Makebelieve by Caitlin Scholl.
I wrote this on Goodreads: “This is a book from a local friend of mine. I was blown away by the diversity of style. This looks and reads like a scrapbook from ages 10 to twenty-something. This is an extremely risky book that delivers on multiple beautiful levels, displaying a mind that can go from poetry, to prose, to diary, to scrapbook.”
I think there is something happening here, and I can’t help but think it comes from the creators from up here in the Adirondacks. From the community of writers and filmmakers and artists of all stripes. We’re starting to think specifically in what interests us, and mixing the various mediums that interest us into one package. In this case, Scholl creates something that is somewhat like a Choose Your Own Adventure series. One side of the text is the story of Art Maestro, an alias Scholl has given to the man who created the children’s playground the Land of Make Believe in Upper Jay, NY. The other page is from the diary pages of Lilac Snitloch, who is an alias for Scholl. The work and story is presented through multiple mediums: cartoons, sketches, hand-written notes, poetry, prose, and photographs.
This is what makes it an amazing piece of work—it is a map of the creative brain, because really our minds think and process life in a variety of ways. Makebelieve is a display of a mind totally unwilling to limit itself, and in many ways makes one fall in love with that mind, because really when we think about the desire of this new kind of literature is to connect with a reader’s creative consciousness. This assumes the belief that we communicate through a series of signs and sounds and as individuals we gather evidence through our senses and process it differently. We think in images, drawing, and different styles of prose. Inevitably we make a choice on a particular creative vehicle in which to share our experience or our imagination. In this case, Scholl refused to stick to one vehicle, but instead chose to use many. Putting those memories to paper in a variety of ways they came to her is an attempt to connect to someone else out there—an attempt to feel less lonely, one might say, or what Dave Wallace might say.
The connection I felt here is based in environment—I always go back to this naturalistic belief—I believe that where you’re from, a place that connects with you intimately affects how you create. I think this area pushes creative individuals to try to express that creativity in multiple ways, never really settling on one thing. When I read this, I thought about what I’m currently doing and why I came back to my hometown—how The Worst Writer Ever is really a love letter to things that are important to me: this town and comic books, and who I would be without those things and using both of those vehicles to show what I care about—prose and comic books. I narrowed myself early on, whereas Scholl did not.
The Worst Writer Ever is probably not for a mass audience, like Makebelieve, but I don’t think truly honest work is for everyone, they start from a place that is for the author. Both works come from a place of love and is an attempt to connect with someone else out there—about joy and imagination. This is a beautiful piece of work and I feel very lucky to call Caitlin an acquaintance through the years here in Lake Placid. This is a small town and those of us born in the 1980s all kind of ran together in many ways, of course we were closer with some more than most, but Caitlin was in my orbit as small town kids generally are, so when I saw this book in the Bookstore Plus, I simply had to pick it up and I am so very glad I did. Here’s to the start of a beautiful career.