How I Shed Light on My Hometown in My Writing
As a memoirist, my writing style doesn’t involve world-building, myths, supernatural powers, or fantasies. However as a creative memoir author, through my writing and storytelling, I have the ability to captivate my readers’ attention with raw, vulnerable moments, gut-wrenching emotions, and reflective thoughts. Most importantly, I can help them feel immersed into true experiences, a real place that exists on this very planet that is the foundation to having my stories unfold on the pages. It’s not your typical place, a famous city like New York City, Rome, Los Angeles or Paris. It’s also not an isolated place like an island or in the middle of the wilderness.
In fact, it is unique in every form possible. It’s the reason why I decided to live at this very place, remain here, for as long as I can.
For me, that place is Pittsburgh, PA — the Steel City, the City of Bridges, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood City.
Beyond the obvious fact that both my first and second books are based solely in Pittsburgh, while I write I have leaned heavily on embracing my hometown for several personal, primary, and stylistic reasons. First and foremost, as a published author and speaker, my motto or brand is established around “bringing life’s challenging chapters to life,” as I write about life-altering circumstances, traumatic events and convoluted subjects. Dealing with the blunt, bruteness of my personal challenges in Pittsburgh while channeling a positive, optimistic, and open-mind, I have found clarity through intricate details that make Pittsburgh so unique, close to my heart.
Most of the intricate details that I have discovered about Pittsburgh have often become symbols, metaphors and reflection points in my writing; most residents of the Steel City would often overlook the significance of tunnels, bridges, the Three Rivers converging, the hilly terrain, the vastly different, yet blended neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, and the Cathedral of Learning beyond just their sole or original intended purpose.
But as a writer, storyteller, and Pittsburgh enthusiast, it’s all I see.
An additional endeavor that I have with my writing is to give my readers a literary, site-seeing journey or tour of my hometown.
I have compared the expedition through the hilly, windy, and uneven terrain of Western Pennsylvania to the unexpected twists and turns that life’s challenges bring us.
Emerging from the Fort Pitt Tunnel to behold the glistening skyline of Pittsburgh directly reflects one of my favorite mottos that I love when enduring an form of challenge or stressors: there is always the light at the end of the tunnel, greater and better things ahead.
Cathedral of Learning serves as a guiding compass, a point in the right direction, in my upcoming novel.
I even have gotten deeper into providing my own personal reasons for certain and unique aspects of Pittsburgh in my writing that I don’t think most yinzers (residents of the Steel City) know about. Examples of these include: why are the bridges painted yellow? Why do several neighborhoods converge seamlessly into one another? Why is the overlook spots on Mt. Washington considered to be the best spot to viewing the skyline of Pittsburgh?
Comparing my first book to my second one, I did kick it up several gears when incorporating Pittsburgh into my writing. When writing my first book, I explicitly described the journey through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and a transformative moment that I had Point State Park; besides that, with the overarching theme of being the light amid your obstacles, I used the illuminated skyline, tunnels, and bridges to further illustrate my messages, lessons, and perspectives that I wanted my readers to take away from my personal experiences.
Adding on to this solid foundation, in my second book, I lean significantly on describing various places in the City of Bridges that reflect or connect to the larger moment, conversation, etc. — they are also places that I did not even hint at or mention in my first book such as Shadyside, North Shore, Oakland, Schenley Park, Frick Park, and Mt. Washington. By describing the environment, associating various senses and details with these new places, it helps to further drive the tension, mood, and character development that I want conveyed.
This was an easy task to accomplish, even as a proud resident of Pittsburgh, because I often still feel like a tourist in my hometown, always discovering a new place almost every time I am out and about. However, a great exercise and experiment that I did to help leverage this personal stylistic choice of mine in my writing is by publishing an article series about Pittsburgh.
Publishing an article series on Medium titled appropriately, Tribute to the City of Bridges, allowed my followers to learn more about myself, commend the significance of Pittsburgh and immerse them into a whole new world that actually exists rather than fictionalized. It also gave my readers a sneak peek of what they had to look forward to in future writing projects of mine, such as my second book! All the titles of my articles include a play on words as well; here is a list of my article titles and what the topic was:
It’s Always a Great Day to Root for Pittsburgh — Focusing on Pittsburgh’s sports teams and return back to downtown after the pandemic
Pittsburgh: The Infinite Light at the End of the Tunnels — Journey through the Fort Pitt Tunnel
You’re Inclined to Stay Awhile and Enjoy the View — Riding the Inclines and Discovering Mt. Washington
A Neighborly Gem Tucked Away in the East — Shadyside and Walnut Street
The Point is to Visit Pittsburgh — Point State Park with the fountain and where the Three Rivers merge together
The Historical, Culinary & Cultural Hub of Pittsburgh — Strip District
My Kind of Town, Pittsburgh Is — Downtown (the layout, street names, famous and historical buildings, etc.)
An Unexplored World, Along the Allegheny River — North Shore
Scholarly & Scenic Significance at Schenley — Schenley Park, Oakland, and University of Pittsburgh’s Campus
Why Pittsburgh? — Recap, personal reflection and summarizing what I still have yet to explore
Additionally, here is a snippet from one of the articles, Scholarly & Scenic Significance at Schenley:
“We then started to head back to the Phipps and reached another beautiful landmark within the park: Panther Hollow. The initial thing I noticed about Panther Hollow that was quite odd for being in an urban neighborhood was how quiet, peaceful and tranquil it was — so quiet my friend and I could hear each other breathing after our heart rates lowered. In the hollow is a human-made lake, home to cattails, fish, birds and toads; we followed the trail that goes around the lake as we looked up to see the bridge suspended above us. If I had known about this beautiful sanctuary amid the hustle and bustle of the Steel City, I would have brought a beach towel, picnic essentials and a good book and relaxed in this hollow until dusk. Taking our time to walk around the lake, we later found a set of stairs that took us back up 120 feet to be on the street-level to cross the Panther Hollow Bridge. Four bronze panthers, crouching as sentinels greeted my friend and I like old acquaintances or champions as we strolled across the bridge and back to Phipps.
Diving into all the beautiful, hidden and unexploited gems of Pittsburgh in my writing has allowed readers to not only immerse themselves in my life stories but also to learn about me, connect with me on a more personal level. It’s a way to discover how my thoughts processes work, what emotions I am feeling and how I am reflecting on the past, present and future without explicitly stating “I am thinking… I feel… I know that…” Not every reader will be as enthusiastic about Pittsburgh as I am, however they will understand, see and be a part of the journey of finding myself amongst the tunnels, bridges, neighborhoods and historical significance that Pittsburgh has to often to all residents and first-time visitors.