#AmWriting: when a tone goes academic to full-blown hillbilly, I have to ask who I am

This week’s #AmWriting was a bit scattered. I had to work Saturday morning, so I didn’t write until almost 6:00PM. Then, I got a message from one of the guys I went on the writing retreat with, and he wanted to know if I was going to do the accountabuddies thing this weekend. I had kind of given up on it because no one seemed to be responding, so I was excited to see another person wanted to write with me. So, I ended up writing on Sunday, too.

My goal Saturday was to revisit this story I started so many times. It was inspired by what I call “girls gone wild” novels. I realize that’s a terrible name because of those Girls Gone Wild movies that were advertised heavily in the middle of the night about 15 years ago. The whole point of those films is to see girls partying pull up their shirts. No, what I mean by “girls gone wild” is those feral adolescent female characters, often seeking a mother or mother figure, who have so captured my attention. Books like The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, Bogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon, and Cruddy by Lynda Barry.

I had this crazy idea that I would write my own “girl gone wild” story and have the main character run away. She would travel across the country to find the mother who left her, and along the way stop at three aunts’ houses. Each aunt would be one of the girls in Paterson’s, Gordon’s, and Barry’s novels, but grown up. What I noticed, though, was that I couldn’t pin down a time line.

And the more I wrote, the more hillbilly my tone got. That’s right, I had a first-person heehaw narrator. A few years ago, I tried to make the story 3rd person to smooth out the tone. But what I’ve discovered is every time I walk away from a draft, the person I was when I wrote it is not the person I am today, so the tone shifts ever so slightly (or a great deal). This tells you a lot about my personality and day-to-day moods. I spent Saturday un-hillbilly-ing my story and making sure the point of view and verb tenses were consistent. Then I got to the end of the story where I was reminded that I had written a trans woman who drives a semi and loves roller derby. What was I thinking? The writing is not good. I cut most of that scene, but kept the character because I love her.

roller derby
In case you’re unfamiliar with roller derby. Image from The South Bend Tribune.

Sunday I spent re-reading the story I wrote at the writing retreat. When I say “story I wrote,” I mean “thing I started with no end.” I get big ideas and don’t know the narrative arc. As I sat there, it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I said “whoa!” out loud. My writing buddy didn’t even notice; he was too engrossed in his own creative non-fiction piece. I was so! pleased! that I came up with a shape for the story. Now, I have a goal/plan for next Saturday, and I couldn’t be happier!

In final news, one of the stories I submitted to a journal last week was accepted for publication. It’s a relatively new journal with the adorable name Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit.

meow pow about

Most people would ask, “Don’t you want to be published in a real journal?” For me, that question doesn’t even register. So many people are writing and submitting now that getting into a real journal means you’re already established and help the journal look good. That’s not me. Wouldn’t real journals help me get a tenure-track position? Unlikely. Again, there are so many writers out there already, the market is flooded. It used to be you needed one book to be considered for a tenure-track creative writing teaching position. Now, in many cases, it’s 2-3. I have a job at a school I love. I have a husband who makes enough money and has insurance and a sweet retirement package, which means we’re not hurting. So why not support a new magazine?

And here’s the cool part.

They do broadsides! Yes, broadsides, which are stories or poems that are designed to look appealing and be handed out on street corners or hung up around town. There’s a gonzo/graffiti feel to them. This is how Dudley Randall of the amazing Broadside Press got started. Remember him? He started a publishing revolution with broadsides. Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit also asks authors to record themselves reading the story, so when it’s published, you’ll be able to hear me, too!

See you next Saturday!

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23 comments

  1. Very happy for you that your piece was accepted! That is wonderful! Well done. And about that voice thing….I find that happens when I write, too. The more time you spend with a character, the more of that character’s voice you feel…

    • Thanks, Callum! One thing I love about e-zines is that people around the globe can read them. It used to be you had to stick to subscriptions from your own country or pay out the nose for international shipping.

  2. Congratulations. I hope you’re one of the other categories and not ‘putridity’. I haven’t watched Roller Derby since high school but I want to read the trans-woman, truck driving, roller blading saga. (And hang on to that husband!).

    • Ha, each month they have a theme. This call for submissive was about crows. I had an old flash fiction about how in Ojibwe the death of a crow is considered a bad omen, so I submitted that.

      Did you watch flat-track derby, or were they in a tilt? In the 70s, the tilted track version was popular and often aired on TV.

      I’m hanging on to the husband! He’s sweet and funny–and I floated him with my jobs before he got his good job, so it’s payback 😂

      • From memory, the roller derbies were on tilted oval tracks. And yes, married life takes teamwork. Milly and I have had our problems but we’ve floated each other a couple of times and will again as retirement looms for both of us.

        • Flat-track roller derby bouts are often held in roller skating rinks when they don’t have open skate, which is why they have a flat track instead of the tilted track. I think it often comes down to space issues–both where they can share and where to store those tilted tracks. A lot of the work the team does (if not all) is volunteer.

  3. Congratulations! I love your story idea, and I love the sound of Meow Meow Pow Pow!
    One thing that has always amazed me about writers is that, not only can they write, but they also come up with great ideas to write about. How do you do that?!

    • I have a childish way of seeing things, which typically embarrasses me as an adult. It also helps to begin every idea with “what if…..” because you are forced to come up with what would result if something happened.

      • I just might try that!
        This morning I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office thinking about what else I could try to get my son out of bed. And I was thinking “what if” I lit a fire under the bed? Ha! I didn’t mean it, of course, but now I can see how that could turn into a story! 🙂

  4. Who WOULDN’T want to be published by someone called Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit? That’s the best name ever. Congratulations! I can’t wait to hear your voice.

    Ps-your writing posts are some of my favourite of yours, because your humour really shines through 🙂

  5. Oh, well done on getting accepted – sounds exciting! And congrats too for coming up with a story arc for your story. Things are looking good – keep up the good work! 😀

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