I was one of those children who believed deeply in spells they found on the Internet. If Yahoo Answers couldn’t tell me the exact words to whisper as I rolled around in the bathtub, trying desperately to melt my legs together into a mermaid tail, what was the point of having outside resources?
My belief in magic often rolled over into gullibility. I once melted the plastic shade off my magenta desk lamp because I’d taped some tissues that held “dragon eggs” (read: rocks out of the creek by my house) to the bottom in order to incubate them. They smelled like burnt cookies by the time my mom came to scold me for almost burning the house down, but all I had was guilt for killing the growing creatures. Fantasy gave me something to believe in when nothing else felt right. Of course, these hands-on attempts at manifestation were accompanied by both ravenous reading of literally every fantasy book the public library had and writing my own stories to add to the canon; I wrote my first novella the year prior, fifty-some pages of young-girl-becomes-a-mermaid-and-has-to-try-and-find-her-way-back-to-land as inspired by a particularly cool rock. In hindsight, I’m surprised I didn’t end up becoming a geologist.
When we think about our histories as readers, writers, editors, and lovers-of-literature, I think it’s easy to fall back on these narratives of always loving books, of fumbling around to try and find that exact moment that everything clicked and knowing that this is what we were meant to do. Personally, I find just as much value in looking at who I was in the absence of literature. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, one organic chemistry course away from a degree in Neuroscience, because I was so determined in college to try and connect with people. If we cannot understand who we are from the outside, how are we to know who we are internally? My life forms concentric circles around humanity, whether I am trying to escape it via mermaid-inoculation spells (which I now recognize as feeble attempts at quieting early gender dysphoria) or to focus in on it by watching the bouncing lines of an EEG scan in a silent basement lab on a deep winter evening.
In the past two years, I’ve circled back and finally started taking myself and my writing seriously. I have learned how to love a sentence and how to share myself in slivers. Finally, I feel as though I am ready to take on the precarious, privileged position of helping authors with Sundress Publications do the same. I hope to understand a little bit more about us all, and to help the world do the same.
Lee Anderson is a nonbinary MFA student at Northern Arizona University, where they are the Managing Editor of Thin Air Magazine. They have been published sporadically but with zest, with work appearing or forthcoming in The Rumpus, Columbia Journal, and Back Patio Press.