Write what you know. How about write what you sort of know? I’m a suburban housewife, far removed from the gritty life of the streets. I must have been crazy to write “Bad Trip,” a story about a crack house, a crack whore and a pimp along with a naïve help desk technician who is trying to be a Good Samaritan.
The germ of the story came out of my idea folder—an old newspaper clipping about a group of airline passengers who were put up for the night at a crack house in a southern city. This became the starting point. My husband and I had spent a memorable night at a1/2 star motel in Oakland, which furnished some of the less savory room details and the beautiful hooker. I know from experience that “weather” in Atlanta makes life hell for airline passengers in the Southeast. Making the hero, Kevin, a young man returning from his Kansas grandfather’s funeral felt natural because my mother was from Kansas.
Other details came from a grungy hotel room in East Germany. They say nothing bad ever happens to a writer. Sooner or later all the tasteless meals, the awful people and the seedy places find their way into your fiction.
The last bits and pieces came off the web. I researched bad neighborhoods in Memphis, and how crack houses smelled. Icky. A company I once worked for had a web site selling hip hop clothes. Alvis, the pimp, looked so fine in his embroidered jeans and his psychedelic T-shirt. I found out about pimp behavior and even the pimp walk. As I got into his head, I began to like Alvis. He was cool.
Is it egomaniacal to flog your own short story? Probably, but I’m so happy that Kevin, Alvis, Lantana and Jeanine found life on the printed page. In November, Level Best Books published “Bad Trip,” in their 2009 anthology, Quarry. Something good came out of my bad trips.
P.S. The Ransom of Red Chief is one of my favorite short stories.
Causes Judith Copek Supports
Salvation Army, American Cancer Society, America Red Cross, AAUW, Toastmasters, Doctors Without Borders, Alzheimers Foundation, PEN, Sisters In Crime, MWA,...