Midsummer mayhem in New York

Wendy Shearer
Reading on the theme of midsummer mayhem

On the hottest day of the year, I was invited to read one of my short stories for a Haringey Literature Live event.  The themes were very aptly named ‘midsummer mayhem, heat and summer madness’.

Fiction writer Jayne Joso opened up the evening reading an extract from her new novel ‘My Falling Down House’ set in Tokyo. Poet Angela Kirby entertained us with sizzling tales of unrequited love/lust whilst Jon Fortgang ended the night with his short story The Last Eight Minutes of Light.

New York state of mind

My midsummer mayhem in New York short story is set during the summer of 2004.  I’d started this piece during a ‘Life Writing in Fiction’ workshop with short story writer and critic Rebecca Swirsky.  At the time we were charged with writing about an item of clothing that meant something to us and making it work on a scaffolding level.  Somehow that came naturally to me as I wrote about a shiny, sequinned top which I partied in that crazy, hot summer.  On one level, the top was a perfect fit for me – bright, sassy and sharp but on another level I didn’t quite fit into my environment.  I was self-conscious and felt out of place. The piece ends with me finding this top in present day, loving the memory of that blazing summer, wishing I could wear it again but funnily enough, I’m unable to fit into it now.

Building blocks within writing

Although my New York short story focused on meandering around Greenwich village, clammy New York heat and party mayhem, I extended the piece for the event.  Taking cues from Rebecca’s workshop, I remembered stylistic devices from other authors and used building blocks to allow the listeners to connect and relate to my story:

  • Time period (2004 which saw the launch of Facebook and the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty)
  • Location (Greenwich Village, New York)
  • Action (party scenes)
  • Conflict opportunity (embarrassing moments, being put on the spot)
  • Moment of resolution / empathetic understanding (reminiscing, nostalgia)