The lovely folks at Great Lakes Review published my story, “A New Nuclear,” about my favorite fictional dental hygienist Patty’s struggle to find herself during the last summer before her child leaves for college. It is a most Rust Belt-y story, and I’m grateful to editor Mitch James for giving it a fine home along my favorite Great Lake.

One of the questions writers hear most–even about fictional works–is: “Is this story inspired by your life? Is this you?” Yes and no. Do I understand Patty’s situation? Do I feel a sense of my nest emptying out? Sure, my boys are 13 now, and every day becoming more independent. But also no. Patty is not me, and is definitely not my mom (read on). But I thought I’d give a little backstory in case my followers want a peek into the real-life influences and (really weird) brain of a fiction writer.

Family might recognize Patty’s stint with the No Nukes! environmental chapter. My mom–who would have been proud to be called a tree hugger, if we used that term then–did a stint with the group that protested the local nuclear power plant. (The plant’s still in operation, btw. Planned to be deactivated in 2021, it’s now licensed to operate until 2037.) I remember my mom’s bright yellow No Nukes! shirt. She might have participated in one protest but was much more often spotted at the church basement food co-op she helped run. Also, note the spiderwort plants in my story–plants that are able to detect small amounts of radiation. My mom would have loved that fact. Maybe she knew it? I wish I could ask her.

A writer friend–hi, Jessica!–who is more perceptive than I noted that I have teeth on the creative brain as of late. She also read a prose poem of mine, recently published in the print journal, Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry,” titled “Jesus, My Son’s Buckteeth.” What do they say about teeth dreams? Spurred on by anxiety, right? Should I be worried if teeth are taking over my creative mind? (Don’t tell me.)

And a note on the craft of writing and the novel process: Writer friends who’ve read my WIP–a novel set over one Ohio summer, bridging two lakeshores and three generations–will recognize Patty. Early drafts of the novel included Patty’s perspective and more time for her on the page. In later revisions, Patty’s POV–but not Patty’s character–was cut. Still, I couldn’t leave the protest scene (or the dental chair scene!) on the cutting room floor. “Kill your darlings,” they say. But, also, sometimes those darlings can make for a good story.

I hope you like it: “A New Nuclear”

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22 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: “A New Nuclear”

    1. Thank you for reading, Eilene! Patty is a bit of a mess–I like your description, “seeker”–but I love that character so. Yes, she’ll find her way, eventually. Off to your blog now to see what you’ve been up to!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Thanks for the backstory. I love these types of things and it’s a good idea I should incorporate even in nonfiction.

    Your story is full of surprises! And since I dated a man (for six years) whose family lives near a nuclear plant (it never became operational) it was easy to envision. Good job with Patty, as she definitely felt like a fleshed out character.

    I once asked a dental hygienist why she chose this profession, I mean, ewwww, and she said she loved it. So, there you go, all types. πŸ˜›

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes! I’d love to read a behind-the-scenes of your nonfiction, Lani. I think the writing process is fascinating and it’s so very different for each and every writer. A friend who beta-read my novel just recently asked me how the idea came to be, and after much thinking I remembered the big influences: a story on NPR, a viral You Tube video, plus my own love of swimming and singing, and more. So, process has been on my mind.

      Thanks so much for reading my story. I appreciate it! The town where my dad is from–and still lives–has a nuclear plant. And where I grew up, a different nuclear plant was just a half hour away, near the lake. So, those big cooling towers were always on the horizon; yet there’s always controversy around nuclear power, too. Makes for an interesting backdrop. And Patty, that floundering lady has my heart!

      I know what you mean about teeth. I mean, healthy teeth are fine, but the unhealthy ones–ugh the smells. But, yeah, I have a cousin and a friend who are hygienists and love it. I think the money can be good and it’s flexible and you don’t take your work home with you–thank goodness!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hahahaha. I can’t imagine taking your work home with you as a hygienists. But probably lots of strangers and friends asking for advice.

        That’s interesting that you grew up around the cooling towers. They remind me of the Simpsons and the 3 eyed fish that was in the water. But it’s def part of our history, controversy and struggle for change and power!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Woo hoo! Congratulations! I enjoyed reading the background to Patty’s character, your mom’s t-shirt story, and of course reading the A New Nuclear story too. That was quite the clever way to incorporate the dentist chair and the protest scene into a story. As always, I’m impressed and entertained with your creative writing. (PS…I recently had to go to the dentist and when I return for a cleaning in October…I will need to refrain from remembering Patty’s story of the chair activities!) 🀣

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Shelley! Sometimes I feel like I should put a rating on my stories. This one is at least PG-13! Some of my work’s a little saucy. And, yes, you know Patty! Your reading of my manuscript helped immensely–I can’t even tell you how much. I so appreciate you reading this too! (And, yes, banish Patty from your mind on your next trip to the dentist. I’ll plan to do the same, ha!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! LOL – it was a PG-13 story πŸ˜ŠπŸ˜‰ I thought that was Patty!! I’m glad my reading helped, it was my pleasure.
        I hope to shake the images of Patty at the dentist office before I return in October for my next cleaning. πŸ˜„

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I can never get enough behind-the-scenes author! And what better outcome for a killed darling than to find a home for it elsewhere? A big yay for that! And not surprised to hear it because I loved it when it was part of your WIP. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I came across this story while perusing the GLR website and I had to read it twice. This sentence “So much sickness and decay starts in the mouth, Patty thinks. Since she began working in mouths, she watches extra carefully what she says.” This is the type of sentence one can encounter in a Denis Johnson or an Alice Munro story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thanks for that, Rob. And thanks for reading! I’m pretty thrilled to be among such great poets, writers, and photographers at GLR–the perfect home for my weird, little story, and for Patty who is pretty fun to write.


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