By Pamela Urfer
As I posted on this blog a few weeks ago, (“I never thought of myself as weird”), I spent my childhood reading every book I could get my hands on. As a result, I became a writer.
My books are odd, as I am myself. One woman, reading my short stories, exclaimed, “You have a very strange mind.” I agree. But I like it that way. I want to do something original, something that reflects me.
I guess you would say that my books are “autisticy.” In my writing, as in my life, I speak inappropriately and bluntly, without regard for those social norms I have never grasped in the first place. I ignore the niceties of personal interaction and, I’ve been told, much of what I say is disconcerting to the reader. (I suppose the fact that I know this means I’ve learned something about social cues in seventy-five years.)
Not surprisingly, these books have a very limited audience, but they express what it is I want to say to the world and, in this way, they justify their existence. Perhaps they resonate better with readers who are ‘on the spectrum.’ It would be interesting to find out.
I began with plays. I was teaching English at a small college and the Drama Group was looking for scripts. I wrote some for them and then expanded to our church drama group and from there to publishers who specialize in providing scripts for schools and churches. In this time, I completed five or six books of play collections.
The church drama group was my invention and I wrote and directed plays there and in other churches and schools for years. This was the 70s and drama was all the thing. We were in great demand. In the 80s, sadly, bands in churches became the new best thing. Bands took up the entire front stage with their amplifiers, guitar stands, and rivers of wires and none of this equipment could be moved or touched even when no one was using them. They squeezed the drama groups right out of the church.
So, I turned to writing novels. And short stories, And poetry. But I still longed for the theatrical life and eventually found people of like mind who supported my ideas. In 1999, I made an “after school special” film, the right length for an hour show on PBS. It was about the life of J.S. Bach, or rather, a celebration of his 6Oth birthday. Bach had twenty children, by two wives, ten of whom lived to adulthood. For the party, the younger children learned special songs and games, the older ones played their own compositions and the boys’ choir, the University students and the string quartet of the Margrave of Brandenburg arrive at the house to perform for their beloved Herr Bach.
This performance was aired on PBS’s POV program and from there, as they say, went straight to video. I lost money on that venture, as Reality overwhelmed my dreams. But, no matter! I returned to my novels – the first an exploration of how a woman’s disgust for her abusive father fuels her rejection of God, the Father; the second, the story of an herbalist in Northern California, who finds herself caught up in a situation which violates all her strongly held principles.
The third is a science fiction work, applying anthropological structuralism to an alien culture, arguably the most ‘nerdy’ of my books. Then I wrote Estelle, a retelling of the Esther story set in 13th century France, when the Jews were most persecuted in Europe. And the last, The Candlelight Revolution about the fall of the Berlin Wall, based on a true story. There was also a book of short stories and A Slim Volume of Verse, illustrated with line drawings.
At this point, in my 70s, I sensed the writing well running dry, and turned to photography to slake my need for artistic expression. It’s been an interesting life, a real adventure, if not financially rewarding. But, no matter! My husband supports me in all my endeavors; what more could I ask.
See all Pamela’s books on Goodreads.
I am a seventy-five year old woman living on the spectrum. My symptoms have receded as I’ve grown older but it’s been a long, interesting journey. I’ve been involved in the arts and theater my whole life. I have been happily married for fifty-two years and have three children and five grandchildren.