Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....
Today's ink story comes from Steph Post. Steph is the author of the novel A Tree Born Crooked and an editor for Pandamoon Publishing. She lives, writes and teaches writing in St. Petersburg, Florida.
I’m one of those strange folks who are covered in tattoos, but don’t really like to talk about it. I tend to shy away when people- in the checkout line at the grocery store, at restaurants, in classrooms at the high school where I work, walking down the street- reach out, grab my arm and ask me the dreaded question “so, what’s it all mean?” (as if somehow the secret meaning of life is somewhere between my armpit and my elbow…) It’s not that I don’t want to talk to people; it’s just that it’s hard to explain the history and justification of an entire sleeve in the brief five seconds of attention that most people are willing to give. So I usually respond with the vague, “oh, you know, stuff” and move on.
But the opportunity of getting to explain the origins of a tattoo on one of my favorite book review sites is another story all together, so here goes…
I’ve lost track of how many tattoos I actually have- I counted once and I know I’ve sat through over 30 tattooing sessions if that tells you anything- but with my debut novel, A Tree Born Crooked, being released on September 30th, it seems only right that I tell you about the crooked tree.
Most of my tattoos mark some sort of event in my life- some physical, some mental or emotional- and this tattoo marked the end of writing A Tree Born Crooked and the beginning of its journey out into the world. It just so happened that my tattoo artist at the time, Evil Don in St. Petersburg, Florida, has as much a fascination with trees as I do, and he was thrilled to draw this piece for me. He even went so far as to create a painting based off of the tattoo design, which still hangs in his tattoo studio today.
So what does it actually “mean,” you want to know? It means on my body what it means in the novel. One of the main characters explains to another that, “a tree born crooked never could grow straight.” (Yes, this is a lyric from a Tom Waits song for all you cool cats out there now squirming with recognition) This isn’t a negative idea, though. As the character, Marlena, goes on to explain, what this really means is that we can’t give up hope. We may be bent, broken, or crooked, but we still have to keep on growing, we still have to keep on breathing, living and moving forward. We may be born with our wounds or we may acquire them, but they are no excuse for giving up.
This is an idea that I truly believe in and comes from a life motto that my husband (who, incidentally, came up with the title of novel) has instilled in me: It’s okay to not be okay. Every time I want to pack it in, every time I want to throw in the towel or say, “I can’t,” my tattoo reminds me that it’s okay to be angry or frustrated or depressed. It’s okay to feel that way, it’s okay to be crooked, it’s okay for the path not to be straight. Just keep moving, keep breathing and keep on living the life you were meant to live. In the end, that’s all that really matters.