Monday, June 30, 2008


This last weekend was interesting, which to one part is the best I can write. On Friday, my son celebrated his eighth birthday, and we had this nice little party lined up. Invitations were sent, food was prepared, party favors purchased. Then, about an hour before the party, my son tossed his cookies. After receiving a call from my wife, I left work and ventured home to see what I could do to help out. Upon arriving, my daughter then spewed her lunch all over the kitchen floor. To cap it off, after bleaching the floor and then scrambling to make phone calls to cancel the party, my wife turned sick. Suffice it to say, Friday’s party went down in flames like a crazed kamikaze. At least my son's spirit perked up when his mother and I gave him the telescope he wanted.

By Saturday, everyone was on the mend and wondering what to do with all hot dogs and cake. I guess I'll get creative. Let's see... there's hot dogs with macaroni and cheese. There are hot dog omelets. There's pizza with sliced hot dogs instead of pepperoni. Feel free to give me some great recipes, assuming you have any.

Things turned real interesting yesterday, though, as my dad and I drove to Wal-Mart (yes, I’m a cheapskate at heart) to have some photos developed for my mom. While we were waiting, my dad and I had one of those great discussions where he became almost god-like in my eyes. Even now, I feel like erecting a memorial in his honor. There was a certain level of transparency to the discussion that I have only seen a few times. It was a moment where I captured a glimpse of the real man inside, not just this hard-shell that I call my father. In fact, the conversation was so real and deep that I asked myself why my father and I didn’t have these moments back when I was a kid. Surely, I would have been better prepared for the real world had he been able to sit me down like that before I left home. But he was a busy man, working a ton of hours, and that was just the way it was. At least now, I have these moments to cherish.

Transparency. Thinking about it, I believe there is a certain level of transparency we all need from our parents; and I’m not talking about the birds and bees discussion, though by today’s standards, with the current level of teenage pregnancy our world sees, it would seem like a nice place to start. Nor am I talking about a dad showing his son how to catch a fly ball or swing a bat. While entertaining, baseball doesn’t pay the bills or teach a person what it takes to operate in the real world. What I’m talking about are those conversations where mom and dad let you peek behind the curtain, see who they are and what they’re dealing with. How did they go about making that hard decision? What did they fear? What brought them joy? What are the things that make them so mad they just wanted to beat a person’s brains out and then piss on his grave? I’m talking about the business of L-I-F-E, and how to live it.

And now I’m sitting here, typing out this post, and thinking about how transparency is one of the greatest elements to a story. What makes a reader connect to the story? Isn’t it transparency? I believe so. It’s that intimacy of life that lays everything bare for the world to see and, hopefully, to learn from.

I lost sight of that transparency with a recent story I dusted off. Last week, I received a nice rejection letter from Every Day Fiction, which asked if I had anything else to submit. I quickly thought of an old piece and set about to revise it. My revised product, however, was no better than the original. My problem? The character wasn’t transparent enough. Thankfully, my good friend, Greta, pointed out the error: she didn’t get a sense of who the lead character was. As readers, we want to see the characters, to understand them, to love them (or hate them), and to learn from their conflict. If I had sent the story to EDF, it would have found its way to File 13, and this time with no more of a request than to find some other home for my stories.

Okay… Now I can go back to the computer. It’s time to re-write that story into something better.


  1. Stephen, I love this concept of transparency you bring up. What a great way to describe it! I think it's something we all long for in our relationships with others, whether it be a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend.

    Perhaps this is why we find reading so satisfying; it's our most honest chance at getting into someone else's head and seeing who they really are, whether they're heroes or villains or mutts like the majority of us.

    One more thing: I love the way you connected your real life to your writing in this post. Fantastic job. You should fine tune this a bit and submit it to some writing publications. I'm sure this could find a home. My writing teacher, Gail, would go nuts over it. (And no, I'm not just saying this because you pointed out, rightfully so, what a great friend and insightful reader I am.)

  2. Super post, Steve. I like this term of transparency - in my head, I call it resonance. It's probably what others call voice. Whatever. I guess it's what makes the difference between ploughing through a story versus flying.

    hang in there with the sick kids and holidays - been there, done that. And don't plan in advance any down time at home for yourself, either; the kids will get sick. They KNOW.

    Wrap those piggies in biscuit dough and pop 'em in the oven. DELISH! Peace, and happy b'day to your son - mine turned 9 today (June 30) and my daughter graces us with her 6th the next day. Linda

  3. Thanks, ladies. I appreciate the insights. And as for connecting my real life to the writing life on my blog? Well, you'll have to wait until I spin out my next idea, of which I have to give all the credit to my kids. They gave me their stomach bug, and it all caught up with me last night.