The Encyclopedia of Doris, and thoughts on story-sharing and documentation.

Last weekend, on a gorgeous Sunday evening, I participated in a zine reading with Cindy Crabb of Doris zine, and local comic artist, Adriana Blake. The reading was held in the Dragon Comic Bookstore, here in Guelph. I was nervous, as I always am before readings, my guts churning, and me checking the time every three minutes or so to make sure I’m not late. My dear friend Ashley was visiting for the weekend, so I had someone to keep me company and listen to me whine about my nerves. I met Ashley the day I was born, and she has always been my and Amber’s triplet.

I didn’t know what I was going to read until a few hours before the event. I had told myself all week to go through the latest issue of Telegram Ma’am, figure out what parts I want to read, what stories I want to tell that I didn’t write down, read everything out loud to see how much time it takes, figure out what the fuck you’re doing, Maranda! But I left it ’til the last minute, scribbled notes in purple ink in a coffee-stained zine while Ashley and I had a café date, and let her read the parts I had chosen while I went to the bathroom, and tell me if it seemed like it would sound good out loud.

The reading was wonderful. I was so grateful to have such an amazing beginning of October, and to have friends to share it with me. I got shaky and nervous as I read, but I love doing readings, so it’s okay. I tried not to speed-read, like I sometimes do, and took breaks to tell other stories or just whatever came to mind while I was reading. I flipped back and forth between the pages, looking for my notes, reading out of order. It was so much fun, and I knew as I was reading that I could never ever stop writing. Maybe it doesn’t always keep me sane, but it does keep me alive. And I love sharing. I wanted everyone there to tell a story. Although I shake when I read, and feel weak in the knees, the actual sharing of my words and tales doesn’t scare me anymore. Sometimes I don’t want to shut up. I want to spill everything everywhere, and I want everybody else to do the same. As I was reading the part about getting sober, I realized that my body was currently experiencing that glass of wine, or two-beer feeling – when your limbs tingle and you feel a little giddy but you’re not drunk yet – and thought maybe this could be my alternative to drinking. Maybe this will be enough. Later, Ashley asked me if that realization meant nobody’d ever see me without a book, notebook, and pen again. And I said nobody ever has anyway.

Cindy Crabb’s reading was incredible, obviously. Reading Doris zine over the years has changed my life in small and big ways, and I just can’t say enough good things about Cindy’s writing. I feel like she makes the complicated things seem simple and manageable, and exposes the supposedly simple things as complicated, beautiful, horrible, and always worth talking about and working through. I like giving her books to my friends as gifts, like I’m sharing a piece of some kind of magic, and hope it will have positive effects on their lives, too. Also, I am just kind of smitten with Cindy. So grateful she was able to come to Guelph for a bit, and that we could read together again (we had also read the day before the 2011 Chicago Zinefest, but this time we actually had a chance to talk – zine events always seem so harried and busy, so it’s a treat when I find the space for conversation with other zinesters).

Reading The Encyclopedia of Doris down by the river.

Catching up on snail mail in the sunshine.

The last few days have felt like Summer. I know it’s climate change and I should maybe be angry and frustrated, but instead, I am choosing to enjoy the warmth while it lasts. I have been sitting on my porch everyday, the sun shining down hard on all the papers I bring with me and keep on my lap, or scattered on the ugly concrete porch, and I have been wandering down to the river and taking pictures of leaves, watching the ducks and their funny duck rituals, sometimes just sitting and breathing and appreciating everything around me. I have been writing a lot of letters.

In fact, I very nearly ran out of stationery this week. I am not sure if that has ever happened before. My desk drawers are usually filled to the brim. I don’t even remember the last time I bought stationery – it just seems to find its way into my home. Anyway, I knew I was finally running low, so I went to The Bookshelf to see what I could find. There was one copy left of a notebook filled with illustrations of wildflowers by Jill Bliss. I’d flipped through this copy before but had never found the guts to bring it up to the checkout counter. The notebook made me sad.

A few years ago, when I destroyed all my journals, a Jill Bliss wildflower notebook was one of the ones to go, filled with secrets in the blackest ink. I never filled it to the end; it was the notebook I was writing in when I decided to destroy everything and quit journalling. So this seemingly innocuous notebook on a shelf filled with all sorts of other notebooks that didn’t really appeal to me, actually meant something. I know, I know. It’s just a notebook. The illustrations are bright and cheerful. But every time I saw it, my heart went back to those days, and I’d remember bits and pieces of what I’d written, knowing I’d never see it again because it didn’t exist. And finally, this time, I decided to purchase the notebook. I’m not using it as a journal, though. Instead, it’s become my new stationery. I am ripping the sheets out of their binding and sending them out into the world.

I have this strange relationship with various forms of documentation (such as this blog!), because sometimes I think there will come a time when none of it exists anymore, sometimes I think all of everything will somehow last forever, and sometimes I just don’t know. I don’t like to talk about my journals very much because it makes me feel sick and confused, but sometimes I just have to. Anyway, having these wildflower papers again makes me feel happy in a way. Each letter I write becomes an exercise in documentation, and each letter I send becomes an exercise in letting go.

Wildfloweringly Yours,

P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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