Being It in Writer’s Tag
Lindsey Grant, author of the recently released memoir, Sleeps with Dogs, and blogger whose blog, Pat the Expat, is my constant companion and should be yours too, has tagged me in this game of Writer’s Tag. I am it! But no it is forever, so here we go.
What are you working on?
I’m working on two things, in pure commitment-phobic style. One is a memoir and the other is a novel (is that form-phobic style as well?). I have excuses for my phobia, as here: I’d begun the memoir, and I love it, as much as you can love, say, squirming under the directed rays of a hot sun through a magnifying glass that you are holding in your own trembling hand, or, slowing down to look at a car accident, even though you should not leer at others’ pain, and then seeing that it is your own vehicle twisted in the wreck, and you in there, with bits of glass in your nose, not hurt so much as deeply ashamed. Please cross your fingers for Scar Farmer’s future and mine.
About halfway through The Scar Farmer, these characters from a novel I’d begun almost five years ago came back and started sleeping on the couch in my office. I used to care for them a great deal but the notebook in which we were getting to know each other was lost right before girlchild came out and being a fatalist, I took this as a sign that they didn’t want to join the circus. They’ve come here now to let me know that their wayward days are over and they await greasepaint and applause. So, I split my time between Scar Farmer and Lost City Kids, memoir and novel, and light candles to the gods of art and publishing.
How does your work differ from others in its genre?
I’ve been told, pretty often, that my writing, whether fiction or non, long form or short, is sad. Since I’ve heard this so many times now and from so many different people, I’m certain it is true, just like I know that the number of spots on a ladybug’s shell indicate how many of her children are currently dying from carbon monoxide poisoning in her smoldering house or that each time you forget to put the flag up for the postal carrier the USPS loses a lonely grandma’s letter to her incarcerated granddaughter, poof, and as a result the granddaughter’s prison account isn’t increased, she can’t buy dental floss, her gums become infected, which leads to a heart infection. All of this is made worse because she’s innocent, of course, but her public defender was new and she didn’t think she’d have to hire a lawyer since, you know, she didn’t do it. The grandmother spends the rest of her fading days between the cemetery, where she puts dental-floss roses on her granddaughter’s grave, and the mailbox, where she waits for that last letter back since her dear one always wrote back… But nevermind the science, my points is, even though you can’t tell from what I’ve said here, I apparently write sad things. I’m not sure why I have this reputation, but science is science. I’ve heard this so much that when someone new shares that she is reading girlchild, for example, I usually put my hand out to steady her and say, “Are you okay?”
Why do you write what you do?
It’s a capturing, I think, an attempt at capturing. Though I doubt I’m different from any other writer, or maybe any other human (assuming writers are humans). We’re all like kids with jars on a warm summer night, trying to keep the light (the night, the summer, our youth) alive, we see a flash of lightning and we run out there, away from the safety of the porch and the evenness of the path, and do our best to get the light in the bottle without breaking our necks or breaking any wings. The lightning bugs are fast (they’re actually named for their speed and not their flash, more science, ladies and gentlemen). Then we catch our breath, study the light a while, and let it go so other lovers of the light can have a peek, so there’ll be more light down the road.
How does your writing process work?
I have a good idea and I write really bad things about it. Ugh. That’s terrible…
I try to address an idea directly and can’t ever see it. It’s just there, out of the corner of my eye. Boring. No. That’s basic communication, Tupe. Yawn. Everyone just fell asleep…
I think of a metaphor or analogy or image, I fashion it into a net, sneak up behind the idea and, ouch. Man, my elbow. I just used a “capturing” metaphor to answer the last question and this idea bit me on the elbow for being a redundant ninny…
I decide that I’m not good at any of this and give up.
For a second. Maybe for another second.
Then I decide I’ll just try to tell the best truth I can (sometimes fiction tells the best truths, ahem, science!).
I start there. Sometimes, wait, always, at first, it sucks. I sit there and keep doing it, I believe in myself and my abilities in shattering inclines and declines like a seismograph with endless ink and I ignore the tremors. I keep the faith at least cooking low on the back burner, I mix some metaphors, and I trust the alchemy. You have to trust the alchemy.
Lindsey Grant is one of the most beautiful humans and writers knowable (ah, so some writers are humans… oh, science). Just that Lindsey exists inspires me. Thanks for the tag, Lindsey! Another human-writer whose work and existence we should applaud is Stephen Gutierrez, award-winning author of Elements, Live from Fresno y Los, and The Mexican Man in His Backyard. I’m tagging Steve so click away and see how this should have been done.
9:08 pm • 6 October 2014
Dear Sons and Daughters, I’m sorry for the “Dear Daughter, Let Miley Cyrus Be a Lesson to You” letter.
Hey Kids, I know you are not morons. And I’m not alone, many of us rickety old adults feel the same. But there are, according to the numbers on the blog where it was initially posted, 2.5 million others who support the condescension and cultural ineptitude presented in this initial letter seeking to protect you from a stupidity you don’t possess and to do so by force. This letter isn’t representative of the conversation people who respect each other have, and, Dear Teens, Dear Young Adults, I respect you.
The Dear Daughter letter could have begun another away and been written at so many other times. How about, for starters, “Dear Daughter, I’m sorry we never had a discussion about celebrity and its ramifications any time we saw a man performing spectacle.” How about, “Dear Daughter, I apologize for the insulting idea that you would, I don’t know, go to school in your bikini tomorrow or otherwise have little common sense or taste.” Or, maybe, this, “Dear Daughters (and Sons), I’m sorry for hyper-mediating you since birth and then expecting to take away the power of the camera and the lure of its eye when you stopped being ‘mine’ to mediate and began to mediate yourself.”
It’s really this, “Dear Daughter, I’m sorry that our world remains so racist and misogynistic that I’ve internalized those flaws and that I’m perpetuating same by freaking out about this performance, a performance like oh so many, many others, and freaking out only because this time its star is white and female and, owing to our own questionable taste in our entertainment choices, we’ve watched her grow up and feel like we know her parents. That is, because she reminds me of you. By discussing this now, I’m implying that I understand that men act the fool for their careers and that this is fine because men are not only breadwinners but free to be promiscuous, or to portray sexuality, with no consequences, in fact, with adulation. I’m implying that I understand that black women dance with stuffed bears tied to their backs, or otherwise do what they must, and also portray the sexuality, and presumed promiscuity, I deny you any access to, because in our culture black women are not expected to be ‘good’ like you are and don’t have the options that are open to you anyway. I doom you to a future not only as my little girl but as my good little girl, and if my tone registers my beliefs about you: as my stupid little girl.” But really this, “Dear Daughter, I’m sorry for thinking that the worst thing that can happen to you is that you might be ogled for some poor fashion choices and not that the worst thing that can happen to you is that you might be hobbled by my disabling lack of belief in your intelligence and ability to walk your own path.”
Dear Sons and Daughters, you’re smarter than this. You know what’s up and why, and if you don’t, if we don’t discuss what’s really up (racism, misogyny, a dearth of feminism on all fronts), how are you going to attend to these problems that are your inheritance, if that’s what you decide to spend your lives doing, like I hope you will? And if not, hey, Dear Sons, Daughters, Kids, Young Adults, hey, Friends, let’s at least enjoy the show together. We have front row seats.
To Your Futures,
Tupelo Hassman, a new mom, a former daughter
8:03 pm • 28 August 2013 • 14 notes
girlchild Book Tour Souvenir #WX2A is from Skylight Books in Los Angeles (where the resident cat is named Franny and is now and then written of hilariously on Skylight’s Facebook page): Walter Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood around 1900.
As resident and sometime mayor of the City of Emotion, I find Benjamin a cold and difficult bastard but I keep reading him, burning new neural pathways out of my favorite City and into the Land of the Intellectual.
(Or maybe I just want some intellectual juice… one of the reasons I adore my fiance is that when we first met, under Books on his Facebook page, he wrote: “Whatever makes me look smart.”)
Number of Salinger references in this post: 1.
Number of Facebook references in this post: 2.
2:59 pm • 8 April 2012 • 2 notes
Leg Three of girlchild's increasingly legged book tour is done and as I'm unpacking souvenirs I realize that my own copy of GIRLCHILD has become a souvenir catch-all.
Here’s what it’s been filled with on the road:
-page flags that feature roosters, bears, foxes, horses, and rabbits. Each animal marks different trails I’ve followed through GIRLCHILD at readings
-an “Autographed Copy” sticker from Elliott Bay Book Store in Seattle. Leighanne, girlchild's champion there, and I thought this would be hilarious and we were right
-a newspaper article about the 100-year anniversary of the Girl Scouts and its creator, Juliiette Low, given to me by one of the fantastic members of the Open Book Club in San Diego
-a letter from my mom to her best friend, written well before I was born. In it, she explains her love for the landscape of Reno versus that of California, saying that Reno makes you earn what California gives away for free
-a postcard of “The Raven” by the Brothers Grimm, sent to me with my own words written on the back, from the story of how girlchild's Rory Dawn made you a CD, as shared on Largehearted Boy’s Book Notes: “…as is to be expected from a climber who carries the entirety of Melancholy under her arm…”
More souvenirs coming soon as the unpacking continues!
4:40 pm • 7 April 2012 • 2 notes
“Whether or not the reader is a dying breed is not Hardbound’s argument. But it’s my hope that the film will still be a record of what these creatures are like; live readers who leave their houses to encounter a book in person, ethereal as unicorns. But better than unicorns. Yes, better than unicorns!”
— Tupelo Hassman: Book Tour as Documentary
6:21 pm • 20 March 2012 • 1 note
Book Tour Souvenirs #10-13-ish!
I’ve begun collecting Q&A questions from the tour like wildflowers, pressing them between wood blocks to take out and listen to when all goes fallow.
So far, there have been two questions about the relevance of the Occupy Movement to those living in U.S. ghettoes, one question about what I think about what Romney thinks about what he says Obama says, and one question, presented as a statement, considering my life’s apparent trajectory despite growing up much like GIRLCHILD’s Rory Dawn, which is to say, impoverished.
I’d like to speak to this last question with the attached photo.
5:21 pm • 16 March 2012 • 9 notes
As I continue to untangle items from the girlchild Book Tour Souvenir Sleeping Nest, I admit, I didn’t only buy books while on the road, and Vlautin’s CD for Northside isn’t the only music I collected. Check it out, I came home with tunes!
Souvenirs 9-through-something are all from Portland and include:
Records from The Palace of Industry: David Live, Chuck Berry’s Golden Hits, and what might be my all-time favorite, Paul Simon’s Paul Simon
Sara Jaffe’s beautiful CD Salt & Water
and a ticket to download Cynthia Nelson's in a lab, which I did, which I love.
Things to do today: Disassemble the nest (that is, unpack). Rock out.
4:07 pm • 16 March 2012
When I got home from the first leg of girlchild's book tour (which is a three-legged creature, like the stool in that riddle…) the first thing I did was make a nest in all of the souvenirs I’ve been gathering, curl up, and take a long nap.
I’m awake now and it is time to stop hoarding and start sharing!
Souvenir #8, if I know how to count, is Willy Vlautin's Northline!
I found this native-Reno author’s entire collection at Sundance Bookstore and Music. The awesome folks at Sundance told me that I had to start with Vlautin’s first, The Motel Life, but I was defiant because Northline (the first edition) comes with a CD, music performed by Vlautin and his Richmond Fontaine bandmate, Paul Brainaird. With a road trip before me, what could be better?
I haven’t cracked the book yet but I played and replayed the CD as landscapes rolled past and felt less lonely and more alone all at once.
2:35 pm • 16 March 2012 • 1 note
Keeping my incredibly easy promise to find a book at each of the stores on girlchild's tour, here are the three lovelies I took home from girlchild's journey through the Pacific Northwest with stops at The Palace of Industry and Powell's, in Portland, and Elliott Bay Book Company, in Seattle:
-a magically old edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, the inscription is dated from a grandfather to his grandchild in 1903
-an Elmore Leonard collection, When the Women Come Out to Dance, like a shot of warm machismo on a rainy night
-Kevin Sampsell’s memoir, A Common Pornography, is next in my reading queue, which means it is traveling with me to Reno, San Diego, Los Angeles, and back home again!
8:06 pm • 5 March 2012 • 6 notes
“Ms. Hassman is such a poised storyteller that her prose practically struts. Her words are as elegant as they are fierce. A voice as fresh as hers is so rare that at times I caught myself cheering.”
That’s from a thrilling review of Tupelo Hassman’s Girlchild in today’s New York Times. As you can imagine, it put us in a very good mood here at the FSG offices. So we thought we’d celebrate by giving away a few sets of custom “Troop of One” Girl Scout badges. Why? Tupelo Hassman can explain.
I have five sets to send out. Follow us and send us a message with your address; I’ll pick the winners at random on Monday March 5th.
(Oh, and if you want to read Girlchild, here’s a couple chapters.)
10:08 am • 3 March 2012 • 5 notes