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  • Writer's pictureWendy Harrison

POWERLESS – May 1, 2024

Updated: May 4

At nine o’clock on Sunday morning, just after breakfast, there was a loud noise that sounded like a thunder clap. The lights went out, along with every device that ran on electricity. Over the next two hours, my husband and I read on our Kindles, with nothing else to do. It was a sharp reminder of how much our lives relied on electricity. Here in Southwest Washington State, the outside temperature was in the low 40s, and the sky was gray with rainclouds. As the temperature in the house dropped, I pulled sweaters and gloves from the closet and wondered what had happened to the brief recent days of sun and cloudless skies.

The power outage wasn’t supposed to happen. When we moved here from Florida, I mentioned to an electrician that we were considering getting a generator. He assured me that in our neighborhood, the power lines were below ground and outages were rare and brief.

It was what I wanted to hear. After Hurricane Charlie in 2004 had left us with no power for a week during a hot, humid August in Florida, we bought a generator. For the next 17 years, my husband started up the generator every month, replaced the gas as needed, and then replaced the machine with a new model each time the old one gave up the ghost.

Then came Hurricane Ian in September, 2022. When we returned to the house after evacuating to higher ground, we at least had the comfort that we’d have a generator if we found the power was out at home. We had no idea that the storm surge had destroyed everything in its path including our house along with its contents and, of course, our still unused generator.

We were fortunate that the power outage in our Washington home only lasted two hours, but during that time, I thought about how powerless we were, not just literally during the outage, but in so many aspects of life.

Perhaps that was one of the things that attracted me to writing during my youth and into the present. There are so many things I can’t control, but when I sit in front of my laptop, the stories I tell are completely in my own power. Unlike some of my fellow authors, my characters never dictate the story to me or demand I make them smarter or prettier or braver. If they did, I’d probably be seeking help. The only voice in my head is my own. It has assumed the guise of a retired longshoreman, an obstreperous elf, a mysterious woman with a hidden past, a veteran with PTSD, and a range of other characters. But at the end of each writing day, the story has been told by all-powerful me.

I can’t control the weather or the electric grid or the insanity of the current state of the planet, but I can rule the fictional worlds I write about.  How lucky is that!

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In the 1980s, after thinking of myself as a writer since childhood, without having actually written anything since college, I decided to add to the balancing act of wife, mother, and lawyer by writing


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