Writing Process Blog Tour 2014

Last month I went to my first Vermin on the Mount reading in San Diego. It was excellent. Now that I’m trying to curate a reading series I’m really interested in how each creator/host puts their own spin on it and this one definitely had its own vibe, like how Dirty Laundry Lit has its own distinct vibe. I learned a new phrase: Mexi-goth (courtesy of Lizz Huerta). Now I want to live San Diego.

My friend Maggie met Vermin creator Jim Ruland that night  (author of “Forest of Fortune”) and he tagged her in this blog tour. Then she tagged me. Here are my answers. Scroll to the bottom to see who I tagged!

1) What are you working on?

I’m working on a linked short story collection called “Torches In The Ashtray.” The stories revolve around characters who have all had their early adulthood disrupted in some way. Unplanned parenthood, mental disorders, sobriety, etc. It’s not as heavy as it sounds–I’m still learning how to talk about my book, it still feels awkward.

Most of my characters are female and they’re all really raw. It’s a wild group of girls to follow around, lots of self-sabotage and attempts to pick each other up after.

2) How does your work differ from the other works in the same area/genre?

My book is probably most similar to Victoria Patterson’s collection “Drift” and Lisa Glatt’s novel-in-stories ”A Girl Becomes A Comma Like That.” There’s a lot of thematic overlap but while Glatt’s book takes place in Long Beach and Patterson’s takes place in coastal Orange County, my characters are from working-class neighborhoods in what I like to think of as the forgotten cities of OC: the cities by the cities-by-the-sea… if you will. The collection is also punctuated by a series of flash fiction pieces that are more experimental, most of which are in second person, though they are probably the first thing an editor will make me cut.

[Other more recent books in the same realm are: “Normal People Don’t Live Like This” by Dylan Landis & “Blueprints For Building Better Girls” by Elissa Schappell and “I Want to Show You More” by Jaime Quatro.  These are my heroes.]

 

My boyfriend snapped a picture of me stomping to the library the other day. Super grateful to live where I do.

The boyfriend snapped a picture of me stomping to the library. Screw the beach! It’s all about Huntington Beach Central Park & Library.

3) Why do you write about what you do?

I pretty much write for the same reason I read. When I pick up a book, I’m looking to have an emotional experience with a character. I write because I like the idea of being on the other side of that exchange. So I tend to write about things that I’ve seen friends and family grapple with and things that I’ve struggled with in one way or another. It’s the only way I know how to tap into that emotional landscape in a way that doesn’t feel contrived.

4) How does your writing process work?

Um, so I have no life. No kids. So I have a lot of rituals when it comes to my writing routine. First, I walk to the library. It’s like a 20-minute walk and it gives me a reason to get dressed and leave the house, which is crucial. I write better when I have pants and shoes on. On the walk, I listen to music and don’t look at my phone and focus on fiction.

When I get to the library, I always allow myself about ten minutes to browse the new release shelves. It’s silly but I do this every time to remind myself that this is what it’s all about. This is why I’m at the library: because I love books and want to write one. That takes pressure off in a weird way and it also lets me cool down from the walk and like literally stop sweating. Yeah, It’s gross.

I work for a few hours and then walk home–again sort of meditating on stories and characters. Then when I get home, I read my work aloud over and over like a crazy person.

As far as rewrites, I take long breaks in between stories. I send work to friends and then sit on their notes for a while and think about their suggestions on my walks. Then, going into a rewrite, I go back over the notes in a systematic way and put together a loose list objectives/things to address. I think the long breaks allow me to be ruthless in a way that is necessary for the editing process to work but I do hope I get faster at writing and rewriting.

Still pretty new at all this.

Okay I would like to tag…

Cheryl Klein is the author of “The Commuters” and “Lilac Mines.” Her fiction and essays have appeared in The Normal School, Mutha Magazine, Literature for Life and The Whistling Fire. She enjoys the internet and carbs. http://breadandbread.blogspot.com

Douglas Wood hates writing bios. So I didn’t ask him for one. This month he’s reading at the first ever Tongue & Groove Orange County (for which I made him write a bio). http://www.douglaswood.net 

And Then I Went To Santiago…

For graduation from my MFA program my dad wanted to get me a tropical beach-type vacation (he and his wife are obsessed with Aruba). I chose to go to Santiago, Chile instead, to visit my college roommate — she is from there and is living there again with her boyfriend who is also Californian. I live in Huntington Beach, right in the middle of the burbs and really enjoy trips to big cities more than anything. New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C., London, Barcelona, Bogota. I don’t travel much but these are some of the places I’ve been.

For three weeks I looked at art and wrote and read. Listened to music while walking aimlessly and missed my boyfriend. It felt good to miss someone.

I’m glad I went. I ended up writing over 15,000 words. Scribbled notes in a little notebook and did some drawings. Decided that I want to learn how to draw, just for fun.

It was great to see D. We were roommates for about four years and haven’t spent much time together since she moved. We’re both 30 now and everything is different. Not good or bad. Just different. But our friendship feels the same.

I’m not good at keeping in touch with people. I don’t really talk to anyone from high school except my one friend. I’ve fallen away from a lot of people I went to college with, I even owe a few emails and phone calls to some of the people I just went to grad school with. In some ways it seems like a natural progression, you grow up, get a job-job, start a family and the circle gets narrowed down to the essentials.

But I haven’t really done any of these life things besides the narrowing down part. It used to bother me but it doesn’t anymore. I like my small life. It’s quiet. Relaxed. Simple. And it hasn’t always been like that.

I think being away forces you to think about what home is and what is waiting for you there, whether you have something good to go back too. There is something sort of sad about going on vacation and not to wanting to come back. I’ve felt that way before. But this time I’m happy to be back and happy to have a place that feels like home. And I’m trying to appreciate that. Things are good.

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D tried to take an author-y photo of me, this is the closest we got…