Tuesday, May 14, 2013

THE SALON OF SHAME, by: Marissa Burt

There's this place here in Seattle called the Salon of Shame where, if you’re brave, you can go and participate in an open-mic night.  But not just any open-mic night.  The courage required isn’t the usual sort, the ordinary kind you MUST have if you’re going to read your work in public, but the Salon of Shame demands bravery only found in those made of sterner stuff.  On this night, artists bring some of their earliest creations to share - you know, the pages that have been buried in a shoebox in your closet since the eighth grade - so that attendees can "exploit our younger selves for your entertainment."

Time to 'fess up, everyone.  We all did it.  Writers especially have tattered notebooks brimming with brooding poetry, short stories that remarkably resemble our favorite novel at the time, and the beginnings of novels which we once secretly thought quite good.

Every five years or so I like to paw through whatever papers I’ve kept, sifting over old letters and journals and the odd high school essay that made the cut.  They say that laughter is the best medicine, and this exercise always gives me a good dose of it.  The absurdity of some of what I’ve written dampens any clouds of nostalgia and leaves me with a lingering fondness for that girl, the one scribbling away in notebooks in the back of classrooms. 

What about you, dear readers?  I know something has popped into your mind as you’ve been reading this: that angst-ridden love poem, those treasured song lyrics, a snippet of a story.  Now’s your chance.  Post anonymously if you must, but do let us have a glimpse of your past self.  I’d love to read an excerpt or at least hear you describe your very first project.  Exploit yourself for our entertainment!  :)

And, in good faith, that SOMEONE else will post SOMETHING, I’ll share from my first “book”, a screed written during chemistry class (I’m sorry, Ms. Greene!) with my prized fountain pen (yes, I was that girl). 

From the opening page:

Good weather was almost a celebration day for most common folk in Gwyrn, whereas the upperclass merely regarded them with disdain.  The children scampered about with uplifted faces to the sun.  One in particular stood out from the rest, but not by her own doing.  Her long auburn hair was plaited and adorned with gold baubles; her skirts swished and sparkled in the sun, and her shoes – the envy of all the other children, but this was unbeknownst to the girl – laced up and around the thin ankles with cured leather thongs.  The other children were common enough with simple garments although most were barefoot.  Skipping gaily they cried out to each other with youthful voices.  Out of the shadows stepped a tall, arrogant looking fellow dressed in brightly colored silks looking as if he didn’t want to dirty his soft, white hands with the peasant children, he grabbed the aforesaid girl and whipped her around.


  1. Okay, I'll play! This is from the same journal where I laboriously created an alien language, word by word. But, I've chosen to inflict upon you the poetry I wrote as a teen who was currently reading a lot of Edgar Allen Poe:

    I hear the voice of my dead
    That singing sweet in my head.
    You say you are forgiving,
    Yet you hound me among the living.
    I couldn't stand anymore,
    The thought hits as I strike the floor.

    I want to love you so much
    But our spirit and flesh cannot touch.
    Your whispers torture me
    I will go and join thee
    And we'll walk hand in hand through the gate
    Go back to the other side . . . and wait.

    A great black wall rises on my right,
    Straight ahead the gates of light.
    Your form in the doorway,
    A silvery whisper to say,
    I cannot wait.
    And the darkness closes on my fate.

    (I actually have recycled some lines from this into other things, but the overall melodramatic, melancholic tone makes me laugh at my overly-serious 13-year-old self. If only she knew I'd end up writing about farts, puke, and awkwardness)

    1. haha! Good thing our sense of humor developed as we got older, no? I have many intense poems like this, too. I think it's helpful to remember as MG writers the intensity of those emotions. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Angelica, that poem is pretty awesome for a teenager! Bravo! :)

    1. Aww, thanks! I had some early fantasy writing stuff that's more like Marissa's but it wasn't as accessible as this example (those stories are on floppy discs). I knew right where my old black velvet journal with the silver unicorn on the front was, lol.

  3. Here's a poem of mine from 1983. It was published in my high school literary magazine:


    Foretold in a witch-fire sphere
    Trickling through the cracks of future time
    Like quicksilver -- Mercury, forerunner of
    The gods, thief and child of the night,
    He winged down from a dead heaven.
    Past shuffled up with the tarots and
    Old faces leered from the Greater Trumps.
    I snuffed the incense
    And crossed the palm that held the inward mirror
    With a smile/sneer.

    1. I have forever been intrigued by the term "quicksilver". It's so mysterious and magical sounding. High school me would have read your poem and worshiped from afar. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I'll play! Imagine me cringing here. I found this in a file with a Kinko's receipt from 1999. You can see I was already in love with historical fiction (and obsessed with Laura Ingalls). At least you were in school. I was an adult when I wrote this drivel.

    Indiana had always been my home. I felt safe inside our Indiana farm house. The four sturdy walls gathered us in and held us together. Memories settled deep. My whole life was there on that piece of land. I never dreamed it would be any different.

    My Pa had called me his little one since childhood, although now that I was fourteen the name didn't seem to fit as it once had, especially with my sister Ellie fast approaching ten. I suppose my long brown braid, my unruly, wispy hair about my face I had never learned to tame, and my eyes as blue as the day I was born all added to the nickname's long life. It was, of course, something Ellie found funny. Even so, there was a part of me that felt at home with the name. In some ways I still felt small, not at all like the young lady I was supposed to be.

    Pa was a restless man. It was in his nature to dream. I had heard him mention Oregon more than once over the years. The notion of going West wasn't a new idea to me as Cousin Louise and I loved to discuss what it must be like west of Indiana...

    1. I love that your love for historical fiction was strong even then!

      And we're good enough friends that I can tell you I'm giggling over the nickname's long life, right? ;)

    2. Laugh away. The whole thing is AWFUL. Someone told me once if we go back to old work we can find some good stuff. I pulled this out. Ah, no. :)

  5. I love how we were all writing essentially fanfiction as a way to find our voices, no matter our age!

    1. Yes! Definitely! I think it's inevitable that we have to go through these growing pains of testing out voice and writing choppy stilted sentences. At least I hope so (since I'm looking at my first draft of this latest project and seeing some of the same groan-inducing writing). !!!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!