Collaging at Cherry Con

There is no one right way to collage for fiction writing, no one way a collage should look as the Cherries demonstrated at the Collage Pizza Pajama Party we had at Cherry Con. We started at six with pizza, scissors, glue, and every old magazine and catalog I had at my house and could fit in my car. I had colored cardboard so they could give themselves a headstart by picking the color that best fit their book, a good way to move out of left brain thinking and into right. I told them to flip through the magazines and find things that felt like the book, not pictures that illustrated it but things that felt like their stories. Then I gave them scissors, bowls of Elmer’s glue and brushes, scotch tape, and the rest of the night to work and they got down to it, working late into the night and some returning to their work the next day. There are always those who think I’m nuts but give it a shot anyway, and they’re always the biggest converts to the process, but everybody found something in their work. Here are four with comments:

From Brooke Brannon:


The CherryCon collage showed me the path through the story, which I didn’t have before. And it’s so obvious – it’s in the damn myth! – but I was focusing so much on plot and blah blah blah that I didn’t see it before. Finding pictures that resonated with me, and then playing with them until they made a sort of nonverbal sense, showed me the throughline of the story.

From Molly Haselhorst:


I have to say that I’m finding it was eerily revealing. The more I’m working on this book, the more I’m, realizing The Collage Knew That. It’s almost creeping me out. For that to work, I think it required the time limit– that mad, late-night, glue everywhere assembly process. (The wine may have been important, too).

From Chandra Years:


I’m with Molly. I’ve never tried collage before, and this was a story I was stalled on. But the collage has really opened it up – and thanks to the collage, I’m realizing water has a lot to do with the story. I already had a scene set at the beach, but now there’s water, water everywhere and it’s encapsulated in the picture of the slightly sinister pool, plus the picture of Shia LaBeouf throwing the pail of water – anyway, it’s all swirling around my head even if I’m not being very articulate about it yet. The best thing is that I’m no longer stalled and words are actually forming on the computer screen. So that’s good.

From Betsy Hanes Perry:


The collage mostly helped because it made me realize that Clarissa was furious. That picture in the middle is important, the girl with the curly hair with the knife. It looks nothing like Clarissa, but it is her. And I realized that so far Clarissa had been the passive victim, while in fact she was absolutely livid and she needed to be acting on that anger. The guy with the blindfold, again, is telling me something about the Emperor I haven’t pinned down yet. (Note the matching girl with the blindfold in the lower right hand corner. She’s much easier to interpret.) And I like the snake. I have no idea what it’s doing. It was a dragon when I cut it out of the magazine, but now it’s a snake. With diamonds. The biggest thing I took away as far as technique goes is that I’d strongly, strongly encourage hypercritical people like me to collage with a distraction in place. That way, you can’t obsess over whether you’re doing it exactly right; you just paste and go on. My home collages failed because I was trying too hard to get it right and the subconscious couldn’t kick in.

You can see the books in these collages, feel the kind of stories they’re going to be. And since these are just the beginnings, since the writers will layer on more images, add more things, the collages will grow in complexity as the books are layered. Collages, like stories, are works in progress, conduits to the hidden parts of stories as they unfold. That’s why they’re so powerful.

And so much fun to look at.