January 17, 2011

As strange as fiction


"Write what you know," goes the writer's mantra. Good advice, but the self as a resource has it limits, and sometimes you have to write what you don't and trust your research, your instincts, and your editor (Beth Bentley, in this case).

Still, it's always reassuring when you stumble across a real example of something you made up. In this case, a scene in The Path of Dreams that has Elly going to Planned Parenthood presaged this real-life article in the New York Times, and even strikes a similar philosophical note at the end.

From "Single, Female, Mormon, Alone" by Nicole Hardy:

And that brought me to tears, sorrowful for the ways in which we all suffer, in whatever ways we do, and grateful for the unlikely refuge [offered by Planned Parenthood]. Grateful also for the safety granted my own tears, prompted by the delicate weight of a hand on my shoulder, the warmth of her palm against my back.

How unprepared I was to experience tenderness in the place I had been warned so vehemently against. How unprepared for the flood of relief, the bud of hope, after a life devoted to keeping myself separate from my body. Here was a path, an opening; here was empathy.

From The Path of Dreams:

At the back of her mind--perhaps because of the association with female reproduction--she had made a connection between Planned Parenthood and Relief Society. The difference was, Planned Parenthood only cared about Elaine Packard, here and now. Nothing else. Her soul was her own business. And so the unexpected answer came to her in this atmosphere of nonjudgmental amity, so casually that at first she thought she was lying. But she knew she couldn't lie that glibly.

An hour ago, she couldn't have explained what she was doing there. Now she knew exactly what she was doing there, and for that she was truly and deeply grateful.

If you're not Mormon, I'd recommend reading chapter one of The Path of Dreams to put Hardy's article in context.

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