I am very excited to be sharing a project that is very close to my heart with you today. Sarah Henry, my friend and fellow English major (and now graduate), is publishing her first book, intricacies are just cracks in the wall through an IndieGoGo campaign. The novel tells the story of a young woman and her recovery from an abusive relationship through poetry. It explores experiences of mental health disorders, relational abuse, and the pains of self discovery.
I had the privilege of being a part of this project near the beginning as a member of Sarah’s writing workshop. It’s great to see all of her hard work finally coming to fruition through the published novel and the short film she created based on it!
As part of the launch of intricacies, I interviewed Sarah to talk to her a little bit about her writing process and the creation of both the book and the film. So what are you waiting for? Read on to hear more about intricacies are just cracks in the wall!
You say on your IndieGoGo page that it wasn’t until your second year of college that you realized that you “had a story worth writing about.” What made you realize this? (Or, what inspired you to pursue this project?)
During my freshman year of college, I was entrenched in an abusive relationship and was so far down the rabbit hole that I had absolutely no idea. It wasn’t until I looked back at my writing that I realized that my poetry was contorted and revealed just how abusive the relationship was. I ended things with him but to this day I still have nightmares and panic attacks about him, even though I have never seen him since. Writing became such an integral process of my discovery and then healing process that I began to wonder if I could use my writing to help others on their path to recovery. It took many drafts and discarded poems, but eventually, Cassidy (the protagonist) was born. And she had one hell of a story to tell.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process – what do you do when drafting, revising, and polishing your writing?
Writing for me is expulsion of all the wrought, wretched overflow I have inside me. This is pretty gross, but it’s almost like vomiting onto the page; I need to get it out of me, otherwise I’ll rot inside. So once all that mess is outside of me, I need to tame it. I always start in free verse. Sometimes I’ll prune it into formal poetry, sometimes it just stays free. I like my poetry wild.
intricacies are just cracks in the wall is written in a three-part structure. How did you choose this structure and why?
The three part structure is meant to mimic the distinct phases Cassidy goes through: Gradual Crucifixion, the slow descent into abuse ending with her initiating the break-up; Perforated Internment, her most vicious struggles with mental health; and Self-Germination, her period of rebirth and rediscovery. Flowers are the most common illustrations in the book, because she must be buried before she grows again. The suffering and death of the old self is necessary for her to grow.
Why did you choose to write this story through poems rather than a “traditional” prose novel? What sorts of poems made their way into the book, and why did you choose particular forms over free-verse?
The sharpest points need the least amount of force in order to penetrate; this is why you can get a stiletto through a human foot, but not a sneaker. Poetry takes individual moments and sharpens them until they punctuate the reader. They need to be incredibly sharp in order to function properly to get the correct emotional response. They slow down time and operate within moments. I wanted to pick individual pieces of Cassidy’s life that would highlight her arc most effectively, rather than writing prose, which demands the writer cover the story in its entirety. The empty moments are sometimes the most powerful; for example, the breakup is only a two line poem. The reader is left to answer their own questions and wonder what was left unsaid.
One of the most arduous parts of the writing process was the Crown of Sonnets that I based on lyrics by Panic! At the Disco. I felt that it was important to incorporate form into the latter parts of her recovery, because it showed that she was getting some sort of structure to her life: she’s taking meds, she has routine, she’s stable, she’s taking care of herself. And the poetry reflects that through form.
How do you see writing as being related to your other creative pursuits, namely your photography and videography?
It’s just another way to tell a story. I’ve always been a writer, ever since I could pick up a crayon, but I didn’t start using a DSLR until I was in college. I just am obsessed with telling stories and finding new mediums to tell those stories has been an incredibly exciting and rewarding process for me.
How challenging was it to adapt intricacies into a film? What was that process like?
Oh gosh, what wasn’t challenging? Absolutely everything you can and can’t imagine going wrong went wrong. We lost our location, we lost an actor, we had to adapt scenes to adjust to the rules of the new location, we only had two days to shoot the entire 22 minute film, we had to change the gender of one of the actors, I actually had to step in and act in the film in addition to being the director. Not to mention, I had to write the screenplay before the book was finished. So it wasn’t even entirely adapting, it was almost co-creating. But in the end, I think we made something truly amazing and it’s already been accepted into a film festival, and I can’t wait to see how far we can take it.
Who are your greatest inspirations as a writer and creator?
As a photographer, it has to be Jake Chamseddine. He’s the tour photographer for Panic! At the Disco. On Periscope one time, back when that was a thing, I asked him how he got the job, and he said he snuck into one of the concerts, took pictures when he wasn’t supposed to, and showed them to the band. They hired him on the spot.
As a writer, that’s a bit more difficult. For intricacies, my inspiration was absolutely Marilyn Nelson. Her poetry is outstanding, and I had the privilege of meeting her when she came to Messiah College for a poetry reading. She was the first writer that convinced me that formal poetry was worth writing. If she could write something as miraculous as A Wreath for Emmett Till as a crown of sonnets, I was absolutely going to give form another try.
What sort of project do you want to tackle next?
Does paying off my student loans count? I’m trying to stay true to pursuing being an artist, but paying the bills is tough. My fiancé is incredibly helpful in grounding me because I get so many ideas in my head that I’m almost overwhelmed because I want to tackle them all at once. He helps keep me focused but never stops me from dreaming big. I have a play that I drafted during my time in college about a schizophrenic mom who sees and speaks to her child that passed away years ago. I really want to try to get that off the ground again.
What is your favorite poem in the book?
I want the light in my eyes
To be contagious, want the
Sinew in my thighs to evoke
I want my toes to teach
Her that it was never a sin
To dance. I want my neck to
Be held high enough to be a beacon,
I want my ears to believe that
Listening is life changing. I want
My heart to be an organ
That belongs to itself, not donated
At another’s discretion. I want
My fire to burn roses because
I am a gift unto myself.
It’s the last poem in the collection. The first poem in the collection is also called i am, and it’s intended to be an almost religious declaration of self.
Anything else to add?
Thanks so much for supporting starving artists!
There are just eight days left to buy intricacies are just cracks in the wall on IndieGoGo, so be sure to go check it out and get your copy before the campaign ends! You can get a signed copy of the book and other merchandise, like copies of the film, and posters of the novel’s illustrations by Caitlyn Fong. And for updates on intricacies and Sarah’s other projects, follow Still Poetry Photography on Facebook and Instagram (@StillPoetryPhotography). You can also add intricacies on GoodReads!
And a big thank you to Sarah for being willing to be featured on my blog! She is doing amazing work, and I’m so happy to have been just a small part of this project!