Friday, July 24, 2015

Kelly Fordon Loses Track of Time

In the tenth in a series of posts on 2015 books entered for The Story Prize, Kelly Fordon, author of Garden for the Blind (Wayne State University Press), discusses her impulse to write and a story inspired by something she read in a newspaper.

Describe a good writing day. 
A good writing day is a day when I sit down at the desk and I resist the urge to surf the web. I start writing and the next thing I know three hours have passed. I actually lose whole hours and even days of my life when I am writing, and that has never happened before except perhaps when I was in college ☺) It is the only thing I do that makes me feel better afterwards. Sometimes I feel good about exercising or teaching or cleaning my house, but I don’t feel better about my whole life and the universe in general the way I do when I am writing.

What keeps you going? 
That feeling (above)

What do you think is the source of your impulse to write stories? 
I write stories to make sense of the world or to figure out how I would behave in certain scenarios. I wrote the stories in my collection, Garden for the Blind, because sometimes I feel like people with privilege have no idea how unfair the world can be.

Where does a story begin for you? 
The Buddha: Ancient truths
The last story in this particular collection was the first story I wrote. I read an article about a garden for the deaf in Detroit that was vandalized. When I Googled it, I was lead to various articles on gardens for the blind, and I wondered who thought of a garden for the blind and could a blind person really enjoy it? It turns out that yes, there are five senses, and one can experience a garden through touch, taste, smell, sound. As I was writing the story I was also reading about Buddhism and a line from the Dhammapada struck me: “Not by enmity are enmities quelled, Whatever the occasion here.
 By the absence of enmity are they quelled. This is an ancient truth.” I wondered what the absence of enmity would look like and I pictured a cessation of the tension that exists between the city and the suburbs here in Detroit. Somewhere along the line, I started picturing Buddhist monks in a garden that had been vandalized holding up flowers for blind students. Even though the story placed in a contest a few years back, it never really felt fully realized until I wrote the ten other stories leading up to it.

Name or describe some hidden influences on your work. 
One of the main characters in the story is a boy named Mike whose mother is a newscaster in Detroit. She is never home and leaves him alone all the time with whoever she can find to take care of him. She doesn’t put a lot of thought into his safekeeping. The inspiration for that story was a boy I met one time (I don’t want to be too specific) who always showed up in our backyard and for years and years played at our house. I only saw his mother once during all that time, and I wondered what was up with that? For all she knew we were crazy people.

What surprises you most when you re-read your own writing? 
When I finally get something right, I am surprised, because I spend most of my time bumbling around with no idea what I am doing. I studied with the amazing poet and novelist, Laura Kasischke, and she is a brilliant wordsmith churning out award-winning poetry and fiction every year. I am not like that at all, unfortunately. It took me ten years to write this collection.

Describe your collection in ten words or less. 
Privileged people get away with more and everyone pays.