Lynn Beighley: Your description for the Shred the Safehouse group states that you are “Looking for writing with rawness. Raw energy, raw emotions, raw experience. No holding back.” I’m intrigued by the idea of giving people a place to write things they normally wouldn’t. What stops us, do you think? How do your group and your site give writers this safe zone?
Felicia Lear: I have met a few writers who enjoy writing fiction based off their lives instead of just claiming it. I think what stops people from writing like this is that they want to disassociate themselves perhaps or they don’t want people to know such personal details. Our site gives people the opportunity to “fess up” and write about actual experiences and feelings that are true to them. Almost like a public diary but under the guise of beautiful works built out of words.
Lynn Beighley: Can you tell us about something from your own life and how it manifested in your writing? Did writing about it change the way you felt about or viewed the event?
Felicia Lear: While there are several examples I could use, I will use one of the most recent. First, some background. At age 19 I met and fell in love with a boy who helped me pick up the pieces of myself that I had broken off through a period of self-destruction. After a two year relationship, a breakup, and four years of silence between us, we reconnected as friends in the beginning of 2010. Ten months later, he entered the hospital and never came out again. Most of the more recent pieces I have written have been about his death and how it affected me as if we were still connected on a much deeper level. I write about his untimely death, the hospital, and my mixed emotions of love and guilt that I’ve carried around these last 11 months.
Writing about this instead of specifically talking about it (as I just did, which sounded kind of whiny to me) has helped to lighten my shame for the silence and my resentment that had kept us from having a longer friendship. Constructing words around the events has helped me realize the truth of the matter (that he’s dead and never coming back) and, while I am still not over the death itself, the words I find in the tragedy (cliché I know) help me to heal a little more each time.
Here is one of the poems off of fictionaut: “No title.”
Lynn Beighley: Why do you think other venues shy away from this kind of writing?
Felicia Lear: What I see nowadays is a lot of push towards fiction. I’m all right with fiction, I love several works from several writers, not only from Fictionaut but throughout the internet community. I don’t think that other venues necessarily shy away from this type of writing but I think that sometimes when you are writing about your raw emotions and experiences, it can sound like perhaps whining or ranting. No one wants to read that generally so the push for fiction is there. I also think that there is a school of thought in writing that if you can make up stories and poems about people and things that don’t exist and didn’t happen, that somehow makes you a better writer.
Lynn Beighley: Does writing “outside the safehouse” lead to more of a memoir style? Is there room for pure fiction?
Felicia Lear: While being outside of the safehouse can get the “memoir-y” feel at times, we are open to fiction as well. People often use fiction to put themselves (or their characters) in places that they might see themselves someday or maybe it is an emotion or an experience they worry could occur to them. I don’t know some of our submitters personally so their works could be fiction for all I know but they approach it like it’s real life and it’s raw and oh so real to the reader regardless. ( I don’t make them sign anything saying it’s fact or not, that’s left to the discretion of the writer of course).
Lynn Beighley: You say, “One of the pieces that is a clear demonstration of what we are looking for is Misti Rainwaters-Lites’ “Checking in,'” quoted here:
“Maude” is on the suspended television.
There are cracks in the leather chairs.
This house is made of bricks.
I’ve got candy bars in my purse,
farewell get well soon gifts from my husband.
He sits beside me reading one of his Mars books.
I keep apologizing.
He has to work in the morning.
“It isn’t right. You’ve done all the work,” I tell him.
He has done most of the work
these six long years.
I have slept painted written writhed
played the role of broken bitch
well beyond the fix of steadfast love.
A dead audience laughs at Chrissy Snow.
I tell the counselor I keep thinking of the oven.
He looks like my first husband, bland and pretty.
He’s of no use.
There’s a commercial for a new kitchen time saver.
The skinny teenager on the couch mutters his disgust.
“Peeling eggs is the best part of Thanksgiving!”
At some point, probably during “The Ropers,”
I start sobbing.
I want to leave.
I’m sorry for my husband.
Sorry for the hours.
Sorry for everything I am and will continue to be.
I want sex, fresh sex, the easy fix
as substantive as cotton candy
on the tongue.
Only in the throes of orgasm
am I less me more it.
Meat. Plant. Divine.
I cannot even kiss my husband.
I do not miss his snuggle.
He pats my back, tells me I’ll feel better soon.
Then “Sanford and Son” comes on
and I laugh out loud against my wishes.
This used to be our show.
Lynn Beighley: Can you tell us about what works for you in this piece?
Felicia Lear: Well, if anyone has ever read ANY of Misti’s works, she’s something special. The poem that she wrote was not only real but it made you feel without having to point out emotions in words. I enjoy pieces that drag me through the lines so that I’m holding my breath till the end. Her honesty to herself and how she feels shines through each line and, in my opinion, leaves the reader able to connect while still being able to distinguish Misti’s view point from what they feel or think of when they read that particular poem.
Lynn Beighley: It seems to me as though shorter forms are more suited to intense
expressions of human emotion. Has this been your experience?
Felicia Lear: This has definitely been my experience. I think often a skeleton of grounded words works awesome when writing these types of raw pieces (not that we would ever turn away longer pieces). I just think spurts of experience and emotion weigh in on the actual humanity of a piece.
Lynn Beighley: What authors do you admire for their ability to express themselves
with raw emotion?
Felicia Lear: Eli Coppola and Michelle Tea have been two of my favorites since my younger years. The way they confess things that others would never confront has always been an inspiration to me. It’s 2011 nowadays and everyone has a blog and tells everyone everything in the internet world but what I like to see is eloquent words telling of real life issues (hold the whining please – but if you must, you must!).
Lynn Beighley: How would you like to see your website, shredthesafehouse.com, evolve?
Felicia Lear: I want it to evolve slowly. Thus far we haven’t sent any one rejections and we mostly solicit poems and such from people at this time. I want people to use the site more as a tool for confessional type poetry and I want to see confessional poetry become more prominent than it has been so far this century.
Lynn Beighley is a fiction writer stuck in a technical book writer’s body. Her stories often involve deeply flawed characters and the unsatisfying meshing of the virtual and actual world. You can find more of her work at Fictionaut and on Twitter as @lynnbeighley.