On Writing Hybrid Collaborations

I am collaborative by nature, a firm believer in the "two brains are better than one" school of thought, or, in the case of a written work, two pens or voices can create something that exceeds the sum of its parts. My recent collaborative work, a series of pieces written with my cousin, Elaine Sorrentino, juxtapose Elaine's poetry with my prose, an idea that grabbed me one March night and simply would not loosen its hold until I proposed the project to Elaine, who, interestingly, had the same experience—and so we tried it. Our hybrid piece, titled The Girl Scout and the Hitchhiker, was published in April 2017 in Minerva Rising.

The Girl Scout and the Hitchhiker

by Jesse Devyn Crowe and Elaine Sorrentino, excerpt from the collection also entitled The Girl Scout and the Hitchhiker

The year we turn eighteen I visit you at your parents' home in suburban Boston. I say hello and how are you and all the things you say when you haven't seen someone in three years. What lovely earrings, and my, how time flies, and aren't we all grown up now and by the way who are you (that last part only in my head). As usual you look so pretty, long dark hair in a pony tail, fingernails buffed, makeup just right, eyebrows smooth and plucked, the delicate smell of Chanel Number 5. Your parents' living room looks exactly the same since I last visited, a lifetime ago it seems, because you are looking at me oddly as if I am a stranger – a stranger standing awkwardly in the foyer waiting to be invited in, a stranger who looks exactly like someone you used to know.

I glanced up from my picture-perfect sand castle
and there you were - exotic, bohemian, free,
an undeniable resemblance to my own image

You smile and say all the right things. Things we were taught to say from the time we were children. How to be polite to someone in your home, even the vacuum cleaner salesman who comes by every April rain or shine. Have a seat; would you like a drink; we have orange juice and iced tea. May I take your jacket? And what's that you have, a big back pack, like for hiking? Where is your luggage (that last part only in your head because you can see I have only the backpack)? How was your trip?

yet so very different; wiser and more confident,
out from under parental guidance and influence.
I wondered Did they beg you not to leave?

I say the trip was great, last week up to New Hampshire, week before down to Cape Cod. Then silence, because undoubtedly family gossip for the past month has revolved around the question of how I traveled three thousand miles cross-country, a young woman by herself. No one knew I was coming, and if I did not fly or take a train or ride the bus or drive my car, then how did I get here? Especially when my parents don't know the answers to these questions (which undoubtedly they were asked via prompt long distance telephone calls the first day I arrived). All the family is wondering – did I run away? No, I'm eighteen – I don't live in my parents' house any longer. I can do what I want, including make a trip back home to where I used to live and visit my aunts and uncles and cousins and old neighborhood, right? But there is still this mystery everyone wants to solve, yet no one is asking, and I'm not saying much beyond I caught a ride with a few friends. It's this elephant in the room, but everyone is too afraid to know the answer because it might mean. Well, I leave that to their imaginations

Sun-kissed from your gypsy approach to travel,
unapologetically drinking in the Eastern sister of your
Western coastline, you appeared happy to be home

You smile and ask how long I'm thinking of staying in New England and what are my plans for the summer. We sit on the edge of the sofa cushions in the parlor, ankles demurely crossed, sipping iced tea with lemon, making small talk about the weather and movies. Both of us listening politely, but it is essentially a Tupperware conversation, nothing of importance, nothing personal shared (although we never acknowledge that). Everything all vacuum sealed with niceties. And I feel it must be my fault because we used to be so close, and I can't help noticing you are still looking at me oddly – as if I am a stranger, a stranger sitting awkwardly in your parlor waiting to be welcomed, a stranger who looks exactly like someone you used to know quite well.

Jesse Devyn Crowe