I’ve spent the past several days in my old hometown, the place where my Style & Error series is kind of set. Kind of, because the town has changed so much since I lived here: highways have been moved, businesses have come and go, restaurants have closed permanently, and my parents have moved to an unfamiliar part.
The memories I have about Reading, Pennsylvania, mostly Exeter Township, are faint and attached to memories of high school, of dating, driving, hanging out with friends. I think about shopping at the Reading Station (no longer there), miniature golfing at Schell’s on Perkiomen Avenue (no longer called Schell’s), turning onto 47th street at Fegley’s (nope) and having dinner at the Seafood Shanty by Boscov’s east (nix).
That’s not to say that everything has changed. V&S sandwich shop is still there, as is Brother Bruno’s Pizza. Two of my favorite pretzel outlets, Tom Sturgis and Unique Splitz, both maintain substantial pretzel meccas for peeps like me. Boscov’s is still Boscov’s. (Did you Boscov today? I did!).
When I grew up in Reading, I was discovering who I was. My friends and I went from kids who hung out together at the pool to teenagers who borrowed our parent’s cars and went to movies. My first dates were in Reading. My first kisses were in Reading. I went out of state for college but moved back, an adult version of myself. Even though I found a FT job, at the end of each day, I drove back to my parent’s house, where I lived until finding my own place. I was caught between being an adult and being a kid.
That’s where Samantha Kidd was born, and it’s why she lives where she lives.
Because so much of my own town had changed, I decided to go with my own version of Reading. I renamed it Ribbon, Pennsylvania. In the Style & Error books I nod and wink at locations that I remember fondly and occasionally reverse time and reopen a business that has long since been gone. And since I’ve made it a town where a fashionista relocates after her career as buyer in New York, I’ve glammified things a bit. (Hey, it’s my party and I’ll glam if I want to).
I’m curious about other peoples’ processes: have you set your stories in a place where you live/d? Have you stayed true to the town as it is? Or have you falsified the town enough that you made it fictional?