Thursday, June 04, 2020

So much to digest

There has been so much to digest this week. The news cycle nearly forgot COVID-19, as the death toll topped 100,000 Americans, and swung to nationwide protests in the wake of the horrific killing of George Floyd.

On Monday evening, I, along with the rest of the nation, watched the president use military force to clear a path through protesters so he could have his picture taken in front of a church. He was holding a Bible as the armed military members stood at the ready.

As a privileged white man, I don’t pretend to understand the emotions my Black friends and colleagues feel this week. I am not teaching right now, so I’m not working to help students process images seen on TV or the words they hear coming from home. My work at present is primarily as a father: in conversations about systemic racism, about the anger spilling into the streets in nonviolent and violent protests borne in the deep and dark waters of slavery, about the ways we, as a white family in this particular nation, have benefitted from a financial system built on oppression and designed to allow us, above others, to own property, and about how owning property alone creates opportunities for things like college loans. Admittedly, this effort on the homefront is not much, certainly not enough.

If you are looking for a compelling read about race and its relationship to the American police forces, check out Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me.


When scenes like the one I saw on CNN Monday evening elevate my blood pressure and these next five months loom large, I, like probably many who turn to this blog do, turn to the blank screen –– and write.

I have a manuscript with my agent, so I’m playing the waiting game. Meanwhile, I’m writing a short story with the idea of using it as the frame for the sequel to the novel my agent has. I got the idea by reading Ed McBain’s story “Sadie When She Died” and then the novel by the same title. The story is wonderful. McBain liked it so much he turned it into a novel. I did this with the first Peyton Cote novel, Bitter Crossing.

Using the short story form allows one to take a plot and try it out. To see where it falls flat, see where, if you had another 90,000 words, you could expand it with additional storylines, characters, suspects, and complications.

Writing a story is good practice. I’m keeping a careful eye on my word count. There are no extraneous scenes. No fluff. Hemingway said fiction writing was architecture, not interior design. Nowhere in fiction writing is that more true.

It hasn’t been a good week, but I am hopeful that change is coming.

Be well, be safe.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

Thanks for this, John. The past 2 weeks have been horrendous -- and to say that in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis is saying a lot! I'm reeling, quite frankly.

Back in January, I was thinking, Well, last year was pretty awful. I'm sure this year will be better.

2020 has been a dumpster fire almost since the beginning.

I won't say, "Well, we can only go up from here," because I don't want to jinx it.