Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Indie Ink Runs Deep: Vanessa Veselka

I've been tossing around the idea of blogging a tattoo series for nearly a year now. 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. 

After hoarding the photos and essays I've been collecting from these guys since July of 2012, and with the promise of spring peeking its deliciously sunny head out through all of this winter gloom, I decided there was no better time than now to finally unveil THE INDIE INK RUNS DEEP mini-series!

Today's indie ink is from Vanessa Veselka. Vanessa has been at various times a teenage runaway, a sex-worker, a union organizer, a student of paleontology, and a mother. Her work appears in The Atlantic, Tin House, The FSG anthology Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, and Maximum Rock ’n’ Roll with work forthcoming in GQ and Zyzzva. Her debut novel, Zazen, is a 2011 finalist for the Ken Kesey Prize in fiction.

My lion tattoo is of Fortitude, one of the New York Public Library lions. The number below it is my library of congress catalog number. When I got the tattoo, I’d just spent a few awful months in an MFA program where the pressure to hide your victories and celebrate your fear was everywhere—the whole thing was like a misery factory with a golden apple on top. It shook me up pretty badly until I remembered that I didn’t need a secret handshake from anyone and quit the program. Later that week, I got the library of congress catalog number for Zazen, which was about to debut. I was already going to get a tattoo in honor of my first novel, but it was going to be small and cryptic so that no one would know what it meant. After my MFA experience I decided to get a big-ass lion on my arm as a reminder that art isn’t improved by shame or insecurity. Moreover, pride is essential. It’s what makes you go after more than you can actually get, which is the only game in town. Shoot me, I thought. I published a novel. Shoot me. I’m proud to be in the library. In fact, it’s a goddamned honor.

And thus the lion was inked.

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