December 15, 2009

Home Is Where … the Writing Psychosis Starts

Just learned that a distant relative, whom I’ve never met, committed suicide yesterday. She was the mother of a four-year-old. It just makes me so sad.

There’s something about having kids that breaks things wide open inside you. Before kids, things would be sad, sure. When something bad happened to someone, I’d think, that’s too bad, but then, usually, the thought would slip from my mind and I’d be thinking about the next thing. But now, when I read something, I immediately think, what if that were my son or daughter? It’s particularly bad if that horrible something happens to children. It just tears me up inside. Empathy kicks in, big time.

It makes me think what a terrible wilderness the world can be for kids. Their lives depend completely on their parents or caretakers. Take one away, or have the ones there be mentally ill, or whatever, and that kid’s life can be horrible, a nightmare. There’s a reason kids’ books are so scary ~ because their lives hang by a thread. Instead of a wonderland, the home can be a torture chamber.

And we tend to be a pretty hands-off not-my-problem society. Even if you suspected something weird was going on with some kids you know, would you report it? If you swatted your kid in the grocery store for being a brat, would you want someone to report you? It’s all very murky.

Another reason why there’s a lot of people who feel the urge to write: they need to be heard, they need to tell the truths of their childhood.

What I’m Reading Today: The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, edited by Ben Marcus. Within this last year, I read the Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction, edited by Joyce Carol Oates and Cristopher Beha. That is the SINGLE BEST COLLECTION I have ever read ~ and the reason is that it’s not just a year’s worth of stories. It’s the best single story (in the editors’ opinions) of the best short story writers working today. This Anchor anthology is shaping up to be just as good! I am so psyched! (Thanks, Rashena, for the tip.)

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