I write mostly nonfiction. I’m a Leo, an only child and a Boomer, so therefore I think I’m endlessly interesting and need to tell you all about it. Most everything I’ve written is based on my life. I’m experimenting with hybrid pieces—fiction that is born from nonfiction, but has a fictional twist or more desirable outcome. I’d like to write true, pure fiction some day, but am still waiting for that compelling plot or imperfectly interesting character to appear in my head.
I enjoy writing stories that evolve from objects. My dad died a little more than a year ago, and in cleaning out his house, a place my parents lived for more than 50 years, I found photograph albums, love letters, scrapbooks and other personal doodaddery that brought back intense memories and helped me write new essays.
My first serious foray into writing was after the death of my son, Noah. I wanted to write and publish something to mark the fifth anniversary of his passing and worked for more than a year on that single piece. It became the genesis for my memoir, He Plays a Harp. I wrote it to create a permanent reminder of Noah’s life, later pieces were more focused on allowing people to know him as a person. People ask me if writing the book was cathartic. No, it wasn’t cathartic; it was healing, though. I don’t think a parent ever completely comes to the end of grief or catharsis with the death of a child, but writing helped facilitate some of the healing I needed.
I write well in transit—on planes, trains or in my vanpool. I’m not sure why moving from one place to another is good for my creative mind, but it is. A few years ago, I was working on an essay on the Via Rail Canada train from Toronto to Windsor. I had my laptop screen zoomed to 200 percent (this was before I gave into reading glasses) and when the journey ended, a woman kitty-corner behind me asked if I was writing fiction or nonfiction. I told her it was nonfiction, it was an essay about the death of my son—and she told me it was beautiful. “I hoped it was fiction,” she said.
Roberta F. King, author of He Plays a Harp, is the Vice President of PR & Marketing at Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Outside of her professional public relations writing, her articles and essays have been published in Atticus Review, Brain, Child The Magazine for Thinking Mothers; The Boiler, Hippocampus, Lifelines (The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College) and in The Rapidian. He Plays a Harp is her first book. She and her husband Mike Miesch live in Muskegon, Michigan. Mike’s artwork is featured on the cover of the book.