind. She attempts to brush it down, wetting it even in the bathroom at work, but it continues to spring back and point upwards.
When your work of fiction is sorta, kinda semi-autobiographical, you rely less on research than on memory in creating that mean kindergarten teacher clad in bright primary colors and clackety-clack high heels, or that little blond girl next door whose dress-up closet included a bridal gown, a hula skirt, and child-sized stilettos, or that beleaguered high school English teacher whose eyebrows quarreled with each other in a proxy battle with his smart-aleck class.
Remember that alcoholic you tried to help, the one you took to those meetings, those meetings you were attending yourself because you needed help to stop drinking and the only way to get it, they said at those meetings, was to give it?
Research is one of my favorite parts of being a fiction writer. It’s less stressful than the actual writing process, and even though I tend to plot out most of a book, the research winds up guiding the narrative.