Gayle Brandeis
AUTHOR   TEACHER   ACTIVIST

HarperSanFrancisco

Paperback 2004
ISBN 0-06-058718-0

Hardcover 2002
ISBN 0-06-251724-4

Fruitflesh
"What a sensual book! Anyone immersing herself in Fruitflesh is sure to find her writing liberated and enriched by the many stimulating exercises."
-SUSAN K. PERRY, PH.D.,
author of Writing in Flow
SYNOPSIS
Using the metaphor of fruit to mirror the fruitfulness of women’s bodies and their creative potential, award-winning author and poet Gayle Brandeis combines thoughtful exercises with provocative poetry, providing inspiration for women at any stage of life. From “Seeds” and “Roots” to “Flowers” and “Fruit,” Fruitflesh follows the growing season, encouraging your growth as a writer while expanding and deepening your self-awareness.

Each section of the book begins and ends with a “Fruitflesh Meditation”—an exercise centered on a particular fruit that will help bring your body into the act of writing, adding a delightful, satisfying dimension to the creative process.

Lively, poignant, often humorous, and including many practical lessons, this distinctive approach to writing will take you to the true source of your creative power.
BLURBS
"The book is beautifully written, with gorgeous usage of language and metaphor."
-PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"An intoxicating read, Fruitflesh is ambrosia for women writers. Filled with beautiful prose, unique exercises, and womanly affirmations, Gayle Brandeis rouses the muse and saturates the senses."
-WOMEN ON WRITING
"What a sensual book! Anyone immersing herself in Fruitflesh is sure to find her writing liberated and enriched by the many stimulating exercises."
-SUSAN K. PERRY, PH.D.,
author of Writing in Flow
"Trying to relate writing to another practice is an age-old technique. Never before has it been done in such a manner as in Fruitflesh…evocative and intriguing."
-THE WRITER
"Any way you slice it, Fruitflesh will get you writing."
-BODHI TREE BOOK REVIEW
"Fruitflesh is a lush, exhilarating, and inspiring world to enter—fertile and mysterious. It will add depth, surprise, and delight to your writing."
-SUSAN WOOLDRIDGE,
author of Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words
"Fruitflesh makes you want to take a big bite out of life and gives you the inspiration and tools to start doing just that through writing."
-ORIAH MOUNTAIN DREAMER,
author of The Invitation and The Dance
EVOLUTION
Fruitflesh went through many different incarnations before it found its current skin. The seeds were initially planted when I first touched a life-changing strawberry to my lips as a senior in high school. From that moment on, I knew that keeping my senses open, connecting this with writing, would be an important part of my own path.

As an undergrad at the University of Redlands, I began to explore the connection between writing and the body in earnest. I was laying down roots for this book at the time, although I wasn’t aware that was what I was doing—I was simply following my passions. I created my own degree program to accommodate my quest, earning a B.A. in Poetry and Movement: Arts of Expression, Meditation, and Healing.

In 1990, just a few months after I graduated, my son was born. Fruitflesh, the infant form of it, was born at the same time. I called the manuscript Writing from the Body, and found great pleasure in working on it while my son slept and nursed. After I had written about 150 pages, I was absently flipping through a writer’s magazine one day when I happened upon a blurb about a new book called Writing from the Body, by John Lee. I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. What I had thought would be my life’s work flew right out of my body along with all my breath. I immediately stopped working on the book. I figured it had already been done; there was nothing I could add to the conversation. With a great deal of sadness, I let go of the project and went on to other things.

The next few years were deeply fruitful ones for me—poems and essays gushed out of me and when I wasn’t writing, I was often dancing—with my son, as well as with different local companies. After my daughter was born, fiction began pouring out of me, as well. My work began to get published with some regularity in parenting magazines and literary journals and picked up a few awards here and there. I felt as if I truly had begun to fulfill my calling, even if I had to ignore the loudest call, the book that still reverberated somewhere under my ribs—the body book, the writing book, the one I knew had the potential to be the cornerstone of my own body of writing.

After avoiding it for years, I decided to take a good look at John Lee’s book, the book that had stopped me in my tracks. It was wonderful, full of wisdom and passion. As I had suspected, it shared many of the same ideas I had been working with, but I was overcome with a sweet realization—Lee’s words didn’t cancel out my own voice, my own vision. It suddenly dawned on me that—of course!—the world is big enough for both of our voices to coexist, big enough for both of us to be heard. I realized how small-minded I had been, how I had let fear and grief constrict my heart. I was charged with renewed enthusiasm for my project, along with a new epiphany—my book was now going to focus exclusively on women’s writing, women’s bodies.

The earlier manuscript had already been slanted toward women, but I hadn’t made a conscious decision to give the book this center. It made perfect sense—my work had always been born of the desire to help women feel comfortable in their skin. A first draft burned its way out of me. Based on a single chapter that explored the connection between women and fruit, I renamed the book Fruitflesh. I felt like the book had finally found its true form. A kind editor who read the manuscript, however, told me that while she enjoyed my writing, she felt there wasn’t enough “me” in it—the ideas weren’t accessible to the reader, she said, because I hadn’t shared enough of my own experience, my own body. Although I felt a bit overwhelmed by the thought of rewriting the book, her comments hit home; I took a deep breath and went back to the drawing board, back to my body, for yet another go.

This time, I rewrote the manuscript as more of a memoir, with exercises tacked on to the end of each chapter. I received a lot of positive feedback for this version, but was told that now there was too much of me in the book, that the reader would have difficulty relating the exercises to her own experience. I was also told by a few editors to lose the title Fruitflesh because it was only relevant to one chapter of the book. I wasn’t sure quite how to respond to these suggestions, wasn’t quite sure where the true heart of the book should pulse. I loved the title of the book, and wasn’t ready to give it up. I decided to set the book aside for a while longer. I started graduate school, focused on other projects, let Fruitflesh simmer in the background.

Then, one day, I went to an estate sale down the street from my house.

I was rummaging through some old books, clothes, cool folk art from Mexico, when I happened upon a print that was propped against a table leg. It was a gorgeous limited edition, a provocative version of the traditional Virgin of Guadalupe image. A woman, nude, stands on a crescent moon held up by an angel. Her entire body is completely surrounded by, embraced within, a graceful cradle of watermelon; the print is actually titled “Virgen de la Sandia” or “Virgin of the Watermelon.” I snatched up the print for $2.50.

As I walked home with it tucked under my arm, the image became my muse. I looked at this goddess surrounded by fruit and realized I didn’t have to change the title of the book to fit the contents—I would change the contents of the book to fit the title! I decided to fill the book with fruit, make it as luscious as possible. It seemed a fitting tribute to that life-changing strawberry. I began hunting up my favorite writings about fruit, and took off from there.

After 10 years, the book finally found its rightful body, and I found the most perfect editor to help me bring it to full ripeness. I had trusted that everything would come to fruition, at the right time, in the right season, bit I am still amazed at how delicious and surprising the process has been.