Author Casey Plett tells the story behind her Personal Ink

in Non-Fiction by

There is always a story behind a tattoo. Whether an image was motivated by love, family, or just too much tequila, tattoos become meaningful the moment they appear on your skin. As an author, I always knew I wanted to get a tattoo that represented my work —and a few years ago, I finally did. I was recently inspired by the beautiful book Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton to share that story with all of you. After that post, we here at BookTrib discovered that many other authors and illustrators have amazing tattoos and experiences that inspired them. It seems a shame not to share such unique stories and images with you, so we’re starting a monthly column called Personal Ink. This is where authors and artists can, in their own words, tell the stories behind their tattoos—letting us in on a unique part of their life and their work.

This month we’re featuring ink by fiction and essay writer Casey Plett. Plett is the author of A Safe Girl to Love, (Topside Press, 2014), a collection of short stories focused on young trans women as they navigate life, from small rural towns to bars in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Rookie Mag, Plentitude, and she was a columnist for McSweeney’s with “Balls Out: A Column on Being Transgendered.” Here’s Plett’s tattoo and the story behind it:


CASEY PLETT: I never talked about books as a kid, which seems like an obvious thought—but it matters. Do any kids talk about books with each other?

As an adult, I am lucky enough to spend most of my time with books: I work in a bookstore, teach writing classes and review books for my local paper. I have an MFA, I’ve gone on tour and I’ve organized literary conferences. It’s such a blessed life! And it sometimes seems so tangentially related to what books—the physical object themselves, the act of reading—meant to me when I was a kid.

I lived in the province of Manitoba until I was almost 11 years old. The province was old and stagnant and falling apart, much like my own family. My memories of that time focus on books, and sitting alone in a dimly lit old Winnipeg apartment, with wind and city noise rushing outside. As an adult in 2015, it sounds romantic and dramatic even to me; in 1992 it was just impossibly lonely.

Only certain books harness that total envelopment for me now that possess the power to both shrink and widen the larger world. There are still writers that take me there, of course—Miriam Toews, Leanne Simpson, Heather O’Neill…to name a smattering—but much of my reading, enjoyable and thought-provoking as it is, comes from a different place of need.

I’m good with that. I love my book-riddled life, getting to center books as a career has been one of the luckiest things I know.

Like many writers, my early life had a lot of pain, boredom and unkind humans, and reading was a way to deal and avoid it all at the same time. And like many writers, I have to feel the place of what brought me here while I’m writing. For me it was a girl who sat on her bed, looking up at a basement apartment window while her father was stoned and depressed in the bathtub, a girl who needed books and got them and it was the best thing of her life: Being alone, in a room, with pages that came from someone completely unknown, also alone, in a room. When I need to read the most, when I read authors like Miriam or Leanne or Heather, I feel what that girl felt, and everything else is an extra. So I tattooed that girl onto my ribs, and it’s my way of keeping her with me.

If you are an author or artist and would like to be featured in Personal Ink, email us at [email protected]

Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.

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