Milwaukee writer Louisa Loveridge Gallas' "Rescue the Good Stuff" is the story of Madeleine Kidd, an insightful, spunky 11-year-old who is the only child of a con-man father and a frustrated, disappointed-with-life mother.
The 119-page book comprises poems that, together, create a unique poem novel that allows the reader into Maddie's life and imagination. The story explores the complicated nature of parenting, the confusion of children trying to sort through the adult world and how imagination, words and certain people, real or not, can help us navigate through it all.
Gallas is an award winning poet, long-time performer and counselor. Her recent book, "The Wizard’s Dream: A Universal Winter’s Tale," was recognized as a finalist for the 2011 Eric Hoffer Book Award.
OnMilwaukee.com recently had the chance to chat with Gallas about "Rescue The Good Stuff" and more.
OnMilwaukee.com: What inspired you to write this book? Why did you decide to write from the perspective of an 11-year-old?
Louisa Loveridge Gallas: For ever so long, I’ve witnessed the tricks of consciousness some children need to negotiate their lives, juggling awareness and denial so they have fun, discover, i.e. snatch 'regular' experiences from the jaws of trouble.
When Maddie Kidd’s voice emerged, I began to develop this multi-layered psychology especially. So Maddie is 11-ish. I find children’s emotional ages vary, sometimes precociously wise, other times returning to a younger age when sad or vulnerable.
I was inspired by the challenge of making her young voice authentic without pushing the imagery and language. And I also wanted to create clues in Maddie’s experiences that are puzzling to her but revealing for the reader.
OMC: Is she based at all on the 11-year-old you or another 11-year-old you know?
LLG: She is a composite: drawn from imagination, based on children I knew as a child; and my own young self.
OMC: Is this a poem? Collection of poems? Poem novel?
LLG: Oh, I like that term 'poem novel.' It's a series of story-like poems as Maddie moves toward discovery.
OMC: Where does this take place, or doesn't it matter?
LLG: The Midwest. Post World War II. Mid '50s.
OMC: Is Maddie happy?
LLG: Great question. I want to show how textured consciousness can be with a young person: sometimes happy, others times wary, disassociated, sad, enchanted. I will say that she is often alone and has a special confidante, Shiny, as a result. And then there is the overall sense of Maddie a reader may come to when they get her full story.
OMC: Do you think parents can be categorized as "good" or "bad?"
LLG: I know a parent can be extremely destructive, despite their other characteristics that are good, charming, generous. The difficulty with anyone is their complexity; and ultimately, this mix is seriously confusing for a child as reality shifts back and forth from trustworthy to suspect behavior.
OMC: Are her parents good or bad?
LLG: I think the levels of the parents unfold along with Maddie’s journey of discovery.
OMC: How long did this take you to write? When did you start / finish?
LLG: Truly about 10 years. I'd put it away for awhile, work on other manuscripts during this time, or music, then Maddie would pull me back to her. The book came out in November, 2012, not long after I finished it.
OMC: When and where do you usually write? Do you write everyday?
LLG: We writers are always spying and eaves-dropping with notepads in our back pocket. I usually feel I’m in the experience of writing, as every day's details might reveal something to go into my work. But sustained writing comes in the wee small hours or mornings at cafes. Or wakes me up at night when I’m on a roll. A turn of phrase, or characters, especially, start talking and I have to take notes.
OMC: Are you working on something new?
LLG: Yes, I've gone back to a novel I started in the late '90s, with a working title, "The Singing Road." It takes place in 1968, when events of feminism, civil rights, the Vietnam War and jazz turned a corner together. It builds toward a concert by an ensemble of musicians while reflecting the crucible of historical events they share.
I also have poetry manuscripts in the hopper: "The Divine Thief," with the moon as inspiration and "Surviving Relatives," pun intended, on how to navigate family.
OMC: Any upcoming events you would like readers to know about?
LLG: On March 23, there is a house poetry concert and to find out more, people can contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, I perform with the Earth Poets and Musicians on April 20 at the Coffee House, and April 26, the Urban Ecology Center.
OMC: Does your counseling practice affect / influence your writing?
LLG: Yes. My counseling practice has influenced my writing, witnessing the damage that is part of being human and the struggle toward resilience as we move through suffering.
OMC: What do you hope people take away from this book?
LLG: I hope Maddie touches on the universal for readers’ lives beyond her own, and that her story unfolds mysteriously. Secrets are, in fact, a centerpiece of Maddie's life. She is also funny, ironic, so I hope it holds their imagination and uplifts.
OMC: Why the title?
LLG: I am influenced by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who, when asked how children survived Apartheid, said: "Whatever happens, children adapt; they play with their friends." Disassociation, compartmentalizing and denial are parts of the psyche which often boomerang later but also create a kind of rescue / reprieve, giving children a way of going on, instead of going mad. That doesn't mean that toughness is rosy or their games or strategies are always healthy. We have to look straight on at the damage we do to each other, especially parents to vulnerable children. Then, to the rescue.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.