Patricia Parkinson’s Comments

“Grief Counseling”
A man at my work tragically and unexpectedly lost his nine-year-old daughter. Within half an hour of her calling her mommy because she spilled Gatorade in her bed she was dead. The last thirty minutes with your child. Can you imagine? Only someone who has experienced this type of pain can understand. It wouldn’t be pretty and polite. It would be angry and raw and you’d need a place like “Grief Counseling” to let it out.

The feedback I received on this piece was not complimentary in terms of liking the characters—most in fact didn’t like them at all, thought they were a mean bunch. I love these people. I picked them.

The challenging thing for me about this story is that I wanted it to be about the group dynamic, not an individual. Although Joanna’s storyline is the strongest, I don’t feel it overwhelms the story and this to me is key. I tried to concisely present a clear vision of the group members using an odd subject to demonstrate their stories and who they are, and the exchanges among the group had to reveal as much as possible about each character. Another challenge was keeping the piece in real time, which allows me only so much backstory. I think it works.

“The Monkey Tree”
This story is set in my neighborhood, on my street, around the corner, and down the way. These are my children and our bike ride and my monkey tree. Thank you to Ellen Parker for her editing help. Sometimes we are too close to our own stories.

As are all the stories, this story was written in one sitting. Not polished, but complete, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. As it is when these things happen, it felt good and perfect and the reason why I do this writing thing.

The other two stories were written late at night. This story, which began as my annual journal entry of our family vacation, was written on this day, in this exact moment at the campground. Ellen read the story and liked it and thought it would be interesting if the “I” in the piece became Susan, changing the POV. I loved the idea. I like writing about Susan. She’s me but she’s not. Or is she? She is, as Ellen said, “a specific woman.”

I’m very proud, as I am with all my work, but I have a special affection for this story. What I love most about this piece is that it’s hopeful. A good end to the trio. Hope, sometimes it’s all we have, which, I think, is a cliché as well.

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