Sunday, October 9, 2011

In Which the Writer Returns Home to Harpursville

You can go home again, actually.

If you're strong enough.  

Because ghosts of all kinds haunt the paths you used to roam.  Not necessarily ghosts of malevolence or harm (though you might run into those, also), but mostly ghosts of remembrance and nostalgia.   



Ghosts of dreams and nightmares, triumphs and failures.

Of days well spent with friends long moved on, ghosts of lost loves.

Ghosts of enemies, too. 

Lurking in all the familiar places. 

Ghosts on the sidewalks, in empty buildings formerly general stores and teen hangouts, on fields of former football glory, on the street corner, in darkened, empty school corners, swinging on the swings and clambering high on the old, wood and stone playground sets that were long ago replaced by SAFE, brightly colored plastic ones.

Ghosts.  Think of it, and those of you handy with physics can probably take it to mind-bending heights: every place you've left a foot print, grabbed something, jumped over, hid behind...walked on...you've left something behind.  Even if only a piece of your spirit.

Probably why so many writers end up writing about their hometowns.  Or at least, start out trying to, early in their careers.  I know I did, but eventually put it aside in favor of other projects, because quite simply...

I wasn't ready.  

Was too close to it.  Because, as expressed very eloquently by award winning and wonderfully talented author Gary Braunbeck in his memoir on the craft To Each Their Darkness (which all horror writers should buy RIGHT NOW), "good fiction doesn't give a damn how it REALLY happened."  

In other words...writing about something close to us CAN produce very powerful, emotional work.  But if it's TOO close to us...we fall prey to FORCING the story to play out EXACTLY as the incident/memory that inspired it, which usually doesn't make for good, entertaining fiction.  So I've left off writing about home, for a real long time.

Until now.

Two incidents:  recently, when driving to my Dad's, I took the back, slow way.  My parents live right off the highway, so if I want, I can skip all sorts of hallmarks of home and just fly right there.  This time, I was on my own...so I took my time.

Trundled up Route 7, through Sanitaria Springs.  Soaked in the memories.  Worked at my  Dad's - it was just him and I and Mom - which hasn't happened in I DON'T know when.  The entire time there, my mind literally GLOWED with the past. 

And something powerful came over me.  A memory of something that happened my 8th grade year - not to me, really.  But something PROFOUND.  Something I lingered on the edge of, something that SHOULD have hit me like a hammer blow, but somehow...somehow....

It didn't.

Until that day, at my parents, twenty-three years later.

And I knew I had to write about it.  And, almost instantly, the story literally SPRANG into my head, in a way that allowed ALL the emotions hiding in there to explode...but in an original creation, all my own.

Second incident: today, Madi had a soccer game in Harpursville...THE place.  My hometown.  As I drove into town, taking the same route my bus did for eighteen years...memories  and ghosts assaulted me.  Tightened my chest, snatched my breath from my throat.  After her game, I felt compelled to drive around town and snap photos.  That's when I knew.

I was ready to write this story.  I jotted down an entire, complete outline back when it first hit me, but I put it aside for awhile, to simmer.  But now...I think I'm ready.

Which is so awesome.  Because that tight chest, hitched breath, crowding ghosts?

That's one of the best reasons of all to write.

To give those ghosts voice.

And rest.

Enjoy the pictures.