Bedtime Stories

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One of the greatest challenges I’ve found as a writer is the demands a family places on the imagination.

As you have probably noticed, I have been absent for quite some time. Between work and writing, I’ve not had much time to come here and think my private thoughts in a public space. And then, there are my kids.

Take now, for example. I just finished a chapter of our make-believe story about Beatles and Bottle the T-Rexes, who are trying to escape a volcanic eruption. Telling them this story has made me examine the process of how I tell stories. As I sit at the keyboard and think, I can hear the boys upstairs casting spells at each other.

Tim: “Abra-ca-zee, abra-ca-za I turn you into a mega zoo-rah.”

Isaac: ” And I turn you into a zebra.”

I’m supposed to be writing about what it’s like to be a writing dad. Thankfully, the boys just gave me an idea, so you’ll have to thank them that this piece has a focus.

At my final residency for my masters’ last January, a colleague came up to me and told me that they found my writing to be quite disturbing. I accepted this information with the few graces I have, and the conversation lagged. My colleague was about to depart, but turned back to me and said, “Where do you come up with this stuff?”

By this stuff, I think she was referring to the workshop piece I had just had critiqued by my peer review group. As a quick aside, that story is being published in Assignment online magazine this Sunday, and I’ll post a link to it when it’s out.

Anyway, the story is one wherein nothing bad actually occurs, but with every fiber of your being, you know the protagonist is twisted, and has done something unspeakable. Without ruining the plot, the story is about a guy who owns a party company with bouncy houses for rent. The only other detail you need to know is that half of the story takes place at a birthday party.

My colleague found my work to be disquieting, and her question was really meant to ask, “How can you think about stuff like this?” My answer at the time was something like, “I just have lots of bad dreams.” But that answer wasn’t really the truth. I didn’t know the truth until just a few days ago. So let me use the previous story to explain how I come up with content.

First, if you don’t yet know from reading my Lines of Literature via Twitter (or the repostings I do here and on Facebook), I tend toward horror. We can quibble over genre if you’d like but underneath it all, I write horror.

I was a few weeks away from a deadline at school, and had no idea what I was going to write as a critique piece. None. Instead of sitting at my computer worrying about it, I was playing with my kids. We had just bought a small bouncy for my son for his third birthday. We had it inflated, and the boys were jumping happily inside. My mind, as it so often does, went into preparation mode–always be ready for the worst to happen. And with a bouncy house, that could be bad indeed. But as I watched them jump, I realized that they would be fine, and never know the danger implicit in any fun activity.

Boys safe, I let my mind wander the halls of its prison. It knocked on a door labelled, “Bad Things”. It turned the handle, and went inside.

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The story, dark as it is, emerged from that door. My mind fled back down the corridors to its cell and slammed the door. But at least I had a story to write.

An earlier story came about because I was sitting in church, remembering what services had been like for me as child, before the advent of children’s church. I was thankful my boys did not have to endure the same thing, but could enjoy the company of their peers while learning their Bible lesson.

In the story that emerged from that journey to “Bad Things”, a man blows up his life hoping to find a better life. While that may not sound like horror, watching a man’s descent into insanity is terrifying.

Then, last week, I was writing a chapter for my new WIP (work-in-progress). The chapter came about because I was envisioning a canoe trip with my sons, and how we would survive if disaster struck. This story emerges in smalls doses from ever-more-frequent visits to “Bad Ideas”, and it is as dark as anything I’ve ever written. If you follow Lines of Literature, you’ll catch small glimpses of the story as it emerges.

It occurred to me when I finished my writing for that day that all of the inspiration for my stories, despite being found in “Bad Ideas”, have their genesis in one inescapable fact. I love my children dearly and am utterly terrified of anything truly bad happening to them (boo-boo’s and owies don’t count, and neither does a “B” on a report card). My subconscious processes this terror and stores it in “Bad Ideas”, where, if I am brave enough, I can bring the ideas into the light of day and face them more comfortably there. And by taking my worst fears for my children and turning them into stories, I am able to come to grips with my fears, and show them how small they really are once they leave my mind.

So, that’s the dirty little secret: I write horror because I love my kids. Please, dear friends, don’t tell anyone. An author has to keep up appearances, after all.

 

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”- H.P. Lovecraft

An Unexpected Act of Kindness

It is likely that most of you do not know, but today is the World (or International) Day of Awareness for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum.

 

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I mentioned ACC when I wrote about Tim in my last post, but in case you missed it, here is what the corpus callosum is:

 

Male Corpus Callosum Brain Anatomy - blue concept
Male Corpus Callosum Brain Anatomy – blue concept

The corpus callosum is the bridge between hemispheres of the brain. Tim is missing his, like many other children and adults around the world. Because ACC does not typically have visual manifestations, those with ACC often go undiagnosed. In other cases, people with ACC are not taken seriously when they seek help for their disability. And let’s be clear, it is a DIS-ability, not a NON-ability. Those who have ACC, can lead normal, happy, productive lives, if they are given the extra help that they need, in the areas they need it.

On July 2nd, the National Organization for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum (here in the U.S.) and its partner organizations globally, try to spread awareness of this condition. First, so that perhaps funding can be raised to help do research on effective therapies to reduce the impact of the disorder, and second, to give parents of children with ACC enough information that they can best find a team of support to help them give their child a normal, happy, productive life.

Several weeks ago, Heather was looking for a vendor who makes custom tees so that our family could have a matching set of shirts for today.

 

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As you can see, she found a company that makes custom tees. When she contacted the company, one of the owner, Tiffany Tannhauser told Heather that she and her company would like to donate the shirts to us, in order to help raise awareness for DoCC.

 

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has been a huge blessing to our family. While I don’t want to use my blog as a sales tool for every company I find to have good service, this is different. Tiffany, Sara, and Tim (the three owners), run the kind of business that I would be remiss to not mention. Yes, they did us a great act of kindness (as you may know, tees of the quality we received [and Holly’s matching onesie] aren’t cheap), but this isn’t quid pro quo. Rather,I believe that A company with the heart to help others is the kind of local business that we all should be supporting.

One of the lessons you learn as the parent of a child with ACC is that, for the most part, ACC is an invisible disorder. That is to say that since most children look and ‘seem’ ‘normal’, the assumption by outsiders is that the parents aren’t struggling terribly to provide for the extra needs of their child. We ACC parents don’t often get support outside of our little support groups, and at times it can be frustrating that no one has even the smallest clue as to how difficult it is to raise a child with ACC. But we don’t complain, because we know that ACC is so much less challenging than other disorders and conditions, and so we ACC parents don’t want to complain. Thus it is, that for the most part, we raise our children as best we can, with little acknowledgement of our struggle, and ever little acknowledgement that we can use whatever help we can get.

So, when TST Souvenirs & Balloons offered to create these tees and this logo,

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free of charge, with no strings attached, we were blown away. We didn’t know the owners of the company, and yet, like the Good Samaritan, they saw a need, and went beyond the call of duty to meet it. This precious gift, which allows us to help raise awareness of ACC for Tim and others like him, is a reminder that despite what we feel is the invisibility of Tim’s condition, there are still many kind, generous people in the world who are willing to help, if only given the chance.

If doing business with a company like this sounds appealing to you, please check out TST at tstsouvenirs.com, send them an email at tstsouvenirs@gmail.com, or check them out on Facebook @tstsouvenirs.

I am so grateful that Tiffany, Sara, and Tim run their business with such kindness and generosity, and look forward to building a friendship with these three remarkable folks as the years roll by. I hope you will check them out and do the same.

 

Happy World Awareness Day for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum!

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Updated Twitter

So, just a quick post to let you know that I’ve updated my Twitter handle. It is now: @JohnWillWriting. Find me and follow along!

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! As I build this site over the next months, I hope you’ll undertake the journey with me.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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