Monthly Archives: January 2013

A conversation with Geoff Fuller, author of “Splinters” in Fed From the Blade.

Geoffrey Cameron Fuller’s writing has appeared in anthologies, textbooks, newspapers, magazines, literary journals, nonfiction collections, and novels. He has been an editor for a local biweekly newsmagazine, managing editor for a textbook company, contributing editor at Writer’s Digest, and developmental editor for award-winning nonfiction books. His fiction appears under the name G. Cameron Fuller, and his nonfiction appears under the name Geoffrey C. Fuller.

Why did you submit to Fed from the Blade anthology?

I wanted to be a part of it. I have known and worked with both of the editors before and knew they would produce a quality book.

Why did you choose “Splinters”?

The editors were looking for shorter works, and I have several that I’ve never submitted anywhere. “Splinters” has long been a favorite of mine because I liked the narrator’s voice, her calm practicality having grown out of decades of abuse and culminating in a necessary murder. As they say, some people just need killing.

What is your favorite genre to write?

I don’t really have a favorite genre, but whatever genre I’m working in—crime and horror are probably the most common—I like tales that look at the difference between the apparent and the obscure. The world and the people in it are never exactly what they seem to be.

When did you first become interested in writing?

I grew up in a family of writers, and many of my parents’ friends were writers. Even though I resisted in different ways at different times, the writing life was probably always inevitable.

How do you talk about this particular piece when describing it to others?

“Splinters” is really two stories, the obvious one—an elderly woman leaning against a barn and contemplating her farm—and the unspoken history of a violent marriage that she just ended the only way she knew how. But I would never actually say that to anyone. Stories should stand or fall on their own.

Now that it is published in this anthology, do you plan to submit to other anthologies?

Probably.

Speak to other pieces in the anthology: what pieces stood out for you? What kind of tone or mood do you think the anthology promotes?

Um. . . I haven’t actually read enough of them yet to have an informed opinion, especially not about any moods or tones that run through them as a collection.

If you were to submit to this anthology all over again, is there anything you’d change about your piece?

One of the editors, Cat Pleska, had a couple of questions and suggestions, and the changes she suggested were perfect. Luckily, the changes were made before Blade was published.

What inspires you?

Different things at different times. As crass as it might sound, the need for income can be very inspiring. Otherwise, inspiration for me comes most often from odd news stories or from moments of experience that result in an unusual thrill or tilt me toward what-if questions.

Where do you write?

At home, mostly. I like to edit or revise in restaurants, with endless iced tea, but I need privacy for creation.

What kind of reception has Full Bone received that has surprised you?

Full Bone Moon has been received very well. I was nervous about that, as most writers are, but it’s selling well and the reviews have been mostly very positive. One reviewer disliked that fact that I don’t spend a lot of time with detailed descriptions, and she had a point to a degree, but primarily it was that I didn’t write the kind of book she wanted to read. That will happen. I wanted a page turner and large chunks of description don’t lend themselves to breathless reading.

I have heard from a couple of people who criticized me for “capitalizing” on a horrible crime. One person really took me to task for it and excoriated me for further damaging the families of the victims. But after much consideration (That is tawdry! Had I really done that?), I realized the criticism, though heartfelt, was largely misplaced. First of all, anyone familiar with writing and selling novels knows there’s not much money in it, unless you’re Stephen King or Danielle Steel. The families are largely gone now, and Karen’s mother knew about and approved of the book. But mainly, if one cannot be inspired and write about events that occurred 42 years ago, how long must one wait? That criticism shook and saddened me for a while, though. I had never even considered that, but I now know that such things should be considered by writers before writing.

What is your next project?

I’m working on a sequel to my novel Full Bone Moon, the working title of which is Marrow Bone and Cleaver. I’m still trying to decide what to do with all the material I accumulated when looking into the actual murders that inspired Full Bone Moon, if anything. Not sure about that yet.

I’m working on a script for a graphic novel based on a man who, as a child, helped with the cleanup after the Monongah mine explosion of 1907, which killed over 500 men and boys. He then went on to fight in the European trenches in WWI and come back home to work the mines, where he had a reputation as one of the best, as well as inventing mining equipment that is still used. He also committed several murders that we know of and was implicated in many more. He may have been one of America’s first and most prolific serial killers. Not sure what you’d call it, maybe fact-based historical fiction. Any visual artists out there who want to collaborate on that project?

And I have a memoir finished, On Balance: My First Twenty-Five Years with Multiple Sclerosis. On Balance that I’ve finally decided to start shopping. Various parts of it have been published and won awards and it’s some of the best material I’ve written, but as with most things literary or poetic, it will never sell a million copies.

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Fed From the Blade author discussions: Kathleen Furbee

In October 2012, West Virginia’s premier independent press, Woodland Press, released a new anthology–Fed From the Blade. It is a collection of stories, tales, and poems chosen from members of West Virginia Writers, Inc. members. As the senior editor, I received 170 entries, from which I chose 28 pieces. To expand on the richness of the content of the anthology, I have invited authors of the pieces to talk about their writing, themselves, and to provide other surprising information. Please welcome the first guest to answer a few of my questions and to provide a creative response to a writing prompt. Kathleen Furbee, author of “Christmas Cards” responds:

Kathleen Furbee is a West Virginia native who writes short stories, long stories, essays, and poetry. Mother of two grown daughters, she works as a nurse and case manager, and lives with her husband, dog and two cats in Preston County.

General questions:

Why did you submit to Fed From the Blade anthology?

I felt several of my stories might fit the general Appalachian theme of the anthology. And it was a nice opportunity to get a story published.

 Why did you choose this piece, “Christmas Cards”?

I thought the setting and mood of the story might fit the anthology.

What is your favorite genre to write?

Creative non-fiction and essays, although I do like to write short stories too.  Writing my novel was fun, but it was challenging to stay with it, keep a consistent voice, and make all the pieces fit together.

I love writing poetry, although I’m not “educated” at all in writing poetry, and don’t generally win prizes or publication with it.  But, I like distilling the essence of experience down to a few chosen words on a page. I’m finding that more appealing these days than telling long tales.

 When did you first become interested in writing?

I read a lot as a kid, and stories have always been important to me. I started keeping a daily journal at about age ten, and by seventh grade I believe I was sort of known as the “class writer.” In high school and a few years afterwards I wrote mostly poetry and songs. Then I got busy living and didn’t write again until I took a creative writing class with George Lies at the Monongalia Arts Center in the early 90’s.

How do you talk about this particular piece when describing it to others?

It’s kind of hard to describe. An old lady gets hit by a car.

 Now that it is published in this anthology, do you plan to submit to other anthologies?

Planning, yes.  Doing? I hope so.

 Speak to other pieces in the anthology: what pieces stood out for you? What kind of

tone or mood do you think the anthology promotes?

I think the basic tone of many of the stories and poems in the anthology is a little melancholy, and vaguely mysterious. There is a sense of loss, but a certain kind of beauty in the loss.

If you were to submit to this anthology all over again, is there anything you’d change about your piece?

The first sentence. I altered the original first line on submission but do not like how I changed it. I’m a slow writer and sometimes need to let things sit awhile before I can see how they ought to be.

Do you know anyone like the old lady in your “Christmas Cards” story?

 I didn’t have anyone specific in mind when I wrote “Christmas Cards.” However, during my years of nursing, and in particular home health nursing, I encountered many elderly women such as Genevieve, who lived alone, in rural homes similar to the one described in the story.  The story is actually one of my older ones, written I believe in about 1999.

 Do you have an extensive Christmas card list or no?

I don’t send many Christmas cards. When my children were small we would make homemade cards every year out of weeds and scraps of cloth or spices or whatever we could find and send them to relatives and special friends. I like to think they were works of art! Now the kids are grown and the Christmas card project is no more.

 What is your next writing project?

I am slowly working on a memoir. Several years ago I received a writing fellowship from the WV Arts and Humanities council in the memoir category and I am trying to complete the project. I also write essays, creative non fiction pieces, short stories and occasional poems.  I have a finished novel I would love to get published, and trying harder to get it published really ought to be my next project, but I seem to avoid doing that sort of thing in favor of creating new stories which I can then put in drawers or leave in the computer and not send out either.

Who is your favorite writer?

It changes, and I tend to go on “author jags,” but Louise Erdrich has consistently been a favorite, with Barbara Kingsolver a close second. I love our own Denise Giardina too.

How do you stay inspired to write?

 I think just being alive and paying attention is inspiration enough. When I take the time to settle down and actually write, and have enough confidence to make writing a priority over all the other things that call for my time and attention, I usually find inspiration ready to roll out onto the page. It’s having discipline and confidence and direction that I often lack.

Respond to this prompt: You were secretly shopping in WalMart for a relative who hates WalMart. You gave her the present, forgetting to remove a WalMart tag. Write the dialogue from the moment she spots the tag.

 (Here’s a scene instead.)

             Gloria managed to hold her tongue but couldn’t contain a sigh. “Thank you, Charles,” she spoke sweetly, she hoped, after a moment’s pause. She chose not to make an issue of it. Not yet. Instead, she held the gift up for everyone to see, a very pink “Ladies Tool Kit,” turning it so the WalMart price tag, $14.99 marked down to $9.99, was visible only to her. But Charles had noticed her notice, and he blushed miserably before her, even as he stammered a polite, “You’re welcome.” The blush only accentuated the pimples spread across his face, and Gloria had the urge to grab the child’s nearly man-sized hand and flee the capitalistic den of consumerist iniquity other wise known as her son and daughter in law’s home, with its smells of chemically scented potpourri and its perfect artificial Christmas tree glowing in its elegant corner. She wanted to go into hiding with the boy, this boy, her only grandson and heir to all the experience of her life time’s work for political and economic justice.  WalMart, of all places. She had just been picketing at WalMart, and now, this?

“We hope you like it,” her daughter in law spoke up perkily. The daughter in law stood and moved beside the boy, trying awkwardly to put her arm around him. The boy was a full head taller than his mother now, and Gloria saw a look of annoyance cross his features and his shoulders tighten as he subtly tried to move out of her grasp. The mother’s red nails dug into his arm, and he ceased to struggle.

“Charles thought you might like it, didn’t you Charles? We saw that little tool set the other day while we were out shopping and thought how perfect it would be for you. I know how handy you are. ‘She can fix just about anything,’” The daughter in law aimed this comment towards her own parents, sitting across the room, stiffly, like bookends on the shelf of the couch.  “I don’t know how Justy missed learning at least a little home maintenance from you. Maybe I will have to get another tool set for Charles so you can teach him instead, and maybe we can get a few things fixed around here.” This comment sounded to Gloria as if it was intended to land a barb first in her son’s flesh, but she realized she needn’t have been concerned.

Justice, her son, sat in the farthest corner of the room, totally engrossed in his I phone. He appeared to have tuned out the entire Christmas gift exchange extravaganza just as successfully as he had tuned out most things in his life, Gloria’s attempts at political and economic justice education and car and home maintenance lessons included. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, he had managed to move himself from the bottom one percent of the economic spectrum, to which he had been born and raised, to the top one percent. A thought came to Gloria, surprising and unwelcome. “They could have afforded something nicer. They didn’t HAVE to shop at WalMart.” Gloria put the thought away, quickly, appalled, and agreed that yes, she would love to teach Charles everything she knew about how to maintain a home.

Justice snorted, loudly, from his corner. Then he put a handkerchief to his nose, as if he were covering up a sneeze. He did not break eye contact with his phone, and nobody offered a “Gesundheit.”

“Well,” the daughter in law said brightly, releasing her son, “Who’s hungry?  I think it’s time to eat!”

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