Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Letter that Got Me Blacklisted

Warning this post is rated R for language. Yes, you've heard it at the mall, on campus, in countless movies, but the sensitive among you, be forewarned.

A few years ago I decided to enroll at a well known Christian Writer's Conference, conveniently located near my home. I signed up for a fiction workshop where we emailed our work out in advance. I sent my Letters From the Dead (which I've been posting here individually), thinking that I'd get some good feedback from people of faith. I was writing, after all, about theology--life, death, regrets.

Shortly after sending my letters, I received an email from the instructor. She'd received complaints about my use of language. One of my characters, an inner city teen was killed in a drive by shooting, and she said tasteless things like, "Fuck" and "shit." The instructor said she understood why my character might swear, but this was a Christian writers' conference and perhaps I'd like to send a different story. I was willing to give it a chance, until I received the other writers work.

One man wrote a "thriller?" about a self-proclaimed vigilante who picked people off with great glee and the latest weaponry in order to save the United States from the new godless regime. It was okay to litter the pages with dead bodies because at times of extreme emotion, he said, "Darn."

A woman wrote about an abused wife who killed her husband by driving him off the edge of a cliff. She jumped from the vehicle just in time, and it was all good. She did what God wanted without once swearing.

In writing, we often talk about the inner critic, or the inner censor, to try to ignore her, and write what's deeply felt. I didn't want to censor the other writers imaginations or writing (as they did mine) but I was as offended by their "Christian" writing as the other writers were about my "inappropriate language." I wanted to ask where in their writing were the What Would Jesus Do messages? Non-violent protests, community organizing, caring law enforcement officials arresting batterers, safe houses, women's shelters? I couldn't in good conscience offer any positive comments on the writing, but then, I've never read any "Christian genre fiction," so what do I know? I withdrew from the workshop and got my money back.

Here's the letter that made me the bad girl of the Christian writer's workshop:

Yo Peanut,

‘Sup girlfriend? Did I pick the wrong time to go to LaSondra’s to borrow her rhinestone jeans or what? I’m like just opening the gate and that Taco Bell dog of hers is yapping and jumping on the chain link and I’m all, down you little shit and I hear it all before I see it. Tires squealing and the gag me stink of burning rubber and the Camaro engine roaring like a fucking 747 landing on the house and shouting something something motherfucker. Then DeWayne comes bombing down the street and then bullets like rocks on fire go slamming in his back and he crashes onto me like a two hundred pound balloon. Pop! Next thing I know everything’s like totally hot and white and my brain feels like fried egg on the sidewalk in that stupid commercial and everything is noise, volume all the way up, ear bleeding noise. And I’m all wet and slippery like a fish on land. Then bam. End of that shit.

So like I don’t know and I shouldn’t be telling you this shit. You’ll have nightmares and pee the bed and Mom will spank you and it’ll be my fault, but sorry I just have to tell someone, and no way can I tell Mom. At first I was like where the hell am I and where’s DeWayne and he better get his ass here quick and tell me what the fuck’s going on, since he’s like the reason I’m in this mess. Thanks to him, I missed Halloween 4 with Tyrone Friday and that was the night we were gonna do it finally. Yeah, well, like they say, Denial ain’t no river in fucking Africa. DeWayne wouldn’t believe we was dead or some crap. It’s like, man, I was so not ready for this. But here it is.

Now no way mom’s ever gonna let you out of the house. But this time it totally wasn’t my fault, I think. Okay, so don’t be like me. Have some goals and shit. It’ll make mom happy and maybe that way you could like keep part of me alive or some weird-ass thing like that.

Don’t forget about me, okay? ‘Cuz even though you are––I guess I’m supposed to say were––a royal pain most of the time, you’re bad for a six year old plus you got the great hair and I have to admit, I was jealous but not anymore. You are my one and only baby sis. So chill in the crib and step light in the hood. Wish I could come home.



1 comment:

FMF said...

Cathy, I find it truly amazing that you can capture the voice of each of these characters so well. I really liked this one.