Recycling Our Lives

Anita Page’s short stories have appeared in journals, ezines, and anthologies, including Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices and the MWA anthology, The Prosecution Rests. She received a Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society in 2010 for “‘Twas the Night,” which appeared in The Gift of Murder.

Her first novel, Damned If You Don’t (L&L Dreamspell), is set in the Catskill Mountains, where she worked as a freelance feature writer for a regional newspaper.

Anita and her husband now live in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Weeds and Dust (APCWD) of which she is the founder (membership is open, by the way, and there are no dues).

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Not long after we were married, my husband and I and our two-year-old daughter moved from New York City to a small town in the Catskills. We’d long dreamed of living in the country, and decided the time had come. We had no jobs, very little savings, a hand-me-down car from my parents, and, being very young, the conviction that things would work out. As it happens, they did. My husband found a job at a daily newspaper, I did freelance feature writing for the same paper, and we formed friendships that we cherish to this day. A high point of those years for me started with a visit from a neighbor down the road. That was the beginning of our women’s group, ten of us originally, diverse in many ways, but all feminists and not afraid of confrontation when the occasion called for it.

When my family moved again nine years later, I promised myself we’d be back one day—maybe buy a weekend place or eventually retire there. Now it turns out I have gone back, though not in the way I intended.

There was never a question in my mind that Damned If You Don’t would be set in Laurel Pond, New York, a fictional town that bears some resemblance to the town in which we lived. I also knew from the start that Hannah Fox, my protagonist, would have a similar group of friends to my own. Hannah’s friends are fictitious of course, but the nature of this tight-knit, pro-active group is similar. They call themselves a ‘family of the heart.’ I don’t know that we ever used those words, but they would have fit.

As for Hannah, she’s her own woman, though we have some things in common. In addition to our politics, we’re both indifferent cooks, have a high tolerance for clutter, and love our dogs.

Unlike me, Hannah had a rootless childhood, growing up on communes in the sixties, her parents’ politics the dominating theme in their lives. For that reason, home is the dominating theme in hers, worth risking her marriage for. Hannah thinks of good and evil as two separate countries, but learns that the border sometimes blurs. I’m older than Hannah, but she’s braver and more resourceful, which is fortunate considering the danger she faces when she takes on the thugs behind an eminent domain scam that threatens a friend’s land.

Stephen King said in On Writing that “stories are found things, like fossils in the ground.” That image has always appealed to me, especially when I’m facing a blank computer screen. As writers, we’re great scavengers, sifting through the sand, and recycling the moments and memories and connections of our own lives to create fiction.