- Weird day (official)
- Year’s Best Weird Fiction, volume 3 now available!
- A song I am praying for Hillary Clinton.
- writing from typing, typing from writing, etc.
- A useful process from Lynda Barry
- Something important to read
- Seeing Eloise (& belatedly posting)
- Maybe the first time…
- Fragment of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets
- The self-portraits of ‘Igor Stravinsky’
- Arnold Adoff and Tracy Staggers: Poet And One Woman Band
- Candace Kearns Read
- Chris Tebbetts
- Elaine Gale
- Have Son, Will Travel (Holly Hudson)
- Marly Youmans
- Mothers of Invention
- Museum of Jurassic Technology
- Robert Freeman Wexler
- Sanity Creek Sock Monkeys
- The Eyeball Kid
- Urban Baby Bonnets
- Vines, Wines, and Lines (Mark Rich)
(When I woke up, I knew today felt weird…now I recall why.)
It’s the official release day for Year’s Best Weird Fiction, vol. 3. Thanks again to Michael Kelly and Simon Strantzas for including my story in this shimmering anthology! Check it out here.
When the actual world isn’t weird enough…this anthology might be. Year’s Best Weird Fiction volume 3 is now available (and it’s lovely)! Still, again, eternally grateful that my story (“Rabbit, Cat, Girl”) was chosen for this anthology. For more information, go to Undertow Publications.
I sing this song often. I sing it in my circle. When I sing it, it is sometimes a balm, sometimes a war cry, sometimes a dirge for some part of myself, or a blessing, or an encouragement for someone who needs to remember what is waiting inside her, and has been, all along.
It goes something like this:
My sister, pick up your power.
My sister, claim your voice.
Remember those gone before us.
And pray for those yet to come.
Today I am singing it for Hillary Clinton: May she pick up her power, claim her voice, remember those gone before us, and pray for those yet to come.
May she plant her feet firmly in the ground, feeling the connection to Mother Earth.
May she feel the strength of the ancestors in her bones.
May she sing the songs of peace and protection that are in her to sing.
May she access all her selves, and even discover new ones: mother, warrior, peacemaker, human.
After writing the short story I blogged about here, I tried another Lynda Barry-inspired approach. Looking at a problematic paragraph in my almost-finished novel (a reader had noticed some point of view shifts and was pulled out of the story), rather than my usual method (just working on the paragraph by pruning where I could, or cutting it, or moving it) I thought I’d try handwriting it (double-spacing with extra lines like Lynda Barry had us do) to see what would happen. When I felt like speeding up, I slowed down the making of shapes and focused on the curves of the cursive. By doing that, I was able to get outside the oppressive overmind that usually does this level of editing in my work, and realized where the shifts happened in the paragraph, what I needed to omit. The white space between lines was crucial. Turns out the second part of the problematic paragraph is maybe a better fit for my “new” novel (which I have barely started) but at any rate, it was a great procedure! I don’t think I would have noticed, had I not used this approach, with the slow handwriting, and the extra spaces in between lines. (In WRITING THE UNTHINKABLE at Omega, Lynda Barry said that sometimes all you need is some white space.) Then I retyped the newly cleaved passages from the handwriting, and pasted the parts I was keeping back into their respective novel files.
Retyping was important: though many of the sentences had not changed much, it felt like changing the linens. It refreshed the writing.
So cool! In this back and forth between handwriting and typing and handwriting, I’ve met a sort of wall of water where there are two separate worlds, but this process is a portal between them. And it goes both ways! Freaking magical.
(Thank you, Professor Andretti!)
Since attending WRITING THE UNTHINKABLE with Lynda Barry at Omega Institute in July, I’ve used a process Lynda (aka Professor Andretti) described for writing her amazing novel, Cruddy. I adapted the steps a bit to write a short story. My process was:
DRAFT 1: Write the first draft by hand—not with ink and brush (as she when drafting Cruddy), but with a black Flair. Using lined paper, I double-spaced lines. (This is important: skip a line in the composition book, as if your hand is double-spacing).
(I started this story from a very messy prompt/embryo I did last spring about taking stuff to the curb for junk day. We have this junk week thing in our town every year, where you can take just about anything to the curb and either another resident will harvest it or the trash collectors will take it. The essay was what I started with, literally writing the words I had typed up onto the paper, longhand, but veered from the essay totally so it ended up as fiction. Really, I’m dealing with some of my (internal) baggage in this essay-turned-story and so using this ‘junk’ was both cathartic and creative.)
DRAFT 2: Re-copy draft 1 by hand without taking anything out (!) but slowing down and adding things where needed. (This is really important: you must copy everything you wrote in the first draft. You can add as much as you like, but you are not removing anything. When I tried it, it began to feel like I was not cutting myself to shards, but instead just acknowledging that some of the junk—every word!—had a reason to be there, at this stage. Doing this worked against the constant self-critique I usually feel when writing. I wasn’t finding flaws and rooting them out, I was just re-copying words in slow, deliberate shapes with a pen. In fact, as Professor Andretti recommended, when my brain started to go faster than my hand, I deliberately
s l o w e d d o w n
and focussed on making the shapes with my pen on the paper.)
DRAFT 3: Type up. On a typewriter. Professor Andretti used an actual typewriter for Cruddy, because you can only go forward (pretty much) on a typewriter whereas on a keyboard and screen you can go both ways (this ‘just keep moving forward’ idea is an extension of steps 1 and 2 above, i.e. not cutting down but building up, keeping momentum going.) I did this step on word processor because my typewriter needs a new ribbon—but before I used the word processor, I turned off the (judgmental!) automatic spell/grammar check as you type feature. If you try nothing else from my post, try this. It’s totally liberating! I knew I’d eventually do a manual spell check, so I just didn’t worry about it at this point. And I am maybe never turning that sucker back on. Like double-spacing my handwriting, excusing The Judge allows more oxygen in the room of my writing, lets me breathe. Ah! Doesn’t that feel better? Yes.)
DRAFT 4: Here is where Professor Andretti would finally type it up on a computer. Once I had the draft on the computer (see step 3), I did a spell check, and then printed it. It still needed work, but a lot of what came through in the process was evocative and strong writing. What came through most of all was the character’s voice. I believe that using this technique allowed her enough oxygen to tell her story.
It was a great and illuminating process. It felt good instead of pressured. (It was actually much more fun than usual writing.)
I’m happy to have spent those several weeks using some of the techniques I learned from Professor Andretti…and living in the not knowing/not fiction/not non-fiction/what the hell is an image/”search for underpants, eee*” zone…and I got a story out of it!
* This is a reference to a song Lynda Barry would sing in the morning at our workshop. I much prefer her/our version to the South Park version—we all sang along with her—but if you want to hear the song, go here.
To learn more about Lynda Barry, go to her Tumblr page.
When I heard about the fabulous Peggy Orenstein‘s new book, GIRLS & SEX, I thought it would be important for me to read because I’m raising a girl. The more I read of the book, the more I believe it’s important for ANY of the following people to read:
- Those who are raising any gender of child;
- Those who ever were any gender of child;
- Those who want to take down mysogyny while encouraging healthy sexuality for all genders.
If you are a person in any of those categories, I suggest you check it out.
I forgot to mention my essay about seeing the beloved and incomparable Eloise Klein Healy in LA at AWP last spring. Here’s a link to the essay about Eloise. Antioch Los Angeles MFA’s Lunch Ticket is a trove of beautiful and wise words, so please check it out.
…my name appears on Amazon. (Maybe not the last.) I’m thrilled that my story “Rabbit, Cat, Girl” is now available between the portable covers of Year’s Best Weird Fiction, vol. 3. And here anthology’s the first review.
In which my friend Divyam wrote a lovely post about Lynda Barry’s WRITING THE UNTHINKABLE workshop at Omega Institute. Tomorrow is Monday, and I am putting an index card on my desk so I can do a self-portrait in the morning.
It’s been two weeks since ‘Writing the Unthinkable’ with Lynda Barry. And what an incredible experience it was: 5 days in a room with the rockstar hero of my creative world! Writing, drawing, looking, listening, laughing, crying, and doing it all over again.
On the train ride back down the Hudson the day the workshop ended, I felt I was returning home with a sack full of treasure I would be enjoying for a long time to come. Since then, I’ve been wondering how to begin unpacking this treasure.
Like all good stories, why not start at the beginning…
One of the first things we did each day was to ‘take attendance’. We took a blank index card and drew a frame. At the top of the card we wrote our camp name (more on this in a moment!) and the date. We then had 2 minutes to draw a self-portrait, making…
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