The Metamorphosis Generator

From A Work-in-Progress:

The Jaguar I know is a bit much. Especially for the country. But Wolfgang must have his toys. The Jaguar, the helicopter, the espresso/ice cream machine, the Jacuzzi with 20 different spurt settings, the 80-inch flat-screen HDTV, the four-foot Bose speakers, the laser wrinkle removers, the Do-It-Yourself Botox injectors and hair implantation devices, the state-of-the-art dollar-printing mechanism, the 3D Alternate Universe Hologram, the foot-high platform shoes with the massage feature, the metamorphosis generator . . .

Once, he trapped a fly in the metamorphosis pod, and what emerged was a woman with wondrous, bulbous dark eyes and gossamer hair.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“Place, Memoir, Journey” Workshop, This Saturday & Sunday

Self’s primary purpose in coming here to Mendocino is to teach a workshop. A travel writing workshop. A workshop on writing about place. About a physical location. Something that exists. And damn self is going to make the students write as hard as they can. Write write write write write write, dear students. The funny thing about travel writing is: you’re writing about place, but you’re also writing about memory. And damn we will mine those memories to the max, dear students! Especially those of you who arrive in Mendocino from far away. From, say, Louisville! So, in order to prepare the students for this wonderful two-day hard writing weekend, self has been immersing herself in manuscripts. She’s looked at Zack Linmark’s Leche, which is tremendously inspiring for voice work. And she’s reading Tony Robles’s about-to-be-published manuscript Cool Don’t Live Here No More, which is amazing for being about a specific place that he loves so much: San Francisco, South of Market (which may be disappearing under the onslaught of construction and high-tech companies moving in)

She’s also reading the absolutely heartbreaking memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala, Wave. Deraniyagala lost her entire family in the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. She lost her parents, her husband, and her two sons. And everyone told her: You’re so lucky you survived! Which just goes to show, people are stupid when it comes to pain. They either don’t feel it, or they feel it but they don’t want to feel it so they fight it and end up doing things like telling a woman whose entire life has been wiped out in one day: Thank the Lord you survived!

She’s also reading Thomas Lynch, who’s a poet but also an undertaker and also a memoir writer. She’s reading Nandini Dhar’s Lullabies are Barbed Nations. She wishes she had something by Atul Gawande and Abraham Verghese but after all, she could not bring her whole personal book collection to Mendocino. She’s still reading Roberto Bolaño and on the basis of the individual sentence, he is amazing. She thinks he has one sentence that goes on for two pages (Translator Natasha Wimmer, self salutes you) She will include the first page of her story “Rufino,” because it’s so far the only one of her short stories that mentions Neil Young. And Luisa Igloria’s poem “Oir” from her collection The Saints of Streets. And that’s as far as she’s taken her reading list at the moment. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Masters of Style: A List

Self is teaching a two-day class on travel writing this weekend.

The great thing about teaching is, it makes you ponder your own predilections.

Because unless you yourself are very clear about the kind of writing you favor, you will never, in self’s humble opinion, be able to communicate anything worthwhile to your students.

These are the writers whose books have stayed longest in self’s head and heart. Some have only written one book. Doesn’t matter. The point is, their names have become part of self’s font of inspiration.

Debra Ginsberg * Kyoko Mori * Chang-rae Lee * Annie Ernaux * Tim Parks * Ron Carlson * Alison Moore * Mo Yan * Thomas Lynch * V. S. Naipaul * Gish Jen * Deborah Digges * Paul Theroux * Kathryn Harrison * Jason Elliott * W. G. Sebald * Nina Berberova * Peter Hessler * Michael Herr * Ruth Reichl * Tony Horwitz * Elmore Leonard * Brian Hall * Nicholson Baker

(Aaargh, list is getting long! Perhaps she’ll do a Part 2 later)

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Reflections, Yesterday

Feb. 12, 2015: Saw this outside the Stanford Bookstore.

Feb. 12, 2015: Saw this outside the Stanford Bookstore.

It was warm yesterday! While walking around the Stanford University campus, self saw that someone had stuck glittery red hearts around the planter box in front of the Bookstore. The Post Office looked exactly the same. They’re tearing down Meyer. Which means self will have to re-write the stories she’s set there. Yes, she does have stories set in Meyer Library.

The students she spoke to yesterday certainly made her think. Yes, she told them, the stories in Mayor of the Roses were written while she worked at Stanford at various administrative jobs.

Did you ever go to The Bridge (24-hour free counseling service on campus), someone asked. Of course! self replied. Didn’t everybody?

Self told the students that she had a more recent story about the Bridge, but in tone the story is as different from the one in Mayor of the Roses as night and day. In self’s story, which appeared in Waccamaw, the Bridge is a counseling hot-line called 1-800-U-R-Saved. The story is “Bridging.”

She talked about her Creative Writing Program years, and how she felt at the time she wrote the stories in the collection. She really really wanted to take a picture of Professor Miner’s copy of Mayor of the Roses because it was completely marked up. Notes on the margins, arrows pointing every which way. Looked like a piece of post-modern art.

She told the students she was writing science fiction now.

The time was really too short.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Depth 5: About Self’s Attachment to Books

Books, for self, are the ultimate uncharted territory.

The depth of her love for books knows no bounds.

She was running low on her copies of Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila and Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas, but her publisher sent a box of those to Mendocino last week and they arrived safely.

Two other books: Mayor of the Roses and The Lost Language, are in Gallery Bookshop on Main Street. Those copies she signed.

Self ordered more copies of her books. They arrived from the publisher last week.

Self ordered more copies of her books. They arrived from the publisher last week.

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino: A shelf in the science fiction section (BATTLE ROYALE meets LORD OF THE RINGS)

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino: A shelf in the science fiction section (BATTLE ROYALE meets LORD OF THE RINGS)

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Matthew Park Imagines “The Freeze”

Matthew Park is a young artist who just did the most fabulously beautiful illustration for a Read the rest of this entry »

Sentence of the Day: BROOKLYN, by Colm Toibin

p. 29:

There was no day that passed without an event.

Stories About Magic and Science Fiction

Why is self so attracted to stories about magic?

Don’t really know.

Self’s first experience with angst came from fairy tales. She fell in love with Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid. She always cried at the end of The Little Mermaid.

Then, she read Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris while she was a grad student at Stanford. She found the idea of a sentient planet mind-blowing! Positively transcendent! The movie with George Clooney was terrible!

On to her reading of the afternoon:  the Preface by Maria Tatar to her The Annotated Brothers Grimm (Self has been reading it and stopping every other sentence. This is a problem. Possibly, she won’t finish it in this lifetime. Oh! She also downloaded the episode of Face/Off with Josh Hutcherson as a guest judge. The guy is just too adorable. Too. Too. Too!)

Back to Maria Tatar! Here’s a passage she just finished reading:

Danger lurks in every corner of the world, and the encounter with it has a fierce inevitability that becomes a rule of the genre. Villainy: this was the . . . function that fuels the plots of fairy tales.

It just occurs to self that she has a long list of horror stories she’s written. She’ll see if she can append them to this post — when she has a little more time. But, right off the top of her head, here are a few: Seeing in PANK 9.5, The Departure in Philippine Genre Stories. Ghosts really get to her. Ghosts and the Apocalypse.

The writers she met at Hawthornden (June 2012), Joan McGavin and Jenny Lewis, told the most excellent ghost stories. They fueled her imagination and sent it roaring out of the gate. We’d talk about everything from Dolly the Sheep (whose likeness is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh) to ghost children (Self recalls Jenny saying, “The worst ghosts are ghost children.” Wheeee! Couldn’t sleep after that because she kept thinking there was a ghost child lurking somewhere in her room).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Submitting to CLARKESWORLD Magazine: Do’s and Dont’s (Well, Actually Just Dont’s)

NO to the following:

  • stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory
  • stories in which the words “thou” or “thine” appear
  • talking cats
  • talking swords
  • stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines
  • stories where FTL travel is as easy as it is on television shows or movies
  • time travel
  • stories that depend on some vestigial belief in Judeo-Christian mythology in order to be frightening (i.e., Cain and Abel are vampires; the End Times are ‘a-comin'; Communion wine turns to Christ’s blood, literally; and it’s HIV positive; Satan’s gonna getcha, etc.)
  • stories about rapists-murderers-cannibals
  • stories about young kids playing in some field and discovering ANYTHING: a body, an alien craft, Excalibur, ANYTHING.

Stay tuned.

Express Yourself: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

EXPRESS YOURSELF is this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge.

Since self is doing a residency at the Mendocino Art Center, she thought it would be a good idea to focus on the different forms of artistic expression practiced by her fellow artists-in-residence.

One of them, Mary Ellen Campbell, has a piece in this just-published anthology!

Mary Ellen is a multi-genre artist. Her mixed-media pieces are in the Mendocino Art Center Gallery.

Just Published! An Anthology by Child-Free Women of the 60s in their 60s

Just Published! An Anthology by Child-Free Women of the 60s in their 60s

And there are ceramic artists (like the two who live right next door to self: Mitch and Jessie)

Four artists share this studio in the Mendocino Art Center. These pots were created by Mitch Iburg, who hails from Iowa.

Four artists share this studio in the Mendocino Art Center. These pots were created by Mitch Iburg, who hails from Iowa.

As well as visual artists like Kim Thoman who don’t fall easily into any category (Well, neither does Mary Ellen). Self had dinner with Kim one night, and listening to Kim explain her process was like listening to self’s former Stanford Prof David Nivison discuss Zen Buddhism and the Tao of “Nothingness.” Brilliant. Just. Brilliant.

Visual Artist Kim Thoman's Studio at the Mendocino Art Center: Kim comes to Mendocino every January to work on her art.

Visual Artist Kim Thoman’s Studio at the Mendocino Art Center: Kim comes to Mendocino every January to work on her art.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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