So, my years in Too Much Light…, I would begin every writing day with a list of eight titles. Just the titles. I would number my blank sheet of paper one through eight, and then I would fill in eight corresponding titles. The pressure was so painful and the task so insurmountable, but if I could just write a list of eight titles, then maybe, God willing, at least three plays would emerge from the list of titles. Every week I’d aim for three out of eight.
“There is no dignity in appetites. That blanched pathetic look at salad bars, those scramblers for some endless consumption I am no exception.” –Lorrie Moore
Now I begin my writing days with quotes. I read until I find a sentence I like, and then I copy it word for word just to see how it feels. And then I write my title:
How to Bake a Pie, by Jessica Anne
Begins just like a short story by Lorrie Moore. In the middle of a scene of protesters protesting and marching in pink arm bands and comfortable pants. The filling (Apple) is a sweet, cunning, tantalizing dialogue that snips off the page neat as a sheet on the head of a horse. Ends melancholy, suddenly. On the edge of a cliff. Goodbye.
My last project was written in the second person as a set of instructions, so on the page it is numbered. But, I never say the numbers out loud during readings. It messes up my flow. I wonder if Maggie Nelson reads her numbers out loud.
Preheat oven to 900°
I was at a reading recently in Wicker Park that featured a conversation between a famous writer I had never heard of and a famous writer I had met once. And the writer I had never heard of performed her reading in the seated position in a wing back chair in a cute dress. And I stared at her triangle of darkness while she read from the voice of a female narrator acting as caretaker to her father and her father’s dementia. There’s something to that.
This is going to use up all of your energy. Here you are again. You. In the kitchen on the anniversary of our great nation’s nativity. You are in the women’s prison. Baking. You read somewhere north of scripture and south of C.S. Lewis that you had a strong desire to serve. To fill the home with the stench of burning sugar. You need to exist in a nice place somewhere below the men and above the children. Offering up your labors of love. Gifting your crumbs to the tiny bastards and the destitute babies and the differently abled non binary basically bitches. You are a white girl naked save for an apron and the strings of her IUD. Wearing your night guard in the middle of the day so that you don’t speak too much. Don’t speak. Do as you're told.
I like the use of the litany in literature because it puts me in the minds and triangles of all these famous writers. It’s like meta writing. You get to see the research. You get to touch the edges of their writing. Their notes. And it’s almost like you never even get to read the writing itself. It’s like you’re giving the opportunity to write the writing. Or at least connect the dots of the writing. And this is all fine. But, if you don’t have a voice you’re screwed. Voice comes before title or list, or quote. Except it never does. You have to develop it during the process and then go back and string it and loop it evenly. Therefor a litany is not a stream of conscious. It’s disrespectful to refer to it as such.
Make a list:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup unsalted butter, very cold, cut into ½ inch cubes.
I made a list today of all the things I’ve failed at:
Being a hostess
Being a sister
Being a secretary
Earning a living wage
Keeping up with email
Launching my voice over career
The first thing you do before even thinking about making a butter based pie crust is cut up the butter into cubes and put them in the freezer. The butter cubes should chill at least 35 years and six presidents in the freezer. Also in the freezer, note the three abortions you had in the late 90’s. One after the other. Quietly. Without hesitation. Your preferred method of birth control actually. Back in the days when we were all young and you could get abortions for free in the Wal-Mart parking lot, two for a dollar three for a song wrapped in plastic sealed in a ball jar nestled on beds of handkerchiefs and dried up carnations and name tags and journal entries from either David Sedaris or Gloria Steinem, depending on the gender assigned to your genderless sack of fingers and blood.
The writer I was unfamiliar with kept a food journal for many years. Every day she wrote down exactly what she ate. That’s it. Not who she was with, not where she was, just the crumbs. Then she told the story about the wedding photos. Then I tried to remember phone numbers. Then I wrote down Tiny Tim//Losing Tim//Henry V Prologue//Letters to a young poet. They weren’t discussing any of that. I just had to make a list. Something to remember later.
“Get rid of meaning. Your mind is a nightmare that has been eating you: now eat your mind.” –Kathy Acker
I ran into my neighbor in the hallway. He told me he confirms dead people for a living.
6 tart apples – peeled, cored and sliced
½ cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Some help from the Russians
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
A moment taken out of your paycheck to say whatever you want with the nearest stone on the left side of your glass house.
Build a barricade.
Dip your hamburger in mayonnaise.
“Life itself is the proper binge.” –Julia child
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
Pinch of sriracha
A couple fat jokes
Relationships are like fat people. Most of them don’t work out.
And a rabbi
Because you can’t chase a waterfall anymore then you can put the tin foil back on the yogurt cup, but the flip side of the Snapple top says:
“When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character. This is how they justify punishing the sick and the poor. But, poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. Stigmatize those who let people die, not those who struggle to live.” – Sarah Kendzior
Today I ate:
Dot apples with the remaining butter and the blood from your latest face lift. Put flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple times to mix. Suffer from depression. Get your friends dad to prescribe you oxy cancer lubing opioids so strong you wake up under an overpass stuffing needles between your toes damning god and worshiping David Foster Wallace like a schoolgirl in a strip club. You know that the mixture is ready if when you pinch some of the crumbly dough together with your fingers, it holds together. Be cautious with the amount of fentanyl you use to cut the dough, too much and the crust will be tough. Nobody likes tough crust.
Yesterday I ate:
You may find yourself suicidal or homicidal in the hours spent kneading buttermilk onto wax paper and caramelizing vitamin A into smiley face wedges. It’s been a tough year. The president is a rapist and the vice president tells you what to do with your raped body. Pour yourself a glass of milk. Don’t worry. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. It’s so potent that an amount the size of three grains of sugar is lethal to an adult. America’s highest-ranking legal professional is more interested in protecting his boss than protecting the law. Bake in preheated oven on the baking sheet until apple filling is bubbly and crust is golden brown, 50 minutes to four years. Serve on napkins embroidered with Anne Lamott quotes. Deteriorate faster than your standards can lower. Eat alone. Because you are alone. You’re a lone lonely nasty woman wading through the rubble of your egg shells crunching leaves in the cemetery while men in white houses pluck out pieces of your identity by the root and keep them out of your reach just because they can. Dust with lemon rind and sea salt. They keep telling you it gets better. But, what they don’t tell you is that it also gets worse. It gets dark and bitter and no amount of apple cider vinegar can blanch the oily gasoline flavor from the roof of your cock sucking pie hole. You’re going to have to pull yourself together.
“But no, I came by these feelings honestly. And I don’t accept bitter. Wounded, yes. Traumatized, sure. Grieving, okay. Anything other than bitter. I put too much work in to be callously tossed aside as bitter. Bitter is for someone who hasn’t earned it.” –Samantha Irby
Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough to within an inch of your life.
Cyberstalker Exercise. Use social media to find someone you’ve lost touch with, then write a step-by-step account of what you discover about them—especially the surprises. Note what you notice; no detail is too small. Don’t worry about using complete sentences. a. Repeat the activity, but this time investigating your own social media page or online presence as though it is unfamiliar to you.
Take the pie to the window and watch it park outside the brothel with a basket and a bottle of port from the basement you saw on television. Score the top of the pie with four 2-inch long cuts so that steam can escape. Can carry a passport and a hairless Chihuahua. Because your mother raised you a lady and a liberty. Good thing you remodeled the kitchen all by yourself from a series of you tube tutorials. Prison looks good on you little girl. God bless you. And God bless America.