Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Behind "The First Cut" by Katrina Lowell

Hey readers,

So I know that I had promised this post earlier and so here it is; a behind the scenes view of the writing process of "The First Cut," the first prose piece that I have written exclusively for this blog. I thought it would be easier to do this is sort of an" interviewer-interviewee" Q and A format. Here we go!

1. Why haven't you ever written prose before?

Prose is kind of a new format recently introduced to me at school in my language arts class and I fell in love with the idea of being able to make a large impact with only a small piece. I had written one before called "The Writer" which not only had I fallen in love with, but my parents and teacher as well. My teacher was so impressed that she took it and read it to all her other classes in the school and showed it to the principal. However, I'm now trying to get it back because I, believe it or not, wrote that on the way to school in the car on a whim and have no other copies. In fact, I've been trying to get it back for a year now. I'm sure it'll come through sooner or later. I just can't wait to publish it on the blog for you guys to see.

At any rate, yeah. I'm trying to familiarize myself with what prose really is and I'm gonna be working now on the technicalities, studying the techniques used to make a good prose and hopefully getting a chance to get some input here and there from my English teacher. I have actually created another segment of my blog named "Precisely Prose" and I hope to get quite a few of those under my belt by the end of this year.

2. What inspired "The First Cut"?

This story of Macy was one that came to me in a physical way, actually. I had been having some writers block because I just didn't have any real direction for where I wanted my work to go from there and then this idea popped into my head.

My school has been working with the guidance counselor who is trying to make the teenage students aware of the dangers of bullying and self harm as it has been known to happen right within our school walls. I was touched by the effort and it gave me some insight for my story. Plus, a girl that I once knew all too well took up the bad habit of cutting recently and it made me feel something in my stomach; something like empathy without the overt desire to confront and help. I've just been observing her when I get the chance and over a period of time, she became Macy. In my mind, Macy grew from the seeds of this other girl; basic things like social status, family situation, personality/ attitude, etc. all contributed to this character that I was creating in my mind. I had never been exposed to the idea of cutting in such a way that I have recently. I had heard of the practice and why people did it, but that was pretty much this. In guidance, however, we saw videos of people self harming through practices like cutting with razor blades, knives, scissors, etc., burning their flesh, biting and beating themselves up, embedding needles and various objects underneath their skin, peeling off layers of skin, putting slat in their eyes and so many more disturbing truths; that's just what they are.

Besides the exposure in class, I saw scars of cutting upon more than one girls' arms, some fresher than others. It gave me the visual that I used to portray a more lucid image to you guys, the readers. I wanted to make you see involuntarily what was happening as it happened by making the scenarios easy to relate to and my descriptions extremely vivid, no matter how unpleasant it had to be. Once I decided where I wanted to go with this story, it just all fell into place from there.

3. How you do think your readers like "The First Cut"?

Believe it or not, I didn't have a lot of confidence in this story in terms of readers' response. I thought that maybe the story was too close to home for some or maybe a little too vile for others and that the content would work how I had wanted it to, but doing so in the negative way. However, I am more than stoked to see how well this prose has been received. I actually just took a peek at the stats and just today I've gotten hits from the U.S.A, the Caribbean, and Germany, just to name a few. My mom, who used to be my editor back in the day but has even forgotten my blog address now, read this story and got really excited. She even says that she sees this story not just ending on this blog, but having a future published in text. I was kind of overwhelmed with my positive feedback and I'm just very pleased to see how its doing.

4. What are some things that you are hoping that the readers take from this story?

I definitely hope that this story inspires everyone that reads it, especially the teen girls, to take a step back and truly analyze self harm for what it is. It feels like this new thing has become a trend and now instead of writing in diaries, screaming in a pillow, exercising, listening to music and those kinds of alternatives for anger management, more teens are turning to cutting and its truly an epidemic. I thank god that my guidance teacher took the time to research this practice and take us into the goriest of places with it. I mean, there were some videos where it made you queasy just to peek at it, but it made it real. In life, sugar coating doesn't make the bitterness disappear; it just hides until the "sugar" is dusted off. When its dusted off is when we become bewildered; when we really start to ask ourselves, "what now? I'm not prepared to deal with this," and that leads to the frustration, mental illness and anger that causes things like this.

In "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster The People. They wanted to create a forum for gun violence in this youthful generation to be recognized and discussed. Therefore they wrote a song that became an anthem to this generation; one that made the idea of outrunning a gun... familiar. In much the same way, I wanted to write this story in a format where I kinda pushed Macy's wrist in people's faces, made them watch her blood drip and feel the sting of the blade in order for them to become familiar with the concept in such a way that they understand WHY its done and also WHY NOT to do it.

I hope that my readers are able to see this message. Readers who look very deep into stories, such as good poem analyzers and such, will be able to pick up on the subtle ironies and symbolic features that I snuck in for emphasis. That in and of itself is symbolic because I didn't want the "subtle tell tale signs" to be so overt that they're obvious to the public, much like how self harm has become a "on the down low" practice for youths today. I mean, only a select few who look deep into things will be able to see the clues within someone and put the pieces together, but most people are ignorant to the fact that the same person that they go to school with every day burns her skin ON PURPOSE, you know? That's when people get shocked and confused; and unfortunately the way in which they end up finding out about the emotional status of these people are through their fatalities. Self harm leads to hundreds of deaths each year; the endings of lives that have just started. That's why I need my readers to look within themselves and others and read in between the lines, judge any underlying problems, anything that could cause something as devastating as that, and working through it not by yourself and maybe not even with a parent, but with a physician; someone that can help you in a way that non-professionals can't.

So in the end, I just want the best for my readers because I understand what it's like to struggle. This generation is in for some serious battles and the next to come will be worse off than us, but that's why we need to stand up and protect ourselves and others. The Lowell Militia isn't just a little something I made up as a cute whatever, but something that I think would help us to get better. Being able to know that you're not alone; that someone somewhere is in that same battle with you, on e of the same army, to inspire you to move forward. I would hate to hear of anyone harming themselves over something that really in the scope of life is so small. That's the basis of the problem- We focus on life in the moment instead of removing ourselves from that isolated time period and placing it in the ratio of that to an average of 80 years of life altogether. If we did that, even the toughest of situations would become a laughing matter. I even find myself correcting my behavior when something insignificant flusters me; I remind myself that whatever it is isn't going to ruin the rest of my life and that I can move on. This same message is what I wan't my readers to get.

5. What is your challenge from you to your readers?

I am challenging my readers to do some research for me- immerse yourself in the realities of some of the prevalent problems among our age group. Make sure that you're aware of the dangers of these things that can happen to ANYONE and that you're able to make a plan for yourself in case you ever found yourself falling into those traps. I know I have some parent readers- please do the same. In learning more about these things you'll be better equip to not only help your child when in need, but to detect the signs of dangerous behavior. We need your help, too, so please, please, please make yourselves aware.

I also want to answer more questions, so if you have any sort of inquiry, be it about "The First Cut" or on the general topic of self harm, feel free to ask. I will always have a Q and A open for any story that I write at any time. So even if two years from now you're reading this and you wanted to ask a question, go ahead and ask it and I will answer promptly. But yeah, I want this to become a discussion, so please ask questions and post comments of your own. Also, please participate in the survey to the right of this page. We'll see how many of you anonymous readers can relate to Macy in more ways than one.

Lastly, I challenge you guys to share the heck out of this story. Pass it around via e-mail ans social networking, print it out and give a friend, show your own guidance counselor and see if you can get a program up and running at your school. Look at this prose as a way to get the word out. Spread it like "Pumped Up Kicks" and make it stick into people's minds. I need your help guys. Let's get this thing on the road.

Thanks for reading this Q and A and have a great week!

Love Always <3,
Katrina Lowell
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