Archive for March 2013

When Your Fiction Hits Reality   Leave a comment

Bath_School_Disaster-east

 

Sometimes we have an idea for a story, and we research it, we outline it maybe, it’s a great idea. We get ready to write it, and then something happens in real life that gives us pause.

This happened to me within the last 6 months. When we moved to Michigan, I began learning all I could about the history of our newly adopted state. One event that really fascinated me was the Bath School Massacre, in which a local farmer and school board member blew up the school as well as his house. He then blew up his car, killing himself and the school principal in the process.

What drew me to this tragedy the most was the fact that I’d never heard of it before. In a world where Columbine and Virginia Tech have become bywords for senseless violence against students, why were commentators and historians not mentioning a school killing where over 40 people died?

There was also the question of the killer, Andrew Kehoe, who seemed to be very friendly with the children, and yet had no problem murdering them. There’s a disconnect between the act itself that has never been fully explained by any of the books or articles I’ve read on the subject.

So, I planned to write a story, both to bring attention to a disaster that deserves to be remembered, considering it’s the largest mass school killing in American history, and as a way for me to try and get into the mind of Kehoe.

Then, the day after I decided that I was done with the research and knew in which direction I wanted to take the story, Newtown happened.

For at least two days, I was physically ill about this latest senseless killing in a school. I’ve been to Newtown, I have friends in Newtown. The children murdered were the same age as my middle child. There wasn’t the distance of history to allow me, or anyone else, to absorb such an appalling act.

I shelved the Bath story. For months. My husband told me I should get back to it, that it might help me explore my own sorrow, as well as possibly help others. He himself had a story come out shortly thereafter that got people talking further about gun control. The interesting thing about his story, The Proper Name for Killing Birds, is that it was written at least a year before Newtown. The act of a six year old child pretending to shoot a gun in the backseat of a car was just something we’d seen children do for years. There was no hidden meaning, no foreshadowing that the child in the backseat might grow up to become a sociopath.

But that’s how, in a post Newtown America, many people chose to interpret it. They missed totally the theme of a father realizing his son knows more than he thinks he knows, that the child is no longer a baby.

I didn’t want something similar to happen to my story. I wanted people to acknowledge the Bath Disaster for what it was, and not use my story to bring further attention to Newtown, a community still raw in mourning.

I’ve finally written the story, four months after Newtown. While some of the members of my writers’ workshops think it’s brilliant as is, some don’t think I’ve gone far enough. That I could push further into the horror. But I don’t know if I can. I’ve submitted the story to a few places, and as of today I haven’t heard anything back. So, we’ll see.

The question is, when is it too soon to write or publish a work of fiction that mirrors in some way a national tragedy? Is it the right thing to do, or would you feel about such a story that it tries to take something away from those grieving in the wake of such a massacre?

To read Gav’s story The Proper Name for Killing Birds, click here:

http://www.everydayfiction.com/the-proper-name-for-killing-birds-by-gavin-broom/

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The Potomac Journal 2013   Leave a comment

The Orange Chorus

The Orange Chorus (Photo credit: FreeWine)

 

To read the poem, click here:

 

http://thepotomacjournal.com/issue13/Poetry/Peterson.html

 

My poem Greek Chorus was recently published in The Potomac Journal’s winter issue. It was great to see this poem in print for two reasons. First and foremost, it’s been awhile since I’ve gotten something published. Life has been pretty hectic with the big move to Michigan and a new routine, so I haven’t been submitting as much as I have in years past. So it was a big help to jump start my motivation to get submitting and writing again to see this poem up at the Potomac.

 

This poem also reminds me a lot of what I left behind. I wrote it after a particularly bad episode during my illness last year kept me in the hospital for the weekend and prevented me from attending a Dire Literary Series event in Cambridge Mass. Joking with friends who attended, I said next time I’ll just have them escort me in an ambulance and I can read from a gurney before being wheeled back to the ambulance. A close friend of mine replied, “That seems doable, they have hospitals in Boston, right?” It was a line too good to NOT put into a poem!

 

Greek Chorus reminds me how far I’ve come personally, and how much I’ve been able to overcome in a short period of time. As difficult as the past few years have been, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s given me plenty of inspiration, as well as the strength and patience to be a better person than when I was diagnosed. I thank the Potomac Journal for picking it up when they did, and giving me the opportunity to reflect upon it.