New publication alert: “My Body Gossip Column”

“I love my body for how it looks, though women aren’t supposed to say that. I’m not ashamed of my vanity, however. It took years of conscious effort to develop, and requires daily awareness to maintain. Being vain became easier once I viewed it as rebellion against a society that has monetary interest in my self-loathing. You want me to feel ugly and fat and smelly so I will buy your products? Nice try, I’m gorgeous.”

I have a new publication out this month in Proximity magazine (quoted above)! I am pretty excited because Proximity is a publication I admire, not only as a writer, but as an editor. Their “series on race, gender, intersectionality, and literary responsibility” is fantastic. It is the epitome of transparency, honesty, and self-reflection. If you have an interest in lit mags, check it out. Also, check out the issue my piece is in–the theme is inheritance.

I wrote this essay two years ago, in a class called “Writing the Body” taught by Ira Sukrungruang. You might recall my flash piece “The Tooth” also came out of an assignment in that class. Now that I’m graduating, I hope to go through all of my past assignments and notebooks and see what other writing I can revise and send out. I know not all writing needs to be published, but it still makes me happy to see assignments turn into publications.

After this essay was accepted, I reread it for the first time in quite a while, which felt odd. The tone I took in the essay and the way in which I would write about my body now are so different I wondered, is this essay true? I mean, it’s definitely not a lie, and parts of it still apply now, but I don’t wear lipstick very often anymore, and although I am fine with how I look, I don’t feel defiant about it and wouldn’t call myself vain. Plus, my leg and armpit hair is grown out for the first time in my whole adult life, so if I wrote a “Body Gossip Column” now, probably half of it would be dedicated to that. The experience provided a reminder that creative nonfiction (and possibly all nonfiction) is more fluid than we like to think, and very dependent on time as context.

This feels like an important publication for me, partially because it is highly personal and also because it is the first publication I shared on Facebook (feel free to friend me–I created the account to use as a writer). I hadn’t warned any family members about this publication, so I wondered if there would be backlash. My family is rather conservative and in this essay I drop an f-bomb in the first section, then mention both “boobs” and “orgasm” later. So far, the only family member who has contacted me about the publication is my mom, to say that she thinks it is well-written. :)


First Draft Event!

tj murray and jessica thompson
TJ in character as “Kyle” and I host, 1/21. All photos by LaRae Murray.

Although I’ve mentioned First Draft on my blog before, I haven’t gone into detail about what it is. Well, here we go: First Draft is a live lit event that takes place on the third Thursday of each month at Southern Brewing & Winemaking in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. It features readings by notable authors and storytellers, with interactive audience activities in-between. I am a First Draft producer and host.

ira sukrungruang
Ira Sukrungruang reads, 1/21.

We (TJ, Colleen, and I–you might recognize their names from weirderary), began First Draft in my apartment in January of 2015. The goal was to have a couple of trial events at my place then move it to a venue by summer. Life happened, I got busy, deadlines were pushed back, etc., etc., and although we didn’t move First Draft to a venue until two weeks ago, it happened! And now it will keep happening. I’m pretty pumped.

Our first event went well. At least forty-five people showed up! Our readers were Ira Sukrungruang, Tiffany Razzano, K.C. Wolfe, and Erica Dawson. These are all local writers and storytellers. Their readings were fantastic. I was so pleased.

Pretty good-sized crowd for a first show.
Pretty good-sized crowd for our first show in a venue.

I first had the idea to start a live lit event back in 2011. I’d realized I definitely wanted to pursue fiction writing over comedy, but I still wanted to get on stage on a regular basis in some capacity. I did The Moth and a few other storytelling events in Chicago, and attended The Paper Machete, an event they call “a live magazine.”

in the bar
Two audience members participating in a live game based on a story one of them wrote

My initial vision was to create a booked show that featured writers, poets, storytellers, and comedians, with live music somehow interacting with and responding to their readings. I also wanted to have someone sitting on stage acting as a scrivener of sorts, typing up a story based on what was happening. I envisioned this story being projected onto a screen and/or printed and handed out to the audience when they left.

Erica Dawson
Erica Dawson reading never-heard-before poetry.

We aren’t doing any of that, as the activities we’ve come up with arose organically when we discussed things as a group. They are interactive, though, and there is definitely a “live” element to the event. My goal for First Draft is that it will continue on in Tampa after (if?) I leave, and that it will expand to other cities with time, similar to how The Moth takes place across the country. I plan on starting it up again in whatever city I move to next.

Another dream I have for First Draft (that is also similar to The Moth’s path) is that it becomes something that costs money, sells out, and draws long lines of people someday. We will see. :)