Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The way people talk

But back to writing stories – once I started it became such an important way for expressing myself and processing the world. I would write when I got to that frantic place where I felt like if I didn’t get something on the page right away it would disappear. I would disappear. I didn’t want to disappear – that’s why I wrote stories.

I realized that voice was the most important thing and I needed to cut out anything that got in the way. Like with poetry. I wanted to make the reader enter on my terms. If we’re not living a life in what is supposed to be the center, we’re always told that we need to explain anything in order for it to make sense to someone who is not us, and I think that’s a lie. That’s why my stories would tumble along and pull you in and then stop. Like the way people talk. Just like that and then you had to figure out what was going on, or maybe you already knew and that’s what I wanted too.

Plot, I wasn’t interested in plot. I don’t believe our lives have plots, unless you’re floating above in a helicopter and I was trying so hard not to float up there I’d stayed there my first 18 years to survive and now I wanted to be down here where I could feel things more. Writing was part of that. So I wrote these stories, a few in San Francisco and Boston but mostly in New York, and I sent them off to anthologies, a lot of them erotica anthologies because I wrote about sex as a window into everything else and even though it wasn’t necessarily erotic to me I knew it would be erotic to someone. Erotica already exists somewhat outside conventional standards of decency so if you’re writing work that is dangerous to mainstream ideas of acceptability then there’s more space.

I was inspired by writers like Robert Glück and Rebecca Brown who created preposterous worlds and made you believe them because you believed what you were feeling, yes feeling again. I said the difference between fiction and autobiography is that autobiography is all lies, and so that’s why I write fiction. Of course now I write nonfiction too, so I try to use the techniques of experimental writing to expose the mechanism and that way you may not believe it in such a literal way. And, of course, I’m probably lying too.

Eventually I put together a collection of short stories and I was sending it around to people for critique, to people for publishing ideas, and one of those people, D. Travers Scott, who I knew from Seattle, said oh the voice in these stories is very similar, have you considered making it a novel? A novel – I wasn’t interested in novels, I mean I read them all the time but I didn’t want to write one. I liked the tightness of short stories, the flow and then stop. A novel felt insincere. But I believed in experimenting, so I thought let me try it out, just to see, and I cut some parts and moved things around and then I read it through and I thought oh, it’s so much better.

So then I had this novel, Pulling Taffy, which was totally nonlinear and every section was self-contained and so then I got into similar publishing conversations, they wanted it to follow a clearer arc but instead I found this new publisher, Suspect Thoughts, or rather they found me and they wanted to publish it without a clearer arc. The only things we argued about were question marks and run-on sentences, and I still got to keep the question marks away for the most part because I didn’t think questions needed question marks except when they sounded like it. Oh – and we also argued about quotation marks because I don’t like the way they break sentences I like the flow, but I got to keep those too.

1 comment:

kayti said...

story time is back again