8 Week (On Line) Iowa Writing Program-How Writers Write:Writing Fiction


   Testing the Waters With ‘Week 6’ Assignment-My Next Novel?


My father’s mother stuck her head in an oven one Saturday morning and killed herself. Daddy, on his way to pick her up, didn’t arrive in time to save her. My mother never believed she meant to do it, but thought she was looking for sympathy in an ill timed drama. Her death didn’t seem to effect anyone except my Dad, who loved her in spite of things he never forgave her for. I suspect that Mary Ellen Adamson wasn’t a nice person.      

If I think of her at all, the recollection of my paternal grandmother, is of a large women dressed in black from head to toe. Any curves she might have had were layered away. Katherine Hepburn came along too late to liberate her from those dresses.      

I have no idea if she ever had a manicure or permed her hair. I don’t recall touching her or being touched. I was told she was raised by two uncles in Milwaukee, but other than that, have not one story about who she was, where she came from, or where she thought she was going.      

The only memory I have of the two of us doing anything together was sitting together in a picture show one afternoon. The film was Broken Arrow. (1950) when I fell in love with Jeff Chandler, who played Cochise. I was twelve years old. There is one problem with this memory. I looked Jeff Chandler up on Wikipedia to find the date of the film. The fact that my grandmother died in 1949, proves once again that what we think happened to us is more important than what actually happened.      

I regard my grandmother as a casualty of not caring to care, or, maybe caring about the wrong things. She was the sort of woman that emptied an ashtray before you’d finished your cigarette; a coaster under the glass kind of person.The presence of a granddaughter seemed to make no difference in her life as far as I can tell. There was nary a book or toy offered on any visit. Perhaps I have forgotten a special grilled cheese sandwich or my favorite ice cream in the freezer. It’s possible.     

Her Catholic God gave her life, which in the end, she threw away.

Feedback from other Course Participants makes me think I have a good idea, and the opening paragraphs are written!

“I appreciate the irony of your having written a dense memoir of a woman who almost never existed at all, and has become for the narrator only a name, two rumored uncles in Milwaukee, a black dress, a gas oven, and a religion that assures her damnation.  The only other specific fact is proven false.”

“I don’t recall touching her or being touched. That line really boils down the essence of your tragic story, doesn’t it? Very moving words, whether true or not.”

“I agree completely with the two people before me. I wanted to pick out something that especially struck me in this story but that would have meant writing it all out. But in any case, this line stays with me: “I regard my grandmother as a casualty of not caring to care”. Wow!”

About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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1 Response to 8 Week (On Line) Iowa Writing Program-How Writers Write:Writing Fiction

  1. Great writing, Stepheny. You had me at the first sentence! You actually tweaked my memories of my grandmother in real life, a great character. I’m considering a post. Looking forward to reading more of this!

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