Wednesday, March 18, 2020

#138 Inside the Emotion of Fiction "Radical" by Kelle Grace Gaddis

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****Kelle Grace Gaddis’s “Radical” is #138 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 
Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us?      I’ll discuss my short story “Radical” that recently won a monetary prize in the National Fiction War Contest (Summer 2018). I did consider other titles, such as “Boxes” and “The Stoop” but, ultimately believe that “Radical” was the best choice because it ties the entire story together.

Fiction genre? Ex science fiction, short story, fantasy novella, romance, drama, crime, plays, flash fiction, historical, comedy, etc. And how many pages long?     
“Radical” is a 1000-word flash fiction piece.

Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no. If yes, what publisher and what publication date?    Fiction War Magazine Issue #8 in 2019.
(Fiction War Magazine Facebook Logo Right)

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction?   The exciting thing about the National Fiction War Contest is that it takes place over a single weekend. We’re given a prompt on Friday at 12 noon and writers have until Sunday at midnight to finish a 1000-word or less story.

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work? And please describe in detail. And can you please include a photo?   Currently, I’m without a special writing space. I wrote “Radical” in what I sometimes refer to as “my writing chair” (Right) but, in truth, it isn’t a comfortable chair or a great place to write. I wrote it here because it was the only quiet place in the house.
What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day?   Sometimes I like the idea of making myself a hot tea to drink while I work but they often go cold because once I’m working I forget about the cup.

The weekend of the Fiction War Contest I had to tend to quite a few clients for my small business. I had to write around work, so, I wrote the first draft right after the prompt arrived on Friday at 12 noon. After I got home, I revised the draft between 9 PM and midnight. On Saturday, I woke up early and managed to put in eight uninterrupted hours before I went to meet my clients. Sunday was another busy workday, so I only had time to rewrite the story one more time mid-afternoon before submitting it.

What is the summary of your fiction work?   I’m the worst at the “quick summary” but I’ll give it a try. “Radical” is about the oppression of women in a fictional world called “The Box.” The primary character recognizes systemic issues that have plagued women for as long as she can remember. After she falls victim to the same oppressions, she becomes radicalized and decides to blow the lid off the box and begin a new world where women reign supreme.

Please include excerpt and include page numbers as reference. The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.  I remember when I thought life inside the box was good. We had four walls, a sturdy floor, and a ceiling that, even though I bumped my head on it, it never rendered me unconscious.

Complete short story in its entirety:

I used to think life inside the box was good. We had four walls, a sturdy floor, and a ceiling that, even though I bumped my head, it never rendered me unconscious. When younger, I kept my head down, worked hard, and expected to be rewarded. The older I got, the less I liked the box. It was a pain in the neck figuratively and metaphorically. By forty, I’d hit my head on its ceiling so many times I’d begun to stoop.
Like the majority of older women inside the box my mother was permanently stooped. She said it was osteoporosis, but everyone knew it was the box.
Early on I noticed there weren’t any female CEOs in the box. If a woman were set to rise to that level, they’d be cast out for talking too much, wearing a provocative suit, or no reason at all. Whatever the cost, I wanted equality for my daughter Lily and I.
Men talked about thinking outside the box, but never in detail when we women were present, quickly changing the topic to beard maintenance or sports. In time, we decided they no longer mattered to us. Equity for women is what piqued us, women mattering is what mattered.
I held secret meetings with my female coworkers. We grew in number until it wasn’t just the women from the office but housewives, women who’d never stepped foot inside a corporation, were now thinking outside the box.
When the men discovered that we were planning something, they grumbled about our “Not knowing our place” and insisted we were “undermining society.” We didn’t let their fear stop us; if anything, it inspired us. The idea of equity for women had become a movement and I was leading the charge.
We came out of hiding and orchestrated rallies at the center of the box. Peaceful protests, where we’d chant, “No more ceilings, no more stoop, firing women is a load of poop!” Some men encouraged us; others snickered and told us to “Pipe down.” The indignant ones said that our behavior was “unladylike.” The more stern husbands told their wives to go home. It hurt to see some comply.
Soon I realized we’d come at our protests too soft. Not that this was our fault, soft is what we were taught. It was as if women were brainwashed, even me. I realized it when Lily was a teen. She told me she wanted to be a CEO someday and I’d laughed before saying, “I hope you make it.”
I was taught not to expect to rise to the top of the box. So much so that the idea of women thinking outside of the box sounded like the ranting of an unemployable. No one knew what was out there. We women were practiced at running households, the secretarial pool, cooking in cafes, and various facets of business that helped men relate, or sell products to women, nothing more.
People often told me that I was lucky to be as high up in the corporation as I was. For years no one knew I despised hitting my head on the box’s ceiling everyday; the knots, bruises, and humiliation were as familiar as morning coffee, but, I suppose it looked lucky to those that had even less room to move than I did.
Eventually, I’d hit my head enough to wake my inner radical. She got me thinking there might be something beyond the box.
At times, both sexes advocated against women in the workplace, but eventually all conceded that the insights of women were necessary for corporations to maximize revenue. Necessity was our gateway. It sizzled and burned in us until it ignited our will to do the unimaginable.
Of course, years went by without any real progress or action. I was resolute in my vision even if nothing appeared to be happening around me. Nothing discouraged me, until Lily entered the workforce and I had to face the fact that her prospects and paychecks weren’t going to be better than mine. Escalation was necessary. What did we have to lose?
 I was cast out. Box leaders wanted a younger woman to take my place, someone they could train to submit to rules, someone with lower expectations.
Even if I had stayed, in-box chatter suggested that wage reductions were expected for women because the men were demanding what they called “overdue raises.” Why suffer that indignity? There would be no going further for women under the current system. Boldness was the only cure.
After I was let go, a man from the office reached out to me. He said that he’d fought for me to stay, citing my experience and value to the company. The box CEOs rewarded him with a pink slip of his own. They’d become wary of anyone that advocated for women.
My husband, older, long retired, and content with his stipend, suggested I let it all go, but I couldn’t. Lily had come home sounding like a corporate cog. She was excited to meet the expectations of her male employers and insisted submission would help her rise further than I had. It was all the same claptrap I’d told my mother when I started at the company. Nothing had changed.
I decided to blow the lid off the place once and for all. I gathered the most radical women I could find, women who’d protested with me for years. Women I trusted.
After years of disappointment, most had a hint of madness in their eyes. When they’d whisper “dynamite” or “murder,” it was as if they were saying, “I love you.” It’s funny, most of my life I was wary of radicals, now I was one.
The day the bomb went off it rocked the box from its bottom to its top. It blew a hole in the ceiling that allowed scores of women and a few men to escape. I was blindsided when Lily refused to leave. She was too young to see clearly, I had to leave her behind.
Outside there were boxes in all directions. We headed for the wilderness ready to build a new world. I’d never felt more alive.
Now that women outnumbered men, we bid them to build our box, prepare food, and dispose of our waste. They’d burdened us, now it was their turn to toil. Besides, men are designed for labor. I can’t believe none saw it sooner. Menial labor was men’s work. We formed a council and set the rules. Only women were allowed to vote because we were in charge. Men were strong enough for us to stand on even if our heels dug into their backs. Besides, everyone knows you have to control one’s lessers to create a just world.
Why is this excerpt so emotional for you? And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt?   I’m going to leave this question blank. I enjoyed writing the story but it is more comedic / satire and not particularly emotional for me.

Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt.   I wrote the entire story on the computer and don’t have any marked up drafts.
Other works you have published?   My book, My Myths, came out in January of 2017. Yellow Chair Review published one edition but I sold all 550 copies at my readings.
I’ve also published three chapbooks 1) It Is What It Is, It Was What It Was; 2) Visions Of; and 3) American Discard.

Kelle Grace Gaddis's other recently published works appear in Rye Whiskey Review, Chicken Soup For The Soul: Dreams & The Unexplainable, Dispatches Editions Resist Much / Obey Little, Vending Machine Presses Very Fine Writing, The Till, Five Willows Poetry Review, The Hessler Street Fair Anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of the Yellow Haze, BlazeVOX Issues 15 & 17, The New Independents Magazine, Thirteen Myna Birds Journal, Knot Literary Magazine, Entropy, DoveTales, and in the forthcoming Fiction War Magazine Volume 8, 2019 and elsewhere.
            Ms. Gaddis has written several poetry chapbooks including It Is What It Is, It Was What It Was, Visions Of, and American Discard. She is honored to be one of 4Culture’s “Poetry on the Buses” contest winners in 2015 and 2017 and one of fourteen prize-winning finalists in the National Fiction War Contest / Summer 2018. 
          She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington in 2014 (UWB). She works as a counselor and meditation instructor in Seattle, Washington where she lives with her partner Martin and her cat Merlin.


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