The habitual position of being okay…and other quotes

I haven’t blogged in months because life has been busy. I started working on a travel/coffee table/photography book about DTLA with Yennie Cheung for En Ville Publishing. I have the 2nd Tongue & Groove OC show coming up. I started mentoring through WriteGirl. I spent December in Palm Desert and Virginia where I scrambled to make my annual reading goal, like most things in life I limped over the finish line.

But busy is good. This kind of busy is good.

So I wrote this article for Lit Central about my favorite author YouTube videos. For the article I also transcribed a few quotes from the videos. They were supposed to go with the article but they got lost in the shuffle so I’m going to post them here.

In between the quotes are doodles from lectures I recently attended at UCR’s residency Palm Desert. Here you go:

“…we know for a fact, totally verifiable, that in x number of years we’ll all be rotting corpses…we know it! Why are we so happy?…What’s weird is the habitual position of being okay with that…” – George Saunders (on finding wonderment in the mundane)


This is what the water jugs look like at the Rancho Las Palmas resort and spa in Palm Springs.

“As a general writing principal your job is to do something and then notice it and then adjust accordingly. And then notice the thing that you’ve done and adjust accordingly and then kind of rinse, lather, repeat a million times and then weirdly, in time, the story will adjust itself morally to be more fair.” –George Saunders (on balancing sympathy between characters in a story)


This friendly reminder is courtesy of Wendy Ortiz who gave a lecture on indy publishing. Her first book Excavation was released this year.

 “There was a feeling of pushing it and forcing it, which to me is a big clue that’s it’s not working, and the better space is to be in is to feel like it’s messy but I’m interested.” -Amy Bender (on how she realized a novel wasn’t working)


This is something Emily Rapp noted in her lecture on Leslie Jamison’s structurally amazing essay collection The Empathy Exams

 “I’m very much interested in how we use local phenomena to access larger things…I always use the same example: Melville ain’t just talking about whalers…”-Junot Diaz (on how his characters discussing their Dominican-ness is a shorthand for larger issues)


I had Josh pose like this for a WriteGirl campaign on Giving Tuesday (the day after Cyber Monday) #unselfie

 “I think people experience time differently. I tried to make a case in this book that women experience it differently then men…we have a different biology and it moves in a different way and that’s the bottom line…it doesn’t mean that things need to be set-up in an inferior way for women but that biological time piece within us is real and it is different then it is for men…The existence of a thing called menopause, which is like an enormous lighted sign saying things are ending, never happens to men, which I think is a great advantage for women and a disaster for men because they don’t notice and then they’re 65 and their girl is 22 and it’s all a shock to them. It’s good to have some warning.” -Zadie Smith (on replicating how we experience time within a novel)


Sage advice from Rob Edwards at his lecture on writing for animation at UCR’s Palm Springs residency

And just for fun here are some of my favorite George Carlin quotes (totally unrelated):

“The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, ‘You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”

“Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice”?”

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day. ”

“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity.”

“If four out of five people SUFFER from diarrhea…does that mean that one enjoys it?”

Stay In The Room & Other Writing Advice

In the last three months I’ve been to three writing retreats. The first was Lit Camp a small four-day deal in Calistoga, California. Then I was a teaching assistant at UCR’s ten-day residency in Palm Desert where I workshopped with other alumni. And finally I just got home from the Squaw Valley writer’s retreat.

I’ve put 1,109 miles on my car, have sat in over 50 lectures, have read 21 workshop submissions and have critiqued about 330 pages of other people’s work.

Needless to say I am so ready to get back to ACTUALLY FUCKING WRITING.

Seriously. If I have to sit through on more panel on “the future of the publishing industry” I think I might spontaneously combust.

Reading preference of Believer editor Casey Jarmen

Reading preference of Believer editor Casey Jarmen

I’m planning to write an essay for Lit Central about all this but in the meantime I have an entire notebook filled with bits of information–yes, I’m that dorky girl who takes out a pen and writes down the book you mentioned while you’re talking at a party.

What follows is just a random list of some of the things I wrote down and some doodles from the margins.

Quotes (I’m paraphrasing here): 

“I’m severely relieved when I find out that the people I need to talk to are dead” –Glen David Gold on researching for his memoir

A terrible attempt at drawing Glen David Gold

A terrible attempt at drawing Glen David Gold

“In American fiction nobody works” – Al Young (talking about giving your characters jobs)

“Poetry is to writing is what the piano is to music” – Al Young

“Workshopping should be for rough pieces, if not then that’s like cleaning up for the maid.” -Al Young

Three great statements from UCI professor Ron Carlson:

1) “Stay in the room.”

2) “Type yourself into the dark.”

3) “If you don’t know where you’re going why hurry?”


“Writing is about building ramps to moments that matter. Then when the reader is in mid-air you slow down.” –Steve Almond

“You don’t get three adjectives you get two. It’s like accessorizing, you don’t want people to look at you and think “wow you’re wearing a lot of stuff” you want to look good.” –Susan Straight

“I don’t want to take 15% from a poet.” –Mollie Glick (in response to the question of whether poets have agents)


“You don’t have to drink the whole carton to know whether the milk has gone bad” – Jennie Dunham (literary agent on reading submissions)

Recommended Reading (things people told me to read):

Story Collections: Last Night At The Lobster by Stewart O’Nan, Spectacle by Susan Steinberg, Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash, Twenty Grand: And Other Tales of Love and Money by Rebecca Curtis, Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman, The Last Chicken In America by Ellen Litman, The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg, Like Love But Not Exactly by Francois Camoin, The News From Spain by Joan Wickersham, Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret, The Commuters by Cheryl Klein, Wearing Dad’s Head by Barry

Stories: Rock Springs by Richard Ford, Honeydew by Edith Pearlman, Incarnations of Burned Children by David Foster Wallace

Novels: Telex From Cuba by Rachel Kushner, Duplex by Kathryn Davis, Gardening at Night by Diane Awerbuck, Tinkers Paul Harding, The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe, Shards by Ismet Prcic, Henderson The Rain King by Saul Bellow, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk by Tony DuShaneimage-7

Nonfiction (essays & books on writing): Rose Metal Press: Field Guide To Writing Flash Fiction, The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story by Frank O’Connor, On Swarm by Tom Scocca, The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison, Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction by Jill Talbot.

Folks I actually got to meet/chat with: Janet Fitch, Karen Joy Fowler, Michael Jaime-Becerra, Tara Ison, Rachel Fershleiser, Steve Almond, Susan Straight, Casey Jarmen, Tony DuShane, Rebecca Rubenstein, Al Young, Edan Lepucki, Glen David Gold, Amy Williams, Molly Glick, Elise Capron, Danielle Svetcov, Michael Carlisle, Andrew Tonkovich, D.P. Lyle, Andrew Sean Greer, Joanne Meschery, Christian Kiefer

Random Factoids and One-Liners:

Amy Tan was working as a business writer the first time she attended the Squaw Valley Writers Conference. It was 1985 and she was thirty-three years old. The Joy Luck Club was published in 1989. File Under: Things That Make Me Feel Better.

Here are two of her rejection letters that were on display at the conference. There was a poster board filled with them.

"the voice has to compensate for the fact that the characters, lacking complexity, are simply heroes or villains or nonentities…"

“the voice has to compensate for the fact that the characters, lacking complexity, are simply heroes or villains or nonentities…”

photo 2

-Edan Lepucki attended Squaw for the first time in 2007 and it wasn’t until this year, seven years later, that her debut novel “California” came out. File under: Patience Is A Virtue.

-Micheal Jaime-Beccerra says he tries to write 500 words a day and that he’s lucky if he’s kept all 2,500 words by the end of the week. File under: How To Eat An Elephant.

-The first draft is for yourself. The other drafts are you adjusting the story for an audience. (paraphrasing Glen David Gold)image-6

-The first story in a collection is a statement piece.

-You should know how much money is in your character’s pocket.

-The fear of plaid and fear of buttons are actual phobias.

New BFF’s: Penina, Mike, Ian, Janet, Ploi, Becky, Dawn