Hello. My name is Elena. I have a novel coming out Spring of next year. I teach intro literature at the University of California. I will now begin open letters to the world.
This blog is under my real name, and will be indexed by search engines. How alarming! I thought of the prospect of being found by students and nearly scrapped the whole idea. But why not try this out, after all? It is doubtful that I will suffer from some kind of online Tourette’s and post naked pictures of myself or some such. This openness is a bit daunting though. It will take some getting used to. I’ll view it as practice public speaking for when the book comes out. By that fateful date, maybe this small forum will have given me some degree of comfort with exposure.
It’s true that, as a teacher, I do a fair amount of public speaking. Speaking as an author is not the same though. As an instructor I am not so much a person as a channel for the text. Certainly, the interpretations I present are tinged with me, but I am not the point. I’m a means to an end, a guide meant to help my students reach their own understanding of the book at hand. I am the Virgil to their Dante.
When I speak as an author I am not granted the safety of the outside text. There is no medium with which I can blend, that I can disappear into so that it is comfortably impossible for my audience to tell the difference between the thing they are looking at—the text—and the thing they are looking through—me. Oh shit, I’m becoming the primary source! I am no longer Virgil; I am Hell. No longer the guide but the landscape.
If there were a paper bag within arm’s reach I would be breathing into it right now.
When I was in college, I worked for tuition money as a bank teller. I had posts in several different branches of the same bank. Only one featured bulletproof glass. I noticed when I finished a day at that place that I was immensely less tired than after a day at an unshielded teller window. It was so different, so much less draining to speak to the customers through two inches of plexiglass. I couldn’t smell them; they couldn’t touch me. It was so much tidier and less dangerous. It was also necessarily a lot less interesting, less human.
Onwards then, without glass.