ART BY CAMILLE ROSE GARCIA
THE WALLS TO MY GARDEN: MY JO MARCH AND THE SENSATIONAL STORY
There’s a scene in Little Women that’s haunted me since I read the novel as a kid in 1993. It’s the moment when Professor Bhaer criticizes Jo March for writing sensational stories for the weekly tabloid newspapers in New York City. This always bothered me because I could feel Jo’s shame dripping off the pages like hot candle wax. What Bhaer was saying that that kind of writing was beneath her, that they held no gravity, that she should be writing with integrity. And Jo never wrote sensational stories again.
WINONA RYDER AND GABRIEL BYRNE IN LITTLE WOMEN
I had my son when I was nineteen years old and I stayed home for nearly five years because I couldn’t afford daycare. When I went back to community college in 2007, I started writing little stories, even though my plan was to major in Dental Hygiene. I had begun to read Anne Rice novels again and a series of adult fairy tale anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling. I began to write stories about witches who wore garter belts and fishnet stockings and lived in velvet walled houses, each room a tomb within a tomb, their bodies bleating for love in their opium soaked garden air. The walls to their house were higher than the slits in their skirts and they lived alone, but never turned down the company of those worthy enough to incite their magick. When I signed up for writing classes at school, I found myself disappointed in the “No Genre Writing” policy. What did that even mean? I wondered to myself. Over the course of each semester, I found that that meant that we were expected to write “literary.” No vampires, werewolves, and certainly no witches. No spaceships and no major altering to the time space. None of the fantastical and no sensational stories.
I spent years trying my best to write “literary” and in many ways, I was successful. I wanted to be taken seriously. When I began my MFA program nearly four years ago, I was fortunate because the professors who led my fiction cohort let us write whatever we wanted. I fell in love with writing flash fiction and I began to play with writing adult fairy tales again. Post MFA program, I feel as if I am in some sort of in- between world. I go to writing conferences and I see “the highs” and “the lows.” In many ways, they are a grotesque fairy tale forest, where writers seek refuge from those that will let them in and offer them a stool at their hearth. I still want and try to be a good literary citizen, but I find myself undoing the knots, the things that bound me to the false notion that I could only write one way to have any kind of integrity as a writer and as a woman.
I think of Jo March. What was wrong with her making income from writing sensational stories? What was wrong with her even writing them in the first place? I wonder what her sensational stories were like. I imagine black-cloaked creatures glimmer in the dark expanse of a metropolis. Why couldn’t Jo write this dark tale and a novel about her family? Why couldn’t she do both? She had the capacity for it. I have the capacity for it. I’m writing my intentions to write whatever I want to, and I’m ready for whatever creatures scale the wall to my garden.
Monique Quintana is a contributing Beauty and Fashion Editor of Luna Luna Magazine and blogs at razorhousemagazine.com. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing Fiction from CSU Fresno, and her work has appeared in Huizache, Bordersenses, and The Acentos Review, among others. She is a member of the Central Valley Women Writers of Color collective, the Latinx Authors Collective (LACO), a Squaw Valley Community of Writers Fellow, and this summer, she will be attending the Sundress Academy of the Arts Residency in Knoxville, TN. She is working on a hybrid Chicanx gothic collection entitled, A Little Saw And Other Children Pieces and her first novel, Chola Mona Lisa, which is about a mother who mysteriously loses the ability to smile on her thirtieth birthday and begins an affair with a gang banger- turned- artist after she agrees to pose in his large video art instillation in Fresno, CA. You can find her on Instagram as @quintanadarkling