Once upon a time I lived in the middle of an isthmus. Toward the end of a lovely year made possible by the fine people at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, I gave a reading. This reading was noteworthy partly because I was wearing the best shoes ever, but also because people seemed to enjoy it, so much so that an audience member emailed me a few days later and asked if he could buy the story I read.
This request both flattered and amused me, because it was not, at that point, possible to buy anything I’d written. It was terribly exciting then that every once in a while someone would like what I’d written and buy me a vodka tonic. Actually, that still is terribly exciting. Point being, I told kind audience member that I could not, in fact sell him the story, but I’d be happy to give him a copy.
When he came by to pick up the copy of the story, he said that he was a visual artist, and because he appreciated my willingness to give him my work, he’d brought me a sample of his– a photo of a sculpture he’d been working on, accompanied by a note describing its creation process. The sculpture was glass and metal and read, in its entirety, “living language,” and he said it seemed like something I’d appreciate. Upon reading the note,I discovered the red in the sculpture came from the artist’s own blood, which he’d been methodically extracting pint by pint over a long period of time, and incorporating into the sculpture, which had some method for controlling temperature and oxygen level. ( I wish I could be more precise here, but alas, Madison was four moves ago, and the note itself got lost during one of those moves. Also missing: one half of the aforementioned awesome pair of shoes. Not a lot a girl can do with only one red patent leather and cork pump.)
I shared my office with the other institute fellows, and when one of my esteemed poet friends came back into the office and saw my gift, he said something like:
“Someone came by the office and gave you a picture of his blood?”
We had some sort of conversation about the degree to which this was odd and the degree to which this was cool, and I decided it was both, and also that I was going to hang the picture over my desk, because it seemed most appropriate there. The picture has stayed above my desk in all subsequent moves, because it is sort of oddly appropriate, and because it was the first tangible and non-consumable thing anyone ever gave me for my writing.
I say all that to say, I have reached the point in my novel where the writing process feels a bit like methodically extracting one’s own blood to make it into something different– a little bit painful, a little bit tedious, a little bit lovely, a little bit exhilarating, a little bit frightening, a little bit undeniably personal, a little bit clinically sterile, a lot of trying to turn something ordinary into something else. In order to speed this process up, I am trying to step back from the internet for the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve posted a page for additional early reviews of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, and made a facebook page for the book (see below). I’ll check back in if there’s any major book news, but if not, I shall be back to more interesting blog posts in a month or so. Happy midsummer, blog readers.