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Commentary on “Wrestling Weight”

Ranney Campbell

This story first was closer to the truth of a memory, of a day when my father was drinking and wrestling my pony. I suppose the point I was working through was about being in a position of helplessness to provide knowledgeable guidance in the face of nonsensical hierarchy.

I submitted the piece to Carve Magazine and was ecstatic when the rejection came along with three pages of single-spaced critique from its editors. One of the comments was about the age of the speaker, and that it was hard to believe that a nine-year-old would have such thoughts. This set me on a path that took the piece from the territory of autobiographical fiction and into the realm of fiction.

I like the technique. It is freeing. Taking a moment from memory and creating a fiction is a way to release the past. Once I look at the telling in terms of what is best for the story, it forces me to non-identify personally. It gives the character her own authority. And it gives me more empathy, for I naturally see her innocence. So, as an added benefit, when I depersonalize a disturbing memory, and have empathy for the speaker within it, it is healing for me, personally.

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Ranney Campbell is from St. Louis, Missouri, but lives in Southern California. Her chapbook, “Pimp,” is published by Arroyo Seco Press and other work has appeared in Haight Ashbury Literary JournalHummingbird: Magazine of the Short PoemThird WednesdayEastern Iowa ReviewONE ARTStorm Cellar (forthcoming), and elsewhere.

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