Chloe & Fran Talk: Writer Envy

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Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 2.22.05 PMFrances Badalamenti:  We haven’t done a convo for a while.  I was on my way to the cafe this morning and I started thinking about what’s been going on for the two of us these past few months.  Oftentimes there are interesting parallels to our lives.  

We were together in Brooklyn over the holidays and then at your place up in Hudson.  We went to a sick play (A View from the Bridge) in the city and then hammered out a few scenes for a prospective screenplay at some mad Finnish place in Greenpoint.  It was pissing rain that day and when we got out of the play, I scored us two of those cheap-ass umbrellas (they actually made it all the way back to my house in Portland), five bucks each and we were in the wet chaos of manic Broadway and I gave the guy ten bucks and then you quickly gave me a fiver.  We got some killer takeout back in Brooklyn and drank some nice wine with my husband.  My kid was all up in the mix catching our party vibes and being all crazy typing away on this antique typewriter like he was Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  

The next morning, it was Christmas Eve and you and I walked through Williamsburg in the quiet morning hours so I could score some legit Italian bread and cookies for my family in Jersey.  I had told the baker that my grandfather was a very successful baker and he actually knew of the bakery.  I said, Yeah, but he was not a nice man.  And the baker said, Sicilians are bad.  I said, Yeah, we’re killers.  

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And then we walked backed towards Greenpoint, under the Williamsburg Bridge and I told you some stories about my mom growing up fatherless in the Bronx, how her sister, my aunt was once kidnapped and held captive for a day.  That was a good walk.  I love when the streets are quiet like that in Brooklyn.  The mood was very reminiscent of that play that we had seen the day before.  The stories of these wounded complicated men and the women whom they both love and hurt.

And then we each went off on a trip.  You went to Michigan and I went to Mexico.  So we didn’t get to text and yack as much as we usually do.  I texted you saying I didn’t like it.  You said you were sorry.  That cracked me up, like we were playing codependent or something.  And now we’re back to our usual silly shit.

This past Sunday, I read Sarah Manguso’s essay entitled ‘Green-Eyed Verbs’ in The New York Times Book Review.  The day prior, we had a conversation around a similar theme to what Manguso touched on in the piece, which was writer envy.  She writes, “All writers will envy other writers, other writing. No one who reads is immune. To write despite it I must implicate myself, to confess to myself, silently or on the page, that I am envious.”  

I mean, you and I talk a lot more about Narcissism than envy, but I kind of think that too much envy can easily be morph into Narcissism, or that envy can be a side effect of Narcissism.  I totally get writer envy sometimes when I read shit and there are times that I cannot read something that is too similar to what I am currently working on, as if it is too much of distraction.  

Do you feel writer envy?  Who are you most envious of right now? I think I am most envious of Heidi Julavits right now.  

Chloe Caldwell: When you texted me, I dont like itI thought you meant being around people 24/7, because I was telling you I was around people almost 24/7 therefore was texting and emailing less. Only later that night did I realize you meant I dont like itmeaning us talking less. Funny.

I dont have a big envy problem, thank God. Im envious of a few writers but I think of it more in terms of their lifestyles, not specifically their writing. For example Im envious of Diana Spechler because shes living in Mexico and her agent is PJ mark and she writes for NYT. Im envious of any writer who can afford to live in a nice apartment in NYC. Im envious of Tao Lin because he gets to write all day and walk around Manhattan and can afford healthy microbiotic food. (My envy almost always comes down to money.) Im envious of Emily Gould because she has a husband and a baby. Im envious of Cat Marnell because she doesnt.

Someone whose writing Im envious of lately is Sarah Nicole Prickett. I love her voice and essays. Im envious of Chelsea Martin b/c of how funny she is. Im envious of Maggie Nelsons intelligence.

Interesting we both named only women (except Tao).

Luckily, envy as never held me back, it motivates. Ive always been good at surrounding myself with people who lead lives I admire. Like, instead of being envious, work harder, is what I tell myself.

When you were at my apartment, we looked at all these black and white photographs on postcards of classic (some deceased) women writers. I think I have about 15. We were guessing who they were (we had no idea) and then flipping the postcard around to fact check. We were saying they all had very distinct looks and choosing which ones wed want to look like. I think I chose Maya Angelou or Joan Didion. Do you remember who you choose? I remember being surprised.

Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton

If you could look like any writer, living or dead, who would it be?

Why are you envious of Heidi Julavits?

FB:  I like the writers you picked to be envious of — they are so varied and such amazing talents.  I guess it’s good to envy because it’s makes us work harder, but I also suppose you don’t want the envy to get too out of hand that it leads to jealousy or resentment.  A good balanced envy is ideal.

I am envious of Heidi Julavits because, like you were saying about some peeps, she has a place in NYC.  And she is raising her kids there and my dream has always been to raise my son where I was born, to be closer to my family.  When I was in grade school, my family moved out to Jersey, so I am always looking for a way back to the city.  Heidi Julavits also has a house up in Maine and is married to a very talented, successful writer guy.  I think a lot of people are envious of her.  She’s also a great writer.  Wait, I’m also super envious of Vendela Vida.  But I don’t think I have to explain why.  

The photo on your frig that I picked was of Anne Sexton.  I just love the way that she looked, she was so striking and she is really the only poet that I have ever truly connected with on a deep level. I even have one of her poems, I Remember, pasted in my current notebook.  If I could look like any dead writer, I would for sure want to look like Anne Sexton.  As far as a living writer, I would say Zadie Smith, who is not only beautiful but she has mad style.  

Who would you want to look like?  Dead and alive.  

CC: Maggie Nelson, Sarah Manguso; any of those Graywolf Press bitches, probably. Oh I know: Cookie Mueller!

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Your Personal Essays

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My sweet student Amanda McNeil sent me this hilarious mug as a gift.

personal essay midwife

personal essay midwife

I’ve worked with Amanda in my Litreactor essay class as well as one on one. My class, POLISH & PUBLISH YOUR PERSONAL ESSAY begins February 18th. Would love to have you there! The best part is, you can live anywhere to take it. Sign up while they’re still spots left. Click the photo below or the link above. (I’m also available to work with you one on one. Email me cocomonet@gmail.com for my rates!)

There’s power in words.

A personal essay can entertain or teach, warn or admonish. It can hold the whole of your life experience, or just generate a good laugh. There’s more than one way to write an essay—­­which is what makes the discipline so fun and versatile.

But writing personally can be difficult and questions like these often come up:

  • What will my family and friends think?
  • Why would anyone care what I have to say?
  • Where will I publish something so personal?

In Polish & Publish Your Personal Essay, you’ll study both contemporary and timeless essays, and why personal essays are vital. Students will learn how to engage, move, and connect with their readers, by reading essays and experimenting with their own. Throughout class, students will be given prompts related to creative nonfiction publications and encouraged to submit. And there will be an ongoing conversation regarding the emotions that are often triggered when writing hyper­personally.

In the first half of the class, you’ll study the art of the personal essay—where to start and how to make it effective. In the second half, Chloe will help you nail down your voice, and find venues that would be best suited for your work.

Along the way, Chloe will be critiquing your work and answering your questions in a collaborative, judgment-free environment. Students will also critique each other, to help them develop their critical voice. All skill levels welcome!

Oh, and in case you were wondering how effective the class is, here a selection of essays written in the workshop under Chloe’s tutelage:

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embrace platonic intimacy

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I’ve been in Ann Arbor drinking honey lavender lattes and americanos and flavored La Croix and Bulleit, and red wine. I read Elizabeth Ellen’s manuscripts, the novel PERSON/A and story collection TEEN CULTURE. They are both excellent books. We saw The Danish Girl and JOY and Prozac Nation and ate lots of soup at Panera.

Juliet Escoria, EE, moi, eating at ZOLA

Juliet Escoria, EE, moi, eating at ZOLA

Claire Vaye Watkins, Amanda Goldblatt, Chelsea Martin, Juliet Escoria, EE, and me.

Claire Vaye Watkins, Amanda Goldblatt, Chelsea Martin, Juliet Escoria, EE, and me.

photo by Miles Marie

photo by Miles Marie

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Chelsea Martin reading from her novella MICKEY

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Aaron Burch blissed out from manhattans and a cigar

the life

the life

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La Croix advertisement

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I came home with a stack of copies of WOMEN. If you’d like me to sign one and mail to you, paypal me $12 at cocomonet@gmail.com and I’ll send it tomorrow!

crazy

 

 

BREAK UP

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When I was twenty-three I was a full time in nanny in Seattle for many different families. I wrote an essay about the boys I babysat called My Heart Was Still Beating.

One of kids’ I babysat’s mother had an entire basement full of books I sometimes browsed through. It was there I found the book BREAK UP by Catherine Texier, which released in 1999. I loved this book, still own it; my employer let me keep it. I’d never seen a woman write this way: raw, sparse, unflinching, vulnerable, strong.

My mom read it and my friends read it too because I made them. It was, in some ways, my inspiration for my book WOMEN and my essay YES TO CARROTS.

I couldn’t find Catherine’s email back in 2009, but I found her husband’s email. (The book is about her husband leaving her. In the 80s Catherine and her husband co-edited and published a zine called Between C and D) I emailed her husband—the novelist Joel Rose—I was so emboldened back then—and I said to him, sorry if this is weird, but I’m trying to email your ex wife because I just read her book. He was kind and gave me her email address. Not weird at all, he said. Catherine and I have a daughter named Chloe, by the way, he said.

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I emailed Catherine sometimes when I published an essay (I was shameless!) She responded in February 2010:

Thank you for your very kind email about Breakup. I was very moved that it had such an effect on you, and that you took the trouble to email Joel, then me.
Then I read your piece and thought it was very honest and raw, and I could see why Breakup resonated with you. It’s coming from the same place. I liked how the ending of your piece twists it around from self-pity to openness and – yes – love, which changes the whole color of it. Well done.
Good luck with your writing.
**********

Any who—Catherine emailed me last week that she’d read WOMEN and asked me to read with her at HOWL! in NYC in a couple weeks for the release of her new book RUSSIAN LESSONS.

She didn’t remember how I used to harass her six years ago or the emails we wrote back and forth. She introduced herself and her writing to me.

I know who you are, I said. Remember?

(Breakup is the erotically charged chronicle of the tempestuous final months of an eighteen-year romantic and literary partnership, self-destructing in the aftermath of the ultimate betrayal. Fearlessly and courageously, Texier chronicles the end of that love as it is wrecked by infidelity and deceit in a literary tour de force reminiscent by turns of Marguerite Duras and Henry Miller.)

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The reading is Sunday, February 21st, 7pm. at HOWL! Gallery (6 East 1st Street).

I’m reading with Catherine, Paula Bomer, and Larissa Pham. I can’t wait to finally meet Catherine.

 

 

 

 

BAD WOMEN

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Super pumped about this event I’m doing this April, which feels like a minute away but I need SPRING to look forward to. Reading from books gets boring sometimes, so I’m excited to be part of a ‘discussion’. Mark your google calendars.

BAD WOMEN: A discussion about women, character, and likeability

The Strand, 828 Broadway at 12th Street

April 21st, 2016, 7PM

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FEATURING:

Chloe Caldwell (author of Legs Get Led Astray, Women, and I’ll Tell You In Person)

Anna North (author of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark)

Emily Schultz (author of The Blondes and creator of Spending the Stephen King Money)

Jenny Zhang (author of Dear Jenny We Are All Find and a forthcoming novel)

Moderated by Isaac Fitzgerald (Books editor, Buzzfeed)

In 2013 actress Anna Gunn wrote in the New York Times about the mass online anger directed at the character she played on Breaking Bad. She had realized “most people’s hatred of Skyler White had little to do with me and a lot to do with their own perception of women and wives.” This panel of novelists and essayists will talk about the onus of likeability placed on women and whether women are allowed to be flawed, in fiction and life. Presented by Buzzfeed Books and Joyland Magazine.

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I’ll be happy to see Isaac. Here’s a pic of us in Chicago, Feb 2012. I look young af. Only now seeing the poster for the movie and book BEING FLYNN is behind us.

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Posting about this Sunday’s reading again, just because Horam Kim made us such sweet flyers!

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All You Do Is Observe Yourself

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I used to be a horrifying snooper. I don’t do it anymore, actually. Something changed, also I’ve gotten hurt by it, so now I prefer to not know things, like a ‘normal’ person.

This morning a friend sent me a link to a review of WOMEN, called Millennials Talk Millennial Nonsense in a review in text messages between two girl friends. That’s what’s cool about publishing books/writing, it’s socially acceptable to see what people are saying about you.

For my next book, I might turn into one of those authors who don’t read their reviews. I’m serious. I’m excited about it.

But for now….these texts simultaneous makes me sick to my stomach and happy. Feels meta, feels like reading my own texts between my friend Karina and myself, except about my own book. Also, ha, femme lit?! Never heard anyone call WOMEN that till now. I these WOMEN have some interesting points. It’s fun to see what people say behind your back, uncrafted for a book review.I know I know, what other ppl think about you is none of your business, but w/e.

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Last night I was watching Six Feet Under. My new winter activity is re-watching the series since I haven’t seen it in 10 years, and since Jill Soloway wrote my fave characters: Brenda Chenoweth and Claire Fisher.

Remember when Brenda decides she wants to write a novel and starts sleeping around for materials?

There’s this great scene when she sits on her bed with her laptop and stares at the blank screen. She hallucinates the words:

Go ahead, write.

What do have to say that hasn’t been said before?

All you do is observe your self. 

Off to shovel my car out and go to therapy.

xoxoxo

cc

Memoir Class Feb thru April

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I’m teaching Memoir 1 class online for Gotham Writer’s Workshop. Class begins February 9th and lasts for 10 weeks. You can be any where in the WORLD to take it! It’s a good price too.

This course gives you a firm grounding in the basics of memoir craft and gets you writing a short memoir (or two) or a book. Course components:

  • Lectures
  • Writing exercises
  • Workshopping of student projects (each student presenting work two times)

Memoir Writing I is for beginners or anyone who wants to brush up on the fundamentals. Students must be 18 years or older.

Sign up here. 

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My Bookshelf, Myself

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Am honored Lena Dunham chose WOMEN on her list of Ten Favorite Books for the style section in The New York Times. Never thought my slim piece of my heart novella would go so far. Plus I keep Holidays on Ice under my pillow (dead serious, been re-reading it) loved KITCHEN, just sent my friend Eliza a Nikki Giovanni poem “Habits” 3 days ago, and I own Minor Characters. Found it on the street. You can buy WOMEN here.

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Crazy unflattering photo of Lena and I last January

Crazy unflattering photo of Lena and I last January

EMILY SONGS

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On Feb 3 I’ll be reading at Housing Works Bookstore. The musician Sara Renberg (who I actually know from when I lived in Portland) has written songs correlating with feminist Emily Books titles.  I’ll be reading with Emily Gould, Joshua James Amberson (who I also know from Portland, we worked together at Powell’s, weird) and Nina Pollari, who I don’t know, but has the best Twitter name: Heart Barf. FB invite here.

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I’ll be reading from INFERNO by Eileen Myles. Lucky me. Hope to see you there.

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Next week I’m off to go live with these b****** in Michigan for the rest of the month. Wish me luck!

me, ee, chelsea at the Chateau Marmot in LA, Oct 2014

me, ee, chelsea at the Chateau Marmot in LA, Oct 2014

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