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April 2013 Talent Spotlight
 
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo 
"It's like the whole world opened up for me."
Starred Reviews: School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly

There, in the gymnasium of William Anders High School, was the girl that sound tracks played for whenever she stepped in to the room, and Fat Angie was...well, moved.

-Fat Angie


e.E. Charlton-Trujillo is the author of the books Fat Angie, Feels Like Home, and Prizefighter en Mi Casa. She is also the founder and CEO of Pinata Productions, a company that produces films, television programs, commercials, music videos and promotional stories. Her work goes beyond the traditional writing and filmmaking box. When you read her books or watch her films, you get something special. She delivers complex relationships, themes, and characters in which there is always more than what originally meets the eyes. She takes your expectations and sends them forth into an otherwise unpredictable universe.

For anyone confused about her name and the lowercase e and the capital E or why she chose to go with initials, one need only look to other authors for the answer. "I was introduced to e. e. cummings in junior high (definitely not part of the McCraw Junior High curriculum). The way he made words into art, into shape - into something alive on a flat space - spoke to me. It was like I belonged in that universe, so I guess it's my forever thanks to his art." She adds that S. E. Hinton was also an inspiration. "I read The Outsiders in seventh grade (also not on the curriculum) and knowing her age and that she was a woman writing this male-centered story rocked my young world. I don't know if that book would have been published if people had known her name was Susie. Amazing what an initial can do for you."

 

Fat Angie (Book Trailer)
Fat Angie (Book Trailer)


Her diverse, artistic talent was something that Charlton-Trujillo knew existed from around the time of middle school. She says, "I'd been writing in some fashion since the age of four. But I remember being in seventh grade and the teacher introduced a lesson to us called Look beyond the Can. She took a Coke can, put it on the end of the desk, and she wrote on the board, 'Look beyond the can,' and that was our exercise. All the kids basically wrote about the can, but I looked beyond it. It's like I could see it and I looked around it. In my mind, I went somewhere else. That moment really solidified that there was something in there. I wrote something that none of the other kids were seeing. They couldn't put the can into a reality that was beyond their own world."

She'll give the same advice to others about creating that her middle school teacher gave to her. "I always say, 'Are you listening?' I think part of it was that teacher saying, 'Go home and listen to the things around you.' It's like the whole world opened up for me." It's about paying attention to all that is around you and then being selective about it. "I pay attention a lot, but it's selective attention." She admits this can be annoying for others. "If I'm really wrapped up in something, it's really difficult for me to kind of snap out of it sometimes."

Readers are witness to this selective attention and the choices she brings to her work. For example, Charlton-Trujillo repetitively uses "Fat Angie" or "couldn't-be-bothered mother" to make various points. "I kind of run with it and see what feels right. I think there were times when I actually said it too much and I had to pull it back. It's about when is she Fat Angie and when is she Angie? Clearly she's Angie when she's with K. C. The deliberate part becomes who in the story sees her this way? Then I had to be careful not to put it in a place where it shouldn't be."

Her work sometimes lends itself to comparisons with other writers. "One of the most early humbling moments was when Newbery Judge E. R. Bird reviewed Prizefighter en Mi Casa and complimented my writing in the same breath of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller." In the review, Bird states:

  

...you're vaguely aware that a horrible thing occurred sometime 
in the past and it's created a hole in the family structure. Then, 
with a meticulousness Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller would 
have been proud of, the true tale comes to light, tying together the 
past and the present.


As for the negative reviews, Charlton-Trujillo accepts them as par for the course. She also knows that the content within Fat Angie will be received with some push back. "There are things like the same-sex stuff that's really going to rub them the wrong way. I knew that going in there was going to be resistance, but this was the story to tell and this was the way to tell it, and it wasn't my personal agenda."

Charlton-Trujillo explains how writers can lose focus when they try to promote their own agendas within stories. "I think what I've seen where things don't succeed for writers is when they try to force their own personal agenda on the story, and it becomes more about them. The real focus here is to really check myself at the door." This is something she has learned to guard against and become conscious of as she writes. "There was a draft where the mother of Fat Angie was very one-dimensional. My agenda was I don't like her. She's mean and she doesn't see this kid. My agent said, 'I hear you, but there's another way to look at that and really forced me to dig deeper. There is a reason for the mother being who she is. There is a reason for all the characters being who they are."

As for her writing process, Charlton-Trujillo, who is a Cincinnati resident and Ohio University MFA graduate, says, "I know a number of writers who have writer's groups, and I don't. It's not any kind of intentional snobbery. It's just that I've never found that I have a pattern that works in those kinds of numbers. I write a little differently. My drafts, my patterns, can throw people off. I'm very dialogue based, and all my characters can sometimes make people feel like it's not doable. That happened in Prizefighter and that happened in Fat Angie as well."

Instead she seeks out the opinions of just a few others. "For the longest time, my dearest friend Linda Sanders-Wells, who was also a writer, was my go-to person. Unfortunately, she succumbed to cancer in 2011, but she suggested shortly before that I talk to someone that we had met at a writing retreat. She said, 'You know, I think she's going to understand you.' So I have one or two people and then there's always been my agent, Andrea Cascardi, that I would go to. She really got my writing and how I develop a draft. There's no question that the first draft is a mess. By the second or the third, it's working. It's going to be sellable." She adds that her editing process is similar to editing a film. "I sit down in two or three blocks a day for 12 hours a day until it's done. I edit in these really compressed times, and I have that as part of my background. Once I have notes I just power through them."

Her approach is based on getting her writing to the best possible place. "I don't turn to friends because I don't need them to make me feel better. I need feedback." She laughs and adds, "I need friends to make me feel better once I get the feedback. I'm cautious because I guess I just want people to get where I'm going, early on, because I don't write very traditionally. You find your own way and when it works, it works."

Charlton-Trujillo's friends and colleagues think the world of her and her talent. C. G. Watson, friend and fellow writer, says, "e.E. Charlton-Trujillo is an artist who embodies the rare combination of stellar talent and supreme humanity. Her writing voice is impeccable, her story-telling (on film or in print) cuts straight to the soul - tender and gut-wrenching while leaving her audience hopeful that, in the end, the world will always be made right. She is an absolute rock star and a truly swell friend." Colleague Josh Flowers says of her, "She has a film-like eye that, incredibly, she develops into words on the page. You always get the feel that her books should be movies and her movies should be books, but no matter which you want, you always want more. Happily, I think you'll get your wish."

 

To get more information about e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and her work, you can visit her website here. If you would like to order or purchase any of the publications listed here and more, you can call us at (859) 781-0602, email us at bluemarble@fuse.net, or simply visit us at the store.

 

Written by T. Bartlett 

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