Sally Bellerose’s book The Girls Club won the Bywater Prize and is forthcoming from Bywater Books In September. Bellerose was awarded a Fellowship in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts based on an excerpt from this book. The first chapter won first place in fiction from Writers at Work. Excerpts from the novel have been anthologized and featured in literary journals including Love Shook My Heart, Sinister Wisdom, The Sun, The Best of Writers at Work, Cutthroat, and Quarterly West. The manuscript was a finalist for the James Jones Fellowship, the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, The Backspace Scholarship, and the Bellwether Endowment. Robert Olen Butler chose Chapter Two as first place winner for the Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award.
QUESTION Do you see recurring themes in your work?
ANSWER The ever fascinating human body is often a theme in my work. Some writers live and write from their head. Most often, I write from my body or the imagined body of another. I write from the messy, pleasure seeking, ripening, reactionary, diseased, (in my case) aging, aching body.
I am also very interested in family relationships, especially the relationships in relatively happy families, those families who an outsider might see as loving and kind, but because these messy human bodies and equally messy human psyches and social forces get in the way these families fail at being the entirely loving happy entities perceived by the outside world. The Tolstoy quote “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” has always given me pause. I have the privilege of being born to a loving family, surely one that might be described as Happy, but oh the stories I could tell. Often if I put two characters in a room, especially if the characters are family members, when I threaten to poke them with my imagination I don’t even have to use the imaginary prod, just have wave the tip of that pointy stick of inquiry into the tender flesh of their minds eyes to get a reaction. If I can’t find conflict, unease, some drama unique to these two characters, I give one of them a headache or a dying husband, or let one be much prettier or smarter or her dead mother’s favorite child.
Happiness is a bubble easily pricked. Someday I would like to try to write a story about a truly happy family or maybe just a really happy person, but I doubt that even in fiction there is such a character, never mind two such two people in relationship, surely no such family. Or perhaps I just don’t know them and need to stretch my mind.
My writing has always involved themes of lesbian identity, sexuality, illness, and class. Whether I’m writing about dog training, my frail elderly parents, or growing up queer in the 1960’s, the basic themes don’t seem to change. Whatever the theme, the more I write the more interested I become in the messy, confusing, and complicated relationships of love, anger, humor, and transcendence.
QUESTION What inspires you to write?
ANSWER I write out of confusion, sometimes trying to understand my own life, sometimes trying to understand someone else’s life or the impact of political/societal forces on my own or the lives of others. Often I just want to know how people put one foot in front of the other and carry on, how some people make this struggle called life worthwhile or even happy. Sometimes I write to hang on to a moment of transcendence, a slice of time when the longed for understanding presents itself, an opening when the world seems knowable or at least worth examining. And sometimes, like most writers, I am just compelled to put something on the page, because it is what I do and I have no explanation for why I engage in this odd solitary time consuming activity.
QUESTION What is your wildest, skies-the-limit, dream for your work?
ANSWER I would love my novel, The Girls Club be made into a movie with Jeanne Moreau as Old Memere, Katy Perry (no make-up and twenty more pounds) as Cora Rose. Aissa Maiga as Darlene.
QUESTION What do you like least about the writing process?
ANSWER It is so damn much work and takes so much time and discipline. Publicity. I am not a particularly shy person, but the “look at me me me and my work” aspect of having a book published is daunting and humbling and hard.
QUESTION What do you like most about the writing process?
ANSWER The writing, when I am out of “actual” time and place and just absorbed in the story or sentence or characters, is so satisfying.
Readings, I love to read to a generous audience.
I love my writing companions, people who I write and share my writing with on a regular basis. I have been meeting with the writer Susan Stinson on a weekly basis for over twenty years and we love each other and share a sensibility and commitment to our own and each other’s work that is invaluable. I belong to several writing or critiquing groups. Writing is such a solitary endeavor. I’m not sure I could keep putting my butt in the chair on a regular basis without the companionship and feedback of several writing and critiquing groups
QUESTION What do you do for fun? In your spare time?
ANSWER Garden. Visit my mom. Hang out with my beloved and our beautiful granddaughter. Lately, I play Free Word scrabble on my phone. Go to the movies, read, eat, I love to eat, also love to talk, do the laundry, although I do not love laundry, the usual.
QUESTION Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
ANSWER I’d like to give huge thanks to Marianne Martin, Kelly Smith, Val McDermid and all the fabulous women At Bywater for publishing The Girls Club and allowing me to be part of Bywater Books. All the work, time, and energy needed to produce a novel is greatly appreciated.
Please do visit my blog http://sallybellerose.wordpress.com I love visitors and respond to all comments
Causes Marianne Martin Supports
HRC, Michigan Equality, Gay & Lesbian Task Force, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, ASPCA, HSUS