Well, kiddo, you’re not going to die happy if you don’t at least take a run at it. An early morning thought. I’d been avoiding writing a novel version of the short story “In the Land of Two-Legged Women,” which had been critiqued in an afternoon Master Class taught by Margaret Atwood at the 92nd St Y in New York. Atwood said she thought it could be a novel and movie. My god! Atwood said that? Time to get to work.
Many years later I woke up with the get-on-with-it kiddo thought. The story takes place in the city state of Ramprend and it is not a good place for women and girls. I DID NOT WANT TO GO INTO THAT WORLD AGAIN. I survived it for a short story but a novel length of time in Ramprend was downright terrifying. I feared what happened in Ramprend would not stay in Ramprend and I would become completely freaky. I could envision myself—
• not leaving home due to being too depressed to communicate with real people
• going out with people but saying nothing; just staring at them with haunted eyes and making them nervous, and possibly depressed
• not inviting anyone into my home because I’d be too depressed to clean it up, and cooking would not be possible. I’d live on crackers and butter. And tequila.
I know there’s a pathetic reaching for humor above, something to take the edge off fear, but I was feeling honest to god fear about what might happen to me. Weird but it was there, producing years of avoidance. I even used getting another degree as a dodge. Wrote another novel for my dissertation.
There was also something else going on. Writing about something and actually doing it are not the same. However, there are actions a writer might not want to be associated with. We all live with inner critics. Mine would scream at me, “How could you imagine such things? What will people think of you?” The story’s theme is dealing with a gender system, and as said above, one not good for females. All kinds of assumptions would be made about the writer. All kinds of actions could be tried against the work and its writer. Social media didn’t exist when I was going through this. If it had and I got the novel published, I would not have been surprised at death threats, given the pathetic limp teenie weenie guys who hang out on the internet. Note: my primary critiquer, Dr. Robert Ready, said, “I hope someone has the guts to publish it.”
Thinking about being on my death bed feeling like a damned coward drove me to my Mac. I found I could enter Ramprend everyday, then step back into my world where I didn’t have to exist alone on crackers, butter, and tequila. I got through it. I wrote the scary thing. After a long, very long, search Inanna Publications had the guts to publish it. Thank you, Inanna.
I’ve made my peace, more or less, with being able to imagine and write what I did. Actually I’ve gone further, darker, and am planning on continuing to do so. I’m glad I got off the coward path, even though I do scare myself from time to time.
- Huey Helene Alcaro, author of In the Land of Two-Legged Women