Meet Mindy (Halleck) Meyers
Sometimes we open a wound not to watch it bleed, but to allow it to heal.
I just returned from a writer’s retreat wherein I was asked why I don’t write about the story seeds of the novel I’m currently crafting. That question opened a wound I didn’t realize I had. Bear with me ….
First, I’ll start with why I will now write under a pen name, a Nom de plume, or literary double, however you coin the term, it’s my new/old name. I’ll be writing under my mother’s name, Meyers, for many reasons. But the one HUGE reason is to honor my grandfather Frank Meyers who wanted to be a published author but never was. And the other, to honor my Jewish roots, denied to us because in the 1930s grandpa (non-religious) moved my mom and her siblings from the south to the west coast and immediately put them in Catholic schools. He also allowed my Irish/Scottish grandma to take them to Baptist churches: determined that his children would not experience the discrimination he did. His own father was murdered in front of him in New York, simply for his name. Meyers. So, I staunchly take the moniker and move it forward, in a time when our country seems to want to move backward.
Why does this matter now? The holocaust should never be forgotten. I’ve just completed one novel with a holocaust survivor as a protagonist and am now working on my next novel which––though not a war or holocaust story––is populated with holocaust survivor stories. Clearly, the holocaust may not be my story to tell, but I had a ringside seat to its aftermath. And it is in that 1950s and 1960s aftermath where my story seeds took root.
Last week at that writer’s retreat, a New York agent questioned my name, and then asked if I was a non-Jewish author writing unauthentically about the Jewish experience. I explained that though I grew up in a Christian household, my biological father was Jewish, and my mother’s father (Grandpa Frank’s) mother and father were Jewish. She asked what their family name was. I told her, and she exclaimed, I can sell a Mindy Meyers writing stories about victims of the holocaust. It rhymes, and it suits the stories you’re telling. Besides you have genealogy.
At first, I recoiled at the idea of a marketing platform based on something I thought I wasn’t. And deeper yet, genealogy is a wound of mine. Being born under the shadow of scandal, the feeling of being ‘illegitimate’ has always bloodied the waters. So, that night, I returned to my hotel room and cried, deeply, irrationally, as if mourning the departed or resurrecting a scarred over wound.
Then, about 3:00 am I realized the reverse was true; Mindy Meyers is who I’ve been all along. It was the first name on my birth certificate, before dad rushed in and married mom to give me legitimacy.
Heck, even at the Oregonian Newspaper in the 1950s, where grandpa worked, I had a name tag that read, Mindy ‘Minnie Mouse’ Meyers––Minnie Mouse was my very official nickname. So, making a LONG story short, Minnie Mouse is reclaiming her identity. Mindy Meyers is now my Nom de plume.
That was the first step toward telling my long-held stories. I’ll be blogging about them in the coming months. For now, I’ll share that in the early 1960s, when I was nine years old, I worked with my dad at his shoe repair shop in northwest Portland. I stood on a milk cate at the 1940s cash register, took in money and gave change. I was the official greeter, purveyor of cookies and tea for ladies who waited for dad’s popular 5-minute-heels, and I held down the fort when dad took a smoke break.
Dad’s shoe repair was in a building long rumored to be haunted. To nine-year-old me, it was a place of magic and mystical beings. At that time PDX was very international, multi-cultural, and filled with politics and fear of strangers, Nazis hiding in the shadows. There were Hasidic Jews with long black side curls called Payos, thick black beards and black hats, such a contrast to my ex-Air Force dad with his short hair and clean shaved face. There were palm-reading Gypsies, and the infamous King of the Gypsies who walked about the city with two large men behind him (bodyguards). He’d bring dad a cigar and have a laugh while those men waited at the door, keeping anyone else from entering. And then, the very cranky Rabbi who liked arguing with Dad about politics. And SO many other colorful people.
Occasionally it was my job to deliver shoes to a few of the customers who lived across the street in the (then) Nortonia Hotel. One was a woman who I thought was very shy. I’d knock on the door, listen as she unlocked seven locks, then crack the door open to where I could see only her eye and half her face. “Who are you?” she asked every time. “Oskar’s daughter,” I’d hold up the brown paper bag. “I have your shoes.” She’d quickly shut the door. I’d wait. She’d return with a fresh baked raspberry Rugelach cookie. To this day my favorite. She’d hand me the cookie that smelled of sweet burnt sugar and warm raspberry––through the narrow passage of the barely opened door. And then she’d say, “Sit, child eats’ das cookie while I inspect das shoes.” I would slide down the wall, sit on the floor and eat my cookie. She never looked at the shoes. Instead, she smiled the saddest smile I’d ever seen, while she watched me eat. When I finished, she handed me a napkin, “Vwipe face. Now hurry child, go to your papa, tell him all is goot. Do not talks to das strangers. Go now, hurry.” I’d rush down the hall while behind me the sounds of a bolting door, clanking chains, and the locking of seven locks echoed against my fleeing footsteps.
There were five women, holocaust survivors who lived in those apartments. My dad explained to nine-year-old me, that someone had hurt them in the war, and now they were a little frightened of people, and that they were lonely, so to spend time with them. Be kind, he’d said. Listen to their stories. So, I did.
As a child I grew to believe that like dad’s building, these people were haunted.
Now that hotel is the lovely Mark Spencer Hotel where I stay when I’m in Portland. To me, it’s a sacred place. I feel these women there. And I am comforted by their presence. I always grab a Rugalach at a local bakery to take to my room where despite the beautiful furnishings, I sit on the floor leaning against a wall, eating and remembering. Who’s haunted now ….
In the coming stories, blog posts, and novels, I honor these people who imprinted so deeply on nine through seventeen-year-old me, that they have become my ghosts, the spirits who walk with me. I’m honored to create stories around the essence of who they were to this child now woman who aches with their sorrow, and yet smiles when remembering their unique humor. In bringing them out of the shadows, I’m giving them an identity, while at the same time, reclaiming mine. In honoring them, through my storytelling, I am healing an old wound, mine and theirs.
Lately, in a desire to understand why I write certain types of female characters and yet struggle with writing others, I’ve launched into an in-depth examination of female Archetypes. One thing I have realized is that I don’t struggle to write the archetypes that are most consistent in my own nature, Artemis and Hestia, but do struggle with Persephone and anything Aphrodite-related. So it’s important to not simply mirror my own character aspects but to reach beyond them and write female characters whose archetypes might be foreign to me. I do believe all the archetypes are alive in my psyche at any given time, which is the case with most of us. And though we are not limited to our core archetype, it is generally the one that drives us. Especially when under stress. That’s a great thing to know when creating fictional characters.
I’m currently looking at the Greek Goddesses (archetypes):
The seven goddesses:
- Athena, goddess of wisdom.
- Artemis, goddess of the hunt.
- Hestia, goddess of the hearth.
- Persephone, goddess of the underworld.
- Demeter, goddess of grain and agriculture.
- Hera, goddess of marriage.
- Aphrodite, goddess of love.
I’ll be sharing my female archetypes educational journey here on my blog, and also on my Instagram account at @Femarchetype, so please follow me there.
If you liked it, please share @MindyHalleckTweet
What Inspires a Story?
I often am asked what #inspired my #awardwinning #shortstory on #Writersdigest? It’s complicated, but the short answer is it was a neighbor from my childhood. Her son was mentally disabled: sometimes when he tried to play with us, he accidentally hurt us; a broken arm, a bruised rib cage, a bloodied nose. He was 16 with the mind of a 4 year old and the strength of a line-backer. We were all under 10 years old. It was the early 1960s, people used the ugly word “retard” and mocked and teased him. But he wanted so desperately to be friends, so we played with him. He reminded me of #BooRadley #tokillamockingbird…I’ve never forgotten him. You can #read my tragic #story here on #WritersDigest where it won a #fiction contest.
Sometimes inspiration comes from the littlest, most insignificant things, like an image or a smell. I saw a man sitting in a boat on a lake once, he was slumped, holding his hat in his hands. I knew instinctively he was grieving. I felt it in my bones. It inspired a scene in my novel, Return to Sender, where the protagonist, Theo, sees the father of a young girl who was found murdered, sitting in a boat in the middle of the river. I wrote him exactly as I saw that man in the boat.
Return to Sender was initially inspired by a box of letters, love letters from during the Korean War that I found in my attic sixty years after the war.
I take notes on everything that tugs at my heart, my curiosity, or my sense of justice, or injustice. I save them and use them as story world material. There’s something new everyday, either from my daily beach walk or something I saw on tv. I never know where inspiration will be found, but I do know where to go when in search of, and for me that’s an art museum—where one of my greatest joys in life is to sit on a bench in the presence of great art, and write, whether it’s the Portland Art Museum, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum or the Louvre’ in Paris, that’s as good as it gets when seeking inspiration.
What Is a Call to Adventure/Action?
A hero (protagonist) is presented with a problem, challenge, or adventure to undertake. Once this happens, there’s no returning to normal, no lounging in her ordinary world, because the CTA (call to adventure/action) has upset that applecart…she must act. Remember, a story is about a character doing something.
A CTA can be as subtle as a letter arriving, or the death or illness of a family member that forces the protag to return home. How many stories have we read/seen about a reluctant protag turning home? Why, because they tap into universal themes that resonate with audiences of all genres and all demographics.
Examples of over the top, life altering death defying CTA’s are;
In the Hunger Games when Katniss Everdeen volunteers for the 74th Hunger Games in place of her 12-year-old sister. It’s the call to action that sets the story in motion. Primary Theme; Survival.
In Breaking Bad it’s when Walter White gets the news that he’s dying. He doesn’t tell his family, but instead goes on a unique journey to ensure his family’s financial security. Themes; Begins on Survival, and the importance of family themes, then graduates to sin, regret and envy, and the corrupting influence of greed and power.
Count of Monte Cristo, when Edmond Dante is unjustly imprisoned and his desire for revenge drives him to escape and retaliate. Themes are a delicate balance between, vengeance and forgiveness, power and powerlessness. These universal themes are why that story has been told and retold since Alexandre Dumas wrote it in 1844.
So, in your story, can you identify your call to action? Does a letter arrive? Does your protagonist have to return home? Does your protagonist have to volunteer for something in order to save someone else? Was your protagonist just given a death sentence? How can you use that CTA to develop character and set your plot in motion?….Without a call to action, what’s the point?
REMEMBER, there are twelve stages to the Hero’s Journey, The Call to Adventure is only one.
There are twelve steps to the hero’s journey. According to the Oracle Education Foundation Library, those steps are as follows.
- Ordinary World: This step refers to the hero’s normal life at the start of the story, before the adventure begins.
- Call to Adventure: The hero is faced with something that makes him begin his adventure. This might be a problem or a challenge he needs to overcome.
- Refusal of the Call: The hero attempts to refuse the adventure because he is afraid.
- Meeting with the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who can give him advice and ready him for the journey ahead.
- Crossing the First Threshold: The hero leaves his ordinary world for the first time and crosses the threshold into adventure.
- Tests, Allies, Enemies: The hero learns the rules of his new world. During this time, he endures tests of strength of will, meets friends, and comes face to face with foes.
- Approach: Setbacks occur, sometimes causing the hero to try a new approach or adopt new ideas.
- Ordeal: The hero experiences a major hurdle or obstacle, such as a life or death crisis.
- Reward: After surviving death, the hero earns his reward or accomplishes his goal.
- The Road Back: The hero begins his journey back to his ordinary life.
- Resurrection Hero – The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake and he must use everything he has learned.
- Return with Elixir: The hero brings his knowledge or the “elixir” back to the ordinary world, where he applies it to help all who remain there.
Consider writing a 500 word narrative of the scene where your character receives their call to action/adventure.
Rebellious Female Characters
Harvey Weinstein is GUILTY!!! Duh! But YEY!
Beyond the Hero’s Journey, there’s no denying it, rebellious female characters—from Katniss Everdeen to Olive Kitteridge—dominate literary fiction.
Following the countless cases of male victimization and sexual harassment in the headlines lately, it seems that fictional heroines reflect a mood of defiance with the world that men have programmed and ruled. There’s a new movement of modern-day heroines who are damaged, flawed or even unapologetically ridiculous. Some who still seek romance, sure, but others who just as self-assuredly seek a one-night stand with or without a man. And while she may change in the progression of the story, divulging strengths and tactics that astonish us, a woman’s conformity is no longer required.
Carl Jung’s archetypes are the building blocks of the story world. In Chris Vogler’s book, The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, he teaches about the vital use of archetypes in storytelling; the hero, the mentor, the threshold guardian and so on….
Beyond those central standards are the 8 FEMALE ARCHETYPES writers should be paying close attention to.
According to Jungian psychologists, there are 7 feminine archetypes prevailing in modern society—the Mother, the Maiden, the Queen, the Huntress, the Wise Woman, the Mystic and the Lover, to which I add, the emergent, Mermaid.
The Mermaid Archetype is emerging in today’s troubled world. This seductive, wild, Mermaid represents the feminine power of water—strong, loving, nurturing, self-indulgent and gorgeous, yet at the same time untamable, belligerent and outrageously independent—picture Aquaman’s mermaid mother, played by Nicole Kidman. She is a shapeshifter, a turbulent temptress, representative of both the loving abundant features of the ocean and the raw immense power of the seas and its undercurrents. Love and adore her, yes, but don’t piss her off!
These newly resurrected and empowered archetypes are used in modern day literature, on screen, and they now permeate society far beyond the secret whisperings of Jane Austen, to the anger of Lizbeth Salander, to the controlled madness of Gone Girl, and the literal Mermaid in Aquaman.
Archetypes have a language all their own. In the DNA of that unspoken language we often find the words and images essential for communicating our (personal and fictional) otherwise indescribable inner worlds (thoughts and feelings). Inner and outer continuously seek one another, and it is the sacred labor of the writer (or artist) to bring the two into artistic relationship; to reach deep into the hearts and minds of readers and provoke a rich and enlightening story experience.
Writers should be having fun with these emerging archetypes and should be delving DEEP into their imaginations to tap these mythic like women, Amazons or Mystics, for the multi-layered storytelling of which the world hungers.
Oh, and did I mention, Harvey Weinstein is GUILTY!!!
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