Every story starts with Chapter One
By Mary C. Long
Growing up in Charlestown, I never knew I was poor – because I wasn’t really. No, this isn’t a sappy “I didn’t know because we were rich with love” explanation. Please. My parents were fantastic, don’t get me wrong – and I was a happy kid, but my paycheck is still a few zeros short of me spouting that sort of nonsense.
I didn’t know I was poor because compared to other families I had it pretty good. My father worked for the T and my mother was a foster parent, and combined they brought home a decent living. I don’t remember ever wanting for anything.
But years later, when I went to college, I was truly shocked to learn that I was solidly in what is called the “lower class.” Call it naïve, but I really thought that distinction applied to people completely down and out and begging on the street. Weren’t they that entitled, uneducated, perpetually lazy group of people I’d heard about?
Yeah, they were. And “they” were talking about me. And I was pissed. And I’ve been pretty pissed about it ever since. Even writing about it right now pisses me off. I really need to get over it, I know. Yet, I can’t.
Why? Because I now find myself in a very awkward position, where I’m pretty constantly surrounded by people who grew up learning the same class distinctions, but were in an entirely different class – and they assume I’m one of them. And I guess I am now, in part. But a larger part, the part that makes me who I am, is very separate from them and unable to relate because I feel like although I can see them, they can’t see me.
They don’t see that where I grew up (to Townies, Newtowne – to outsiders, generalized as the projects) there was a network of tough, loving adults who watched after their neighbors’ kids just as fiercely as their own. They don’t see parents working two jobs and still up at 6 am on the weekends to coach Pop Warner. And they can’t imagine groups of adults sitting out late on a summer night and having a few drinks, while 30+ neighborhood kids play kick the can, as anything other than loud and scandalous. But it was the most fantastic, safest environment a kid could ever hope for – and brings to mind some of the best memories I have.
The Charlestown I grew up in was something to write stories about. Not fairy tales, but real stories that acknowledge the hardships while showing the strength, the humor and the heart.
And that’s what I’ve set out to do, in this in-your-face series of interconnected short stories based in Charlestown, called Chapter One.
The first one is out already and the next is coming on October 1, with each story following every two months – eleven total. Each story is connected to the others in some way and each represents the featured character’s “chapter one” – meaning, some defining moment in that character’s life.
In this first chapter, originally titled “Tough Chick,” we meet Janey, a strong-willed young woman at odds with the world around her, and herself. Thrust into a role she was never prepared for, we witness her battling back against circumstances that are beyond her control while creating a whole new set of circumstances that aren’t, with destructive consequences.
Want to check it out? It’s a quick read and costs .99 cents on Amazon. And FYI, you do NOT need a Kindle to read it, Amazon offers free reader apps available for download here.
But if you can’t download it for some reason (or just don’t want to pay .99 cents for a 15 page story), email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it to you for free. The clicks/downloads help me move up in Amazon’s rankings, so if you can figure it out, great – but if you can’t (for whatever reason), then reach out. www.bit.ly/Ch1Janey
Also, there’s a corresponding Tumblr blog where writers (or anyone really) can share their Chapter One (the first chapter of their books or a defining moment – expressed through words, pictures, videos or whatever medium they choose). All submissions are promoted on social networks, including Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Authors also get an Author Bio page on the Mary8078 website. This service is free!