Elaine Marie Carnegie
THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY... RUTH LITTNER
It is my pleasure to welcome this astounding writer to the Writer's Journey Blog this week.
Even when I was short—which never really occurred—I took a great interest in writing. I remember composing short stories beginning around fourth grade and getting As and 100s from my teachers on creative pieces. But my focus switched as I grew because I found that I belonged to a select club that I never signed up for—as the child of traumatized parents whose journeys and sequellae influenced my thoughts, motives, actions, and ultimately, my writing. I continued to enjoy creative writing and even ventured into journalism in college, writing for my school newspaper at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
But writing about current events eventually took a backseat in my mind to exploring the past. I had the good fortune of being able to discuss with my parents all of the hows, whys, wheres, and whos regarding their histories and their traumas. They were both victims of, and survivors of, the Holocaust. And when I was old enough to ask so many of the right questions, I did. I pressed and I pressed. And I wrote and I wrote.
My notes, my ideas, their quotes, their statements. But I didn’t feel their pain through their words, even though I heard the words. They had tried for so long to shield me from that pain. So we went, after much cajoling and bribery, to Poland, their birthplaces. I was already a married woman with children, but I left the present behind in the States, and I took a journey with them and other Holocaust survivors and some of their adult children, to the past: the Heavens of their childhoods and the Hells of their tortures. All of them. Everyone on our tour aside from “the youngsters,” us, the second generation or 2gs, had been brutalized, tortured, starved; and everyone on our tour agreed to return to the scene of the crime 70+ years later to revisit the past, to show the youngsters, to feel the pain, to heal the pain.
I took notes on what I saw; notes on my parents’ reactions to what remained and what was lost; notes on other survivors’ comments; notes on how the current residents—in my parents’ stolen homes—saw Jews today; notes on the countryside and architecture and modernization; and notes on how close I was to the situation and still couldn’t begin to perceive what they each went through.
I returned to my family and the States a different person of course. Who could see all that and not change? And then my life went on with my husband and three children and Barney the Purple Dinosaur and who got into college and who didn’t and other stories of families. But I never forgot all those notes.
I picked up where I left off four years ago, and with the help of notable memoirist Jerry Waxler, started to create a timeline and storyline. I included in my storyline my now-adult children because my parents’ traumas—regardless of their meticulous care in assuring that they would shield me from their pain, their losses, their tragedies—were unwittingly transferred to me, and I unwittingly transferred those anxieties to my children.
I have finally finished my manuscript and am currently shopping it around for a literary agent. If I get frustrated by the end of 2020 (and who hasn’t?), I will publish it through Celestial Echo Press. I continue to enjoy writing short, short short, and micro-fiction (less than 100 words). Perhaps that is all my attention span will bear. I don’t see a full-length novel in my future, but I’m hopeful that my nonfiction narrative, Living with Ghosts, will bear out my two goals: to remember and speak for those in my family who were murdered and cannot speak for themselves; and to educate those who will listen about the tragedies of the Holocaust—about all genocide—and how it affects future generations. Many thanks to Elaine Carnegie for hosting me on the Writers Journey blog!
Ruth Littner is a partner in Gemini Wordsmiths, a developmental editing, copywriting, and proofreading business. Daughter of two Holocaust survivors, she has penned Living with Ghosts, a nonfiction narrative that weaves together stories and experiences – chilling, heartwarming, and engaging – through three generations, to detail the negative effects that unwittingly transfer from generation to generation as a result of trauma suffered during the Holocaust. Ruth has two short stories published in the anthology series Not Your Mother’s Book … On Working for a Living and Not Your Mother’s Book … On Being a Woman, as well as a YA coming-of-age story, Until the Neighborhood Changed. Ruth co-published The Twofer Compendium, an anthology based on the theme of twins through micro-imprint Celestial Echo Press. She is a graduate of Bram Stoker Award-winner and New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry’s Short Story Class. She has edited four books for author Mike Morsch, all of which are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in administration, and lives in Pennsylvania with her adorable husband and two ornery cats. Or is it her ornery husband and two adorable cats?