Everyone welcome David over here to the Den.
Hello everybody in BlogLand! I'm David Sklar, author of Shadow of the Antlered Bird from Drollerie Press and coeditor (with my friend and colleague Sarah Avery of the anthology Trafficking in Magic/Magicking in Traffic , for which submissions are still open until February 28th.
This month's blog tour crept up on me, in part because I've been busy, in part because the date was changed (because of people's schedule conflicts), and in part because I've been dreading writing this post. See, this month's topic, aside from a general introduction of oneself to new readers, is one's worst experience with a work in progress, and I'm afraid my worst experience with a work in progress may well be the worst thing I've ever done to another human being.
It was almost 2 decades ago, and I was a summer student at the Naropa Institute's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. And I believed, then, that the work of a writer took precedence over everything, including one's own comfort, including basic human decency.
I was walking into a reading I didn't care much about, when I saw someone I kind of knew walking out, with a distressed look on her face. I asked what was bothering her, and she took me out back and told me in extensive detail about her experience being acquaintance-raped, the night before, by a friend of a friend.
A couple days later, I ran into her again, and she thanked me for being there for her, and told me she'd written a poem about it. I told her I had too. She told me that her poem made a great deal of the moment at the end when I handed her a rock from the ground and told her to throw it in Boulder Creek. I didn't tell her about the focus of my poem, which was about the sensual intimacy of shared secrets, even when circumstances make sensual intimacy entirely inappropriate.
A while later, the program had a works-in-progress reading. I thought about asking before I read this story, but it seemed an empty gesture--that is, if I asked permission and she gave it, then she still wouldn't know what she was in for, what the story was really about. And at the time I didn't know how to explain it.
So without warning, I performed, before a live audience, my account of trying to hide my arousal while a woman told me about her rape. Not because the rape itself was erotic, but because the tenderness, the intimate moment of the telling, made it hard to stay away.
The crowd loved it, but I lost some friends. Deserved to, too.
I still value my craft above my own comfort; if I didn't, I wouldn't be telling this story now. But violating another person that way--even if it was only with words, I don't know how I ever believed I could justify that, even half my life ago.
My stories are still sometimes shocking. Not that I write for shock value, but when you look for insights a person wouldn't expect, sometimes what you find is dark, unpleasant, and shocking. Sometimes my stories deal with the worst in people, sometimes the best. But these days my characters live inside my head, and their public humiliation, if the story requires it, really is mine to give.
Doesn't justify what I did 20 years ago, but it lets me continue writing now.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
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WOW! What an incredibly brave post. I'm glad to hear you grew from experience of taking your work to the edge of the comfort zone. Sometimes, one can only learn by pushing the envelope. I learned something about my own process from your words.
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