My Writing Process BLOG TOUR
I was invited by my handsome and smart friend Andrea Lawlor to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour. It seemed a kick in the pants from the universe to dust off my sad, neglected website and give it a little spit-shine. Hello, website. Hello, world. Lawlor and I were Lambda Literary Fiction Fellows together in 2011, and I learned a poop-load about writing in workshop with Lawlor, and continue to through sharing thoughts on the process of writing.
What are you working on?
I am currently finishing up a book project, The Fevered Road, a memoir about what is taken away, how a family constructs itself around tragedy, and the freedom in failure to become oneself. The story is centered around the events of my brother's murder and the HIV diagnosis of my then-girlfriend in the early 1990s. The soundtrack is punk rock, road trips, 70s revolutionary writing, coming into queerness, becoming an artist, and an unstoppable, ridiculous hopefulness in the face of unspeakable loss. I've also recently begun a novel, it is too soon to talk about it, but I intend it to be a humorous and poignant exploration of identity that shatters a fixed bodily narrative, and that gently pokes fun of every subculture I've ever been a part of. One of the themes will be how we allow identity to foreclose the possibility of joy sometimes.
How do you think your work differs from others in its genre?
I can't speak to all memoirs, but my project has a good deal of temporal movement, and it doesn't necessarily resolve itself all at once. Like the process of grief itself, the narrative is layered, unfolding, and never fully resolved. There isn't one big aha moment when everything is tidily settled. I think life is like that, and I find it interesting to try to wrangle the messiness of actual life into the fairly narrow container of “story.”
Why do you write what you do?
I don't really feel like I have a choice. I feel I write what I do because I have to, so that these lives at the hinterlands do not become washed away in the tides. I write to make sense of what I've witnessed and experienced in this skin. Some people create a story by taking all of these seemingly requisite parts: one part a location foreign to them, one part a marginalized identity group the author does not belong to, one part a conflict that seems a whole lot simpler than any challenge a real person faces, and these ingredients are put into the big shaker and are poured out as literature, and that's totally cool, nothing wrong with that. But I personally can't imagine working that way. I need to have a little more skin in the game as far as theme and subject goes, and I am not interested in being a tourist. And I guess I write what I do because I am obsessed with words, with language, with speech. It is the juiciest medium to me.
How does your writing process work?
Sometimes it works more seamlessly than others. The ideal function of my writing process is when I keep to my regular office hours with the phone and internet off, and I write. Ass in chair. And spending two hours a week of office hours doing admin and rolling the ball forward: applying to residencies, awards, fellowships, submitting work for publication, and trying to keep my website up-to-date. I've been doing public readings and performances for 21 years, and I think of doing readings as part of my job as a writer. Ideally, I am participating in a writing group or workshop, and going to lots of readings. Sometime other things arise in life like needing to wage-labor to pay bills, health issues, heartbreak, catastrophe; and in these cases, the process function looks less than ideal. But it exists however it can. Sometimes writing is gonna be the 5-9 job; the reason you can't go out with friends all the time; or it will be your 6 am – 8:30 am or your 11 pm – 1 am job. I can only say that for me, the more time I spend with my ass in the chair writing, the more the writing wants to come and find the page. Other times I get the lightning bolt, like when I started a novel recently. I was totally procrastinating doing all of this other paid work, and BOOM, this idea for a novel came storming in, and I sat down and cranked out 2,000 words on the spot. When those moments hit, the flash-flood of inspiration, everything else must halt. But it doesn't work for me to rely on those moments alone.
The Writing Process Blog Tour Continues...
I've asked author Everett Maroon to chime in on his writing process. Everett Maroon is a memoirist, pop culture commentator, and speculative fiction writer. He has a B.A. in English from Syracuse University and went through an English literature master’s program there. He is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association; Bumbling into Body Hair was a finalist in their 2010 literary contest for memoir. Everett writes about writing and living in the Northwest at trans/plant/portation. He has written for Bitch Magazine, GayYA.org, I Fry Mine in Butter, a blog about popular culture, RH RealityCheck, and Remedy Quarterly. He will be writing for Original Plumbing on popular culture and trans civil rights. He has had short stories published by SPLIT Quarterly and Twisted Dreams Magazine.
I've also tagged my friend Ellie Piper: rock'n'roller, Cubanophile, writer, to jump into this conversation. Ellie is so metal, when she showed up in my MFA program I knew I could survive grad school. She didn't give me a bio so this is what she gets. She is smart as hell and her writing has been published in The Believer and Maximum Rock'N'Roll.
Everyone else I asked to participate acted as if I had saddled them with a task so Sisyphean as to constitute some kind of labor-law violation, but it was actually totally fun to spend ten minutes contemplating my writing process, friends! Next time?