How does writing about such an intense topic happen? Reading about girls of history and the world inspired me: Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, Spring Moon. My girl life in the 'burbs was out in the meadows or inside with a book. There were seasons with my BFF at the skating rink in winter and in the pool in the summer.
Girls had few chances to speak but great opportunity to observe and take notes. Malcolm @Gladwell says his mother is a great storyteller, yet not “one to regale the room”. In her time, a Jamaican woman in Canada doubtfully would regale the room. She became a writer.
Notes grew from writing down the action that was never voiced in our enclave: drunken dads and promiscuous moms (vice versa), boys in forts poring over porn, handsy uncles, gossipy Hollywood-ites at swimming pools in swim outfits with matching heels & fancy hairdos, never to take a dip.
Later, there was the college student and her prof hanging out at the campus bar after classes, then leaving together. He was a family man. On and on, the idiosyncrasies in society of those who make it righteously but live a shadowy hypocritical debauchery just under the radar.
This felt normal, really. However, what was troubling as a grown-up was a disturbing criminal depravity that apparently many knew, but no one acknowledged. Beneath the guise of religion or “Jesus loves me” was an undeniable underbelly of the powerful preying on the vulnerable.
Eventually, it was so disturbing that I pieced together alleged anecdotes and wrote a narrative, with the idea that if we can’t talk openly about it, maybe we can consider what is happening and what to do about it, via the safe pages in a book. This became #ChildrenToo #ChurchToo on the page.
I met with a literary attorney who said the substance of writing was real and important, but I needed to hire an editor. The editor, with a red pen crossing out paragraphs, & scrawling elsewhere “more needed”, transformed cautious notes into a novel that whispered the unspeakable.
Fiction integrates observations with daily news. #MeToo arrived w/#ChurchToo: my genre. God loves us, I saw, but He isn't part of a scheme of using authority to plunder the vulnerable. A deadly game, destroying lives of children and youth, creepy power grab w/religious license.
Stories wouldn't put victims under a microscope. They'd been exposed in a cage with a wolf predator. Reporting meant reliving and risking responses: “Lying slut!” How they dressed was insinuated, as well as how they felt: “You must have enjoyed that…” instead of: "How can I help?"
The stories would ring true without putting lives before predators, predator enablers, labelers (“forever doomed, damaged”), or some helpers that use victimization for endless capital growth (rippling trauma for eternal co-dependency down through generations, some would say).
Novelists use stories for social discourse and change. Dickens shed light on debtors’ prisons & children. Anna Sewell inspired kindness for man & beast. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery transformed adoption from servitude to loving a child. These informed my writing.
My professional network of friends read and critiqued my manuscript: from medicine, education, religion, law, science, business, etc. They had witnessed some of what they read in the novel. They made suggestions for clarification. The novel was tweaked & ready for publication.
After his read of Legal Grounds, a books editor of a local newspaper told me, “Be encouraged as more of these types of novels-as-witnesses are published. Those writers are not your competition. You are a cohort that stands together to inform. This happens. What will we do?”
So, dear readers and writers, what have you observed, heard, experienced, & read? Pray tell, what eye-openers have you to reveal in the safe pages of a book? What we see and do not say. That's a novel, that's a book.
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