Archive for the ‘United States’ Tag

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/

Gone Sane by Christal Rice Cooper   Leave a comment

 

Ms Cooper’s new book, Gone Sane, is a 197 page collection of poems based upon the lives of the famous and infamous. The book is split into six sections, each focusing on a particular point of view.

 

Christal’s experience as an editor and a free lance journalist is quite apparent throughout the book. There is a level of confidence in the facts of these cases that can only come from thorough research. At the same time, there’s an empathy that transcends the “just the facts” attitude of a reporter. Nowhere in the book is this more evident than in the poem Mark. It is prefaced by a quote from Cooper’s own story in the Altus Times about the case. Mark Gomez, at the age of one, was beaten to death. In the quote the journalist lists the injuries, in the poem the poet relates the purchase of a baby’s outfit which is then laid out over the grave,

 

as if I were dressing a baby

 

just before he climbs on a beer stained couch

to sit by Mommy’s boyfriend,

to feel his whiskered face.

 

The poem ends with Mark Gomez’s murderer’s death penalty sentence carried out, and the poet visiting her own child’s bedroom

 

His clothes are laid out for tomorrow:

red onesie, toddler jeans.

 

Someday I’ll say I knew

I’d hold him safe-

 

The skillful way she pulls the story full circle, into her own home, touches the heart and soul of every parent without being over sentimental.

 

If there’s anything to criticize within the book, it’s that certain sections don’t seem to mesh with the overall mood of the book. I’m not sure, for example, what a poem about Jim Carrey or the band U2 contributes to a book where the majority of the poems deal with murderers, rapists, and massacres.

 

Along the same lines, while most of the poems dealing with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are quite lovely, they dominate the first half of the book to the point where you turn the page and groan to see yet another one. For the purposes of this book, Cooper and Onassis would have been better served focusing on either her life immediately after the assassination of JFK, or her life with Aristotle Onassis, but not both.

 

Finally, the artwork in the book, pencil sketches, appears unfinished alongside the professionalism of the poems they are meant to enhance. It might have been better for the artist to create artwork that more closely mimicked photography, or the heavier, cleaner lines of pen and ink drawings.

 

Overall, Gone Sane is a book that will make you think and make you feel in equal parts. It is well worth the read, and is available on Amazon as both a paperback:

 

http://www.amazon.com/gone-sane-christal-rice-cooper/dp/096507644X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342543371&sr=8-1&keywords=gone+sane

 

and an E-book:

 

http://www.amazon.com/gone-sane-ebook/dp/B007HDVGNI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1342543371&sr=8-2&keywords=gone+sane

A Reading at Wyld Chyld: Long Island Welcomes Me Back   Leave a comment

I’ve read in a lot of different places in my career. Bars, bookstores, bakeries, all have been subjected to my literary genius at one time or another. But until the lovely and amusing Peter Dugan invited me to come on down to Long Island and read at the Wyld Chyld, I’d never read in a tattoo parlor before.

Helen R. Peterson reads her poetry at Wyld Chyld

Reading to the crowd at Wyld Chyld

Wyld Chyld is part tattoo parlor, part café, divided down the middle so the whir of the needles doesn’t disturb. Located in Merrick NY, it offers a unique intimate setting for a reading. I was the first to read, something I don’t usually like to do, as I like to riff off of what others present when deciding what to perform. But, in the end, it almost seemed as if the open mic readers had read my mind, bringing poetry that had similar themes and influences as mine did.

The other feature was Lloyd Abrams, a local Long Island poet and former educator. His poetry was entertaining and thought-provoking. He and his wife were kind enough to invite me to spend the night at their place and not make the three-hour drive back to Connecticut, but I politely declined, as I had kids to get on the bus in the morning.

The Wyld Chyld crowd

Listening to Lloyd Abrams read while sipping my green tea.

I always enjoy traveling to Long Island, as the audiences are always welcoming and encouraging. That’s why I’ll be traveling down that way again this Friday, May 18th, to feature at George Wallace’s series at the Barn. This will probably be my last Long Island appearance before the big move to Michigan in late August, so if you’ve wanted to see me live, make a point to be there!

The April 2012 Issue of Waterhouse Review is Finally Here!   Leave a comment

Bronze sculpture of Sancho Panza by Lorenzo Co...

Bronze sculpture of Sancho Panza by Lorenzo Coullaut Valera (1876–1932). Detail of the monument to Cervantes (1925–30, 1956–57) at the Plaza de España ("Spain Square") in Madrid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The latest issue of The Waterhouse Review is up, and I have to say, since I accepted the invitation to become the first poetry editor, every issue seems to get better and better.

 

The current issue is no exception. The cool thing about being an editor is seeing how, even when you didn’t have a theme in mind, one seems to materialize as you begin to read through the latest batch of submissions. I don’t know how it works, but it does. It’s like literary magic, and it’s wonderful to see how an issue comes together, like a crazy waltz that started as the hustle.

 

April 2012 is no exception. Every piece deals in some way with relationships in some way. Whether it’s the humorous lack of communication between doctor, pharmacist, and patient in Jennifer McGowan’s poem Cough Syrup, the surreal maternal relationship between man and spider in MD Joyce’s story Sancho Panza –OR- Dads Are Just Jerks Who Divorce Your Mom, or a woman’s disconnection with everything in Rachel Cox’s Less Than Superhero, this issue has a little bit of something that everyone can identify with in some way, and I like that.

 

For me, the most personal of the bunch is Katie Moore’s poem My Little Runaway. I’ve been the little girl wanting to run away from the safe and the comfortable, not really knowing what I’m getting myself into. And I’ve been the mother who knows her children will never make it out of the yard before turning back.

 

I hope you’ll take a moment to read the latest issue of Waterhouse, see what else I do in my spare time. We are now reading for July, so if you’re a writer who thinks your work might be a good fit for us, please check out our guidelines page and send it along!

 

http://www.waterhousereview.co.uk/

Inwood Indiana 2011   Leave a comment

Indiana Route Marker

Image via Wikipedia

To buy a copy of the latest issue, click here

To read the issue free online, click here

A misanthrope is someone who hates and mistrusts humanity. Imagine being married to and having kids with a guy like that. That’s what I did in the 3 dollar poem, “Mr. Misanthrope”, that Inwood Indiana just published in their Breaking Curfew issue.

The poem’s title is also a friendly homage to the Beatles’ song, “Mean Mr. Mustard” who was, if you think about it, a misanthrope. And a dirty, dirty man.

Pirene’s Fountain 2011   Leave a comment

This image was taken in 1986 by Thierry Noir a...

Image via Wikipedia

To read the poem, click here

Middle school is never easy. It’s especially tough when you’ve always been a little socially awkward. As I was. And, ok, continue to be. I think most writers, most creative people, live within their minds to a degree that interacting with other people isn’t always easy. Add to that an embarrassing childhood illness, and you’ve got a made for tv movie in the making.

Or, in my case, fodder for good poetry. A great example is the poem Pirene‘s Fountain published of mine earlier this year, entitled “When the Wall Came Down”. The wall of course refers to one of the big historical moments during my youth, Perestroika, and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. Also, great fodder. Especially when you combine it with preteen angst.

Today, make a list of all the defining historical moments of your youth. Thinks about where you were, what you were doing, how it impacted you, how it didn’t. Start brainstorming how one thing mirrored the other, how history could be used as a metaphor for the first person you kissed, the bully that pushed you into the mud, the joy of making the soccer team, the defeat of not gaining a part in the school play.

 

The Legendary 2011   Leave a comment

Coffee and Sunshine

Image by Frank Gruber via Flickr

The Legendary had a special Flash issue in March, and included two pieces of my flash fiction. I love being in the Legendary, because every issue is well put together, the stories and poems are always excellent, quality work. Katie and Jim have a good eye, a good ear. Thanks guys!

Male/Female is a flash about the maybes, the could have beens, that occur in our lives every day. A moment between coworkers allows a woman, trapped in an unhappy marriage, to imagine what life would be like with the IT guy. Personally, I’ve known some perfectly wonderful IT guys, and gals for that matter, but none I’d necessarily like to date. At least, not yet.

Hermit is a flash from the mind of someone terrified of the world. Written as stream of consciousness, they go to Dunkin Donuts for coffee, and survive the trip to tell the tale. Again, not necessarily a situation I’ve found myself in. I’ve been at parties where I’ve wanted to shrink into the wallpaper, but never while purchasing fast food.

It’s a fun challenge, writing from a perspective that isn’t exactly yours. Taking experiences, twisting them, expanding them in a way you’d never take them in your normal everyday life.  For example, in the novel I’m writing now, the protagonist is in the middle of a divorce from her husband, who happens to be a zombie. Divorce I’m all too familiar with, but I don’t know many zombies.

Today, try to write from a different point of view. Write from a different race, or gender, from your own. Take something you’ve experienced, and imagine how someone else might handle that same experience.

 

To read these stories, click here