Friday, March 10, 2023

"Tell the Rest"

Lucy Jane Bledsoe is the author of several works of fiction, including A Thin Bright Line, which was a Lambda Literary Award and Ferro-Grumley Award finalist. She is the winner of an American Library Association Stonewall Award, a Yaddo Fellowship, a California Arts Council Fellowship in Literature, two National Science Foundation Artists & Writers Fellowships, and a finalist for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Fiction Award.

Bledsoe applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Tell the Rest, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Tell the Rest, one of the book’s two protagonists, a poet, sits at his kitchen table trying to write the poem that has eluded him for years, the one about his escape from a Christian conversion therapy camp for teens. He procrastinates by reading Claudia Rankin and writing other scraps of poetry. Ernest is teaching for a semester in Portland, Oregon, close to the site of the camp, and his boyfriend, who remains in NYC, has been hounding him to go find Celebration Camp. On page 69, his boyfriend sends him a text saying that he has found the location of the camp. “Rent a car,” Dennis writes. “It’s only an hour drive from Portland.”

The test works! Readers will get a good idea who Ernest is — poet, procrastinator, queer, survivor — as well as his central conflict, how to process and write about that traumatic teen experience. The last sentences on page 69, in which his boyfriend tells him to go find the camp, hopefully entice readers to keep reading in order to find out if Ernest does go and, if he does, what he finds at the camp. Ernest’s goal is so close! And yet terrifying.

Is there a failure in the test? Not really. But its limitation, for my novel, is that it doesn’t let the reader know about the other protagonist, Delia, who was at Celebration Camp with Ernest. They escaped together and separated immediately, losing touch completely. Over the years, both are intrigued about what has happened to the other and in the novel, their lives come closer and closer together, as they’ve both been drawn back to Oregon, where they met. Page 69 also might not let readers know that the book is about the power of friendship to override trauma, that community and love and survival are the true stories in Tell the Rest. As an author, I have distaste for “trauma porn,” and so I like to emphasize that Tell the Rest is about how my characters find their voices and strength, their joy and healthy relationships, in the years that follow their time at Celebration Camp.
Visit Lucy Jane Bledsoe's website.

Q&A with Lucy Jane Bledsoe.

--Marshal Zeringue