A collection of nine stickers of the cover of Pain Woman in three rows of three on a table. The cover itself is a series of colorful triangles reaching toward the center on a red background.

Reaching other Pain People

The happy thing for me this month is that I am celebrating the release of my essay collection, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System. University of Nebraska Press continues to be a fantastic home for books, and I’m so glad to get to work with them. And I am glad to get these essays out into the world because they are so strange, and departing from a larger coherent narrative nonfiction structure is such a welcome respite–especially on the topic of pain.

A collection of nine stickers of the cover of Pain Woman in three rows of three on a table. The cover itself is a series of colorful triangles reaching toward the center on a red background.
A collection of nine stickers of the cover of Pain Woman in three rows of three on a table. The cover itself is a series of colorful triangles reaching toward the center on a red background.

I gave a talk last week at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference on the reasons why writing about pain made me run screaming from a linear narrative. I have told the story of my onset and symptoms of rheumatoid disease and other conditions to so many doctors, and it’s a mystery story that doesn’t have a convenient resolution. The narrative gives me no answers. It tells of my ability to adapt, to contain pain, but that is not what doctors want to hear. I once went into doctors’ offices furiously and desperately hoping for a cure, but I have slowly adapted to the idea that that is not in the cards for me. I have become a non-narrative, non-linear creature when it comes to pain. For that reason, I have let in all the weirdness, which was fantastic and fun.

Sonya smiling, wearing red glasses, next to Tayler Lord, awesome Nebraska Press publicist, with books in the booth and a banner visible in the background.
Sonya smiling, wearing red glasses, next to Tayler Lord, awesome Nebraska Press publicist, with books in the booth and a banner visible in the background.

Normally with a new book I would do a book tour, and I do have some dates scheduled over the next few months. However, with this topic–and with my body in general the way it is–I am thinking about how to reach people who don’t travel much or for whom getting out of the house in the evening and out to a bookstore is either an ordeal or impossible.

The question is: how can I do a reading for other people like me? Maybe I could do a reading in a mattress store where everyone could lie down. (That probably won’t happen but it sounds amazing). Or maybe–and this I’m considering more seriously–I could do a reading on YouTube live so people could tune in?

One cool thing I am participating in in April is an online workshop on Writing Chronic Pain through the “Survive and Thrive” conference on narrative medicine. I am excited to learn more about this as it seems like an awesome model for accessibility.

Let me know what you think–especially if you are a Pain Person. I am also open to Skype or FaceTime meetings with chronic pain support groups. I know there has to be a way to use technology to connect and do a form of reading that is accessible to people like me.

5 thoughts on “Reaching other Pain People

  1. “I have become a non-narrative, non-linear creature when it comes to pain.”
    This is such an interesting knot to me, Sonya, as someone who does not experience chronic pain and, correspondingly, has not much thought about its relationship to literary representation. I do think a great deal about how trauma breaks apart linear and coherent narrative structures, in my own work, and also what it means (from perspectives of both craft and life) to try to rebuild narrative that can support trauma stories, even if they inevitably exceed its capacity. But broken narrative and -physical- pain? Gonna hafta put that in the hopper to think about. Congrats on the new release; I look forward to reading!

    Like

    1. Thanks so much, Alice, and great to hear from you. I think there’s a connection between the broken narrative of trauma and that of pain, the sense of losing control and losing the sense of action potential and “scene” and seeing things in vastly altered ways, maybe.

      Liked by 1 person

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