Snapshots in words through a writer’s lens

Since writing my book,  Casualties of the Recession Depression (A collection of vignettes), I’ve been asked – by people unfamiliar with the genre – to explain the difference between a short story and a vignette, and why I chose to employ the latter, rather than the former. Here are the definitions, followed by my explanation.

Short Story

Syllabification: (short sto·ry)

Definition (per the Oxford Dictionary):

noun 

— a story with a fully developed theme but significantly shorter and less elaborate than a novel.

Vignette

Syllabification: (vi·gnette)

Pronunciation: /vinˈyet/

Definition (per the Oxford Dictionary):

noun (in the context of writing)

  1. a brief evocative description, account, or episode.

verb (in the contect of writing)

  1. portray (someone) in the style of a vignette.

Wikipedia’s Definition (this is exactly what a vignette is):

“In theatrical script writing, sketch stories, and poetry, a vignette is a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, idea, setting, or object.”

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Essentially, a vignette is like a snapshot in words.  Through a writer’s lens, a moment/feeling/episode in time is captured and portrayed in such a way that the reader can feel the character’s pain (or joy), understand the character’s mindset, be part of the character’s experience – albeit vicariously.

In the context of my book, I wanted to record real (and sometimes raw) moments experienced by people who have been adversely affected by this long economic downturn.  By capturing these brief episodes and providing a written backdrop for each year (in the form of an economic and political commentary), the reader can see the transformation and progression of this Recession Depression from its conception to its continued existence in the present day. The middle class is disappearing below the poverty line. As long as these people continue to be hungry, homeless and jobless, this “recession” is not over.

Below is one (of 39) vignettes from the Second Edition of Casualties of the Recession Depression:

Vignette #13 (2009) ― Young and Hungry

He sat in the coffee shop, his fingers restlessly turning the pages of his textbook.  He had been there for three and a half hours, nursing a cup of coffee.  “Thank God for free refills!” – he thought to himself.  He was trying hard to focus on the words in front of him, willing the gurgling in his empty stomach to go away.  His hands were slightly shaky.  He could smell the toasted ham and cheese sandwich that someone was eating at a nearby table.  Freshly baked bread had just come out of the oven and the lady behind the counter was stacking the loaves on the shelf.  His mouth started to water and he felt dizzy.  He willed himself to block it all out. Two more hours passed by.

It was closing time.  The coffee shop lady was rushing to close up. She grabbed all the leftover loaves of bread (two were left), bagels (all seven of them), and two donuts – and threw them roughly into a big garbage can, which she wheeled into the back room. He swallowed, throat dry.  A tear escaped from the corner of his eye.  He was too proud to ask. And the coffee shop lady didn’t see, nor would she probably have given him a second thought if she had.  He clenched his jaw and grimly packed his book into his bag.  

He glanced once at the lady behind the counter. Her face was blank when she looked back at him. Oblivious.  She tapped her fingers on the glass, impatient to close the lights.

He left quietly, not looking back.  He wondered whether things would get better after he graduated from college. He wasn’t so sure.

(PS: This coffee shop actually went out of business and closed its doors for good, just one month later. And the fate of the lady behind the counter?  She joined the ranks of the unemployed.)

The Second Edition of Casualties of the Recession Depression will be coming out soon!

All images, photos and text are the property of Heather Joan Marinos and may not be used, reproduced, or distributed.
 Copyright © 2013-2018 Heather Joan Marinos – All Rights Reserved.

 

Why this upcoming presidential election is so important

Access to higher education is a right, not a privilege

Access to higher education is a right, not a privilege.

“I think everybody is in agreement that we are a great entrepreneurial nation. We have got to encourage that. Of course we have to support small and medium-sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, but we have to makes sure that every family in this country gets a fair shake.”Senator Bernie Sanders

It is time for change, people. We need to move away from the status quo. The state of the union, as it stands right now, simply isn’t working for most of us. “Most of us” are the Middle Class in America, a class that is still reeling from the aftershocks of the largest economic crisis since The Great Depression of 1929.

“The American people must make a fundamental decision. Do we continue the 40-year decline of our middle class and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, or do we fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all? Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy? These are the most important questions of our time, and how we answer them will determine the future of our country.”  – from the website of Senator Bernie Sanders

In the upcoming second edition of my book, Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, I address all of the socio-economic problems still facing this country – years after the so-called “Great Recession” supposedly ended. But with every problem, there is a solution.

It all starts with the economy. We need to stop outsourcing work to other countries and support our own workforce.  We need to raise the minimum wage. Healthcare and education should not be considered privileges awarded to only those who can afford them. They are basic rights that we, each of us, should expect to have access to…. without losing the shirt off our backs.

The upcoming presidential election will give the American people the opportunity to effect real change. I hope that they will vote intelligently, and not emotionally. I also hope that people will do their research. This is an important election. Apathy is not an option.

You know where I stand.

 

Coming soon! 

FrontCover

The Economic Crisis Through The Eyes Of A Child

COTRD_3D_Book_Rendering_092414_Cropped

The Second Edition of Casualties of the (Recession) Depression will be coming out late Fall – complete with new and updated socio-economic statistics, additional vignettes and chapters, and sporting a new cover.

This series of vignettes depicts the many faces of the Recession (really a 21st century depression).  These are the firsthand account stories of real people. Their names have been replaced by the generic “he” – “she” – “they” … both to protect their privacy and also to bring home the point that it could happen to anyone, including you or me. In the context of this book, the objective was to record real, and sometimes raw, moments experienced by people who have been adversely affected by this long economic downturn.  By capturing these brief episodes and providing a written backdrop for each year – in the form of an economic and political commentary– the reader can see the transformation and progression of this (Recession) Depression from its conception to its continued existence in the present day.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

VIGNETTE: Through the Eyes of a Child

She skittered behind the stairwell and sat down. With her arms wrapped tightly around her knees, she watched through the space between the stairs. Her long ash blonde hair cascaded around her like a shawl. Her clear, blue eyes were wide and close to tears. The lady who lived next door was talking with her mother and as they passed by the stairs, the lady spotted her and smiled. She put her finger up to her nose silently. The lady understood and didn’t tell her mother that she was hiding under the stairs. They went into the next room.  

She hadn’t seen her father all morning. The night before, her parents had a terrible fight. They were always fighting. But last night was the worst. They had been yelling at one another and then she heard her mother crying. She had buried her face in the pillow, to block out the sounds. After awhile, everything went quiet.  From her bedroom window, she heard a noise on the back porch. She looked out and down, towards the porch, and saw that her father was sitting on the steps. She wiggled out of bed and tip-toed downstairs. She opened the screen door just enough so that she could see him better.  He was bent over with his hands around his head. He was making a sound that she had never heard before. Daddy was crying! She had never seen her Daddy cry before. Things must be terribly wrong. Her heart started beating fast. She covered her mouth to stifle a cry. Quietly, she closed the door and went back upstairs to her room.  She cried herself to sleep.

This morning, her mother told her to stay out of the way because men were coming to take all their furniture and things away. She didn’t understand why. There were four of them. Big and sweaty, they were taking things out of the house. Nobody noticed her behind the stairwell. She saw them take her princess canopy bed away. Her mouth began to tremble and she bit her lip, to keep from crying. A big man with no hair came out of her playroom, carrying her toy box and on top of the box was her favorite American Girl® Doll, Caroline.  Caroline had blonde hair and blue eyes, just like her.  She gasped.  The big man heard her. He turned around and bent down slightly, squinting his eyes. Then, he spotted her. He saw her staring at the doll on top of the box that he was carrying. He started to turn away towards the front door, but her tear-stained face and big blue eyes stopped him. He looked around. No one else was in sight, or so he thought.  Quickly, he grabbed the doll and slid it under the stairs. He put his fingers to his lips, “Shhh…” and gave her a wink. Then he was gone.  She grinned from ear to ear and clutched Caroline to her chest.

She heard a noise and looked up. The lady next door extended her hand. She put her hand in the neighbor’s and, holding Caroline tightly, she got up from under the stairs. The lady called out to her mother and said that she would take her (and Caroline) next door for some tea and cake. She and the lady had always enjoyed their little tea parties together. She would miss the kind lady when they moved.

As they left the house, she saw the man with no hair. She gave him a shy smile and he looked at her. His eyes were soft and wet. “Maybe he’s coming down with a cold,” she thought.

Copyright © 2013-2014 by Heather Joan Marinos

All rights reserved.