Friday, April 22, 2011

A Highly Technickel Memoir by Shoshana Sumrall Frerking

A factory job: Good benefits, fair pay, job security—it all sounds pretty decent to Corey Russell, who only wants to escape the tribulations of waitressing while pursuing her true passion—an obscure branch of meteorology. A storm chaser at heart, Corey begins her new job as an assembler, settling into a life of soldering circuit boards, torquing screws, and testing software. All is not as it would appear, however, in this mid-sized, Midwestern manufacturing plant. As she is about to find out, a battle of alchemy and sorcery, of profits and morals, of small business and corporate might, await.

Shoshana Sumrall Frerking grew up on a farm in western Nebraska, and now enjoys a career as a technical writer. Shoshana’s short fiction has been published in Deviant Minds, LAURUS Magazine, Plains Song Review, Fine Lines Journal, Paradigm, LITnIMAGE, and SNReview. A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Shoshana lives in Lincoln with her husband, Todd, oldest stepson, Drew, and their three cats, Misery, Granger, and Mac.

What will readers like about your book?
Although it's not an official category, I like to think of this novel as "Blue Collar Fiction." The novel is set in a manufacturing plant--but with a magical twist. Having worked in factories for more than twenty years, I can tell you that a story that explores the inner relationships of factory life will immediately grab my attention, so I'm hoping the same can be said for the millions of other readers with similar livelihoods. In this story, however, there is also an element of magic, so I think that anyone who loves fantasy will be drawn in. The engineers in this plant are, after all, wizards.

Why did you self publish?
I had shopped the manuscript around to several agents I'd researched (and continue to do so). So far, they have all said they like the premise, but the book is too hard to categorize. So after seeing other authors find success in e-books, I decided to give it a try.

What is your writing process?
I tend to walk around with a concept in my head for a long time. Gradually, one or two main characters begin to take shape, growing out of conversations I overhear, or just people I run into who leave an impression. After a while, things begin to solidify to the point where I have to begin collecting notes. After this, scenes start appearing in my head, and I write them down, usually by hand. There always comes a day when all of it snaps together and then I open a new file and begin knitting everything together, and then the story kind of writes itself.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?
Based on past experience, I would say a few months to a year, working full-time at my day job.

What inspired you to write this particular story?
As I said, I've always worked in factories. There is just a certain curiosity, or fascination, when you are building some machine that someone else has designed. What started the whole process? How the heck did they figure out how to make it do xyz? Science and engineering have always fascinated me, even though I've never wanted to be an actual scientist or engineer. It all seemed kind of romantic, even magical. So I just went with those feelings.

Excerpt (Note--The name of the factory will change without warning throughout the book. All will become clear later.):
Don’t read this, I’m warning you.

This is just a memoir on my job, and I’m just a factory worker, so unless you really like reading about stuff like carbide router bits and assembly-line test procedures, you won’t find anything in here that’ll float your boat.

Here in this mediocre, mid-size, Midwestern manufacturing firm, each employee, at the end of his or her first twelve months’ work, is required to put pen to paper and write down what happened to him or her. I mean like, what was your first impression, how do you like the benefits, what can we do to improve…that sort of thing. I didn’t mean like, stuff actually happens to people here, or anything. So anyway, my twelve months is up, and this is my memoir, and I think I’d like to start off by discussing safety glasses. Personally, I prefer plastic lenses over the glass kind.

You’re still reading? I’m telling you, put down this book right now. Put it down. There. Now, go find something worth reading—maybe something by the great inquisitor Loren Eiseley. They even named one of our libraries after the man.

There’s no strange goings-on at our company, Nebraska Integrated Controls. Not anything obvious to the casual observer, in any event. Which is what matters. The good folk employed here, who come in every morning carrying their lunch coolers and gossiping and settling in at their various workstations or machines, don’t have a clue, most of them, what’s actually manufactured in this innocuous-looking pink structure out on Magnolia Boulevard. The clients know, though. Like Integrated, they all have ordinary-sounding names like Grosseburg Laboratories. Vaughn-Melton Engineering & Design. Anodyne Technologies.

The pleasant sprawl of pavement and smooth green landscaping suggest happy customers. Good benefits. Job security. During the day, the spacious parking lot is filled with Tauruses, Saturns, Honda Civics, SUVs—all either new or two-owner.

You’re still reading? Jesus. Get a life, Okay? Oh hell, I’m just kidding. I didn’t think you’d be thrown off so easy. I wanted to make sure we were alone first, so that you and I could talk. Indeed, we may talk drill bits and dies. We might even get down to what vendors supply the most rugged printed circuit boards for your dollar. But for now, back to those Tauruses and Saturns. Or, more specifically, that spacious parking lot that’s filled with them.

Because there are things below that yellow-lined asphalt. Things in the sculpted hedgerows and vigilant trees. Between ancient, shifting walls, where things like cables worm from wing to wing and electronic whispers slide with silent speed through the darkness.

Like I say, it's almost a year now since I started on at Nebraska Interactive Composites. I’ve picked up some new and useful skills I'm not allowed to discuss on the outside.



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