Pamela Carter Joern Guest Post + Giveaway
Pamela is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob for the month of May. She has written a guest post about a question one of her readers asked and it will make you think about what a reader brings to the stories they read. Read on.
Written by Pamela Carter Joern
One of the best things about writing is the convergence of the writer’s world and the reader’s experience. I was reminded of this last Fall when I spoke at Anoka-Ramsey Community College as part of their Two Rivers Reading Series. The students had read my story collection, In Reach, and after our discussion a young man named Don came up to the podium to ask me a question. Each student had been asked to write about one of the stories, and Don had chosen “Solitary Confinements,” a story about a gay man whose father doesn’t accept him, his mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and a neighbor who sleeps in an iron lung every night. The main character, Ted, works out his frustrations by gardening, and Don asked if I had chosen the flowers in the story because of their symbolism.
“I’m a gardener,” I said. “I know which flowers would be in season and available in western Nebraska, but that’s about it.”
Don seemed disappointed. “I was sure you chose them on purpose. Because geraniums usually mean someone is a fool, but red geraniums mean comfort, and Ted places those red geraniums on Flora’s steps when he leaves town.”
“That’s a lovely thought,” I said. “But I wasn’t aware of the significance of the flowers. I wish I had been.”
Later that day, Don wrote me this email:
“I wanted to say a bit more . . . The reason I thought so much about the flowers was not just the red geraniums, but also the tulips and petunias. Tulips mean love and petunias mean hope. So when Ted pulled tulips from his parents' garden, I thought you were saying the love between he and his parents had died. When he planted petunias, he was saying he hopes to reconnect with them. It made sense because his parents don't like him being gay, yet Ted talked throughout the story of how he wanted his parents to be in his life. I'm really surprised everything was a coincidence because it just fit so perfectly.”
I wrote back to Don and thanked him for his insights and his persistence. He couldn’t believe I didn’t purposely layer my story with this symbolism. This is the beauty of literature! He understood the intention of my story, but he also brought to it his own rich experience, deepening the meaning beyond even what I knew. Now, when I think of Ted and Flora, I also think of Don and the added resonance he brought to the flowers.
If you would like to win a copy of Pamela's book of short stories, In Reach, please click here: In Reach Giveaway