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I had a recurring dream as a teenager, about getting ready for the day. I have worn rigid contact lenses since the age of 13, and when I would sit down in this dream to put them in, I'd open my drawer to find a big, messy collection of contact lens cases. When I'd open the cases, inside I'd find a variety of lenses: different sizes, different colors, and even different numbers of lenses in each matching set. I'd start to panic in my confusion over figuring out which set of lenses was "mine" or "the correct one," and until I figured it out, I'd be effectively blind--and then I'd wake up.

When I was about 16, I created this monster collage, above, with hundreds of magazines and a glue stick. It was one of those artworks I felt compelled to create even though, like my recurring dream about contact lenses, I had no idea what it meant.

In hindsight, it seems pretty obvious. I was trying to figure out my own perspective while growing up in a community full of irreconcilable contradictions. This is how I felt: immensely strange and powerful with the ability to see from a thousand angles at once, but also as vulnerable as a creature made of lidless eyeballs lost in a bleak outer space / deep sea scenario.

As a novelist, I now understand how important it is to hone that ability to see things from different perspectives--and also to have a strong sense of my own views. Gluing down those issues of perspective is essential to forming different fictional characters and a strong narrative voice.

In my 30s, I'm still working on perspective and voice. I expect I'll never be finished.

But! I will be finished with my novel this summer. (That's a pinkie swear.) I have solicited feedback from beta readers, who offered perspectives on my work that I could not imagine from my own proximity to the work (as is true for any creation), compiled the feedback, and written out a plan to rewrite the beginning and revise the rest. This weekend, I dive in.

One change I need to make is choosing a new working title that people can pronounce / remember. So, Matka Danu Miklagarth is henceforth dubbed Hollow Charm.

I am pleased to report that the feedback I have received so far has been surprisingly (to me) positive, and I am also pleased that a couple of my readers didn't hold back and gave me some very useful suggestions to work with.

While I gathered and sorted through beta feedback these past couple of weeks (while hosting family on the theatre / carnival sideshow branch of the tree... OMG...) I also had a hair makeover experience that made a good metaphor for how I'd like my novel revision to go. Behold:

On the left is a "good hair day" before I tried a new thing at the salon. My friends and loved ones like me, so they like my hair the way it springs directly out of my head. It has character and personality. It's wild and free and fun. Okay. That's nice.

On the right is my hair several days later, after I've had a split ends trim, a refreshment of highlights over the grays, and a new air-dry product that defined my curls as I drove home with the windows down. It's still my hair. I still look like me. It still has character and a bit of wildness to it, but now it is, how shall I say... marketable? Like, if I were selling my hair to other people as a wig, would strangers most likely buy wig A or wig B?

More importantly, I feel like my "best hair self" in the second picture. I have preserved the general idea and my vision of myself. I've tried radically different looks in the past--unnatural colors, high-maintenance short cuts, flat-ironed or hot curled styles, etc., and liked them very much, but I didn't feel "like me." This way, I feel put-together enough to be work-appropriate and "done" enough to go out with friends, but the natural personality of my hair hasn't been processed into oblivion.

And that is what I'm setting out to do with my novel, for-now called Hollow Charm. I want to keep it weird and wild and also make it professional and the best that it can be. Here are two articles from Literary Hub that I've been soaking in this week:

"Arundhati Roy: Stories 'Must Not Lose Their Wilderness'" by Siddhartha Deb

 "The Problem of Neoliberal Realism in Contemporary Fiction" by Madeline ffitch


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