Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘writer’s voice’

Dr. Nitwit’s Car (Coursera #2)

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This 200-word piece is the second assignment from Coursera using the ABDCE process. Again, it is fiction. (Little trolls, go away. Actually, you remind me of a grumpy smurf.)

 

The patient left the doctor’s office after a briefer visit than her previous post-op appointments; without hesitation, she had gathered her purse, shifted her good foot underneath her, and lashed out with the booted foot knocking the podiatrist on his ass.

“Hope that hurt.”

She hobbled past the reception desk, staring down the assistant who took copays. A nurse rushed past her calling out, “Doctor Nitwit, are you okay?”

She smashed the large red exit button to open the heavy building doors. On the hike to the car, she thought about what he suggested. “I’ll lend you my beach house for a vacation.”

“You idiot,” she had said. “You put me on antibiotics so I can’t go in the sun. You created an open wound so I can’t go in the water or walk on the sand.” He had shrugged his shoulders as if to say, I tried my best, what do you want?

Halfway to her Honda, she saw his shiny BMW. She lurched over, used her cane to knock dents in the sides, stepped back, and took a good swing at the driver’s window. The twinkle of falling glass brought a smile to her face.

Dr. Nitwit came running out mouth agape. She lifted the back of her hand to her forehead. “I fell. Maybe I do need that walker after all.”

 

What do you think?

Back Pain, Sex Books, and Responsibility

blog54         I did something bad, really painful to my back yesterday in yoga class. The muscles in my lower back seized tight like I had been digging graves or planting bulbs, you pick, for a few days. By 5 pm, I could barely sit at my desk, but walking helped, so I enlisted a friend, and we walked around Barnes & Noble bookstore for a good hour.

Giggling, I walked around the store, limping the gauntlet of back pain, circling literary fiction, then teen picks, over to poetry, and past the enormous display of 50 Shades of Mediocre Writing, More Mediocrity, and finally, The End of Mediocrity (until the author does some actual research into consensual sexuality versus stalking and rape). My friend was standing in the sex section.

You know.

The section of the bookstore that we want to peruse. But are frightened or plain embarrassed to be seen having interest, prurient interest in a topic that has been part of the NC legislature’s tussle over the last year.

Grow up folks; even the pearl-wearing and the seersucker-suited government is talking about sexual issues.

My friend looked pretty comfortable. We picked out books by their cover to be disappointed with the lack of pictures and the downright clinical tone of the books. When did sex become so dull? Well, I am living in NC, and it is a national chain of bookstores.

It wasn’t always that way. Ten years ago I took a similar jaunt to B&N to pick up some books for clients (counseling knows no shame thankfully). It was the middle of an afternoon in the middle of the week. I walked over to the shelves marked SEXUALITY, pulled a few books, tucked my skirt under me, and sat down with the books on the floor.

Within a ten minutes, a few people had walked by, walked by again, and then walked up to me.

“What you looking at?” asked a man.

“Books,” I said.

“Books about what?”

“Books about sex.”

“Oh.”

A few people skittered away. Fast feet and heads down. A few souls stayed.

“What do you think about this book?”

They sat down on the floor blocking the aisle. We started comparing covers. Yes, the cover of a book is crucial. (I like the hot pink and yellow book titled, ‘Hot Sex: How to do it.’)

In thirty minutes, we were a circle of people, different genders, different ages, different skin colors. And we were having a thoughtful conversation about what we look for in a sex book. Pictures, some humor, explicit information and directions, more humor, and permission to explore this important part of our lives.

“It’s great Barnes & Nobel has employees like you,” a woman said.

“Yeah, I’ve never felt so comfortable talking about sex.”

“Um, I don’t work here,” I said.

“Well, you should.”

“Who are you then?”

“Just a reader like you. Interested in sex.”

We unashamedly laughed, giggled, and snorted. Under the bright lights of the bookstore, we talked about the meaning of sex in our lives, how we wanted books that reflected that interest and employees that were knowledgeable and unafraid.

So what has happened in the last ten years? How did we end up with HB2? Why are we mute as our reproductive rights are being legislated away and programs are being defunded? We do not blink an eye as art, in its different forms, is rigidly censored. Art, the conscience of the culture, meant to confuse and inform and disturb us but we settle for sofa art – some image asking nothing of us.

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I think we are fucked, and not in a good way. What are you going to do about this?

Live Nude Art

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“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”     – Andy Warhol

I know you are wondering what I am doing. In my most honest moments, I wonder too.

The photography shoot was an adventure, a challenge, and a chance to see naked people up close. Working with an artist whose medium is photography, we created a series of quite lovely, interesting, and at times, disturbing images. Some of the images are based on very loose ideas or story fragments and some arose organically within the photo shoot. I will write proper, interesting choice of word, stories for the images.

Overall, the models were exquisite. Every one of them perfect in some way, usually unexpected. We attempted to capture or hint at the elusive perfection.

Each day, up would drive a perfectly normal looking and behaving person asking where to park.

“Around back. You don’t want your car towed.”

“Okay,” and with a trusting nod, they would follow me around the back of the building to park behind my car. They would walk into the building. I would make sure doors were locked.

“Wow, thanks it’s not too cold,” models would say. They signed a model’s release and showed us their license, which I photographed and emailed to us. We explained what we were looking to do. Got their input. Then they would say, “Ready?”

I would take a big breath and think, “Here we go. Don’t stare.” And they’d take off their clothes. Trying to look busy elsewhere as this was happening, I forced myself to exhale, practiced a noncommittal smile.

Then we went to work. After the first ten minutes, it was fine. We put in some hours, broke a sweat, strained our eyes, hearts, and brains. There were a couple of dicey moments, more about artistic choices than about nudity.

“Did you see that?”

“Yeah, we can’t have that.”

So I walked over to the model and said, “I’m going to clamp some fabric around your butt. Strange shadow … “

Without blinking an eye she said, “Sure.”

Clamp, clamp, clamp went the fabric. The model smiled. I was the uncomfortable one.

Things were better by the second day. I felt maternally protective – walking them out to their car, asking if they needed water or felt dizzy and needed to come down from the stool.

But the third day was confusing, trying, a major leap of artistic faith. We photographed two models. Together. I kept repeating the mantra,

Thisisart. This is art. THIS … IS … ART.

Periodically, I would check in with my collaborator.

“Can they do that?”

“Sure.”

“Will we go to jail?”

“No.”

“I’m not sure this will fly in Raleigh … “

He’d smile at me and tell me to do something. Pick up a stool. Gather some clothes. I would suggest things – the placement of a hand, drape of a fabric, choice of a prop – and the models were game. It was a wonderful collaboration.

This weekend, we reviewed the images. Plugging the camera into a TV, the images took on life. The images are stupendous. Beautiful, erotic, disturbing. Quite likely, the photographs and stories won’t fly in Raleigh or will have a limited flight.

But mostly, I am proud of us. We were true to our visions.

I kept my promise to see the beauty in each model – not getting bent out of shape over every little imperfection. (Maybe one day I will see my body with the same kindness.)

More ideas are percolating. The exhibit is starting to find a shape, probably not the final shape. We will continue to work within our visions as I gather my courage and sharpen my skills. It helps that I am reading Bayles and Orland’s Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING.

But it is imperative, however you evaluate the exhibit, we will keep making art.

Writer’s Storm

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“You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms … “
(The opening words of “You Will Hear Thunder” by Anna Akhmatova)

Two events have me wondering about my writer’s soul. I am creating a working definition based upon the importance of truthful observation and expression in all its shades of black and gray (thank you Graham Greene).

Last weekend, I went to see the film Woman in Gold with a friend of Germanic descent. We had decided to go together for support while experiencing a potentially difficult movie. Interestingly we cried at different places. As a Jew, the film was heartbreaking to watch. The ghosts of my mother along with other family members sat with me in the theatre. My Teutonic friend was deeply touched by the movie, specifically the complicity of people then and today. We came to the movie with different values, histories, and cultures. Walking to our cars, we talked about how important it was to see the movie and not look away.

Two days ago, standing in line, waiting for the post office to open up so I can mail my book to a reader, I took the silly online quiz, ‘Who’s Your Poet BFF?’ The quiz matched me with Anna Akhmatova, the Russian poet. Her difficult life was reflected in work. Family pressured her into writing under a pen name to avoid embarrassment. Friends and country pushed her to conform, silencing her writing for periods. I wondered why I had drawn this poet’s name.

I called a writerly friend and she said, “Maybe it’s important to think about the connection.”
While I cannot claim the mastery or soul of Akhmatova, I feel the pressure to conform. I write the personal, about my thoughts, my feelings, some adventures, my family, and my friends. My family does not like that I write. Some of my friends do not like my writer’s sensibility, my voice or choice of writing subjects. (I struggle to avoid mining others’ lives for vignettes at their expense.) I feel ambivalent and scared about putting my thoughts and feelings on paper, on the web, in stories, and in the world through my voice. But I cannot and will not avert my eyes for the comfort of my family, friends, or colleagues. Nor will I change my voice to fit the literary world’s idea of what a writer should write about and in what particular style.

This is my writer’s voice and soul. It is smart (and silly), funny (and serious), competent (and inept), sexy (and prudish). At times, I can be snarky and sarcastic (while trying to avoid cruelty). My worldview as female, Jew, widow, middle-aged, immigrant, and body therapist informs my writing. I will make mistakes and cross lines but I promise to learn from them. Help me by pointing them out – as kindly as possible. Over my life, I expect to grow and my writer’s voice and soul to echo that growth. But my essential soul is not up for change to fit somebody else’s template. Or comfort. I am fine with my writer’s soul – my honest observation of experience. If my writing makes you uncomfortable, all the better.

That does not mean that I am uninterested in your voice and your worldview. I want to struggle next to you as we experience the world.

To summarize, by reveling in Anna Akhmatova’s words, I —
“ … Hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.“
(The last words of her poem, “You Will Hear Thunder”)

Batten down the hatches or throw them open so we can dance in the storm.

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