Friday, August 26, 2011

Reality Slip ~ Jennifer Slattery

Jennifer Slattery is the marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse, Reflections in Hindsight and Samie Sisters. Find out more about her and her writing here. Then, hop on over to Clash of the Titles to join the fun and help determine Clash’s next literary champion.

Losing Touch With Reality

by: Jennifer Slattery

A few months ago, I stomped out of my office and down the stairs, scowling. My poor, unsuspecting husband looked up at me with his rather innocent baby blues and asked, “What’s wrong.” Standing in front of him, hovering between story-world and reality, I didn’t have an answer. It took a moment for reality to win as I remembered my husband wasn’t Trent, the not-so-heroic hero of my women’s fiction, Breaking Free. Apparently, my slip from reality isn’t unique. As I talked with Clash of the Titles’ authors and staff, I realized we writers have one thing in common—a very loose grip on the real world.

One evening as clash conqueror, Lena Nelson Dooley, ate dinner with her real life hero, she turned to her husband and said, "Jeremiah's going to have a fit when he hears what Maddy's doing."

Her husband gave her a blank stare. "Who's Jeremiah? Do I know him?"

She had an authentic laugh out loud moment. "No, he's the hero of the book I'm writing."

Like so many poor writers’ spouses, he shook his head and muttered, "Writers really think weird."

Now that’s quite likely the understatement of the year. Or am I the only one who holds animated conversations with myself, sends myself emails, and stalks family members, neighbors, and strangers with pen and pad in hand?

It gets really bad when our mental slips occur in public. One day after writing a chapter about a tooth extraction for her historical fiction, The Road to Deer Run, COTT (Clash of the Titles) conqueror, Elaine Cooper, took her mother to the dentist. Upon learning that one of her mother’s teeth needed to be removed, she called the oral surgeon and spoke with the receptionist. When the clerk asked Elaine what her mom needed, Elaine replied, "She needs her tooth drawn."

Dead air ensued.

"She needs what?"

Elaine bit back a chuckle. "She needs her tooth...pulled!"

So what does it take to launch writers into story world? Most often, food.

Having lived in Louisiana for a spell, I feel for COTT staff member, Lisa Lickel’s family. “I’m about to jump into the world of Cajun country, Louisiana, in both 1875 and then 1955, for a kind of family saga,” Lickel says. “So I have to build my later family on the traditions and template of the earlier generation. As I look up recipes, I might cook some of their dishes. I imagine interactions.” Here’s hoping she hasn’t found the recipe for fried armadillo yet.

COTT conqueror, Christine Lindsey’s research sounds a bit a more palatable. “For Shadowed in Silk, my husband and I would often dine in Indian restaurants.”

For Michelle Massaro, COTT Assistant Editor, falling into fantasy world is as easy as closing her eyes. “I've always had a good imagination and strong emphathy for people, so it isn't difficult to do with most characters,” Massaro says. “To switch characters usually just takes me another moment to pause and close my eyes and become them.”

That certainly explains a few odd emails conversations she and I have shared. But hey, I understand. I’ve sent myself similar messages.

For COTT Scheduling manager, Amanda Flower, it takes a bit of blood flow to get her muse flowing. “My muse strikes me most when I'm doing something active like walking or swimming,” Flower says. “My best ideas hit me when I'm not thinking about my story or characters. The timing's not convenient, so I carry pen and paper with me most of the time to jot down notes. While walking, I've also been known to repeat a scene to myself over and over again until I return home. Thank goodness for Bluetooth. People think I'm talking on a cell phone when I'm really talking to myself."

For others, like COTT staff member, Gail Pallotta, unexpected images take over. "Sometimes the muse hits me when I'm least expecting it, and I see a character in my head.”

For COTT Senior Editor, April Gardner, switching gears doesn’t come as easily. “I have to live, eat, and breathe my characters and setting,” Gardner says. “If I take even a day to focus my brain on something else, I’ll surely regret it.”

What about you? Do you find yourself hovering between life and fantasy or does it take some hip-extending, highly-peppered cuisine to trigger your imagination? And I suppose the real question is, how do you return to the real world once you set your keyboard aside?

Or…do you?


Kelly Klepfer said...

Thanks, Jennifer. : )

jennifer Slattery said...

Kelly, thank you letting me join you all today!

Carrie L. Lewis said...

I must consider myself fortunate. My husband is enough up to speed on my current story and character set to be able to participate in lengthy conversations about story world, the challenges the characters face, and the decisions they must make. We talk about story world concerns and real world concerns with equal ease, sometimes slipping from one to the other and back again without difficulty. said...

I once took a couple of friends to a tattoo convention for research. I'll never forget the worried faces of my husband and children. Don't worry, I assured them, I'm not coming home with tattoo sleeves.

Theresa said...

ooops, I did that wrong. I put my url in the name slot. Name's Theresa

Christine Lindsay said...

Hilarious post. My husband said to me last night that he plans on writing a book on being married to a writer. He says it'll probably sell more than my books will. It's not easy sometimes being married to a writer, but it certainly isn't boring.

Christine Lindsay, author of Shadowed in Silk

jennifer Slattery said...

Carrie, what a lovely husband you have! It's always nice when spouses act like a team. :-) It adds strength on both ends.

Theresa, that's awesome! I'll have to try something like that, research or not. I always love a good cuckle, at my honey's expense, of course.

Christine, I think that'd be a best seller. He should probably start a support group. Oh, our poor, ever-so-patient spouses!

Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Jennifer,
What a fun post! My husband tells me I don't actually have a muse. I have pretend people running around in my head, and I have to let them out. LOL

Elaine Marie Cooper said...

Isn't it nice to know that we have fellowship in our weirdness??? LOL We are truly an unofficial support group! I was having fun picturing Lena seething about her character to her husband. Too funny! BTW, my Mom is having another tooth "drawn" on Monday - but I'll try to be in 2011 mode when I take her in... ;-)

Diana Prusik said...

I can't wait to share this article with family and friends. Maybe they'll finally start to understand my weirdness! Thanks, Jennifer!