Few things are more precious than the imagination of a child, what captures and indeed captivates it. From the imagination of youth, all things are possible and all things come to fruition. To that end, what fuels, feeds and fosters such an impressionable and malleable entity should be vetted, appraised, filtered, and most of all shared by the guardians of that said imagination – parents, grandparents, teachers, elders…
Teens, by their very stage of development – their imaginations are undergoing expansion and rapid evolution – require more, something I call the Oliver Twist Dynamic or the Put Anudder Dumplin’ in Meh Soup Syndrome. We should rise to their needs. We must. Their wellbeing, our overall harmonious and balanced existence, demands it – that is, more…. More provocative, more evocative and edifying works of literature on bookshelves, laps, tabletops and desks.
Connected Fiction is a new concept. I’m all too aware I’m treading uncharted territory. Call me a pioneer, but I’m up to the task. I have a vested interest as a mother, and I belong to a wider community of mothers and parents. The teen years are challenging, but they should not be fraught with angst, yours or your teen’s. What I’ve discovered is that the more honest you are about your physical reality, the better for everyone. Am I an expert? Absolutely not. I’m still learning. But one thing’s for certain: I remember. I remember being a teenager, very vividly, and needing more, more in the way of the books I read too. Another thing’s for certain: a career in medicine is a boon. It’s a very intimate way of interfacing with honesty, life-and-death honesty – yours and the patient’s. It is as much a reflective exercise as it is an analytical one. It has refined my view of the world beyond what I thought possible, beyond what I now call my limited intellectualized imagination, lost in large nonfiction texts and scientific facts. Been there. Done that. Fiction is the next frontier, maybe the final frontier. A career in medicine, along with motherhood, has been instrumental in the development of my mental heart. I brought my mind, a very curious, open one. Brought my heart, a very African one, sometimes a little surplus of it, with its inherent pros and cons in this modern milieu we call today’s world. Heart and mind would be connected in the kiln of long hours, late nights, moving histories, and phenomenal mentors.
From this immaculate conception, Connected Fiction was birthed – a way to interface with challenging themes and equally challenging stories told through the voices of compelling yet imperfect characters. Have I met them before? Yes, they are vaguely familiar to me, and to my alarm, they smoke and drink, some heavily, neither of which appeal to me. They are irreverent and angelic. They are me – every incarnation that I have faced or am yet to face in the here and now, possibly have faced in the very distant past and may face in the infinite future. I therefore do not fashion a story as I hover above it, celestial. I’m deeply submerged in it, sometimes drowning in my own self-awareness, grasping for a way out, gasping for the safety of the known, sometimes floating with a dreamy smile, perhaps one of relief. All this I humbly gift the reader as they drink in every word, pages of words.
Teenagers are far more aware of inauthenticity, hypocrisy, and inconsistencies in our rhetoric as adults than we give them credit – they have an uncanny sense of where we’ve edited, embellished, covertly omitted, overtly bowdlerized our personal histories. In the broader context, they are also keen observers of this when it occurs from a more expansive perspective – that is, world history. They are not being challenging for challenge’s sake. They are the arbiters of social change through us. Their actions reflect our intentions. They are testing our credentials to continue governing, to be the guardians, the custodians of their imaginations, in the same way that the most challenging of patients takes a physician to higher realms of expertise. They’ve shown up to make us better, take us higher; and that road is a rough-hewn path at times. Whatever we didn’t say, didn’t reveal, didn’t reconcile, didn’t overcome, they will command us to review and then to gift them a full disclosure – they’ve come of age and their imaginations are hungry to be fed with truth. In medicine, we would call this process ‘audit’. They are the auditors, extractors and scales of our own awareness, our unfettered consciousness – as they should be. It’s why they’re here, why we called them in. If we don’t rise, they certainly won’t surpass us to create better, to be better. They may well remain the reluctantly loyal, ever-resentful prisoners of our most mundane desires, constrained to become the lesser elements of us. I speak here as the precocious, vocal student, not so much the all-knowing, preaching teacher.
Connected Fiction is a prescription that I administer as a physician-writer to help one along. In the writing of it, I help myself along. My deliberate words in dried ink are to be recontextualized by your own experience – you add the subtext, the voice-overs, the dubbed-over dialogue or prose and subtitles; you tailor the storyline too, to fit your needs and circumstances. Compelling characters make one nod with a sense of familiarity, make one smile, grimace, gawp, even wish for their swift demise. The themes are relevant enough to inspire or even trigger The Big Talk, whatever The Big Talk means to us in our own unique lives and the impressionable lives of those we love. It’s a big ask. It should be. We are here to refine an imagination, not remodel or reshape it. Incidentally, teens do the same to us. It’s why I write. It’s why Connected Fiction is here, why you called it in. Read. Share. Converse. Connect. You don’t have to agree, just consider.
Physician-writer Iva C. Blackman began to write fiction in 2007 after embarking on a career break from working as a consultant physician in general internal and geriatric medicine. Her career in medicine began in 1989. The Dried Ink concept was born from the constant writing of medical histories at the bedside with a fountain pen, which would smudge and blot irritatingly – but she refused to use the inelegant biro. The rubber stamp motif on her website is a tribute to the use of a giant rubber stamp (needing its own bag), which Blackman lugged constantly throughout her career in many hospitals in the UK. Find out more about our guest blogger and get connected here.