Friday, April 18, 2014

P: Pulp (A-Z Blog Challenge: Evocative words)

I started my adult writing life as a bit of a literary snob. I studied creative writing at a small college. I wrote poetry. Formal poetry at that. I have an unpublished collection of sonnets called "Divorce Letters" for goodness sake.

But I also read a lot of "for fun" things. I loved old hard-boiled detective films and comic books. Tennessee Williams. In other words, over the top drama.

While I enjoyed reading and viewing that sort of thing, I never really considered writing it. It didn't fit my image of "real" writing. I was going to be Emily Dickinson (but, you know, with a boyfriend), not Mickey Spillane.

Then, I graduated. I got a job. I had kids. Even though I teach, I'm assuredly not in the ivory tower. It's a public middle school. The tower wasn't built of ivory in the first place and now it has holes and is held up by sticks we found in the yard. In other words, life got real. I had less time to read and write, though I still did both. I found that what I was reading was not what I was writing. That seemed weird.

Someone in my writing critique group talked about having fun while she wrote. I thought long and hard about that. Was I having fun?

I was writing a serious literary novel (His Other Mother, not yet published) about a woman dealing with fertility issues and schizophrenia. I felt good about it. I loved it. It felt important and real and good. But it was not fun. It was hard. So hard that I was having trouble getting to the ending. I knew it wasn't going to be happy and that was emotionally hard to do. I loved my main character, Sherry, and it was difficult to take her to the logical and necessary ending. I thought about Thomas Hardy, and how I'd read somewhere that he used to weep as he tortured his characters. But, his books are wonderful. They haunt me. I think Sherry could haunt people like that.

I decided that after I finished His Other Mother, I would be allowed to write a play piece. Something fun. So, I wrote Going Through the Change (also not yet published). It's a superhero novel about four menopausal women who develop incredible abilities through the machinations of a mad scientist. Writing it was still hard work--any good writing requires structure and rewriting and lots of real work--but it was fun. I laughed while I wrote.

So, now I'm working on two new novels. One is another serious literary novel, historical fiction this time. I think it will be called Cold Spring and it's about two sisters in rural America in the early twentieth century. The other is a sequel to Going Through the Change. I don't have a good title for it yet.

I'm finding that I need both sides of my literary brain. I need to lose myself in both tragedy and comedy. I need literary, beautiful language in my pulp and I need large, dramatic moments in my literature. The two kinds of writing aren't so completely separate after all, though their readerships are quite different.

I'm not sure what this means for my publishing life. My guess is a pseudonym for one or the other type of writing. But, for now, I'm pleased with the balance, letting both sides of my soul roll out onto the computer screen. So maybe I am Emily Dickinson and Thomas Hardy.  And maybe I'm Mickey Spillane, too . . .or Stan Lee. Just call me Emily Spillane. :-)
This post is part of the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.


  1. How about changing the word "fun" for the word "joy?"

  2. I'm glad I found this site. I enjoyed reading about your (continuing) journey.
    Marlene at On Writing and Riding