Monday, March 29, 2010

End of an Era

I'm happy that Elliott Bay Book Company is moving to my neighborhood, but it still makes me sad to see them leave their original Pioneer Square location. I worked in Pioneer Square off and on for seven years, and Elliott Bay was where I spent my lunch hours. It was there, at age eighteen, that I fell in love with Walt Whitman and Nikos Kazantzakis, where, at twenty-one, I developed crushes on Jeanette Winterson and Mary Oliver and also a literary trustaffarian named Devon, who was a great conversationalist and a bad kisser. Till I was twenty five, I went there bleary from break-ups, dizzy with inspiration or infatuation; I went there when I was looking for research materials for plays I was acting in, then plays I was doing dramaturgy for, and then eventually for books that would help me to write: John Gardner, Anne Lamott, Vivian Gornick. I would take their books with me to New York as I started to write my first solo show and first book, Yoga Bitch. My bookshelves at home are the result of so many lunch hours spent in that treehouse of a bookstore, wondering if I could buy all the books I desperately needed and still pay my rent.

Oh, deep sigh.

(I can't resist-- that 'Oh deep sigh' is a line stolen from a Ginsberg poem. I bought the book containing that poem, "Elegy for Neal Cassady," at Elliott Bay.)

So, yeah, deep sigh. But also . . . hello, old friend! Welcome to my neighborhood! I can feel myself getting poorer with every day that brings you closer to my house!

More details about the move here, on the Slog.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I love Seattle

And here's today's reason why. Also, it's effing gorgeous out and has been for weeks. Love. It.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rules for Writing Fiction

I love pieces like this one from the Guardian. Much of this applies whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction. Some highlights-- these are the pieces of advice I found utterly true and sometimes (or often) difficult:

Elmore Leonard: "My most important rule . . . if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

Margaret Atwood: "You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there's no free lunch. Writing is work. It's also gambling. You don't get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you're on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine."

Helen Dunmore: "Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn't work, throw it away. It's a nice feeling, and you don't want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need."

Anne Enright: "Only bad writers think that their work is really good."

Richard Ford: "Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer's a good idea."

Jonathan Franzen: "The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator."

Esther Freud: "Editing is everything. Cut until you can cut no more. What is left often springs into life."

Neil Gaimon: "Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."

PD James: "Don't just plan to write – write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style."

AL Kennedy: "Defend others. You can, of course, steal stories and attributes from family and friends, fill in filecards after lovemaking and so forth. It might be better to celebrate those you love – and love itself – by writing in such a way that everyone keeps their privacy and dignity intact."

More AL Kennedy: "Be without fear. This is impossible, but let the small fears drive your rewriting and set aside the large ones until they behave – then use them, maybe even write them. Too much fear and all you'll get is silence."

Everything Geoff Dyer says here is a gem, but I especially loved these: "Don't be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov." Ha!

"Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire."

"Beware of clichés. Not just the clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought – even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Seattle Times Review of Your Own Personal Alcatraz

Misha Berson of The Seattle Times calls my short piece "sly and understated." You can read her review of my show and the rest of the shows on offer at the Solo Performance Festival here.

A note for future audience members: the title of this show has changed. It's no longer called Your Own Personal Alcatraz. The more I've thought about the stories I want to tell, the clearer the show's focus has become. So from this point forward, my new show is called Optimism.

I'm headed to Atlanta to workshop the new show in a week, with a culminating performance on April 6th. If you're going to be in Atlanta, or you know anybody there, send 'em my way!