Before I lived in New York, I read Bukowski's novel Ham on Rye, and it was just too much for me. Too gritty, too painful, too masculine, just too much. The city has undoubtedly toughened me up. I like Louis C.K. now. I appreciate grit. I watch violent television programs like Breaking Bad, which used to make me shudder with nausea and I don't so much as flinch. And I love Bukowski now after reading the single most perfect line I've ever read: Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.
Have you had a similar experience with Bukowski? Been frightened by him and then experience made you welcome his honesty and simplicity? And it inspired you? If not, check out this piece, and it might change your mind.
so you want to be a writer
by Charles Bukowski
if it doesn't come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don't do it. unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don't do it. if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don't do it. if you're doing it for money or fame, don't do it. if you're doing it because you want women in your bed, don't do it. if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don't do it. if it's hard work just thinking about doing it, don't do it. if you're trying to write like somebody else, forget about it. if you have to wait for it to roar out of you, then wait patiently. if it never does roar out of you, do something else. if you first have to read it to your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your parents or to anybody at all, you're not ready. don't be like so many writers, don't be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers, don't be dull and boring and pretentious, don't be consumed with self- love. the libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over your kind. don't add to that. don't do it. unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don't do it. unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don't do it. when it is truly time, and if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. there is no other way. and there never was.
So far 2013 has been a pretty fecund, challenging and eventful year. My first child was born February 2, and I finally finished my first YA novel about a month later. It's tentatively titled Sebastian Sims and Mitty O'Reilly Almost Save the World
, and I'm beginning to seek a publisher for it. What a long process it's been! I'll never forget writing the first chapter, how easily it came and then how UNBELIEVABLY hard it was to keep going and going and going. I wasn't even happy when I finished the darn thing, mostly because I remained (and remain) unconvinced it's finished. (It is.) I hope my psyche eventually believes me and allows me to celebrate. Nevertheless, I do feel very grateful and lucky that I had the past ten months or so to devote to rewriting my original manuscript, not to mention preparing for Harper's arrival.
While I was pregnant, I took time off from acting, but I've gone back to work already. Last week I shot a sequel to the short, funny film Food Porn
, featured in last year's New York City Food Film Festival. You can check it out here
I feel pulled in many directions at the moment but excited to figure out the balancing act that will be mothering, writing and acting. One possible solution: I really enjoyed writing, directing and acting in the short play "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night" produced by Centerstage a couple of years ago. However, I'm already gearing up to write the sequel to Sebastian and Mitty's adventures, so we'll see what 2013 brings me!
So far I'm quite content with what I've accomplished, even if I never get published, and the only people to have read my first book remain my two biggest fans: my husband and my best friend. That's a good enough reason to write, or write a book right there: you just feel so damn good about yourself, because it's so damn hard! In fact, having now birthed a baby and a book, I would say the latter is harder than the former.
There. You knew I was going to make that comparison. I couldn't resist.
I had a lot of fun recording "The Gift" by Dustin Adams for Every Day Fiction.
It's available there and on iTunes today. Please check it out!
P.S. I'm still pregnant, counting down the last few days. I did finish my book on time. (Please see the previous post
for more on that fraught subject.) I'm editing it now and beginning to seek a publisher. More details about that after I can focus all my energy on writing again!
This week, Camille Griep, whose movingly beautiful short "My Girl" I recorded as a podcast for Every Day Fiction, asked me to join in with this fun, blog-tagging activity where writers discuss the books they're working on. Here are the past two self-interviews in the chain, both fun reads:1. http://camillegriep.wpengine.com/the-next-big-thing-letters-to-zell/
And here's my own!
What is the working title of your book?
Originally, I envisioned this book as being the first in a trilogy, and I actually had a title for the trilogy as a whole. I ended up combining the first and second books in my second-to-last rewrite, and I haven't even begun to think of a new title for the combination, which I now envision more as a two-book project. I'm in the process of nearly, finally finishing this last rewrite. I always struggle with titles. I've frequently had editors ask me to re-title my work, although now and then a title I really like, such as the title of my last published story "The Great White Way Is Where The Heart Is," will come to me. I usually have to wait until the end of a project to hope for that flash of inspiration. Nearly there!Where did the idea come from for the book?
Ever since I decided I wanted to be a writer, so basically as long as I can remember, I've wanted to write my own children's or YA fantasy story. I grew up loving that genre-- if you can fit works that include everything from Urusla K. Le Guin's The Wizard of Earthsea
trilogy, to Ann McCaffrey's Dragons of Pern books, to St. Exupery's Little Prince,
to E. Nesbit and Edward Eager's families of adventuring children into one category. My absolute favorite, a book no one else I've ever encountered has read, was The Rebel Witch
by Jack Lovejoy. It has many elements eerily similar to the Harry Potter books, which came out about 15 years later, I think, and were obviously far more popular since everyone I know has read those books
. I don't think anyone was copying anyone, but there's only so much you can do with lovable child witches apprenticed to grownup sorcerers, busily saving the world with the aid of their friends and adorable immortal creatures. Of course any book about magical, adventuring children is going to have its similarities. When the Harry Potter books came out and were so ridiculously popular, I knew anything anyone else wrote along the same lines would automatically, and far less charitably, be compared to J.K. Rowling's work. Instead of giving up the idea, I decided I'd have to research and take my time to craft a story that would fit within the specs that inspire me without seeming like another Harry Potter rip-off. And so it took me six years to write! But I think I found a pretty good solution to my dilemma, and whatever happens with the book I'm so glad I stuck to my childhood bucket-list and wrote it first. I'm actually using a lot of my same research to write a non-magical YA novel next, and so, all in all, I think it's been time well spent. What genre does your book fall under?
I think I answered that one ad nauseam above. I suppose it's a YA fantasy story. However, I hate labeling my work that way. I recently read an interview with Michael Chabon, printed at the end of his excellent meta-detective story The Final Solution,
in which he states that he's "really annoyed by pigeonholes and categories and labels," viewing them "as iniquitous to the spirit of play and of experimentation and of storytelling." Yes. It was in that spirit that I tried to write the kind of book I would enjoy, and therefore anyone could enjoy (I hope), whether they're an adult or a child, a fantasy-lover or just plain a lover of stories. Thematically, I suppose it is squarely a fantasy tale. In some ways it's also a coming-of-age story for the children and a redemption story for some of the adults. Although I also find the word "redemption" problematic. The adults in the story figure as largely as the children and rediscover hope and their inner child, so in that way the story is redemptive but so, too, do some of the children experience that more grownup retrieval of their innocence. Even children can feel world-weary... As I said, it's hard to categorize, and I hope that ends up being my story's strength!Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I always see YA and children's books, the ones I write or the ones I read, in terms of an animated adventure. I love to draw, and I suppose that's why. Perhaps a more apt question would be: "Who would voice the characters?" In an ideal world, Eva Green with her husky, unplaceable accent would voice the heroine's mother . I live in the same neighborhood as the actor who plays "Derek" on the NBC show Smash, and one day I was sitting on a park bench when he walked past, and I heard him talking to his little boy. I recognized his voice first. As an actor, I LOVE great voices, and he has one. He was actually being very pleasant and very unlike his character on the show, but I remember thinking he has the perfect surly, supercilious voice for one of my grouchier characters. I feel superstitious talking in more detail about a project I haven't quite finished. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
See above. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I hope to go the traditional route, mostly, because I think I can still benefit a lot from working closely with editors and agents. I worked on my very first children's book with Catherine Frank when she was at Viking. I was still in college at the time and TOTALLY overwhelmed when I received my first letter from her, informing me I had a big-city editor interested in one of my projects. Although the project didn't end up being published, I learned so much from working with her. At the time I couldn't quite understand how to incorporate another person's POV into my work. Acting has been very beneficial to me. I've learned the daily discipline of being an artist every day, even on days you REALLY don't feel like it, and I've become so used to working in collaboration with big crews and lots of different personalities that since then, as far as my writing goes, I've had no trouble understanding where people were coming from and making changes in my work, slowly starting to understand what works for the story and the characters and what doesn't. I've learned so much each time, and I feel very lucky and appreciative that so many editors have been so patient with me and worked so hard to help me get my work published. If you have the confidence to self-publish, I say go for it! D.H. Lawrence self-published as did Beatrix Potter and Marcel Proust, but I don't put myself in their category. Not yet anyway! How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A very long time. I was working full-time as an actor in New York City while I wrote the first draft, and so it took me six, long years to complete. This past year I worked part-time and rewrote the entire thing in a matter of about six or seven months. Then when I became pregnant in May, I officially retired (for now) and am nearly finished with a final rewrite. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Inevitably, since I'm writing about children on a magical adventure, there's going to be a comparison to Harry Potter. Knowing that I worked hard to differentiate my story from J.K. Rowling's great one as much as I could. There are aspects of everything I've ever read in the work, which is true of any writer of fantasy: Lev Grossman's The Magicians
, C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, more titles than I could name. Growing up, I hated science but really loved Madeleine L'Engle's worldview and incorporation of science into her magical tales not to mention Fritjof Capra's strange admixture of mysticism and phsyics, so those two might count as the strongest influence overall.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Catherine Frank! She wanted me to take my chapter book for children and expand it, add characters and plot to it. I was incapable of writing plot in college. It took me a while, but, again, I think the experience of working as a character in a story instead of as the writer of a story, helped me begin to grasp how that was done.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
If you loved any of the books I loved as a child or as an adult, I think you'd enjoy my story. Thanks for reading and thanks for tagging me, Camille Griep! I'm supposed to tag five other writers, but as I mentioned I'm nine months pregnant and struggling to finish the last few chapters of my book before the end of the year. My own personal deadline. I'll do my best to bring the tag alive in the new year.Again thanks for reading and happy new year!
The First Line has published my story "The Great White Way Is Where The Heart Is" in their winter volume. It's available for download on their site: http://thefirstline.com/index.htm or via the Kindle Store on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006XGLLSU or at bookstores around the U.S.: http://thefirstline.com/bookstores.htm
I'm excited to announce that The First Line
is publishing my story "The Great White Way is Where the Heart Is." It's the second part of the tale of Tom and his twin sister and will be available this winter. Part one, or "The Homecoming," was published this summer, and the pdf version can still be purchased here: http://bluecubiclepress.com/TFLsummer2012.htm
I'll publish a link to the list of bookstores or to a pdf as soon as it's available for the second, more bittersweet part of the story. For a long essay about my experience writing this "novelette", please visit this link
Particularly REALLy short ones (about three minutes and change), then please check out my podcast of Warren Easley's short and thrilling story "The Promise" available today on Every Day Fiction or on iTunes. Here's the link
I had a lot of fun with this one. I burnished my best American, teen accent for it, and the character was so spunky, the story so vivid it really felt like a chance to do a bit of acting, step into someone else's skin while simultaneously home huge and pregnant.
I hope you enjoy it as well.
A Night in Brooklyn
BY D. NURKSE
We undid a button,
turned out the light,
and in that narrow bed
we built the great city--
water towers, cisterns,
hot asphalt roofs, parks,
septic tanks, arterial roads,
Canarsie, the intricate channels,
the seacoast, underwater mountains,
bluffs, islands, the next continent,
using only the palms of our hands
and the tips of our tongues, next
we made darkness itself, by then
it was time for dawn
and we closed our eyes
and counted to ourselves
until the sun rose
and we had to take it all to pieces
for there could be only one Brooklyn.Upcoming events:
D. Nurkse, poet laureate of Brooklyn, will be reading from his poetry volume A Night in Brooklyn
on Wednesday, November 14 at 7 pm at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. This Monday, November 12, my podcast of author Warren Easley's short story "The Promise" will be available on
Every Day Fiction and iTunes.
We're rebuilding here in Brooklyn, and life is slowly getting back to normal. My husband's office building, located a block from the water in downtown Manhattan, was badly damaged, but it looks like he might be able to go back to work as early as next week, which means I'll have my office back as well. Hurray!
The subways are finally up and running again, and despite the fun of an additional nor'easter thrown at us last week, the city is getting back on its feet. For most folks...However as many as 40,000 in New York City alone are in need of temporary housing. Please consider donating whatever you can to the Red Cross-- even small donations can help. Follow this link for more details here
Thanks for your messages of support!
Above is an image of my husband's erstwhile subway stop from only a few days ago.
It's been hard to imagine the level of the devastation while cozily ensconced in Brooklyn, where the worst of our deprivations included no Starbucks for two days. However, the pictures and stories we've been hearing are awe-inspiring-- from the scope of the storm's devastation to the story of the volunteers who respirated the newborns evacuated from NYU's hospital. One of our friends is due to give birth TODAY at Mt. Sinai uptown, and of course we have them in our prayers. Most of our friends and family, other than losing power for a few days, have been equally lucky, but friends of friends have lost EVERYTHING they own-- their houses, everything. It's hard to believe this has happened to New York, that, as Jon Stewart put it the other night, "all our favorite childhood places are under water." Of course it brings back memories of being here September 11, excruciating memories that I still rarely talk about.
As far as today's crisis goes, it appears (at least on Facebook and Twitter) as if everyone in New York and New Jersey has set presidential politics aside, impressed by Governor Christie and Mayor Bloomberg's response to the crisis. My husband has had to work out of our home this entire week, as (see above) not only is public transportation still problematic but downtown offices were flooded and the buildings are still shut down more than a week later. I spent the month of October working on a poetry chapbook whose deadline was October 31. Being Izzy, I left all the administrative details to the last minute, little imagining a superstorm would shut down ALL of lower Manhattan, parts of Brooklyn and most of New Jersey. Luckily, I was able to send off the manuscript in time thanks to an open copy and print shop on 7th Avenue. Now if I could just get my desk back from my bogarting husband, then life, just as it did in the weeks and months after September 11 (the last time I can remember Lower Manhattan being shut down like this), would feel back to and better than normal-- blessed to be normal!