Brainstorming for the IWL anthology

In two weeks I need to have finished about 10 pages of work, to go into the IWL anthology for 2011. The anthology will be published online (see 2010 and 2009); in addition, we will do two public readings, for which a poster will be designed and printed. It’s very exciting. But most of us don’t know what we’re going to write for the anthology. I think we all thought, when we got into this workshop, that the eight weeks and four instructors would prepare us for our anthology pieces; we thought we’d be working continuously on something to present. That hasn’t been the case. Yes, we did have an upset in the third and fourth weeks, but even without that, there hasn’t been a clear throughline to our meetings from instructor to instructor. I don’t think that’s the instructors’ fault, but I do wish it had been otherwise.

So, what am I putting in the anthology? I have no idea. Weird moments notwithstanding, this workshop has been wonderful for me. I’ve met some incredible people and I’ve explored my creativity in a variety of new ways, which is exactly what I wanted. I’ve never before had this kind of official space and support for my interdisciplinary endeavors. It’s made me realize how one-sided I felt before, when I was only writing or only drawing/painting. I wouldn’t say that I always need to be working in both image and text, but I believe now that my most authentic creative expression comes from the mix of these — whether that mix happens within a single piece (an illustrated story) or in the process (I paint and write to find my way to the completed work). For me, trying to separate text-making and image-making is forcing an artificial division.

Last summer, when I was at VONA, my mentor Evelina told me there were very few sensory details in the prose I’d written. She pointed to a colorful drawing I’d made, and said, “This is what’s missing from here,” pointing back to my fiction. It made me feel strange, because I knew I had a sharp eye for color and details and senses, and yet she was right — there wasn’t any of that in my writing. I think, now, that that was me having a hard time integrating my brain and my body, and feeling like I had to separate them, so that my writing became very cerebral, and my eye and my physicality got shunted only into other forms of expression. So all the work I’ve done since VONA — the Tisha story, my paintings, and what I’ve written for IWL — has been moving me toward re-integrating all these things. That’s why I’ve been exploring poetry, because it puts my senses and emotions into text, and why I’ve been looking for ways to express thoughts and feelings through my painting. I really don’t know how I’m going to put it all together, but I’m working on it, and I’m confident that good things will continue to emerge.

But this makes it harder to figure out what to put in the anthology, because I feel like I’m only just developing this authentic creative voice; I want to publish something that comes from it, but I’m not sure what. There’s my chickens story, which I like and other people also respond to, but I wrote that in the first three days of the workshop and I haven’t touched it since. I want my anthology piece, if possible, to represent a larger chunk of the journey I’ve made since the workshop began. I don’t know. Writing this out has made me wonder whether I shouldn’t just create an essay, in words and pictures, about what this authentic-voice-finding journey has meant to me. Can I do that within two weeks (during which my sister is getting married and I’m officiating)? It’s an interesting concept, to unfold the story of my reintegration — it speaks to a lot of what we’ve discussed in this workshop: bodies, in-between spaces. I’m thinking handwritten text that includes essaylike prose as well as more present-moment sensory poetry, and drawings and paintings weaving in and out. Hmmmmmm.

If you’ve got any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them!