The podcast from my 2015 Jack Straw fellowship is now up on their blog. Curator Kevin Craft spoke with me about my novel-in-progress PARALEGAL and the creative process. Then I read an excerpt, featuring, among other things, cabbage and spite. (Per Levi Fuller’s recommendation, I might retitle it CABBAGE AND SPITE.)
Here’s how the podcast begins:
Sometimes she wondered if part of her motivation to pursue art was simply spite.
You can pick up an anthology with this excerpt and those of all the 2015 fellows here. Many thanks to Kevin Craft, Levi Fuller, Joan Rabinowitz, and everyone at Jack Straw Cultural Center!
Many thanks to Samudre Media for documenting Pay Dirt, the event culminating a year + of work on my novel PARALEGAL, thanks to an Art Project grant from 4Culture and a Jack Straw Fellowship. The Samudres do beautiful work in the Seattle arts community.
Friday’s reading at Jack Straw was utterly lovely. Matthew Schnirman read poems brimming with desire and loss, such as “American Shot” :“When I remove my clothes, I want the wood floor to blush.” L.J. Morin read from her fascinating series about the lost language of the Atures, discovered by Alexander von Humboldt on his journey to Venezuela in 1800, his desire to catalogue and measure characterized as “a mine shaft down the middle of him, an inexhaustible need.” Linda Andrews, who won the Washington State Book Award for Escape of the Bird Women
, read a fabulous story about a strutting hen: “Any female with that authority would feel ready for the world. Go on. Fold your wings back and see if the body doesn’t tell you something. CUTO an old friend called it. C-U-T-O. Chin up, tits out.” And I read an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Paralegal, introducing the protagonist Binnie Greenson’s parents, Albert and Arlene, in their Ocean Parkway co-op in Kensington, Brooklyn. I took particular pleasure enunciating the phrase “glops of rummy yam” and the word “trapezoidal.”
We, along with the rest of the Jack Straw fellows, all have work in the 2015 anthology, available at our readings all year, which will be at Folk Life on May 24, and at the the University Bookstore, the Seattle Public Library, and elsewhere in the fall. Kevin Craft, the 2015 curator, did such a fantastic job grouping each of the readings and introducing each of the readers.
I was really happy with how my reading and its recording turned out. The voice coaching from Christine Brown and performance coaching from Elizabeth Austen were both excellent and super helpful. I’ve uploaded my reading to soundcloud. Podcasts from everyone’s author interviews (conducted by Kevin Craft) with excerpts from our readings will be released in the fall here.
Without further ado, an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Paralegal:
The Jack Straw May Reading Series kicks off on May 1! I’m so excited to see my fellow fellows sharing new work and putting our voice and performance coaching into action. Each Friday evening at 7 pm, four writers (one prose writer and three poets) will perform their work. A suggested donation of $5 gets you a copy of the 2015 Jack Straw Anthology; a light reception will follow.
View of Elliott Bay from Lower Queen Anne.
I haven’t posted story snippets to this blog in a long time, but I had such a wonderful time this morning at a generative workshop for the Jack Straw fellows, I wanted to share one here. We discussed our writing concerns and what we’re dwelling on now, and the general theme among us all had to do with connecting dots and making leaps. Kevin Craft, our curator, then offered this concept he learned from Heather McHugh about hypotaxis and parataxis–the causal-oriented and the free associating, waking logic and dream logic.
Then he pitched the Story Spine exercise, which originates from improv. It’s a basic exercise offering a rigid structure for a story that is then written quickly, using free association. The stakes are low. I used the basic plot of the novel I’m working on now, which made the exercise feel somewhat mechanical, though the final step seemed to open up for me a more expansive way of seeing the ending–something I will continue to ruminate.
Then Kevin asked us to do the exercise in reverse. I decided not to write from my novel and just let myself go. This version of the exercise was very fun. And I can see why you need to go forward first, to feel the mechanics of an unfolding story, and why thinking backwards can allow the writing to get wilder. Here’s that backward story I wrote:
And ever since that day, she held that stone in her mouth before bed, as a reminder. Finally, she chose a slick green stone on a rocky beach strewn with sea vegetables. And because of that, she went to the coast, to look at something wild and open and to fill her lungs with salt. Because of that, she felt all tied up in a box, a sensory deprivation tank. Until one day she crouched in on herself into the tightest ball. And every day she tried to be smaller and smaller. Once upon a time, she didn’t want to be seen.
One month into this program, and it is already so helpful and generative and amazing.
I’m very happy to have been chosen for the 2015 Jack Straw Writers Program by curator Kevin Craft. This is a great program in Seattle (though folks from Portland; Vancouver, B.C.; Olympia; Walla Walla and elsewhere in the region have participated) giving writers training and experience with recording, presentation, and author interviews as well as encouraging the development of new work and providing new venues for sharing their work with the public.
I’ll be using the program to continue developing my second novel, which I’m calling Paralegal for now, though that might change. We had a very nice orientation last night, and it was really lovely to hear snippets of poetry and fiction from each of the eleven other fellows! Stay tuned for the public readings (starting in May and continuing through the end of 2015) and a podcast featuring excerpts from my reading and author interview.