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Personal Matters: In Which I Write About Myself and Expect You to Read It

April 29, 2014

Camille Hayes

For those of you just tuning in: I like to write about politics. I bring up this rather obvious point because there’s a book coming out May 3, Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God, which features an essay of mine, and said essay is not about politics—it’s about me. This is a rare enough occurrence that I think it bears pointing out. The piece is called “Float,” and it’s decidedly not the sort of writing I typically do, not because I dislike personal essays—as a reader, I love them—but because as a writer, choosing topics, looking for angles, I guess I just don’t find myself all that interesting.

Instead, I gravitate toward big-picture subjects like politics and social issues—and when I say “politics” I mean it in the broadest sense: social problems, societal structure, cultural change and the movements that cause it. Whatever the topic, I usually find myself taking the long view, probably because I’m pretty analytical and the broader the perspective, the more stuff there is for me to work on, to break down into component parts and rearrange. I like big social issues for the same reason people who like jigsaws will pick the 1,000 piece puzzle over the 250-piece version: more pieces = more fun.

So that’s why I write about politics instead of, say, interpersonal relationships or family life. Still, there are aspects of human experience that simply aren’t amenable to analysis, that don’t yield their meaning when you try to parse them that way. Over the years there have been topics I’ve wanted to explore that didn’t fit easily into the writing format I generally employ, on this blog and elsewhere. So about a year ago, when my friend Christine Bronstein suggested I submit a piece to her upcoming anthology of personal essays, I realized I had several ideas that had been waiting patiently in the wings for me to find an occasion to write about them.

Now Nothing But the Truth is about to launch, and I find myself somewhat at a loss for words to describe my essay (she says, roughly 400 words into a post about it) except to say that it’s on the theme of “transitions” and I’ve never written anything quite like it before. It’s personal, it’s descriptive, and it’s less explanatory than it is illuminating. I’m showing you something, but it’s something I don’t fully understand so it’s necessarily short on analysis. But the experience of writing it was strangely, elliptically revelatory, not just of my subject but of the paths we take to get the mysterious, hidden places in our own experience.

And that’s as close as I’m going to get to telling you what the essay’s about. Buy the book, why don’t you? The other writers in this anthology, all women, have likewise taken on subjects from their personal lives—sex, marriage, religion, work—and tried to lay bare those thoughts and feelings that usually remain obscured behind layers of privacy, reticence or omission. It’s a broad collection with different types of voices included, from established writers to first-time authors, and many kinds of transitions explored. There should be something for everyone—even you, dear reader. I know how fussy you are.

If you live in Northern California, try to join us for one of the upcoming launch events! I’ll be reading May 15 in San Francisco.

• Book launch & reading May 3 at Book Passage in Corte Madera. Info HERE.

• Reading and author spotlight May 15 at Books, Inc in San Francisco; info HERE.

• Reading and author spotlight May 22 at Books, Inc in Palo Alto; info HERE.

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