Collaboration is a little like taking twenty fourth graders back in time. We were the fourth graders. But we were also the bumbling chaperone. The teacher, counting heads and recounting, making sure to not leave anyone behind.
It’s a little like time traveling when we write drafts together. We lose track of which self is the author, which self is the reader, because we were at all times both.
Collaboration is a little like being seized by a giant eagle and trusting that your partner will be there to save you.
It is one of the scariest things we’ve done as writers. It’s forced us to let go of control over our work, forced us to share our writing in its newest, rawest form. But it is also the most fun.
Collaboration gives us permission to be playful with our writing and to write in ways we normally wouldn’t. When we know we have a partner there to assure us (or to fix the story when it’s become completely bonkers) we feel freer to experiment.
“Of All the Infinite Possibilities” began as a stress dream.
It became a way to cope with stressing.
When we shared, it changed.
It evolved and evolved and evolved.
It’s one of twelve stories we’ve written together. The stories were all written in the same way, by trading a draft back and forth until one of us found an ending. Until we forgot which words were Melissa’s and which were Dana’s.
Until our two selves merged—strangely, newly—into an ‘I.’
We stress-dream we come in late, and in pajamas.
We dream the syllabus is burning, that we couldn’t take attendance, that our classroom can’t be found, doesn’t exist.
We dream our students turn to wolves. They encircle us, and we are standing tip-toe on our desks as the room seems to get smaller and smaller.
We dream we’re showing our eight-year-old students a video that suddenly becomes inappropriate. We try to pause it, try to turn off the projector, but nothing is working. We wonder if we should throw ourselves across the screen. The kids are hearing the curse word, seeing the blood, and I can do nothing to stop it.
Some of these are metaphors but most of these are not.
We wrote this story exploring (our somewhat incurable) imposter syndrome.
About how terrifying/thrilling/unbelievable/excellent/awful it is to be THE teacher, the one with THE answers. Or at the very least, the one at the front of the room.
About how wild it is to not know, to experiment, to take risks as a teacher—how wonderful and impossible it is to predict the ecosystem of the classroom.
How desperate we were to keep their attention.
How eager we were to engage.
How much we wanted them to like it.
Collaboration is like that too.
DANA DIEHL is the author of Our Dreams Might Align (Splice UK, 2018) and the collaborative collection, The Classroom (Gold Wake Press, 2019). Her chapbook, TV Girls, won the 2017-2018 New Delta Review Chapbook prize, judged by Chen Chen. She earned her MFA in Fiction at Arizona State University. She lives in Tucson.
MELISSA GOODRICH is the author of the collaborative collection The Classroom (2019), the story collection Daughters of Monsters (2019), and the poetry chapbook IF YOU WHAT (2012). Her stories have appeared in American Short Fiction, The Kenyon Review Online, Passages North, PANK, and others. Find her at melissa-goodrich.com and tweeting @good_rib.