Ana K. Wrenn portrait



August 3, 2021

When it came to writing in my youth, I acted a bit like a solitary, perpetually starved vampire,hunkering in the shadows, feeding on my stories, determined to remain alone.

Eventually, I crept out of those shadows, presenting my essays, short stories, and books to readers and mentors as I would my naked neck to glistening fangs, both terrified and intoxicated by the experience. Over time, I became part of a brood, a clan, connecting with those who would help me humanely explore the darkness of the human spirit, encouraging me and holding me accountable without dismissing me as foul, or worse, monstrous.

As I write this, I’m wondering:

Have you found your brood? Also, have you sensitized yourself to identifying and separating readers and collaborators who appear well-meaning but secretly desire to drive a stake through your heart?

Through mindful study and significant trial-n-error, I've learned to better distinguish nourishing feedback from predatory critiques. It took time and radical self-honesty. Eventually, though, I adapted to the stark light of helpful criticism that illuminated my work, and I moved away from the criticism meant to exsanguinate my writings, or me.

Given the darker subject matters I tackle, I only explore the shadows of humanity with those who are willing to enter emotionally dark territories. Of course, I don’t judge those who (for whatever reason) have little interest in traipsing where I go. Likewise, I work to not judge myself for being drawn to forebodingtangles ofstories.

Recently, the artist Faux Faerie (a.k.a My Cary, one-half of our nicknames for each other), captured my philosophy as a writer when she designed my logo (featured in the picture above). My tagline, Exploring beauty in the bleak (©),conveys my author-vision: to develop and share works that illuminate and relish the silver in the shadows, the wispy mist rolling across the gloomy landscape, and, at times, the revolting persons and experiences that, in actuality, reveal humanity's grace and fortitude.

Of course,I’m not talking about glorifying malignancy, sadism, cruelty, and oppression. What I’m talking about is delving into the dark tunnels running through all of us and staring into the shadows we cast.

Faux Faerie’s design of my logo beckons us to travel the razor-thin switchback up a wild mountainand to investigate the mysteriouscave underneath the human experience. Who knows what manner of monster we will discover, including the one within? But exploring pitch blackness with a beautiful brood, a cozy clan, a powerful pack affords us a degree of safety — while allowing us to become more comfortable with our discomfort.