An Imperative Risk

by Bernadette Murphy

We sit at our little desks, maybe sipping a café au lait, staring at a screen. Often, we peer out at a world we hold at arm’s length, maybe through bespectacled eyes, always the outsider, the observer, the one on the periphery. To passersby, we appear the portrait of calm and ease. We’re writers, the nerdiest of nerds, the opposite of the REI adventurer, the wimpiest of wimps.
Or maybe not.

Red Smith famously said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” I tend to agree with Smith and believe that the work of a writer, when done well, is as risky as any extreme sport I can name — and requires the same kind of bravery and courage that all perilous adventures do. Maybe even more so. Continue reading

Why Write About the Hardest Things

by Antonia Crane

My mom’s aggressive cancer returned the same week I got into an MFA program for writing— a terrible idea considering the recession of 2008. Mom insisted I “Get that degree!” so I enrolled even though I had no way to pay for it. I’d lost my personal assistant job, and my sugar-daddy-once-removed, a stout, Mexican man who was missing part of his thumb, suddenly disappeared for good.

A few weeks into grad school, I drove up the California coast to Humboldt where redwoods cast long shadows and the icy ocean raged silently while I euthanized my mother. I immediately plunged back into sex work. There’s no pamphlet on how to keep showing up for class when your favorite person dies. It’s like waking up without arms or feet. I floated in the fog of her absence and I wrote about her frail limbs and her moans of pain when I took her off the morphine for a few hours those final days. I wrote about her peeing the bed. Spilling milk on the floor. Choking on water. I wrote about her writing her own obituary and her cobalt blue vases filled with her orange azaleas. I wrote about meeting men in motels off the 405 to jack them off—how I was usually one hand job away from being homeless. I wrote about my mom’s feeding tube and her pastel fuzzy socks I slid off her feet before they took her body away. In my mind and on the page, my mom’s dying body merged with mine going through the motions of sex work. I couldn’t separate the two because they were braided in my mind. I kept Cheryl Strayed’s essay “The Love of My Life” (The Sun, # 321) close at hand because it gave me permission to write about my specific raging body grief and how I hurled my pussy at the world and dared it to keep me safe. Continue reading