Thursday, August 22, 2013

Elizabeth Cohen, author of THE HYPOTHETICAL GIRL, fights it out with the blank page

A matchmaking web site features a Yak farmer in Iceland. A deer and a polar bear flirt it up on Skype. Elizabeth Cohen's astonishingly inventive collection of stories, The Hypothetical Girl,  follow people struggling to fall into love--and avoid smashing up their hearts in the process. I don't think I've ever read anything more original, and I'm thrilled to have Elizabeth here, writing about confronting every writer's nemesis: the blank page.  Thank you, Elizabeth!

Dear Blank Page
by Elizabeth Cohen


I started out with you in front of me. You were sorta mean looking, like a girl I knew in high school. She grew up and got nicer and I was hoping that was what you would do as well.

Thankfully, you did! I put things on you like I was decorating a room. Pretty things, little things, glow in the dark things. Other lIttle doo dads. I put stories on you that I made up. You seemed ok with it all. I named you.  That name seemed good and right and you took right to it, so that was nice.

Then, you took this big jump off the screen and I decided it was time to send you out in the world. I said, run, run run, little page, and run you did. You ran right out in the yard. Don’t go in the street, little page, I yelled, but you did, right into traffic.. Fortunately you did not get hit.

Well, that isn’t exactly true. The Kirkusmobile sort of bruised you but the Publisher’s Weekly thing was the antidote; it picked you up and took you for a pleasant and scenic ride.

And now little page, you are out in the world having a life.


This is what authors do. We are crazy like that. We take words and toss them at pages and see if they will stick, spaghetti on the walls, and then see if anyone will even notice. That is the big big trick. Will anyone notice our words. in a world of - what is it now, 6 billion personisms, walking around, eating, pooping, sleeping and at least 1 billion of them writing first novels and another 500 million spitting out poems, why would anyone, why should anyone care about my little page running around all nakedly like this.  It is just nuts.

I call this the deer tick syndrome. We are all naked, We are all running about. And we are all scared of getting bit by deer ticks. These ticks may carry diseases that might blind or cripple us, yet we still do  it, run around naked with our little pages, flapping vulnerably in the wind. What the freaking hell, right?


So, back to you little page. That was a digression there, sorry. Now you are out, gates open and you are running wild, running with a pack of other naked pages. And I have a choice. I can sit home and check my Amazon numbers or do what we do the best, we writerly animals. Yep,  I am birthing a new little page. No, none of that,. No sibling rivalry here! I am doing it. I am facing it right now. A new BLANK PAGE.

This one is terrifying, sorta like that mean girl I knew in high school. She got nicer. You did, too. Hope second little blank page, will as well.

I am counting on it.

Your author mamma, E

Elizabeth Cohen is an assistant professor in the writing arts program of the English Department at SUNY Plattsburgh. She is the the author of several books, including, this summer, The Hypothetical Girl, a book of short stories, from Other Press. She lives in Plattsburgh, NY with her daughter Ava, their dog Samo and way, way too many cats.

1 comment:

Jo-Ann Mapson said...

Elizabeth Cohen's Hypothetical Girl is the very best kind of love story there is. I'm amazed and delighted by her stories. I fell in love with her manuscript the minute I read it. The love in her stories is the real thing, sprinkled with life, ardor, and a shake of snow globe glitter.