Things in my little world are on their way to changing. Perhaps dramatically. And I’m conflicted about that. It all has to do with this writing thing, which started in 3rd grade with a story I wrote about growing out of my favorite cat pajamas in the middle of the night. That story became the family legend: she’s a writer.
The conflict begins with a piano recital. I wasn’t a good pianist, but I was 13 and I wrote poetry, so someone decided it would be a good idea if I were to pluck the strings of the piano in some Avant–garde display of pretentiousness while my poem was read. This was before I figured out that showing my mother the things I wrote was a bad, bad idea. I look back and I cringe. Violently. Every instance where I’ve ever read anything out loud makes me cringe. Like didn’t I know at the time that this was going to be a bad idea? Didn’t I realize I was being pretentious and, in my pretension undignified?
The conflict was compounded in the cafeteria high school, where Arrianne – I’ll skip her last name to preserve her dignity, even if she hasn’t figured out it needs preserving in the intervening years – stood on the table and insisted that everyone listen to her read poetry. Her own poetry. Her own self-involved, tragically bad poetry. I did not do this. I confined my over-sharing to my BFF.
This was before BFF was a thing.
It was compounded by the surprise win of a Halloween short story contest, which turned into humiliation when the letter I’d written to accompany the submission was also published. The letter wasn’t ready for publication, it wasn’t intended to be seen. But thereafter I was eyed with suspicion at school, because of course they had to write about it in the school newspaper. Also humiliating because the story itself was creepy and weird. I mean, Halloween, obviously. But the wary looks thereafter… Was I deep and tragic? I didn’t want to be eyed with suspicion. I didn’t want to be eyed at all.
What I’m getting at is this: there’s a long history of wanting a big air gap between the me that goes to the grocery store and the voice that I project from the comfort of a keyboard. Because I know. I know that there is something profoundly arrogant about the belief that the words that bounce around in my head and reproduce into dysfunctional families with weird uncles and uncomfortable cousins somehow need to be born into the world as shared figments of imagination. I do it… I mean, obviously, we’re here aren’t we? But I want it to be contained to when I’m prepared. When I’ve done my homework. When I feel like I’ve at least put in some effort into the contract that is implicit in “I wrote it down, now you read it.”
At the grocery store, I’m “what the hell do I know about anything” girl. I’m nobody’s expert. I’m the “look, it was last minute, I realize I forgot to put on makeup, just let me check out with no fuss and we can both pretend this never happened” girl. I don’t want to stop being that girl.
The problem is that I wrote a book. Well, I wrote two books. One was kindly and recently published electronically and is comprised of stories that are, at best, NSFW. They are also weird and, to quote a friend, dark and twisty. They aren’t stories that came from anything that I did, they just showed up that way.
The other book is coming out electronically before the end of the year.
And I feel … sheepish … about it all. Because what’s the point of writing if you never even take a shot at an audience. Writing is a conversation and the conversation is meaningless if there’s no one on the other end of the line nodding or saying no, it isn’t like that at all. It’s almost worse if I never put it out there into the world to see if it can walk on its own. Because then I’ve just got these metaphorical children that I don’t trust to grow up and become their own things. And that’s kind of icky and not the mom I aspire to be, metaphorically or eventually.
So, I think things are going to change. If only in that I’m making a declarative statement to a bunch of people that I never met that I’ve written a book. I have a short collection of stories out. The stories are naughty. The book is about fear and risk and safety and the gap between the way things are and the way we thought they were going to turn out. It’s dystopian, it’s occasionally graphic. It isn’t perfect, but I’m proud of it.
It may go nowhere. I’ll be disappointed if that’s how it turns out.
It may do for someone what Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn did for me. And if that’s the case, the three years worth of writing, rewriting, editing, anguishing giving up, cutting out entire sections, re-imagining the entire plot, and writing again will have totally been worth it.