I like the stage. That’s no secret. The first memory I have is of standing in my Nursery classroom letting a girl paint my face with pink chalk because, you know, everyone was looking. Another time, I remember jumping on stage at school because someone was needed to sing the national anthem. I was armed with neither the most melodious voice, nor the entire script, but the one thing I was good at was improvisation. That skill does not run in my family, most of them being planners and thinkers in that careful Pakistani parent way: “What will people think?” “How will this affect you long term?” but performance does– debate teams, sports, drama clubs. That’s what I inherited, but improvisation is what I am best at. Sure, I do it on stage, too. Step onto that black top with nothing but a racing heart and vague ideas of what I want to do. But really, it’s sort of the way I live life off stage. Slap on that lipstick baby, you are always ON!
Maybe it’s the adrenaline, the rush, the tingling of nerve endings that comes with donning a character. Being out there in front of the world to either soar or fall flat on my face. My more sensible friends often point out that possible public humiliation as a motivational tool is questionable.
But I watched Dead Poet’s Society early on in life and whatever little was left of caution drowned under the call of “Carpe Diem.”
So, naturally, when I came across the Ray Bradbury quote, my first inclination was to question the premise, the immediate second one “I must do this” and the third to call on K.K, my literary soul sister who I met at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference. K.K, in the true spirit of the kind of person I surround myself with (which is to say, sane) asked of me the mandatory questions:
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Are you sure?”
“Are you really sure?”
If I wasn’t, I became more and more certain with each question. And we decided to begin.
But here is the thing–I should be on story number 3. Two weeks into 2015 and I am already behind. K.K thinks this may be a tall task. Although, mind you, she is already two stories in since one of us is a little more efficient at managing time. I’ll let you guess which one that is.
We do this all day long, every day. With her being in Tennessee, and me in Dubai, time has no real meaning. A brainwave happens, a story idea, a rejection and one or the other messages: BBM, now! We commiserate, discuss, discuss, tear it up long distance. I run ahead, she pulls me back. We keep each other sane, I like to think. Unless it’s me dragging her into yet another insane project, with lofty ambitions and a wild, wild, imagination of where we could end up. We often don’t, but the trying is fun. Or torture. Depending on what we are trying to do.
The challenge of trying to do this experiment across continents is interesting. And, I’ll admit, daunting. If one has never tried deciding formats and fonts and ideas and concepts via text alone, that is. Lucky for us, we tend to discuss story lines all night long sometimes. You know, what if I made the character more pathetic? Or, what is his problem? Why won’t he cooperate?
And not to mention the endless discussions on how miserable it is to try, try, and try and then to wake up to a rejection every morning. That one is me, usually. Clearly editors in the US send out story decisions as the last thing they do before leaving the office because I often get these emails first thing in my mornings. Good morning. You suck. Now that’s a fantastic way to begin a day. You’ll see what I mean.
This new thing, as usual, is another thing I am roping her into. She has taken her time considering the “viability” of this. Meanwhile, I have this page set up, ready to go. Eager much?
I figure: What’s the worse that can happen? Bradbury is right? Or we are and we end up with 52 shitty stories. Either way, we do it in style. Out loud.