A while ago one of my dear writer friends noted some similarities of my mother’s writing to mine. She noted the interest in small details, and a few other things. I’d been writing long before my mother had put pen to paper, noting her family history in stories. I was surprised. My friend also wrote that she noticed the same ‘somewhat distant “tone”‘.
That stung a bit, but I’m a writer, and that’s the type of critique that is actually useful. You could say that I’d been WAITING to hear it. I knew there was something a little unreachable in my work. It wasn’t because I was niche.
I was on another walk with a friend who has read Fate of the Red Queen. I was telling her about how I’ve started viewing my stay at my mother’s house, and seeing the time as a sabbatical, where I could explore new ways of seeing my work, and test out new ways of writing. I mentioned that comment. She said, “I don’t see that.” And it hit me. The distant tone of my writing does have an audience.
I have long felt as if I had no community. I grew up a first generation American, with an atheist father teaching New Testament theology, semantics specifically, in an Orthodox Jewish community, living on a street practically hidden from view (most people thought it ended long before it did), I’d experienced trauma as a child (not from my parents), and was as disconnected from my parent’s culture as I was from the American one,. I had no real belonging but in stories shared with my twin and my one childhood friend.
I was a freak, yearning for connection and community, but had no idea how to get what I wanted. Love and trust were hard to come by. Another good writer friend, years ago, when I was still working on The Bone Reader, had read it at WRW, and while three of us were getting drunk on the last day, he dropped a bomb of revelation about my work. “You’re conflicted about your life, and it comes out in your work.” It hit me after only about three hours of sleep, so hard that I woke up, with far too much energy, and making me think about that one comment. Among the best of a memorable week.
Most of the books I’ve published are about awkward possibly anxiety, or depressed ridden people who have no community, are confused about their own path, their own purpose–freaks to their own mind, not fitting anywhere. This is no bad thing. I truly believe that for the most part we all are always reaching for community, and connection, and we often find it in our shy ways. I have. My friend has. We all do. But there might be a reserve.
That’s not to say I want to stay in that lane, but I have more clarity than I had. That’s thanks to a good writer friend, and a friend I can take walks with, and talk about anything and everything, because we truly do have a lot in common.