Natalie Zellat Dyen, the Writer
Before I retired, I worked on a seven-member technical writing team at a large software
company. While each and every one of us had honed our craft to perfection – we were considered the best in the company,
if not in the business – each and every one of us had more creative ambitions. Writing user manuals for the small niche
of hospital financial personnel is one thing, but writing fiction in all genres for, hopefully, a general readership is a
higher calling that only a handful of us actually answered. And mastered.
she didn’t realize it at the time, one of the more creative team members was Natalie Dyen, with whom I shared an office
and then a cubicle wall for eight years before she retired. After retirement, much to her own surprise, she found her storytelling
“voice" and is now a formidable writer of short stories, poetry, and dystopian fiction.
Now, although I’ve written several and listen to PBS Selected Shorts, I have not fully mastered the
art of short stories. I like my fiction – both written and read – to be long and rambling, consuming whole afternoons
and evenings, getting lost in the plot lines and prose. Savoring, pondering; being happily exponentially verbose. But when
Natalie began posting online links to her work published in local journals, newspapers, and the more articulate literary periodicals,
I began reading. Nothing more than curious about what my long-time friend from work was now writing…
And to my great delight, I discovered yet another talented author, with a fresh, erudite,
often humorous voice to add to my must-always-read list. A writer who has mastered the art of short story telling to near
perfection, a la the styles of H. H. Munro (Saki), Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Margaret Attood, Endora Welty, and
even Barbara Kingsolver. Yes, Natalie, you are this good!
The Weight of Loss, the first short story of Natalie’s
that I read, and the latest she has written – and which inspired me to write a Blog entry – is a veritable tour-de-force
replete with metaphoric subtle meanings lacing multiple lessons learned in forming improbable friendships. Including the rewards
of looking beyond the superficiality of appearance and seeking the inner person. And while it took me less than an hour to
consume, this narrative about a journalist who learns about love and loss from a morbidly obese woman packs more emotional
punches than, I have to say, the latest Kingsolver novel I am slowly reading. It’s that great of a read…
Forgive the trite analogy, but reading Natalie Dyen is somewhat like eating Lay’s
Potato Chips. You can’t have just one without reaching back into the bag for more. Just one more… Which, of course,
leads to the next thought-provoking, thoughtfully well-written one… But, unlike binging on chips, Natalie’s often
poignant vignettes need to be paced well apart and savored, one by one to appreciate the full bouquet of her delicious writing.
And to absorb and ponder each life lesson that she so wisely imparts.
cite a few:
ManFred’s Other Cheek is, well, a tongue-in-cheek exposé of creative
hubris at its best. With one performance/reality “artist” trying to outdo one another. This was only a ten-minute
hiatus in my own writing, but it took me a half hour to stop laughing. Now, I’ve always known Natalie to have a subtle
sense of humor, but she rarely, shyly showed it at work. And now, here, she’s unabashingly sharing it with the world!
In Finding her Voice, a longer-than-usual Dyen-esque commentary on the foibles
of everyday life, a woman purposefully decides not to use her voice, which no one in her life listens to. In the torment of
trying to stay silent, she finds it – soft and sweet – when she is threatened with the actual loss of the ability
to speak. Not quite as poignant as her others, but, just the same, Natalie strikes to the heart of the matter and touches
that of the reader.
A 2016 first place Sci-fi/Fantasy award winner,
By the Numbers is a powerful piece about a student who, while brilliantly talented in every other subject, has absolutely
no aptitude for mathematics. The consequences of failing a test for the third time are devastating. And, once again, Natalie
couches a message of intolerance and governmental short-sightedness and insensitivity in a deceptively simple story packed
with emotional and political overtones. A clear chilling warning to us all…
I hope your reading taste buds are sufficiently whetted. Now it’s time you discover the rest for yourself.
Here’s the link to Natalie’s website: www.nataliewrites.com. On it you’ll find links to all of her currently published works, as well as some personal information about the talented
author and her writing life and career… Which promises to be, hopefully, a long, prosperous, and fruitful one.
Enjoy the read!