TALES FROM MY INBOX: Part I – Writing Your Passion

“Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way — although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.” Kurt Vonnegut

What are you writing now? A novel? A short story? A memoir? A journal? A letter to your best friend from college? Whatever it is, my question to you is: why are you writing it? To be a little clearer, why are you writing THIS story, journal, letter, etc.? What is it about this story that is compelling you to write it?

Memoirs and fiction based on writers’ lives are regular visitors to my submission inbox. It’s no mystery why we write them. We all have our own stories and we need to tell them. In truth, we all have many stories to tell, so when I read these submissions I often wonder, why THIS story?

Sometimes, the why is very clear: the writer has developed a passion for promoting something, or for changing something, that has altered or defined his or her life. A passion for gun control develops in the life of someone who has suffered gun violence; a passion for motherhood develops in someone who struggled to become a mother; a passion marine life develops in someone who grows up swimming in the gulf. When this passion is present, it almost always produces a good story.

If there is nothing to reveal the writer’s passion, and the story ambles from anecdote to anecdote to anecdote, there is generally very little that keeps a reader turning the pages.

The same is true for fiction of every genre: mystery, romance, family saga – you name it.

I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with a talented young writer who talked about the evolution of his writing focus. He said he once imagined himself writing conventional stories about corporate greed and governmental malfeasance, but was now thinking more along the lines of writing science fiction. I remarked that some of the best stories I’ve ever read used those conventional themes in very unconventional ways – science fiction, for example. His eyes lit with something I can only guess, but I imagined he had already begun creating a story in his mind – maybe a corrupt emperor on the planet Caligula who has learned to control the weather so that he can flood cities and enslave their inhabitants. What’s important is that if examining greed and corruption is what he cares about, he can tell it any way he chooses and still make it compelling. What matters is the passion.

Are you writing your passion? Feel free to share.

DEFINING RESILIENCE

In November and December, the US Postal Service ran television ads depicting delivery of packages (lovely surprises, no doubt!) to a variety of rural and urban homes – all of them clean, bright, and appealing – using “Home for the Holidays” as background music. For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home, right? Go back there (or at the very least have packages delivered there) and you will be happy. Convincing us to look backward is a great selling tool.

It’s hard to imagine what it would feel like if that green, grass of home we played in as children had been laid waste by war or multi-year drought or some other disaster; if, for whatever reason, our childhood homes had been made uninhabitable and we had been forced to flee for our lives. Someone whose homeland is under siege or has been destroyed by war or weather becomes a refugee. There are millions of refugees all over the world who can never go home again, so they struggle to make new homes. For some of them, refugee camps become home for years or decades. The fortunate ones have been allowed to resettle in host countries like the United States.

The media loves wreckage, so we frequently see images of ruined cities and tent compounds with no running water or sanitary facilities.  It’s painful to watch and we can find no end to it, so it’s understandable when, after months and years of seeing images of desperate families running for their lives, we start to look away. We imagine we’ve seen all there is to see.

But there’s more to it than that.

There are resettled refugees, in this country and many others, who can show us the face of resilience and hope. These are not terrorists in the making, nor should they be made objects of our pity. They deserve our respect, and they can help teach us, if we’re willing to learn, how to look to the future instead of the past. They can teach us to look past our differences and see our shared humanity.

I recently listened to a refugee who had fled the genocide in Burma (Myanmar). He made it across the border into Malaysia, only to picked up for being in that country illegally. He spent a year in a Malaysian prison before being allowed to enter a refugee resettlement program, then spent another two years completing the vetting process that would allow him to enter the United States. (“My friend went to Norway,” he said. “He only had to wait six months.”) When asked about the hardships he endured, he dismissed them, saying, “I was lucky. I’m here. I’m safe. I have a good life. Many were not so lucky.” He has started his own business, and is now employing others, clearly proud of the fact he can say he isn’t taking away anyone else’s job.

Resilience personified.

There are many, many stories like this. Now, more than ever, we need to understand refugee resettlement in terms of what such resilient people can offer us, and stop letting politicians with their own agendas tell us they are a threat to our country. We need more courage and resilience in our midst – not less.

Twisted Road Publications is partnering with a new non-profit organization, Refugee Stories, Inc. to collect, transcribe and publish some of their stories. Since Twisted Road is a small press with limited resources, we are asking for help. We need resources to be able to:
– Offer small gifts to individuals who are willing to share their stories.
– Reimburse the interviewers from Refugee Stories for their time and help their organization get established.
– Cover up-front costs for editing, designing, and publishing the finished stories.

Your support will allow us to collect and publish the first volume of stories. Proceeds from the sale of books will help both Twisted Road Publications and Refugee Stories, Inc., continue this important work. 

If you can help, please click here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/vaa5e-refugee-stories

Upcoming Events

Susan Leicher: Acts of Assumption

Author Talk
Wednesday, October 16, 7 pm
Broadside Bookshop
247 Main St
Northampton, MA

 

Lisa Sturm: Echoed in My Bones

Launch #1
Thursday, September 12, 7 pm
The Woodland, Parlor (upstairs)
60 Woodland Road
Maplewood, NJ

Launch #2
Sunday, September 22, 4 pm
The Book House
281 Essex Street, Millburn, NJ

 

Elizabeth McCulloch: Dreaming the Marsh

Book Launch
Sunday, September 15, 3PM
Matheson History Museum
513 University Avenue Gainesville, Florida

Dreams of Payne’s Prairie, a Book Talk
Monday, October 28, 8PM
Kendall-on-Hudson
1010 Kendall Way
Sleepy Hollow, New York

Reading and Signing
Saturday, November 2, 2PM
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park 
County Road 325  Cross Creek FL