How I came across this book is nothing short of a strange, almost fated, coincidence. Like many others who still add "emerging writer" to their cover letter, I entered my flash nonfiction in a writing contest for The Pinch, a literary journal that holds annual contests for both fiction and nonfiction. I'd heard of the journal in passing and read over some of the pieces on the website just like you're supposed to do before you submit anywhere, and this time I spent extra time researching the judge who was to decide if my work was worthy of publication and a $1,000 cash prize. This judge was Esmé Weijun Wang.
I didn't have to look far to research; the website provided information about Wang right on their contest page. At first glance, she's instantly impressive. She won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize which is - to put it mildly - kind of a big deal. At the time when I was doing this research, I'd just finished a publishing and editing workshop where Graywolf was one of the small presses we spent eons discussing; it is one of the "big" small presses, and that will only make sense to other writers looking to get their start at a reputable establishment. I'd come to learn that not only did she win the prize, but she won it for this book, The Collected Schizophrenias.
This caused immediate interest because of the subject matter and the small fact that she was controlling the fate of my own writing, but I'd had too many books staring at me from my to-be-read pile to invest in another paperback that would collect dust in the corner. Then, writer Twitter - a small, enclave of the internet that posts daily quotes and submission deadlines - presented my feed with a retweet from none other than Esmé Weijun Wang. The world was getting smaller, and let's face it, I'd already put the book in my Amazon cart for a later date. This tiny, seemingly innocuous act of viewing a tweet told me that the stars had aligned enough for me to "check out," my cart full of new reading material.
Since then, I've started the book, and am loving it even more than I thought I would. The mixture of scientific information, research, and personal anecdotes creates an atmosphere that certainly I have never seen before. My best comparison I can muster with what I have read is as follows: if you enjoy writing that could be from the lovechild of Oliver Sacks and Lucy Grealy, this is the book for you.
Oh, and I didn't win the writing contest. The Pinch did send me two copies of the print magazine and an adorable pink-and-blue pin of an oyster with a small saying engraved underneath. It says, "no pinch, no pearl." It lives on my school ID lanyard as a reminder to work hard each day to create, to inspire, and to learn.
It is the most perfect consolation prize.