Friday, April 27, 2007

Earlier this morning I interviewed Chuck Palahniuk (unfortunately by phone--though I've met him before as this very low resolution photo shows), who has achieved cult status in the literary (and cinematic) world. He's become a lightning rod writer--people have strong opinions about him and harsh reactions to his work. He is the guy, after all, who wrote that story, which features in exquisite detail, the process of a teen boy's intestines being sucked out his butt by a pool vacuum, and most recently, Rant, a novel about a rabies-spreading hillbilly possible serial killer.

I've always been intrigued by cult status--by people who develop ardent and strange fans, the kind that hold conferences dressed in character, act out scenes from the author's work, ask for samples of the person's blood and hair, and generally elevate the author to a mythic status. I always wonder how much the author cultivates the following themselves, and how much of it just happens. The more you read about Chuck P. the more you understand why his following developed. Yes, he's a fantastic writer, but there's also a freaky trail of tragedy and comedy that seems to follow him.

So naturally I was nervous to talk to him. Mostly because when someone has been hefted up so high on the shoulders of geeks and obsessives, well, they can become strange. Or mean. Or full of ego. Or any number of things.

So imagine my surprise when this soft-spoken (so soft that at times I could barely hear him), kind, even sweet man comes on the line and proceeds to talk intelligently and thoughtfully. Maybe he read me better than I read him--knew to give me shy and sweet over rebellious and rash. If so, he's one hell of an actor.

Back when I first read Invisible Monsters, even after Fight Club-the movie's success, I thought he was under-appreciated. Then of course, the whole crazy superstardom ballooned, and I admit that even I fell under the spell of believing that fame had "changed" him...that maybe he really was trying to out-shock himself with each successive book. He even spoke about how he has to turn off and deny the idea of his fans, and the stuff that gets projected onto him.

What I took away, the lasting impression of the interview, was that Chuck P. is out to shock himself, to prove that no matter how many times you sit down at the page, you still have something to learn.

I like the idea of using writing to surprise ourselves. I'm glad I did the interview.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Reading Deprivation

I have begun week 5 of The Artist's Way. Week 5 was the cruelest of all, and the hardest to complete: reading deprivation.

How well did I do? Good...and bad.

I did not read a single book--though I did have to thumb through a couple while working on my own book. I didn't read a newspaper or a magazine, though I did read a few particularly juicy headlines at, such a sucker am I. And let me tell you, this was harder than I imagined because lately I've been reading a lot--about two books a week, and I WORK in a bookstore...this was the cruelest part.

I didn't read blogs for the most part, but I'm sure some statcounters out there will prove I broke down a few times, especially for doses of
Susan DiPlacido's American Idol snarkisms because she dishes it so good.

I didn't read much of the news on the Virginia Tech shootings--which I think was actually a good thing for me. I've picked up the thread now and absorbed the more synthesized, less sensationalized bits of it. (I learned that the great poet Nikki Giovvani, for instance, had voiced concerns to her colleagues about Cho months back, which went unheard). Then I grieved over the incredible loss of life going on on a daily basis in Iraq that makes 33 people look like small change, and I wondered how we can be so devastated by our own losses and so immune to others'.

What I did do:

  • Wrote so much I had to buy a new journal (isn't it pretty?The image comes from The Book of Kells):

  • Hiked three miles straight up and down a mountain.

  • Made some jewelry for gifts:

  • Finished a very solid draft of this chapter:
    This was kind of the gateway chapter for the rest of my revisions (and had a LOVELY conversation with my editor that changed my attitude about my revision altogether).

Now, I'm gorging on reading. First is Paul Auster's The Book of Illusions, which I'm halfway through. Followed by some ARCs of: Mary Modern, by Camille DeAngelis; No one belongs here more than you, by Miranda July. Then, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill; a YA book, The Hollow People and then three titles my cousin recommended I read, one of which is in French--(we'll see about that, dear :)

The best thing about not reading? That I was forced to channel my energy elsewhere, including into my writing. The worst part? I LOVE READING!!!!!!!!! I missed it; craved it, lusted after it.

I have scaled the mountain! Well, actually E. scaled it first, and I was right behind, clinging for dear life to the rope. Which I could show you if I had NOT deleted the photos as they were uploading. The one to the left are pulled from the boyscouts' website, but that's pretty much exactly how it looked from the bottom as we pondered how much stamina we really had in us.

"El Toro"--while no Everest, is 3 miles straight up and straight back down (that's total mileage). It's also on private property so the only way to reach it without being driven off by shotgun and hounds is once a year, when the owners open it for a public tour. So we hiked it with about 65 other people. Still, it was cool. The only photos that I managed to save were not taken at the summit, but about halfway up:

With binoculars we could see our house from there, as well as most of the town. We have been hobbling around the house yesterday and today since our calves haven't seen that much action since...well maybe ever.

All in all it really was a good time and since E. has been coveting this hill since we moved here a year ago, he felt especially proud to stand at its summit and proclaim, "I am all that is man!"


Friday, April 20, 2007

I Think, Therefore I Blog

My friend and fellow writer Anne Mini has nominated Jordan's Muse as a thinking person's blog. It's quite exciting. Should I make a speech? Of course, now the pressure's on to sound intelligent. So please, don't read old posts about Grey's Anatomy or jewelry-making; don't look too closely at my in-depth analysis of weather patterns or my bitching and moaning about how hard writing has been lately.

Just take it on faith that I am a supremely smart, no scratch that...that I am a genius who regularly whips out pithy little posts that change your life. You know, like Dr. Phil ("This is going to be a changing day in your life.") only less bossy and with no discernable trace of an accent or facial hair.

You may also take my word that I am always cheerful and never hard on myself and that I do not fritter away time watching television or coloring in my William Morris stained-glass coloring book. Not at all.

I think! Like the Scarecrow at the end of The Wizard of Oz I can do mathematical equations and tell you all the Nation's capitols right off the top of my head.

Oh, but there is one favor I have to ask of you who come here: Please, please don't chase the chickens.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Choice is most definitely a good thing. As in, water, or soda? Dark meat or light meat? Rent a movie, or go out to one? These kinds of choices are a no-brainer for me.

Multiple choices start to make me feel edgy. Chinese, Mexican or Thai? Uh...Uh... Left, right or straight? Lip quivers and a little sweating set in.

More than three choices and you can just write me off.

So...this makes revision a real challenge. Actually, it makes writing a challenge in general. You take one road, you must close off others. And once you take any road, you find out that it opens onto many little side-streets. Each side-street leads to an alley. Each alley has a secret door to a subterranean corridor. And don't even get me started about the corridors. This is how writing feels to me right now. I like it--I prefer having choices--but I'm not too good at deciding which one is best. So I get stymied. Which to take? Which to take? ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I just have to keep remind myself that things will get finished. That is the order of things. You begin, you work hard, you finish...(somewhere later down the long, impossibly twisty road).


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I've been following the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron for three and a half weeks now. I bought a copy of this book over eleven years ago when I also worked in a bookstore. But since the book is geared to "blocked" creatives, at age 21, just fresh out of a stifling relationhip, stimulated by college courses and in love again (yes, with E.) and pouring myself into journals several times a day, I most definitely did not qualify as blocked. Naturally I didn't find it very helpful.

Well now I'm back at it, and while I still wouldn't qualify myself as "blocked" entirely, I would say that I'm sort of fettered, bound by beliefs and old ideas about myself as an artist/writer that make certain things very difficult for me. For that, I find the book very useful. But also very maddening.

Some days I really resent my morning pages even though I regularly write in a journal--I always balk under rules, but being a "good girl" I have a powerful inner slave-driver who makes me follow them, bitching all the way.

I find taking the time for an artist's date to be a real inconvenience. What about plain old rest? Pshaw! Even this photo was staged:

I often put off doing the introspective exercises until the very end of the week.

All in all I find that I do very little to actually nurture myself as an artist. I'm always busy worrying about the work that pays, about deadlines and about pleasing others that I rarely sit down and do something solely for myself creatively.

This week, to make matters worse, I'm supposed to be undergoing reading deprivation. I had no idea how much I read: from books to blogs, to news to old magazines--I live in an almost constant state of reading. So this not reading feels very much like withdrawal. I have had to make a few changes--there is some reading I must do for the writing that I have due, for instance--but the many blogs I regularly visit must wait, and I can only read the headlines of interesting news stories and forget that stack of books waiting!

Yes, I've cheated a little, but I am trying to turn that focused energy elsewhere. Although, of course, naturally I don't feel like writing. My novel-in-progress is very close to the end of a first draft but it's at that sticky, messy, how do I resolve this plot stage that makes me want nothing to do with it. I started by coloring. Yes, as in with pens in a coloring book.

So mainly I've been making jewelry again, which is actually a lot more satisfying than I realized. Now that I don't make it to sell it anymore I really only do it for occasional gifts...Now I think I'll make jewelry and give it away when the mood strikes me, not even for special occasions. I like the idea of spontaneous gift giving.

Anyway...I have read a couple of blogs today, but for the most part I'm really trying to stick to this, so if I don't comment--that's why.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tonight on 60 Minutes they featured a privately funded education program through Bard College specifically for prisoners at one maximum security prison in New York. The spot was so moving to me, so provocative.

We all know that a sizable portion of the nation's prisoners could be educated, rehabilitated and given the chance to really live a meaningful life and contribute if/when they get out were resources devoted to such a cause. But then those people would also be encouraged to vote, to think, to influence decisions with their tax dollars...and well, that tends to make politicians nervous.

I hear all the arguments about how criminals deserve to be where they are, with few benefits, that they should have thought before they acted. I know that. But all I could think as I watched these men come alive was: think of all the wasted talent. Not every murderer, thief, and even rapist is a worthless piece of scum. If many of these people had had decent educations in the first place, who knows where they would have wound up.

All I'm saying is to imagine, for just a moment, the potential that goes untapped in people. Not just those in prison. All the time. In us. In your own life.

It'll make you reel.

Makes me want to DO something with this mind I've got--as shoddy and tired and slow as it feels most of the time.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I haven't learned yet how to embed Youtube videos in my blog, but anyone who either loves or hates Grey's Anatomy/House will find This funny...


A Quick Update

Wow, I'm really slacking on posts lately eh? I expect to be forgiven. I've been busy.

RIP Kurt Vonnegut. I haven't had my chance to say that yet. Damn shame. In honor, I'm going to re-read at least two of his novels.

Last night I watched this cutesy little recap of "greatest moments" of Grey's Anatomy, (though they're only in their third season, what's to recap?) For the first few minutes E. watched too, and I noticed that anytime someone else is in the room with me when I'm watching Grey's Anatomy, I get embarrassed--like when my Mom used to want to see how big my boobs had gotten when I was a teenager. I think it's becasue the show is really just a soap opera. It's more about who's doing whom than who's doing surgery on whom. But it's my heroin along with a few other low-brow shows (and a couple slightly raised brow shows--started watching HBO's Rome, and I'm digging it) that serve as the antidote to all my reading.

I've also been asked to participate as a blogger at, and my second post there should go up soon.

Hmmm...what else. I've been so immersed in (re)writing and reading that I find myself blinking in shock when I step outside of the house into the sun and feel actual wind on my face.

Oh, a reminder: I emailed folks that my review of Michelle Richmond's novel The Year of Fog would air two weeks ago on the CA Report, but I'm told it will actually air today! 4:30 and 6:30pm. Best way to hear it is to go to and "listen live" at the appointed time (remember, this is Pacific time) or else wait until tomorrow, when it's archived at the site.

Speaking of Michelle, she's slated to be the first guest of The Write Source, my new podcast for Writer's Digest online. She's an intelligent, fascinating writer who is as great in person as she is on the page.

Other forthcoming interviews of mine to check out:

In the August issue of Writer's Digest Magazine interviews with Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and Vendela Vida about their writing spaces.

For the October issue of WD, my interview with Chuck Palahniuk.

That's all folks.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What a difference a change can make. When we moved into the place we live now almost exactly one year ago, we failed to take into consideration that most of the windows faced EAST ...meaning very little light comes into any room but my upstairs office. As such, our living room, which spacially is the best place to hang out, has been a kind of depressing room, as evidenced below:

We've of course since put furniture in it, but it still had that dark and dreary pall, even at Christmas:

But then we bought one good lamp and moved one little piece of furniture and voila, a much happier room:

Sunday, April 08, 2007

How was my weekend? The weekend I was supposed to go camping with friends and have a great time?

Two words: Food poisoning.

I'll try to catch up with you later.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Eighteen is not so far back in time, but it feels like, well, like if time were continents, then it's Australia from me...I still remember the day I turned 18. I was just starting college, leaving behind the dysfunction of my was a free and exciting time.

Today my brother is eighteen. That seems impossible as he was only three and a half when I was just getting the right to vote, and as E. pointed out, able to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law :)

There is no doubt I project parental stuff onto my brother. I can't help it. He was the first sibling I ever had when I was out of childhood already myself. I still remember vividly the day I came to see him at the hospital--I was fourteen and a half. My dad laid him in my arms, and this newborn baby just sprawled, loose-limbed in my arms, like he already trusted me.

He became a precocious, poetry-writing, tow-headed darling pretty quick. Then somehow, when I glanced away for a few minutes, he was this hip, popular guy with a car, a girlfriend and a whole life.

My brother is special to me--even though it's hard to communicate this to him without embarrassing him. His birth changed my life. After him, I was no longer "the only child." But he's also just a really cool person. He's articulate and sensitive and funny. The older I get, the more glad I am for my siblings.

Here's a photo taken of the three of us at the little birthday shindig we had last weekend:

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Been mighty quiet around here, I know. I'm just...tired.

Revisions. Existential questioning of my soul. Carting around this heavy mortal coil (and squeezing in those House and American Idol episodes in between).

I've been invited to be a member blogger over at
and would you guess that I have bloggers' block? I swear! I can't write either place. It's not good, people. Not good.

I'll get over it, I'm sure.

That's all I got today. All I got.


Monday, April 02, 2007

What do you mean I can't write a book in a week?

That was the insane sort of thinking in my brain today. Make a Scene is now undergoing some edits (yes, "some edits" is an understatement but I'm now feeling in control again)...and I spent such a long stretch of time at my desk that when I got up I swear my actual bones were numb.

I want so badly to have super powers. At the very least, to be like John Travolta's character in the movie Phenomenon--where he can learn languages in a couple hours, and make things levitate. I'd float above my seat and write this book in a day. I would!

On the bright side, after being such a know-it-all with my own clients and in my articles about revision, now that I've absorbed the feedback fully I really do prefer the new direction. It's right. It resonates with me. It's going to be GOOD. I mean it. I owe so much to my editor. It's her book as much as mine, really.

Which leads me to the topic of feedback. It's very very good. We need it (from informed, reliable sources). We become better writers when we learn to hear it. Obviously not all feedback is right, but when it is, you know it, and you appreciate it.

Meanwhile, I've decorated my new table of contents in order to view it as a thing of joy and fun. Observe: