upcoming essay class

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I like Tao Lin’s post about the books he read in the past 1.5 years. I knew I was right about Angelica Kitchen serving alcohol and had no idea why he was being so adamant they did not. I’m glad we’ve cleared this up.

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My class Polish and Publish Your Personal Essays begins (for the 7th time!) next month: February 18th.

Last fall in my essay class, Patrick Thornton wrote Door Wide Open, now published on Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and Tianna Thomas wrote High Hopes For Thanksgiving: And What It’s Like To Grown Up On A Pot Farm, now published on Role/Reboot.

The above is my way of letting you know: the class really “works” !

And if you don’t want to take my class, fine, take Chuck Paluhnik’s. 

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For Maggie

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On New Year’s Eve I received an email of which the subject line was For Maggie. The emailer didn’t acknowledge me with a hello, or introduce herself, she only pasted a poem she wrote. Her name is Colleen Delaney, and she gave me permission to post her poem:

For Maggie

When I was a child,
I preferred my own company
to that of other children.
I lived in my mind.
A favorite game was to trace my thoughts:
what am I thinking now
and connecting dots with previous thoughts.
This was immense fun
and also mysterious, as to thoughts that pop in my head suddenly…
those take much more analysis…
so here I was at the bitter end of 2015
after a year in exile from NYC
lying on the floor with my body aching
trying to twist out my pain like a pretzel
at my first yoga class in years
(my last one ended when it began
when the instructor played rap music)
thinking I hate the concept of passive yoga
but just need to stretch from my very active dance classes
with my wandering mind unable to turn off
my thoughts appeared like a random Waiting for Godot play
and my recent conversation with a stranger in the waiting room
echoed in my brain
our talk about art classes and museums and encouragement
and when I told her I went to art school and now am a lawyer
it never fails to astonish (even me when I say it out loud)
to imply that I am less than feeling fulfilled is an understatement.
The cosmic joke presently is that I am now working in the exact same building
I interned at a major music label in the 90’s, but now at a posh law firm
where the highlight of my day is the cafeteria I visit morning noon and night.
Like night and day, the vibe difference is astounding.
The label moved out and heads rolled and my old boss works in LA now
but I still recall a co-worker mentor warning me not to go to law school
which I proceeded to ignore his advice
we were at a culture that encouraged wearing jeans, afternoon naps, and free concerts.
even the old guys were young at heart.
flash forward to today where those ghosts are long gone
and I sit silently at a computer all day not speaking to a soul.
so here I am in a yoga class…even the word sounds strange to someone
who self medicated with cookies during blizzards by the ocean all last winter.
and I think of New Years Eve and more pleasantly New Years Day
and the annual Poetry Marathon
I’ve been videotaping for years
and looking forward to the lineup
and out of nowhere
I think of Maggie Estep
and how she was so great
and I filmed her there one year
then I thought back to a strange long phone call we had
maybe a decade ago
how I instantly connected after meeting some random place
and I told her I was working on spoken word poetry projects at Mercury
and also at Verve
bringing old music to the young
and young poets to the masses
and I had bought her cd in yellow
and listened over and over
as if she was my Cyrano
and she gave me her landline number
and said call me.
and I did. and we talked like we knew each other forever.
and that was the last I ever saw of spoke to her.
After 9/11 nothing made sense, not even music
and it all seemed so trivial.
Then I got into filming documentary working for Al Maysles
and started my “Last Remaining Beat Poet” filming
and filmed my first feature in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina
and here I am lying on the floor listening to violas and twisting my body
and I start to cry
as I shockingly remember
Maggie Estep is gone and won’t be reading at St. Marks this year
and I trace my thoughts from why am I thinking of Maggie suddenly
to New Years Day Poetry readings, to filming, to music, to beats, to 9/11, to Katrina,
to interning at PolyGram, back to the stranger conversation last week waiting for my first yoga class
to today lonely sitting at attorney temp job at the computer on New Years Eve thinking of last night’s second yoga class
when I read a memorial about Maggie Estep
and that she was a yoga teacher.
And she is.

***

It’s been almost two years since Maggie Estep died, and one year since I wrote this essay about our friendship. Our friendship revolved around yoga and writing—the only two things I’ve consistently practiced throughout the last decade. The last place I saw her was the yoga studio, and the first place I saw her was the yoga studio.

In 2013 it was Maggie who taught the New Year’s Day yoga class. This year I did not go to New Year’s Day class, as I was driving my cousin to the airport. So I went yesterday morning.

I go to yoga about three times a week. It is sometimes really uncomfortable to plop my mat down in front of the windows and alter at Sadhana Yoga Center and have to get through a 90 minute class in from of a photo of your dead friend. There is something funny about it —Maggie would find it delightfully morbid, I’m sure. Her photo sits with the Buddhas and Shiva and Dharma Mittra. I was in such a pissed off mood in class on Saturday, that when people were sent to the wall to practice handstand, I forfeited and took this photo instead.

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Some evenings I got to Yin or community class and I don’t really think about the photo. But some days it is so prominent, and feels so awful, so depressing, so painful. Yesterday was one of those days. Saturday morning class was Maggie’s class. She taught on Saturdays and Mondays. Saturday morning class was the last place I saw her in Feb 2013.

So yesterday the only open spot was up near her photo in the front. Also there was a sub instead of the ‘normal’ Saturday teacher. I went in expecting to me annoyed with this teacher which is never good, and is exactly what happened. I got very annoyed with her style. In the beginning of class, she talked a lot. It felt cheesy to me and I wanted to say to someone, as a mean/bad joke: I didn’t know I was coming to a Ted Talk.

I knew what would have happened if Maggie was alive. She would have asked me after class what the sub was like, (she wouldn’t have gone to class because she was a snob) and I would have said, I felt like I was at a Ted Talk, and after that Maggie would refer to her only as Ted Talk or Ted Talk Lady. It’s just what she did.

To my right there was a woman in her fifties or sixties. I recognized her from a Saturday morning class two years ago. Maggie had us go to the wall, an annoying thing that yoga teachers do, and this woman was next to me. I asked her where she got her striped leggings. She told me T.J. Maxx, and we kept chatting about leggings and T.J. Maxx. Maggie came up to us and jokingly asked if she needed to separate us.

Well yesterday in the same exact room, the teacher had us go to the wall, and Striped Leggings Lady was to my right, and we were in the same place we were two years ago, at the wall, near the stereo. She was wearing the same leggings.

After the wall stuff, we went back to our mats. Class finished, tears were streaming down my face in shivasana, falling onto my ears. I felt so mad she’s dead. When class ended, while we put away our props, I caught Striped Leggings Lady’s eye. I asked her if she used to go to Maggie’s classes, and she wasn’t sure. So I said, “Oh, maybe you look like someone else.” “I went to exactly one of her classes,” she said. I reminded her of my memory and she said, “T.J. Maxx!” Then she told me Maggie taught her to twist her legs together in shoulder stand. She introduced herself as Lauren. Lauren didn’t notice I was about to burst into tears during this interaction, I don’t think. She told me she was thinking lately of people in her life who’ve died, too.

***

This morning I went to Sondra—owner of the studio’s class. When I see Sondra now, I don’t just see Sondra. I see Maggie’s funeral. Here’s an excerpt from Maggie’s post, The Chocolate Factory, dated January 2013:

Today, I got to go inside the chocolate factory.  It was a good day.

I got up before the sun, gave Mickey his morning promenade, then went to yoga at Sadhana to take class with Sondra.

Sondra is a beam of sunshine.  Even when she is very possibly not feeling like actual sunshine, she is able to transmit sunshine.

Sondra is one of those people who can do absolutely ANY yoga pose with grace and strength.   Plus, she’s really good at saying genuinely soothing, uplifting things. Me, I’m not good at the “uplifting talk” aspect of yoga teaching.  If I  have had some uplifting experience and can relay it off the top of my head, great, but plotting out something to talk about to the yoga class always reminds me of why I didn’t become an actor.

I tried, for five minutes, to be an actor.  During the High Visibility Phase of my writer/performer career, film directors would actually call and ask me to audition for their movies.   I would kind of scratch my head and wonder WHY.  But it’s very flattering when people ask you to audition for things, letting you skip that whole Actually Being An Actor phase and going right to being flown to LA to audition and be driven around and taken to lunch.

I can write just about any conceivable kind of being into existence, but I can’t morph myself into anyone other than ME.  So I was in one movie that shall remain nameless and then ended my acting career and went back to my room to write novels.

Now, as I have perhaps belabored,  the writing biz has changed and  my income from it is modest.  I have to leave my room all the time to make money teaching yoga and selling real estate.   I  am still getting acclimated to this whole Leaving The House thing, but it’s worth it when there is a chocolate factory involved.

Two days ago,  there was yet another New York Times story (here)  about Hudson and how great it is.  Hudson has become the Times’  new darling, mercifully supplanting Lena Dunham and the show GIRLS as a favored topic.

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An hour through yoga class this morning, Cool Woman I Know from town came in and plopped her mat next to mine. Then she hit me on the arm and asked what time class began. Ten, I told her. It was eleven. Fuck, she said, and we laughed.

Then I thought about Maggie and wondered what our relationship would be like now. Would she be next to me in yoga this morning? Would we go get coffee afterwards? Or would she be out of town? What would annoy us about each other? What new memories would we have? Would we have done another reading together? Would she be in the same apartment down the street from me? Would she still be teaching yoga on Mondays and Saturdays?

Grief is funny and mysterious. I can’t get Maggie off my mind because of the season. We met before Thanksgiving, swapped books on Christmas, spent New Year’s Day at yoga, did a reading together in February, and she died two days before Valentine’s Day. As yoga people like to say, the body remembers! 

Photo by Dana Kinstler at Oblong Books

Photo by Dana Kinstler at Oblong Books, 3 days before Maggie died.

If you’re interested in Maggie’s work, I recommend her novels: DIARY OF AN EMOTIONAL IDIOT and ALICE, FANTASTIC. And watch her brilliance in the video below.

I miss and love you Maggie. I’m so happy I got to know you, so fleetingly, so special, so true.

Thank you for sending me your poem, Colleen.

 

female friends of 2015

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Last year in December 2014 I wrote about all of the female friends I’d made that year:

Female Friendships o 2014

My friendships are super important to me.

Staying with the theme of female friendship, this recent essay, I’m Having A Friend Affair, in NY Mag is amazing:

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Another excellent female friendship essay I read and loved this year (not saying it was published this year) is Chevrolet Caprice by (my very own editor) Ruth Curry, in The Paris Review. 

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Lastly, (since everything must be in threes) there’s this essay, “My Rayannes” by Emma Straub.

I was scared to look at the list from last year just now incase I’d had fall outs with people. But it doesn’t look like it. Looks in tact. Kristen Forbes got married and we did a re-pose:

Erin, CS, me, Kristen

Erin, CS, me, Kristen

same same

same same

Karina moved to Portland so now we have phone marathons.

Steph moved to LA but still gets up at like 5a.m. so we still have morning text fests, but I miss both Karina and Steph so much! One of the highlights of 2014 was going to Martha’s Vineyard for a writing residency together. (Apply here.)

Steph, Cynthia, Karina

Steph, Cynthia, Karina

One of the greatest things I started doing in 2015 is hosting workshops at my apartment in Hudson. I’ve got to get to know some talented and interesting writers that way including: Juliana Mann, Julie Park, Therese Mulgrew, Emily J Smith, Megan Sullivan, Patricia Villari, Courtney Preiss, Allison McCarthy, Jillian Eugenios, Jessica Kashiwabara, Sarah Kasbeer, and Michelle King. 

Therese & me at Cowgirl in NYC

Therese & me at Cowgirl in NYC

photo of writers writing in plaid

photo of writers writing in plaid

another friend really special to me is Logan Sachon. she lets me sleep in her extra bed in brooklyn whenever i want is all around amazing.

i’d be remiss not to mention dear Bobbi lindstrom-strayed. in my forthcoming essay collection i have a piece about our relationship, called Sisterless. These car selfies prove that Bobbie wears her seatbelt as she should, and I…don’t?

Driving to Big Sur

Driving to Big Sur

driving to wedding Sept 2015

driving to wedding Sept 2015

a friend I want to give a particular moment to is Anna Ty Bergman. In 2014 I went to a three day writing workshop in Big Sur, California and on the final night did a read from my essay collection. A woman in her fifties came up to me afterwards and asked to buy a copy of Legs Get Led Astray off me. “I think my daughter in New York would love this,” she said. “She’s a singer and an actress.” She bought the book and I signed it for her daughter, Anna. Over the next year, Anna took my Litreactor online essay class twice, and we met at a reading at Housing Works, then again at Pete’s Candy Store, then for wine at the Art Bar. I pressured Anna into taking my memoir class last term, just a ploy so I could see her every single week, and it worked! Anna is a jack-of-all-trades: singer, actress, photographer, personal essayist. I adore her very much and she’s proven to be a loyal and special friend.

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The kicker is that last month I had Anna in my memoir class and her mother in my personal essay (online) class at the same time. I’m grateful to Anna’s mom for playing friend cupid and knowing we’d get along.

You’ll read about it in my next collection—I have a fraught relationship with singing and wrote an essay called Failing Singing as singing was an enormous part of my life until I was nineteen. This is yet another reason I found Anna so compelling, she lives an actual life as a singer which is something I thought I’d do when I was younger. Anna and her two singer friends do these mash-ups, here’s one of my favorites a “Hallelujah” and “Imagine” mash up.

Fran and I a few days ago at my xmas party

Fran and I a few days ago at my xmas party. We never stop talking.

What else happened this year? Chelsea Martin and I both found publishers for our books! Her novella MICKEY releases in June 2016, and Elizabeth Ellen has this new poetry collection out. Emily Gould had a baby, Eliza Plumlee is traveling the world,Erika Kleinamn is still writing kick ass essays, Elisa Albert’s novel killed it,and my friend Fran Badalamenti and I are still having monthly conversations. 

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I’m supposed to see some covers for my book after the new year. ( :

And I’m on my way next month to visit Chelsea and EE.

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Oh, and my favorite podcast I began listening to this year is CALL YOUR GIRLFRIEND: A Podcast For Long Distance Besties Everywhere.

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Anyway, back to work—fittingly, I am working with a writer named Haley Sherif on her thesis/book of creative nonfiction called ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS.

Happy New Year!!!

 

 

 

every day i’m hustlin’

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my serotonin takes a huge nose dive after my classes end. you get really used to seeing the same people every week.

boo fucking hoo. some of us went out last night, which is always nice closure. i’ve no doubt in my mind a handful of people in this photo will be successful in their endeavors and you’ll see their names in print. it was a talented group.

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Unrelated, I really like these nameplate desk things over at He Said She Said. I want one.

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There might be exactly one more spot in my 6 week Personal Essay class, Nailing Your Narrative starting in NYC Feb 29th.

If you prefer online classes, Polish & Publish Your Personal Essay begins Feb 18th over at Litreactor.

p.s. I’m excited to read this anthology a student gifted me. The authors included are an amazing group: Martin Amis, Paul Auster, Renata Adler, Patti Smith, Hilton Als, Alison Bechdel, Junot Díaz, Rachel Kushner, and Téa Obreht.

!!!

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the business of writing

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on the last day of the 10 week memoir class term, i’m supposed to discuss the ‘business’ of writing.

lol.

business and writing, i’d like to say, isn’t a thing. but it is and i live it every day of my life.

just yesterday i came up with 3 quotes for people who want to work on books and essays with me.

i deposited my check from litreactor.

i searched the mail for 2 other checks i’m waiting for, but they didn’t come.

i sent my resume and cover letter to a local community college in hopes to teach there.

i worked on a new essay about my hatred for h&m.

i read and commented on two of my gotham students’ essays.

i read and commented on my gotham students’ homework.

i got an acceptance from LENNY, and have some edits to work on.

i told 2 people that no, i couldn’t get their books to cheryl strayed. (i don’t appreciate being asked this. no one got my book to cheryl strayed, i did it myself. cheryl has announced on her website she isn’t blurbing. do your research.)

my friend karina told me on the phone the other night i should write a little book about ‘writer etiquette’.

remember when i wrote On Picking My Brain? 

know who else wrote one? jill soloway. i didn’t know this until yesterday. her collection was released in 2006.

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after watching the amazing season 2 of Transparent, i remembered jill wrote the essay collection Tiny Ladies In Shiny Pants, an essay collection that explores most of themes she goes deeper into in her show.

my dad was saying the other day, it’s always a series of events that makes someone successful or unsuccessful.

jill soloway is incredibly inspiring. this New Yorker profile of her is so interesting. she’s in her fifties and has worked her ass off to be where she is. she had some awful career years, and some very good ones. writer’s write, that’s the business of writing…..

also i love what she says in this interview in VULTURE:

The question of privilege comes up quite a few times this season. How do you balance making the characters both incredibly selfish and sympathetic?


JS: I don’t really think so much about likability, I just think about authenticity. There are so many people who would be like, “Oh, white people problems!” People say that to dismiss a certain kind of entertainment that’s about perhaps people with financial privilege. But I really don’t think about that, I think about how to make that real. People talk about the kids as being jerks or being narcissistic. I remind them that when you grow up in a family with that huge a secret, people don’t really know themselves. The secret stands in for the boundary. So these kids really didn’t know who they were, where they started and where other people began. I realized this about my own family; I grew up in a family with all secrets and no boundaries, this constant feeling of holding onto each other for dear life because nobody really knows what’s up. And then you lift the veil and you turn the lights on and you see what was going on, and you’re like, oh, my moppa was trans – we had a moppa, our family is queer, I come from a queer legacy.

Even looking back at my own moppa’s family, I’m like, wow, who was trans and gender-nonconforming in our legacy? Even for me to recognize that I have a legacy of gender-nonconformity and queerness in my family that I didn’t know about, it’s like you suddenly are born, in a way. They might be obnoxious and narcissistic, but the Pfeffermans are children, they’re sort of teenagers, adolescents who are really being confronted with the truth of who they are for the first time. So they’re going to be clumsy, they’re going to make mistakes. There’s a moment this season where Ali is explaining herself to Syd, and she’s saying something like, “I want to be with you, but I also need to be able to figure out who I am.” I’m rooting for her in that moment because she does need to be able to figure out who she is, and I think everybody is trying to figure out who they are; everybody’s got a earning for understanding. I guess it can be seen as self-centered or self-centering, but they’re trying to get their balance.

**

Something I have my class read in our last weeks is Why I Write by Stephen Elliott:

It’s amazing and heartening how many people want to be writers. Like all writers, I’m frequently asked about process. Process is different for everybody. When I’m really in a book I work seven days a week, three to six hours a day, starting when I first get up. I write every day because I’m not capable of writing eight hours straight. If I were I would skip the weekends. A girlfriend once told me she had good news. She didn’t have to work on Wednesday; we could spend the whole day together. She didn’t think of me as someone with a job. It made me happy. I kissed her a bunch of times and told her I couldn’t see her on Wednesday.

I’m also often asked about publishing. I tell people that it’s easy to get published; it’s just hard to get paid. There’s lots of good writing, but there’s very little that actually stands out as different and necessary or so good that it demands to be read. If you write something like that, someone will publish it. I don’t think I could keep going if I didn’t believe that.

I don’t believe in connections. I believe in the slush pile. I remember sending an unsolicited personal essay to Salon.com. When it was published I got a letter from an editor at GQ asking if I had anything else. A similar situation resulted in my writing a long article for Esquire. Unsolicited manuscripts worked for me: Five of my seven books were sold without an agent, though “sold” might not be the right term. Of the four anthologies I edited only one of them was agented. It’s better to have an agent, if you can find a good one. You should always try to get the most for whatever you do. It was a mistake for me to wait so long. But my point is that to be published you don’t need to know anybody. For short stories and personal essays and poems in particular, just write and send them. Sometimes writers spend all their energy pitching articles and don’t write anything, as if they’re waiting for permission. By the time the editor responds the writer might not even want to write the article anymore. There are many publications that are only great because they take the slush pile seriously. And agents read those journals, often finding their clients.

But all of that is secondary. An editor once told me why writers don’t get published:

The number one reason they won’t publish a book is because they haven’t written it yet.

***

my past student allison mccarthy got the ‘can you get my book to cheryl strayed’ taste out of my mouth from this generous and kind note:

I feel like I’m learning so much from your books and online writing, from the work of the people who take your classes and just having you as a teacher. There was a two-year period (2012-2014) when I was in a shitty relationship that shot through my confidence and so I wasn’t writing at all, with the exception of a book review here and there. But then I started up again with your class at LitReactor and suddenly I was writing again, pitching again, trying again. There was xoJane and Human Parts and the Washington Post and DAME. Right now, I’m now editing an essay for Sherry Amatenstein’s SHRINK/SHRUNK anthology for Seal Press. SEAL PRESS. I’ve wanted to write for them since I was sixteen. I got the acceptance letter when I was in India and I spent a half-hour bawling into my mug of peppermint tea.

So I wanted to say this (because it’s the truth)… I don’t know that I would have accomplished any of those things without the work I’ve done in your classes. The opportunities I’ve had through those workshops (both online and in-person) mean the world to me.

THANK YOU ALLISON!!!!!

***

everything above is the business of writing. (and the joys of working from home, i guess. a day in the life.)

 

 

 

 

Nailing Your Narrative

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Teaching so much was freaking me out for a while but I’m getting into the groove. I just finished up a long essay about my fraught relationship with teachers growing up and my identity crisis & inferiority complex over teaching but in spite of myself I’m really enjoying it. It informs my own writing and teach ME so much: how to speak in front of a room, boundaries, how to think critically, and thousands of more THINGS.

My next class–on personal essays—I am so so so excited about. I LOVE teaching at Catapult, I love the chandelier and comfortable desk chairs and the view. I love how close it is to Sweet Green and Bow Tie Cinema. This class is only open to 8 people maximum. It will focus on personal essays, and is perfect for those of you looking to cobble together a collection or start publishing your work. Let me know if you have any ???s about what it will cover. Click the photo to apply.

P.S. Catapult has many badass classes right now–fiction & non—including instructors MARY GAITSKILL, Rachel Syme, Ashley Ford, etc. 

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Dates: Feb 29 – April 4

Time: Mondays, 6:30-8:30pm

Fee: $495

Number Of Students: 6-8

1140 Broadway, Suite 704, NY NY 10001

Co-Sponsored By Electric Literature

Personal essays aren’t a piece of cake. In this 6 week class, you will study contemporary, timeless, and experimental essays and finish class with finished essays of your own. Each writer will workshop twice, and will meet with Chloe once throughout the course for an individual conference.

Students will experiment with different essay forms, learn how to engage readers, and find their audience. Chloe will provide prompts and readings, and help students find their unique voices. She will also give suggestions on publication venues for individual’s work.There will be an ongoing conversation about how to cope with family and friends while writing and publishing nonfiction. This class is perfect for any writer trying to put together an essay collection or learn more about the personal essay genre.
 

 

 

 

 

Installment # 13: The Fragile Egos

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Chloe & Frances Badalamenti talk about The Museum of Natural History, worrying about each other, and other shit. These bitches are all over the place.

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CC: It’s Friday night and I’m home. You returned from your low-res MFA program this past Sunday where you were for 10 days, and I handed my book in on the same Sunday. We always seem aligned in funny ways.

I was worried about you and your program a little, because I know how intense writers isolated together can be. But you were stoked and it sounded rad as shit. I’m sort of jealous.

What’s something you learned about ‘writing’ while you were there? Like, if you had a gun to your head, what are three things you learned? Since I’m teaching lately, I’m so interested in writing teachers do, since writing is so elusive. In fact, I’ve already stolen the idea about giving students individual reading lists and I am gonna do that at my next workshop in Hudson. Which book are you most excited about on the list your mentor gave you?

FB: My biggest takeaway from living in the woods with a gaggle of writers is that we are so similar, like our personalities are so aligned in regards to how we see the world and what makes us tick.  I have to say, this does not seem true regarding the poets and I am not saying that to be judgmental or sounding like we are better than them.  I mean — there is just something fundamentally different about the poet personality that I had not been aware of previous to this residency and to be honest, I don’t even know how to explain what I feel is different.  Not yet.  Nonetheless, I am intrigued.  I also think there are these major differences in worldview between those who mostly write fiction versus those who mostly write nonfiction.  I really got a kick out of some of the dude fiction writers, they reminded me so much of the dudes that I hung hard with in high school.  It was really comforting.  But overall, the residency was challenging as fuck and it literally took me four days to recover both emotionally and physically.    

If I had a gun to my head (WTF?), three things that I learned: I am for sure a fucking writer no matter how much I resist, art-making is not for the faint at heart and ego is a real thing.

The book that I am most stoked on is The Essential Ellen Willis.  Willis was a long-time rock critic (New Yorker, Village Voice).  And I’ve been really into the idea of writing about music and weaving personal narrative with some historical bits around music, mostly around my own coming-of-age in the 90’s and working at a killer indie music venue.  You and I have spoken at length about our love of music but how it is this love relationship that is formed from a distance, as we are not practicing musicians ourselves.  Both of our fathers are lifelong musicians and so we grew up around music and we are very obsessed with music and it definitely affects our writing indirectly.       

But I have a big stack of books to read and that stokes me out, mainly because they are not books that I would generally read.  You should definitely give your students books you think they should read because again, they are probably books that they would not have chosen otherwise.

I am also going to read Proust.  

I want to hear more about how you feel about sending off your book.  This is the first book of yours that I have really seen a progression of from cover to cover.  I mean, I feel pretty close to Women, but this new book I feel more of a sisterly kinship with and I worried so much about you and this book, kind of how you worried when I went off to residency.  Fuck.  So yeah, what did it really feel like to send off this latest version to your editors?

CC: I shouldn’t have said that gun to your head thing, it’s a fucked up expression. I can’t believe you’re going to read Proust, you sound like Frances Ha right now. It was funny when we spoke on the phone last week and you kept dropping the bomb, “Prose Poem.”

Yeah last February you and I were in San Francisco, sitting at the waterfront eating yogurt and drinking Blue Bottle coffee and verbally sketching out my collection. We came up with a theme of female friendship and mentors, because I was writing that essay about Maggie Estep and her death and our friendship and I think I told you I wanted to write an essay about not having a sister and my relationship with CS’s daughter which I ended up doing.

And now the collection is broken into 3 parts like we talked about.  I think you’ve read the FIRST version of almost ALL of the essays besides the ones I wrote a few years ago. Thank you. This is only one of the many reasons I’ve dedicated the book to you.

In January the book will go through a few rounds of copyediting, in Feb, proofreading, and in May, galleys. The final proofread is due in late June, and the book will be released in November. I am excited to see how it will be received. Turning it in has opened my brain back up and I don’t have to think in such tunnel vision anymore. I’m going to write for fun (for fun! imagine?) and not worry about a next book or anything like that. I want to enjoy writing without the pressure, the way I used to. I feel ten pounds lighter and I mean that literally. 

I love the music idea so much; I’m wondering how that Jessica Hopper book you read was?

I do agree that fiction writers move through the world differently than non, and we’ve talked about this at length. For example, the anxiety of releasing a personal essay collection is very different than, say, a novel or short story collection. It’s very exposing. Like Mary Karr said on Bookworm the other day, there are psychological consequences.

You’re working on a new book that I love—are you thinking of fictionalizing it, sort of like Department of Speculation or do you think of it as a memoir? If you weren’t a writer, what kind of artistic expression do you think you’d have? Like, were you ever into drawing or any visual art or crafts? We’ve never talked about this–do you enjoy crafting? I hate it.

What are you looking forward to doing in NYC when you come in December?

FB:  I feel tightness in my chest around the fact that your new book will not be released for another year, as if things will be so different and we will be these different people in a full year, living in some far-flung location like France or Indonesia, almost forgetting that you wrote that book of essays.  But we will probably be the same people doing the same thing, neuroticizing about food choices and acupuncture and tinctures.  And then the book will come out and we will have something to focus on other than figuring out if someone is a narcissist or not.  

Planning and organizing your book in the very early stages was so much fun my heart starts racing thinking about it. I get really excited about talking about other people’s writing and discussing over-arching themes and outlining and deciphering how a book will be organized.   Um, if I had my shit together and had an inkling of who I was as a person, I probably should have been a book editor back in the day instead of working in corporate advertising — being the band manager for The Fragile Egos.

Speaking of bands, that Jessica Hopper book, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, kills.  I think you would dig it.  It’s music criticism for sure, but her writing is way more casual and relatable than say Richard Hell.  I mean, she has gone to a shit-ton of shows and knows how to write about it in a way that makes you feel like you were there too.  I’ll send it to you in our next batch of postal book-swapping…..  

And to answer your question about what artistic expressions I have other than writing, dude I am sooooo Miranda July, I am into so much shit.  No really, just kidding — I dunno, I have always been super creative and artsy, but I never had any confidence in myself.  I dabbled with just about everything:  photography, drawing, film-making, ceramics, music……and the only thing I found my way back to was writing.  Writing has been constant.  But never crafting.  This girl ain’t crafty.  I don’t have the patience.  John is the crafty one around here — he makes the Halloween costumes.  I buy the shit and plan out the ideas.

Not sure what the book I am working on is going to turn out to be — it is kind of abstract right now to be honest, but I am glad you have been digging it, that helps in so many ways.  But I do picture it being 120pp for some reason, which a friend pointed out is the length of a screenplay.

But who fucking knows.  It is a painful book to write.  It hurts my stomach.  

Yup, NYC in December.  Hang with you for sure.  See family and friends.  Eat at Angelica Kitchen.  Go to the Russian Baths.  Catch a couple of films.  Take the kid to The Museum of Natural History – you should come with us!   

CC: I know what you mean about a year away–in my sort-of-foreword opening essay (you read first draft) I acknowledge and explain my thoughts about that notion, and say that some of the sentiments in the following essays are not true anymore. I wrote some of the essays in 2013 so there’s sort of a range of perspective in the book. I think the emotional distance from it will be good.

Museums can be hit or miss with me and I’m not great company at them, I get tired and depressed in them, but I will come cause I wanna hang and because of Squid & The Whale.

I ask about your book because I just remembered something I heard Lidia Yuknavitch say on an interview. She was being asked about her book DORA: A Headcase, and she goes, “See, after I wrote my memoir, I needed to have fun.” Makes sense, right?

I didn’t get it then, but I do now. Her memoir must have been fucking grueling to write and then she needed to work on fiction, and have fun. I remember when you sent me your essay The Light (I think?) a few years ago, and in the subject line, you wrote AHHHHHHHHHHHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGGH. Because it was such dark and difficult content.

My last Q: The other day I read in Sallie Tisdale’s essay collection VIOLATION that the reason some people are so attached and anal about remembering dates and little facts, the way I am, it’s cause they came from chaotic childhoods! I’d never heard that before, what about you?

You’d be a great manager for The Fragile Egos. We should write a screenplay with that name.

FB:  Dude, I am totally dragging you to The Museum of Natural History just to witness you getting depressed and fatigued in front of those weird-ass dioramas.  That will be our album cover photo shoot.

I have not heard that Sallie Tisdale comment specifically, but I totally get it…..and in therapy parlance, it is called being hyper vigilant.  I am super hyper vigilant and it is so exhausting but I think it has allowed me to have such a crazy ability to remember details.      
AHHHHHHHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGH

 

 

movie matinees

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I went to Angelika yesterday as I do almost every week and was like, WTF? to see people in the theater, cause I usually go to movies mid-day on Tuesdays or Mondays or Wednesdays and even in NYC,  I often watch movies with only a couple of people around me. I like it that way! I’m spoiled now and yesterday I couldn’t stand to hear people breathe or eat around me. Last week I walked in on this Shia Lebeof extravaganza.

I teach 2 memoir classes on Tuesdays so in between I go to movies to clear my head. It keeps me off the streets and out of H&Ms. Multiple. I know where they ALL are.

I drink Perrier or San Pellegrino while I watch.

Here’s what I’ve seen alone this fall, and my ratings out of 5. MOST of these movies are based on books! Everything is based on a book. What movies would there be if it weren’t for books???? Also: I cried at every single one of the movies.

I have an older woman in one of my memoir classes who has a hard time critiquing her peers work. I either loved it or I hated it! she exclaims. I’m the same with movies, I told her. Not great at breaking down why or why not, I think because I never learned to think critically. But I don’t have to be good at it, that’s what critics are for. I just want to be entertained. Anyway here are my reviews:

AMY 3 stars As my dad noted, the left out all the interesting stuff, like her actual SINGING work and voice lessons and practices. My friend Elisa Albert is reading this book right now, saw it at her place over the weekend.

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The End of Tour 4 stars. Lacked emotion at times and something else I can’t put my finger on, but I also loved this movie.

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Diary of A Teenaged Girl: 5 stars. Excellent movie. Great soundtrack, too. I heard the actress in an interview say she didn’t read the book before starring in it, which I thought was weird, but maybe smart.

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Room: 5 stars. Loved it. I read this book in 2011 in the car with my mom and my aunt on our way to Rochester. Brie Larson is EXCELLENT. This movie was WAY better than I expected.Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 8.53.29 AM

I Smile Back: 4.5 stars. Pretty fucking good. I’d like to read the novel now.

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Freeheld 2.9 stars Not great, but like I said on Twitter, Ellen Page could charm a doorknob. She’s an incredible actress. The writing of this movie kinda sucked though.

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Carol: 4.5 stars. The acting and writing in this film was amazing. This book was mentioned in a review of WOMEN or someone recommended it to me. I’m gonna read itScreen Shot 2015-11-23 at 9.07.04 AM

 

We Don’t Live Here Anymore. Okay this one I watched at home. My mom told me about it, then turned out she had the novella on her shelf which I’m planning on reading because this movie is scary, sorta like Scenes From A Marriage level. 5 stars. Plus it stars 2 ppl I love, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Krause, and Laura Dern.

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Goodbye you FUCKER!!!

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I am so relieved to be done with working on the twelve essays in this book. Today Emily Books sent the manuscript into Coffee House so I don’t ned to wake up and look at it every morning which I’ve done since last January. My favorite line from GIRLS popped in my head today….”Oh hello…..YOU FUCKER!” It is stressful working on a book! The more I worked on these personal essays the more self care I needed to do. Good food, a massage here and there, lots of sleep. I got cystic acne I needed an antibiotic prescription for and I was prescribed 800 mg ibuprofen for my awful menstrual cramps and lower back pain. I was prescribed folic acid for something else I will keep a secret. Point is, this shit isn’t easy, but it’s what I love. And I’m feeling better already, and proud. I hope people enjoy it!

Emily and I did a fun thing at our workshop last weekend where we showed the students 2 different versions of an essay in this book called Hungry Ghost, originally titled The Celebrity. The first version from last Feb was 8 pages, and the new version in the essay is 24 pages. It was cool to see the progress and fun to read from the book for the first time.

Galleys in May! Pub date November 2016.

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2 thingz

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I was interviewed about my writing process in The Inklings which is a new magazine you can subscribe to via Human Parts. Here’s an excerpt. Read the rest by subscribing here.  Thanks for the fun interview Qs, Steph! Though it looks like I forgot to answer the first Q so I’ll do it now. I don’t really begin projects with form in mind. I can say that WOMEN was NEVER written as a personal essay. I started it by writing brief paragraphs but didn’t know (choose?) it would be a novella. Once SF/LD bought it, Elizabeth and I brainstormed and decided the novella form would be perfect for it.

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I also forgot to mention that I edited the most recent issue of Story Chord. I was told to choose one musician, one artist, and one writer. This is what I came up with.

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