Q&A with Victoria Griffin, Creator of Flooded: A Creative Anthology of Brain Injuries
The following is an interview with the woman behind this anthology project -I hope you find it as compelling as I have.
What is Flooded?
Flooded will be a creative anthology of fiction and creative nonfiction devoted to brain injuries. It will be approximately 80,000 words and will include work of all styles and genres. The anthology is not merely meant to showcase memoirs or personal stories—though they will undoubtedly play a role. Brain injuries take many forms and are often difficult to describe. That’s why the anthology will use multiple genres to explore the experience of brain injuries and concussions, ultimately unifying to create an expansive, truthful representation of brain injuries.
What inspired the anthology?
In January of this year, I took a hit to the head during softball practice. I immediately felt drunk, but the next morning I had difficulty speaking and walking. My trainer assured me the symptoms would be gone within two weeks, after which the doctor assured me they would be gone within three. After four months, two ER visits, a drug overdose (caused by a neurologist who was supposed to help me), and a desperate struggle to graduate without being able to read or perform basic, everyday functions, I finally recovered. On the surface, the concussion cost me my senior season of softball and four months of my life. But in reality, it left scars so deep, they are difficult to describe—which is what prompted me to write about the experience. When I realized there was no publication solely dedicated to brain injuries, I began to truly consider how concussion awareness is approached—with facts and statistics—and how inadequate that is.
What was it like to be concussed?
A brain injury is difficult to describe. I feel like I could write a thousand pages and never capture the experience. I can tell you that my mom said I sounded like a four-year-old, and my dad said my eyes were always dull and lifeless. I don’t remember the first two weeks at all, and after that I would “ lose” gradually decreasing sections of time—a few days at first, then a day, then hours,
and eventually minutes. When I finally gained enough strength to walk around the apartment, I would get stuck on the stairs and have to call for help. A sound as small as footsteps would send me into sensory overload attacks—which I came to call flooding—during which I would involuntarily curl into a ball and be unable to move, speak, or breathe. Have you ever been near to drowning? Each time an attack happened, I felt like I was drowning. Getting air was more difficult than pressing through the heaviest backsquat I’ve ever attempted. And each attack lasted hours. Still, all I’ve really described is the physical. Can I explain to you what it feels like to lose your mental capabilities? To lose your language? To not be able to understand words spoken to you? To feel paranoia so strong you can’t look anyone in the eye? To lose your emotions, so that all you feel are the artificial sadness and fear induced by the injury and medication? Why fiction and creative nonfiction? As I said, I can’t explain to you what it was like to have a concussion, not like this. I can’t tell you what it was like, but I can show you. I can write a story that makes you feel the fear of being alone when a flooding attack happens and wondering if you’ll get help before you stop breathing. I can write a story that makes you feel the overwhelming depression of losing the entirety of your identity. I can write a story that makes you laugh at the silliness of staring at a light for ten minutes because you believed it wasn’t there. By compiling an anthology of fiction and creative nonfiction, we can use multiple genres, styles, and tones to truly convey the experience of a brain injury. Because it’s not what it looks like or how many people it happens to that matters. It’s how it feels and how it impacts the lives of human beings. Anton Chekhov is attributed with saying, “ Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Simply telling people about concussions and brain injuries is not sufficient to nurture awareness and understanding. We need to show them.
What could someone who has never experienced a brain injury gain from reading Flooded?
The anthology is not simply for survivors. While it will certainly be an outlet for them to express their personal realities, they are actually the group of people who (as readers) need the anthology the least. When I realized I was concussed, my first reaction was to try to hide it because I knew I would be benched. What if I had read an anthology like Flooded? What if I had known what could happen to me? I was lucky. I walked away from my brain injury with no permanent damage, and my poor decision early on did not negatively affect the outcome. But it could have. And for many, it does. Reading an anthology like Flooded may help others to make better decisions in such a situation. If you have not experienced a brain injury, you might in the future. Or a family member or close friend might, and they will not be able to tell you what they’re going through, not until it’s over. What if you had the opportunity to gain insight into their struggles? I know my friends and family would have leapt at the thought of learning anything about what was happening inside my body and mind. Concussions don’t just happen to athletes. They happen after a fall or a car accident. They are a part of life that needs to be addressed in literature. At the very least, gaining empathy for another’s pain and struggles makes you a better, more understanding person. Who doesn’t need that in their life? How did your concussion change your life? The concussion completely altered the course of my life, directly and indirectly. Because of it, I wound up discovering a new passion—freelance editing. But the most significant result of the injury is its impact on my perspective and my worldview. I now have a much deeper understanding of the sorts of challenges some people face every single day—those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and learning disorders. I also have an incredibly deep-rooted appreciation for the people in my life. We all know that extreme situations bring out the best and the worst in people. I saw people behave in ways I never would have expected. I saw true cruelty, to a degree I didn’t believe people to be capable of, not from strangers but from people who had been in my life for years. But I also saw extreme compassion and sacrifice. I saw a few friends and family members put their lives on hold to make sure I made it through. From driving across the country to staying with me when I was afraid of what might happen during the night, I can never repay those amazing people, but I will spend the rest of my life trying. And now, I consider of every person in my life, would they be the one to make sure I kept breathing when an attack hit? Or would they be the one to step over me and leave me alone?
When and how can writers submit pieces for inclusion?
Submissions will be accepted via Submittable beginning November 15. The submission window will close February 28. Following the Kickstarter, detailed submission instructions will be available at victoriagriffin.net. All submissions will be read blind—without any identifying information—so that race, gender, and background play no part in the selection process. Who can submit? Absolutely anyone can submit. There is no requirement to have experienced, or even seen, a brain injury. If a writer takes the time to research brain injuries and concussion in order to write a piece that accurately represents the experience, we have already educated one person on the realities of brain injuries. As previously mentioned, all submissions will be read blind so publication history is not a factor. Seasoned veterans and unpublished writers are both welcome to submit and will receive the same consideration. The work speaks for itself!
What challenges do you expect to face in creating the anthology?
Of course, raising sufficient funds to create the anthology is the first challenge. Spreading the word about the project and gathering interest is a trying process, but the incredible amount of support the project has already received from writers, athletes, and the online community makes me incredibly optimistic. The next challenge will be selecting pieces to fill the anthology. I published my first piece my junior year of high school, and I have six years’ worth of experience with literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. The amount of talent in the literary community is astounding, and when combined with a topic that elicits deep emotionality, I have no doubt the quality of submissions will be superb—and will make choosing 80,000 words of fiction and creative nonfiction a difficult task. Perhaps the greatest challenge I anticipate is the promotional aspect of the project. Once the anthology is complete, we will need to shout it from the rooftops and get the work into the hands of readers. I have experience promoting my own work, but this is a whole new level. That’s why I’ve allocated a promotional budget to be used for services such as a professional blog tour, cover reveal, and promotional plan. While I foresee challenges in promotion, I believe that the quality of the work and the significance of the work will ultimately entice readers.
How does Kickstarter work?
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform, which means we set a budget, and if we are a dollar short of that goal, we get nothing. For that reason, the budget I have set is the bare minimum we need to create the anthology. I have also set a target budget, which is the amount it would take to give the anthology the treatment I believe it deserves and, most importantly, to pay contributors an amount that is fair to their work and their talent. Keep in mind that the actual project budget is only 74% of the total budget. The other 26% goes to Kickstarter fees and rewards fulfillment.
What do backers receive in return for supporting Flooded?
Rewards! By supporting Flooded, you become a part of our family, and that does not come without its perks. Your reward will depend on your pledge amount. Examples of rewards are inclusion in thank-you sections on victoriagriffin.net and in the print anthology, a special “ behind the scenes” eBook, 25% off editing services, a custom journal, and of course, the FloodedAnthology itself. Dedicated contributors even have an opportunity to receive a “ perfect copy,” delivered three months before regular distribution and signed by every single U.S. contributor—an offer that will never be available again.
That’s a lot of money! Where is it going?
Other than Kickstarter fees and rewards fulfillment, the budget will cover cover art and design, interior layout, Submittable fees, editing and proofreading, promotion, and of course, contributor payments and copies. A breakdown of the minimum and target budgets are below. [Include budget images.] How can I help?Spread the word! Share a link to the Kickstarter page on social media. Tell your friends and family. Help us to turn this project into a movement. And of course, you can visit the Kickstarter page yourself, and pledge to support the project! We would love to have you as part of the Flooded family.
Recommendation: Pledge some money, folks! And signal boost the shit out of this thing. Tell you friends and family, especially if you feel passionately about the importance of a better public conversation around concussions and other brain injuries. http://kck.st/2dGtO32