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Q and A
Aren't you thrilled about Alice Munro gettin' her props?! What do you think about the statement she made: "I would really hope that this would make people see the short story as an important art form, not just something that you played around with until you got a novel."?
Yes, I am so thrilled. When I learned that she won the Nobel Prize I was happy, happy, happy. She's an awesome writer, she's a woman, and she writes short stories in my native tongue so I don't have to read them in translation. I agree with her statement about short stories being an important art form (to me, one of the most important; would you like a list of favorites?), and I laughed when I read the part about being not just something to be played around with until you got a novel. Righteous! Sometimes I think the novel is something I'm just fooling around with until I get back to short stories, so it was especially funny to me. Though I may not get back to them. I may switch to painting.
Good answer. I think working in the circus would be fun. What kind of work do you do other than write fiction? I used to design landscapes and then I worked for a lawyer. Now I finally have a honest job stocking shelves in a health food grocery store. I bet you do something really cool.
Hello Tom! I thought I answered this a while ago and admitted that I was a stevedore, but maybe that was back when I was still an alewife. Anyway: used to be an alewife, now am a stevedore. When I'm a little older and can pull off a wig and a corset, I'm going to become a saloon girl/madam/hooker like Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke.
Hi Stacey, In reference to you doing readings in a clown suit, I have a question that has been on my mind ever since I saw it on an employment questionnaire. The question is: if they pay were right, would you consider a job in the circus?
I've thought about this a lot and the answer is yes.
Your stories seem to indicate that you're fairly familiar with San Francisco. Wondering if you live here or make your way here much. If so, have you considered doing a reading at LitCrawl? Or are you in the tier of accomplished writer at this point and mindful of taking a space that might instead go to a more struggling writer? Also, was there a Sanrio store on Union Square at one time or did you invent that?
Hello, Male Fan! On the basis of your sobriquet, Iím going to assume you have a penis. Congratulations! Also, eyeballs and hands. Yes, I used to live in San Francisco, and Oakland as well, and earned my degree from Berkeley. They didnít have a LitCrawl when I lived in the Bay Area and if they had, it would have been a ďLit Crawl,Ē because back in the day we put spaces between words. Since, Male Fan, you have a penis and at least one eyeball, I will tell you honestly that I donít like doing readings, and would only do something crawly if a person I respected both asked me to and assured me that I was not taking a space that might go to a more struggling writer. The reason I donít like readings is because theyíre not any fun, either to do or attend, though I looked at the site for LitCrawl and some aspects of it do look fun. I would probably want to do a reading in a police station, and I donít see how I could refuse to be part of a presentation called ďWriting From the Cunt.Ē Though as I recall, I got kind of sick of things called Writing From the Cunt when I actually lived in San Francisco. Itís all so boisterous and lefty and accepted there that all the thrilling transgression and shame is drained out of it, you know? Though it's really not very shocking, when you get right down to it, to point out that women might write from their cunts, metaphorically speaking. Or even literally speaking.
Thereís still a Sanrio store in Union Square, Maley! Itís the same one, right by the cable car turn around. Take yourself there and stand way in the back. If you listen closely, you'll hear the tiny stickers calling to you in mouse-like tones: "Hello, A Male Fan Who's Read My Date Cover to Cover. Hello, hello." How they do this without the benefit of mouths is one of the great anatomical mysteries of our time.
Hi Stacey, My name is also Stacey Richter. One time, I was riding on the train and I happened to look across the aisle and see a woman reading My Date With Satan. I spent the balance of the trip considering whether I should hand her my business card and offer to autograph her book. One problem would have been that my business card does not clearly state that I am a writer. Mainly because I am not a writer. In the end, I did not take advantage of the opportunity to be you. I felt I did not have adequate preparation time. If I'm going to be a celebrity imposter, I'd like my first outing to proceed after thorough forethought. Do you agree I did the right thing?
Dearest Stacey, hello. Though I understand your reasoning, my answer is no. You did not do the right thing. Bad, bad Stacey Richter. Yes, it's lovely to have adequate preparation time, but it's also important to seize the rare opportunity to declare oneself a Stacey Richter. After all, it would be a valid signature, even if it's not the author's. However, I'm in love with you for calling me a celebrity, so in a sense you can't do anything wrong. Good, good Stacey Richter. If you ever want to do some readings/signings for me, let me know. We can either put your headshot on a book jacket or dress you up in a clown suit with a rubber nose and call it a day.
At this point, if I/you/we told people that Stacey Richter only does readings in clown suits, I think they'd believe it.
I took a class by Mark Poirier this summer and he recommended to us Twin Study and I'm really glad he did because it is awesome and so is your advice here in QnA. There seems to be another resurgence in short story popularity. Will we see another short story collection from you in the future, or are you more interested in publishing a novel? how do you choose between the two?
Thanks for the support, Al. I didn't realize there was another resurgence in short story popularity. I will have to look into that. As for short vs. long things, I'm not sure. Mostly I want to moan and lie face down on the carpet for two years with my cat occasionally sniffing my head to see if I'm dead. So I guess that means I'm more interested in publishing a novel. Short stories are fun to write but I love reading long, and you know, you gotta follow the love. Also, the only people who read short stories are people in writing programs, and while I have nothing but respect and affection for that group, I sometimes wonder if there's anyone else out there. Hello?
Since graduating college with a BFA in creative writing, I've whiled away my twenties in a high-pressure job I don't want, trying to get to a place financially where I can support myself for a minute as a writer. I keep telling myself that next month or next year I'll have the time and space I need to write, but the years pass, and I'm still unpublished. I've written some stuff in the meantime, but only when I've taken a big chunk of vacation time to do so.
I'm almost thirty and I'm fed up. I told my employer I wanted to be part time, so that I could focus on writing. They agreed, and though I'm showing up for fewer hours and for half pay, I feel just as emotionally drained by the work, and it seems to be sucking up just as much time as before.
So far in my life, I've been too much of a wuss to brave unemployment and poverty--but maybe that's what I need to do to write? My husband's opinion is basically that I'm being a baby, everyone has to work, and if I want to be a writer (something he sees still as a pipe dream, as I have yet to prove myself), then I just need to fit that into my working life.
So I'm wondering...do you think that the distractions of poverty and a lack of income will be greater than the distractions of my current, high-pressure job? If I keep the job, do you have any advice on how to carve out the time and mental space to write within a busy life?
Yes, I have a suggestion, and it's brutal, so brace yourself: get up in the morning and write for an hour before you go to work. Do it every day. A lot of authors have written their first books this way; I know Nicholson Baker wrote The Mezzanine before work, and when I was searching the web for other morning authors I found this site: http://writetodone.com/2008/01/17/how-to-write-first-thing-in-the-morning/ Check out the comments too because people LOVE it. I have a friend who loves it and he's not a morning person, he's a beer person. Here's another site that is maybe less specifically about the a.m. but has an awesome picture of Joan Didion smoking: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/20/daily-routines-writers/
An hour might not seem like enough time, I understand this, but it's worth a try. It's hard to overestimate the amount of sheer brain-power-concentration you need to write but common to overestimate the amount of time it actually takes. If you're consistent, an hour a day is a lot. Life is long. It adds up, and once you get into your project, you'll be able to tweak your schedule for longer stretches if you really need them. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that half of most people's writing time is spent freaking out (I'm at about 75%). If you squeeze it into an hour in the morning, you won't really have time to freak out, and if you're a little groggy, you won't have the energy. (I recommend you freak out later, at work, while you're on the clock).
And name, I'm proud of you for being a young woman with a high-powered job that pays a lot! That's not nothing. Even if it's not a job you really wanted, it's a lot. I don't want you to quit. I don't want you to give up your dreams either, but I hope you're not downplaying your real accomplishments, at least not to yourself. Taking some satisfaction in what you are doing might lower some of the bad-pressure you're putting on yourself to write, write, write. There's motivation, which is good, and there's self-laceration, which is a soul-siphoner. If I could crawl inside your head and tweak your attitude about your job, I'd make you more proud of yourself and less conscientious. You know--like a guy. A proud-of-himself-for-being-good-enough type of guy. Then you'd have more energy to write. And try the morning.
The slug-o-sphere ain't such a bad place for a little vacation. Be sure to wear your shorts and clogs. Have you seen Batboy in the slug-o-shere?
Batboy Found in Cave.
Have you seen the latest version of The great Gatsby? If so, what did you think? I thought it was fun to watch but not a very good film, I liked Tom Buchanan in this film better than in the one from the seventies. The Redford Gatsby is the better of the two. On an unrelated subject. That character Batboy, what's he up to?
I haven't seen it. Do I have to?
What's the most embarrassed you've ever been?
I can't actually remember--I'm pretty much embarrassed all the time and find life itself humiliating--but maybe when Ben Minot threw a pair of my panties at Howe Gelb? It sounds worse, or maybe better, if I don't explain the circumstances.