Refossileer Spotlight, Day 25 — Mary Pletsch

Fossil Lake veteran Mary Pletsch returns, with another cool story that will educate and enlighten as well as entertain!


I get a quick glance at the image: a man with long ears like a rabbit, and a great beast at his side. Underneath the two figures, a long horizontal line links a series of vertical columns. I have no idea what concept this image is intended to convey. Age has blurred the russet paint, but the beast’s curved fangs and spiked tail are still visible as it towers over the man. – “Red Ochre,” by Mary Pletsch


* What inspired your piece in The Refossiling?

MP: There’s two major influences for “Red Ochre.” The first was my greatest regret about my contribution to the first Fossil Lake, “Mishipishu: The Ghost Story of Penny Jaye Prufrock.” The title creature, the Mishipishu, is a Native American Manitou. I’d been to a number of summer camps with Native names, but hadn’t learned much about Native American people there, and I reflected this experience in “Mishipishu” which is a story about a girl at a summer camp. Still, I felt a little strange about writing a story inspired by Native mythology with no Native characters. “Red Ochre” is a specifically Native-themed story.

The other was inspired by a camping trip where, for whatever reason, rather than tell scary stories by the fire, we decided to go down to the lake in the dark. Of course we got completely disoriented and wound up running all over the campground for most of the night―while talking about the scariest things we could think of. The scene with the old fireplace is as much fact as fiction.

* Favorite / least favorite ___________ and why?

A. extinct or prehistoric lifeform

MP: Favourite is the Archaeopteryx, because of the look on my first grade teacher’s face when I spelled it for her. (It must’ve been demoralizing. How do you teach c-a-t with a straight face to the kid who can spell archaeopteryx?)

B. dinosaur-themed entertainment (book, movie, game, etc)

MP: I wish I still had the dinosaur pop-up book that I carted around when I was five, most notably to the doctor’s because no matter how scary it was there or how much it hurt, dinosaurs made me feel better.

C. aquatic-themed entertainment (book, movie, game, etc)

MP: That place that lets you feed stingrays (must’ve been a zoo or something…)

D. undersea or freshwater critter

MP: that’s not a Mishipishu? Let’s go with manta rays. I loved feeding rays as a kid. I was this little girl feeding fish to this stingray the same size as me.

E. vacation destination

MP: Prince Edward Island to see my inlaws. And eat some oysters/lobsters.

F. time travel destination

MP: Hey, back to kindergarten to get my dinosaur pop-up book. And feed some stingrays.

G. seafood dish or delicacy

MP: Favourite: Eating fresh oysters in the kitchen with my father in law at my first Christmas away from home when none of his own children would touch them.

Least favourite: I love eating lobsters, but I remember trying to drive home from the harbour with lobsters escaping their bucket and crawling around the car unless I kept kicking the bucket to keep them inside. Also, as a child my brother in law didn’t want to eat his lobster so he excused himself to the bathroom and hid it behind the toilet, which worked until my mother in law went to use the bathroom and saw the two large antennae sticking out from behind the toilet like the mother of all roaches.

* Where can readers and fans find more of your work?

MP: You can find a full list of my work at http://www.fictorians.com/the-fictorians/mary-pletsch/

* Share your best, or worst, body-of-water-related memory/experience!

MP: I went to summer camp with my best friend. Both of us, two other girls, and our counsellor took a sailboat out on the lake when a strong wind was blowing. The sailboat was wicked fast that day, faster than it had ever been, and I was thrilled. Around the time we realized a storm was rolling in, we’d flipped the boat in the middle of the lake and whacked the counsellor on the head with the boom. The rescue motorboat took her to shore for medical help (she recovered) and left us to bring the boat back to shore. We soon discovered we were unable to steer without the counsellor’s help. We turtled the boat repeatedly: then the rain started.

Worst body of water related memory: the shame of being towed to shore by the rescue motorboat when the lightning started.

Best body of water related memory: racing that boat on the storm winds just before we flipped it.

* Current ________ and why?

C. fandom

MP: Transformers, specifically the More than Meets the Eye comic series by James Roberts and Alex Milne, because it’s quite frankly the best sci-fi I’ve read all year.

D. crush

MP: The entire Decepticon Justice Division.

E. music

MP: Heroes” by Sabaton is an amazing album, particularly if you like military history and/or heavy metal. There’s a real life story behind each song and this is definitely not one of those albums that’s easily divided into “hits” and “filler.” I have caught myself singing every single song at some point or another.

F. craving

MP: Kim chi. Those quart jars are single serving, right?

G. peeve

MP: FRIGGIN’ SNOW. Where are we going to put this stuff?? Really, two feet was plenty.

* What’re you working on, what is your process/routine like?

MP: Regular routine: On my days off, I’m writing. On my work days, I may be writing in the evening, depending on health, deadlines, and other factors. I’ve found that skipping sleep or healthy meals to meet writing quotas is in the long run counterproductive, so if I have to choose between taking care of myself and making sure I write every day, I prioritize my health so that when I am writing, it’s quality work.

Irregular routine: stay up late with insomnia/get woken up early by screaming nightmares, realize I’m not sleeping anyway, take the opportunity to write stuff that would scare me sleepless. It’s like a superpower. If you can’t sleep anyway, you’re immune from being scared sleepless.

* What’s the weirdest object you own? Backstory!

MP: As a kid I had a fake-leather box that used to have, I think a men’s shaving kit in it, and this was my “treasure chest”. All kinds of weird stuff made its way into the chest, which was pirate treasure, a magician’s box, a genie’s lamp, or whatever I needed it to be. The box eventually fell apart, but I still have some of the contents, including a wind-up turtle, a kaleidoscope that mimics a bug’s compound eye, and a great big screw that, I am told, at one point held together my grandmother’s broken ankle bone. There’s even a fossil in there, not to mention some 60s vintage foreign coins and a mirror that used to be in a jewelry box. So, the weirdest object I own is actually an aggregate of objects, but I can’t think of the Box of Visions (named for the Tom Russell album/song) as anything other than a single item.

No, I will not “get rid of that junk.”

* What kind of question do you always wish these questionnaires would ask, and how would you answer it?

MP: Best insult ever, of all time?

I’m torn between “syphilitic clown” and “your mom, your face, your mom’s face, your dad, your grandpa’s second cousin’s face, and your little dog, too.”

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