Of Rust and Glass in more than a publication, it is a community. Our people and their stories make us who we are.
In the case of Dream of Rust and Glass, we asked Midwest writers and poets to do just that: dream. These men and women ask the question, “What if?” and their answers take us to strange, surprising, and surreal new worlds. But who are they? In this Blog series, we are thrilled to introduce you to a selection of Dream’s contributors. It’s not often we lift the proverbial curtain, but these people are more than their work. They are dreamers.
Our next featured author is Scott Peterson. Scott Peterson is originally from Toledo, Ohio and has lived there most his life. As he grows older, he has learned to appreciate Toledo’s creative community by performing improve comedy both through Glass City Improv and with his group named Downstairs Improv. He is a recent graduate from the University of Toledo English and Writing Studies master’s program. He teaches Honors and AP English at a local high school.
His story, “Community of Me,” tackles loss of identity by examining the struggles of a shapeshifter, aka a Sculptor. We see what it means to put on different faces for different people, and we better understand the consequences of not finding our true selves.
An excerpt from “Community of Me”:
The Sculptor community considers those who can’t remember part of their elderly community. Growing old as a Sculptor is like performing in many theatrical productions until you settle into the one role you were always meant to play. Of course, you’re not the casting director. You don’t get to choose the role. Rather you simply fall into the life of one of your personas and forget the others.
A pleasant thought, getting lost in oneself. Living a normal life. Others would see these thoughts as blasphemous. To that, I would say, so what if I am a heretic? I am also tired of keeping track of my lost self in a community of other personas. That is why Sculptors rarely reveal themselves except to a specific few. Our community is destined to disappear. We are all fated to be a blur just as I am in this foggy mirror. The broken fluorescent light flickers as the steam from my hot shower fades. I notice a small crack in the sliding mirror that distorts my face.
“I don’t have any tolerance for squatters in this building!” said the Landlord.
“Stay focused,” I said to myself. “Ignore his comments. He can’t hurt you.”
“What did you just say to me?”
I must have been louder than I thought. I need to get out of the shower. I realize the first step is the hardest but remaining motionless would define me even more than failure. I lift my leg out of the shower and plant it on the turquoise floor. The bathroom is warm from the shower, but the cold tiles send a jolt through my legs with each step. Turquoise colored tiles construct the space giving it the sense of a patient’s room in an old hospital. This room is a relic from the past. I can relate. The smell of Head and Shoulders and body wash fills the area as I wipe beads of sweat from my face again. The reflection in the mirror is clouded by the shower’s steam. Is this how I appear to others? Am I just someone who hides behind a barrier?
“You have some nerve taking up the shower for over three hours!” said the Landlord. “Who do you think you are?”
Who do you think you are? That is what he wants to know. He thinks he is somehow better than me just because he owns this building. The irony is that he has more in common with me than he might expect. We are both landlords of sorts but instead, I facilitate the lives that live inside this body. My tenants are filing complaints and I must show responsibility. I stare at the door which now rumbles in its frame as the Landlord knocks harder with each passing second. I see the reflection of my now aged Saturday persona, Nick Howell, in the doorknob. I guess my playboy persona took things a little too hard last night. Is that why I am having trouble remembering, or is it a reaction to something worse? I take a deep breath and calm myself down. I hear the growing murmur of voices from the hallway.
“Someone locked themselves in the bathroom?” said the first voice to the Landlord.
“It’s probably that cocaine addict that hangs out right outside the building,” said a second voice.
“Who’s to say they aren’t dead in there? That happened at my cousin’s apartment building right off Jefferson Street,” said yet another neighbor.
Each speculates the identity of the so-called freak from the other side. They wait like viewers of an auto accident. Their bickering mortifies me. I ignore the sounds and focus on the fog ridden mirror and the blurred figure that is staring at me…
From Scott Peterson:
Question: Besides writing, what is one thing you couldn’t live without?
Answer: The one thing I couldn’t live without is improv comedy. My time at the local improv school, Glass City Improv, gave me not only a creative outlet but connections that put me where I am at today. Without improv comedy, I am not sure I would be where I am at or even the person I have become.
Q: What is your inspiration for your story?
A: The inspiration for Community of Me came from years of watching and reading science fiction stories involving shapeshifters. More specifically, I read a story about a shapeshifter through one of my graduate school literature courses at the University of Toledo. This book was called Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor. While reading this book, I realized that I had my own questions about shapeshifters themselves. This led me to ask the core question that inspired my story, how does a shapeshifter get ready for their day?
Q: Did you know how your story would end when you started writing it? If not, did plans change while writing or did you improvise when you arrived?
A: I definitely knew where I wanted to go the moment I started, but I learned that getting there without it feeling obvious or forced was a little tricky. I found that I started creating too many ideas for a short story. I typically don’t like to confine myself, but I knew I wanted to keep it to the length that it is. This meant a lot of writing, then deleting, then writing again until I reached my ending.
Q: How closely do you relate to/identify with your characters?
A: It has always been hard for me to separate myself from my characters. I have always tried to write about what I know which means my characters always seem, at least to me anyway, like they are different versions of me. My nameless protagonist relates to me a great deal because he always struggles with how he presents himself to others but also who he actually is. I always hoped that this struggle would be universal for many readers.
Q: What’s the best (or worst) piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A: The best piece of advice I was ever given was from the comic book artist/writer David Mack. I had met him at a comic con in Cincinnati. He was explaining how many people come and talk about their ideas for long-drawn-out stories that will be dozens of volumes long. He responded by saying that stories that big take time and many writers will never finish them. He went on to tell me that “you can do more with a 5-page story than with multiple volume idea.” This inspired me to first focus on short stories and work my way up to a much longer narrative. It also helped give me the confidence to write something longer and complete it.
Q: If a movie were to be made of your story and you were in charge of casting, who would play your characters?
A: That is a tough question because there really is only one character in the story but since he is a shapeshifter, he would need to embody other characters. Now, I originally envisioned each persona to be distinctly different, but I couldn’t get James McAvoy’s performance in the film Split out of my head. I think he would do an amazing job with the character while providing something new with each viewing.
Dream of Rust and Glass can be found in print/e-book anywhere you buy your books online. Follow the link below, and delve into Dream to explore worlds created by some of the Midwest’s finest creative minds. Be sure to read Scott’s story, “Community of Me,” and leave us a review when you’re done!