All These Possibilities: An Artist Statement

For the past year, I've been hopping around the internet and in-person events, sharing my book and describing my work as "kickass literary media." It occurred to me a while ago that, perhaps, people don't know what that means, so I thought I should talk a little bit more explicitly about my work and this genre:

Some writers have a genre. They know that genre, they write in that genre, they know who their audience is, their audience know who they are, and they can recognize the books they love with some cues from the cover and title.

I'm not one of those writers, mainly because I'm not one of those readers.

My tastes are pretty eclectic: I read literary fiction and short stories, but also manga and comics. I can devour memoirs and non-fiction and thrillers and contemporary YA in a single sitting. I typically keep away from the classics, but I'm fascinated by modern re-imaginings of mythology and archetypal themes. I enjoy the surreal and the strange, but don't typically read high fantasy or hard sci-fi. I read megabooks and novellas and minibooks but rarely *get* poetry. Sometimes I ditch books altogether and lose myself in some of the amazing TV that is being offered these days.

I've always loved comparing books to their movie adaptations or movies to their original comics, and seeing how different types of media can lend itself to a story. I also have a particular penchant for experimental or unconventional formats: books that use typography or offer bonus material--a soundtrack, an art book, offerings that reach beyond the text to give the reader a deeper understanding of the story.

I love it when books become Objects or Experiences. 

My approach to writing is a reflection of my tastes as a reader. My training as a storyteller was interdisciplinary: I studied theatre and film and photography in high school. I didn't start digging into the craft of writing until I got to college, and even then I was focusing on experimental novels and post-modern literature. After I graduated, I got part time jobs teaching comics and manga, which helped me pay the bills as I started working on my manuscripts.

Even though my background and interests seem a little all over the place, there are actually some central themes across all of what I write/what I read/what I've learned/where I'm going next:

I write about things that are pretty basic: friendship, love, post-adolescent angst (I recently read that term in a review about Bryan Lee O'Malley, and think that describes my interests, too). I write about changes. I write about grief. I write about family--my own family, in particular. I write about cross-cultural and mixed-race experiences. And, perhaps because of my own cross-cultural and mixed-race experiences, I always look for the exceptions to the rules, the ways ideas can blend, or how conventions can be applied in unexpected ways.

My primary interest is in how a reader interacts with a story, what kind of experience a story can offer, and the connections I can forge with the reader by using the story as some sort of conduit. Whenever I approach a story--whether it's something I'm writing or reading or watching--I am always asking: What are the rules? Why are they there? Can we break them? If we can't, then what compromises can we make to serve the story and the audience?

That flow from the creator to the work to the audience, and the rules or breaking of the rules between them, is what fascinates me.

It always has.

Even when I was a kid, I knew that I didn't just want to write books, I wanted to write everything.

I wanted to explore all these possibilities.

And that is what I've been doing for the past 20 years.

Calling my work "literary media" is my way of saying that this has always been an experiment--the themes of my stories, the structure of my books, and the way I deliver them might not always fit in the standard. It's my way of saying that my work is beyond the book: it's also the events I host and the collaborations I create with other artists and writers. It's an acknowledgement that words are gateways, they are bridges, and they are mirrors. It's a disclaimer that, another year or five or ten from now, the way I define my work may change. Literary media means that, at the end of the day, the most meaningful part of this job is the connection between us, and the worlds we can create together.   

 

 

Next week, I'll be talking about these notions at the My Transmedia Life panel at WorldCon--if you're attending the con, come by and check it out! I have been sharing some examples of transmedia and experimental work on Instagram and Facebook.