Feb. 16th, 2019

samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 #samanthascenes #saturdayscenes I've been playing around with a short story this week. It's not titled yet, but I'm hoping it will turn out to be a good fit for an anthology +Dave Higgins is putting together (details here: https://davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/submission-calls/call-for-submissions-fears-of-a-clown/) Here's a taste of what I've written so far: 
_________________________________________
 
“CREEPY CLOWN HAUNTS LOCAL PLAYGROUND.” The headline screamed across the page in 20 point gothic font. Maggie snorted. _This hogwash was news? Honestly!_ Across the breakfast table, her husband looked up from his phone. “What?”
 
Maggie turned her newspaper so he could view the lurid headline. “A little over the top, don’t you think?” 
 
Her husband reached for the paper and she let him take it, picking up her coffee and taking a sip. It was still a little too hot and burned her upper lip. She touched the sore place with her fingertip. Not too bad. It probably wouldn’t even redden that much. George always did make the coffee superheated. She joked it was because his heart was just that cold. This is what it took to defrost him. 
 
He was back on his phone now, apparently in an active chat. She sighed, wondering why she bothered to get out of bed to have breakfast with him anymore. It wasn’t like they talked. They might as well be two strangers on the bus. Maybe it would be better when he retired too here in a couple more years. Maybe it would be worse. Time would tell. 
 
Suddenly, George stood. “I’m going to have to go,” he said, shoving his arms through his suit-jacket sleeves. He knocked his phone onto the floor. 
 
Maggie glanced at the clock as she moved to pick it up for him. It was still only 6:30. “So early?”
 
George took a gulp from his still steaming mug, unfazed by the tongue-searing heat. “Things are already on fire over there.” 
 
Maggie held out the phone, startled to see a group chat labeled “Gleemen.” The last message said, “EMERGENCY. Here. Now.” _What was the man up to?_ 
 
 George pocketed the device, leaned over and gave her kiss on the cheek, lips still warm from the coffee. “Lunch today?”
 
Maggie nodded, pulling her bathrobe tight around her. 
 
As soon as George was out of the house, Maggie went to the bedroom and pulled on her retirement uniform of yoga pants and a voluminous blouse, ran a comb through her gray and brown mop of hair, and grabbed her purse. _What in the world were Gleemen?_ 
 
Crackpot theories went through her head. She’d heard stories about women her age finding out they’d been living a lie all these years, that their husbands have secret lives they’ve known nothing about. Mistresses. Gay lovers. Shady business ventures. Dark hobbies. She had to know what George was doing. It was the surest way to shut down her hyperactive imagination.
 
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 #bookeveryweek Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. 
 
fahrenheit 451 book coverThough I've long been a fan of Mr. Bradbury's short stories, I hadn't ever read this, arguably his most famous book. I'm sorry to have to say I didn't like it that much. 
 
The ideas behind the story are familiar Bradbury territory: the dangers of reliance on technology, the de-humanization of people, the hard-won lesson, the importance of thinking for yourself. I'm a bleeding heart liberal myself, a supporter of education and considered thought, so I like the ideas. That's not the problem. 
 
But what works in short form is not as great longer for, at least not in this case. One of the things I've always appreciated about his short stories is the unapologetic and straightforward earnestness and sincerity. Especially now, when everything seems so damn ironic and cynical all the time, impressed with its own cleverness, reading Ray Bradbury can feel like a breath of fresh air. But in this book, I found that directness came off ham-fisted. Clumsy even. No subtlety. No build. 
 
In a longer work, I expected to delve deeper into the characters, but I didn't find it. Montag was a man who did things, but it was never clear to me why. Why did talking to Clarisse affect him so deeply? There was nothing in their conversation that sparkled enough to make me see what he apparently saw, nothing life-changing. He was taking some terrible risks, but even he didn't seem to understand his own motivations. 
 
I understood that Millie, Montag's wife, was supposed to illustrate what a society without books and genuine interactions could do to a person, but she was so vapid as to be only a caricature. She was a sketch only, exhibit A: cautionary tale. None of the complexity that even a shallow character needs to feel real and to be emotionally affecting. 
 
Given that the book has so few female characters (Clarisse, Millie and Millie's friends), it's sad that they are used only to illustrate a point and not explored with any depth. We don't see any civilian men painted as similarly ruined by this society, so it plays into some 1950s gender politics that just didn't age well. 
 
There are some highly quotable lines if you're looking for that kind of thing, but they feel stilted to me in the context of the story, like the characters are merely mouthpieces for the moral of the story rather than people I can care about. 
 
Sorry, Ray. I'm sorry this is the work people have heard of. It's not your best work. 
samanthabryant: feeling purple (Default)
 #smileaday Breakthroughs. 
 
lightbulbOne of my favorite things about teaching is being there when someone has a breakthrough, when you can see the light bulb go off over their head, just like in a cartoon, and feel like you helped to power that light bulb. 
 
I teach for a local community college from time to time. This semester's class is called "Finish Your Novel" and is part cheerleading, part feedback, and part advice about building a writing life that lets you finish things. 
 
Today, I shared a plantser (half pantser, half plotter) outlining/structuring technique I've been using and the response was heartening. Looks like I'm not the only person this approach might help. One student announced that she was super excited to get back to writing now and try this out!
 
It's good to feel like you helped someone move forward. Super good. I still feel all glowy. 

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Samantha J Bryant

March 2019

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