The fourth annual WordSpring creative writing conference (buttewordspring.org) will be held Saturday, April 25 at Butte College, featuring workshops in fiction writing, poetry and more throughout the day. Admission at the door is $40 for students, $70 general; there’s a reception at 7:30 p.m. April 24 at 1078 Gallery in Chico with Pam Houston reading from her fiction ($2 suggested donation).
One of the workshop leaders is Butte College English instructor Finn Kraemer, who, he writes in the third person, “is a citizen of both the United States and Ireland, and has lived in the African bush, an Irish coastal village, small town America, the Saudi desert, and downtown Los Angeles. All the wisdom Finn has gained in his life can be summed up in five two-word phrases which he will not share here.”
Kraemer plays with silences, with things not said, in his new collection of fifteen short stories, six of which were previously published in literary journals. “Wounds, And Their Making” ($15 in paperback from lulu.com at bit.ly/finnkraemer) situates the reader in mostly everyday worlds, the outlines of which are only lightly drawn. The inner life of his characters is what captures the writer’s imagination.
Stories in the first half of the book seem to demand explanations, names, words that are never quite provided.
In “Joseph Paul Thane,” a ten-year-old boy with that name meets a dying man named Joseph Paul Thane. In “Sarah,” Sarah Mae Rifton in ICU had smiled but “she wasn’t smiling at me. What had she seen that would make her smile like that?” “In My Father’s Silence” “the cabin held an old quietness, three makeshift rooms pieced together with rusty nails, rawhide, and dirt. ... The wind came in cold whistles through the gaps in the walls and the floorboards creaked as if tortured. ...”
Later stories are more hopeful, many structured by Biblical texts. “Regarding Michael,” “Father Donovan smiled down at Sean, and touched his head. ‘Aye, Sean,’ he said. ‘Your Da spoke well. It’s a right proper miracle.”
All in all, a good word with which to break the silence.