© 2016 Karissa Chen all rights reserved.

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[ p e r m i s s i o n ]

December 05

2011

A long time ago, try six years ago, I attempted to write a novel for the first time.  I wrote pages of broken thoughts and memories from the point of view of a surgeon who couldn't forget his first love.  These were interspersed with other points of view, from his daughter, now grown, from the diary of the girl he loved but had never forgotten.  But the pages that came the easiest were the ramblings of the surgeon.  They were brief sections, and I found myself page breaking often, making room for where the other sections "should" be, just so I could go back to the surgeon again.

This was before I knew I was allowed to write stories in unconventional ways.

Over the years, I have referred back to this project over and over again.  I've written openings for school exercises.  I've written stories from different points of view.  It's something I go to when I've been away from it long enough, enough distance to make the project seem worthy of attacking again from a new perspective.

This past spring, I began working on a short story made up of bits of thoughts.  I decided that I was done trying to write stories in a traditional linear narrative fashion.  I looked at my blog posts and I began to see that my natural way of writing was often in short snippets, dense moments of thought and scene, not necessarily a linear drive.  My mind didn't work that way most of the time, so neither did my writing.  By this point I'd been reading many books I hadn't when I first started this novel all those years ago.  There was Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red, Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Colum McCann's Dancer and Let the Great World Spin, and so much poetry -- and all of this was influencing me. I began to see that there were works out there that did the things that felt natural to me too.  And I decided I wanted to try something different.

A story of the surgeon arose out of my attempts to revive this project.  I started to write a few others, but mostly those have remained unfinished for now.  This story was difficult for me to write.  It involved writing bits and moving them around over and over again until it came together the way it was supposed to.  But it was an important story for me.  It showed me I could write in a different way and make it work.  It was the first time I gave myself permission to write the way that felt right to me.  And then there was the fact that the story's themes of memory, regret, guilt and fatherhood felt close to me.

Permission.  This is something we all have to learn to give ourselves as writers, I think.  I think constantly about these other works that "gave me permission".  I number them among the most important influences to me.  They showed me what could be done.  They gave me permission to explore and find myself as a writer.

In June, my teacher and friend, Nelly Reifler, a wonderful writer in her own right, asked me to read at her reading series in Park Slope.  I read this story (the videos of which are posted in the videos section), which I ended up titling "Little Birds".  A few weeks later, Le Chat Noir contacted me and asked me to place this story in their fiction anthology, Drinking With Papa Legba.  This book comes out on December 10, and to celebrate, they're having a book launch and reading at KGB Bar at 7 PM.  Yours truly will be reading this story.  Please come and have a drink with me, and hear me read a story immensely important to me.

 

** KGB is located at 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Ave.  The event is from 7-9 PM.  Please check the Facebook invite for more details!

 

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