I don’t recall writing this, but apparently I did:
If a person could climb up a ladder to the sky, and look down at the Eight Mile Suspended Carnival, the person would see a sort of living beast, its spine the Tower of Misfortune, its arms the tents, its legs the rides, wheels, gears, its blood the wine and food and excrement that flowed through the bodies of carnies and guests, the air in the beast’s lungs breathed by the humans who worked and wandered inside the cave of the beast’s body. Its head the hotel, its mouth and ass the doorway into and out of its corrugated skin of wonder.
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.
A mountain (or a small rock), Laguna Beach, 4/3/16
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.
I can’t yet write deeply/fully about my experience at Lynda Barry’s WRITING THE UNTHINKABLE Omega Institute workshop last week, because it’s all still coalescing, and it’s summertime, and I just don’t have the mind space word space right now. But I wrote a message to my former students and couple colleagues, because the message does scratch the surface (cliche, I know) in telling about how it was to be in the room with LB. More, more deeply, when I can.
I’m just back from an amazing workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, where I spent the week along with 70 others working with Lynda Barry. Some of you know her work, maybe some of you don’t…but I wanted to pass these links along in case they are of interest to you.
If you like her vibe and work, I recommend the workshop very highly. It got me moving in the creative flow, writing and drawing and working really hard, and also unlocked a lot of stuck ideas I had about making art and what it’s all about.
(Or, in shorthand: Lynda Barry rocks! And so can you!)
She’s very generous about her teaching. She considers her work open-sourced, and wants anyone and everyone to have access to it. Her book that contains the most teaching stuff in it is Syllabus
, but it has as much for the maker of art as the teacher. (Okay, by now you know how I feel about Lynda Barry’s work.)
Here’s her TED talk, a good, longish introduction to her work:
And here’s a link about her work as it pertains to ACADEMIC WRITING as well…
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged fiction, Interdisciplinary Aesthetics, luddite, Lynda Barry, making a mess, Nearsighted Monkey, Omega Institute, Professor Andretti, sentences, sock monkeys, tactile nerdy things, words, writing, writing process
Often, new writers use extraneous stage directions and phrases that aren’t needed to show characters action. (So do I.) The reason, I think, is similar to my last post: First, the writer needs to see it all happening, in detail. Once that vision is established, however, it’s great to trust the reader to and winnow what’s possibly bloating the sentences. Here’s an example from my novel:
FIRST VERSION: (I had to figure out where the character was going, and sort of lay it all out, with too much stage business describing what’s happening.)
She stumbled through the fire pit and into the hotel, quietly as she could, and went straight toward the stairs, but was stopped by Mr. Suspenders’ voice from the direction of the kitchen, where there was a light. “Whoever you are, a little help!”
PARED DOWN: (Once I realized I could see it, I pared down.)
She stumbled into the hotel, quietly as possible, and went toward the stairs, but Mr. Suspenders called from the kitchen. “Whoever you are, a little help!”
Mountain/small rock, Laguna Beach, California, 4/3/16
Considering the controversy surrounding the Antioch Review’s publication of the article “The Sacred Androgen: The Transgender Debate,” by Daniel Harris, I thought of Maggie Nelson’s genre-bending memoir, The Argonauts. (You can read an overview of the Antioch Review controversy here.) (And I blogged a tiny bit about The Argonauts here.)
In The Argonauts I find a beautiful work of humanity. Reading it helped open my thinking about gender and the lack of imagination it takes to embrace the too-limiting gender binary. (As a writer and person who celebrates the human imagination, why should we only acknowledge two poles?) (I like to believe my mind and heart were already pretty open, but as a relatively straight, cisgendered woman, with a relatively well-understood path to walk, I have some distance to travel before I can truly understand less straightforward life narratives. As stories will do, reading the story of Maggie Nelson and Harry Dodge helped open me, helped me see a wider vista.) I recommend the book. In addition to its value as a work of social justice (and theory: it is quite accessible even to me, as someone outside of Theory) its lyricism is breathtaking.
What I find in Nelson’s book is a beautiful argument in favor of focusing on the particulars of being human, that specificity. For those of us who write fiction, this is an important part of creating character. (And as we create character in fiction, we have the opportunity to open the minds and hearts of our readers, to allow them to imagine another human’s inside terrain.)
Maybe the Antioch Review could invite Maggie Nelson to write for a future issue!
I’m trying experiments where I don’t overthink some of the writing I release into the world. Where I don’t polish until it’s as perfect as my ego can make it (perfection is overrated and a lie, anyway.). This (below) is a raw something I wrote recently (some even tonight) and I will soon type it onto handmade paper by Sarah Strong for an exhibit called The Power Of Story, so I thought I’d also put it here.
I am from
1970s Osh Kosh overalls having
too much TV in the afternoon after school
Brady Bunch Courtship of Eddie’s Father, as sad a show as I have ever known.
What else in the afternoon in the house that is no longer there is the driveway even there anymore, I think not.
I am from a fire exercise a house burned down on purpose
it was my house but not really my house because we were renters.
Who did that fire serve, I hope someone, maybe it served my friend whose house burned down later because maybe the firefighters had learned something when they burned down my house.
Did they learn anything.
What did I learn.
Maybe just that stuff needs a place
but if you don’t have a place then
at least keep the stuff keep all the stuff you can from that place
from those days
(and later learn that whether or not you keep one damn thing it doesn’t matter
because stories stick to you better than the shadow to Peter Pan
and don’t need to be reattached by Wendy or anyone else.)
Here are some words that arrived as I was waking up this morning. So I wrote them down.
I am from You don’t get to name me. I am from Give me enough time and I will name myself.
I will turn over all the stones and I will find what I need for the naming; I will find the paint and the bones and the breath. I will find the nest of flowers and I will find the eggs.
In the hunting-places it is so quiet that you can put your ear on the ground and hear nothing, hear forever. You don’t need to speak there; you don’t even need to keep your eyes open.
You will read my name in my hair. You will wind my shed hairs into a lute and play the song that is my name. I will shed hairs and weave a web and write my name in my sleep.
For weeks, maybe months, I’ve been hobbling alongside compromised implements: all my fountain pens were writing choppily, or out of ink (or both). There are giant problems in the world, but a functional, pleasing pen is one small texture of my day that matters a lot (to me). (Neglected, deferred, the increasing row of pens waiting for service at the edge of my desk becomes a metaphor for a woman who is not taking care of herself.) Last week, overwhelmed by important and unimportant work to do, fumbling through the soup of distraction, I decided I needed to do something physical, tangible.
I needed to clean the pens.
Jim Kruose (whose book Parsifal I blogged about recently) suggests ammonia for clearing clogged pens. I finally bought some at the hardware store. It took more than an hour to clean all ten pens (two of which belong to my mother). The sink and my hands were a beautiful mess.
I refilled them with Noodler’s Ink, Concord grape. (I love Noodler’s. I even love the way it smells.) Some are flowing better but not perfectly, seem to need more than one cleaning. But most of them are working now.
Meaning I can work, now.
I made this.
My essay “Hot Thing” (about menopause) was published last Sunday on The Rumpus. (You can read it here.) In the literary community, The Rumpus is a big deal, and I’ve never had anything published there. And to any woman, writing an essay about something as personal as menopause is a big deal. (Theme emerges; to me, this whole event is a big deal.)
(I’m grateful to Zoe Zolbrod and Martha Bayne, editors at The Rumpus, who asked thoughtful questions and helped me fortify the essay and say what I meant to say. May all writers have the experience of working with such helpful editors along the way!)
It’s also a big deal because they chose to use my original art alongside the essay. I was glad to be asked what I wanted them to use. To answer, I thought about the essay, extracted themes and images. Flames, visibility and invisibility, beauty, mess…The day before I sent the final revision, the image of Venus rising appeared. When I should have been working on edits, I printed the Venus image. On tracing paper with a felt pen, I sketched her lines and contours, placed the paper over various backgrounds, finally settling on a painting of the moon which I made decades ago. And from a photograph of autumn leaves torn from a discarded Glen Helen calendar, I cut flames. Pieces arranged but not glued down, I took a photo and sent it. I felt self-conscious about presenting the art (because I’m an amateur) but blazed ahead anyway. That they chose to use this image validated what I tell my students: Trust your instinct.
So that’s part of the story of this essay.
Another part is that that publication of “Hot Thing” inspired a 2:30am craft essay about writing the essay, which I am now hatching. Not sure where it will end up, but I’m holding on to the tail of the kite.
Another—maybe most important—part is of the story is that I am claiming this new phase in my life. As I put words and images into the world, I am no longer practicing the art of invisibility.