about

This project began as a novel and I planned that when I finished, I would try to get it published. Sooner than expected, I had trouble getting through those days when the pull to have a beer, go for a run, or clip my toenails was stronger than my urge to write. These end goals, the novel and publishing, were not strong enough to resist the gravitational pull of the rest of the world, and I was in serious danger of just giving up. Instead, I took a break to think more seriously about why people write and for whom. Somewhere along the way, I started writing again and suddenly, I wasn’t sure I was writing a novel anymore and had abandoned my plans to pursue traditional publishing.

I wanted a forum, the kind of venue that encourages thoughtful communication without compromising creativity and innovation, one that you can be proud to participate in because it is done simply because it’s enriching and not because it necessarily leads anywhere. In a time when my experiences feel cast in the shadow of American uber-consumption, a time when it is possible for an un-ironic ad for a lesbian romance zombie novel set in space to appear for 2.99 on my Kindle screensaver, in the era of “starter mansions for entry-level monarchs,” as the environmentalist author Bill McKibben once put it, I find myself wanting a means of transmission that is more democratic, more accessible and less about the self—a venue that brings writing and authors off of their imaginary pedestals and down to street level where all the action is anyway. The Internet, in all its chaos, turns out to be what I was looking for. I prefer to live now as if the world I wish existed were already here, though that might be the verbatim definition of hopeless idealism.

One of my primary aims with this project is innovation, both in form and presentation. I am interested in the fringe of writing (and most things)–that space where almost everything fails, but occasionally, tomorrow’s work is done today. I crave moments like the one in 1903 during one of those first screenings of The Great Train Robbery, when, at the end of the film, a gun was turned directly towards the camera and the audience screamed and ducked behind the seats in front of them because it had never been done before. At the time, it was revolutionary—unthinkable even. Today, it’s a commonly used camera technique and right now, in every field, there are people trying things that are new today, but may or may not become commonplace tomorrow. That’s not to say that you will find anything like that here, but I’d like to be a part of a community that at least tries.

I believe the form of this project lends itself naturally to serial, online release. The passages are brief, not so that they will be conducive to online reading (though that is a convenient consequence), but because it is my stylistic preference to arrive with the main course already prepared and set before you.

The topic is not new: this is a story about women in absentia—women who are in various stages of disappearance. By examining them through the negative space that their absences create (i.e., looking at everything but them), I hope to discover more than direct sight allows. The narrative takes many forms: It is composed of interview transcripts (some fictional, some not), trial transcripts (real), speech transcripts (real), articles (fictional and not), a music file (not mine), traditional omniscient narration scenes, monologues, letters, emails, book reviews, art reviews, chapters from other fictional books, magazine profiles, botanical research, and blogs. I hope that one day, I can record one of the interview transcripts with actors and instead of text, you will have an audio file. I am interested in the intersection of what it real and what is not. While none of this is stylistically or topically new, I hope to cobble together old tricks in order to arrive at a different vantage point. That, to me, is the point of reading: to shift your vision.

I’ve had many conversations with friends recently about the reciprocal and exponential nature of creative thought. I (we) have come to the conclusion that if you get a few people into a space, talking about their ideas, however unrelated (perhaps especially if they are unrelated), their ideas will breed with each other, produce offspring, and everyone will walk away better for it. So, in the end, perhaps that’s really the goal: a ripple effect, the cultivation of environments of creative fertility. In short, share quickly and generously, don’t wait for everything to be printed, sealed, and stamped with formal approval, make yourself vulnerable. Ship now.

Or, as I once said to a neighbor boy when I was five: here’s mine, now show me yours.

–Laura

lauraelainesmith@gmail.com

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