This is a totally groovy idea: writer Shelley Jackson, whose bio claims she was “extracted from the bum leg of a water buffalo in 1963 in the Philippines” and whose website features this darling quote (which I love)–

Nature has endowed each one of us with the capacity for kindly feelings; let us not squander them on others.
~~Marquis de Sade

–is publishing her short story Skin in a unique format: tattooed on human skin.  Specifically, she’s looking for 2,095 volunteers to have one word each from the story tattooed somewhere on their person, in accordance with a very specific set of guidelines:

You are free to choose the site of your tattoo, except in the case of words naming specific body parts. These may be anywhere but the parts named, e.g. the word “hand” may be tattooed on your foot, stomach, shoulder blade, etc. but not on your hand. This stipulation does not apply to the word “skin” or any of its synonyms, for obvious reasons. The tattoo need not be in a place that is commonly visible (under your hair would be acceptable, for example) but must remain so long enough to be documented in a photograph.

The tattoo may be any size, so long as it can be read with the naked eye.

Tattoos must be in black ink and a classic book font. Words in fanciful fonts will be expunged from the work. No script, italics, German blackletter, etc; no decorations or embellishments of any kind.

The most fascinating part for me is how she will think of the overall work after it is complete:

From this time on, participants will be known as “words”. They are not understood as carriers or agents of the words they bear, but as their embodiments. As a result, injuries to  the printed text, such as dermabrasion, laser surgery, tattoo cover work or the loss of body parts, will not be considered to alter the work. Only the death of words effaces them from the text. As words die the story will change; when the last word dies the story will also have died. The author will make every effort to attend the funerals of her words.

Here’s the project announcement–and the full submission details.  You can read more about Shelley Jackson’s other work here.  I’m seriously considering taking part.  How ’bout you?  Wanna be a “word”?

photo © kipling swehla
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  1. Angeline said:

    What an AMAZING idea. Reminds me of the movie The Pillow Book. Seriously considering being involved…

    March 28, 2011
  2. So I have kind of always wanted a tattoo, and this would be a totally nerdy excuse. As long as my word isn't "antidisestablishmentarianism".

    March 28, 2011
  3. That quote about not wasting kindly feelings . . . wow, I did not see that coming! I don't know if I've ever laughed so hard.

    March 28, 2011
  4. Lola Sharp said:

    Interesting, intriguing.

    I hope this finds you safe, JP.

    March 28, 2011
  5. Donna Hole said:

    Uh . . could my word be "no"

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not against tattooing, have a couple myself. But this is weird.



    March 29, 2011
  6. Liza said:

    Man is this creative!

    March 29, 2011
  7. Postman said:

    I'm gonna be a word in my OWN story, thanks. Not somebody else's.

    March 29, 2011
  8. Anonymous said:

    this totally interests me. but it would mean a lot more if it were something you wrote. you up for that? i am already inked once, but for you, for something like this I'd do it again! –
    Chris C

    April 16, 2011
  9. Lola Sharp said:

    Are you alive, JP? Kinda worried about you.

    May 27, 2011

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