Wednesday, October 30, 2013

cringe, gut punch, sigh of relief: On searching for my voice.

le journal, hospital bracelets and hair I lost from chemo.
I am attempting to take myself seriously (as a writer). I've picked up my memoir, tentatively titled There Is No Sexy Way to Eat Chicken Wings--kidding not kidding not sure I have the nerve to stand by that--and am blowing the dust off to try breathing new life into it. I first approached the idea of writing a memoir during the first of a handful of classes in UCLA Extension's wonderful Writers' Program and at LA Community College with the brilliant Joe Ryan. I'm still working out the scope of the work, but so far I am certain I will tell my lupus diagnosis story in splendid gory detail.

I've battled with the thought that, "You're not famous or known so who the fuck would care?" Then, "You need an audience or at least a NAME before you can take this step." I've since realized that neither should stand in the way of this; They are non-issues.

One of the aspects giving me the most difficulty is honing in on my voice, the tone I want to assume. Here's my struggle, as expressed to friend, fellow writer and genius, and he who kicks me in the ass, Jay Connor.

The tone has always been a thing of concern for me: Is this supposed to be painful and tragic? Is it okay to laugh? And the answer is: I want the reader to feel all of it. It is a shitty story. It's painful. I want it to hurt. I want the reader to think about watching someone they know slip away, feel attached, feel that sympathy. And then, chuckle at the wild imagery of the process of dying and realization of mortality. This is someone who almost went home to Jesus attempting to make sense of a near curtain call. Now, I can definitely go over this with a fine tooth comb to finesse my delivery, but I kind of enjoy the thought of producing that conflict. I remember explaining to classmates who were present when I read it aloud in workshops: I want readers to laugh through the tears. Feel the gut punch and cringe while reading about the horror of a spinal tap and then crack a smile at the bodily functions spelled out in the next paragraph. Experience the twisting of the knife along with me and smile with relief after realizing that a dead person couldn't be writing these words. Something fucked up like that. A few who've read it have mentioned feeling bad for laughing at certain passages. Stylistically, I am reminded of Dave Eggers' What Is The What that tells the story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan so motherfucking vividly, that I had to put it down numerous times because I became too emotionally attached. As I was read the story, I KNOW the bitch doesn't get killed, but motherfuck if I don't gasp and feel for him every step of the way. All of that compounded by upsettingly stunning wordplay that grips me as a casual reader and kicks me in the chest as a writer. I hate him for drawing me in the way he did there and in A Heartbreaking Tale of Staggering Genius, by the way. But yeah. Funny yet tragic yet demanding sympathy while being shocking in its vividness. That. Or something.
The saga continues. Hoping to find clarity.

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