Update: With 8 days to spare, we made our goal. Anything else that anyone donates will just enable me to make this project bigger, better, and to reach wider places. I can print more reviewer copies or give out more free copies to schools and the like. Thank you so very much for being a part of 28 Ghosts of 28 Girls. I'm humbled and completely in awe of how this turned out.
The short of it: 28 Ghosts of 28 Girls is a prose-fiction format book containing 28 chapters and over 300 pages. It is the culmination of 15 years of work. In life, I've had some pretty unique experiences--from running around with rockstars to being abused physically and sexually both as a child and as an adult to working in state politics for an important figure. Although those experiences don't make me any better than anyone else, they do give me stories. Each chapter stands as a separate short story. Instead of being given a chapter heading, the chapters follow a day, making chapter titles Year Sixteen, Day Four, and so on. Each of the 28 protagonists in 28 Ghosts has her own story to tell, sad, beautiful, and funny, much like life is.
In the past, I've thought about publishing 28 Ghosts of 28 Girls, but it is so special to me that I wanted to keep it safe. The sum I am asking for is not the whole total I will need to publish this. It is what my own moneys won't match. Printing and pressing a book is not inexpensive. This has been a lifelong dream and pursuit. I recently escaped a city that haunted and hollowed me. In a moment of carpe diem (seize the day), I decided to put this out there and see what I could make happen. If I can help one life be better by the printing of this book, it will have all been worth it. I've spent years doing volunteer work and outreach for people who've shared my experiences. It is my hope that this book takes it to the next proverbial level. Anyone who donates $25 or more will receive a free copy of the book. The more donations I get, the cooler incentives I can offer, too. I'm a handy chick.
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The meat of it: Currently, my piece "Becoming You" is being taught to college freshmen in an English composition class at Southern Methodist University. It occupies its own place in the lesson plan and appears alongside works by Joan Didion, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie, Katherine Ann Porter, and E.M. Forster. This piece gives an idea of my writing voice and is a hint at what might appear in 28 Ghosts (which is mostly autobiographical). A link to it can be found here: http://www.freshyarn.com/37/essays/blackfeather_becoming1.htm
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The long of it: Writing saved my life. No, really, it did. I cannot remember a time when I didn't have an idea in my brain or a book near my hands. They--that is the ephemeral they responsible for all the folktales that we repeat--say the best writers are those who have an appetite for reading. One of the first pictures ever taken of me was on a canopy bed. My golden three-year-old legs peeked beneath the cover of a book. The book was bigger than I was. I didn’t look up and smile for my mother’s camera. I was reading. I had barely mastered speech, but there I was, carefully examining a book. In the time between now and then, I’ve packed suitcases too full because I wanted to have a certain precious book with me in a foreign country, hurt my back from carrying over a thousand books on various cross-country moving expeditions, and even spent countless dollars keeping my collection with me as I roamed from coast to coast. Has it been worth it? The answer is a resounding: YES!
Writing happened as naturally as reading had. In a way, the more I read, the better a writer I became. One absorbs the kind of wide-souled appreciation needed to record the world in written form. I spent my life preparing for the writing craft. I learned from other writers and warmed my hands around the flames of inspiration. You start, in a non-jerky way, noticing the mistakes of other writers and hone your work through the same rigorous editing. While I am not the most perfect writer, I am a writer to the blood. It is what I do. It is who I am. When I am unable to do it, I get antsy and worry about mundane issues like am I fulfilling my potential? I worry, sometimes, that I will die if I don't get to do it; the impulse is that strong in me.
I can give it a poetic history, but in reality, writing kept me alive. When I was five, abuse shattered me. This abuse later repeated itself in sickening patterns that almost became a norm into my adult life. While I struggled with what I think of as a midnight of my spirit, I wrote. Writing offered me a chance to be more than some wicked playground for someone else’s perversions. I couldn’t tell my parents or schoolmates, but I could confide in my diary. I did. I revealed what it was like to be in a world of boys who were regarded better than I was, the longing of a girl just trying to be, and the silhouette in the doorway that meant I’d never be the same again. My writing was never meant to be shared with anyone; survival is no choice to those who really do it. You do what you can to live and die some more.
Then, something happened. I almost was almost killed (another time). I had to learn everything again, from how to go to the grocery store and shop with other people to how to believe in myself again. I couldn't walk so well because I'd been folded like a flower and beaten so many times that my bones and skin were fragile; it was humbling. I started publishing my work. I wanted every person who had ever injured me to see my name and know they hadn’t ruined me; I sought to protect every girl who’d ever stared down the barrel of the gun as I had. For a while, my writing took the form of fiction. Then, funnily, I started writing as, well, me. When I utilized my own first-person voice, my writing received more attention than I was comfortable with. How can one feel proud for surviving when it wasn’t anything magical, just instinct? Sometimes, people attacked me, claiming I’d made it up. I knew that old game, so I didn’t play it for long. "You made it up" is what abusers tell you to keep your mouth closed and what those who want to keep dark things away from them use. I took to the stage and performed my story so that people could look into my eyes and see it was all too real. I learned how to box and fix cars, pour molten metal and mold ceramic bells from clay.
In the time since I’ve been that three-year-old girl on the bed with a book, I’ve lived a lot, some of it tragic, some of it beautiful. I’ve been homeless and celebrated, reviled and rediscovered. I’ve lived at an international community and ran around behind the scenes in state politics. I’ve grown organic food in my backyard and found petroglyphs in Arizona caves. I’ve almost been a mother and been an older-sister figure to countless girls.
28 Ghosts of 28 Girls is the culmination of my journey. Owning one’s story is crucial in becoming an authentic human being. If you think about it, part of the word history contains the word story. 28 Ghosts of 28 Girls is an anthologized collection of my illustrated and written stories. Each chapter represents a girl at a certain age in her life. Instead of Chapter One, the format goes Year 1, Day 148 and so forth. I chose 28 because the menstrual cycle (and the moon and in that, the tides) is often tied to that number. I’ve been trying to make this project happen for 15 years. I finally feel strong enough and free enough, to let it all out. It reminds me of a mixed-media piece I once put together. It was a self-portrait, featuring a girl with a gag over her mouth. A little door covered her voice box on her neck. When the passerby opened the door, butterflies and birds escaped on metal springs. The message was: there are voices in my throat that will be heard, even if my tongue is silenced. There are 28 ghosts of 28 girls and I am every one of them, and in that, I am you, too.
(It needs said that I would be so grateful to make this project a reality. It would change my life and in that, the lives of those around me. Thank you for taking the time to read this and even thinking of donating for a minute. I'm full of gratitude.)
Sure I could hound random friends and acquaintances, but how fruitful would that realy be? Kickstarter knows how important the idea of community is. For the five years I lived at an international community, I saw how a simple network of people with a common interest could change the world for the better. I also like the idea of my project being funded by and benefiting the very people who've always inspired my written and performance work.
28 chapters in prose-fiction format printed and illustrated. Each chapter contains a story of a different girl that I've been through the course of my life. Chapter 15 is a girl at 15, etc. These stories are told in different narrative voices; sometimes first (I, me), sometimes second (you), and of course, third (she, they). In that sense, the story could be anyone's. It's not about the storyteller (me), so much as how these stories are universal.
The $6,000 is for the printing, pressing, and binding of the books. That is a costly process and $6,000 is a lower estimate for those costs. I'm actually going to be kicking in a lump of my own money as well. I'm in awe of how many people have been responding.
And why not go through a publishing company? In the past, I've had offers, but always felt that signing with one would be a bit like indentured servitude these days. Contracts are not in the benefit of the artists. In the 20s and 30s a great many jazz musicians died penniless and homeless because record contracts negotiated royalties for their talents away from them. Because this project is such a culmination of life-work, I don't want just anyone to handle it and I certainly don't want to be contracted to make more pieces for a company on the basis of it. In short, I want to do it my way and every girl has that right.
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