In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.
It’s Thanksgiving week—which means… unpredictability? expectations and disappointments? awkwardness and anxiety? friction? —all of which borrows words and ideas (a bit out of context) from this week’s thoughtful and perceptive essay by marriage and family therapist and now mystery writer Rhoda Berlin, talking about her story “Last Bite.” I say “a bit out of context” because Rhoda’s essay is far from negative about Thanksgiving, as you’ll see; instead, she sees the dramatic opportunities in family get-togethers, particularly interfamilial ones. And to put even better spin on the holidays, let me focus on the title of the anthology where the story appears: Festive Mayhem 2—emphasis on the festive amidst any mayhem, right?
Edited and published by Marla Bradeen, Festive Mayhem 2 features “Seven Holiday Culinary Cozy Mysteries” (recipes included!) by seven writers of color: Francelia Belton, Rhoda Berlin, Angela Henry, Barbara Howard, Stella Oni, Paige Sleuth (Bradeen’s pseudonym), and Carolyn Marie Wilkins. (The first anthology in this series is no longer available, but you can find several of the stories—by Jennifer J. Chow, Delia C. Pitts, and Paige Sleuth—linked at Marla Bradeen/Paige Sleuth’s website.)
As you’ll see from the essay below, Rhoda Berlin is drawing from both sides of her career—each illuminating the other—in her reflections on her story, “Last Bite.” As a therapist, Rhoda is the co-author, with Harriet Cannon, of Mixed Blessings: A Guide to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships, and that subtitle provides a clue to some of the thematic directions of the new story. And as a mystery writer who’s recently completed her first novel, she’s also got a keen eye for dramatic possibilities: lines of conflict, both internal and external, laying them in the opening, tightening them slowly. You can find more about Rhoda and her work at her website here.
I hope you enjoy this glimpse at Rhoda’s story and at the anthology in general—and the next two weeks bring two more contributors writing about their stories: Francelia Belton and Stella Oni.
Stay tuned—and Happy Thanksgiving in the meantime!
Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.Berlin-Last-Bite
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Love ms Berlin’s description of being with many kinds of people as cultural ping pong! Thank you for a warm visual with humor and insight.
Glad you enjoyed it, Harriet! Here’s hoping this holiday season we’re able to gather more freely. If so, ping pong, anyone?
Thank you so much for this intriguing peek into how “Last Bite” came to be, Art and Rhoda! I love the complex interpersonal dynamics captured in Rhoda’s story, and I think many readers will have no trouble seeing bits of their own family reflected in Emily’s. Here’s hoping everyone has a happier Thanksgiving this year than Emily!
Thank you, Marla! In my mind, we’re all multicultural. The details may be different, but many of the dynamics are shared. Yes, may everyone enjoy the holidays more than Emily and Co.!