Over thirty years ago, I sat down with my grandmother, Florence Mamie Miller Jervis, my dad’s mother, to record her story, her life growing up on a dairy farm with eight siblings, and then joining that farm with a neighboring farm when she married my grandfather. She had six children of her own, the second, her only daughter, dying of crib death at only ten hours old. I recorded tape after tape with my grandmother, chronicling her life, and after she died, over fifteen years ago, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to those tapes, until I started writing a novella-in-flash last year about my times growing up on the farm where I spent most of my summers and holidays. But my story was not enough. I knew I needed to weave in my grandmother’s story as well, so I brought out the tapes, and as I listened to them I was transported right back to her kitchen in the farmhouse where we had sat and recorded the tapes so many years ago. She was right there beside me again, as I know she has always been. And I know how pleased she is that her story will be out in the world now. Alien Buddha press will be publishing my novella-in-flash Unpasteurized the end of May. It is a work of fiction, but it is based on my experiences on the farm and the life of my grandmother and lessons she taught me along the way. I dedicate this work to her. And I hope you will come to love her as much as I do. I am blessed to be one of her many grandchildren, and one of the many she took in when they were at a crossroads.
Writing is hard. I hear that all the time from the students I tutor. It is. But it is also such a beautiful way to unravel this crazy world, the only way I know to part the veil and see what truly matters, what truly Is. Though the publishing world can be daunting and discouraging at times, I can’t imagine giving up. I know my words matter, and I believe 2023 will see my short story cycle, Search Party, set on the eastern shore of Maryland, and my novella-in-flash, Unpasteurized, based on my times growing up on my grandparents’ dairy farm in Pennsylvania, in print. I look forward to sharing my years of labor and insights with the world. But, in truth, I write for myself. I write to live.
Over the past three + years, I’ve come to realize that we have a responsibility as artists to try to create work that can make a positive difference in this world. It is true that writing can be therapeutic, and when I first started out on this path I did write to figure things out, mostly myself. But now I ask myself: Does this work matter? There’s more of an urgency to my writing, more depth, and I see that in much of the writing that comes my way as fiction editor for Little Patuxent Review. South Korean writer and director Bong Joon Ho quoted Martin Scorsese during this year’s Academy Awards: “The most personal is the most creative.” And the most personal is the most political, which is so obvious in his brilliant award winning film Parasite. This year I plan to complete my short story cycle set on the eastern shore of Maryland and hope to publish it; it is my dream that it will shed some light where there is darkness.