Friday, March 4, 2011

Readers, Writers, Relationships and my Long-Time Love, Stephen King

My favorite writer of all time is Stephen King. I've read everything the man has penned and made public, including the initial draft of Under the Dome which was at some point posted as a pdf on his site.

I'm not saying that he hasn't written books I did not enjoy - he has. He even introduced me to the fear that as you become more famous, fewer editors will actually *edit* your work. But I think of Stephen and I as a long-term relationship. We've been together for decades. He has some quirks that annoy me. Sometimes his books snore and keep me awake, or fall asleep when I'm ready for some hot action. Sometimes they take me out to an expensive dinner and we hit a show before they take me back home to ravish me. But I know and appreciate the rhythms of his work. He is a hell of a storyteller, which I admire and envy. And though I couldn't tell you much about his life (Maine, car wreck, addiction, thick glasses, Tabitha-wife...that's about it), I know the man's writerly voice. In every single book, he talks. While I thoroughly enjoyed Full Dark, No Stars, my favorite part of the collection was the end, where he wrote an extended essay/letter to the reader. I remember as a kid hitting the first "Dear Reader" section in one of his books, and feeling flattered that the writer would care enough to talk to me outside his story - that has never diminished for me. I still find it flattering. I find it *cozy*.

I want to be a writer like that - one my readers want to talk to in cozy-fashion once the story is all told and there's nothing left to do but talk. Right now my blog is my way of doing this, until I beguile some press into letting me Afterword something.

Though my work is not yet as much of a life timeline as King's (may the muses be kind and make it so!), looking back on my own work, I am always surprised at how much of me you can truly come to know through my writing, though I haven't Dear Reader-ed anyone. You can come to know me through my poetry - I look back on God In My Throat: The Lilith Poems (Bellowing Ark, 2009) and am still surprised how hurt, angry and defiant I was when I wrote it, how angry at God; that piece of me still exists, and flares every once in awhile. These Terrible Sacraments (Bellowing Ark, 2010) is still new enough that reading it in printed-book-form still surprises me. It brings back both the stark terror and the constant low-level fear I felt when my brother was stationed abroad, and surprises me with my current complacency. Knowing that others are still feeling this every day for their loved ones makes me feel lazy that I haven't kept that concern fanned in my own heart. Coming to my own work as a reader surprises me, once I let go of the "wish-I-made-that-edit" feeling.

When I do get to read The Kentucky Vein in April (Punkin House, 2011), I'm sure I will be surprised again at which piece of myself fell out onto paper. (Reading your own book in print is always very different from reading it as a word processing document - at least that has been the case for me. Do other writers feel the same?) This one is an exploration of things that grow, things that die, of fresh-air things and homestyle things, of things looking for a home. Yet another facet of the "me" that has accumulated over the years, and I can't wait to see it.

If you want more autobiographical material, you can find it in my creative non-fiction work, like my essay "I Wonder If He Felt Me Write Him Dead" in issue 14 of damselfly press, or my chapters in Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages which discuss my health (thankfully good, now) and my career choice. Non-fiction always seems so much more naked, though. I rarely write it with an intent to publish it, though it does happen. Or you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Friendfeed, on my blogs, or by email for my day-today banalities. None of it really as satisfying as what King has done, I think, all rolled up into the experience of the book itself.

In any case, I hope for and look forward to a writing career in which I can make the sort of long-term connection with my readers that King has made with his. I want that sort of connection. I want to be un-self-conscious enough to throw on my writerly pajamas and just hang out with my own Dear Readers. Anybody have any Bailey's to throw in the hot cocoa?

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