Friday, February 17, 2012

FU Weekly: More from Our Pushcart Nominees

For this FU Weekly, we are turning around to look at some of our past contributors--to be exact, authors of FU#2 and FU#3 whose work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

First goes Simone Martel. Her story "We Are Family" appeared in Issue 2. Read on to find out what went into creating this piece.

"I’m excited and flattered that the editors of FU have chosen to nominate We Are Family for a Pushcart Prize.  At the heart of my story are Nora and Noah, born within weeks of each other and raised as sister and brother, but separated when their two moms end their longterm relationship. This much is based on the experience of two real neighborhood kids my son used to play with outside when they were all much younger. What makes the story unique, however, is that We Are Family is narrated by a plastic Freud action figure.

"When those two moms on our block split up, each taking her child with her, I overheard another neighbor observe that because the boy and girl weren’t genetically related they weren’t “really” brother and sister.  They seemed pretty real to me, and I started wondering about the definition of a modern American family.

"My first attempts to explore this question in writing never got far. After several false starts taking Bella’s point of view, then Freddy’s, and trying the third person, I felt stuck.  In addition, the story I wanted to tell takes place over about a decade.  Between the two dramatic bookends--the miscarriages, overlapping pregnancies, the babies’ almost twin-like closeness,and, finally, the breakup and Nora and Noah’s separation--is a lot of regular life.  Using flashbacks or just hinting at the shared history didn’t work for me.

"Once I hit on letting the Freud action figure tell my story, my problems mostly vanished.  (I’m not sure when that happened, but I think Freddy’s half-joking, “Calling Dr Freud,” in response to Bella’s “My mother never loved me," sparked an image of the plastic figure among children’s other toys.)  With Freud--the inactive action figure--narrating, the story narrowed to only what he can observe inside the house; no more scenes in the train museum, say, or at grandma’s house.  Unity of place helped me focus the story.  In addition, I could conveniently skip over the years he spends inside a box.

"The Freud action figure’s limitations paralleled Nora and Noah’s.  As two kids stuck in a mess created by adults, they have as little control over their fate as a toy on a shelf (or in a box).  As I rewrote the story, I wondered if that similarity would affect the Freud action figure’s feelings for the children.  Unlike most omniscient narrators (or at least contemporary ones), this narrator can judge or sympathize, and though he can’t change the story, his attitude toward it can. This narrator, representing the patriarchal point of view that the unconventional family challenges, can start out disapproving of Freddy’s and Bella’s lifestyle, and grow more friendly as he’s drawn into the story.  Some readers might, as well.

"In the end though, what interested me in this story had little to do with sexual orientation or gender politics.  We Are Family was a lot of fun to write--I got to put in a talking Isis statue and a potty-mouthed Lego Harry Potter!--and also to explore ideas that continue to haunt me about motherhood, love, commitment, loss, fantasy and play, and the magical thought that perhaps a family can be whatever we imagine it to be."

Our second author is Zen Cho. Zen already did a guest post about her story "First National Forum on the Position of Minorities in Malaysia," which we cannot recommend highly enough. However, she gave us permission to show her reaction to that story's Pushcart nomination with you, Dear Reader:

"Goodness, that is good news! Thank you very much. I'm super pleased that you chose the story for all kinds of reasons -- it's a story that couldn't really be set anywhere else but Malaysia. It explicitly addresses political issues American readers probably wouldn't be familiar with. It's also basically a silly story -- it deals with a couple of serious issues, but it has silliness at its heart. I was dubious about its prospects of getting sold, much less of getting nominated for awards!

"I can't think of anything else to say about how I feel about the nomination really. Thanks again!"

Both authors are very welcome of course, and we have to thank them in turn for their contributions to FU Weekly. Oh, and if you were wondering where you could read such goodness as both these stories, look here (it goes without saying, you absolutely should!)

If you are interested in what our other Pushcart nominees have to say about their respective pieces, feel free to explore:

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