inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #51 of 81: only a lunatic would apply shoe-polish to a weasel. (tinymonster) Thu 20 Nov 03 09:43
    
Count me as interested in any Rockville readings.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #52 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 20 Nov 03 11:42
    
I guess the flip side of that question might make more sense in the
context of the release of a brand new book. 

I can approeciate the time advantage to short essays or stories, but 
what else is particularly compelling about working with (or reading) short 
pieces? 
  
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #53 of 81: Dwight Cruikshank (dwightberg) Thu 20 Nov 03 23:08
    
Gail, thanks so much for sending the book. I just got it today. I've
read five of  the essays so far:  "Deranged Marriage" "The New Dad" 
"Born to Pop Pills" "Faith in the Baby" and "Curse of the Hippie
Parents"  

They were all excellent.  I pariticularly liked "Born to Pop Pills"
and "Faith in the Baby"   The latter was so poignant.  

Titles make a difference to me and I chose the ones that jumped out at
me the most.   

I'm struck by the power of the personal essay. When it's mostly
narrative, it's similar to a short story, but these true stories often
have more of an emotional heft and sincerity about them. 

It think, you have to be a really talented writer to achieve the same
kind of verisimilitude in fiction.  It's probably easier if you write
mainly from personal experience rather than imagination.  I'd be
curious to hear what some of the writers have to say about the
difference in the personal essay and short story.  
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #54 of 81: Kristin Ohlson (kristin-ohlson) Fri 21 Nov 03 06:14
    
Thannks, Dwight, for liking "Faith in the Baby."

I'm jetlagged in Ca and up since 4 am, but I'll try to respond
cogently to the question Gail asked. I actually have a longer project
based on some of the material from my essay, but it's a novel-- and was
actually in first draft before I wrote the essay. I think writing this
essay (and others about my son's and my highly charged relationship)
made problems in the first draft of the novel clearer-- it was too
autobiographical, too stuck in what actually happened to take wing as a
work of the imagination. Once I realized that, I revised and began
cutting the strings between the actual me and Ruby, the main character
of my novel; the actual Matt and the Louis of the book. It was quite
freeing and changed the novel dramatically (pun intended). So writing
about this part of my life in short nonfictional pieces -- dealing with
what actually happened there -- makes my fictional handling of
material from my life richer.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #55 of 81: Hank (hpellissier) Fri 21 Nov 03 06:29
    
Hi -- I'm Hank Pellissier -- I wrote the story about donating my sperm
to the lesbian friend, and getting her pregnant.  "My Seeds Are
Sprouting in Two Wombs" -- Her son "Nathan" is now four years old (I am
called "Uncle Hank"), Nathan played regularly with my daughter
Tallulah, who was born just 3 weeks after his birth.  I saw "Nathan"
regularly, but he never stayed overnight with me, and we didn't get a
lot of one-on-one time together.  I really can't say that I feel
extremely bonded to him, I can't say that at all.  I would need to see
him at least once a week and I'd need lots of one-on-one time with him,
to feel bonded.  Plus, I am of course totally absorbed with my
daughter.  Its possible I'd be more attached to "Nathan" if I didn't
have my own child, but I'm not sure even of that.
Three months ago, "Nathan" moved to Philadelphia with his moms, one of
them is going to grad school there and they plan to stay there for
about 5-7 years.  So now I don't see him at all, but he will be back
for holidays, etc.
Oddly enough, my reaction to missing him is that I'm interested in
being a donor again.  I miss having a child in town that I have that
relationship with.  I am probably not the greatest donor material,
since I am 51 years old, but I did get my wife pregnant again 8 months
ago so it is apparent that I have potential.  I've talked to 3
different women about the chance of me donating sperm to them, but
nothing has yet been agreed on.  My wife, amazingly enough, is not at
all possessive about my sperm.  She figures that she got two kids out
of me, and that's all she wants, so I can do what I want with the
remainder of my dwindling supply.
Anyway, if anyone has questions about my story, I will be checking in
occasionally.  
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #56 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 21 Nov 03 10:43
    
Welcome, Hank.  Speaking of titles, "My Seeds Are Sprouting In Two Wombs" is
just a wonderful near-brag of a title.  It captures your enthusiasm 
perfectly.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #57 of 81: Julene Snyder (julene) Fri 21 Nov 03 13:18
    
Hi all,
First, thanks to cdb for sending me the book. I've read most of it, and 
have both praise and uh, less effusive praise to bestow:

I greatly enjoyed "Meatmarket.com" but that's probably to be expected, 
since I love anything Heather Havrilesky writes. I particularly enjoyed 
the long paragraph on page 55, that begins, "Imagine, if you will, trying 
to buy a food processor without a Best Buy, or a Macy's, or a 
Williams-Somona. Imagine if you had to go to crowded parties and other 
tedious functions and search the crowd for someone with an old Cuisinart 
at home that they might be willing to sell you..." She just cracks me up. 
She's got a great knack for making writing funny look easy, which it most 
assuredly is not.

In that same vein, I really liked Tim Cornwell's "On Being Ken," not least 
because I have a 6-year-old girl who is constantly trying to get me to 
play (shudder) Barbies. The ending had me laughing out loud at the image 
of Ken in an old bra hanging with the stuffed animals listening to show 
tunes. Hee.

For me, Mary McCluskey's "Isle of Skye" was the tearjerker in the bunch. 
The last paragraph was so heartbreaking and true. 
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #58 of 81: It would have made more sense over tea (wren) Sun 23 Nov 03 06:48
    
Andother "hello, all."

(gail) sent me a copy of the book, which arrived on Thursday; I
finished reading it Friday (I read fast), then went back and reread
bits yesterday.

My question, for those of you who are here, is: what made you decide
to structure the essays the way you did? Some -- (julianjbo)'s, for
example, are fairly chronologically arranged; others start in the
present, move to a distant beginning, then bring the reader back around
to the present ("Faith in the Baby" comes to mind); still others
spiral. I'm curious about the decisions in structuring that you each
made.

(I'm also pre-coffee, so my apologies if this turns out to be
gibberish.)
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #59 of 81: Kristin Ohlson (kristin-ohlson) Sun 23 Nov 03 17:32
    
For Faith in the Baby, I started in the present because it was a
dramatic moment--thus good scene with which to snag the readers'
interest-- then drifted to the deep past so readers had a
background--then did some kind of expository catching up, then finished
on another present episode also with dramatic impact. I didn't much
think about it--I just wrote it that way--but I think I selected the
first moment because it gave readers a strangers' eye view of my son--
I'm not in that scene at all and I think I was throwing out a
challenge--"how would YOU react to this guy?" Then it all becomes more
personal, and very very personal at the end. But frankly this was all
intuitively done, not thought out-- I'm giving a logic for it by
looking backwards and thinking why it might have made sense.

by the way, I said earlier that the cool thing about publishing online
is that people keep stumbling over this piece and contacting me. Just
got another email today from a woman in Australia who got the piece
forwarded to her.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #60 of 81: Hank Pellissier (hpellissier) Mon 24 Nov 03 14:52
    
I like to start in the middle of the chronology, or about 10-30% of
the way in, and then go back in time to fill in the questions that the
reader might have, and then go forward in time from there.

I like to start somewhere where the reader has to just wonder ever so
slightly what is is going on, but not too much.

I also like to start with a dialogue; I almost always do that.  I like
the way it looks, and the way it jumps the reader into a scene.  I
used to write plays so it is a longstanding dramatic habit for me to do
this --
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #61 of 81: Hank Pellissier (hpellissier) Mon 24 Nov 03 14:59
    
I am glad you like the title.  I wrote about 9 essays about this
lesbian insemination topic, and I really liked writing all the titles.
Some of the other titles were "Mating With A Jar" which described the
"donating" process, and "Counting The Polliwogs" which was about my
sperm analysis.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #62 of 81: JBO (julianjbo) Mon 24 Nov 03 15:35
    
Writing is staring angrily at the blank screen and waiting for that
first sentence to sound right. Once the first sentence sounds right,
the hang ups come only once every page or every other sentence. 

Once the first draft is finished, and the elation that a masterpiece
has sprung in full bloom from your fingers, comes the disappointment
when your /spouse,favorite reader,etc/ tells you they don't get it and
you start to redo and redo.

And eventually, long after I've lost any of the newness or drama or
whatever I was putting in the story in the first place, the editor gets
their sticky fingers all over it and makes me go through it again.
Since I cannot, at that point, really relate to it anymore as a fresh
piece, I usually just go along with them as they gut the story in hopes
that the money comes soon. 

And when it goes up and I see it in print or online, I'm thrilled and
enchanted, and grateful to my brilliant editors. Except for the title.
No-one's ever kept my titles. I wanted to call my piece, naturally
enough, Sierra Doe.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #63 of 81: David Gans (tnf) Mon 24 Nov 03 18:26
    

> Writing is staring angrily at the blank screen and waiting for that first
> sentence to sound right. Once the first sentence sounds right, the hang ups
> come only once every page or every other sentence.

I wish that were true!  I know what you mean about getting that first sen-
tence right, but my experince (iin songwriting and nonfiction) is that you're
never over the hump.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #64 of 81: Theresa Pinto-Sherer (theresa-ps) Mon 24 Nov 03 18:28
    
i have to say that Julian Orenstein captured the entire process of
writing as i see and feel it. for me, the first sentence, the opening
idea that i want to convey is hardest. once that's done, the rest does
flow, almost too quickly sometimes as ideas shoot into my head and i
can't get them down fast enough, which i'm sure makes for a greater
headache later on as the editor has to try and make sense of my stream
of consciousness. but not before my husband has a criticism or two that
sends me into a spiral of anger and insecurity. eventually, it does
get submitted and hopefully published and paid for. and my titles too
never get kept. i can't recall exactly but i think my original title
was "if found, please do not return." to answer the question more
specifically, i don't really consider chronology or structure when i'm
writing.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #65 of 81: It would have made more sense over tea (wren) Tue 25 Nov 03 09:11
    
I did some counting today. Thirty-nine essays. All nine in "Pluses and
Minuses" are about heterosexual relationships. Two of the six in
"Multiplication" are about lesbian relationships (one primarily, one
shares the focus with a heterosexual couple). Out of the other essays,
I believe four are on mother-daughter relationships.

I didn't notice gay male relationships or sister-sister relationships
as the focus of any essays. Does this reflect the content of the
Mothers Who Think section of Salon? A conscious decision in the editing
process? A perception that the essays of that sort were less
universal?
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #66 of 81: David Gans (tnf) Tue 25 Nov 03 09:22
    

Luck of the draw?  Choosing pieces based on their merit rather than
populating a demographic procrustean bed?
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #67 of 81: only a lunatic would apply shoe-polish to a weasel. (tinymonster) Tue 25 Nov 03 09:43
    
That'd be my guess.

Though I had to look up "procrustean bed."  What a great phrase! 
Thanks, David!
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #68 of 81: Jacques Delaguerre http://www.delaguerre.com/delaguerre/ (jax) Tue 25 Nov 03 09:57
    
Yah, not knowing stuff like that can leave you struggling like
Sisyphus, caught between Scylla and Charibdis until the Greek Kalends ...
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #69 of 81: It would have made more sense over tea (wren) Tue 25 Nov 03 10:10
    
Well, that's what I'm wondering. The lack of sister-sister
relationships in the essays was very noticeable to me, and from there I
went back and made a few notes. I don't know the demographics of the
essay writers for the whole history of Mothers Who Think, and I'm
curious -- so I'm asking, not grinding some imaginary axe.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #70 of 81: David Gans (tnf) Tue 25 Nov 03 10:13
    

I have to apologize to wren.  I did not intend me response to be as snarky as
it looks upon review.

I did not assume the grinding of an axe, wren, and I apologize for the
wording of my post.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #71 of 81: It would have made more sense over tea (wren) Tue 25 Nov 03 10:19
    
Noted.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #72 of 81: It would have made more sense over tea (wren) Tue 25 Nov 03 10:37
    
To clarify: my closest relationships with my bloodkin at present are
with my sister and her children, so I'm very aware of sister bonds. For
that matter, there are no essays on extended family (aunts, uncles,
nieces, nephews, godparents) that I can recall -- which could be
another set of questions, such as: did the title "Mothers Who Think"
somehow dissuade people from thinking in general family terms when they
submitted essays? (Of course, how can one determine the answer to
that? Strike that question as unanswerable.)
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #73 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 25 Nov 03 12:14
    

Well, the name of the section was changed to "Life" some time ago, 
although it may have been partly in response to advertisers thinking 
only moms would read under the MWT banner.  Perhaps Jennifer will stop
back by and say more from the editorial viewpoint.     
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #74 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 25 Nov 03 19:13
    
I realized that Hank didn't get to address a variant of the first question 
I thought of last week: I'm wondering if you thought about what it would 
be like for the kids to read this when you wrote it, and what you think 
about that now.   And for anyone who doesn't have the book in hand, the
story of seeds sprouting in two wombs is at 

  http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/1999/10/12/sperm_donor_2/

It's got some very funny passages.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #75 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 25 Nov 03 19:18
    
I also wonder: do you multitask on different writing projects, or  
you work on one thing at a time?  Anyone got a take on the rhythm and 
workflow aspects of writing?  
  

More...



Members: Enter the conference to participate

Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

 
   Join Us
 
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us

Twitter G+ Facebook