Welcome to Behind the Story -- a ‘behind the scenes’ series of blog posts that give you the inside scoop on my the stories and other written works I’ve had published. I’ll be starting with the oldest and moving forward through time.
In the Eye of the Beholder, published in 2011 by Outrageous Fortune.
When I attended Susquehanna University and majored in creative writing, the major required that we not just study our preferred form of writing. (My perferfer form is -- gasp, surprise -- fiction.) The poets couldn’t just study poetry, and so forth. We all had to take introductory courses in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. And, no, before you ask, “creative nonfiction” does not mean lying. It means the forms of nonfiction unlike say history textbooks, journalism, or the cooking instructions on a macaroni and cheese box. It means the forms of nonfiction that use the techniques of creative writing: imagery, scene-setting, pretty prose, and so forth. In the the introductory class, the three forms of creative nonfiction we studied were memoir, personal essay, and literary journalism. When it came to taking an advanced level course, I pursued the class focusing on personal essays, the one of the three I most preferred while not really preferring nonfiction-writing that much at all.
I am a shy, private, and sensitive person. I’m really not all that interested in telling people all about my life and my problems. I find it really hard to brag. Anyone who's followed me on any sort of my personal social media would know my posts are few and far between. I’m basically the opposite of this blogpost. Writing this is not in my nature.
If in case you are asking “wtf is a personal essay?” Well… if you’ve read many articles online, you’ve probably read one. It’s a blend of memoir and essay, integrating personal/ autobiographical story and also outside facts and also having an opinion or coming to a conclusion at the end of it.
In my Advanced Creative Nonfiction: Personal Essay class, I wrote the only piece of nonfiction I’ve ever written that contained any salt of quality, and it also changed my life.
That personal essay was: “In the Eye of the Beholder.” It was published in 2011 in Volume 2.2 of Outrageous Fortune, a literary magazine of undergraduate work edited by undergraduates. As you might be able to deduce from the title, it is an essay about beauty. Also self image, self esteem, and how that is all internalized, all set around the stretch of time I was serving as a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding. If you want to know more, you can go read it.
Now it’s time for me to take a big breath.
So, yeah, writing “In the Eye of Beholder” changed my life.
Now, a lot of things I’ve read and many a things I’ve written have changed me in small ways, however, many of them were changes in regards to my writing life, my creativity, or my writing career.
The work of writing “In the Eye of the Beholder” and the amount of introspection and digging deep it required of me served as the fall of the butterfly wing that makes a tsunami of personal growth.
A few months after writing “Beholder” I looked in the mirror and I saw a different person. Like the shape and size of my body looked different to me than it had been in mind’s eye, that it had been the day before. Nothing about me had changed physically between the writing and that moment, but my perspective of myself and my body had changed so much. I’m sure if I can quiet illustrate the reality. Growing up as an overweight child and teenager in a time were slender and skinny were the major standards of beauty being reinforced by society, having internalized this, having many of my other issues tangled together with my body image issues. While I had become more slender in my college years, all that internalized negativity didn’t go away just because I had made hitting the gym into a habit, or that I had gone down from a 14 to a 12 pants size.
That moment wasn’t a destination, just part of a journey that I am still on that has overcome many hurdles.
When I go back and skim “Beholder” now, some clunky turns of phrase want to be to pull out my metaphorical editors pen. Even more, what I find is a time capsule of perspective from my 20 year old self, and it’s like reading my own diary. So that’s the story not just behind “In the Eye of the Beholder” but after it and around it and all the way to now.
Insights from the life of an aspiring, struggling writer; a passionate reader, and a working librarian.
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