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