Observations on Writing

Steady

December 4, 2010
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She sleeps like a child, with her hand tucked under her face, or her arms thrown overhead. I walked home last night along the main road, watched headlights tear into the dark. It has taken me years to return to this valley. To the familiar trees. To the rushing train. My dogs were young when I lived here last. And me as well. Young and ill. Maybe I couldn’t remain in this valley and...

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Prized

May 28, 2010
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I write on the tiniest sliver of a desk.  In the space of wall between the sliding wooden doors of my bedroom and the built-in shelves of movies.  For Field Guide, I wrote here for hours nearly every day for 2.5 months.  Staring at this monitor, this weird photo of my kid in a black cowboy hat, the serpentine wires of the computer hardware.  I played Nada Surf’s See These Bones (Live) on repeat. ...

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Editorials

April 23, 2010
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In an extended email exchange with my editor, she wrote, “We can discuss Giraffe People in NOLA.” (Giraffe People is my third manuscript.  NOLA is New Orleans, where we will be attending Saints & Sinners Literary Festival together.  Now you know as much as I did.) “Does that mean you’ve finished it?” I wrote. “Almost.  Why?  Do you have another draft I should be reading instead?” Now, at this point, the writer has to...

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Simple

April 18, 2010
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I used to feel that I spent an inordinate amount of time writing about grief.  Particularly during the writing of Field Guide, I resisted giving the proper weight to the aunt’s death, because I didn’t want to.  I kept thinking about my mother’s comment, “Why do the mother figures in your stories always die?” But, the truth is, I also spend a lot of time writing about joy.  About love.  About desire. Yesterday was...

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The evolving idea

January 9, 2010
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Spoiler alert:  in the following, I will divulge certain aspects relating to the climax of A FIELD GUIDE TO DECEPTION. It began with an idea for a boy in a trunk.  The boy would be dead.  And, over time, the story of his death would unfold.  And then I got bored.  I never actually  wrote anything for that one.  Well, maybe a paragraph.  It would have been set in Seattle. And then I saw...

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Comfort smells

December 24, 2009
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Over time (too much, arguably) I have learned that her smell comforts me.  It works best if it’s a shirt, one she has worn enough to sweat in.  And then, while she’s away, I wear the shirt, and am fine.  And the missing can feel good, instead of panicky.  Missing puts love into relief, doesn’t it?  You can see the landscape. I’ve remembered another line from that poem.  In evening, this late inevitable chant....

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Tense

February 25, 2009
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I’m writing this current manuscript in first person, present tense (I walk). I’ve never written the majority of a novel in present tense before—although the hospital scenes in Red Audrey are in present tense—and for the scholars among you, there’s a dirty tense trick in the last hospital scene.  The weirdest, and most fascinating of my grad school professors railed against present tense as a dangerous fad. He argued that past tense is designed...

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Of human bondage 2

February 22, 2009
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Did I get sought out because I was a masochist, and they could smell it on me? Or was I the one that sought them? And who do I mean by them? Last spring, during a free-form discussion of her life and work, Dorothy Allison said it took her a while to learn that the “bottom could run the fuck.” When she said that, I looked around at the rest of the audience, and...

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Of human bondage

February 20, 2009
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When I was nineteen, I began to get it a little: my obsession with vulnerability, and how powerful vulnerability could be. And because I was living in Hawaii with no family, and no supervision, and had money and a fake I.D., I worked my newly discovered power. I hadn’t begun to deal with the shame or the guilt, and I certainly hadn’t started to trace my impulse back into my childhood, or tried to...

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Island Food

December 18, 2008
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In college, my roommates and I rented a crazy little house in Kalihi, a suburb of Honolulu, on Oahu. They were all Filipino (except Ina who was Chamorran–though her mother had immigrated to Guam from the Philippines) and taught me to cook lumpia, and roll sushi, and spam musubi (yes, I’m serious) and enjoy shark cake and lomi lomi salmon and pickled onions and any number of exotic dishes. We ate tuna fish mixed...

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