Lillian Ann Slugocki’s Literary Love Letter

Lillian Ann Slugocki
photo courtesy Lillian Ann Slugocki

I’ve known Lillian Ann Slugocki since 2001, when I interviewed her and Erin Cressida Wilson about their collaboration on the dramatic monologues of The Erotica Project; more recently, Lillian wrote an essay for Beatrice about expanding an online serial into the novella The Blue Hours. Now she’s written a new novella, How to Travel with Your Demons, and, to celebrate its launch, she’s curated a night of new work by other women writers at New York City’s KGB Bar, on Tuesday, December 22. I’m planning on being there, and if you’re in the neighborhood, I hope you’ll drop in as well.

In the spring of 2013, I had this notion to write a book where I broke all the rules regarding point of view, but still created a compelling and cohesive narrative. I figured I could do that if I kept the plot super simple. The protagonist, Leda, must travel from point A to point B—and like Odysseus, stuff happens along the way. But I would write the story from the protagonist’s point of view, the author’s point of view, and a third person narrator as well. I was interested in both the intersections and the disruptions:

The seatbelt signs are on, like a constellation over everyone’s head. It is a sleek piece of machinery cutting through the night sky and the winter storm, just skirting the edges of a crescent moon. Almost ready to crash into the Pleiades. Or Orion. Barely visible from the cloud cover—which extends two hundred miles north and south. But still nothing can be stopped in its trajectory. Not this plane, not even the woman sitting in Aisle H, seat 589. She believes that this started with a phone call when she walked out of the deli yesterday. She believes that it started when it was snowing this morning in Brooklyn, waiting for her car to arrive, but the truth is, this journey began a long time ago.

I’ve belonged to Fictionaut, an online community, for about six years. I’ve met some great writers there. It’s like a more intimate version of Wattpad, it’s not open to the public, and members are invited. I posted the first 300 words in the spring. It got 447 views, six favs, and eight comments. Bill Yarrow wrote, “Very Robbe-Grillet, and that is high praise.” I researched everything I could find on Robbe-Grillet, and bought a couple of his books. In other sections I posted, Carol Reid loved the way the narrative telescoped down into each moment. Sam Rasnake liked the “sky-scape,” George Korolog enjoyed “the conjunction of airplanes, metaphysics and the ethics of mortality,” and Beate Sigriddaughter said the writing is marvelously breathless. In all, I workshopped six sections, 10,000 words, and with each round of comments from my peers, I discovered the heart of the book. I moved away from posting excerpts for review and finished the first draft of How to Travel with Your Demons in the summer.

In the spring of 2014, I was published in Spuyten Duyvil’s Wreckage of Reason 2: Back to the Drawing Board, An Anthology of Experimental Contemporary Prose by Women, edited by Nava Renek. I worked with Nava and 30 other writers on a blog tour to help promote the book. I collaborated with amazing artists like Elizabeth Bachner, and Larissa Shmailo, as well as Robin Martin from Two Songbirds Press, and Karen Lillis, the Small Press Librarian. By the end of the blog tour I was convinced by the community of writers I was now part of that Spuyten Duyvil would be a perfect home for Demons. I submitted the manuscript to Nava, who, at that time, was the managing editor. She liked it and passed it upstairs to Tod Thilleman, and by the end of 2014, I had my publisher.

In August of 2015, I had to plan how to not only travel with my demons, but how to launch the book. I knew what people hated about book promotion, because I hated those things, too. It didn’t fit the mold of romance, YA, or self-help so those venues or platforms wouldn’t work. In the end, I followed some of the rules, and broke others. I’m not a fan of Goodreads for many reasons, but that’s probably because I don’t quite get it. And I know Instagram is big these days for book promotion, but I still just like to take pictures of my dog. Instead, I asked Tod if he could get me a night at KGB, and decided I would celebrate with some of my favorite writers in late December. I call it BEDLAM: New Work by Women Writers:

I met Stephanie Dickinson when Nava asked me to review her latest book, Love Highway. I loved how each scene carried such weight from an accumulation of the tiniest sensory details. Christen Clifford and I go way back; she was my principal muse for projects at NPR, HERE and Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. Recently she published an achingly beautiful essay in the anthology Women in Clothes called “Mother, Daughter, Mustache,” and as I write this is now famous for her feminist art project, The Pussy Bow. Laurie Stone has mastered so many different forms; criticism, memoir, fiction. I read her work in the Village Voice, long before I met her. I know Deborah Oster Pannell thanks to Erin Cressida Wilson, and brought her into Fictionaut. I’ve loved watching her develop a body of work on love, and how it sometimes brings a delicious disintegration of identity. She’s also my number one beta reader; I always trust her instincts. Once I had my cadre of writers for the evening, I built a tumblr, interviewed them, and posted them online. As I write this, Time Out New York is featuring the event, and so did Poets & Writers.

So this is my love letter to all the poets, publishers, writers, editors and performers who have helped shaped my work, especially with my latest book. Some I know and love in real life, and others, just as valuable, I only know online. Writing can still be a lonely business, even in the 21st century, and I’m grateful to my community. As Marc Zegans, poet and philosopher, has said in an interview at Project Mavens:

“Our creative process does not end when we finish the piece. Our work has to find its way into the world. Now we can use proxies like agents, publishers, galleries and the Internet to do the heavy lifting, but finding and developing an intimate connection with people whom our work will genuinely move is a tremendously important part of the creative process.”

17 December 2015 | guest authors |