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This debut full-length hybrid collection of essays and poetry explores the moments of joy and chaotic hilarity that mingle with the experiences of trauma and trauma recovery. Jane Marshall Fleming writes with boldness and shows the beauty in every moment amidst violent chaos, embracing joy just as much as darkness. Moving from a backdrop of a small Virginia town and eventually finding herself in the freedom and wilderness of the desert, readers will follow the author on her journey mapping her skin, sharing in her joys, grief, pain, loss, discovering love and self-growth, night-blooming like a desert flower.
Every writer (I’d hope) has a list of books that helped influence them to write and shaped the way that they write. The list below is not necessarily my top five books ever, but it is a list of the books that inspired me as I was writing Violence/Joy/Chaos.
The Argonauts (2015), Maggie Nelson: There is a reason that this book is in the number one slot. I know that it is not for everyone and that some took issue with portions of the book, but for me, I was absolutely floored by Nelson’s lyricism and raw honesty.After I finished this book, I immediately sat down and began to write.
Ceremony (1977), Leslie Marmon Silko: I first read Ceremony when I was taking a Native American literature course during undergrad and have read it at least two or three other times since. It was the first time that I was exposed to a text that blended both poetry and prose, which really blew my mind. In addition to that, I really felt as though Silko’s book was a wonderful example of moving, self-reflective storytelling.
Tracks (1988), Louise Erdrich: Louise Erdrich, like Maggie Nelson, is just generally one of my favorite writers. I will read virtually anything that she puts out. Tracks is special to me, though, because it was the first time that I read and fell in love with lyrical prose.
Bird by Bird (1994), Anne Lamott: If you are a writer, you need to go read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird right now. It has without a doubt improved my writing. In particular, I am a huge fan of using Lamott’s “one inch picture frame” technique wherein she encourages writers, if they are stuck, to just start by writing “everything you can see through a one-inch picture frame.” I almost always take that advice to heart and it forces me to write detailed scenes with a sense of depth in a way I was not writing before I read Lamott’s book.
Wild (2012), Cheryl Strayed: I know, I know, this is a super pop-culture pick, but we can’t always be the high-brow [A]rtist that we want to be. When I first read Strayed’s memoir, I was totally enthralled by her journey. As a result, when I sat down to write my own book, it was one of the books that came to mind as a potential influence. In particular, I tried to channel Strayed’s willingness to share both the good and the bad with the reader to offer a complex, whole story.
Jane Marshall Fleming is an author and artist living in Austin, Texas. She currently works as an assistant instructor at the University of Texas at Austin and is also the author of the chapbook, Ocotillo Worship (Apep Publications, 2019). Violence/Joy/Chaos is her first full length collection.