Observations on Writing

On hatred of the artist as a young person

November 30, 2017
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I was listening to Neil Gaiman discuss why he waited to write the Graveyard Book until he was a good enough writer to do the story justice. He told about two aborted attempts to get into the characters. The years of thinking it had taken to try a third time, and how he’d been disappointed with that effort, too, until he’d shown it to his daughter and she’d asked for more. It’s curious to...

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An old injury

August 17, 2015
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Get Lit!

April 9, 2014
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In 1998, Eastern Washington University’s Press and the Creative Writing Department sponsored a literary festival that would become Get Lit! At the time, I was a graduate student, and couldn’t afford to pay $10 for the events, so we worked the box office instead. That year Denis Johnson read from Jesus’ Son. It was one of the most extraordinary readings I’ve ever experienced. I was 23, thinking about stories and poetry as radical acts,...

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What is your tone?

November 22, 2013
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I didn’t really get tone until college. What is the author’s attitude, they’d ask us on tests. How the fuck should I know? Why can’t we just read it and have our own attitudes? But I get it now. It’s not much of a conversation if our reading experience is limited to our own response without any consideration of the writer’s perspective. In a similar way, as an adolescent I had a limited understanding...

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Leaving

October 16, 2013
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Leaving Hawaii broke my heart. For years, it was all I could write about. The tropics and heartbreak. I couldn’t separate them in my head, in my relationships. I’d flinch if you touched me. Even my skin felt wrong. In the cold, saltless North. And place can break your heart. I believe that. Hard luck, few opportunities, poverty, meanness. It feels like somewhere else will give you a proper chance. Somewhere else you can...

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In defense of Meghan

July 24, 2013
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In my interview with Merry Gangemi on Woman-Stirred Radio, one of the most interesting discussions is about the character of Meghan. Merry Gangemi, an astute and fascinating interviewer, held the perspective that Meghan is irritating and doesn’t know her self. I’ve spent the week considering this, and I’d like to take a moment to talk about why Meghan is important. Why her character is valuable despite the fact that for much of the book she...

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Teen up

June 18, 2013
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One of the many reasons I’m drawn to teen protagonists is that they have the benefit of being unformed while still deserving our sympathy. We expect teenagers to be selfish and egocentric. It is all about them. And if they can work through that shit while they’re teenagers, they’ll be less likely to be libertarians later. How do you go about voicing a teen? I was asked that this weekend at my reading. Did...

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The plain plane

May 22, 2013
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Tonight I’m talking with the Queer Theory class at Eastern Washington University. Tomorrow at dawn, Mary and I fly to New Orleans for the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. It’ll be our first plane trip together to the city where I became certain I’d marry her. The city of Zombie Brides. My ideas about this book and marriage equality and being queer have a cohesion I hadn’t expected. Coming out is a second adolescence...

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He's at the opposite pole from where I am

May 17, 2013
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He’s the first hand raised in the audience and wants to know why I think Canada is so much more tolerant of gay people than the United States. Afterward, he’s the first to have his book signed. “I want you to know,” he says, “that my 25-year-old son is gay. And he let me know in a letter. And he said he hoped it wouldn’t freak me out.” He has a kind face, the...

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Please praise what you love

April 10, 2013
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I used to dread the question: What’s your book about? Um. It’s a kind of love story. (Red Audrey.) It’s a tragedy. About martyrdom. And family.(Field Guide.) Yes. Yes, way to pitch, Jill Malone. But now, I look forward to you asking because fuck, I’m excited. I’m so excited. Giraffe People is the book I hoped to write. The story I meant to tell you. The one about being young and striving, about being...

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