"Watchword & Battle-Cry, They're Both the Same"

did they tell you stories about the saints of old
stories about their faith
they say stories like that make a boy grow bold
stories like that make a man walk straight
rich mullins // boy like me, man like you

Like most novels, Plenilune needed an author biography.  I had been putting off writing it: how am I supposed to distil myself into a few pertinent (or impertinent) lines for the reader?  But I finally got the thing written to my satisfaction, all in one take.  It is equal parts bare fact and myself (I am rarely fact).  It is the effect of cumulative causes arising from my pitched wrestle with Plenilune & Co.

If you are a writer, you know how intricately entwined you can be with your writing.  I have long since got past the self-insert stage of scribbling, thank goodness, but I am the giant, great and still, which sits upon the pillow-hill, and sees before her, dale and plain, that pleasant land of Counterpane.  I am still all over and through my novels like lightning across a summer sky and gold in the rock.  Like any writer, I wonder what my readers will do when they wander through the stories and find me there.  I wonder if they will recognize me.  I wonder if they will hear whatever it is my subconsciousness is saying between the lines.  I wonder if they will wake up.

"You show me how splendid I could be and you awaken my aches."
"Good. I think somewhere beneath all the chaos of creating, that is one thing I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to wake up the kettle-drum sound of blood in your ears and put the sunset in your eyes and teach people how to be brave - or foolish - or faithful. Sometimes those things are all rolled up into one."

I am five feet tall and six months pregnant.  I have a voice which no one can hear because it is so small.  I have big brown doe-eyes and I have to make myself not look away shyly when I am trying to communicate verbally.  When you look at me, you do not see the snippets you read on The Penslayer.  But when you read the snippets - and Plenilune - you will be seeing me.  You will hear crack-backed knuckles and the sizzle and rip-tide of lightning; you might see what it is like to have every nerve traced with fire, or feel with it is like trying to hold an atom together and release it at just the right moment.  You might feel what it is like to breathe stardust and feel like you could pick up a mountain and hurl it end-down into the ocean.  You might feel what it is like to be desolate and brave and lost and triumphant all at once, because when I turn myself into whatever energy the written genius is, that is how I feel.

"The gods and demons in their palaces. Lewis writes that you never meet a mere human, and I know that is true. In light of The Princess and Curdie, one meets monsters and deities. Only, one can't always tell which, and people do not realize how splendid they might be, or should be, and don't wear their heritage like tattered gold cloaks. So I do not see the gods and demons of them, only the shabbiness, and I write the palaces in my novels to console my aches."

They say everything hums with the movement of sheer existence, and if you have the right mechanics, you can hear that music.  Whatever I am composed of, it hums inside me like the throat-snarl of a wildcat.  I want others to hear that hum too.  I want them to wake up and grow spines.  I want to patch together the old Gammage Cup cloaks and polish the light in the old Gammage Cup swords, and make us brave, because life wears us down and looks thin and shabby.  I want to light up the rim of the reader's world with apocalyptic fire and feel what I feel when the words come roaring and the wind picks up, and the deceptive shabbiness of the weary soul is scrubbed off like verdigris off precious metal. 

I want to make us bold and brave and steadfast, and not lie to ourselves and say we are not tremendous even while we are small.  That is why Plenilune catches you in the teeth.  I'm not hitting you with my little five-foot frame at the end of a small fist.  Whatever they mean by the halo in the old iconic paintings, whatever Lionel Royer painted into Julius Caesar's face, whatever the heart means when it is torn to shreds by a vicious joy, that is what I hit you with when I write.
man, walk at large out of thy prison

6 ripostes:

  1. I was hoping a post would come out of that. <3

  2. You do, Jenny. You make us bold and brave and steadfast. And you do a dashed good job of it. XD It's easy to say your stories are larger than life, but perhaps that's not so much the case as it is our recognizing the thread of real Life running red as a sunrise through them. Perhaps it's our world that is the fantasy to be lived in for a time and then closed and cast aside in favor of a deeper, brighter Reality.

    "...And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

  3. I wrote a post earlier in the week (although it is not scheduled to be posted yet) about how your readers know you better than do your acquaintances. --- just like the true Jenny is more powerful than she first appears in person. I liked your post, oh, Penslayer. :)

  4. Pardon me, please, for rambling. And pardon me, please, if I cause any offense.

    This is not a reply to this specific post entirely, though this post evoked a relevant feeling. I suppose it is an all-around response to previous posts I have seen here, and your interaction with readers through the comments.

    It is evident that you are highly praised by a close-knit handful of people, which is not a bad thing. To the contrary: encouragement and community are good things, and taken with humility, will produce an artist who is confident enough about their work to present it with delight and without shame, but with enough awareness of its fallibility to refrain from assuming that it will be the best thing everybody has ever read.

    The truth is (as you know), your style will not appeal to everybody, and that is not because other people are wrong. You may hope for people to feel fire and stardust when they read a work of yours; will you accept it with humility if a person reads your work and sets it down with disinterest, looking for a different cup of tea? I know you take pride in finding cadence in the word-packed structure of your sentences; there are those who may find it rich and thrilling, but will you scoff if readers who favor lighter, more delicate prose, are deterred by the heaviness of your work, and see it as distasteful? I see fire and thirst in you, Author, for excellence; but not (forgive me, I know only what is communicated through your blog, and that I might misunderstand) much humility in the pursuit of it.

    There are other posts (http://thepenslayer.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-modern-novel.html || http://thepenslayer.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-title-at-end-of-readers-patience.html) which have reflected back this feeling in me - there seems to be an air of knowing what is Best, and the opinion that you are the most capable of producing it. It is all well and good to have cultivated, and striven to master, the style you are most pleased with: rather, it is the very essence of an effectual writer. And devotion to one's work is essential in getting it done and polished and Out There. But I confess that were I an author, I would shy away from sharing a novel of my own with you, no matter how confident and pleased I was with its outcome--there are other authors with whom I stylistically differ, but whom I trust to honestly acknowledge excellence and effort (or lack thereof) in a style that differs from their own preference. I would not have the same confidence with you-- if I did not emulate to some extent the maturity of your themes and thickly-packed sentences, I would expect you to see a lack of effort and taste, rather than evaluating its merit based upon the style or audience for which it was written.


  5. (cont.)

    That is not to say that books do not fall short in excellence or effort, or that you are not free to be honest in review when such is the case. I suppose I am simply left with the impression that were I to compliment you on your writing, and your heart to speak for you, its response would not be a humbled "thank you", but rather, "I know. My work is brilliant." It is a Proverbs 27:2 sort of feeling, and it is what I am left with after reading much of your blog. I am certain you do not intend this. I have fewer grounds on which to be certain or not certain of whether it is true.

    I am sincerely and deeply sorry if there is anything amiss in sharing these feelings. Books are to be reviewed; but authors are not books, subject to censure and evaluation, and ought not to be treated as such. That is not my intent. But you are public, by nature of being an author, and perhaps it might be clarifying for you to be made aware that some members of the public will be deterred by your opinion of your work and yourself if there is not a counter-balance of humility in your words, to keep self-assurance from being mistaken for conceit, or an affection for your particular style and accomplishment as a superiority above the styles and works of art which other authors have themselves worked hard to cultivate.

    You have my deepest respect, as well as my best wishes for success in your work and growth in your craft. May the publishing of Plenilune be a joyful and rewarding experience. I look forward to purchasing my copy.

  6. A.T. There is a particularly humorous exchange in the show "Firefly" which springs to mind:
    Badger: You think you're better than people!
    Malcolm: Only the people I'm better than.

    I find it an amusing exchange, partly because it highlights the misconceptions surrounding humility. Humility is a silent virtue, and is often most present when least talked about. It is not a retiring, self-deprecating attitude, but an appreciation for where one's station lies, packed in above and below other skills possessed by other people. I know that, as a writer, my current skills rank above some others' - I also frequently point out that I struggle mightily to progress beyond where I am now, and how difficult it is. These are topics to which I often return throughout my posts here on The Penslayer.

    The tone that you are probably picking up from me on my blog is part of that attitude I was talking about in the above post. I have actually be raised with a remarkably teachable spirit. No one likes stubbornness, and although I naturally have that, I know to temper it. However, I am not constantly wracked by self-doubt and I am unwilling to bend from my position until I have been thoroughly disproved. It is healthier that way.

    I can see how one might misinterpret replies to comments such as "I'm glad you liked [whichever snippet or snippets in question.]" It could sound like I mean, "Yes, yes, little peon, I know. I'm brilliant." In fact, I deliberately chose such a response because it can also be interpreted as "I really respect your opinion, and your appreciation of my writing means a lot to me." In my head, "Thank you" has only the first interpretation, of accepting accolades from tiny, adoring crowds; the second phrase has a much more charitable meaning, which is the meaning I intended.

    Assurance and self-importance are sometimes confused. A pride in one's work is never something I will degrade: too often we are wracked by the concern that any piece of art we make is worthless, and I am always happy to see people who are equal parts proud of their work and working hard to become better. These are also topics which I come back to in my blog posts. And there are several years' worth of post back-log on this blog to sift through. I wouldn't do it: I should hope people have more of a life than to waste bucket-loads of time doing that. But if one does take the trouble of getting to know me, I don't suppose I am really that difficult to know. It always baffles me how well my online acquaintances do assess me. They see me here on my blog, on Facebook, occasionally on Twitter, and they know the oddment range of books I read and enjoy from my updates on Goodreads (most of which do no approach my writing style by a league). I am genuinely composed of fire and spice and an aching desire for the strong, naked grandeur of virtue - but I also point out with my tongue in my cheek that I am a little brunette who is very pregnant, a bit of a coward when it comes to many aspects of life, and always, always, always struggling to do better in my writing. You will not hear me talk about humility, because it is a shy virtue and runs as soon as it is mentioned, but you will find it. My brain is a furnace, and the bricks which house it are very fragile.

    “Do we lie when we are only human, and not gods, and bear ourselves up on a thrill of greatness? And what are humans, after all? Should we consider ourselves thoroughly cheated if we happen to find a little of the fool among the gold?” (Plenilune)