A SUMMER OF NON SEQUITURS

We’ve arrived at the cusp of August, the fullest part of summer. Our patio garden’s cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, and chives are pluckable and trimmable.

Most mornings I water the containers and look for more yellow flowers blooming on the cucumber plant. They’re the plant’s promise of new fruits to come.

N.S. In 2020, arrests of journalists were 1200% higher than they were in 2019. [Trevor Trim, “Gen,” 12/14/2020]

Thanks to my spouse’s efforts, we always have a veggie garden in the backyard, and we’re able to share quite a few products with our neighbors and friends. Some summers Viv has grown Swiss chard, potatoes, haricots verts, onions, radishes, melons, and corn. She’s always planted tomatoes, rainbow carrots, patty-pan squash, and until the last few years…zucchini, zucchini, zucchini!

A few summers ago I felt overwhelmed by the green baseball bats, so I “play-acted” the role of an agent from the Department of Agriculture. I told Viv the Federal Government would mail her a check if she wouldn’t plant zucchini. Please!

N.S. During 2020, three hundred seventy (370) journalists were arrested in Belarus. [“Reporters without Borders.”]

Over the years, one of Viv’s garden joys has been showing various neighbors’ children the magical process of seeds becoming edible veggies or beautiful flowers. Our neighborhood’s first “kid generation” has grown and moved away. Long gone are the days when Evan K. and his sister, Maura, ended an hour of “helping” Viv in the garden by hitching a ride home in our wheelbarrow.

Just as gardens are planted, grow to maturity and change, so did our littlest neighbors. And just as flower and vegetable hybrids become available to home gardeners, new parents with a new “kid generation” arrive in the neighborhood. Once again, Viv’s “Garden Education Center” is in full swing.

N.S. In 2020, fourteen (14) journalists were killed in Mexico. Sixty-seven (67) journalists were arrested in India, and forty-two (42) were killed there. [“The Times of India” and AP, 12/9/20.]

Every summer has had its own distinct flavor. The past fifteen summers were infused with the flavor of the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Annual Conference. Due to the Pandemic, the conference was virtual these past two years.

N.S. Between February 1, 2021 and July 21, 2021, ninety-two (92) journalists were arrested in post-coup Myanmar. Forty (40) remain in detention. [ “Reporters Without Borders”]

This past spring, the GCLS conference planners announced the name of the Keynote Speaker, Emma Donoghue. The planners invited me to be a Guest Speaker.

As is my habit, I took a couple of days to think about it. A minute after accepting their invitation, I jammed my foot atop my worry-accelerator. Why me? What could I talk about? A few weeks later I found a topic. I’d explain how I had arrived in the world of writing. I would discuss the people who had encouraged me to write, and the literary movements that inspired the characters and plots I’d been able to weave.

N.S. During 2020, in the United States there were four hundred thirty-eight (438) physical attacks made on journalists during 2020. One hundred thirty-nine (139) journalists were arrested and/or charged with a crime. [ “Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.”]

In preparing my remarks, I took my memories out for a stroll. I reflected on certain people I’d known, certain experiences I’d had, certain values I’d developed over the years, and certain elements I’d considered to be necessary in my books. I renewed my bond with engaged literature. That is… fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction whose themes reflect their characters’ social or political realities.

True to the teacher I’d been for many years, I urged writers not to abandon their goal of entertaining their readers, but to connect a social/political message to their stories and characters.

N.S. During 2020, former president trump tweeted six hundred thirty-two (632) attacks against journalists, the most of his presidency. Repeatedly he accused news writers/reporters of being “the enemy of the people.” [ “Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.”]

I’m not a journalist, unless one considers bloggers to belong to that group of writers who witness the world’s events, both small and large, private and public, consequential or not, and then describe the events with their words, photos, or videos. I do know that my non-fiction blogs must mirror the realities regarding what I see, hear, experience, and perceive to be wonderful, remarkable, harmful, threatening, or dangerous.

It’s the “harmful, threatening, or dangerous” topics that give me pause.

N.S. The world owes a huge THANK YOU to Darnella Frazier, the young woman who filmed George Ferguson’s murder. She truly earned the special journalism Pulitzer Prize awarded to her.

©Renée Bess 2021

Renée Bess is the author of five novels, and the co-story collector of the Goldie Award winning anthology, Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars. She’s a 2019 recipient of the Alice B. Readers Award. Her newest book, Between A Rock and A Soft Place, is a collection of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction.

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