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The Truth of Fiction

In my previous post, I said that the posts on this blog would be about the process of researching, writing and rewriting a novel that is and is not the story of my father’s life.

Change of plan.

Instead of presenting myself as a writer, for the next few blogs, let me share some thoughts as a reader.

Some years ago, when I knew I was headed to Pakistan, I tried to read everything about Partition* through novels. Novels written by Muslims, Christians, Hindus, non-believers. Novels written from the Pakistan side, from the Indian side, from the time just before, during and after Partition.

* Note on Partition: the division of the Asian Sub-Continent by the British in 1947, which created India and Pakistan. Partition forcibly displaced over 14 million people on religious lines. The violence of Partition created hostility between India and Pakistan that continues today as an ongoing deeply felt trauma.

To find out about history, culture, values, peoples, heroes and villains of the different countries where I’ve lived and worked, I go to novels.

Why fiction? Because a different truth lies in stories where point of view is acknowledged. Readers can draw their own conclusions and think about what happened or might have happened.

Novels bring us into a different reality. That was always true for me. As a girl growing up in a rather boring Midwestern town in the USA, I read novels constantly. Even after bedtime, under the bed covers, with the aid of a flashlight. Was I trying to escape or to learn? Probably both.

Currently my reading is dominated by the place where I live, that is, Australia. I hear about books and authors interviewed on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National.

Pamela Collett RN 2

                                 This is me with my Radio National umbrella.                  Kangaroos in the background so you know this is Australia.

The next blogs will be about my reaction to books I heard about on the radio and then requested online at my local public library.

Do you think novels have more profound truth that non-fiction?

Where do you go for information about a country or culture where you may be visiting or living?

How do you find out about books you might want to read?

A Giant Step Back

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Here it is and here I am. Or am I? I thought I knew who I am as much as anyone can. Yet I finally understood that to know myself I must go back, not through ancestry.com to construct a family tree, but just one giant step back – to my father.

I never knew the man. Not really anyway. I didn’t want to know him while he was alive. I wanted to escape. I was already halfway out the door when he rejected me. I wanted a life that was not confined to making money in Kansas City Missouri USA where I grew up. I felt stunted by the environment – the limited ways of thinking of the time and place.

Post World War II, many families like ours were rising up and out of poverty and the working class into the middle class even into upper middle class affluence. At what cost? Who was paying for this? Who benefited and who did not?

This blog is about taking one step back and then jumping in to find my father. I am writing a novel, Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, based on events in his life.

Come with me as I try to learn about this man to write a fictional story that both is and is not his story.

Share with me your stories of research and writing for family reconciliation.   You can comment here or email me at pamela@tucacas.info.

Thanks!
Continue reading “A Giant Step Back”

Search for Significance

I thought I had it. A clever evocative title with a double meaning. During two years of research and writing for a novel based on events in the life of my father, W. Lon Hutchison, I used the title: Life Expectancy.

The term Life Expectancy could refer to what people expect from life or to a statistical average of how long someone might expect to live.

Two years after I chose the title, I decided to do a web search to find out more about the definitions of life expectancy.

WHOOPS!

In 2004, Dean Koontz, a well-known USA suspense/horror writer wrote a bestseller titled Life Expectancy. The book by Koontz, has a listing on Wikipedia. Rolling Stone hailed Koontz as “America’s most popular suspense novelist.”

Why didn’t any of the writers and bloggers’ tips that I’d read advise me to check if there already was a book with the title I wanted to use?

I’d written a draft of the book with the title Life Expectancy, had prepared queries to send to several publishers, purchased the domain name lifeexpectancy.info and was ready to launch a blog about writing the book.

Everything came to a dead stop. Better late than never.

I had to find another title. Meanwhile I felt as if my writing project no longer existed, had disappeared, becoming a vague memory of something never completed.

Where to get inspiration for another title?P1150955 Pamela Reeds copy

Online, I read

  • all of Woody Guthrie’s lyrics,
  • phrases from Shakespeare and
  • a list of songs recorded by Johnny Cash.

I re-read some of my favorite poetry books by Kenneth Patchen, Gary Snyder, Eleanor Lerman…

A month of searching, hoping that a title would find me. No luck.

How did you choose a title for your writing?

Have you checked to make sure no one else is using that title?

 

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