We recently published Ellen Rhudy’s gorgeous “Pow, Pow.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) I think of this as being a story between a mother and daughter, some grand tale that has grown throughout the narrator’s childhood — but, really, the story never tells us for sure who the characters are. Did you have a specific pair in mind when you wrote this piece?
I did! This piece is probably as close to creative non-fiction as I’ve ever gotten, a reimagining of a story told by my grandmother, Aunt Pud. I pictured this story being recounted through the generations, either by a daughter or granddaughter. I wanted to look at that idea (to steal your phrasing) of a “grand tale that has grown throughout the narrator’s childhood,” and how as the narrator ages it might shift from “grand tale” to “eye rolling” and then back into a wild story to hold onto.
2) I love that line “everything gray gray gray,” and the contrast of the photo’s colors vs. the colors of real life. Pictures can lie, the way people can, but it seems like this picture and this story tell more truth by being a lie. Do you think that the narrator will expand upon this story themself as they tell it later? Make its truth their own?
Yes, I think so — and I’m so glad you brought up that idea of there being more truth in the lie, which was the idea that I held as I wrote this piece. Whether there’s any truth in the original story itself, there is so much to learn about this woman through the stories she’s told, and how her stories are then remade by the narrator and other members of the family. I like to think of the narrator retelling this story, and maybe continuing to build on its exaggerations, until it is fully secure as part of the family lore — until everyone who looks at the photo of this woman on the beach sees not just the photo, but also her stories.