Ms. Charli Mills of Carrot Ranch accepted my request to write a guest blog. A big thank you for inviting me to Carrot Ranch and for your ongoing kindness and support of writers. I appreciate Ms. Mills’ honest, detailed writing and am enjoying the stories she shares about her childhood and life. From one cowgirl to another–yeehaw! (Also, I’m not actually a cowgirl, but I do so enjoy that expression.)
Charli’s request: “I’d be delighted if you addressed the topic of what it means to you as a writer to include themes of “disabilities, adversity and resilience, criminal justice, and minority populations. The best way to approach the essay is to answer the questions, why do you write, or why do you write about certain topics.”
To dip my toes into this broad question, I write about these topics because I care and want others to consider these sticky, flytrap areas of society. We often avoiding discussing uncomfortable topics and want to believe the world is fair and comfortable. I don’t believe the world is particularly fair, kind or interested in our general well being. This is especially evident if we’re not white, rich, or have something noticeably different about our bodies or minds. My country (America) bases healthcare on capitalism, charges exorbitant amounts of money for wonder drugs and penalizes people for their skin color and socioeconomic status. Our jails are mostly filled with poor minorities — juvenile jails included — many with mental illnesses and histories of abuse.
In my novel M.B., all of these themes play into the narrative and wrap around the characters. Anne (my protagonist) is delivered a missing children’s flier shortly upon moving into her new house. The missing child is a young, Biracial female named Shannon who was born into a dysfunctional, poor family. The girl has hearing loss and lives with her uncle in the poor side of the mostly white, working-class village. Anne’s realtor uses racial epithets to describe Shannon’s family and makes no qualms about how he feels about them. The realtor also shows his ignorance about mental illness, comparing bipolar disorder to schizophrenia in the same terms. I use the realtor as a diving point to begin illustrating the town Anne finds herself in.
Further on in the story, Anne finds herself trying to help locate the child. The detective Anne works with mentions the weak support of the village in the search efforts, particularly as time passes. The detective bluntly blames this response on Shannon’s race:
“…If Shannon was white, bam! News crews, leaky eyed interviews, community restaurant fundraisers, the whole nine yards. But Shannon’s half black and all this village can give is a half assed response for one month before they move on to gossiping and every day routines. What a joke.”
Why do I write like this? Do I think I’m some kind of perfect angel, hovering above the masses, free to pass righteous judgment? Am I doing it for sensationalism, to poke at old wounds of a country repeatedly tripping over its history of slavery? No. I write what I observe and synthesize from the world around me, the good and the bad. And I believe we can — and must — do better, myself included.
If we pivot ourselves, approach things a little differently from the “others'” perspective, our compass would be oriented. Braille, Sign Language, acceptance and an understanding of history are a few tools we need to get started. Then watch the desert flowers bloom into fireworks and turn the desert of ignorance into a beautiful oasis.
Humans are resilient and adaptable — let them be and watch them thrive.
A. R. Clayton is an American writer hoping to become published one day, or oh so very soon. Peregrine Arc is a platform she created in March 2018 to help steer her publication dreams. Until then, she continues to write and talk with her characters, wondering what they’d like for dinner in the next chapter. Genres include young adult fantasy, horror/mystery and science fiction.
Special themes that resonate with her include disabilities, adversity and resilience, criminal justice, minority populations, humor, history, the fantastical and limitless imagination.
She’s currently working with an editor to have M.B., my first published novel, finalized. Subscribe and follow for upcoming publication dates and other updates as they arrive.
Raw Literature posts as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99-word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Somewhere recently was the ongoing discussion of reading, of how important fiction, literature, is to help people develop empathy and multiple perspectives. Yep. Thank you for adding to that discussion here from the perspective of writer, those that might water the desert.
Fiction gives both the writer and the reader an opportunity to get into the skin of characters, and to experience a different life, culture, or set of abilities. We can imagine superpowers, but we can also imagine setbacks. That literary experience can build empathy, giving us characters we can feel for in their plight. I found it interesting that A.R. tackles such difficult themes. Brave, too.
Thanks for reading. 🙂 And yes–I really do believe in literature being a powerful tool of empathy development. We need more of that.
The best writers are able to glean from reality and carve words out that resonate, words that resonate with us readers,
Your comment makes me think how we take what we observe and experience in the world, and create new ones on the pages. As readers and writers, we get to explore and think about these ideas. Thanks for reading, Ritu!
I think it is definitely how I write. My Draft is set in a place I grew up in, n a community I am from, and about a girl who would have been my age when I started it, Where she went during the course of the novel are all places I have visited. So, though the story is not ‘mine’ there are so many feelings and empathies I can add to make it more realistic and hopefully touch hearts somewhere!
Thanks for reading! 🙂
Thanks for the thought provoking post!
What a great interview and I’m impressed that she is tackling such crucial issues in an everyday manner that others can relate to … good luck with that publishing!
I found her willingness to take on such themes to be a brave act as a writer. It’s a way to take ownership of what we see in our society and explore and reflect it in meaningful ways.
yes most kind and inspiring!
Thanks, guys! This made my day.
Thanks for sharing this post, Charli. When I think of America lately it reminds me of the story of Dick Wittington when he discovers that the streets are not lined with gold and silver.
Ah, yes, the disappointment of not living up to the fable. Thanks, Robbie.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
What an interesting post. A. R., you’ve chosen tough themes to write about. There’s no escaping the reality which surrounds us and it’s good that you are writing about what you observe, wishing for improvement for all. While the picture may be bleak, you write with hope. I particularly appreciate your thoughts expressed this way: “Then watch the desert flowers bloom into fireworks and turn the desert of ignorance into a beautiful oasis.” Education is the antidote to ignorance and waters the knowledge oasis.
I appreciate your comment on education as the antidote, Norah! Thanks!
You’re welcome, Charli. I try to not let any opportunity for giving education a plug slip by.
Thank you for reading. And yes–education and empathy are too very big keys, I think. To be able to imagine life from another’s perspective is another.
It is indeed!
Thanks again, Charli. Appreciated the opportunity to write and contribute to this wonderful corner of the internet.
I like that you write about what you see – adding intelligence to ongoing issues that might otherwise slip through the cracks. We are all differently-abled.