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Posts Tagged ‘craft’

Wrenches at Your Insides

Last week, I binge-watched Scream Queens, a show that is a send up to the slasher films I mainlined in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I was a horror buff: Michael Meyers, Freddie Krueger, any random serial killer, killer children, monsters that lurk in the shadows, humans becoming monstrous, and my beloved Scream (which I watched on repeat). Not only did I watch any film I could, I mastered in Stephen King’s novels. His ability to make me care about his characters and then viciously destroy them was as fascinating as it was disturbing. Horror showed me how bodies could be unmade. How bodies were maimed, cut, shot, tortured, and killed. How a body’s hurts could be physical and visible. How blood splattered on the floors and walls was a sign that things had come undone. Horror showed me the consequences of violence, physical and psychic. It stood as a warning of how terribly wrong things can go.

I was a horror buff, until I wasn’t. Maybe, I outgrew horror. Maybe, horror outgrew me. It is hard to say. I drifted away from these movies after I made the mistake of watching The Ring on the big screen and wasn’t able to sleep for days. I was convinced that the scary little girl might climb out of television to hunt me down. This film was not realistic horror, but supernatural. Yet, it disquieted me. A child comes back from revenge because of how she was treated. Supernatural vengeance was not a comfort. I locked myself in my bedroom of my barely two-room condo with Hannah the dog and Belle the cat to create a sense of distance between me and our TV.

Scream Queens evoked something familiar with a new twist, the sorority girls of Kappa Kappa Tau fight back against the Red Devil who hunts and kills them. I started watching Scream Queens in the fall, but couldn’t keep up with the show each week. I wanted to see how it ended. Who was the killer? What were the plot twists?

Life got in the way.

Last week, I started watching Scream Queens again to escape. Hannah, my now elderly dog, is dying. I can do nothing about it, but bear witness. Chris was out of town. The kids dutifully attended school and preschool. I felt helpless and alone as I checked on my old dog throughout the day and night. I turned to a television show that was as far away from life as I could muster. I was never in a sorority. I was not a rich kid. I avidly refused to pledge because I feared the money it would cost to join. I was never a mean girl like Chanel (Emma Roberts) with her disdain, cruelty, and casual racism. I watched Scream Queens to chase mortality from my waking thoughts. This show understands the importance of theatrics in horror. It dwells in the spectacle of death and the ability of bodies to be unmade. It evokes terror and makes fun of it simultaneously. (more…)

Making An Essay

I just sent an essay on bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress off to my lovely editors at Chronicle Vitae. This essay was one I had to wrangle because there were so many things that I wanted to say alongside all the things I needed to say. Or maybe, this essay wrangled me because it refused to let me go until I had it in the necessary form for publication. Plus, there was the added pressure that I was writing about the work of bell hooks, who I admire and adore, on teaching, of which I have serious and complicated feelings. hooks is a force to be reckoned with; reckoning takes time. Her writing makes me pause and think about how the world works (and how writing works). There was much, much wrangling. I spent much time.

What I’ve learned as an essayist is that I cannot predict how long an essay will take me to conjure, to think about, and then write. Some essays surprise me by how quick they seem, and others are long, drawn-out affairs, which take months (or occasionally years) to complete. Some essays require my complete attention for days and weeks. Others linger in the back of my mind until I’m ready to write them. They bounce around as I work on other topics. They catch me unaware as I rock my toddler to sleep. They appear when I wake up in the morning or as I pour a cup of coffee. Some linger waiting for me to commit. Other ideas dissipate leaving me with a faint impression that I should write about something. Ideas don’t always become essays, yet the ideas that refuse to go away often do.

The labor of making an essay is solitary and not-quite-visible. I started snapping photos of my process in part to make my efforts visible. Inspired by Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work, I thought it might be cool to show folks a glimpse of what I was writing, editing, or researching for my essays. For me, to show, and for you, to see. For this essay in particular, I’ve been trying to capture each stage. I created photographic evidence, if you will, of what I do, but not all work is visible. I can only document that which materializes. Please keep this in mind. (more…)

It’s Personal

Over the next few months, the glorious Liana Silva (@lianamsilva) and I are writing to each other about personal essays. We’ll pivot from her site to mine. It is a conversation in letter form. We hope you’ll read along with us. Here’s my response to her inaugural post.

Dear Liana,

I first read your post as I was making dinner, after I had picked up the Legos strewn across the floor for the third time, after I found an Olivia book tucked in a pile of research in my office, and after I tripped over a cat and then a toddler. Both kids were home from preschool and school, and I’d already warned them both about squabbling over toys and assigned 3.5 time outs. This day, like many others, is one, in which writing feels like it is only occasionally in my grasp. I’m a mother who writes, a writer who mothers.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how in the world I ended up as a writer. This appears a strange twist of fate. As my beloved Chris enjoys pointing out, I am an intensely private introvert and yet I write for audiences of strangers (and friends) about topics so personal to me: grief, motherhood, quitting, and my body.

The question is not how did I come to write essays. I think and dream in essays, but rather how did I ever come to write personal essays? I’m the person who actively avoids conversations on the topics that I write about. I smile and nod and look for an exit. I offer up a shallow example of my own or speak in monosyllables. I try to redirect attention back to the speaker away from me. I don’t talk openly. I don’t share.

How in the hell did I come to write personal essays at all? I lay bare my experiences of the world. I dwell in my heartbreaks. I try to find joy. I write openly. Or do I? (more…)