Unplotted Stories: Creative Essays on Living Without a Relationship Script
Living Without A Relationship Script
A Collection of Creative Essays
Edited by Susannah B. Mintz and Susan Walzer
Unplotted Stories is a unique collection of original creative nonfiction about relationship experiences that do not conform to normative plotlines or have happy endings, experiences that leave us feeling adrift, unmoored, stalled, stuck, and befuddled. What happens when we find ourselves off the relational grid without any obvious map back, when our lives with others go to pieces—and do not get put back together again? How do we talk about forms of intimate relation for which there are no obvious social models—no TV shows, no Hallmark cards, no Hollywood movies, national holidays, or popular music? What is our relationship “status” if we’re ambiguously involved in something resistant to resolution? How do we write the stories of our connections to others when those stories defy social expectations for things like “arc,” “trajectory,” or “momentum”?
We are raised on tales with endings. Happy or otherwise, the plots that inform our developing sense of who we are, of what is possible in life—and acceptable—ultimately get somewhere. Someone looking for work will get a job. Someone who becomes a parent will see the child grow up. Someone ill or in pain will get better. Single people seeking partners will find them. If those relationships end, they will enter new ones. While there are many ways to exist outside of conventional boxes, our collection focuses on relational questions in part because it is so difficult, even in 2017, to be upfront about living outside of coupledom or traditional forms of friendship and family. As Sara Eckel observes, “The major voices in the woman-going-it-alone genre are never alone for all that long. Are women only able to lead respectable single lives when they have the power of refusal? Do you have to make clear that guys dig you?” And this question pertains not just to heterosexuals. In the midst of the good news about same-sex marriage equality being approved by the Supreme Court, Michael Cobb commented drily, “Now all of us single people are pathetic, not just the straight ones.”
We seek work that offers readers a sense of community in the context of difference. We are interested not only in examples of alternatives to the conventional relational tropes, but also in essays that explore the challenges of finding language with which to talk about those alternatives. When our life situations do not neatly align with available rhetorical paradigms, we must discover—or create—new ones, must direct our imaginative powers to crafting tales that others (and we ourselves) can understand.
Examples of what we mean by “unplotted stories” might include (and are not limited to) the following:
* Being single, and still single, and yes, still single after all these years
* Living alone, but not necessarily by “choice” (the partner left, the children are launched)
* Choosing not to have kids, but not necessarily without regret
* Friendships that tread, maybe uneasily, thresholds of eroticism, exclusivity, or mutual need
* A child who gets sick—and doesn’t get better again
* A marriage that comes apart—but not all the way
* Parenting, in its many forms
* Extended family relationships that might take the place of the ones we’re taught should be primary
About the Editors
Susannah B. Mintz is Professor of English at Skidmore College. She is the author of three scholarly monographs, co-editor of a critical collection on Nancy Mairs, and numerous articles in the fields of disability studies, autobiography, and seventeenth-century literature. Creative work has appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle, Birmingham Poetry Review, Epiphany, Ninth Letter, Life Writing, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. A collection entitled Paper Cranes: 3 Essays was a finalist for the Epiphany chapbook contest (2015). She is the author of the Kindle Single “Match Dot Comedy” (2013) and winner of the 2014 South Loop National Essay Prize, and was a finalist for the 2010 William Allen nonfiction prize. Her work was named in the 2010 Best American Essays Notable list.
Susan Walzer is Professor of Sociology at Skidmore College. A former clinical social worker, she is the author of Thinking about the Baby: Gender and Transitions into Parenthood as well as numerous articles and book chapters about family relationships, interactions, and roles. Her work has been published in academic outlets such as the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and reprinted in sociology readers. She has served as a consultant on interpersonal matters in a variety of venues and is currently working on a project about academic shame.