The Stories of Devil-girl is a novella which I recorded on a double CD set and released shortly before the war in Iraq broke out in 2003. It works at the crossroads of poetry and prose, and of autobiography and fiction, perhaps also of the brutal and the magical. I began writing it in 1989, perhaps pushed into it by my work then with young adults, 16-24 years old—dropouts, as they were called—at The Young Adult Learning Academy in East Harlem. I understand how thoroughly my students, whom I admit I generally adored and who taught me profound lessons, were demonized; the ills of society, as well as their own, were blamed on them even before birth. They got to be statistics before they ever let out a yowl or a giggle or a song.
I’d been cursed, too, the losses and tragedies and struggles of the parents heaped on the heads of the children. A familiar story for many people worldwide. Hence, the birth of Devil-girl. I am not sure when that name for her, for me, came about, but long before the writing began.
Now, the thing is, writing this helped me to move more fully into prose, into fiction, into the development of the voice of character and narrator, into allowing the developing point-of-view to grow through a series of short prose pieces, without, I think, leaving all of the music and compression of the poetic behind.
I know that there are writers out there who are struggling with works of mixed genre, or in between genres; works that are intensely personal and intensely political; stories of their own lives which leaped into the lives of others, and into a shock of fiction they hadn’t expected; and stories they felt to be complete inventions which somehow arrived back at the doorstep of their own lives. I know that writers are silenced by some of what they have experienced and witnessed, and that sometimes the only voice that can speak what they know is an outrageous one. You know, that inappropriate–liable to get smacked—speaking as if drunk voice—but so stone cold serious a voice, that it even scares the writer.
Maybe, to mess with George Clinton’s supreme advice, free your voice, and your mind will follow…
At any rate, if you are working at the crossroads of poetry and prose, or of autobiography and fiction; if you find your work coming forward in mixed genres (which might be just how it needs to be written); or if you have struggled or are struggling with difficult material and are birthing a wild narrative voice, please write a comment here below and share something of your experience, ask a question or share some answers.
So, to go back to the beginning, I will be bringing back the full recording of The Stories of Devil-girl and making it available for purchase as a download for your MP3 or other listening devices, your computer, or to be burned onto CDs. Details will be available on the forthcoming Devil-girl page, where you will also find links to some excerpts of the recording at no cost.
There’s more. Supporting good literature, in this case, will also mean supporting extremely worthy work in the world!
I will have listed, on the Devil-girl page, 2 organizations that do extraordinary work to improve the lives of women and children, with a link to their websites. A percentage of the proceeds from each purchase of the download of Devil-girl will go to Women for Women International http://www.womenforwomen.org/ , which helps women survivors of war build their lives, working with them in comprehensive ways, involving everything from economic development, health programs for people with HIV/AIDS, and education as to their rights, and the Somaly Mam Foundation http://www.somaly.org/, which works to combat trafficking in women and children for sex slavery, and to assist those rescued to rebuild their lives. (By the way, Somaly Mam, co-founder of AFESIP and President of AFESIP Cambodia in Phnom Penh, has also written her autobiography, The Road to Innocence.)
Somaly Mam is one of the CNN Heroes; you can see a video of her at http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/specials/2007/06/29/heroes.somaly.man.pt1.cnn
Some more details about The Stories of Devil-girl. The original cover for the CDs, which you will see on the forthcoming Devil-girl page, was designed and illustrated by Teri Micco, an extraordinary painter and graphic artist in New Mexico, who took some of the material bits and pieces and images of my life to make a cover that is durable art. A painting by Gary Jefferson in New Mexico was one of the elements also present in the many many layers Teri created to make the stunning cover. Teri also helped to edit the manuscript, and gave profound feedback which helped to shape it.
At, any rate, it’s time for Devil-girl to be heard again. More on this in a while.
5 thoughts on “The Return of Devil-girl! or, The Stories of Devil-girl, a novella”
Anya, many writers cross genres without realizing it. Elie Wiesel can be very poetic, Isabel Allende mixes autobiography and fiction, Rilke’s poetry infuses his prose. etc The stretch for me is to be writing in both poetic form and prose, working on different pieces at the same time. When I was mosty writing poetry, I wrote more and better (I think) poetry. I think my prose improves from the poetry but it harder to stay in the poetic cadence which can be the beat of your steps as you go about the day when immersed in prose. Switching from autobiographical voice to third person fiction has freed me to write things difficult to write about but sometimes I wonder which is more fulfilling for the reader to read. The fiction lets me re-create the past, organize it, infuse meaning in it (great therapy) but does it make those same profound heart connections between me and the reader as telling the truth does? (And even though yes, I write for my own instinct, pleasure, and necessity, I do want to share my experiences, which compells ne to make them intelligible and give from my heart and soul.) How do you know when the piece will resonate more true as memoir or as fiction?
You say so much of interest here, and rasie so many issues, including I think a very central one as to what holds truth in the most authentic way, how readers connect to the truths that language hold, what voice or voices are most compelling to a reader, create the most trust and willingness to go on the journey the writer offers. I want to respond here, and, having the post deadline fuzz, need a day or so to respond, but thank you! thank you, for this thoughtful and penetrating response. I may respond on my blog rather than with another comments.
Just wanted you to know I recently discovered your blog while surfing the net and love it! In fact, I just listed it in a post “Women Bloggers add to Day 3 of 24 Days of Blogging!” on one of my blogs Virtual Woman’s Day (http://www.virtualwomansday.com).
As a writer myself, I love reading posts and thoughts from other writers and I must say, yours is at the top!
Wishing you all the best and continued success.
Heidi Richards, Founder & CEO – The WECAI Network™ – http://www.wecai.org, Publisher – WE Magazine for Women
Anya, I was just Googling Teri Micco and came upon this page. She was my college professor in Boise, Idaho just before she moved to New Mexico. She gave me the beginning that is the person I am today. I love her for her life and her sharing of it. Your voice (above) is like hearing Teri again. I’ve never heard anyone sound like her. Maybe you are the English teacher with whom Teri made a publication, her students illustrated and yours wrote poems?? I was one of the illustrators then, but my memory has faded and I can’t find the names of the people who made such glorious impact on me then. I just wanted you to know that I hear Teri’s voice in your words, that is all. Thank you.
Yes, I was the creative writing teacher who taught some classes at the School of Visual Arts, worked with people on their theses, and later did bring my students work into that publication — these students were at the Young Adult Learning Academy, a school for dropout “at-risk” youth in East Harlem.
The artists who were in that publication did gorgeous work! And I will always remember Teri, with whom, sadly, I am no longer in touch, as an astonishing artist, and an amazing teacher and mentor to her students. I have my copy of that publication in storage back in the Midwest, but can feel it in my hands. It was a beautiful thing and meant a lot to my students. I hope you are well, and doing work you love, and I thank you for your part in that….I hope she knows how important she has been to you! All best to you, Anya