A live reading of "Jonnie" on KTSW 89.9 Other Side Drive

posted Mar 13, 2014, 2:05 PM by Tiffany Rainey   [ updated Mar 13, 2014, 2:15 PM ]

Every time I think back to that shadowy winter day, I squirm in my seat and make strange, guttural noises. You know, those involuntary sounds of regret - groans and grunts - that are typically accompanied by a face-palm and mumbling, "Why did I say/do that?" 

I said I'd never relive that day, that an entire army couldn't force me to listen to my own voice on the air. I said, if ever I'm faced with such terror, I'd resist the temptation to click play. Alas, such a feat in self-restraint is beyond my power. 

A recording of the Persona interview has surfaced and now wafts through the deepest corners of the internet like a plume of cigarette smoke toward a slow-moving ceiling fan. Or something. 

Actually, it isn't as bad as I thought. Well, I'll always feel like a bumbling idiot when speaking publicly, I think, but my interviewers at KTSW 89.9 Other Side Drive, Nicole Lucas and Jose Gonzalez, are quite good at what they do and somehow managed to deliver me from the depths of embarrassment. So, thanks guys! 

It's so not-bad that I don't even mind sharing. See? 

Neil Gaiman, get out of my head!

posted Oct 16, 2013, 6:02 PM by Tiffany Rainey   [ updated Oct 16, 2013, 6:52 PM ]

Certain language-related themes seem to be calling out to me lately. I think on them even when I try not think on them. For the past couple of years, they've been popping up in my fiction, in critical essays, and in random conversations.
I'm no space cowgirl, but I think I may have a mental link with Neil Gaiman. How else could he somehow manage to touch on all of these themes - escapism, child literacy, narrative empathy, and more - in a single lecture he recently gave for The Reading Agency? Mr. Gaiman makes my every point, only more pointedly. So, without further ado, go here and read this most important lecture. 

Paper Wings

posted Oct 9, 2013, 10:37 PM by Tiffany Rainey   [ updated Sep 13, 2015, 8:53 AM ]

A fairy tale, by Kate Berheimer's definition, is flat of character, abstract, follows intuitive logic, and has an element of normalized magic. Having never before written anything that fit this definition, I took the fairy tale challenge in the wee hours one morning last winter. The following is a slight revision of that story.

"There once was a young lady named Millie who lived all alone in a little house in a little town at the foot of a mountain. Like everyone else in the little town, Millie did the same things at the same time, every single day. Every morning, she braided her long black hair. She then slipped into her old boots and went out to feed her chickens.
For breakfast, she had one fried egg, one slice of toast, and one cup of coffee, always with one spoon of cream and one lump of sugar. Afterwards, she read the newspaper, funnies first. She wrote one poem each day at lunchtime over a bowl of soup. She tended her vegetable garden in the afternoons and collected the mail at exactly two o'clock. She took her dinner at dusk at a little table on her little covered patio. Millie was not lonely. In fact, she was content to be alone. 

One day Millie got a telephone call from a man who lived in a big house in a big city far from the mountains. This man - Ben - claimed that Millie was his twin sister, that she'd been stolen away from her family just after they were born. The man wanted to see Millie, he wanted her to meet her real parents. Millie said he was wrong. She was the only child of a midwife and she her mother had spent their entire lives alone together at the foot of a mountain. He said he was born two minutes sooner than she and that she should want to obey her elder. 

Millie's mother could not confirm or refute what the man said, for she'd died just before Millie's sixteenth birthday. 

So Millie decided she would go to the big city to meet Ben and her "real parents." Traveling far away from the mountains to the big city was difficult for her, especially since she was making the voyage by sea. She wasn't able to do the same things at the same time every day on her week-long trip. By the third day, she was having coffee at three in the afternoon and taking dinner whenever she felt hungry, with two friendly travelers named Kevin and Devin. She learned about art and literature and music. She learned to ride a unicycle and how to seduce men. She began to have peculiar thoughts; she began to question her monotonous ways. Millie did not dislike having company. In fact, she wondered how she ever lived alone. When the trip was nearing its end, Millie found a note taped to a necklace that held a tiny glass vial with a mysterious, shimmery powder inside it on her pillow. It said, "If you find your Ben is much too strange, crush the vial and name your change. Love, Kevin and Devin." 

As Millie disembarked the ship in the big city, she was greeted by a tall man. The man, Ben, hugged her tightly and led her to a beast-drawn buggy. On the way to Ben's big house, he explained to Millie how she would be spending her days. There were so many things! Every day, she would wake up at six and help Ben feed the dogs. She would have oatmeal and fresh-squeezed juice with Ben and her real parents. Then, she would retrieve the newspaper and bring it to her father, who would be waiting on the big, covered patio. For the rest of the day, she would work alongside Ben in his publishing house. In the evenings, she would--

Millie had heard enough. Those things sounded lovely, but she decided she would make her own way, alone or together with others who do not like to do the same things and the same time every day. She opened the door of the buggy and, with a flick of her wrist, released the beasts of their burdensome cargo. Then, Millie reached into her shirt and crushed the tiny glass vial at her neck, touched the shimmery powder, and whispered, "Wings!" 

Millie felt a tickle in her sides and, to Ben's shock, floated out of the buggy on beautiful wings, strong ones made of brightly-colored painting, sheet music and parchment paper. "Goodbye," she said as she turned toward home. In her little house in the little town at the foot of the mountain, Millie gathered all the townsfolk around her and told them everything she had seen and heard. She showed them the tiny glass vial, now only half full, and dropped a tiny speck of the shimmery powder into each of their hands. There was a grand celebration that day and the people of the little town grew beautiful wings made of colorful silks and papers and canvases, each set a little different from the rest. 

And they all lived happily ever."

Liar Liar, Pants on Fire!

posted Oct 9, 2013, 9:29 PM by Tiffany Rainey   [ updated Nov 22, 2013, 2:56 PM ]

Have you ever wondered why some people tell senseless, trivial lies that don't seem to be motivated by any tangible gain? For instance, Billy and Bobby have just returned from Las Vegas. Billy says he won first place and five thousand dollars in a poker tournament. But Bobby already told you that Billy was the third-to-last player to lose his seat. You might think nothing of it, as you have to come expect a tall tale or three from your friend. Or you might sympathize with Billy, blame it on a compulsion beyond his control. Or you might roll your eyes and whisper to Bobby, "Damn. You can't trust anything that guy says." You may not contradict Billy aloud but you are probably thinking, "liar!" You are probably wondering with a tinge of disgust why he doesn't just tell it like it is. 
Maybe you can't trust what Billy says, but are you paying attention to what he's not saying? Could he be saying - without saying - that he's super proud to have placed third in the tournament, so proud that he feels like he won first?

We tend to see these things in black and white: exaggerations and fabrications are signs of immorality or character flaw. But could it be that many people, when they lie or exaggerate, are simply trying to narrate actual experiences in a way that best conveys how they felt during that [real or imagined] experience or how they felt about it at the telling? 

Let me play "the liar" for a bit. The problem with the black and white truth is that your interpretations and reactions to the truth don't always align with mine and, due to trial and error, I know this before I share my story with you. Consider these conflicting stories and decide which makes you feel how the narrator probably felt:

#1  I was sipping coffee in the break room when a coworker came in. I said hello but she walked past me without saying anything. Then, she sat with another coworker and they began talking amongst themselves. I felt rejected and left out. I feel that, for some reason, my coworker dislikes me and it really bothers me. 

#2  I was sipping coffee in the break room when a coworker came in. I tried to talk to her but she just looked right at me and kept walking. Then, she sat with her back to me, whispering to another coworker. I know she was talking about me but I have no idea what I could have done to make her dislike me. 

The first scenario is probably a more accurate description of the interaction but it doesn't convey the insecurity [or paranoia] the narrator felt. Additionally, it would be more likely to elicit a doubting response than one of confirmation. The second scenario isn't the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but doesn't it help you relate? She should probably follow that statement with a disclaimer, something like, "Ok, that's not what actually happened, but that's how it made me feel." Everyone claims they just can't understand why some people stretch the truth but it's actually quite simple. It's what we say when we really, really need someone to empathize. 

Confession time. I tell tall tales.

Sometimes, recreating a feeling is more important that recreating a black and white truth. But what if your tall tales just don't go over so well with society? Well, then you should try your hand at fiction. Because only in fiction are you expected to change what really happened to match how something or someone makes your characters feel. And because, in fiction, disclaimers are unnecessary. So go ahead, tell your tall tale. No judgment here. 

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