Breakwater Stones: How Stories Are Shaped by Erratics

Eric ScholzThe following is a guest post by Eric Scholz, whose short story “Three-Day Bleed” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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I find a certain poetic beauty in the fact that my first visit to Lake Michigan served as the catalyst for a story set at the New Jersey Shore. The story’s ubiquitous setting amalgamates the various beach towns of my childhood, but the breakwater stones that characters Louise and Pete climb on make their way into the story like glacial erratics (Latin errare, meaning “to wander”)—giant rocks carried hundreds of miles and dropped in new lands by advancing and retreating glaciers. I was on tour with my band, A Film in Color, and feeling very homesick. Jumping between those big stones with my best friends on the shores of Milwaukee’s McKinley Beach, I finally felt like I didn’t totally hate my life, despite the gnawing fear of slipping and falling into the lake. As I lay across the backseat of our 1990 Chevy Beaumont deathtrap en route to the next show, I recorded all my thoughts about those breakwater stones. In this blogpost I’ll analyze some of the other erratics that found their way into “The Three Day Bleed.”

“The Three Day Blow” by Ernest Hemingway”

The story’s title came to me one afternoon while flipping through Hemingway’s Complete Short Stories as I waited on the porch for a bass to arrive in the mail. I noticed a story called “The Three Day Bleed.” Of course, no such story exists. I noted the misread in my phone and it resurfaced in my consciousness months later when I was home from tour and expanding my breakwater free-write into a proper story.

“Franny” by J.D. Salinger

A lot of the protagonist’s naivete is the result of me not knowing what things are called, but Louise’s real spiritual ancestor is Franny Glass. I was reading Franny and Zooey and thinking a lot about my mother, who, over the course of the 2010s underwent a number of surgeries to remove skin cancer caused by sunburn, leaving scars across her nose and cheeks. I was in my late twenties and beginning to understand the horrible ways in which decisions made by our younger selves come back to disfigure us. This is why Louise and Pete tease one another about sunscreen in much the same fashion as Franny is teased by her beefheaded boyfriend, Lane.

“‘Am I dying?’: The miscarriage that leveled me, and brought us closer” by West Moss

West Moss was my first real writing mentor, and her collection, The Subway Stops at Bryant Park, is one of my all-time favorites. This essay predates the aforementioned collection by at least three years, but it is every bit as moving. I remember sitting in Moss’s fiction workshop and listening to her read the essay aloud and thinking I could never write something so emotionally stirring. In the essay, a younger Moss learns she is pregnant and excitedly tells her partner. The two laugh and then panic, and her partner blithely asks: “When are the adults coming home?” Weeks later, Moss learns she will miscarry. She calls her parents, but her father answers the phone. She tells him the news, and he responds: “Wait… I don’t have my hearing aids in,” before handing the phone off to Moss’s mother. If I learned one thing from Moss (the lessons I learned from her are countless) it’s that well-placed levity enhances the emotional impact of a scene.

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Eric Joseph Scholz is a writer and musician from New Jersey. He holds an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing from William Paterson University and plays bass in A Film In Color and Heavy Sigh. His work has been featured most recently in Typehouse Magazine, Construction Literary, Watchung Review, and the New Jersey Bards Anthology. In 2019, his fiction was awarded the NJCEA Graduate Student Writing Award. He teaches composition, literature, and creative writing.

Poetry Groups: A How-To for Participating & Managing

Cathryn SheaThe following is a guest post by Cathryn Shea, whose poetry appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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While there are several types of poetry groups and workshops, this article talks about one of the more common formats. Participants of my workshop/poetry group meet in person and are on equal footing. The format has a few house rules to ensure everyone is heard and the meeting ends on time.

Where to Find a Group of Poets

Poetry readings, book launches, and communities of writers are a good place to meet poets who already meet up or who want to form a group. A poet named Yvonne who I met at a library reading had a small group and invited me to submit my work to see if the other poets might like me to join. That was fifteen years ago. I’ve been with this group ever since.

Informal Chair

Yvonne, over the years, has become the informal chairperson of our group, which means that she maintains our address list, sends out email meeting reminders, and handles the email correspondence with prospective new members.

Schedule, “Venue,” and Snacks

We meet every two weeks on Monday night. Our meeting starts at 7:00 PM and we aim to end by 9:00 PM due to work schedules and commutes.

There are currently nine members, but on typical meeting nights five or six show up. If fewer than four can make it, we usually call off the meeting. We maintain the same schedule, however, which means if the meeting is cancelled, we will meet in two weeks from that date, not one. This is what works for us so we can plan around Monday nights and not have as many calendar conflicts.

We now meet only at Yvonne’s home. We used to rotate but as circumstances changed, we are happy to meet at the same place. Most of us bring cookies, nuts, or fruit to share. Our host provides tea and hot water. At all my poetry groups we do not drink alcoholic beverages. Alcohol would make us too giddy and silly. In my groups we are chatty and laugh a lot. For some reason, tea is the default beverage of choice instead of coffee.

Logistics

We begin by handing out copies of our poems around the table. Then someone (typically Yvonne) says, “Who wants to go first?”

We take a few minutes in silence to read the poem to ourselves.

The author reads their poem to the group. (No explanations or apologies if you can help it.) We do not strictly time each poem, but some of us remind the group about time. It helps to have a dictionary and thesaurus handy, and optionally, a book of poetry forms. Each turn typically takes fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on how many people are in attendance

This is important: the author remains quiet while the group discusses the poem. No butting in.

We are not strict about the order of who speaks as we go around the table and say what we think works well and what we think does not work, and suggest changes to punctuation, wording, order. We argue good naturedly over commas, line breaks, word choice, stanza order, titles, etc. Places in the poem that threw us out and obscure or archaic words. To outsiders it can sound like we are fighting, but we are amicable and friendly. We never attack anyone personally. We all want honest feedback no matter how bad the news may be for our poem.

After everyone has given their feedback, the author can speak and ask any questions or explain anything they wish. Sometimes we continue debating a few points or we might look up a word or bring out the thesaurus.

We write helpful notes and feedback on the poem, typically during the discussion and quickly before we hand the poem back to the author. (Make sure to sign the poem.)

After we hand our copies of the poem back to the author, we move onto the next person. The next person might just be counterclockwise or might be a volunteer who says, “I’ll go next.”

How and When to Bring in New Members

If after someone has dropped out or attendance becomes low, we might start to feel that the group has too few members. Then we start to think hard about recruiting. This typically happens every few years as people’s lives change. We used to post on Craig’s List if we were stuck for ideas of who to invite; we don’t love this method though. Word of mouth is best. The past few years we’ve been lucky to have members recommend poets to the group.

Our chairperson sends an invitation email to the new person and asks them to send three or four poems. Then the members of the group respond only within our group with their high-level feedback on the poems. We do not copy the new person.

We vote via email to invite the person and schedule a meeting when the new person can attend to try us out and for us to try them out. We hold a final vote via email. Keeping the count at eight or nine ensures that enough people will be available to meet, but is not too unwieldy to manage.

We all feel fortunate to have this community of poets with whom to bond and share our stories of submission and rejection and our new publications and books. These are perks in addition to developing our craft with the group.

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Cathryn Shea is the author of four chapbooks, including Backpack Full of Leaves (Cyberwit, 2019) and Secrets Hidden in a Pear Tree (dancing girl press, 2019). Her first full-length poetry book, Genealogy Lesson for the Laity, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in September 2020. Cathryn’s poetry was nominated for Best of the Net and appears in Typehouse, Gargoyle, Permafrost, Rust + Moth, and elsewhere. Cathryn served as editor for Marin Poetry Center Anthology. See www.cathrynshea.com and @cathy_shea on Twitter.

Thoughts on Writing about Time Travel

Mike NeesThe following is a guest post by Mike Nees, whose story “The Shifts” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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How many times have I wished that I could revise the past? More than I can count. And yet, it’s not until the late 19th Century that anyone seems to have fantasized about a mechanism through which one might do this. No shortage of ancient tales explore other aspects of time’s relativity; Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish stories all send figures into distant futures, for example, where time has passed without them. So why did it take so long for anyone to explore the idea in reverse?

Did God know in advance that Adam and Eve would eat from the tree? I think it’s a very different kind of story if so, and I can see how one would get caught up in the question. Omnipotence is the kind of conceit that I’m happy to indulge in a good story, provided I’m allowed to scrutinize it, and the author is willing to think it through. Like time travel, it requires the author to make bold predictions about how reality works. I love to see what authors do when out on these limbs.

So let’s say we create a protagonist and send her back in time to stop a disaster. No matter how modest our literary intent, we have to make some bold decisions. Does our hero find that fate is unbendable, and that everything—including her own time travel—is the predetermined course of a clockwork universe? Or does she discover the opposite scenario, in which her every actions triggers a butterfly effect of staggering consequence? I think these are the two extremes that we see most often. Both fascinate me, personally, but both have some significant trappings.

On the deterministic end, we risk revealing our own crass sense of omnipotence. We risk writing the Architect scene from the Matrix sequel, in which the audience is expected to have their minds blown by a pompously delivered diatribe about how our decisions have no meaning. I have no business saying that to a reader whose struggles I don’t know. And yet, I would argue that a skilled author can pull it off to great effect. Ted Chiang invokes this premise in “Story of Your Life” to contemplate the nature of grief. Kurt Vonnegut does it in Slaughterhouse Five to criticize America’s self-assuredness.

Whenever an author speculates on something unknowable, they expose—above all—themselves. We see their fingerprints riddling the worlds they’ve created. In fiction, that can be a problem. But sometimes we crave a glimpse of God’s fingerprints—even if they are those of a lesser God. A mere, mortal author.

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Mike Nees is a case manager for people living with HIV in Atlantic City, where he also hosts the city’s Story Slam series. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Typehouse Literary Magazine, matchbook, and Heavy Feather.

Adding a Bit of Quirk and a Bit of Me

The following is a guest post by K.B. Carle, whose story “Paper Darts” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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With every new story I write, I try to include a bit of quirk and a bit of me. “Paper Darts” is no exception to this rule.

My bit of quirk appears within the first line, paragraph, or the form the story takes such as a receipt or recipe. The most important role of the quirk is to entice the reader. I consider setting when experimenting with quirks: how a story’s unusual location—inside a cabinet, an eyeball, on an imploding star—might transform a common occurrence such as a marriage, dinner, or a job interview, and encourage readers to read one more sentence. One more paragraph. One more page to see what happens next.

Then, I consider the emotional resonance. Something in my stories that will make readers cringe, cry, or laugh. Something that readers will carry with them even after they’ve finished my story. My “bit of me” is oftentimes the source of the emotional resonance in my stories and in “Paper Darts,” it is my fear of forgetting.

I’m terrified of memory loss triggered by dementia: my earliest introduction to memory loss was witnessing the slow deterioration of my grandmother which prompted me to explore this experience and why dementia frightens me in my writing. Her love of food transformed into forgetting she had just eaten, as evidenced by the crumbs on the plate balancing on her lap. She remembered the names of her children but could no longer remember the faces those names belonged to. She knew, once relocated to a nursing home, that she wanted to return to her bed and chair by the doorway so she could wave to all the cars that honked when they drove down the gravel path.

But she couldn’t remember where she lived.

I observed this deterioration of the mind with my mother during extended stays at the hospital to ensure my grandmother always had someone to talk to. I witnessed her moments of clarity as they were tinged with pitfalls of forgetting. I was fascinated by the life she had lived but frightened by all the moments her mind could no longer grasp.

I try to include these moments when writing about the mind’s decline. My goal is to provide readers with the emotional resonances I carry within me in hopes that they will reflect upon a moment in their life and consider a new angle. Awaken, in their memories, the slightest of details they might have missed.

Combining a bit of quirk and a bit of me is my way of searching for something I might have missed. I encourage all writers to experiment, inserting quirks into their stories. A plant that offers unsolicited advice regarding parenting or a break up between a laptop and USB, making everyday situations more enticing to read. I encourage all readers to take a moment to reflect upon these quirks and emotional resonances within the stories they love, and to remember the reasons why these stories or moments remain with them.

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K.B. Carle lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned her MFA from Spalding University’s Low-Residency program in Kentucky. Her stories have appeared in CHEAP POP, genre2, Jellyfish Review, Milk Candy Review, and elsewhere. She can be found online at http://kbcarle.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @kbcarl.

Writing After Abuse

Meggie RoyerThe following is a guest post by Meggie Royer, whose poetry appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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A month into our relationship, or perhaps less than that (trauma plays a kind of devastating cat’s cradle with memory), my abuser bought my book. He may have bought my second book, too, but I also do not remember this. What I do remember is sitting on a couch in his small dorm room, lamplight echoing across his face, our legs pressed together with the kind of timid intimacy that only falling in love for the first time can produce.

He was talking about my book, my writing. The impact it had, my talent, how he was left breathless by my way with words. He shared that he wanted to “support my work.”

I wasn’t aware he knew I had “work” at all, much less a book, or that he knew I had a writing blog, and where to find it. I wasn’t even aware his roommate knew I was a writer, until I was told they read my blog too.

The pure and unbridled irony of our relationship is that at the end, I wrote the one book he could not read.

I wrote a book about how he raped me, about how intimate partner sexual violence leaves untold wreckage in its wake, how in Turkmenistan there is a crater of natural gas that never stops burning, how in my worst moments I imagined lifting its edges like a blanket and stepping inside.

He has not read that book. What he continues to read, however, is my blog, the place that launched my writing career into a hundred thousand devoted followers, the place where I posted, in June of 2014, how I could never trust him again. That five year old post remains in my archive, suspended like an insect in amber, something I can’t bear to save but can’t stand to delete.

I know his watch continues, because he tells me so, or sometimes an ex or friend of his tells me too. Every few months the messages come in, the snarling anonymous accusations that I lied, that I was the abuser, that I was and always will be worth nothing. They arrive in the inbox of my writing blog, the place I always held sacred until it became both a bane and a blessing.

It’s haunting, in a way, like having a ghost perched on my shoulder like a parrot. I still write poems about him and his wreckage, hoping while also fearing that he might read them. I no longer post personal details of my loved ones or my job, knowing that anything can, and might, be used against me.

It would be easier to delete my blog, disappear the archives, Eternal Sunshine it from the Internet. But this is what the guilty do. They erase their evidence, cloak their mistakes. Neither of us may give up, and for what it’s worth, I will not be the one to give up first.

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Meggie Royer is a Midwestern writer, domestic violence advocate, and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Persephone’s Daughters, a literary and arts journal for abuse survivors. She has won numerous awards for her work and has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. She thinks there is nothing better in this world than a finished poem.

Discovering Character through Place

Jennie MacDonaldThe following is a guest post by Jennie MacDonald, whose artwork appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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As an author and photographer, I am always interested in finding ways in which narratival writing and visual imagery intersect. For the reader, powerful writing conjures images of places, characters, and actions. For the viewer, a powerful narratival photograph depicts objects that– in relation to one another– create a story. When I encounter difficulties with writing, I turn to visual work for a different creative perspective and look for new ways of thinking about storytelling.

Lately, I’ve been stymied by the protagonist of my current work-in-progress. I just don’t know what her true motivation is for even showing up in the opening scene. I’ve drafted the scene and know the basics about it: location, characters, what happens, and where things stand at the end of the chapter. But why does my protagonist even appear?

In his recent interview with Dennis Rimmer at the Talking Books and Stuff podcast, author Alan Bradley spoke about creating characters. Bradley writes the Flavia de Luce novels, which are centered on eleven-year-old Flavia, whose penchant for chemistry and forensic science lead her into all kinds of gruesome murder mysteries. She first unexpectedly appeared in a completely different novel Bradley was working on and proved so compelling that he published his tenth Flavia de Luce novel this year and is looking forward to the television series now in development.

According to Bradley, “…stop trying to impose anything upon the paper and just let the characters appear and speak for themselves . . . . they live in the story and know the landscape much better than you do.”

This set a bell ringing for me. I’m a photographer. I love landscape. As a writer, I love describing places. What if I start by focusing on the place where this opening scene takes place? Can I then wait for my protagonist to show up, since she lives there and knows the landscape (which is about more than just location—it’s historical, interpersonal, ecological, and filled with expectations) better than I do?

Photographing wildlife and candid human culture happens like this for me. I may focus on the setting, adjust for lighting and time of day, set the mood and atmosphere, and wait for an animal or person to move to the perfect spot in the frame. Or I follow the animal or person with my lens and click the shutter at the instant they do something interesting.

Although I compose the photograph, the characters each have their own reasons for their actions in that instant. They are motivated before they appear. This is what makes their actions meaningful and interesting. The bird flies from her nest to find food for her chicks. The child runs to greet his grandfather.

I know I can figure out why my protagonist has stepped into this frame—this place—and how she does it, and where she’s coming from. Then we’ll be on our way together.

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Jennie MacDonald, PhD, is an award-winning author and photographer. “A Merry Widow or Two” received the 2019 Colorado Authors League Award of Excellence for Stageplay. Short stories and photographs have appeared in Typehouse Literary Review, Eastern Iowa Review, 3Elements Literary Review, The Esthetic Apostle, and others. Her edited collection, Schabraco and other Gothic Tales from The Lady’s Monthly Museum, 1798-1828, is forthcoming in 2020. Other publications include academic articles concerning 18th and 19th century Gothic literature, theatre, and visual and material culture.

On Dreams and Writing

Joshua ArmstrongThe following is a guest post by Joshua Armstrong, whose story “Age of Consumption” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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What can the role of dreams be in a writer’s process? Of course, one must be wary. Stories about dreams are boring, and prose that comes off as ‘dreamy’ is probably to be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, the feel of dreams can be reproduced in writing to astonishing effect, for example by Kafka or, in a very different register, David Lynch.

As a writer, however, I try to stay close to dreams. Occasionally I will use details from them as a catalyst for my creative writing. This was the case with the story I published in Typehouse, “Age of Consumption.” Sometimes to begin a piece of writing you just need a particularly persistent image, object, or phrase that you can start writing around. Dreams can supply these.

Some of the most fun and fulfilling—if utterly inaccessible (perhaps)—writing I’ve done has been in the form of Surrealist ‘automatic writing’ experiments. These exercises are meant to produce writing that would be as spontaneous and unpredictable as dreams. French avant-garde poets developed these techniques in a hotel in Paris near the Panthéon in the early 20th century.

A modern-day adaptation might go as follows: when you are feeling sleepy, recline in a quiet, comfortable place. Grab your keyboard, close your eyes and simply type at a steady pace without slowing down or stopping until you are unconscious (i.e. asleep). In the still-conscious state, if you obey the constraint that you must keep typing words at a steady pace, you will  write things that surprise you.

When you wake up, check the file and there should be at least a couple lines you have absolutely no recollection writing and that you could not have written consciously. Sometimes they will be nonsense, but often there will be something enigmatic and strangely meaningful about them. For me, one such sentence was: “Many went away with a red car once white.” Another: “Where are the new versions of ourselves?”

Writing polished stories is, of course, a very different craft, and yet, in the end, we don’t control that creative process entirely either. Writing, for me, is a matter of remaining close to that spontaneous, unpredictable element of imagination that takes center stage in dreams. Dreaming and writing, if in different ways, allow us to access and express something meaningful about the world that on some obscure and distant level we intuit despite ourselves.

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Joshua Armstrong’s fiction has been a finalist for the Percy Walker Prize in Short Fiction (‘Ligne de Fuite,’ 2014) and second place winner in the Virginia Festival of the Book short story contest judged by John Grisham (‘The Canadian,’ 2011). He has published stories in Quiddity International Literary Journal (‘Shadow Puppet,’ 2008), Charlottesville, Virginia’s arts and culture weekly, The Hook (‘The Canadian,’ 2011), and Typehouse Literary Magazine (‘Age of Consumption,’ 2019). He has also published reviews of literary works in VQR and Rattle, and his monograph on the contemporary French novel, Maps and Territories: Global Positioning in the Contemporary French Novel, was published this year with Liverpool University Press.

The Joys of a Writing Group

The following is a guest post by Annette Freeman, whose story “Tennyson Gardens” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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There are writers who refuse to show their work in progress to anyone. It would affect the integrity of the idea, they may say; or perhaps they don’t want to show draft work that hasn’t been polished. Others depend on a writing group as the one certain source of support in the lonely enterprise that is writing.

On Twitter, you’ll see writers thank their beta-readers. In the acknowledgements section of published novels you’ll find thanks given to long lists of people — many of these are the early readers, the ones who saw the crummy drafts, who shared their views on the characterization, the story arc, the structure.

I love my writing group. I love it because everyone is an enthusiast for reading and writing. I love it because this particular group of people, united in their writing nerdiness, is a group that I would never otherwise know. It’s a joy and an education to know them. Our ages range across four decades, our home suburbs range across the city, our backgrounds range across the world, our skin colors, ethnicity, gender preferences and hairstyles are interestingly diverse. We even have a straight white male. What can I say, it just turned out that way.

We’re serious about our writing. We start our monthly meet-ups with some social chit-chat, maybe wine, but we have Rules. We get down to work. Up to five of us submit pieces at least two days ahead, up to 3000 words (did I mention the Rules?) Everyone present provides the author with feedback on what worked, what didn’t work, what we loved, what left us underwhelmed. Sometimes there are suggestions, such as “this should be a longer piece!” or “this should be a shorter piece!” Sometimes we come up with literary journals for possible submission, or we discuss up-coming writing contests. When several of us submit to a contest and we’re all rejected, we commiserate, discuss the winners, and talk about why ours were just as good, what was wrong with the judges?

And the most useful thing about spending one afternoon a month critiquing five pieces of draft writing by other people? Spending time thinking about why a sentence, or plot line, or descriptive passage, does or doesn’t work for me as a reader, thinking about how I’d do it: this is gold for a writer.

When one of us has a writerly win — a story that sings, a poem that brings someone to tears, publication! A contest short list! — there’s no group of people in my life who celebrate with more deep-felt joy.

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Annette Freeman is a writer living in Sydney, Australia. Her short stories have appeared in a number of Australian and international journals. She has a Master of Creative Writing from the University of Sydney, and the support of a terrific writing group, emerging writers all, who provide critique and support in equal quantities. She tweets at @sendchampagne

Channeling Your Frustration

Elsa WilliamsThe following is a guest post by Elsa Williams, whose nonfiction piece “My Education, San Francisco 1994.” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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A woman in my writing workshop said, “I don’t understand how you could be friends with someone like Lila.”

I was writing about the chaos of my teens and early 20s, and especially my messy relationship with Lila, and I was workshopping my manuscript for the first time. I needed to know if what I was writing made sense to anybody else. But I was still learning how to weigh the value of different questions, and I needed to find “my readers” —people who understood what I was trying to do and wanted to help me get there.

The woman who asked about “someone like Lila” was not my ideal reader. She littered my pages with, “I just don’t understand this,” and I was caught up short by the depth and breadth of her ignorance.

But she was not the only person in the workshop who was confused by my friendship with Lila.

Lila at 19 had been reckless, self-involved, over-invested in being cool, and sometimes cruel. She has also been one of my closest friends for 25 years. And she has been incredibly gracious about giving me feedback on a project that does not always portray her 19-year old self in the best light.

It felt very personal, that readers hated my friend. And it was hard to admit that there was a fundamental problem with my writing. I was trying to show not tell, but the scenes that I remembered most vividly were the moments when Lila had hurt me, when I felt excluded or belittled. Readers couldn’t understand the stakes of that hurt, because they couldn’t really believe that Lila and I were friends.

The workshop instructor had told us that sometimes all you need is one or two good sentences of telling to set the stakes and orient the reader. I sat down with my composition book to try. I wrote, “Why did I like Lila?” at the top of the page and let my frustration fuel my writing. I spent two hours and ten longhand pages trying to answer the question. Then I took that work and tried to boil it down to a couple good sentences. Something concise and true.

I wrote, “I was a Berkeley kid (queer, messy, theatrical, with blue hair and a leather jacket) at Harvard. Nobody knew what to make of me. In Berkeley I had been part of a vibrant group of nerdy queer and punk kids. In Cambridge, the lines between town and gown were starkly drawn, and I struggled to find my place. I was deeply lonely, just trying to tough it out until graduation. When Lila (queer, messy, theatrical, with purple hair and a leather jacket) got to Harvard, she was exactly the person I needed. We immediately recognized each other as kindred spirits.”

When I was able to ground the reader in my connection with Lila, the response was profoundly different. The woman who had been so vocal about not understanding had dropped out of our writing group, but another women who had, by that point, read hundreds of pages about Lila, told me, “I feel like, for the first time, I understand.”

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Elsa Williams is a biomedical scientist living in Medford, Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She is working on a memoir about her early 20s and blogs about feminism and harm reduction at elsawilliams.net

An Explanatory Mixtape

Ian StonerThe following is a guest post by Ian Stoner, whose story “Eight Lacunae” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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Listeners who came of age in the era of streaming services and mp3s have largely missed out on a small pleasure of physical media for recorded sound:liner notes. It was once standard practice, when labels re-issued an important album, for them to commission a short essay from someone close to the band situating the recording in its musical and cultural context. The genre has a style—the best liner notes are so dense with in-group references and proper nouns that they can be difficult for most readers to unravel… and yet the band’s story emerges, the warmer for its insulating layer.

“Eight Lacunae” (from Typehouse Issue 16) is a short story told through liner notes, and in its opening paragraph I try to establish the insular style characteristic of the form. Amassing sufficient detail required research, supported especially by Simon Reynolds’s Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 and Alex Reed’s Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music. Those books, and the trove of resources they cite, helped me imagine a specific musical context for my narrator to inhabit. Nearly all the context was then burned away in the process of compressing the opening paragraph to the density of liner notes.

For this guest post, I thought it would be fun to reverse that compression and show my work. Below, I’ve annotated a mixtape (read: youtube clips) of bands and songs referenced, directly or indirectly, in the opening paragraph of “Eight Lacunae.”

Mixtape

The Buzzcocks – Boredom (1977)
The Buzzcocks were an early punk band, notable for excellent songwriting and for establishing the Do-It-Yourself aesthetic central to punk and post-punk of the late 1970s. When they were unable to find a label willing to finance or distribute their music, they borrowed the money to record the “Spiral Scratch” EP and founded their own label to distribute it.

The Normal – Warm Leatherette (1978)

Fad Gadget – Back to Nature (1979)

Depeche Mode – Dreaming of Me (1981)
Daniel Miller was a DIY early adopter outside the punk scene. Under the name The Normal he self-financed and distributed a 7-inch single featuring “Warm Leatherette,” a relentlessly repetitive synthpop number based on a J.G. Ballard novel. He included his home address on the sleeve and was inundated with demos from bands who didn’t realize that Mute Records wasn’t an indie label, but rather some rando’s bedroom. Miller (eventually) seized the opportunity, signing oddball genius Frank Tovey, who performed under the name Fad Gadget. Miller and Mute Records went on to sign hugely successful global acts, including Depeche Mode.

Joy Division – New Dawn Fades (1979)

Iggy Pop – Sister Midnight (1977)
Joy Division’s debut LP, Unknown Pleasures, is a masterpiece. Ian Curtis, who had epilepsy and was known for a dancing style difficult to distinguish from seizure, was their singer. He killed himself in 1980 while listening to Iggy Pop’s “Sister Midnight.”

Cabaret Voltaire – Nag Nag Nag (1979)

The Human League – Being Boiled (1980)

Clock DVA – Sensorium (1981)
Cabaret Voltaire’s recording studio in Sheffield was home to multiple foundational industrial bands, including Clock DVA and the first incarnation of The Human League. These bands were known for synthesizers, minimalist arrangements, and meticulous attention to detail.

Einsturzende Neubauten – Steh auf Berlin (1981)
Einsturzende Neubauten, aus Berlin, were the progenitors of a different breed of industrial, which in its early days featured lots of salvaged sheet metal and power tools.

Prince – When You Were Mine (1980)
Prince released Dirty Mind in 1980, cementing the Minneapolis Sound. Given his amoeba-like absorption of New Wave, I can imagine Prince fans mining the local scene for bands that could plausibly fit that description.

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Ian Stoner teaches philosophy at Saint Paul College and writes fiction when he can. His website is http://ianstoner.com/ .