Seventeen-year-old Jane’s a very brave boy. And a very difficult girl. She’ll become a remarkable woman, an icon of her century, but that’s a long way off. A tomato-picking, dust bowl immigrant from Texas to California, Jane is manipulated into a terrible fight with her parents, leading her to leave her father for dead in an irrigation ditch. She steals her mother’s Ford and escapes to Depression-era San Francisco, where she fakes her way into work as a newspaper copy boy. Everything’s looking up. Freed by her false male identity, she’s climbing the ladder at the paper, winning validation, skill, and connections with the artists and thinkers of her day. But then her father reappears on the paper’s front page, his arm around a girl who’s just been beaten into a coma. Jane’s got to find her father before he finds her, and before everyone else finds her out. Copy Boy explores the lengths we’ll go to secure our own spirations, and the ties that bind us to family, no matter what. Otherness.
Shelley Blanton-Stroud grew up in California’s Central Valley, the daughter of Dust Bowl immigrants who made good on their ambition to get out of the field. She teaches college writing in Northern California and consults with writers in the energy industry. She co-directs Stories on Stage Sacramento, where actors perform the stories of established and emerging authors, and serves on the advisory board of 916 Ink, an arts-based creative writing nonprofit for children. She has also served on the Writers’ Advisory Board for the Belize Writers’ Conference. Before all that, she wore a series of polyester uniforms in service to Der Wienerschnitzel, H Salt Seafood Galley and Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. Copy Boy is her first novel. Her second, Trophies, will be published by She Writes Press in Fall 2021. She and her husband live in Sacramento with an aging beagle and many photos of their out-of-state sons whom they miss too too much.Leave a comment for radio show guests
Have you ever stopped to think about yourself and your story? If someone were to write your memoir, what would it say? We all seek some level of authenticity, but have trouble removing the labels and finding our whole story. Welcome to Dropping In, with Diane Dewey. In this program, we’ll explore diverse stories on identity, to help determine what is truly yours. Now, here is your host, Diane Dewey.
Diane: Welcome to Dropping In everyone. We’re here in the throes of a big moment in our country. And today look at another moment in our country when it looked as though, we might lose it all the, Great Depression. From her new book called Copy Boy, Shelly Blanton-Stroud will talk with us about grit. And all its meanings, but grit is a real thing. Welcome, Shelley.
Shelly: Thank you, Diane. It’s so good to be here.
Diane: We love having you. So grit, it’s this indomitable spirit of pluck. It describes Jane, who is our protagonist in the Copy Boy. It’s a novel. It’s a historical fiction and I’d say there’s a bit of a murder mystery in it. A core a mystery.
Diane: Copy Boy is a runner at a newspaper so the lowliest of the low and Jane is what Tergonia have called a brave man and a good woman. She did dress as a man in order to further herself in her role. Another definition of grit that applies to Jane, the texture of sand or stone used in grinding, the grinding that is the wear and tear of poverty. It’s relentlessness on a person. Another definition to clamp your teeth together, is grit to grit your teeth. And you have to grit your teeth to bear the grit in the air from the dust stubble where she grew up.
And from the dirt that grinds, grinds you down. Jane comes through this with I think, a significant amount of grit. She’s a heroic kind of character that we’ve come to love. And Shelley, I think you’ve gotten this, you’ve nailed this story and this character so deeply. And I think that somehow, you know, reading about you on your website and your biography. It’s somehow in your DNA, right? Your origin story, you write with great authority and ease. Was it as easy as it seemed reading it on the page?
Shelly: That’s a great question. It has a lot in it. But about on ease, of the pros, I would say, first I do tend originally to write long, complicated sentences. And then I work hard to edit out when it’s not needed. Because I, as you may have this morning, I think in the beginning, the ideas are convoluted. And one of the great pleasures for me as a writer is to in the process of reading and writing, to discover something I think is meaningful. And then the next step is to find the best way to reveal it, and share it with other people. And even though my discovery of whatever my ideas are, in this case, it has a lot to do with the ideas related to grit is fighting what it takes to get there, that isn’t the same as what will be best for my reader to read it. So yeah, I worked very hard after figuring out a story. I work hard at the process of trying to winnow out all of the debris of my thinking and make the sentences easy.
Diane: Well, let’s just say that comes as makes perfect sense. And it comes as a big relief to me because when I was reading it was somehow like Frank Sinatra singing, you know, it just feels and I thought to myself, “Wow, you can develop a serious case of writer’s envy reading your book.” In your computer, that’s timing. Anyway, I do think that your character, Jane, she wants to, she’s going to become she’s inhabiting the character, the Copy Boy, and she wants to write plainly and honestly, which, in the end is what you did in this book.
You know, don’t save comes free, just when you can say, I’ll have a side of fries.” You know? This answers my question, is this intentional because the book has a lot of clarity. And it’s very helpful to me to know that you unearth these nuggets. And for anyone that’s tried to write even a decent letter or a decent email to get a point across. You know, it’s great to hear that you extracted and did away with a lot of debris.
At the beginning of the book, Jane copies by typewriter, of course, we’re in the 1930s, the pros of a writer that she admires, and it reminded me, Cheryl Strayed admitted to doing the same thing when she wrote her memoir wild. And that she wrote out the actual words that a writer she admired had written so that she could understand the rhythm, the syncopation, the plainness, the style of it. And I wondered about that Jane does this ironically, or coincidentally? And I wondered, whose voice were you kind of going after? Or is this really your voice?
Shelly: I’m not sure I can adequately enough to answer that. But I will say that where I first learned about it was reading an essay by Joan Didion. And she mentioned doing the same thing. And I’m pretty sure in my memory, she was typing the words of Ernest Hemingway. And I think you can see in Joan Didion’s essays and fiction, that there is that kind of DNA of Hemingway in their fairness. Her sentences are not short. And they’re not simple. But nothing in them is unnecessary.
And so I got that idea from reading Joan Didion so I’m certain she got it from, so many other writers before, just as pacers have, through the centuries have studied and developed your own pacing by copying the Masters to learn their moves. But I think there’s a weird I think algorithm lately, I don’t think in algorithms, I think of algorithms lately, because we hear so much of them in terms of like, how Pandora predicts our musical choices and so on by doing strange algorithms. This is strange algorithm and in Copy Boy because there’s Joan Didion in it, because I admire her prose where things are not extra. But there’s also certainly my family with all of their Texas stories, and the rhythm and the humor. Part of their DNA is in there but, also all these movies. I love watching the black and white movies set in the 30s with quick talking reporters and cops and that sort of thing.
And hardboiled fiction and the noir movies. They’re all in there in a weird way. I do think one of the things they have in common is a trend of distressed fact for sloppy talk.
Diane: So it’s very crisp?
Shelly: So even though the voices, even though we are very different, they have in common, a tightness.
Diane: Yes, it’s very, it is very stripped away, stripped down. And I love that all of these influences are present, because it is true, obviously, even visual artists are looking at the brushstroke of another artist, and inspired, appropriating all of that. It’s how there’s a continuum, right? You know, I think that Didion was someone I was really thinking about in reading your book, and I was thinking about Sacramento, where I think she’s, and I also was thinking about the plains in the southwest people, people don’t speak plainly and there’s that very hardcore hardboiled as you say.
Not to mention the drinking, I mean the drinking in sports. I really thought I would be a goner right here, they’ve got the flask in the desk drawer and it’s not so of a young blog, they’re drinking whiskey and so I think that also cuts down your ability to make like elaborate convoluted senses just kind of come out.
Shelly: And contribute to it. Actually, read so many histories of 30s era and reporters and they are just a really funny lot and at the bourbon or whiskey in the bottom drawer was a steady theme. So that was that right in there.
Diane: Yeah, Herbert came. There’s no way to describe the book adequately to the listeners. I mean, it is a multi-layer book, but there is this very strong voice in it in Copy Boy, just published this month by She Writes Press much anticipated. But Shelley, I thought we’d have a proper book talk here and ask you to read a passage if you’d be so kind. This way, people will know what we’re talking about. And we will be talking about it in the abstract. Would you?
Shelly: Oh, great! I would love to. I’ll read from the very first page that seems simple. Chapter One is called “debt.” You think you’re a body but you’re not. That’s just the container you’ve collected. Your body is a light bulb. If it burns out or breaks, the electricity is still there. You’re still there, so you. Benjamin Franklin Hopper is born into a shattered bulb, Shards buried under the loose gray slit of a ravaged Texas plain but is energy never diffused.
For 17 years, he hovered in particles over the heads of his family as a plowed their soil to find dodging tight shifted bankers riding the OG trail Route 66 taking under railroad bridges and lean shoes leading shoes made of potato sacks flattened and orange crate. He hovered as they go to Kansas and cardboard homes just off the levee at the consequence of two rivers. The clear American and the muddy Sacramento.
No, he didn’t stay underground back in the gray Texas dirt. He rose in a silky cloud and floated over there with her heads for 17 years, waiting for our shape to fill. Finally, under pressure, his sister cracked. So, she didn’t shatter, not yet. That hairline fracture, created a vacuum inner a charged emptiness that stipended particles to her causing a surge to her cylinder, making her glow. That’s how she’s explained it to herself.
Diane: Thank you so much. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful writing and I love the lucidity, the clarity. Here we’re hearing the voice of Jane it’s told in the first person through the protagonist and Jane has been the survivor of twins, her brother Ben died. Well, childbirth, I’m not going to say another word about it. But he died and she, because of her ultra manipulative mother or the brunt of the guilt of survivorship.
But she takes that survivorship and she becomes a real survivor. And I think that you know what our listeners just heard is a real, it’s a real incandescence the way you talk about material and unmaterial things flowing between fluidly between one another actual tangible things and intangible things. And I think that that goes throughout the book, and really awakens our sense, our sensitivity in our senses to those kinds of phenomenon.
I just congratulate you on the achievement of writing this book. It’s it for me, it was a great joy to listen, to hear, and to realize that people would look at one another and their eyes would glow. And then sparks would fly out. And then there’d be a sound. I mean everything, it was almost miserable like a kind of. I wondered, I think that is true. We do feel the strange electricity between people. Right? That’s one of the things we’re missing. By being in quarantine we’re missing the strange electricity of being with people, the presence, the strange feeling. Yes?
Shelly: You’re absolutely right. I mean, I think about that, from my family’s storytelling throughout my childhood, because my dad had there, we’re 10 siblings in his family and when we would get together the storytelling would be really, really hysterical, and then sometimes dark, sometimes mean. That’s a big part of it was and always loved just together by love. But there was an energy that was in there that isn’t quite sustained when you’re apart.
It’s frankly, one of the interesting things about that right now is that I teach writing and assessment of State University, and we’re all online on zoom, and one of my greatest stresses now is that to the difficulty of finding a way to connect energetically with the individual students in the classroom through a two-dimensional screen. And that is going to be for many of us, who teach, it’s going to be the hard work of the coming year.
And in fact, authors as you will know I mean, you’re well placed for this new world, because you have a beautiful, thoughtful, subtle way of communicating and connecting with people through the phone line. And so you’re already good at it. But most of the world is going to have to try to find a way to convey their heart and their energy and their urgency, not in person anymore.
Diane: Well, thank you for that. I mean, I do have a complete fiction, in my own mind that if I close my eyes, and listen, that I’m there in the room with a person, so I think I just fantasize the whole thing. And because, as a writer, you’re often very much alone. And I think I had a fairly lonely childhood, I was an only child. And I think that this whole idea, I’ll take anything, really. The phone, the microphone, that really, I mean, anything and try to telepathically as most another person, it is something that we are learning.
I think, as a skill, as an evolutionary skill right now, we’re tuning in ways that we didn’t before, to one another’s voices to one another’s expressions, on zoom, and it really, we try to think that there’s an emotional distance, but actually, there isn’t, if we allow it to be. I really do. We have a couple minutes before the break, and I did want to get into some this lovely voice that was inside Jane’s head, because I do think we can fight with one another internally.
And sometimes from the grave. It’s her brother, Ben, who is deceased, pre deceased, her at birth, and he remains in her head, but we’re not exactly sure. Right? At the very outside of the book, we’re not exactly sure is that her intuition? Is that her like our higher power? And I thought it was fascinating, this voice that you created within her voice. So you must have imagined completely both these characters, right?
Shelly: Right. And first, I don’t know the answer to it, frankly. So I can’t wait for a reader to tell me what the answer is. But I always pictured a 17 and 18-year old boy, who is pretty much 80% is, he has an impulse, he trusts it, he does it like lighted on fire, it needs to be lit kind of personality, and which I think 17 and 18-year old boys are brilliant at. And so I felt like he was that voice in her head. And maybe he’s a part of herself, which she is sort of decorating in the skin and hair and clothes of her imagined brother. Or maybe she’s schizophrenic. I don’t know. Or maybe she maybe, she’s right. Why can’t she be right?
That her brother is the sort of particles that have been absorbed into her and he is speaking to her. There’s enough I mean, for crying out loud Diane. I can’t believe we’re having this conversation on other sides of the nation from each other. So half of what we do and know now seems like magic a few years ago. And so I believe it is possible that Ben is talking to her in her head.
Diane: I think that the fact that it’s unresolved and left up in the air is one of the real virtues that you know, we’re still deciding it now is so wonderful because I do think you know, if nothing else, it’s a kind of an archetype. It’s something that she needs, for a certain period, whether she created it or not, whether we create or imagine conversations or not, I can tell you I have very vivid conversations with my grandmother.
And now my recently departed mother, and I mean, these things are very real. So, we’re going to take a break and come back to the reality of Jane, and what she faces in all her obstacles. Thanks for being with us, Shelly Blanton-Stroud, we’ll be back in just a moment. Don’t go away.
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Diane: Welcome back, everyone. We’re here with Shelly Blanton-Stroud, author of a new book called Copy Boy, Copy Boy is in fact a girl called Jane. And she makes her way through the world on her grit, her determination and her resourcefulness and a certain alacrity of creative. Just, you know, intuition, gut feels, and, sideward turns that could go either way. And it’s a highly suspenseful engaging novel. And of course, Jane’s ambitious, right?
Shelly this is something unheard on heard of during the time of the Great Depression, a young girl who’s ambitious, she’s going to transcend this god-awful poverty that she’s in, which was the condition of many people. And she feels this poll. And one of the things that I read on your website, which I was fascinated by, was the allure of the Dorothea Lange photographs which kept lodging in my head as I read your story as I read Copy Boy.
The depictions of people’s faces, how it’s all there depicted in their face, that look, the grit, the land, the dirt, that despair. It’s all there. And you were collecting books on Dorothea Lange’s photographs and annotating them long before you wrote Copy Boy. Was it something like a known, unknown that was pulling you forward this imagery? Was it in this intergenerational memory that was pulling you? What do you think drew you to the page here?
Shelly: Great question. And part of the mission, several things that sort of like little match in me as I was looking one of them was the intergenerational thing, which has been really important to me during the research. Something that almost made it to the epigraph of this book related to the way our grandparents drought, our grandparents slavery, our grandparents imprisonment, our grandparents poverty, works its way into their DNA.
And then it’s the question of whether those cells, the skills and experiences will express themselves and in what way they will, or will little doors stay closed. And even though their children inherit that experience in their cell, and one thing or another will cause it to express in a way that makes them pretty, versus make them feel weak and incapable. And through the generations, it is shared. So that intergenerational thing, I think, for a long time, I have been fascinated by my relative history and struggle.
And, you know, I grew up in Bakersfield, California, among so many people whose grandparents and parents had come over in the decibel and one had similar experiences, and then went off to college Claremont, Claremont McKenna College. And one of the things that really hit me at that age around 18, was that no one around me really in college had the kind of dusty gritty background I did. And I went through a things of feeling that made me less than the people I was around, and then something honoring me rose up. And believes, no, I like that grit that I have inherited. And I want to dust that crap off, I want to excavate it, and know more about it. And even though I know a lot of people with this history, who do not want to talk about it, because to linger over those disappointments, and quote, unquote, “failure”, somehow makes them feel less. To me, it feels different.
It feels like it’s a mark of pride that I have family that confronted such things. And in one way or another got through it. So I think it was really as soon as after I graduated from college, when we had more time about what I was, or more freedom about what I would study. I began to be obsessed with Dorothea Lange, and her photograph, because I felt that I was looking at an incredibly artistic version of what my family photographs were like.
Diane: Began mirroring, I really am captivated by this idea of your radical acceptance of the good, the bad, the ugly, that you didn’t want to whitewash it. And that when you were among others at college who are different than you or didn’t have this experience, or had just shunted it and put it somewhere else. That you write in the book, there’s a passage from Jane, she says, “They wore their normalcy like a skin.” And I really related to that statement, because I feel other, it is really, really noticeable.
The ease with which people move around, they don’t have that and seem to be encumbered by that memory. And as you say, it’s not necessarily an encumbrance that brings you down, it can be an encumbrance that lift you up. And let’s hope right now, at this moment, with Black Lives Matter, let’s hope it is cellular memory that will help lift people up and to sort of say, “I can use this material, I can use this grip, and we can have a sort of transcendent moment.”
You’re right on your website. And I really thought this was so provocative and thoughtful, it is a quote from Shelley Blanton-Stroud, it maybe means that some kids growing up in a world that doesn’t see them as actual children, bearing the pressure of economics on their backs, will crumble will never rise up. Maybe it means that other kids in such a world will develop this skill of doing the math, choosing the practical option, even when it does harm too, this is fascinating edge, it’s almost like a ruthlessness.
But it’s also something that makes such sense if you’re going to get further and, I would have wanted to sort of frame it in terms of survivorship. And reviving poverty is an escape. Rising above is a personal device, a personal skill set to rise above or is it that much more complicated now that it’s more systemic, feels more systemic, somehow was time was your Father’s time, was it simpler somehow to rise? Do you think?
Shelly: Yeah, I would never say it was simpler so as not to diminish and what people in that generation did to recover from any of them. But I will also say that as each generation moves through the systemic nature of the trouble gets even more and more interwoven. So that that, it’s almost like we’re surrounded like, not all of us, some of us are surrounded by a web, that it is impossible to hack our way through to the other side. And like, with each generation, that web gets thicker and thicker, and more impermeable, and I’m hoping as you are at that event, this year, will lead to us finding new tools to get rid of those webs, and just open the space so that people can move freely in the direction they’re meant to move in.
Shelly: So I know that people in my father’s generation bristle when they’re told they have privilege. I do know that because I think that he grew up with your 10 siblings, or your nine siblings in a one room shack with no bathroom and you pick cotton in the morning, pick it in the afternoon. That does not feel like privilege. But then I think it’s worth now for people who are living it now.
Diane: Right? I agree, I don’t want to diminish them immense effort that went into the wave of immigrants that came here, and established themselves and like my grandmother, and couldn’t speak English. So she cooked for a catering company. And every time I’m in the kitchen, I feel as though I resonate with this cellular memory that you spoke up. And I really am so glad that you have held this up. Because it is fortifying, it is strengthening.
And hopefully those of us which who I think now can easily acknowledge that we’ve experienced privilege will hold the space for other people to walk through. And as you be the people, they’re meant to be, and so glad you articulated that so well. Your own story picks up, you’ve just mentioned your father, Kelly Blanton and his one of the versions and I love the storytelling moments the energy of it, but you talk about there was one episode for him, right? The defining buddy, he is Buddy.
The Buddy is also got an enormous family seven kids as people did that. Noreen in the book, a character who was in one of the photographs, she’s got like 13 kids, she’s never been married, and they’re all from different daddies, and different skin colors. So, there’s just a kind of a scale that we’re also not used to but in any case, because it’s very pre-birth control, pre-concept population. But so here’s Buddy’s father, and body is a friend of your father Kelly. And I love that your name, Shelley sort of resonates with Kelly.
But then he’s got to, Buddy’s father is drinking and the bad part about the drinking. Maybe it could be tolerated. But the problem is, it siphons off the few pennies that the family actually has that they need to have food. And so the father has to be deposited 30 miles down the road, so that he can leave the family. And the mother declares this, so your father and Buddy and his buddies father go 30 miles down the road and they drop them off, got us where and they leave in there. And this is the kind of right survivalist episode or, unimaginable to us, but it puts in sharp focus, the necessity, the need that, was so much more dramatic than what we experienced.
Now, I think this book is a huge invitation. You’d feel is though, from our conversation that it’s oppressive. It is not at all because it’s just a fascinating exploration. There’s lots of detail and lightness in the story too, that really helps balance all of this, balance that you’re requiring through this historical entry into what these people experienced. And so Shelley, everyone will want to know if this story is autobiographical.
And we’ve touched on it previous generation, I was in myself wondering and so I thought I’d give people just a bit of biography of you if you don’t mind. Shelley Blanton-Stroud grew up in California Central Valley, the daughter of Dustbowl immigrants who made good on their ambition to get out of the field. She teaches college writing in Northern California and consults with writers in the energy industry.
She co-directs stories on stage, Sacramento, where actors perform the stories of established and emerging authors, and serves on the advisory board of 9/16 Inc. and Art Space Creative Writing nonprofit for children. She’s also served on the Writers Advisory Board for the Bullies Writers Academy, and before all that were a series of polyester uniforms in service seafood galley and Wendy’s old fashioned hamburgers. Copy Boy is her first novel, her second, Trophies will be published by She Writes Press on fall of 2021.
She and her husband live in Sacramento with an aging beagle and may photos of their out of state sons whom they miss way too much. Let’s touch on. Yes, I’m sure I am aware of that feeling, especially now. This one thing I wanted to mention, pull from this. This story is on stage Sacramento, do you think that enacting stories physically and with boys, has helped you develop such an acute ear for dialogue, because it’s very present and sharp in this book. Has it helped you?
Shelly: Thank you! I have to say first, I’ve only been doing the co-directing, Dorothy writes for one year, but I’ve been a fan and attendee for 10 years. And it is a magical thing to see actors perform a story, because you just get an entirely new way of experiencing it almost always is magical. Every now and then, in the audience, it occurs to you. “Wow, I love to read that story, but I don’t love to see it performed.” Because so much of it is maybe really a lot of description or internal philosophical thought.
And so that part, really being an audience member at stories on stage, Sacramento for 10 years before co-directing it. Really put me in mind that the question of, how can you reveal thoughts, ideas, concepts, philosophies without bogging down? And really, I think that’s a big part of what draws mystery writing and crime writing is because in the best of it, I think character and ideas are revealed in action.
And that happens a lot in crime writing, I don’t know if people who don’t read it aren’t aware they think it’s just formulated or that everything is predictably fast moving or something like that. I found in the crime novels I read, what I love the most is how succeeding events reveal more and more, until at the end of the book, you just think, I have to read it again to more fully get it. So that to me is kind of related to the acting part of it that when I’m reading, I want my heart to raise some time. I want to hear that person voice in my head.
I will tell you about that voice part. I’ve had an astonishing experience recently of my audio book version of this has just finished it won’t be distributed for a little bit. But the experience of listening to my narrator, April Jodi, it find a way voices perform the novel. It just, it had me crying in many places and I’m not saying crying at the sad part. But crying at the recognition of that to that voices. You know, at the end of the book when she gives one church, I won’t say who an old person’s voice because their age.
Oh my gosh, I just was delivered and I realized that even though I love the solitude of writing and I love this solitude of reading. In truth, I love the communion of that energy of performance and that’s part of the reason why I do love audiobooks so much it seems kind of intimate.
Diane: Yes, absolutely Shelley. There’s an inner interchange, there’s an exchange of energy, and I think on the page here, there’s a lot of energy, exchanged through the emotion of the characters which is the gift of writing. We just don’t see it as much as or hear it as much when it audio. I love that you walk the walk and you tell the story through the action. When we come back, we’re going to take a short break and when we come back we’re going to hear about Trophies, which is the upcoming book, and find out a little bit about whether we’re going to have some more suspense with Shelley Blanton-Stroud. Don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
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You are listening to Dropping In, with Diane Dewey. We’d love to hear from you if you have a question or comment about the show, send us an email to DDewey@trunordmedia.com. That’s the letter D, Dewey at T-R-U Nordmedia.com. Now, back to Dropping In.
Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Shelley Blanton-Stroud, author of a new book called Copy Boy. We were just talking about crime writing and how it’s infiltrated, how Didion and Hemingway have infiltrated it’s a book with a lot of clarity, and yet many layers. So that’s a difficult balance to achieve it’s been done with great authority in this book I’ve enjoyed it enormously. You can find Shelley Blanton-Stroud on Facebook, Blanton-Stroud Author, Twitter Blanton-Stroud, and Instagram.
And Jane is the protagonist of Copy Boy. She is the Copy Boy. The lowliest of the low at the bench at the newspaper and, but of course she breaks through those barriers and this is another thing that I love about Jane. So Shelley you’re right, she crossed so many borders, expecting someone to stop her though, no one did. No one ever stopped her. And I loved this idea like, had she become invisible.
How did she slip through? But I know that sense of your standing there and you’re thinking to yourself, “How did I get through to this?” That’s kind of an amazing thing. And we are mentioning that there is going to be a second book called Trophies, published by She Writes Press next year. Is Jane among the characters? Or is it any kind of a sequel? Or what’s up with that?
Shelly: Well, I will say that I have pretty much decided that there will be other Jane books, I’m going to let her age. And, maybe they’ll jump ahead even 10 years at a time in her career in San Francisco, San Francisco changes. But this next book is not bad, it’s something that I’ve written before I turned this one into She Writes, and I’m really working with it I’ve got, you know, I’ve got it. What I really have is a big, fat, terrible mess right now that needs work, but it’s a terrible mess that I kind of loved.
Shelly: So when I’m ushering Copy Boy into the world and really going to settle in with this one and do some sorting.
Shelly: This one is very different, very different.
Diane: Okay. Well, the big mess is, and just you know I can’t wait because out of this big gelatinous mess, it’s going to come this sharp rock this really gorgeous gem. I can tell how you talk about Jane, and you’ve just mentioned that Jane might skip ahead a decade, because she’s got, like five decades to go in this. She does stay in the newspaper world, and she hurt one of her thoughts in the book is a quote from Jane, was a quote from Shelley, “Identity was a decision subject to timing, not a solid fact after all.”
Jane, of course, then she needed to invent herself and reinvent herself over and over again and she did so without apologies. This made her a fascinating character, not to mention a pioneering woman, and I do love her observations so that when we’re talking about a very serious time and the history of this country the Great Depression, and how people transcended it, she observes things, like another quote from Shelley Blanton-Stroud, “She looked around at the pack bar, full of men of an athletic shape, and the beautiful women who followed them.”
So Jane, is so self-aware here. She we all know this place but she was only 18, and how did she get so wise beyond her years. It’s just such a fascinating type of character, right? They’re huge, very closely, very early on in life, right?
Shelly: Yeah. And then, but I feel like I got away with a little something. Because one wonder, how old Jane is and she’s writing it like if I describe my childhood stories. I would hope they would have all kinds of funny self-deprecating humor in them, and insight about what that meant. But when I was eight years old, I don’t think they were in there. So, you know, when we’re all, I think stories a fascinating thing, particularly family story or personal story. Because we’re always editing it, we’re honing it, we’re shaving out the parts that don’t do a service, and so by the time we tell it to somebody else, it kind of looks smart, though maybe it wasn’t in the original.
Diane: Well, she’s very human, though Jane she’s got a lot of different thought processes she’ll figure it out later. What’s going on, like her relationship with her father, which was just an exquisite relationship and fraught with paradox and contradictions the kind the likes of which we all have. She has also a reconciliation with her mother, who manipulated her emotionally for so many years. And I think that this idea of Jane, her mother talks about keeping her hand on the plow.
For the sake of moving forward, you had to keep moving forward and you’d figure everything out kind of later on and that is so human. And you also talk about another characteristic that I really love this description about the American dream the Outlaw life. “It’s the American dream to be the best, be great, jump over the rules, rules are for the other guy.” And I thought to myself, well, that reminds me of someone very familiar, sitting in the Oval Office. And I really feel like this phenomenon of this American dream and leaping over boundaries, right? It’s part of the texture. It’s like a part of the DNA of the country when you say.
Shelly: I did. I definitely think so. I mean our entire history from the get-go is about crossing boundaries some, we should have some perhaps not. And that’s part of what I really wanted to get out that I admire my character Jane. I love her compassion and her courage, about just going out there and doing what she wants to do, but I’m not stupid. And I know that that gumption and that grit, and that assertiveness does not always lead to good things. And I think that that’s very American. You know we’re an innovative, inventive, go get them kind of culture, or have been and sometimes it serves as well. And sometimes we just need to slow down and reflect. And I feel that Jane is very American that way.
Diane: Right, the reflection and the sort of assessment and our ability to look at ourselves and really take a good stock of ourselves. It’s we’re having maybe that moment now and I think that one of the other issues that you explore is the exploitation of poverty for gratuitous emotion because the photographs in the Copy Boy. They’re not what they appear. I’m not going to give spoiler alert, if they’re not what they appear. So, we twist the situation right to evoke the most response.
It’s like a kind of nationalism, and I wondered, if you felt it clearly, Dorothea Lange is not doing that with her photographs right there straight up? She doesn’t capitalize on her polio, which is something that she shared with your mother. It’s a much more authentic being and you talk about, does anyone present a pure naked self to the world and I think that’s a great takeaway. But you’ve kind of put it out there in this book Shelley. Do you feel that when you kind of hear it on audio book and do you have that sense, it is kind of authentic and naked? When you say?
Shelly: That’s what I’m aiming at, and, you know this Diane, as an author. You never perfectly get there, you know you can hear something or read something and think if I’d had another year. I must have done this right. But it might never have gotten done at all, but I am happy that I tried to be as honest as I could about my character, and it was, many friends helped me with that. I have one friend that I’ve known an awfully long time.
Her name is Casey, and when she read the previous draft of this, she put it down and she said, “You have to be nicer to mama.” And because I think that I let mama be a lot more villainous originally because they have a tendency I don’t know how to explain it. I feel kind of guilty about it. When I first write, I write every character to the very edge of their venomous possibility. I can’t help everybody as bad as they can be. And then when I get that on the page, I have to go back and say, “Now, use some grace.” Who are these individuals? What motivates them? Why did they do that? Where can we find the empathy with them? And it took me the longest with Mama, for reasons I think you can imagine having read the end of the book.
When we pointed out, she pointed out, you’re not being generous enough to her and having readers, having BETA readers respond honestly really helps you to be more honest, if you listen to them.
Diane: Well, no one’s black and white, and none of the characters in this book are either because you took that full spin around the front, the back, middle. I’m glad that you did go into their beings and look we’ve got a big mishmash in each of us. It’s hard to write mishmash but you know you got, you finally ultimately you delivered complex characters that we could still understand their motivations, and still respond repulse attract to them.
I really just would encourage anyone to get their hands on this book Copy Boy by Shelley Blanton-Stroud. We’re closing now in a few moments, I did want to say that, after the passage you read I’m going to read part of the epilogue, because it comes back to what you read. It’s a quote from Shelley Blanton-Stroud, “You think you’re a body but you’re not. You’re the power inside of it. You get that power from your voice. It was complicated, it’s still is, I haven’t worked it all out, and I did become someone rewriting that story, the right way, understanding that I would move from point to point, on an infinite continuum.”
That’s Jane’s, interior dialogue. I’m sorry that our time is run out, but I would urge everyone to use their power and like Jane lift up those with less of a voice through her voice. Thank you, Shelley Blanton-Sproud for the power of your storytelling and its worldview, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and the book Copy Boy is available wherever books are sold. ‘Till next week everyone. Stay strong. Thank you for listening, thanks to our amazing Engineers, Matt Widener, and our Producer, Robert Shealin and Chia Lino. Thank you for listening everyone. Thank you, Shelley.
Thank you so much for dropping in. Please join Diane Dewey again next Friday at 8am Pacific Time, and 11am Eastern Time, on the Voice America Variety Channel. We’ll see you then.