Following this is a list w/ links of a few writings (poems/stories/essays) that have made their way out into the world*
Let me tell you, I love writing. I hate talking about being a writer though, unless it's that casual kind of just talking with other writers about mornings, or dogs, or how it isn't all that weird to have a favorite letter (V).
I write fiction. Even if I call it memoir, or essay, or a poem, I know it's all fiction, and I know why it's all fiction (what you leave out, how you frame it, sneaky poetic word choice). The reason I write fiction is my own life makes me bored and sleepy and want to scream. So why would I want to talk about it? I'd rather be a waitress, except that I'm too old now, or a bookseller, except then I get jealous of all the writers who seem to be making a living writing stories.
The non-fiction writers, like Katherine Boo, and Isabel Wilkerson, and Eric Larson -- they blow me away and make me wish I could go back to college and just read stuff that someone else tells me to read, in a particular order, so I'll end up really knowing something. I love knowing things. I like facts. And the nature writers, like Terry Tempest Williams, and Robert Michael Pyle (who usually writes about butterflies, but wrote one book about Bigfoot that thrilled me.) And Barry Lopez, whose sentences are long and elegant, and end up surprising me by saying something I don't expect even though it might be the actual title of the piece. And Irene Pepperberg, who wrote a book about about a parrot and language. Books about the language instinct tickle my fancy. So do books about geology, especially ancient natural history.
I like working with writers. It's not really teaching. I call it 'hosting a critique group.' I like mentoring writers and encouraging them to write. I like guiding them into writing cool sentences, into writing something that's true for other people, not just true for them, or their character.
I just write stuff, and then once it's published I am embarrassed, and I start another piece right away. I'm a publicist's worst nightmare, even though I used to be a publicist myself. I would rather start a new novel than write a query letter to tell an agent how good I am or why he or she should take me on. They shouldn't. There are great books being written by people who can discuss themselves as well as their books, intelligently, and, what's more, want to.
I like reading my poems, and stories, and parts of stories, out loud, at readings, because I like listening to other writers read their work out loud. I like trying to be good at that, because I love hearing someone who is good at that. Even if they aren't so good at it, the human voice wrapped around words is lovely to me. But that Q & A thing doesn't make me happy, not when I'm in the hot seat. I don't want to answer questions about myself. I wouldn't mind answering questions about my writing. Like, "Why did you use first person?" That's an interesting question. Or, "Why did you set this novel in the Sixties?" Or, "What do you think of the use of Latinate language?" But when people ask, "Is this story autobiographical?" I just want to stare at them or something until they laugh and say, "Just kidding."
I'm working on a memoir. That's crazy, except that I am experimenting with telling a story about my life as a series of facts, and choosing a particular truth to illuminate with these facts. It's about all my bad decisions, and how one led to another. I started it with something that happened when I was about ten, and I am up to age 16. I find it really challenging to stick to the facts. I'm surprised at how difficult that is. This should give me greater respect for memoirists, and maybe it does, but so what? I love certain memoirs. When I love one, I hear myself explain, "It reads like fiction." I don't think that's necessarily a compliment, because what I mean is that I don't care whether this person actually lived or not. I care about the story and the sentences, and whether there are cool words with a V in them. I am not impressed with their honesty, except for Augusten Burroughs, and Pete Hamill, and Carolyn Knapp, and it's their memoirs about drinking that impress me. I battle with my own drinking. I am too embarrassed about my drinking to tell that story though. It was shameful in a small way. Just a little creepy. And now that I am old I hardly drink at all. I probably won't write that far in this memoir I'm working on anyway. I've gotten as far as LSD. Alcohol didn't come until much later, after heroin. And I don't want to write a general substance abuse memoir. There are a lot of those stories, and mine is neither original nor very dramatic.
I write stories or poems that catch me up into a quiet, nowhere-here kind of place. Writing is like meditation for me, or what I imagine meditation must be like, since I've never been good at meditation. It's different than reading. I love to read because it's an escape. Writing isn't an escape. It's work, and I like work. I have a good work ethic, which probably won't be part of the memoir.
I write about people who are alone. Not lonely, although certainly about love. Like most people who write, I think I have something to say about the human condition, and what I understand best about the human condition is the sweet wide clear space between me and everybody else, and between me and whoever I ever was.
I sit at my kitchen table early in the morning and write. Writing is easy in then, because my head isn't yet filled with a day's worth of human interaction. I think most writers experience this early morning clarity. It's also difficult then, because I'm still all dreamy, and I have the very real sense of drifting through a lifetime. I stare a lot, like I'm staring off into space, but I'm not. There is an intersection with a stop sign out the window, and it's especially exciting on foggy mornings. On a bright morning, the light moves across the wood floor. I keep the wood floors clean just for such moments. There is a small Navaho weaving on the wall, hanging on a twisted branch of corkscrew filbert, from a tree at my old house. The design of the weaving is called Storm Spirit, and I moved here to Oregon because of the rain, so I especially like this weaving. It makes me feel like I am right where I am supposed to be.
I tell you, those moments are why I write.
*Aforementioned Linked List:
And a video from a William Stafford Celebration Reading at Linfield College