Rewriting Adolescence, Key West, Florida circa 1982

Heather Corcoran

I lived on a military base in Key West, Florida during the early 1980s when I was in middle school and high school. The Navy sent my family there from Virginia, and adaptation was complicated—in many respects, difficult. With one exception, I had not returned to Key West until I traveled there last year. After 35 years, details of texture, streetscape, color, and air quality called up many experiences of my adolescence, long since forgotten. I am now interested in revisiting and rewriting the intersection of adolescence and place, and in exploring how my own adolescence in this specific place might have universal, or at least translatable, qualities.

I have since begun work on this idea. Last year I wrote and workshopped a personal essay about an episode when I went sailing alone as a young high schooler. I have also begun to write some shorter responses to personal landmarks such as the local Catholic church, the teacher in my English class, the weathering of a friendship, the commissioning of a Navy hydrofoil, and the isolation of living on a military base on an island. I envision building this set of writings to around 50, and editing them into something more holistic. In addition, I am working on a series of associated visual experiments which integrate shape-based drawings of plant life, late 19th century weather and water temperature, and some of the visual vernacular of the naval base, as it existed in the 1980s. As I think about rewriting this personal history, I am interested to weave in elements of Key West’s history and some of its historical climate data.

I anticipate using the week of the residency to move the project ahead, evaluate its delivery relative to its intention, and gain insight from my fellow worshippers across a variety of fields. I currently plan to work on editing (or rewriting) the individual drafts of my small texts while I am there. I think Design Inquiry would be the ideal place to work on this, in relationship to other people. I am interested in using a pre-war Olympia typewriter, which I am acquiring, with the plan to explore the visual and experiential properties of this tool. With it, rewriting becomes less fluid and more difficult, and the evidence of rewriting is more evident on the page.