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Aug 05, 2012; Thomulon Asks:

Have you heard the new Jimmy Cliff record, "Rebirth"? It is really good!

Stacey answers:

Oh, no no no no. A pillar of my life-strategy has been: avoid all reggae music (though I do really like "A Message To You Rudy"). Anyway, I didn't think Jimmy Cliff was still alive. Is he still alive? Because if he made it while dead, that would interesting to me.

Jul 21, 2012; Bartelby the Wanna-be Asks:

Hey Stacey, I'm just following up too. Your advice was great - I emailed the guy and he said that I was in final-final consideration (again) and (again) he'd let me know by the end of the weekend. That was now 3 weeks ago that he said THAT. He's kind of killing me. I followed up again in the last couple of weeks (twice) and asked if I was still in the running he isn't responding to me. But whatever. I'm going to the beach. Thanks again for the advice.

Stacey answers:

Aces! Congratulations on your final-final. Maye you will drop me at a note at stacey@staceyrichter dot com when/if it comes out? I'd love to read it.

Jul 17, 2012; Michael Asks:

Hi Stacey, How are you? About a month ago I posted the question about my sex life. You know you're in trouble when you have a post questions about sex to a short story writer. Still. Your response moved me, and your observations made sense. I still haven't volunteered at an elderly home, but that does appeal to me for some reason, and I will do it. And still haven't talked to a single girl. I went to a gay club in Salt Lake City. It was the nearest one, and it was lame. No one was dancing, and everyone banded together, sticking with their friends. I stayed for about five minutes and got the hell out. Awkward. I would've loved to talk to someone there, because some of the guys there looked good. But, if you have any more perils of advice or analysis, I welcome it all.

I'm not sure if I have this wall or mask built around me. Certainly I have difficulties and problems. I know this, because my only close relationships are with my family. If I had to name a single friend, I don't think I could do it. But I'm not anti-social or a hermit. I'm an easy going person, but it's so hard for me to engage with anyone. I don't know what it is. So much of the time I walk around and feel angry, depressed, lonely. Other times I'm ok. Reading helps. I still have family and am very close with them. But that's about it. In one of the recent posts, you mentioned mentoring other writers. I am a writer and am interested. I write poetry, but I also have a strong interest in screenwriting. I'm finishing Twin Study and will be reading My Date with Satan this weekend. I look forward to hearing from you and hope you have had a wonderful July so far. Best, Michael

Stacey answers:

Hi Michael. I'm glad to hear that my observations made sense! You do need a mentor but I'm not the right one for you. There are a lot of writers out there who can help you, but we've already embarked on a rarer impersonal-personal exchange that relies on a certain kind of anonymity. It's not only for you but for me--I can tell you things here that I could never tell you in real life. Like: you HAVE TO find a way to get some people in your life, to get some sort of peer-familiarity thing going where people accept you as you are (whether they like you or not, and vice versa). It's a matter of life and death. We're social animals and need social contact. Even hermits need people (the tradition in India was to be a hermit in old age, after working and raising a family). You're in danger of getting more depressed, and suicide is a leading cause of death in young men. You need to learn to ask for connection, help, and coaching now. I mean, you are by asking me, but you need to find some real people too.

I'm going to say something I promised myself I would never say here and tell you to go to a psychologist or psychiatrist. You need someone to coach you, to tell you what books to read, and to be on your side. Also, you're depressed and medicine might be something to try. I mean, this has been going on for a long time, right? I'm not saying you need regular psychotherapy--you just need someone who's on your side, who you can say anything to, who isn't in your family. (Maybe they would say something like: it's possible that those boys at the gay bar were clustered together because they felt shy & awkward too, not because they wanted to exclude you). People do this for a living! You should take advantage of it.

The other reason I'm recommending you find a psychology-type-person is that your mention of Salt Lake City alarmed me. If that's you nearest gay bar, then there's a good chance you're living in a place like Provo or Logan, some of the most homogeneous, conservative towns in the U.S. No wonder you can't find people you connect with! I was going to recommend that you find an LGBTQA group or a men's discussion group, but I'm not sure they even have those in Provo. I actually really like the idea of a men's therapy group for you--you could ask those guys what's up with your vibe & how you keep people away. After a few weeks, they'd totally know. And there would be a kind of intimacy without having to make friends right away that might work for you.

I think it must be really hard. I went through a long period of no friends in high school and it was miserable. The best advice I can give is that you have to listen. It helps if you like the other person, but even if you don't, you have to listen to them talk. I sense that you exist inside your own head a lot. People will not want to socialize with you if you drone on about your moods, dislikes, and inner turmoil. You can mention it, but then you have to stop and listen to the other person tell you about their own inner life. Most of the time it's boring! But you were boring too!

And get out of Provo! The LDS is about being an insider and like it or not you're an outsider. I'm sure your family will love you no matter what, but I can't help wondering how much of the coolness you feel is related to the fact that you either aren't Mormon, don't have a Temple Recommend, or have one but have to fake it because you don't believe. You know, a lot of people take that very seriously. The church gives meaning to their life. If you've abandoned the priesthood or whatever, it threatens them. I mean, dude. There are places in the world that are not 95% Mormon.

Jun 26, 2012; Bartelby the Wanna-be Asks:

p.s. despite sounding all anxous below, I actually do think the rewrite was a big improvement - that's why it took me so long.

Stacey answers:

That's great! So...a year is long?

Jun 26, 2012; Bartelby the Wanna-be Asks:

Hey Stacey, so a while back, I got a rewrite request from a small magazine (one you've been in) that I like and am excited about. About a year later, I went to send my rewrite and the editor told me he didn't work there anymore, but to write to someone else. So I did. That guy wrote me back and said that he remembered the story, and remembered liking it, that it was really good, and was excited about reading the revision and he'd let me know one way or the other after this weekend. He wrote this on a Thursday. That was two and a half weeks ago. I sent a quick email last Thursday asking if he had an update, and I got nothing. I do have a second email address for him. I'm guessing it would be pretty obnoxious to write to him at this other address and ask again though, right? Do I just have to be patient? From Facebook stalking, I know that he was doing final fiction considerations for the next issue on the same day that he wrote me and said that he'd let me know. Is it possible that he and the other editors are dead locked, or waiting to see if someone else drops out of the running? Or do you think he just forgot? Or do you think he's just disappointed in what I sent him and he's a nice guy and he's procrastinating on sending me the rejection because he feels bad about showing enthusiasm before when he didn't know what he was getting into? I told him I was open to editorial feedback. I don't know if that's good or bad. Do I just have to wait or can I poke again?

Stacey answers:

Hi Bartelby. I'm so glad to hear the magazine is into your work! It's great that they all remembered your story too--that's unusual! I don't know why the editor didn't write you back when he said he would but I do know that that's extremely annoying. I don't really see how you, by politely asking for a reply, could be more annoying than him, by not doing what he said he would do. So yes, by all means, ask again. Ask as often as you want, just ask politely. If you don't mind lying, you could also say another magazine wants to see story, but you told them you were waiting to hear from X.

Also, and I actually think this is the best idea, if possible you could CALL THEM. I know, it's crazy, but there are huge advantages to ancient telephone-voice communication technology. Like, if the editor says they're passing, you could ask why and get some feedback (which might surprise you and be not about your story at all even--like it's a theme issue and you're off the theme); you could ask if there are any theme issues coming up where you might be on theme; you could see if he has any ideas about where else to submit this particular story, and maybe you could even get a good joke out of it. All you do it say: to counteract the bad feeling of being rejected, I need you to tell me your best joke. (This only works if you're rejected).

Also Bartelby, you know, just fuck it. They're going to do what they're going to do. Have fun. It's unlikely that you can really offend them. It's art; it's about making things, even your life if you want. Believe you're great--you probably are! You can send them a joke every day yourself, or your favorite word, or an ongoing game of hangman, or a picture of your rat. There's no wrong way to do anything in art/business/publishing as long as you're not rude.

Jun 26, 2012; Kieth Asks:

Hi. Do you do the writer's work shop thing?

Stacey answers:

Hi Keith. Do I teach at a university, is that what you mean? No, I don't. I will teach privately, which is like a combination of taking piano lessons and going to psychotherapy, but no one has agreed to do this with me for a long time. It is kind of scary and intense (I'm an Aries) and probably works best for more advanced writers with a specific project in mind--and at that stage, a lot of people feel like they don't need a teacher. So maybe I'm more of a really pushy, controlling editor. What's not to love?

I did do the writers workshop things before, if that's what you mean, both taking and teaching them. I have an MFA! Honestly, it's not my favorite form of learning or teaching but I think there's a lot of variation from workshop to workshop.

Jun 12, 2012; Tom Asks:

Have you ever modeled nude for an Art class?

Stacey answers:

No! Don't they used CG models now? Anyway it sounds so unappealing--difficult and boring and poorly paid.

Jun 08, 2012; Kevin Asks:

I am a male who experiences a lot of spontaneous erection. It's ridiculous, My problem is that I model nude for art classes and have difficulty preventing or getting rid of my erection. The whole thinking about something else idea never works for me. I was wondering if you could tell me of a cream or something I could use to prevent an erection or possibly make an erection go away. I tried lots of home remedies but still get an erection anyway. Is there something that numbs for a period of a few hours that I could use? I thought of using some desensitizing creams you can find at adult stores, but didn't bother trying them because I figured they're designed to help you keep your erection, not lose it. It would be very helpful if you could help me out

Stacey answers:

I say go with it. I'm sure those art students are delighted to have the chance to draw a stiffie for once. It's good for their art! The thing is, Kevin, most people actually don't get the opportunity to just flat-out stare at a real, live, erect penis; usually one is in a position where one is expected to do something to it, with it, or for it. I say chill out, be generous, enjoy being spontaneous, and let them look. And frankly, I'd try to buy a few sketches off those kids if I were you. Someday if, God forbid, you end up too diabetic, cancerous, or depressed to get it up, you're going to be glad to have a record of the good old days.

Jun 07, 2012; Nancy Asks:

Hi Stacey, In "Sally's Story" what was the family trying to teach us about?

Stacey answers:

They were trying to teach us quantum mechanics.

Jun 05, 2012; Michael Asks:

Hello Stacey, I am thirty and am having some emotional problems. For starters, I have never been on a date with a woman and have never kissed anyone romantically. In the past, I paid for prostitutes, but it only resulted in hand jobs or talking or a combination of both. I am attracted to men but am not gay. I am more attracted to women and vastly prefer their company.

Lately, I've been watching more porn on the Internet. A lot more. I masturbate about twice a day on average, and I'm afraid I might be addicted to porn, or I might be close. This costs a lot of money. In the past two or three years, I've spend a great deal of my income at strip clubs, because I feel like I have to. It staves off the loneliness and oblivion. I think in the past ten years I've asked maybe six girls out. Only one (maybe two) said yes. I don't like being rejected. Plus most girls already have a boyfriend, or at least they say they do. I don't like talking to girls unless it's going to go somewhere, but since it so rarely does, I find it next to impossible to carry on a conversation with a woman. Actually gender might be not important. I'm probably too anti-social. There is nothing wrong with me. No deformities or handicaps. Do you have any advice? I know there are no easy solutions here, no potted answers. This is so hard. I would like to have a girlfriend, but at the pace I'm going, that's never going to happen. I look forward to hearing from you and hope you are having a great summer. Thank you, Michael

Stacey answers:

First of all, don’t worry about the porn/masturbation thing. Looking at porn is normal, feeling guilty for looking at porn is normal (as is not feeling guilty), and two is an entirely reasonable number of times to masturbate a day. You’re not addicted to porn. To be addicted, you'd have to do all the things addicts do: miss work, get sores, choose porn over all other activities, and generally warp your entire life around porn. Strip clubs don’t count! They're nightclubs. So what? At least you're getting out!

But you need a little more human contact in your life, I understand. Here’s what you need to do: work on your social skills (not with girls—with old people—volunteer!), work on your grooming (bathe daily, brush daily, floss daily, and remember it is deadly to have any hair showing in your nose), don't just talk, listen, give up your idealized vision of love and the notion that you should only date pretty girls, and dedicate yourself to being totally, honestly yourself, all the time, without pretense. Got that? Everyone has a façade they show the world, a social face, and it’s never the same as their “real” inner self. But some people end up with a façade that’s wildly different from their private, inner self, for whatever reason—these people are shy or antisocial or even friendly folks who get exhausted by socializing, because the disjunction between the two selves is stressful. They have to tamp down the inner self, and this requires constant self-policing, self-chiding, and name-calling. It’s arduous. After a while, it seems better to go home and be alone no matter how lonely you are, because it’s so draining to be the criminal and policeman of yourself both, if that makes sense. Also, it's incredibly common.

I think this is what’s going on with you, Michael. Your inner self is radically different from your outer one, and you end up spending a lot of energy trying to make your outer self seem a certain way. These kinds of tasks are always half-invisible but they still feel very important—it’s like anti-virus software, always running in the background, scanning for bad things. Somehow you’ve decided or learned that there’s a narrow limit of acceptable thought, behavior, affect, dance steps, tone of voice, partners, and hand gestures for you. But you know what? It’s not true. It’s all culture, it’s all just made up by humans as we go along, and it changes all the time. There’s truly a wide range of acceptable behavior, and there’s absolutely an unlimited arena of acceptable thought. Sure, there are boundaries. We’re not supposed to shit in the grass, but there’s nothing wrong with about thinking it. Or saying it: “Wouldn’t it be nice to take a big dump on that beautiful lawn court the day before the Open?”

So try, practice with the old people (they can’t hear you anyway), be yourself when you can, experiment a little, demote your inner policeman, and see what happens. Try to replace the shame in your life with embarrassment and sadness. Everyone hates rejection! Be sad about it! Sadness feels really bad! But it’s better than shame, which is like dying. You’re not dying! And if you’re attracted to boys, you can go to a gay bar—why not? If you’re groomed and letting your inner self guide your outer self and manage to tell a boy that one interesting thing about you is that you’ve never had sex or kissed anyone, believe me you are going to get taken home before the end of the night. Besides, boys are easier than girls. You don’t have to talk to them as much. In fact, if you can look in their eyes for three seconds, you don't have to talk to them at all: one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. And you’re set. Try this for a while and get back to me if you want more advice.

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