I was surprised and honored to be the recipient of a Gordon Square Review mentorship. The only thing better than being published is receiving expert advice on how to improve the precision and impact of your writing, helping you grow as a writer. And I don’t ever want to stop growing!
I had the idea for my short story, “Keep a Light On”, late one cold, sleety February evening while I was walking my dog, during a time of year when the Cleveland winter begins to seem endless. I wondered, gazing at my darkened house, what if there were a light on in one of the upstairs rooms where my sons used to sleep? Wouldn’t that be creepy? I like to develop stories organically from a seed like that: a situation, an overheard line of dialogue, an object, a memory, an association. I often have no idea where the story is going or what will happen next, which entertains me both as reader and writer. I love fiction that has an element of mystery or wonder that can have multiple meanings and interpretations.
Far more challenging for me is the revision once the excitement of the first draft is over. Writing requires me to go deep into my own imagination, to live the life of the characters, inhabiting their sensory world. Editing, however, means emerging and trying to understand the reader’s perspective: what words and images are landing, and which are falling flat. Laura had invaluable suggestions for minor line edits to tighten the language and rethink awkward word choices. It was exciting to work with someone who cared as much about the story as I did, honoring the spirit and tone of what I was attempting. I loved how she wrote positive comments about lines where she was amused or surprised.
Laura suggested reworking the cryptic ending, which shortchanged the seminal conversation between mother and son that the story had been building toward. I realized I didn’t know enough about the son and needed to see matters from his perspective. Laura proposed parameters to develop the scene subtly and in keeping with the characters; suggestions that inspired, rather than limited me. The conversation came together naturally when I walked around in Brett’s shoes for a day and began hearing his voice.
It was a pleasure discussing and working on “Keep a Light On” with Laura, whose supportive advice encouraged me to aim higher and take more risks. I’m becoming a convert to the joy of revision, which George Saunders calls the essence of writing. The mentorship program nurtures more voices for our far-flung community of writers and I can’t wait to read the work of the next mentees.
Bonnie Brewer-Kraus grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and attended an alternative college in Florida, before getting a Bachelor of Architecture at Kent State and moving to Cleveland Heights. As an architect, she worked on recreational and municipal projects, including a fire station, which gave her a behind-the-scenes peek at the secret lives of firemen and women. Although an avid reader and closet writer since childhood, it is only in the last few years that she has tackled the discipline and craft of writing through classes at Lit Cleveland. She loves taking a journey with a story and never knowing where she’ll end up.