Welcome to my blog Upstate Girl, (a.k.a Follow Your Bliss Part II), I am an independently published author. This blog is all about writing and the stuff that inspires me to write, the joys and obstacles that come along with the writer's life, and my fascination with the psychology of people and what makes them tick...the human condition, as is...and my love for words, playing with them and making sense of them...and I throw in a few photos from my acre of the world just to make things pretty...sometimes there are things I have no words for, only pictures will do.

*Copyright notice* All photos, writing, and artwork are mine (
© Laura J. Wellner), unless otherwise noted, please be a peach, if you'd like to use my work for a project or you just love it and must have it, message me and we'll work out the details...it's simple...JUST ASK, please.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What is Literary Fiction? And a reading from my book, The Fractured Hues of White Light...

This is how I see it from my size 6 1/2's...(yes, I know, they're untied...)
What is literary fiction...what is "literary" about literary fiction? (This Literary Blog Hop has gotten under my skin.)  My tongue in cheek response is "Well, it's got everything and the kitchen sink in it fiction..." Indeed. Pull on the waders, honey, we're going in...it gets mighty deep in the pond of 'literary' fiction, so we are going to go fishing.

Listen, I know this literary stuff isn't for everybody, which is unfortunate, I feel they're missing something beautiful. Not everybody has the attention span nor the patience to read classics like (a few from my bookshelf) Moby Dick, War and Peace, Bleak House, To Kill a Mockingbird, East of Eden, Ulysses, The Idiot, To the Lighthouse, The Waves, The Corrections, Water for Elephants, Small Island, The English Patient, I Know This Much Is True, Dandelion Wine, Watership Down, Winesburg Ohio, Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, Out of Africa, Enchanted Night, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Wuthering Heights, The Hours, As I Lay Dying, Bellefleur, The Master and Margarita, Howards End, Ursula Under, ...and what about Porius?(I only know of four people who have read that tome (I'm one of them, my Fred, my sister, and some dude on Library Thing). I could keep fishing, but I'll stop...

Goodness knows I wouldn't want to force anyone to read a book they won't enjoy...and I'm not going to judge anyone for not liking the kind of books I love to read...or the books I love to write. Why do I cringe when I hear someone being hyper-critical about the books I love? Why do I cringe when everyone raves about Twilight? (I read my share of Anne Rice and loved "Interview", I have nothing against vampires. I cut my teeth on Dracula...but the Twilight saga? I can't do it...sorry. Why am I apologizing? Hell if I know.) To each their own, if people like it, fine, who am I to tell them what to read? Books, art, and music are all subjective, and I've found over the years that they are just as polarizing as politics and religion...people will love what they love and hate what they hate. They'll especially hate it if they don't get it...and for some reason, if it's especially "clever"...OMG, your name is mud! Yes, I've experienced this...I feel bad about my neck, I dared to stick it out there and oy vey...

Hi, I'm Laura, and I'm a writer of literary fiction.



From the time I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to write books that matter...books with a deeper meaning... (Still got your waders on? Good.) I wanted to write what I call "human documents". The complex relationships in my novel The Fractured Hues of White Light evolved through time, the ties that bind through an overlapping history. The book took a long time to write (about eleven years, on and off, I juggle manuscripts for fun), much of it came into being during the rough draft that formed during the "sweet spot" in 2000-2001 when I fixated on writing it all down, but time and experience offered up insights that I would have missed if I didn't take the time to go deeper, or ignored them. The first line in the excerpt that I'm going to give you here was produced only last year in November...probably on a dark and stormy night with the wind howling, making our old farmhouse creak...or a bleak gray day that had the smell of snow on the wind...when I wrote it, I knew I was getting closer to finishing, and I cannot express the joy I felt knowing this...and the sorrow when I realized what being "done" with it meant. It is a fine line writers walk.

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From Chapter 7, pages 162-164

“I will die in November — it’s as good a time to do it as any, I guess — why not, eh? Everything else is dying — I’ll just be one more thing.” Whitley blurted out while we watched the golden October sunset over the salt marshes — Sylvester was driving my father’s Caddy; Whitley and I sat in the backseat, enjoying the view. The conversations with my father during the weeks before his death always had grim tidbits like this, punctuated with a wink to take the edge off. Often our talks were threaded with memories of Lenore and Guthrie; these reminisces grew like seeds sown in a freshly turned garden of composted grief. “I loved them both, you know — I knew what was goin’ on and it devastated me inside when I first figured it out. If Lenore wanted to leave me for Guthrie, I would have let her go — it would have been right. But they would have wanted you — I would have never let them take you away from me — you were mine — my daughter — I love you with all my heart and soul.” After his tender words, he then shook his head. “What kind of father am I? I have never forgiven myself for how I treated Guthrie — I kicked him out during a time when we needed to heal as a family — but I was too proud — too angry — too hurt. I loved that boy and I turned my back on him.” He then leaned on me and cried; it felt so odd that I could ever be a source of comfort to him — for the first time in my life, I felt stronger than my father.

On the day before he died, Whitley charged me with the task to find Guthrie. “I could never face him — I’m a coward — that’s hard for me to admit, you know,” he said with a gleam in his fading eyes. “Once I’m gone — you’re going to need him. He’s still living at Margie’s house in Cleveland — Pinkerton knows where to find him.” I didn’t know for sure if he’d come.

On that day after the funeral, Guthrie and I took the long chilly walk during low tide from the beach to Salt Island; we were silent most of the time, but it was our sunset return along the narrow sand bar that he reiterated his disappointment that he wasn’t my father. “When you were born, I wanted to believe that I was your father because it was the only way — in my mind — the only way that I could conceivably express my love for you.” I listened to him reason this out, and I felt sorry for him — the enormity of the letdown seemed to crush him. Then he went on to explain that my resemblance to Lenore is complicating his former paternal feelings; the weighty tokens of my being there, every gesture I made reminded him of her too much, and he said that he feels revolted by his thoughts. I persisted with a steady stream of how come questions, which he evaded by making dumb jokes or lighting a smoke. I poked at him until he finally growled his answer. “Jeezus K. Ryst, girl, you don’t give up do you? You’re a pain-in-the-ass just like your mother — okay, I’ll tell you how come — it’s just wrong, that’s how come!”

His mustache failed to hide his angry mouth; I remained silent, waiting — what next?

“I’m sorry for barking at you, Buttons,” he muttered after awhile. “I should have come home a long time ago.” His entire face squinted against his emotions as he sent the words adrift into the November wind filled with ocean spray as the tide began to make its return to the beach. We laughed when our feet received a soaking during the last twenty feet of our trek on the sand bar. We’ve always cut it close — pushing our luck — Lenore always warned us “One of these days, you’ll be stranded out there until the tide goes out again — I’ll kill you if she gets poison ivy because you sent her to pee in the weeds!” It never happened, but once he had me climb up onto his shoulders as he waded back, falling down twice because the undertow tried to suck him out to sea. I never doubted for a second that he wouldn’t get me home safe that day — I held on tight just like he told me to — we only lost one of my flip-flops, no big deal.

Once we reached higher ground, Guthrie turned back to look at where we had been, the waves now nearly covering what remained of our path to the island. “But I suppose it was just as well that I stayed away,” he said to finish his thought.

Although he said nothing more, I could tell by the cast of his brow that he thought a lot. To comfort him, I hugged him as hard as I could — he sagged as he clutched me to his chest, and it seemed as if he, like Whitley, had also lost his strength. My image of him as Atlas withered in the pale twilight beach — he is just a man, not a myth. He appeared far from perfect on that sullen afternoon with a gray sky, gray ocean, and his gray hair — but he was my Guthrie; he has come home to me at last and I will not part with him ever again.

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It's always a mystery to me how my characters develop and then have the audacity to do the things they do or say the things they say... and it's so strange how the things I write about conflict with who I am...goodness knows I feared that I bit off more than I could chew with this one. The ghosts of the past haunt these people, they are conjoined through layers of relationships: Guthrie's relationship with his stepfather, Whitley; Guthrie's affair with Whitley's young wife, Lenore; Whitley's paternal feelings for his children (Guthrie, Helena and Samantha). Guthrie's feelings for Samantha, as a child, and then how they changed when he returns to her life, no longer a child, but as a grown woman. Samantha's feelings for Whitley, her mother, Lenore; and Guthrie, who she didn't see as a brother or a father, but as a friend who came home to stay now and then. And then there is Sylvester and Helena in the mix...there is so much...is it too much? But just when I begin to doubt myself, I read it again and know I've done a good thing telling this story as written.

Writing this book was difficult...but it was probably one of my happiest times.

9 comments:

Pat said...

On your list of books, I have to say since a lot of them are contemporary to when I reach adulthood, you made me feel antique. But what the hell, the wrinkles just say I have lived well, right?
On long summer nights I always think of Dandelion Wine. The screen doors slamming, children laughing, the silence of dusk. Sweet memories.

Christopher said...

Best goddamned posting in the entire 'Literary Blog Hop' business. You are refreshingly honest, and it shows. You rocked me back on my heels with what you've read and what you feel.

Hang tough, you got it right, Lady! Cheers! Chris

Kelly M. said...

"Literary" fiction -- depends upon whether you're referring to the accepted school of tradition (usually the old boy network) or wading through contemporary waters. I think literary conveys a strong sense of universality, of good writing (structure as well as grammar) and a degree of timelessness. It transcends boundaries of class, of gender, of race -- Good luck with the book, Laura!

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

Thanks for stopping by!
Pat: Dandelion Wine is such a delightful book and has such a beautiful spirit that instantly takes one back to happier times, long summer days, new sneakers that make your feet fly, and the first time you realize that you're "alive". Somehow it fits that you remember it well!

Christopher: thanks for appreciating my honesty, not too many people like that about me.

Kelly M.: I learned a lot from the "old boys", they knew how to tell damn good stories with prose that is just as poetic as poetry. Some of the contemporary waters are a bit shallow in places that disappoint me, but I believe that's the fault of the current publishing paradigm that cares more about the bottom line than publishing good books that are timeless and beautiful.

Shellie - Layers of Thought said...

I just love your little feet.

It looks like a picture from a by gone era.. which is perfect for this post since literary fiction actually takes some time to digest which is contrary to our "MacDonalds" fast food and more world.

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

Shellie:

My Fred tells me I have "doll feet". I guess I'm little like that. (Some times I feel like I belong to another time.)

helen said...

Not familiar with the 'Literary Blog Hop', I was a bit stumped by the term 'literary fiction'. Being 'old school',I assumed all fiction was literary. So I had to look it up on Wikipedia. Literary fiction is 'serious' - novels, short stories, etc. 'Popular fiction' is everything else. Maybe too simple - but I think I get the picture now.

willow said...

Excellent post. Thanks for stopping by WM this morning and your kind comment.

t does wool said...

intriguing and captivating words...love the image..the boots,untied..poignant in a way~