I’m delighted to bring you tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of political writing, by Paula Friedman.
Politic Timing, Political Fiction
Well, that’s a big title. But one meaning is that political context changes even while one writes.
Certainly it changed between 2002, when I began my The Rescuer’s Path, and this autumn of 2011 as the book nears publication.
The Rescuer’s Path is a short novel of love, family, non-violence — and a few other issues like war, Jewish-Arab relations, adoption, refugees, the Holocaust, and legacies of loss thrown in. I wrote the first draft during two or three weeks of that first year after 9/11, when racism and xenophobia ran rampant, and a “homeland security” apparatus encroached across the U.S., U.K., and the rest of the world. Since some wonderful Arabic friends had enormously helped me during one lonely period in my life, I changed a planned novel, about a young woman who aids a wounded fugitive, into a political tale with a half-Arab hero. Aided only by a Holocaust survivor’s daughter who loves him, the hero flees police and FBI alike.
Thus the book takes a stand against the xenophobic reaction of its time. But, like most of us, I had no publishing connections, only a few blurbs from noted and less noted authors that might make publishers read my query. And as a working woman in economic hard times, I had few free hours for querying.
A few near hits, two nearly-won prizes — years passed, the film Children of Men came out, The Shock Doctrine came out, in the U.S. Obama came in (on a wave, though brief, of hope), one publisher held the manuscript for months of internal discussions, one publisher would accept it if rewritten to a genre.
Only in 2009 did one publisher, progressive and feminist Plain View Press (cooperative and now a nonprofit), take the novel on.
By then, with many American liberals still believing the nation’s first Black president must be Left-leaning despite certain policy indications, my novel seemed to some less leading-edge. But as administration policies tightened further, preaching a security that drained more and more resources from whatever ordinary securities real people had, The Rescuer’s Path remained among the relatively few voices seriously speaking, in the U.S. publishing universe, for peace and justice.
But now it is October. By January 2012, when The Rescuer’s Path is published, Occupy Wall Street and the related movements evolving from this year’s Arab Spring may already have created serious changes and openings to heal the past ten years of oppression. If so, my novel won’t be so leading-edge anymore — but I shall gladly count that for a victory.
Let’s hope so. Thank you Paula!
Paula Friedman teaches fiction and memoir writing in Hood River, Oregon, and edits books for university and trade presses. Previously, she directed public relations for the Judah Magnes Jewish Museum, directed the international Rosenberg Award for Poems on the Jewish Experience, and founded and managed the collective literary magazine The Open Cell. She has run poetry readings and writers workshops in the Bay Area, Paris, and elsewhere, and has recently compiled an anthology of West Coast Jewish women’s poetry. She holds an MA from San Francisco State University and a BA from Cornell University. Active in peace and justice issues, she received the 2006 award of the Columbia River Fellowship for Peace.
Paula Friedman’s honors include Pushcart Prize nominations and New Millenium Writings, OSPA, and other awards and honors, as well as Centrum and Soapstone residencies and fellowships. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous print and online literary magazines and anthologies. Her novel The Rescuer’s Path is forthcoming in January 2012 and a poetry chapbook, Time and Other Details, appeared in 2006. Advance orders welcome from Plain View Press or from Paula (her website is http://www.paula-friedman.com – she can also be found on LinkedIn and Facebook) and thereafter will also be available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other good online retailers.
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).
The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with D V Berkom – the one hundred and sixty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.