Semi-Biographical

Recently, I’ve been working on semi-biographical pieces. I should explain how speculative fiction is semi-autobiographical.

The pieces I’m referring to are Cookies which is a piece about a brother and a sister from a highly dysfunctional family looking for salvation, and The Ground is Full of Teeth, the setting of which is a horror-verse version of the town I grew up in, although its portrayal is more accurate than you would suppose. Also, the abuse case represented in the story is NOT from my own background, as is the case with Cookies (I know, readers of Cookies, that makes things even more squicky), but is rather one I observed as a child through the lens of growing up in a very peculiar place and in a very peculiar way.

Write what you know, they say.

The Ground is Full of Teeth is something I’ve worked on for three years, until I managed to get it right with some helpful editorial suggestions from a place it might end up. If not, the editorial suggestions helped give the story inherent logic, whereas before, while the description and the events were well-rendered, why the story happened was loosey-goosey. Cookies was spurred by a family phone call and came into existence over the course of four hours, things just twisting and turning as they would. In Cookies, the main character is detached from the events in her narration, at least that’s how she tells the story, but her actions belie her involvement. In Teeth, the poetry is the story, the Gothic representation of a very spooky place.

I will probably write pieces like this again. These pieces reveal a great deal of self, perhaps some things about oneself that one would rather not reveal, but this is writing that takes risk. My characters are not me and the events are based on biography, but are not the events. Still, there is discomfort. Some would say, good. That’s what makes stories effective. Maybe.

With that in mind, I will still not make this my writing sweet spot. I believe that these are two of my more successful pieces, especially now that the internal logic of Teeth works for me. But I am equally in love with Turtle of the Earth, which is about a Chinese agricultural family, or Mark Twain’s Daughter, which has nothing to do with me, or even The Love Song of Oliver Toddle, which is as close as I’ve come to writing romance, and which is the only piece I’ve ever read besides the one I wrote about Toby that has made me cry while reading it.

I know some readers would like more stories like Cookies. Bryon tells me that he probably wouldn’t read my work if that was all my writing was like. Even if it made us a lot of money, I asked from some where in a fantasy. Yup.

Because these are not enjoyable stories to read, and my spouse likes to be happy. Still, I think it marks some progress in myself as a writer and as a person that I can write these kinds of stories.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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