January 24, 2016

Slice of PIE: Certainly Not For the Money – Why Do I Write Short Fiction?

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/KbNUiOpysmee5gpTBHvUKYiDvt6I46CIXDKv64IjbWeR6ZK0jnFVVTh6enZoV9UBNw=h900Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #3219 . The link is provided below…

Certainly Not For the Money: Why We Write Short Fiction – Why do we put ourselves through the angst of writing short fiction? It certainly isn’t the money. Why else would we do it? Mark J. Ferrari (m), Mur Lafferty, Sarah Pinsker, Stefan Rudnicki, Rick Wilber

I have a strange philosophy that springs out of being a teacher and guidance counselor for the past thirty-five years...

I need to lay some groundwork first. I live in a large suburb of Minneapolis, not so large that I can safely have nothing to do with how things are done in the city. If I choose, my voice can be heard at school board meetings, city council meetings, and in the “local” paper – which is a version of a larger corporate paper that prints a sort of template of news with stories for the different communities rearranged to bring “our” local news to the headlines.

Twenty years ago, I wrote these words for that paper: “At the very bottom of this criticizable heap are the schools. Because schools don’t produce tangible products, it’s easy to criticize and hard to defend them.”

While that’s certainly true today, the sense that as a teacher I have never produced a single, tangible student who is “educated” or “helped”. A person who works for Microsoft can point to a program or a piece of hardware and say, “I worked on…part of the project!”

My brother can point to our local Target store and say, “I supervised the remodel of that store!”

My sister can say, “We helped these people walk again at our clinic!”

All I can say is  “I’m a guidance counselor; or I taught ninth grade physical science for eleven years…” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got some first rate friends who were once students of mine; some of them produce tangible products even! But because the nature of education is to “produce” a graduate, and the team that takes part in that education consists of first and foremost, the student, then in huge part, the parents; followed by relatives, and a bewildering host of teachers from pre-school through 12th grade; there is nothing for me to show off or say, “I did this for this student…”

To combat this in my life, I mow the lawn and snow blow the driveway. These two acts are important to me because when I’m done mowing the lawn, I can turn around and say, “The lawn is mowed. See!” When I’m doing snow blowing the driveway, I can turn around and say, “See! The driveway is now clear!”

When I write a short story, I can say, “See, the story is done. I can send it out.” It’s a product that has been completed in a relatively short time and I can point to it if it gets published and say, “There it is. Read it if you’d like.”

Novels are NOT like that! I have one out right now that took well over a decade to write and sell. I have a second one coming out at the end of next month that took EIGHT YEARS to sell and after a year invested writing it.

Because of my day job, I desperately need to be able to produce something that doesn’t require so much time to become a tangible object that I grow old waiting to see it! I need to produce something that IS tangible.

And so I write short stories; and I enjoy writing them as well. I like the freedom to focus on a single moment that defines the life of my character – and that’s because I am rarely present at the defining moment in the lives of the students I work with.

Image: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/KbNUiOpysmee5gpTBHvUKYiDvt6I46CIXDKv64IjbWeR6Z

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