Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I hate summer (with expletives)

Fuck your slushies. Please come to my house.

There. I said it. I've written about Seattle's intolerably gorgeous summer before, right here, but I think I was being too positive. Really, summer is just wrong. It's cruel, especially when the writing isn't going well, and really the being-alive thing isn't going well-- because the writing isn't going well, so nothing can-- and I look out at the bright blue sun and the expanse of yellow sky and I think: I have no life. And it's all my fault, because I'm always stuck in this room here, trying to write.

Really, why would anybody choose to write? It's absolutely impossible, a dreadful profession. I should be one of those people who reviews books for a living. God, how fun, to just judge books, instead of writing them! To compose sentences like, Really, this is a middling effort from Philip Roth. Or, It's not Toni Morrison's best work, but it has glimmers of her earlier greatness. Oh, to sit up high, looking down, instead of squatting here, in the muck, wondering if any of this will ever be worth a good goddamn.

If I were reviewing books, I would be out right now with fashionable friends, holding forth on the great and the unworthy, making snide comments about Salman Rushdie's lesser novels and pithy asides about the weaknesses in Mark Twain's prose, waving my glass about confidently, always confidently, so confident.

(If you've enjoyed this foray into fantasyland, I also have magical theories about how good I would feel about myself if I were directing plays; an academic; a priest; one of those people who live in shacks in the mountains, watching out for forest fires . . . I will cycle through those fantasies in the future, when the writing sucks again. Probably tomorrow, if I'm still working on this motherfucker of a short story.)

So, yeah. Instead of being out in the gorgeous green day, I'm alone in my hot room wrestling a couple of strangers to the ground, strangers I created in my own head, neither of which will go have a drink with me or go for a walk with me or listen to me kvetch about my writing because they ARE my writing. They are ASSHOLES who don't want to get WRITTEN. These half-written characters of mine, they're just running the fuck away on their half-written legs, sticking their invisible tongues out at me from behind surprisingly well-drawn trees, and meanwhile the rest of the real world is out, surely enjoying a margarita somewhere. A real margarita, with, like, real alcoholic molecules.

Meanwhile I've skipped yoga and resented myself for it, I've thought about how I'm supposed to get a standing desk and learn how to write while standing. I've thought about how every moment I sit here, thinking about writing and not writing, wondering how soon I can get back on the internet and check the latest inanity on Facebook or Twitter, every moment is one moment closer to death, because sitting kills. That's what they say. Did you know this about sitting? It kills. I am killing myself right now.

So instead of thinking: what would this character do in response to xyz? instead I'm thinking about dying-from-sitting and how that's not what I'm supposed to be thinking about and besides, besides: what the fuck am I doing writing fiction anyway? I read somewhere recently that novels are the new short stories and that short stories are the new poems, and everybody knows that nobody reads poems, which means that nobody reads short stories. And I made the mistake of telling somebody (who doesn't read) what my new memoir is about, and they said, Seriously? Who would want to read that? And now I look at the 200+ pages of that first draft and think, seriously, indeed, who would? I don't even want to read it! I want to be drinking margaritas! On the street! With ALL OF HUMANITY. If we're all going to die in some La-Z-boy seated apocalypse, we might as well have a margarita in our hands, AMIRITE?

Oh, I promise to write again soon with a happier dispatch, one in which I argue that actually, there is no greater life than the writing life, that it's all orgasms and jellybeans, that all this intellectual clenching is making my ass round and succulent. But for now, let it be known that I am giving myself deep vein thrombosis in honor of a short story that might, by tomorrow, look like a big steaming pile of elephant dung.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Neil Gaiman

His commencement speech at University of the Arts is pretty great:

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right.

The things I've done that worked the best were the things I was the least certain about, the stories where I was sure they would either work, or more likely be the kinds of embarrassing failures people would gather together and talk about  until the end of time. They always had that in common: looking back at them, people explain why they were inevitable successes. While I was doing them, I had no idea.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fear, Failure, and Fear of Failure

Here's a piece I wrote for Crosscut about the lead-up to the Hugo House Literary Series last month.

It's been a really interesting few months, writing-wise, mostly because of the Literary Series. I've been writing short fiction. What a wonderful thing, after publishing my first memoir, to write about people who are not me! People who don't actually exist in the real world!

From the essay:

It’s not my job to imagine how readers will respond to my work. My job is to write as well as I can. But I am profoundly unenlightened, see, and so the thought of failing in public — at my favorite event in town, the Literary Series, no less — is not something I’m quite so sanguine about. I know I shouldn’t care. I know this. But every day when I sit down to write, I struggle to ignore the sadistic online commenter who lives in my head, the one who sneers at my subject matter, who verbally moons my devotion to narrative, who snickers and whispers that no one in the world wants to hear my story, no matter how entertaining I try to make it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

On not eating delicious things

Here's a bit of feel-good fluff I wrote for Books for Better Living, in which I describe how the husband and I attempted a three-week detox cleanse. The horror! Next time, we're doing a red wine and chocolate cleanse, which is quite simple: you can eat anything you like, so long as it's paired with red wine and chocolate.

Monday, February 27, 2012

John Steinbeck

"A book is like a man-- clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers too near the sun."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Yoga Bitch in Los Angeles

If any of you are in LA this weekend, I'm thrilled to say that I'll be reading at Yogala in Echo Park this Saturday, February 11th at 6pm. Some of the nicest and smartest yogis I've met teach or attend classes at Yogala, including the marvelous Lia Aprile of Shantitown, who will be introducing me. Come on out!

I'll be staying with my dear friend Jessica and her many men (well, her husband and two baby boys) and hopefully not thinking about writing, which has been tough lately. Feels like I start bleeding every time I sit down at my desk. I want to bleach out in the sun and meet a bunch of yogis and enjoy some mommy-margarita time with Jess. And, and! I'm very excited to meet Claire Bidwell Smith while I'm in LA. Claire is the author of the just-released memoir, The Rules of Inheritance, her story of coming of age after losing both her parents by her mid-twenties. I am so excited to read Claire's book-- hers is one of the few blogs I read religiously. Check it out.

Hope to see you there, Angelinos!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Saul Bellow on Symbolism

In today's internet travels I came across this essay by Saul Bellow, circa 1959. (I have lost the trail of breadcrumbs and can't say where I found it, sorry. It's been a big day for me and the internet.) Having thoroughly steeped in the very "deep reading" Bellow denounces, I find it marvelously refreshing.

Perhaps the deepest readers are those who are least sure of themselves. An even more disturbing suspicion is that they prefer meaning to feeling. What again about the feelings? Yes, it’s too bad. I’m sorry to have to ring in this tiresome subject, but there’s no help for it. The reason why the schoolboy takes refuge in circles is that the wrath of Achilles and the death of Hector are too much for him. He is doing no more than most civilized people do when confronted with passion and death. They contrive somehow to avoid them.

Yoga Bitch Named a Best Northwest Book of 2011

The holidays have effectively drawn and quartered me, and I'm still recuperating, but today I remembered that I never blogged about Crosscut's Best Northwest Books of 2011, which included my little Yoga Bitch! As Robert McCrum notes over at the Guardian in his Fifty Things I've Learned About the Literary Life, "Lists are the curse of the age." And indeed, he is right. But goodness me, if it isn't nice to be listed anyhow.

YB also just went into its third printing, which is thrilling, to say the least. To celebrate, I've been having a non-stop panic attack about getting started on the new book again. Just kidding. Well-- kind of.

Here's the Crosscut list.

In other news, I've been reading an overwhelming amount of D.H. Lawrence lately and am actively suppressing the urge to describe the glorious sunset out my window in three pages of Lawrentian prose. As I am not D.H. Lawrence, we should all be relieved at my powers of restraint.

Happy New Year!