Behind the Scenes

This blog has been silent awhile, but gears are whirling in the world of Found and Lost. I just applied for a King County 4 Culture Grant, which would allow me to produce the stories on a bigger scale than I currently can. I’ll buy my own laminator! Just think of the around-the-house uses I’ll find for it. My fingers are crossed.

Both Juan stories I dropped in Port Townsend are at large. One was “found” by one of my students, who, rumor has it, is looking for a place to drop it in Nevada or California. The other one is in the hands of a user who goes by the handle Nazanne. Here’s what I can discern about her from her profile: She’s found caches in 10 states, 250 caches total, and she’s been caching since 2004.

Think about how stories typically circulate in the world. I write a story, send it to a literary journal, it gets published, and maybe one or two people emails me to mention they read it. One of the perplexing questions I get asked a lot is “How is your book doing?” (Rebecca Brown has a perfect retort for this. She says, “Great! It’s finished!”) I’m never quite sure how to answer this question. I haven’t seen sales figures for either of my books recently, I have no idea who the people are who read them unless they contact me, and I have no idea where in the world individual copies end up. With Found and Lost, I can see where each individual story is and where it has been and who has touched it. I can read comments from that person about the story and what they were doing the day they found it. I can see photos that the person has uploaded, and I get an email alerting me whenever the story has been placed in a new cache or is picked up by someone new. I can send each person a personal email if I wish. And if they seem to enjoy my work, I can let them know about new stuff coming out.

Haruki Murakami wrote that “I felt that the indispensable relationship I should build in my life was not with a specific person but with an unspecified number of readers.” Until now that relationship had to be conducted through a sort of firewall of anonymity. For readers, it meant that writers existed on some mysterious, exalted plane, glimpsed occasionally at public readings or in the pages of a magazine. For writers, it meant readers existed within a kind of cloud. If you’re a writer who treasures privacy and distance from readers, this era can be a little terrifying. But if you’re a writer intrigued by the writing process as direct, one-to-one communication with another intelligence, it’s a fascinating time to be alive. It’s incredibly gratifying to learn about actual people reading my work, incorporating it for a brief moment into the textures of their lives. When asked how my books are doing, it’s this ineffable experience I think about.

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