A Really Big Fish

What made me return to writing Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, a novel about my father? I suspended the search for information about my father almost as soon as I started in 2011 after my mother’s death in Kansas City, Missouri.  I did send out freedom of Information requests, some emails and phone calls. When nothing came up, I gave up. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to find out more.

In 2014, I left Nairobi, Kenya where I had been living off and on since 1998. My partner and I moved back to Canberra, Australia, where he had grown up. I took some writing courses and workshops at the University of Canberra. I published a book of poems and sketches, Silence Spoken (available on www.lulu.com). I was not yet committed to researching and writing about my father’s life. Continue reading “A Really Big Fish”

Self-made Man

How can someone reconcile with their father decades after his death? The book I’m working on Tracking the Human: nobody is a long time is fiction based on events in the life of my father W. Lon Hutchison. The only clues I have about his life are documented intersections with the United States legal system. I have followed these clues to come closer to someone I never knew, although I lived with him for 18 years.

When my father died in 1971 in Kansas City, I learned about his death six months later.

I was camping on a beach in Northern California when a friend came running down the hill to our tent. We just received a message from your mother. Your father has died.

My father was an impossible being, a man without a past, without a family, who sprang full grown into Christian Science as a successful businessman. That’s how he presented himself to the world.

He was formidable, tough and unforgiving. No one crossed him. If they did, he never ever forgave them. I felt suffocated by Christian Science, the religion of my father and his constant push to make money.

Unless I accepted his worldview, I was out. So at age twenty, I was cast out of the family by my father.

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

Do you think fiction can reveal truths?

Do you think fiction can reveal more than non-fiction?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My birth day

Because today is my birthday (19 February), I am sharing an excerpt from Tracking the Human, the novel I am writing based on events in the life of my father, W. Lon Hutchison. The excerpt is based on stories I was told about my birth.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

When Sally Jo went into labor, her husband drove her to Research Hospital. Dr. Keiger told her the baby was presenting the bottom instead of the head for delivery. He kept trying to turn the baby around, but the baby kept on presenting its rear end. Finally he told Sally Jo he would have to deliver the baby using forceps. She was terrified. She had seen a baby delivered by forceps the day before who was severely bruised about the head. What would happen to her baby?

When Sally was handed the newborn baby girl, she kept her eyes tight shut, afraid to look. What if her baby was bruised or deformed in some way? Sally Jo was fearful about the whole procedure. The nurse who handed her the baby, told her to open her eyes and look at her baby girl. She was not sure she wanted this baby, but here she was. She opened her eyes slowly, and looked at the wrinkly red-faced baby with straight black hair. Sally Jo had never held a newborn and didn’t know what to expect. The baby was kind of funny looking but she couldn’t detect any bruises or deformity. She was disappointed that it was a girl but glad that it wasn’t deformed.

Uninvited, Sally Jo’s mother showed up at the hospital to see her granddaughter. One of the neighbors must have told her about the baby. All the newborns were kept lined up in cribs that looked like clear plastic boxes. No one, not even the mother, was allowed to hold them. The nurses did everything. They made sure everything was clean and sanitary. They didn’t trust the new mothers to know what to do. Relatives stood outside the nursery peering through the glass partition at the babies in their boxlike cribs in the nursery.

One woman looking at the babies in their lined-up cribs commented,

Look at that big boy in the back row.

Sally Jo’s mother turned around, glared at the woman and said,

That big boy yer talkin’ about? That’s my granddaughter.

Then she left the hospital without going to see her daughter.

 

Lost without a title

Trying to write a novel without a title overwhelmed me. I was in the process of writing and preparing to publish a novel based on events in the life of my father, W. Lon Hutchison, from his birth in 1907 in Indian Territory, soon to become the state of Oklahoma, to his death in 1971 in Kansas City, Missouri, when the title of my book  Life Expectancy abandoned me.

What had I done so far?

And writing is  always far… in time, in work, in travel, in research… very far.

I researched on location and in libraries in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, the National Archives, Kansas City, Missouri, Oakland, and San Francisco, California.

I wrote and rewrote chapter by chapter with feedback from a monthly writers’ group. I researched small independent publishers of fiction in the USA who accept queries. I was ready to start my blog and send the queries.

When I lost the title Life Expectancy (because it had already been used by best-selling author Dean Koontz), I came to a full stop.

Stuck.

I had to change the title and lost confidence in the book project. The project no longer a part of me and what I was doing. The book felt removed, intellectualized. The writing not good enough for me to continue so better to drop it. The blogs I had drafted were in disarray and out of sequence. My life and thoughts moved on but I had not brought the book and the blogs along with me.

Stuck.

Has this happened to you?

How did you get unstuck?

How will I find a title and the energy to restart this book project?

Did you have difficulty with a title?

How important is a title to a book project?

Your comments are most welcome.

A Giant Step Back

natl-mus-pamela-mirror-848

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”