This just might be the title to our craft book.
Joe Stracci and I have been working together since early 2007. Then, he lived in the Bronx and I lived in Ithaca, New York. He was working with Terese Svoboda and I with Patricia Volk. Then, we began trading work, but trading with a mission. Each round of assignments were given guidelines. Sometimes it was a title. Sometimes it was a POV. A character. A restriction. A setting. A reason. Then, when the story was finished, we traded, giving the finished product to the other. We’d read the product and write a readers response, giving the positives, and the negatives. Often, a line-edited version followed. Sometimes the story bit the dust and has yet to be resurrected. (I have quite a few of these.) Sometimes the story winds up a chapter in a novel. (This is the case with Joe.) Sometimes they find publication. Regardless, the assignments kept us writing, kept us honest, kept us striving for fresh material, kept us bending our minds in unique ways.
Then, for a bit, we stopped. The rigors of school and life took us away from this procedure of producing stripped-down, knockout fiction. But now we’re back. The latest assignment has been given to each of us and the work is back underway.
So what is it, exactly, that we’re doing? That’s a great question. I don’t think we knew, nor do I think we fully get it now. But something happened today that brought it all into focus for me.
I walked down to a coffeeshop in Brooklyn to find opens seats to write. It was Sunday. Earlier today, in fact. No go. I turned around and headed home, stopping only to buy a few drinks for the long hall of an afternoon of writing. The middle eastern dude behind the counter began a conversation with me about violence in fiction, especially serial killer fiction, his favorite. I asked if he was a fan of Dexter, a series about a serial killer who kills only those who morally deserve it. He said, “No. God, no. I like blood. Lots of blood. Blood with hatred.”
For some reason, when he said that, when he said “blood with hatred” it all just clicked. What Joe and I are writing is essentially a craft book based, in large part, on severing the ego from the work, no matter the cost. Giving all foundation of fiction over to someone else to determine, and then infuse your own sense of the world into a pre-existing environment. Your blood on the page, but written in a hatred, not of the assignment, but of the fact that it takes this creative collaboration to produce the work you wish you could produce on your own.
And this is not to say he or I couldn’t do it on our own. Because we have. Because we do. But running with each other, giving our egos over to the other, trusting the guidance, trusting what the other person sees we need work, where the other should strengthen, that is what it is all about.
Blood With Hatred: Another Fucking Craft Book by Joe Stracci and J.R. Angelella
Someday you might just see it.