Friday, May 15, 2015

A Bond Between Writing & Character

Last night I attended a book chat hosted by the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project. Author Mickey Getty discussed and read from her gritty novel Soot. Set in Pennsylvania coal mining town, Soot is the story of the struggle of Bridie O'Doyle. She, like all who endured that life, lived as a slave to coal. It killed every significant soul in her life--neighbors, fathers, husbands, and children.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Mickey and her husband. We got to share a short piece of writing with one another. To start things off, everyone was asked to respond to the prompt "What memories do you have of coal in your life?"

I wrote:
My great-grandfather came to America 114 years ago from Southern Italy. He settled and raised a family in Philadelphia. On the coldest of evenings, he took hot coal from the basement stove, wrapped the chunks in rags, and bound them to the feet of his six children as they slipped beneath the covers in bed. One of his daughters, my great-aunt, shared that memory with me many times.
Mickey read hers about being a child and watching the "river of coal rush" through a chute into her basement and then being scrubbed clean in a hot tub with lye soap. She smiled like the cat ate the canary and said, "I guess I did more than just look."

Yet, what struck me most about the evening was when Mickey read passages from her novel. On several occasions, she wept as she read.

It was powerful.

Mickey apologized and explained that she really does become Bridie as she reads. She said she embraces a Stanislavsky-like approach when she writes. So, she lived and endured Bridie's hard story a million times over.

And it never gets old. It feels new and real each time.

She shared, "many women lived this way."

It was so touching--and interesting--to witness a very real bond between writer and character. I can't explain it, nor do I want to.

I just want to admire it.

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