If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
For sure, the late Eve Babitz (preferably pre-sobriety Eve Babitz/Eve Babitz during her sowing-wild-oats prime). I guess I’d blend up some cauliflower soup as a first course before stir frying noodles and veggies in sesame oil and oyster sauce because I’m a lazy cook and these are two of my quickest and easiest hot and homemade crowd-pleasers, healthy enough for a lifelong Southern Californian, yet starchy enough for a lifelong-maverick Southern Californian.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
Revisiting incredibly unpleasant memories. I combat this fear by taking my sweet time when it comes to putting a longform piece of personal writing together. Procrastinating and distracting myself with as much as possible for weeks or months on end. Which helps to explain why it took me 11 or so years to write a book that’s not even 200 pages.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
Anne Shirley, although I confess that I saw/fell for the 1980s PBS adaptation of Anne of Green Gables before reading any of the books in the series (and that I didn’t take to the books as much).
What books are on your nightstand?
Nadia Owusu’s Aftershocks, Eric Nguyen’s Things We Lost to the Water, and Gabrielle Union’s We’re Going to Need More Wine.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
The slash (it even sounds so take-no-prisoners). You’ll notice I’ve already used it more than once within these responses. As an indecisive Libra, I’m often torn between which of two words to go with and ultimately can’t/won’t commit to just one.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
I vaguely remember skimming a lot of the tail end (and maybe parts of the middle section too?) of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina - which I (for some reason) chose to read for some kind of an independent study-esque assignment. It didn’t grab me and was too long.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
I have two: (1) pens/pencils; and (2) paper. For much of my adulthood, I’ve gone out of my way to keep both within reach at almost all times. So much of my personal writing pops into my head, and then gets written down before I forget, when I’m far away from my computer or at home but the computer isn’t on. I also use the Notes app on my phone to jot things down, but I can handwrite sentences/paragraphs much quicker than I can peck out the letters (while fighting off autocorrection attempts) on my keypad.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
“You’re living a writer’s life.” A local acquaintance once said this to me as we ate our Wendy’s takeout in the Staten Island Ferry Terminal on my lunch hour from a low-paying temp job, during one of my “woe is me/why is my life like this at my age” eras. I’ll always remember him saying “You’re living a writer’s life” in a very matter-of-fact/why don’t you get this? tone that instantly made me feel better and still does.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both (75 percent energize, 25 percent exhaust), the same way everything and everyone I deeply care about does.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Overuse of alliteration. Not everyone is as charmed with it as I am. Same problem with the slash.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Yes, during periods of extreme exhaustion.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Sure, but this someone isn’t as likely to move the masses the way writers deeply in touch with their emotions (and aren’t afraid to show it) will. There’s a noticeable difference between the creatively sensitive wordsmiths and those who aren’t much more than competent grammarians who play by all the technical rules.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
So far, nobody. I have very strong first impressions. When I don’t click with someone’s vibe or voice from the jump, it rarely has gotten much better for me from there.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Although I don’t remember the actual incident itself, my late mom was always tickled to tell me about a time when she and I (in my toddler days) walked past a huge puddle, after a rainstorm. I apparently pointed at the puddle and yelled “RIVER!” to the delight of at least one onlooker. Just later hearing that story and absorbing how much joy the comparison brought to my mom and this random person passing by (before I ever truly thought of myself as a writer) taught me about how effective the deployment of metaphors and analogies can be, in both creative writing and daily conversation.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Terry Reed’s The Full Cleveland
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
As I say at one point in my book, all animals are my spirit animals!
What does literary success look like to you?
This, right here - getting invited to answer these kinds of questions and finally reaching the ranks of book author!
What did you edit out of this book?
As a longtime proponent of Less Is More, I generally tried cutting content that didn’t seem to add anything new or particularly useful to the storytelling. I cut and reworded many sentences to better protect people’s (including my own, at times) privacy. I also replaced many instances of gratuitous snarkiness, judgment, and/or anger with more compassion because, on and off the page, empathy is the attribute I would most like to be remembered for.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I would be an editor – which is what I already do. It’s been my day-job career for almost 20 years.
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