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Is You is Or Is You Ain’t You Ain’t My Baby

 

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I’m on the fence. Sometimes I think that all the criticism and discouragement I got from my  parents made me ever more determined to write. The first time my father read a poem of mine in a literary magazine, he threw it on the floor. Threw is strong. He flicked it. When I told him I had gotten into an MFA program, he begged me to get an MBA. When my mother read my memoir, she said it was a pack of lies! Alright then. Other times I think that love and encouragement are all that matters. Love and encouragement. Would I even trust it? Would it not gross me out?

What defines your writing life?

It Feels Good To Be Out of the Rain

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When I was little, I used to love to do impressions. Mostly of grown ups, Hebrew school teachers, cashiers, bank tellers. If I made my family laugh, I’d keep going with the impression, sometimes even losing control, unable to break character long after everyone stopped laughing. It was then my mother would scold me with the reprimand that shut it all down: you just don’t know when to quit. To this day when I push something or someone too far, I hear my mother’s damning words: you just don’t know when to stop. The thing is I know when to stop. I don’t keep going because I don’t know when to stop. I keep going because I’m a relentless bastard. Because if I can get two laughs, I want four. Because I want to get under your skin. Trust me, this relates to writing.

Do you feel me?

You’ll Never Know Dear How Much I Love You

 

 

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Is it better to give or receive? I’m talking about feedback. When I was in poetry workshops, the rule was the poet, after reading his or her work, was not allowed to speak. The reason being that talking back or answering shut down your readers and made it impossible for the poet to actually listen to the feedback. Listen? Whenever people talked about my poems it came through as whale song. Why not just put the poet in a temporary grave? Once in a while,  one of the poets would break the rule and…speak! Usually something insane like, “But that’s how it really happened,” or “you had to be there.” Poor poor boo boo. Really, just listen. Even when your biggest enemy says he doesn’t get it or the young depressed woman in a straw beret who has never before spoken summons the courage to tell you that your controlling metaphor breaks down in the four stanza, just listen. There is time for McDonalds later. My mother always repeated the wisdom of the ages: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. There’s that, too.

Are you better at giving or receiving feedback?

Hey Little Girl is Your Daddy Home

One of the first books I ever signed up as young editor came in with the title, something like, I Hate Myself and Want to Die. Did I jump on it? Hell, yeah. And thus started my hair-raising, maddening, hilarious, heartbreaking and ultimately toxic relationship with Elizabeth Wurtzel. She died earlier this week from cancer at 52 and it feels like a hurricane has left the island of Manhattan. Elizabeth didn’t write so much as stick a pen in her vein and let it flow. She was funny, furious, impossible, exhibitionistic and I would have given anything to be as seductive, forward, and fearless. Working with her was like inhaling the most amazing second hand smoke and I was intoxicated from the first whiff. Somehow her passion for madness and mine for order produced three books that I feel honored to have worked on. Her extraordinary memoir which was eventually titled Prozac Nation, then Bitch which is a brilliant book about women, feminism, and sexuality. Was it wrong to pose topless flipping the bird for the jacket? And her last book, More, Now, Again, which was a chronicle of drug addiction, specifically Ritalin abuse. Elizabeth and I parted company as agent and client, and we didn’t stay friends though we promised we would, the way you do, in the midst of a painful breakup. Elizabeth kept a suitcase of her fan mail. It was filled with hundreds of letters from mostly young women who said Prozac Nation saved their lives. Elizabeth loved pawing through them and sharing them with me the way others might run their fingers through pearls.

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Remember the Day I Set You Free

It’s 10:20, do you know where your Golden Globe is? People knock the Globes and award shows in general. They’re too long, they’re self-satisfied, rigged, the monologues are terrible, etc. Here’s what I have to say: SO WHAT? People ask me why I watch them and the answer is simple: because I want to win one. Because I want to thank the Foreign Press Corps and my fellow nominees. I want to be at one of the back tables and have to walk the entire length of the room when they call my name. When I recite one of the million acceptance speeches I’ve written in my head over the years. 

Who do you have to thank?

I Am I Said

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Went to bed at 11:45 as my own special poke in the eye to New Year’s eve. Broke my diet first thing today. Fuck you resolutions! Here’s what I can tell you. Hold fast to those you love. Write every day even if it’s just a sentence, a snippet of overheard dialogue. Read more. Form a writer’s group. If you’re stuck, go back and make an outline. Spend three months on your outline. If you’re stuck, go back and develop your characters. Get back into therapy. Get back on the Stairmaster. Bake a cake, pull weeds, practice scales. Sleep late, irritate someone you love, remember to bring bags to the Stop and Shop. And to all the freaks and geeks who still visit this site: Happy new year. I love you.

What to you hate?

And It Wouldn’t Be Make Believe if You Believed in Me

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Why is everything curated from artisanal pickles to a reading series in Dumbo.  One editor I met at a lunch date said she curates her Instagram account. You mean you put up pictures that you choose?  How does a smart Vassar graduate recently promoted to assistant editor say, over cobb salad, that she’s curating projects in the non-fiction space. I give up. Stop with the curate. Stop with the space. It’s happened. I’m no longer that young thing in a rust colored raw silk blouse and a black Ann Taylor suit trying to impress some agent bitch with her lacquered nails and signature necklace. I hate the world right now. I’m in the self-loathing space.

What are you curating.