‘Recognition’ by Aurelie Sheehan


From Guernica:

Dear Applicant:
We have received your application for a Fellowship for 2012. However, due to a temporary glitch in our reporting software, multiple versions of your Statement of Plans have been saved and reported. Please identify for us your final Statement of Plans as soon as possible.

Statement of Plans

If I were lucky enough to receive a fellowship, I would use the time to work on a project that has long haunted me, and on which I’ve worked in fits and starts for many years. It is underway, but in a sense it’s not completely underway, and won’t be until I can find the concentration necessary for a project of this magnitude. That’s not to say I have been thwarted by commonplace life responsibilities, all the aspects of life that make it the kaleidoscope it is. On the contrary, this project comes straight out of those responsibilities: my life, my life work. Or my life play. (For it’s not all work, is it? Is my family “work,” is reading or going to a film “work”? So what I mean, really, is the stuff of life, that which feels like toil, or makes money, and then the other things—that which we choose, or that which chooses us, but that is another story. )

The project is the building of a box. It is not an ordinary box, though even an ordinary box has ample beauty. In the simplest terms, it is a box of words. Within this box I will place, or re-create, or allow to be re-created organically, the stuff of life. It reminds me, if you will allow the digression, of a conversation I had with my husband just last night. We were in bed, in the dark. The moon had not yet appeared. I was a bit more awake than he was, having taken a late nap (after having had a migraine). Chatting, etc., but we were spooning also, and then he began murmuring worries in my ear. I would like to write a story about—or create a box that can contain—the difference between talking in the light, while sitting, and talking in the dark, lying down. The worries murmured in my ear were, I told my husband, like a tribe of tribbles scurrying over our bed in the dark. It was before or after the tribble conversation that I asked him if, when it was perfectly, or theoretically perfectly silent in the room, he heard anything. A whoosh, a whirring, the ringing of a bell? He said he heard a hum, now that he thought about it—and joked, thanks for bringing it up, implying that now he’ll always hear the damn ringing. I closed my eyes even though it was already dark and listened. It’s a little like being in an airplane.

The project will be approximately two hundred, maybe two hundred and fifty pages. A good, regular size for a manuscript or a book—or a box, in this case.

Statement of Plans

The Box of Life: this is the title of my manuscript in progress. I intend on writing fifty thousand to seventy-five thousand words in segments of ten to twelve pages each. To date, I have completed three segments (“Tribbles,” “Troubles,” and “Strife”). My mode of writing is simple but and my ambition is large: to capture the essence of life. I understand this is a serious undertaking, one that may take even a lifetime to accomplish. However, The Box of Life is my strongest widest attempt yet at capturing this wily, ever-present and all-surrounding thing, or frisson if you will. When I read over the word “widest” what I see is “wildest.” This is an example of how wily life is, how hard it really is to capture. But in this project, which I have shared with my agent and about which he said “Fantastico!,” I hope to track these wily moments, not to discount or discard them, but to encompass them in the box, too. I might go so far as to say it is not “too” or even “also.”

I have long thought of this project, and I have a good sense of where it is going. I do, as they say, want to keep my options open, but I also understand how important it is to have a plan. It is not too much to say that if I received a Fellowship for this project my life would change. The box itself would change.

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