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Recognition

By
January 1, 2012

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Photograph via Flickr by Grievous Angel

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.

Statement of Plans
As a writer of minor stature but much endurance, I submit now my application regarding my newest project, my life work, The Life Box. This is a project of two hundred to three hundred pages, and it is a work of fiction, although it has strong ties to the life we lead in the here and now, on planet earth. My projects up until this point have all been leading up to this. Although I am certainly proud of or at least acknowledge my earlier work, I have long felt frustrated at my inability to really capture or reanimate life on the page. There has been a schism between my lived life and that which I express, as if I’m a screen, and only some things are let through, or as if I’m a shade, and the light that radiates through me is a tranquil hue, instead of a kaleidoscopic brightness. It began in childhood, this. As with many things.

Statement of Plans
Have you ever wondered what your life’s work will be? What you will be remembered for in the end? I believe that for me it will be this project, the one for which I am now asking for support, called, working title only, Life Box.

Here is what I can say at this point, which is really only one minute spot on the creative continuum (tomorrow I might say something different!): I’m creating a box out of nothing. I’m creating a box that will include everything.

Statement of Plans
I sit here, in honor and respect and with great concern. I have long admired the work of the Foundation.

You must receive so many applications. I read somewhere that it’s in the thousands. Each applicant comes with his or her own life story, his or her needs and desires and dreams.

Statement of Plans
I imagine you, a person, perhaps drinking coffee, perhaps looking out at a view of Central Park, or in a lowly Starbucks. Should I have the lemon cake, or a box of caramel chocolates? I understand. I just want you to know that I understand.

You must receive so many applications. I read somewhere that it’s in the thousands. Each applicant comes with his or her own life story, his or her needs and desires and dreams. It’s hard to choose, but choose you must. How to do it? I myself, a mere applicant, would not dream of telling you how to choose. And yet aren’t we applicants trying to manipulate you in the basest way, laboring to write statements that appeal on some raw, visceral plane? I suppose we are. I confess to that urge. Yet I know well that you are actually a real human being. Like me, like all of us.

Is it wrong to say: exit the Starbucks, march over to a French cafe, go have a chocolate éclair, and then read the rest of this statement? The corporeal self must be satisfied, delighted even. Read the statement, lick the chocolate off your fingers, consider this particular far-off human in far-off applicant land.

My hopes and dreams revolve around completing this project, a lifelong task, but which I am now calling The Box of Life. I have written three pieces, approximately 20-25 percent of the manuscript. If I were to receive a fellowship, I would hope to have a solid first draft done by the end of the fellowship period. With a fellowship, I would will be able to make this dream real. It is no small thing. It really, really is important to me.

Statement of Plans
You are in a box. It is life. You open a box within the box, and it isn’t a box so much as it is a book, it is the book called Box of Life.

Statement of Plans
My plan for the next academic year is to bring new life to an old project, a manuscript currently in progress called Box of Life. I have written three pieces of an anticipated twelve (with one “secret” story, rounding it out to thirteen). The months will be spent in this fashion: September-December: research and draft the next two stories; January-February: draft the complex middle (“secret”) story; April-July, out of town research (see chart) and drafting of next seven stories; first two weeks of August: vacation; mid-August-September 1st: first read of full manuscript, with notes taken for rewrite and final phase [outside of fellowship dates].

The “box” will come in at about fifty thousand words. If I can master the software, I will include charts and photographs.

Statement of Plans
My project will make a lasting impact on literature, on national and international belles letters. Although my style is my own, I owe a debt of gratitude to my literary antecedents, as well as contemporary writers such as Julie Hecht, Nancy Lemann, and Maggie Nelson. While I cannot predict the future, it would surprise no one more than me if this project did not, upon completion, rise to the highest stratosphere of worldwide chatter, chat, discourse, and cocktail conversation.

The “box” will come in at about fifty thousand words. If I can master the software, I will include charts and photographs.

Statement of Plans
I am working on a book of stories. Each story is (or will be) a work of fiction, but is also intended to, however modestly, capture some aspect of life as we know it. I have drafted three stories at this juncture, and I anticipate writing ten more overall (give or take). Some of my ideas are to address the idea of love, to talk about the role of movies in my life, to think about history, to examine and/or express the rebel’s rallying cry, to create some kind of structure that makes overall sense, to capture on the page the uncapturable, and to construct a kind of loose, permeable, yet also specific world view.

Although the project is complex, with your support I believe I can finish my first draft within the year (academic year). Thank you for your consideration.

Statement of Plans
It’s not lost on me, how important it would be for me (or any writer or artist) to receive the recognition your fellowship embodies, or metabolizes, let’s say. I ask you to take a leap of faith and give my Box of Life the boost it needs. I owe and would like to express gratitude to my forebears and spiritual mentors, such as Socrates, Dante, and Deborah Eisenberg, and at the same time let you know that this project is occupied with forging ahead—foraging, too. I anticipate it will be two hundred pages long. It is in thirteen sections, two of which are already written. I should tell you, because it is important, that my husband and I were talking the other night in bed, and the moon had not yet come out. He murmured worries in my ear, and I couldn’t sleep for the longest time. My ears were ringing and an invisible herd of tribbles clambered over our knees.

G

aurelie.jpegAurelie Sheehan is the author of two novels, History Lesson for Girls and The Anxiety of Everyday Objects, as well as a short story collection, Jack Kerouac Is Pregnant. Recent work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Conjunctions, Fence, and The Southern Review. Since 2005, she has directed the Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Arizona, where she also teaches fiction. You can read two other stories by Sheehan here and here.

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One comment for Recognition

  1. Comment by Amanda Dowd on January 9, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    This is a wonderfully funny and poignant read for anyone who has ever applied for any kind of fellowship. Or even applied to college, I suppose.

    Thank you, ms Sheehan for your writing, and thank you Guernica for publishing it!

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