The #MeToo Thing

I have avoided posting the #MeToo meme, thinking I didn’t qualify because I had not been physically abused. But I “got to thinking,” as we say down here, about the whole spectrum of abuse and how destructive and demoralizing emotional abuse is. That, I can testify to. 

And then I had an encounter this morning while I was waiting in the dentist’s office.  Now understand, I am way past expecting a man to flirt with me. I have, as the actress Frances McDormand says in a recent article, become invisible to men. So I was stunned when this guy struck up a conversation. He was talkative, he was friendly–but in a way that made me instantly uncomfortable. We were the only people in the waiting room; none of the staff had come to the desk yet.

He was wearing his camo jacket and his cap, and he told me about the traffic driving in this morning, about how heavy it was, and there must have been a wreck but he never saw one. He told me what he does for a living (he paints houses), how his partner left the business years ago and then his brother left too but he’s still at it, he’s “only 69,” and “you got to eat, right?”

All the time he was talking, he was moving. He made jokes and laughed and touched my arm, my shoulder. Made jokes about age: “You’re like, 28, right? or maybe 25?”

I don’t remember what brought up President Trump, but this man said, “You’ve seen what the president has done, right?” His eyes bright with wonder. And I froze. I lost my courage to say, “Yeah, I’ve seen it, all right” and cut him off, I think because I didn’t believe it would. So I tried to ignore him, but he kept going on about what great things the president has accomplished, like getting rid of all that “green” stuff, and we should continue to drill for oil anywhere and everywhere, because oil comes from rock, and “Are we ever gonna run out of rock?” Laughing. Sure of his point. “If we don’t drill for it, it’ll just ooze right up out of the beaches and spoil them anyway.”

Finally, one of the staff came out and the guy started the same joke routine with her. I slunk away and sat down, praying he wouldn’t sit by me, and he didn’t. He announced he needed to go to the back and “use the little room.”

I had failed to stand up.

As I said, I haven’t had the horrible experiences other women have testified to in recent days. But how many times in my life have I been subjected to this kind of bullying disguised as a “friendly” male? Years ago, I was deep-kissed and touched on a dance floor by a drunk friend, and when I reported it to my then-husband, he called me a prude. I lived in an emotionally abusive situation for years because I was married to it, and for me, marriage was sacred. You could work anything out if you tried hard enough. Wrong.

So is it a matter of degree? Are these (and other instances I could relate) any less worthy of rebuke than if I had been physically attacked? 

It’s a mindset–to stay silent—that I hope is more typical of women “of a certain age” like me, who were schooled in a kind of male dominance that was the heart of the family. That would explain, I suppose, why I would excuse a man’s behavior as his “right.” Well, I’ve gotten older and wiser. I hope, for the sake of my granddaughters and the other young women I know, that the mindset is gone for good. I hope they’ll be braver than I was this morning. That they will speak their minds. That they will take care of themselves first.

Dear Dream . . .

From “Blogging 101,” Day Four’s assignment:

Publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element* in it.

So that audience would be . . . my dream agent, who may at this very moment be checking out my website to see who this new voice is—the one whose manuscript she requested three months ago, and she hasn’t had time to read it yet, but she just pulled it from the slush pile yesterday afternoon, and she stayed up all night reading and finished it at four this morning, and then she couldn’t get to sleep, couldn’t wait to pick up the phone–what time will Gerry be awake, Central Time? Is 7:00 too early to call?–and give me the news I’ve been waiting breathlessly for:

Yes, she loves my historical novel! Yes, she wants to represent me! Yes, she already has an editor in mind who’ll love the book as much as she does and will be fabulous to work with! Yes, she anticipates a six-figure advance.

Isn’t that everybody’s dream?

Just in case you’re cruising blogs right now, Dream Agent of Mine, this is for you:

About the book

processblogphoto2
Process / G. Wilson

Dear _____________:

Spirit Lamp, a literary historical novel set in the harsh landscape of rural Mississippi around the time of World War I, is the story of Leona Pinson, a sixteen-year-old white girl who gives birth to an illegitimate son. A feisty girl, Leona refuses to name the child’s father and lives with her shame. An elderly black sharecropper, Luther Biggs, is Leona’s only ally against her troubled brother, Raymond. As Luther’s strength fails and Raymond’s cruelty escalates, the survival of Leona and her son depends on her courage and cunning. When the child’s father, Walker Broom, returns after the war, the deception that has kept Leona and Walker apart unravels. Ultimately, Leona faces her brother alone, a confrontation that leads to his death and freedom for Leona and Luther.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

In the early, dark hours of the morning, Leona Pinson’s aunt perched like a doll in the straight chair near Leona’s bed, her short legs dangling. Sometime yesterday, Aunt Sally Pinson had put the sharpest knife they owned under Leona’s bedstead.

“To cut the pain,” she’d said. “An ax blade would do better.”

That knife was not helping Leona much.

When she cried out, her aunt slid down off the chair and went to the bureau where the basin was. She used a milking stool as a step, wrung out a cloth with her stubby fingers, came back to the bed, and hoisted herself up. She started to bathe Leona’s face, but Leona covered her eyes with her hands and turned away. She didn’t want to see Sally’s large head and jutting chin, her bulging eyes, her stunted arms and legs. What if her own baby were born like that as a punishment?

About the author

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At Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS

A seventh-generation Mississippian, I was born in the hill country I write about in Spirit Lamp. The place and the characters ring true for me. I grew up in the household with my maternal grandmother, a terrific storyteller whose tale of her father’s murder figures in the novel.

I sometimes call myself a late-blooming author. I raised my kids as a single mom, taught English and writing to high school students for more than twenty years, wrote late at night in little scraps of time I could steal. I retired to do what I’d always wanted to do–write fiction.

Now I have a collection of short stories to show for it–Crosscurrents and Other Stories–and last year, I was a Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellow. I’ve published stories in some good places. “Mating,” a short story, won the Prime Number/Press 53 Short Story Award in 2014. I’m working on another book, a contemporary novel this time, that nags and niggles away at me, keeping me awake nights, with a main character who will not let me go.

I write because I love to do it. Well, that’s not quite true: sometimes I hate it, but I can’t not do it. Maybe I should be satisfied with writing good short stories, keeping up this blog, taking a great workshop now and then, publishing some.

But you know, I want the dream.

So Dream Agent, if you’re out there–and I know you are–how about giving me that call? I’m here. I’ll answer. I’ll work hard. I’ll give you the best book I possibly can.

Sincerely,

Gerry Wilson

phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

*The “new elements” are the epistolary style and, well, a little humor!

Challenge: Are you searching for an agent? Do you have any tips you would like to share here?

 

 

Blogging 101: Starting New

And why, you may ask–when this blog will celebrate its fifth anniversary in the spring of 2016–would I tackle WordPress’s “Blogging 101” course to start the new year?

The answer? It’s an opportunity to re-visit this blog, to learn some new tricks, and to make these pages stronger and more appealing.

So I thought, Why not?

Because Poor Blog: I have to confess she’s been neglected lately, even after the publication of my short story collection, Crosscurrents and Other Stories. Maintaining the blog is more important than ever, but there are all those other things you have to do when you publish a book, especially  when you publish with a small press, even a really good one like Press 53. You don’t have a publicist, and nobody is handling your marketing or setting up events. (For more on this, see “Great Expectations: Ten Things to Expect When You Launch Your Book.” ) It’s all exciting and fun, but it’s a lot of work.

createstone
Create / Gerry Wilson

And to tell you the truth, the blog was feeling stale. It had become a chore. This blog began in response to a challenge, so I thought maybe a new challenge is what it needs–what I need–to re-engage and find new and refreshing ways to engage you, the reader.

The first assignment for “Blogging 101” is to write this post and think about why I’m here. “Blogging 101” suggests that if I’ve been blogging for a while, now is a good time to re-examine my motives. Here are the suggested questions to address:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

Here goes:

I’m blogging publicly because 1) I don’t enjoy talking (writing) to myself so much;  2) I have something to say; and 3) I want to create a platform for my book and whatever comes after it.

Scraps / Gerry Wilson
Scraps / Gerry Wilson

What will I write about? Certainly some of the same things I’ve written about before: personal experiences,  memories, writing about writing. I will seldom wax political here, not because I don’t have strong opinions, but that’s not the focus of the blog. That won’t change. And maybe there’s something new, something I haven’t explored yet.

I want to connect with anyone who shares my love of books and writing and, well, life.

What do I hope to accomplish? On a practical level, a blog calendar I can stick with and manage without feeling overwhelmed. I’d love a revamped theme/style. I want connection. I want growth.

So here it is: #1 post for “Blogging 101.” The old hand, trying something new. We’ll see how long I last. Hoping for good things!