Here I am.
Writing for you.
It may come as a surprise, but not to me. I’ve been writing for you for twenty-plus years. You just never knew until this very moment.
Let me explain.
After work and supper and dishes and ball practice and bath and bedtime stories, I wrote. Turning my attention from the outer-world to that inner one that can feel just as real in many ways. I’ve crafted entire towns, flowing rivers, dirt roads and a dying planet. Created sons and daughters and punks and patriarchs. Children, dogs, and even a few redemption-seeking revenants. Dealt out unbearable pain, guilt and shame like some slick-haired poker dealer at a high stakes table.
All the while, salvaging constructive criticism from countless rejections and pressing on. Writing and writing and writing, with only my deep appreciation of my literary icons to guide me.
From Faulkner, I learned the power of raw, unrestrained emotion. Welty, Portis, and Steinbeck were generous and gentle, endowing even the most humble character a grace and beauty often overlooked in those less fortunate. Capote made me aware of the importance of a well-crafted sentence and a subtle sensitivity to subject. My girl, Flannery O’Conner, taught me to be fearless. And it was the grand dame, Toni Morrison, who laid before me the blueprint of how to construct a perfect novel with Beloved.
There have been others, whose purpose it seemed was to teach me the craft of writing when there was no one else. So I kept at it, and after a number of years journeyed out of my writing hole and into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, unsure of myself and my work. I was plagued by doubt. Writing is a solitary experience and so it must be. But I had reached a point where I wanted to know if I was progressing on the right track. I was and am and now have three novels and a collection of short stories to show for it.
But how could you know all that, when even the overwhelming majority of my family, friends, and coworkers had no idea these stories existed? Or that I was responsible?
You see, I have been holding my cards close to my chest. But the time has come to lay them all on the table and publish my work to the wide world.
Only, it is not an easy thing for me to reveal my work or myself. I prefer to hide beneath fictitious plots and characters. Reveling in the anonymity fiction offers, I take great pride in not writing about my life or the lives of those around me.
And yet, when reviewing my work, my fears and idiosyncrasies flash before my eyes like some tawdry liquor store neon sign that cannot be ignored: Sarah Jane’s consuming need to run and hide in Rooted, Chigger’s overwhelming feelings of inadequacy in Cursed! My Devastatingly Brilliant Campaign To Save The Chigg, and Molasses’ desperate need to belong in Headshots.
There’s no denying where the pain and shame and guilt I’ve dealt my characters comes from:
And don’t get me started on salvation. All my characters need to be saved and saved badly.
Not from disasters or monsters or political upheaval, but from themselves. Crippled by fear and doubt and failure, these poor souls are incapable of rising above the black pit of their existence. A helping hand, mortal or divine, is required to pull these desperate characters up for air and a glimpse at a hopeful, yet far-off horizon.
This theme of salvation is troublesome and embarrassing. It begs the question: am I in need of saving? I don’t think so. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if I too am in some dark pit of my own making, hiding beneath my fictions, ignorant of my surroundings.
These questions slip through my mind: mischievous ghosts in a haunted house.
I’ve been living with these ghosts for quite a while, giving them wide berth and avoiding confrontation at all costs. But these tactics can no longer work and I can no longer hide beneath my fictions. Not with my work published for all to see.
But then it occurs to me. We have all needed to run and hide. Have all felt inadequate. We all know the need to belong, just as we have all felt pain and shame and guilt.
And who has not needed a little saving from time to time?
Perhaps what I lay claim to between the lines on the pages belongs to you as much as me.
This thought gives me heart. And heart is what I need if I am to lay my cards on the table.
What will happen with my work and how will you receive it? I have no answers for this, only long-held hopes. And what it all means for me I cannot know. All I can do in this moment of revelation is put my cards before you and say:
Here I am.
IDABEL ALLEN serves up the best in new home-cooked Southern Literature in the tradition of Eudora Welty, Charles Portis, William Faulkner and Flannery O’Conner. First and foremost a storyteller, Idabel‘s books are grounded in the same character-driven reality that holds the reader’s attention long after the story is finished. Idabel attended the Iowa Writer’s Workshop Fiction program and is the author of Rooted, Headshots, and. Cursed! My Devastatingly Brilliant Campaign To Save the Chigg.
Idabel loves to connect with readers, so feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Working his lifetime to bury a shameful past and restore the family name, Grover McQuiston rules the town of Moonsock, Tennessee and his family with an iron fist. Or he did, until his eerily skittish tomboy of a granddaughter, Sarah Jane, scandalizes the entire town. Before Grover can force Sarah Jane to marry, blue-haired, strung-out punk Slade Mortimer crash lands in Moonsock in a stolen car, claiming to be Grover’s long-lost grandson and seeking an inheritance. When Slade’s presence resurrects questions regarding his mother’s mysterious disappearance years before, it seems things couldn’t get any worse.
Then Grover’s wife, Eleanor, dies. And in those flat delta fields, Grover learns nothing, absolutely nothing stays buried forever. As the McQuistons prepare for a most unusual funeral, they must account for their past sins: Grover, whose darkest secrets are about to become unearthed. Reclusive Sarah Jane, who hides deep literary talents and deeper scars. And Slade, running from the memory of his dead girlfriend and her vengeful father, seeking the legacy he never knew he possessed—and discovering the family he never knew he needed.
Sweeping from the grime of the 70’s New York City punk scene to the truck-scarred roads of rural Tennessee, this evocative, wry, and beautifully-written novel captures the grit of Southern storytelling at its finest while also launching a fresh, unique new voice.
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- Here I Am. Writing For You. - Idabel Allen | August 27, 2017