When I was a teenager, I LOVED buying thrift-store clothes and altering them. (Like everything I did, I did this before it was cool. What can I say? I’m a trend-setter). I was a teen in the age on JNCOs and pointy-toe stiletto boots, and a goth girl, to boot. I had to make due with what I had, but as a result, I had some amazingly cool clothes.
And although my days of wearing cigarette-cut pants trimmed with neon purple boas are over, the ability to tear something down and salvage the good pieces again is really coming in handy on my Work in Progress.
I’ve written almost two full first drafts of a new novel, and both of them are going to be scrapped. The first draft was like a pair of fancy cut-offs: Cut out the pieces with the holes worn through, but embellish what’s left. The second draft, it seems, is going to be more like an old concert shirt, stretched and faded beyond use. Cut out the best part and see if there’s something else you can sew it onto–a tank top, a tote bag, a throw pillow. Make something useful out of scraps.
I carried two bags to school every day. One was my backpack, which was adorned with keychains and patches because it was 2000 and that’s what we did back then, and the other was this awesome white leather messenger bag, the coolness factor of which can never be replicated.
In this messenger bag was everything I needed to write my novel–notebooks, printed pages, pens. I wrote in math class, during study hall, lunch. My whole world was consumed with my writing.
So when I was accepted to the Pen in Hand writer’s conference in Little Falls, I couldn’t believe how fucking lucky I was. Finally, my writing was being taken seriously! For 24 hours, I would be surrounded by other writers. I would get to meet authors and they would talk to me! It was everything I’d hoped for and more. I made friends there that I still have today. It’s where I first drank coffee. It was better than my prom.
I have friends that leave reviews constantly. Liked the restaurant we ate at? Write a review on Yelp. Hated the movie we saw? A full rant is up on Facebook that night.
The phrase “Everyone’s a Critic” has never been truer. Between Amazon and Yelp and, I dunno, MoviePoopShoot, everyone can tell you exactly what they think about everything. Especially when we hate something. Then we cannot shut up about it.
Me, I’m opting out. I am no longer leaving bad reviews.
For me, writing a bad review is bossy. It’s saying, “I’ve decided, in my infinite wisdom, that no one else should like this book/bar/movie/album because it did not please me.” But tastes are subjective, and people have every right in the whole world to enjoy Ready Player One or The Force Awakens, even if I didn’t.
Valerie is my good luck charm. She has been at every reading I’ve ever given; either in my pocket or on the podium right next to me. If I’m in a play, I carry her onstage in my purse. She was with me when I walked across the stage to collect my MFA, tied into the sleeve of my graduation gown. Nothing goes wrong when Valerie’s around. I carried her on my wedding day and even brought her on my honeymoon!
Pretty sure this is the only blog where you’ll find writing tips via ROADHOUSE references
If you really want to piss me off, you can say the following phrase. “Oh, I’m a real writer.” At the very least, I’ll text everyone I know about what a goon you are, or I might sub-tweet you. Maybe I’ll laugh in your face, or maybe I’ll go completely Patrick Swayze and rip your throat out, leaving your corpse on the floor of the coffee shop as a warning to others.
“Real” writers. I heard that phrase a LOT in grad school. I went to a grad program with a commercial fiction as well as a literary fiction program, and there was occasional contention between the two. “Oh, I would never write for the pulps” (Yes, she actually said “pulps.” What is this, 1932? Dial down the gaudy patter, ya loopy dame.) “Oh, I write real fiction, but maybe I’ll write a sci-fi novel sometime!” (like it’s so easy, anyone can just slum it). And it’s not just lit fic people. I heard the “real writer” bullshit from people in my own workshops, who thought they were better that everyone else there because of some arbitrary metric, a goal post only they could kick the ball through.
I love writer swag. Notebooks, fancy pens, tote bags, stickers with book quotes on them. I drool over The Writer‘s monthly Take Note column, listing all the things I could buy to make myself a better writer. If I sling my typewriter tote bag over my shoulder, people will know that I labor over the craft each perfect sentence in my masterpiece. If I wear my NaNoWriMo t-shirt, people will see that I am capable of writing a novel in 30 days. They will see me with my expensive pen and my leather-bound notebook at the coffee shop and murmur, “Yes, there is a real writer, you can tell she is very serious because she has a a scarf with books on it.”
You kids, with your fancy animes and your Crackles and your CrunchyRolls, you don’t know how hard the rest of us used to have it! Back in my day, we had to get anime from a CATALOG. Specifically, the Viz catalog, which arrived every so often (quarterly, perhaps?) at my house on Park Place. It was a happy day when it arrived, filled with treats from far-off Japan, Ranma 1/2 and Akira and manga, so much manga, plus a lot of filthy stuff that came with a big fat NOT FOR KIDS bar across it.
I devoured that catalog. This was back when anime came in clamshell VHS cases, 2, maybe 3 episodes at a time. And that shit was NOT cheap — I think I paid about $30 for All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku-Nuku, my first anime (purchased from Tower Records). Years later, I would buy the entire series on DVD for $6. Times have changed.
The Back to the Future soundtrack is the sound of happiness. If you don’t love “The Power of Love” than you are an inhuman monster and we have nothing to talk about.
But on a weirder, darker note, I can’t listen to Eric Clapton’s “Heaven is One Step Away,” on the A-side. It’s a halfway decent song (I’m not a huge Clapton fan anyways) but it’s linked in my brain, the way that music gets, with two tragedies. The first, knowing about Clapton’s son Conor, who died in a fall from a window and was the inspiration for “Tears in Heaven,” a song that I feel bad for deeply hating. The second is an incident that had a fundamental impact on my life, one that has stayed with me well into adulthood.