Sunday, July 22, 2007

Borderline




I didn't set out to write a pathetic character, per se. Didn't think she had more problems than anyone else, had loneliness and pain, but who doesn't? Self-medicated a bit, had some close personal relationships she shouldn't. Someone who was not me, even though everyone would think she was. That's what a good story does, of course. Plays with those expectations. When I was young, I read the confessionals and when my high school teacher said that they stripped the mask off their writing, made it real, I replied that I thought presenting a stripped mask was as much of a mask as all the others. This is me, believe me, you know the routine. And parts of it are, the important parts. That's what makes it so risky.

Didn't help that when I workshopped the story, I showed up with a huge black eye, looking really worse for the wear after a night of self-medicating it. Looked like my character in fact! What a coincidence! No matter that a child had given me the black eye after playing My Pretty Ponies, a wicked head butt and presto, two weeks of bruises every color of the rainbow. And a story about a mildly abused woman to present the next day. Sure you ran into a door. Sure you were "playing with ponies." I waited for a response to my story, the moment of truth every writer fears, my head on the chopping block. You, dear reader, can write what happens next.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"“No greater grief than to remember days of gladness when sorrow is at hand.” Friedrich von Schiller

Cocktail Hour
Drinking short story collection suggestion: I Am Having An Adventure Perri Klass

Benedictions and Maledictions
Much peace and love to the family of Tammy Faye and to her beautiful spirit which exists now as it ever did.

9 comments:

eric313 said...

this is exactly what I've been waiting for from you. What strong, wicked-good prose. You make great statements everyday with your writing. But this one feels so good to read. Excellent prose poem, whether that was your intention or not.

See, there I go with my expectations of you and your writing. Have a great summer, m.

paul said...

myCajunQueen
PrettyWoman
inPrettyDress
OMightyEyes
Shazammmmmmmmmm!!!!!
R2C2!

JR's Thumbprints said...

And to think I just had someone question whether my blog posting on prison were real or fiction. Imagine that. I think I'll stick to workshopping my stories to the inmates, at least when they say, "You suck," I can respond, "At least I'm free."

Matt Groening said...

Cartooning is for people who can't quite draw and can't quite write. You combine the two half-talents and come up with a career.

Banacek said...

I assure you my intentions are purely immoral.

the walking man said...

I waited for a response to my story, the moment of truth every writer fears, my head on the chopping block. You, dear reader, can write what happens next.

___________________________________


I didn't set out to write a pathetic character, per se. didn’t think she had more problems than anyone else, had loneliness and pain, but who doesn't? Self-medicated a bit, had some close personal relationships she shouldn't. Someone who was not me, even though everyone would think she was. That's what a good story does, of course; plays with those expectations. When I was young, I read the confessionals and when my high school teacher said that they stripped the mask off their writing, made it real, I replied that I thought presenting a stripped mask was as much of a mask as all the others. This is me, believe me, you know the routine. And parts of it are, the important parts. That's what makes it so risky.

Didn't help that when I workshopped the story, I showed up with a huge black eye, looking really worse for the wear after a night of self-medicating it. Looked like my character in fact! What a coincidence! No matter that a child had given me the black eye after playing My Pretty Ponies, a wicked head butt and presto, two weeks of bruises every color of the rainbow; and a story about a mildly abused woman to present the next day. “Sure you ran into a door.” “Sure you were ‘playing with ponies."
***********************************

I knew what to expect before I walked into the private room at the Scarab club off of John R. There was going to be a round table just big enough to accommodate 6 chairs comfortably, a bottle of bottom shelf tequila, a bowl of lemons and, a salt shaker for the weak of stomach, and a pitcher of water in the center of the table with a shot glass and a slightly larger water glass at each seat.

Workshopping can be great fun if you are with the thick skinned, sometimes the critiques can be brutal but this was my work tonight and to be honest with you after having spent almost two years writing and refining and editing this piece I wasn’t feeling like I had the seven layers of derma that the body called for. I had taken a Valium before leaving the house, not so much for the receding pain but because I liked the way they took the anxiety of a the moment away.

When I walked into the room late as usual I could see that the tequila had already made a round, there were a few chewed lemons in front of a couple of the other writers. I went to the one empty chair with the up turned shot glass and for the moment just reached for the water as everyone got a good look at the yellowing bruise under my eye. Man I swear I could hear the wheels turning in the other five heads and I knew they were comparing the bruise to the novelette.

I reached for the water pitcher for the moment and before I could get it all the way across the table; David spoke up first without preamble and said “Michelle that was one hell of a read”, looking directly at the bruise “you really put yourself out there on this one.” I wasn’t sure for the moment whether he was complimenting or criticizing the work, this fucker never gets to a point without rattling the tree some.

“David believe me, I am ready for critique but that statement tells me nothing, is it flawed or is it completed?” I sipped the water glad that the valium had kicked in.

As he reached for the tequila he replied in a snit already. “It was good but the narrative by Josette seemed to lack anything but what she felt you could have fleshed out the characters a bit more added another twenty thousand words and made it into a full length work.” He took his shot all at once reached for a second lemon and the salt. I was thinking that if whoever brought the booze this time had at least gone with a better quality of tequila maybe David wouldn’t look like such a wimp right now.

“Ok David all I can say is that if I wanted the story to be about dysfunction in anyone else’s life I would have done that but your critique is duly noted. Yet at the same time I am presenting Josette as not truly dysfunctional in the world she lives in but just moving through it in the ways that suited her best.” I was able to say this with out sounding defensive to my ears.

Bob, one of my best friends said “But, Michelle, how common is this world that she lives in, how many people would be able to relate to just her? I have to agree with David to the point that more readers would fall into a different role in the story if it was fleshed out some. For example men who cheat on their wives would automatically assume the same role as Kevin, his dilemma of not being able to give up his lifestyle while still getting his pussy on the side with no connections attached? C’mon you say that in the narration but it became obvious that Josette was connected to him, cared for him and him to a lesser degree to her, or at least her ass but it wasn’t truly evident in the narration.”

Now I was feeling a little more relaxed and sane because this was a light beginning of the criticisms, fuck it and the Valium, I turned my own shot glass over and Caroline passed the bottle over while saying, “the whole story was about who was getting their booty call from whom, but I did like it how you took it from the incest between Josh and then took Chris to bed at the end, to me that wrapped it all up, and as for her self medicating and not really wanting to change that aspect of her life was ok because that is pretty much reality for people like that…” she paused in thought but I knew she was coming out with it “and people who medicate because they are in relationships that…are not good for them.” She was looking at the eye as she said that. I was surprised and vaguely amused at her even knowing the term booty call.

Caroline was the oldest member of this group and she was ok but I know she thought my boyfriend had kicked my ass so I drank a shot straight down, without so much as a grimace, or putting the top back on the bottle before I poured another into my glass; and explained about the eye just to get it on the table because like everyone else in this God forsaken world, you have a black eye or a large bruise it always has to be from a beating. Even though half the size of almost everyone at the table I knew that, I could drink all of them into submission. No one made a comment about the bruise but from the looks on their faces I knew they were all thinking one word. “Bullshit.”

the walking man said...

No matter that a child had given me the black eye after playing My Pretty Ponies, a wicked head butt and presto, two weeks of bruises every color of the rainbow;

Personally i believe the head butt but you said we could complete the story so here i am at 4 am completing it the way i saw it.

Charles Nelson Reilly said...

I loved Tammy Faye!

Charles Gramlich said...

Your point that even the "stripped down" is a mask is well taken. I agree with you absolutely.