Monday, November 14, 2016

City of Weird Contributor: Suzy Vitello

Suzy Vitello's story in City of Weird is one of the weirdest weird stories of all. I have a hard time describing it. There's this sort of corporate ghost that lives on a bridge and appears in the form of a flower and it steals...

OK, I don't even think I can try to explain it without giving away too much, but suffice it to say that narrator Emmy, about to turn 16, is also about to be given a very odd and inappropriate birthday present by her father. She doesn't know what to expect, except that he has promised "fireworks."

Dad handed me the keys to the Leaf and told me to head to the Willamette. “The Hawthorne Bridge,” he said. “We have to get there before midnight.” 

From the passenger seat, Dad kept staring at me the way someone who hasn’t seen a beloved family member in five years would. Finally, I cranked my head and said, “What?” 

“It happens so quickly. One day, you’re holding a bundle of love, and then, just like that, you’re letting them drive the car.” 

I rolled my eyes. Dad was really good at making everything about him. 

At 11:56 we reached the Hawthorne Bridge. Dad said, “Take the inside lane of the deck. We have to park under the penthouse.” 

There were orange cones blocking the middle lanes. “But . . .” I said. 

First thing you should know about being a successful grownup is barriers were made for others.” 

I navigated the Leaf in between the cones, and rumbled along the metal grate. 

Dad said, “Okay, stop.” 

Was this where the fireworks would be? Dad had money, but not that much money. 

I stopped the car in the middle of the bridge, underneath the little house, and Dad said, “Turn off the engine. Stay in the car until you’re instructed otherwise.” 

“By who?” I said. “Instructed otherwise by who?” 

Dad said, “What’s about to happen is for your own good. Remember. I love you.”

I've been a fangirl for Suzy Vitello for a long time. I particularly love the way she writes young characters. She is somehow able to put a teenager on the page without making her feel fake. She gets the angst and the sweetness and the matter-of-factness, all of it rolled up into an authentic voice.

One of the things that Suzy manages to do in her City of Weird story "The Deflowering" is write that teenage voice into a very adult story, one that contains a lot of humor and weirdness but still explores some really heavy subjects like women and girls' ownership of their bodies and the dangers of corporate America.

I'm a big fan of her young adult Empress Chronicles series, which began with the novel of the same name in 2014, followed by The Keepsake last year. The series is written from two different points of view - Liz, a modern-day Portland teen and Elisabeth of Bavaria, a princess from one hundred and fifty years ago. The stories of these two girls are interwoven, and magic and danger abounds. More info is on Suzy's website here.

Suzy also wrote the novel The Moment Before and the short story collection Unkiss Me. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in Mississippi Review, various anthologies, and literary journals. She has been a prize winner in The Atlantic Monthly Student Fiction Contest, and was a recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts grant. She holds an MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles. She'll be reading from "The Deflowering" tonight at Annie Bloom's Books.

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