Monday, March 25, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Hi friends!  It is spring, yes?  A splendid snowy crust lays over the ground.  It is freezing in Eastern Colorado and elsewhere, I hear.   

The Next Big Thing

J.L. Conrad (friend, sister-in-law, sister-in-the-arts) tagged me for a project called The Next Big Thing, in which writers answer a set of questions and link their posts to other writing friends.  It reminds me of chain-letters from second grade, mixed with newfangled promo just for fun. 

While I want to believe the title of the project refers to me, personally, I think it points to what I'm working on.  Damnit! 

I answered the questions in reference to a book I've started writing: Sut Nam Bonsai The Book.  Just kidding!  It is called something else, which you will see below. 

Like, right now.

1. What is the working title of your book? 
You Are the Song Behind the World, from Alice Water's memoir about her chickens.  (She says this to her chickens, which I think is beyond generous, and possibly true.) 

I wrote more about Alice and her chickens here.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
From where most of my ideas come from: watching people do stuff and thinking, I want to do that!  In this case, it came from watching my friend Amelia go through the process of pitching a food memoir to agents and reading some of her chapters from that process, feeling totally snuggled into them, devouring the stories she was feeding me.  I have always loved memoirs, and I have been writing a series of personal essays for the past five years.  I finally realized I have been circling the same stories over and over, stories that want to be pinned down somehow.  One essay in particular has been dogging me forever, and I think it is because I've been trying to cram a book-length story into one essay. 

We'll see, when I write the full-length work, if that is true or not. 

Finally, I had a couple of dreams signaling me to work some of the themes I blog about into a full-length book. And while that sounds positively Joseph Smith-ish, taking directions from visions and dreams, that's sometimes how I roll.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?
Memoir and personal essay.  While I am always interested in matters of the spirit, my work takes the form of story-telling more than inspiration or religious inquiry.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I think about this question all the time for a novel I wrote, but I've never thought about it for this book. Hmm. I want to say Emma Stone, because who doesn't want Emma Stone to play them in something?  Blythe Danner is too advanced in years to play my mother but maybe she could cameo in my grandmother's role.  Tim would be played by my newest crush Joel Kinnaman from Lola Versus.  And a more obedient dog would have to play Bear. 

I'd also like Lauren Ambrose to play my sister-in-law Jenny, because they just might be the only women in the world with such voluptuous facial features and striking red hair.  But so far Jenny doesn't have any scenes in my book - which I'm sure relieves her - so that part is pure fantasy.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Woman faces adulthood, realizes she's shit out of luck.

But, since that's the kind of synopsis that gets your proposal rejected, how about:

Cancer, poverty, and estrangement conspire to teach one woman who she is, and restore her life to a balance she found impossible before those visitors arrived. 

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I hope it will be represented by an agency.  That's the aim, anyway.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I will report back on this.  I am gathering the material now - I haven't even started writing yet.  Posting this makes me feel like Miranda July in her film The Future, where she announces plans for an ambitious 30-day video series and then is overcome by crushing doubt and disgust with the process.  I have announced twice before that I was writing a book - one was a book about my grandmother, the other was a novel.  I wrote the novel, but the book about my grandmother stalled out when I realized I couldn't say everything I needed to say in a form she was going to read and also because my interview subject proved taciturn.  (On the topic of why my grandfather was passionate about his post with the Navy, for instance, my grandmother replied, "He just liked it." She then got up to stir her oatmeal - question answered.) Who knows, maybe some of that material will make it into this project but a lot of it, I eventually realized, belonged left at a kitchen table.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I like to think of this as Just Kids without the hunger pangs, drafty studios, abortion, or abundance of famous people.  In other words, they are nothing alike, except that I am mining the events that shaped me as an artist.

I would also compare this to Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, Elizabeth J Andrew's On the Threshold, and Cheryl Strayed's Wild - in that it combines stories of the writing life with an exploration of family, what it means to be a woman in an increasingly busy world, and how creating things can literally save a life. 

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
All the authors mentioned above plus Amelia Morris, the author Laura Munson, and especially my boss, who is a great inspiration and friend to me. 

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
There will be nudity in this book.  Lots and lots of nudity. 

this book is a love story.  I find it increasingly important to create spaces where people can explore their fears and settle into their skins.  Telling the story of how I have been able to do that is the best way I know to open people's hearts to this possibility. 

I tagged Amelia, obviously.

Who Gives A Sh*t - Feminism for the New World Order
Speaking of what it means to be a woman in an increasingly busy world, Roxane Gay wrote a reaction to a New York Magazine story about feminism, post-feminism, and women who like to sew things.  I like Roxane and think you should, too.  (Incidentally, I also like sewing things.) 

Click here to read her beautiful rant, in which she says, "Stay at home, work outside the home, take your husband’s name or don’t, shave your legs or don’t, wear make up and high heels or don’t, but for the love of god, let’s advance the conversation. We can do it."

Also, whoever you are, thank you for reading this.  I wish for your exceptional happiness.  And while I am overjoyed that you have visited this site, I would have wished that for you anyway.

With love,



1 comment:

  1. "I find it increasingly important to create spaces where people can explore their fears and settle into their skins. Telling the story of how I have been able to do that is the best way I know to open people's hearts to this possibility." I love this!!

    And while you may say that I had a hand in your inspiration for this project (which makes me smile), I might point out that our friendship all goes back to YOU being open and kind enough to reach out to me, a pretty shy, somewhat closed-off, relative stranger, via the USPS. Ha!

    Point being, the world needs your book like I needed those letters!! xoxo


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