I have been writing, under nearly all the radar, for what feels a very long time. For the record, I have a master of arts degree from the University of Northern Iowa, having studied literature and creative writing. My thesis was a collection of short stories called Cigarettes and Anklebones, and most (if not all) of the stories were tales of one female protagonist or another, set against a Wisconsin backdrop, caught in a variety of existential quandaries. They were fictional tales, but really, they were all saying the same thing:
I didn’t know what I was doing.
This is still largely true. When I was 30 years old, after an Alice-in-Wonderland-meets-Thelma-and-Louise style road trip with a friend, I made the decision to move to Oregon and write my first book. It took me four years and five states to finish, but I did it. The whole endeavor was such an undertaking that I didn’t really care about anything beyond or outside of it; it became the defining, driving force of my life for those four years. The finale was underwhelming, to say the least. Nothing happened. I didn’t find a publisher, and the whole 400-page beast rests on a bottom book shelf, clipped into a three-ring binder. But, I learned that I liked the rhythm of my writing style—working odd jobs in Wisconsin for a stretch of time, making just enough money to go live somewhere else for a while, then hole up and write. It feeds my wanderlust and my passion for writing, although it certainly doesn’t feed my bank account. That’s not the biggest problem though—that would be audience. I don’t have one.
Enter Roxanne, in the summer of 2019. She may remember it differently, but the pivotal moment was when we discovered we had both lived in the same house, at different times, and we’d both been cheated by the same shoddy landlords. It struck a chord. Eventually, I sent her a story I had recently written. She started making things happen, fast, all the things on the side of art that I didn’t know how to do. I told her it was like she was shooting a gun at my heels, telling me to “Dance.” This actually got the job done, I think. She may say otherwise. But her work is beautiful, and Ope! is making my art a real, tangible, shareable thing. It’s pretty amazing, this potential for a real audience, and beyond that, the chance to be part of the beginning stages of a new, art-centered endeavor—Wisconsin flavored, even. Ask Roxanne to define Wisconsin flavor—her answer will surely be funnier than mine.