This week I’m proud to welcome a writer I highly admire, Nancy Klann-Moren. Please welcome her and read what she has to say about The Joy of Story. Nancy, take it away—
“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
Because I’m writer of fiction (teller of tales, fabricator of pretend stories), this is my favorite Mark Twain quote. My second favorite of his is “Get your facts first. Then you can distort them as you please.”
I’ve embraced these ideas in my writing process, and sometimes think about the restraints that producing non-fiction or memoir would put on me. I’d have to write the TRUTH. Yikes.
Let’s say the truth is this: A lady wearing a beige suit is running down the platform of a train station struggling because her suitcase has a busted wheel. She waves to the conductor who, despite the delay it will cause, holds the train for her.
Right away I want to change this, thinking a chartreuse suit would be more interesting. Just a teensy fib. Even better, a chartreuse caftan with a matching pillbox hat. Yes, better. What about a hot pink mini skirt with black fishnet stockings, and platform shoes? No, too cliché.
For me, this is where the true joy of writing lives―in the act of making up stuff and distorting the facts.
Draft 1: Dragging her crippled suitcase down the platform, Monika half-heartedly waived at the conductor, secretly hoping he wouldn’t notice her. If luck was with her, it could be her way out, her excuse. “Sorry I couldn’t make it to the wedding. I missed the train.”
This thought caused her to laugh at herself, considering every item on her body, from the thrift store Salvatore Ferragamo scarf to the Betsey Johnson “Ginger” pumps she scored on sale for $65.00, had been strategically chosen so she would be noticed.
Okay, I like that. Wondering if she’s a guest, or the bride. Let’s see what else I can come up with.
Draft 2: After three clueless attempts to find Union Station from the hotel, Veronica finally convinced the cab driver to call dispatch for directions. Despite the lameness of the cabbie and the nauseating odor inside the vehicle, her overly polite upbringing caused her to feel obligated to tip the man. That is, until he pulled her bag out of the trunk, slammed it into the curb, and broke off a back wheel.
“What an IDIOT,” she yelled, pulling her three-wheeled suitcase through the station on her way to platform 7. “I’ll miss the train.” All eyes, including the conductor’s, turned toward the long-legged woman with the fog-horn voice.
Yes, lots of possibilities. But, let’s get back to the woman in the beige suit.
Draft 3: Jeanette was familiar with the long walk down platform 7 to her seat in the third car from the rear of the Pacific Surfliner, train 769. Too familiar. She’d walked it every Thursday for three years now, exactly. Today, their anniversary. She wore the suit, the beige one she had on the first time they met. Jerry spotted her and flashed his generous smile. She waved. It didn’t matter that the wheels on her suitcase chose to protest this rendezvous. Jerry would hold the train for her, like he did every Thursday.
Oh the joy of making up stuff. Thank you John, my mentor and friend, for inviting me to your blog.
Thank you, Nancy, for joining me this week, and for posting such an entertaining and informative description of your creative process. Now please tell us all a bit about yourself and your writing career.
I tried my hand at writing short fiction while traveling for work in advertising and marketing, as a creative outlet on long plane rides. That led to signing up for writing classes, writer’s conferences, and local workshops. My goal―to create unique stories told in a distinctive voice. I’m happy to say some of the stories have garnered awards and publication in anthologies. Eleven of them are published in my collection of short stories titled Like The Flies On The Patio.
Short stories were my primary genre until one morning while in a workshop at The Santa Barbara Writers Conference, I read an excerpt. When I finished, the instructor asked what I was doing for the next couple years, because, “What you have written isn’t a short story, it’s a novel.” After a good deal of foot dragging I came to realize the subject matter was compelling, and I penned the novel, The Clock of Life.
I am now working on a new novel loosely based on the time my friend and I found an old diary in an antique shop and took a road trip to find the lady who wrote in the book. The girls will not be named Thelma and Louise, but the story will take them cross country and they will get into all sorts of trouble.
Favorite authors: T.C. Boyle, Pat Conroy, Flannery O’Connor, Ray Bradbury, Susan Cisneros.
The Clock of Life
In the small town of Hadlee, Mississippi, during the 1980s, Jason Lee Rainey struggles to find his way amongst the old, steadfast Southern attitudes about race, while his friendship with a black boy, Samson Johnson, deepens.
By way of stories from others, Jason Lee learns about his larger-than-life father, who was killed in Vietnam. He longs to become that sort of man, but doesn’t believe he has it in him.
In The Clock Of Life he learns lessons from the past, and the realities of inequality. He flourishes with the bond of friendship; endures the pain of senseless death; finds the courage to stand up for what he believes is right; and comes to realize he is his father’s son.
This story explores how two unsettling chapters in American history, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, affect the fate of a family, a town, and two boyhood friends.
The Clock of Life won a finalist award from the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and a finalist position from Readers’ Favorite Book Awards (Winners announced Sept 1st). It’s on the Kindle Book Review 2013 Best Indie Book awards semi-finalist list (Winners announced Oct. 1st), and it has an honorable mention from the San Francisco Book Festival 2013.
Like The Flies on the Patio is a collection of eleven short stories that explores the complexities of relationships—some real, some imagined. Here’s the review of Like The Flies on the Patio that I (John) posted on Amazon:
The protagonists and narrators of these stunning short stories are well-drawn, individual, and worth listening to for their wisdom and wit. They also tend to be lonely and heartbroken, lost and looking for self-esteem. What makes them survive and earn our compassion and love is their decency, and the ironic poetry of their thoughts and words. Nancy Klann-Moren is a bewitching writer with a style both funny and poignant at the same time.