It’s here! It’s here! My brand spankin’ new ebook! And if you read it, you’ll understand why I chose spankin’ as one of the adjectives.
I’ll tell you sup.
So those cool events I was going to participate in, back in February when I was like, posting? Five Things and Story Department? I DID NOT DO THEM. Reason: flu sickness near-death. I exaggerate that last part. However it was terrible and I had to cancel both events since they were two days in a row. Which makes me sad because I really worked on those pieces and was ready to rock them to an audience. But sometimes things go the way they do.
Good news: I have work forthcoming! Thought Catalog is going to publish my nonfiction (duh) piece My Life as a Dyke as an e-book. It’s about my bisexuality and it is also about teen love and butch women. Also there is fisting in it. I tell you that because that seems to be the standout part for lots of people who read it.
The Rumpus will also be publishing my piece on Rufus Wainwright for Albums of Our Lives. I love Rufus Wainwright, and the album Poses got me through some dire months when I was living in Austin trying to figure out shit. Like, “Why am I still a stripper?” and “Why the hell is it so hard for me to break up with this junkie?” I fucking love The Rumpus and I jumped around in my room for a couple of minutes when I found out it was accepted.
My family and I went to Costa Rica recently. Guess what? We’re looking at moving there in July. I wish I could say “woo hoo0000″ and “holy fuck” simultaneously.
Exciting things for me in Austin for February!
I kicked off the month with my birthday, so that was swell. I’m 39, biotches! And then I got to take a creative nonfiction class offered by the Writer’s League, with Suzy Spencer. She was delightful and lovely and very helpful. She answered two of my burning questions: what are the pros and cons to small press and big house publishers (attention vs. money, just as I SUSPECTED) and how my little book of essays with some sex industry stuff can stand out among the plethora of stripper memoirs peppering every editor’s slush pile (you will have to stay tuned to find out more about that).
She’s also written a very exciting and interesting book called Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality. She totally wrote a Craigslist ad and followed around some sex freaks (anyone who knows me or has read my work know that is not a pejorative term) for a year. I’m hoping to win an autographed copy on her FaceBook page with my cleverness. You can join in too, just don’t be as funny as me.
In other news, I’ll be performing a live story for Story Department on February 12. It will be at Austin Home Slice (the restaurant section) which is usually closed on Tuesdays but is open especially for this event. It starts at 8pm but I definitely recommend coming around 7:30 if you want a decent seat. The event costs $5 and benefits Austin Bat Cave, which is a nonprofit organization that helps school kids with creative writing.
The very next day, I’ll be performing a short story (FICTION! MY FIRST LOVE!) at Five Things. It’s at 8pm at Cheer Up Charlie’s. The theme is Liz Taylor’s husbands and I’ve got Eddie! Please come see me, and come say hi. I’m always looking for writer connections.
I have been reading a lot of good shit lately.
I’ve also been writing, some of it good and some of it shit. So in a sense that’s kind of the same.
I’m still totally addicted to nonfiction right now. I bought the Best American Essays 2012 and “You Owe Me” by Miah Arnold is definitely the standout piece for me. It’s about her job teaching writing to terminally ill children at the MD Anderson in Houston. Broke my heart wide open. She really walks the line masterfully here – so many times it could have headed into pure sentiment or even self-aggrandizement but she NEVER does. That’s a huge achievement. What she does is create a loving and self-reflective account of what it means to serve terminally ill children.
I went to Manuel Gonzales’ reading for his new collection of short stories, The Miniature Wife. I went because I enjoy listening to Manuel’s stories from The Story Department, a live-storytelling event based in Austin that supports his nonprofit writing group, Austin Bat Cave (which has nothing to do with bats or caves, incidentally). The writing group helps kids and teenagers with creative writing by using volunteers.
But back to the book.
First of all, his writing is amazing. The man knows how to spin a yarn. Obviously. He read from the title story and I’m dying to read the rest of it.
I’m also finishing up Owen Egerton‘s The Book of Harold: The Illegitimate Son of God. It’s hilarious and also, strangely touching. Not to be confused with touching strangely. More on this later – it will be a much longer post.
What have you all been reading lately? Tell me, tell me.
Wherein I link to pieces I admire, some of which may have been written years ago.
Bondage and the Pizza Man by Sarah Braunstein is fucking KILLER. It’s about trying out those powers of seduction. It’s about when she was a teenager and she and her friends staged a tableau. Yeah, I had to look it up too.
There are rubber hoses involved. The piece is so dark and seductive and painful. Like the people you write your poetry about.
Fighting Words by Elissa Wald is one of the best Brain, Child essays I have ever read. I am a speech-language pathologist and stuttering is one of my top areas of interest. She talks about her daughter’s stutter with such honesty, grief, love, it just inspires me to be a better speech therapist and mother. Oh and it makes me cry whenever I read the part about her brother wiping his tears. And the ending. Oh and she’s an ex-stripper too, so I’m pretty sure we should be friends.
Enjoy and leave a comment to let me know what you think of these pieces, or better yet, tell me about your favorite cnf piece!
Some president or Ben Franklin or something once said, “If you want to turn an enemy into a friend, ask them to teach you something.” Actually this chicken farmer told me that Ben Franklin said that. But that’s okay because I believe it.
Luckily, they don’t have to be your enemy first. And this totally translates to the writing world. I really believe in finding a mentor if you can.
There are tons of writers who are willing to read your work or tell you how to get your stuff out there. They are actually totally friendly and not as busy or rich as you might think they are. They WANT to help you. Of course I’m sure there are exceptions but overall writers like to help other writers.
If you read a book or an essay or an online article by an author and it really strikes a chord, email them and let them know! Worst case they never write you back.
I got zapped recently with the whole Cheryl Strayed Lidia Yuknavitch Chloe Caldwell creative nonfiction bug. And since this happened I have been able to connect with writers and have found them totally approachable and supportive. I’ve written before about how supportive and helpful Chloe has been. She’s edited my essays, and talked to me relentlessly about writing, on the phone and via rapid-fire emails, and has shared her early drafts with me. I am new to the world of putting myself out there for writing. I have always been extroverted in the sense that meeting new people is fun for me, but introducing myself as a writer took everything up a notch.
Since I’m writing a book of essays and hope to publish it within the next year or so, I am focusing on networking as much as possible. I’m in Austin, and there is a writer’s community here. I haven’t found nonfiction writers in abundance but I’m hopeful there are a shitload of little truth-tellers here just dying to put a poetic spin on their experiences. My friend Yvonne, who is in my writing group, asked me what advice I had in terms of promoting oneself as a writer. I do have ideas, some of which I’ve gleaned from talking to other writers, mostly Chloe because I LOVE HER SO MUCH.
1. Twitter. Tweet stuff. Chime in on little writer hashtag thingies. I did that recently and Stealing Time Magazine is now publishing my tweet in their next issue and I got a free subscription for a year. Pretty sweet, right? Also writers are nerdy and tweet all kinds of interesting shit and upcoming events and writing contests and calls for submissions and things like that.
2. Go to readings and introduce yourself to people. If you admired someone’s piece or performance, walk up to them and tell them. Tell them you’re a writer too. Exchange emails. Cyberstalk them a little bit. Get familiar with their work. If there is a local author who seems interesting, read his/her book.
3. Ask people if you can read for their event. I recently signed up for Five Things and should be participating in their January reading. I just emailed them and sent them a little sample. They liked it and want me to participate. I am hopeful that they will also become BFFs with me.
4. Join a writing group. Or start one. I had a group of friends who were all interested in making writing a priority, so I started a group. It’s going well – we meet monthly for a couple of hours and write, talk about writing, share writing. Reading things to husbands and moms is not the same as reading to other people who know what it’s like.
So that’s my advice as an upstart nonfiction writer who is writing a book. You know what would be funny, if someone found this by googling “upstart nonfiction writer who is writing a book.” That would be one of the less weird searches I’ve seen on my site stats.
Granny sex clown penis happy porn robots. Not that I need a bunch of followers of that ilk or anything.
I’ve been reading and writing a lot this week. That is good. I think I’m going to make the Creative Nonfiction Roundup a regular thing.
First of all, I just finished the memoir Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren and it was KILLER. When Lauren was 19, after dipping her big toe in the sex industry as a stripper and escort (okay, maybe she got a leg in there), she was offered the dubious opportunity to entertain a rich dude in Brunei. The younger brother of the fucking SULTAN. She ended up being a concubine (I’m sorry if that’s insulting but I am always looking for an excuse to use that word). Her writing is lovely and funny and interesting. It’s one of the best sex industry memoirs, although this one is really different because of the setting. Lauren takes a good look at her choices and has some really good insights on the sex industry in general, without shame or defensiveness. I loved it.
I found this quote by her when watching interviews on YouTube:
“I think people tend to really…stereotype women who’ve been involved in prostitution. They’re either victims or they’re demons. And women come from all different backgrounds and have all different motivations for doing this kind of work.”
This essay by Mark O’Brien in The Sun Magazine was the inspiration for that movie that’s out with John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. This is the guy with the iron lung who paid a professional to give him sex therapy. It is so amazing to read about the life of someone with a disability in the context of sexuality. This is taboo in our society, and he approaches this head-on.
Cheryl T Cohen, who was Mark O’Brien’s sex surrogate in this essay has written a memoir about her work and it is going to be released by Soft Skull Press.
I have been thinking about Cat Marnell. I am a confirmed Cat Marnell Fan. I actually learned about her from reading a totally laaaaaame article about her which I refuse to link to because it’s so bad. It was a part of The Jealous Writer Series that seems to crop up from time to time. The tone is basically, “Why is this writer famous? I should be more famous than this writer but I won’t sell myself the way this writer is selling herself. This writer is ruining my whole life.” With Cat Marnell there is the added thing of “Why does she do this to herself? What a stupid slut she is. Oh and I’m super worried about her.” Cat Marnell is a drug addict. She writes about her life. Some people think this is not ladylike. Cat Marnell thinks that writers are not role models, and that stories are meant to be told. Cat Marnell’s writing makes people very angry. But whatever. Her piece on Whitney Houston is still one of the best things I’ve ever read in my fucking life.
I am not going to say these were all published super recently but some of them were. It’s mostly about what I’ve read lately that I think is awesome. Sometimes I go on these kicks where I hyperlink myself around reading essays and short stories and if I find something I LOVE, I’ll post it here. Because sometimes what happens is I think to myself, “What was that one essay I read with the line about the dad calling upstairs to say the pancakes were ready?” and then I can’t find it. So this is really just for me but by all means, please read these because I do know good things when I read them.
I Know Who You Raped Last Summer by Future Tense publisher and writer Kevin Sampsell. This essay about Kevin’s good friend who was raped by an acquaintance he knew is unforgettable. It is also fucking masterful. Another writer may have fucked this up royally because it is such a landmine topic. Please please read, I promise you won’t forget it.
The Birdhouse Builder, a flash essay in fwriction : review by Len Joy really moved me. As in moved me to tears. It’s a powerful yet understated story about his dad and a birdhouse and it will take you like five minutes to read so do it. DO IT.
I Know Who You Are by Amy Monticello, published in The Nervous Breakdown is great. First love/sex and just connection. It stuck with me, especially the part about running over a brick that was a symbolic cat. It’s a hot and heavy piece, so read it when you know you’ll get some action in the near future.
So this was awesome. I went to see Cheryl Strayed on Saturday at the Capitol. She was fucking great. I had stalked her so thoroughly online that not many of the stories she told about Dear Sugar or Wild or Vogue were new to me but it was still just so great to see her during the Q & A. She’s very engaging. She also performed at the Story Department, which I try to catch every month. It was at Cheer Up Charlies this time as part of the Lit Crawl, which I’d never been to before. It was friendly hipster all over. But those are the kind of hipsters there are in Austin.
I felt really nervous about getting my book signed by Cheryl Strayed. She is a writer’s writer and she is such a giant in the literary world right now. There was a ridiculous line to see her before her Q & A. It literally wrapped around two floors of the rotunda. The line for getting a book signed was not as bad though, because I bee-lined it after her talk. While I was in line I met Jessi Cape, who had interviewed her for the Austin Chronicle by phone, and we were both a little nervous. We didn’t want to seem like dorks or stalkers.
I had just read “Munro Country” the day before too, so I felt like Cheryl must have felt about Alice Munro, except Cheryl has never written me a letter saying she liked my short story. In that essay she talks about receiving such a letter from Alice Munro, and then she describes going to a reading to see Alice Munro. She talks about wanting to tell Alice Munro how much her work has meant to her, how much they have in common, but in the end she just smiles and moves on. She also describes Alice Munro as having a look that is a combination between guarded and friendly. She had the same quality, to me, but she took time to chat with everyone in line, and let them take a picture with her. Jessi and I quickly agreed to take pictures of each other with our respective cell phones when our turn came up.
I did not avoid seeming like a dork or stalker. In fact I think I probably looked like both.
But I totally didn’t care — it was effing Cheryl Strayed! I had her sign Tiny Beautiful Things, which I had not intended on buying at all, mainly because Dear Sugar is readily available online, but then I thought it would be nice to have all of them in one place, if I felt like laughing and sobbing alternately while reading it and using the elliptical at the Y or something. She asked me if I read the Dear Sugar column and I said yes, and that her column and some of her work I have read over and over and over again. I was referring to Love of My Life and Heroin/e, which I re-read many times in my Best of American Essays books. Is that lame? I never ordered the magazines themselves. Outside of the New Yorker I didn’t subscribe to any literary magazines, and still don’t. I’d like to, but it’s expensive. Then I asked if I could take her picture and I put my arm around her. Stalkerish?
When I leaned down to take a picture with her, my knees were shaking. I told Jessi this later and she said she was starstruck as well. I wasn’t really expecting that, as I haven’t really experienced it before. And I had a long conversation with Laurence Fishbourne at a piano bar once. And this was right after The Matrix!
So then I name-dropped Chloe Caldwell which made me feel kind of bad, but I really wanted Cheryl to know how thankful I was that she introduced me (not personally or anything) to her work. And maybe I wanted to stand out a little to her, too. “She’s going to babysit my kids,” said Cheryl. “She’s great.” She asked if I had talked to her and I said, “Yes, she’s been editing my essays.” I found out about Chloe through some article where Cheryl listed ten of her favorite books that came out last year, or some kind of theme like that. A few months after I read Legs Get Led Astray, I emailed Chloe and asked if she would consider reading some of my essays. Essays which I had not even written before I read LGLA. She was so sweet and friendly and cool and she said yes! So she’s been helping me and I am here to tell you that this girl’s star is rising so you better take advantage quick before she’s too busy with her own bestseller and writer’s workshops in beautiful locations that cost three grand for three days.
Chloe is my favorite.
Cheryl was so cool to come to the Lit Crawl. Jessi was like, “Do you think it would be weird if I went to the Lit Crawl too? Since I already saw her here?” I was like, hell no – come! I’m going! Jessi was cool and I was envious of her interview with Cheryl, who told Jessi that her article “stood out” to her. It is really good too, you should read it. Also Jessi has spoken to Steve Martin on the phone. Jealousyyyyyy.
At the Lit Crawl Cheryl talked about her accidental homebirth. She was great. After the Story Department we watched Five Things and I ended up talking to Lesley and Brittany, who are in charge of it. They said I could do it if I sent a sample and didn’t suck. Okay they didn’t say that but I think that might be the subtext to sending a sample, right?
After the Lit Crawl, Kami and Yvonne and I were walking to Yvonne’s car and we saw a bunch of people standing around drinking in the window of Write By Night. “Oh my god,” I said, “it’s the fucking after party. Let’s go over there right now.”
Talk about stalkerish. Cheryl Strayed had already gone home. But we had some delicious beers and stood next to Emma Straub and Jami Attenberg. We had a completely separate conversation about sex and marriage.
Next year, we’re gonna be invited. Mark my words!
but I still love fiction. I’ve been on such a creative nonfiction kick that I actually forgot about some of my favorite favorites. Here they are, in no particular order. Well actually the first one is totally my number one favorite, but the rest are just in there.
1. Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles. It’s actually a novella and I read it yearly. No one writes like Jane Bowles, or ever will. This story about two women who…wait. I can’t ruin it for you. Suffice it to say you will never forget it and that it’s a story about sinners.
2. Anything by Junot Diaz, but especially his last book, This Is How You Lose Her. Again we follow Yunior, our favorite cad/nerd, through his collapsible love affairs. His voice is perfect and sticks with you.
3. Cathedral by Raymond Carver. I’m a huge Raymond Carver fan, but this is the story that keeps coming back to me. It restores my faith in humanity.
4. Lady with the White Dog by Anton Chekov. On the surface, it’s about infidelity. But really it’s about letting your guard down and being vulnerable in love.
5. I feel badly that most of these writers are dudes. Don’t do a count on me, VIDA! But that is not why I am including The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. Amazing book of appropriated fairy tales that dig deeper into the sexual and violent content there. But I’m not doing it justice because I’m lazy. Just do me a favor, pick it up the next time you’re at a bookstore and read the title story.