Writing Process Blog Tour

I fell in love with Deirdre Lockwood before I met her, which sounds creepy, and it isn't entirely true. I fell in love with her writing, specifically, her novel excerpt she submitted for our Mat Johnson ass-of-badness Tin House Writer's Workshop. On each of her pages there was that thing that I crave as a reader: the moment when you have to stop reading and just enjoy the sentence or thought before moving forward. You can even get a sense of this from her Blog Writing Tour. I’m honored she invited me to do this. 

Alone time at the Tinhouse Writer's Workshop (Reed College)

1) What are you working on?
I've been working on my first novel for a long time. It's called Only a Few Pictures, and it's about a19-year-old Hungarian boy who migrates to America in 1992 to pursue his dream of becoming a big-time movie director, but he's sidetracked by a posse of shady, traveling magazine salesmen, lascivious co-eds, and a yoga community whose residents have a penchant for extreme colon cleansing. There's a healthy dose of misrepresentation, disillusionment, and delusion by everyone involved—including the author. 

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I feel like it's as hopeful as it is despondent. Just depends on who’s reading it.

3) Why do you write what you do?
The most important people in my life are immigrants: my husband (the novel is inspired by his immigration story), my father, and my closest friends. And at my job, I'm the ultimate outsider. I've been working at the Korean Consulate as the speechwriter for much of my adult life. I think the reason I've been able to stay as long as I have is because it's one of the few places I feel at home, which is to say, out of place. I'm the foreigner there; it's okay for me not to fit in. It’s not even expected. That’s a huge relief.

One of my favorite books is American Pastoral. Page 35 sealed the deal for me.

This part in particular sums up the pathology of wanting to write (and read) what I do, "That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that--well, lucky you."

4) How does your writing process work?
I am at once guilt fueled and stunted. It goes something like this: I should be writing; I don’t write enough. Even doing this blog is bringing on the guilt. 

Self-loathing also plays a role: I suck for not writing; maybe I’m not writing because I suck, or I’m afraid I’ll offend someone, or worse, an entire nation.

I think a lot, furrow even more, sometimes my fingers don’t even touch the keyboard. But I’m fantastic at sitting still; that’s important. Music is too distracting. People are distracting. I will never write in public, though I may take notes from time to time, mental ones all the time. Not writing makes me hungry, so does writing. It also makes me want to listen to music instead of writing. Sometimes I do Pomodoro, but I usually end up extending the break time. The Freedom program helps the most. But there's still my dog Watson, accordion, dirty laundry, books to read, and organize. (My latest obsession/distraction is listing all the movies in order as they appear in the trailer for the NYFF to win Inherent Vice tickets. Done!)

When I actually write, I read everything aloud several times. And I tweak a lot (not crystal meth, but sentences). My favorite thing about writing is the tweaking. Which is why I loved this quote from Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer:

“I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentences around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning. And if I knock off from this routine for as long as a day, I’m frantic with boredom and a sense of waste.”

Mainly, I have to reckon with Watson, but if I’m lucky, for the two hours I am writing, he’ll be under the table, warming my feet, like he is now, instead of doing this: 
Relentlessly Restless Watson

Coming soon 

Monica Carter  - She cracked me up before I met her, and now I miss the heck out of her. Not only is she a gorgeous writer, she is the best reader/reviewer I know, and she has shared many wonderful books with me--one of my favorites, Your Republic is Calling You. I'm so happy we officially met on that shuttle from Reno Airport to the Squaw Valley Writing Workshop two years ago. 

Jared Lipof -  I hated this guy before I met him (I feel like I'm coming across as a stalker). Lucky enough to be in the same Tin House Workshop with him. From the first page of his novel excerpt, I was laughing and my heart was heavy. I almost emailed him before meeting him to tell him I wanted to be his friend. Because his writing is that great.

Aline Ohanesian - This dead-ringer for Sophie Marceau has a hauntingly beautiful novel coming out in April 2015—you can pre-order it from Powell’s. And if you don't read, you can listen to it because it's so wonderful that they already sold the audio rights. I've got money on it eventually becoming a major motion picture. Best of all, we shared a bed at the Squaw Valley Writer’s Workshop in 2012.  

Waiting for Satantango

I mailed the following letter to Netflix Corporate Headquarters one week ago.

March 6, 2014

Netflix Inc.
100 Winchester Circle
Los Gatos, CA 95032

Dear Netflix,

In November 2013, I added the DVD option for the sole purpose of watching the four-disc film Satantango. I received the first DVD on or around November 26, watched half of it, then wasn't able to proceed because of a defect on the disc. I reported the damage on December 1, sent it back, and got a replacement on December 3. I immediately watched it and sent it back, eagerly awaiting disc number two.

I received the second disc on or around December 11, and noticed that the back of the DVD was sliced, and unplayable (believe me, I tried). I reported the damage, and got another disc. That was also sliced; my suspicion: it was the same disc. I called and reported it. Alas, since December 11th, I've been waiting to watch disc two of the 450-minute Hungarian hit movie, Satantango. 

In this time, I have watched six other Netflix DVDs. I've also been sent discs three and four of Satantango on two separate occasions. In February I started reading the novel Satantango, and am officially beyond the point in the movie where I left off. 

Through this entire experience, your staff has been helpful, sympathetic, and gracious. And today, I do not voice any complaints about them. In fact, I praise them for their professionalism and courtesy. I love Netflix, and have been a loyal customer since 2002. My husband and I are huge fans of House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and yes, even Lillehammer! 

But I really just added the DVD option to get Satantango, and I'm feeling pretty foolish, having paid some $35 dollars to watch only a third of a movie (the fourth disc is bonus material). 

I would like to ask for a $20 credit to compensate for the frustration I have suffered. I would put this credit towards the purchase of the Satantango DVD set on Ebay. It's $44, and probably pirated from Korea, and without bonus materials. But I'm desperate now, and beginning to feel like one of the tortured and paranoid characters from the novel.

Of course, I will remain a devoted streaming customer, and continue to sing your praises regardless of your decision to credit or not to credit, but I refuse to have Satantango to be my Godot, and must cancel the DVD option today. 

Thank you for your time and kind consideration.

Christine Palau

P.S. It’s interesting that it’s easier to find your mailing address than an email address to contact you, but then that just adds to the absurdity of my situation.

And this is partially what I'm missing out on:

A not so infinite playlist

2013 wasn't the best year for me as far as reading is concerned. I blame this on moving (and The Sopranos*). I used to spend two hours a day commuting, which is when I did most of my reading. Now, I'm lucky if I can average a book a month. In 2013 I read a measly 13 novels. And it does feel like a curse. 

Aside from the latest by Percival Everett, Percival Everett by Virgil Russell, The Time of the Doves, and The Flamethrowers, I was completely underwhelmed by most of the books I read, though a couple times, earlier in the year, I was highly entertained, at least. The Patrick Melrose Novels (technically that's 4 books, but I'm counting it as one) titillated and tortured, and most of & Sons was fun. There were so many great things about V. including this line, "As spread thighs are to the libertine, flights of migratory birds to the ornithologist, the working part of his tool bit to the production machinist, so was the letter V to young Stencil," but ultimately, reading Pynchon is akin to being in an abusive relationship with someone you really respect, and therefore can't leave.

Instead of going through my favorites, which I guess I just did, I want to focus on one very special novel that I read for the third time, and as of last year, I made reading it at the end of every year a holiday ritual. From T-day to NYE, I lived and dreamed this book. 

I've already written an Infinite Jest review elsewhere, so now I present a playlist that has more to do with me than Hal or Don or Avril or Erdedy. Sometimes, it's the lyrics, but mostly it's the mood. Regardless, the following music makes me think of the book as I experienced it, and vice versa. 

In no particular order, not really. 

Scared Straight, The Long Winters

Reckoner, Radiohead

Watching the Wheels, John Lennon

This Must Be the Place, Talking Heads

Any Fun, Coconut Records

Big Stuff, Billie Holiday

Janacek String Quartet No. 1

And to be useful, here are some words that I learned: 

1. the distal or terminal segment of the wing of a bird consisting of the carpus, metacarpus, and phalanges.
2. the wing of a bird.
3. a feather.
–verb (used with object)
5. to cut off the pinion of (a wing) or bind (the wings), as in order to prevent a bird from flying.
6. to disable or restrain (a bird) in such a manner.
7. to bind (a person's arms or hands) so they cannot be used.

1.decay, as of bone or of plant tissue.
2.dental caries.

Of or relating to the period of puberty or adolescence.

–noun Slang .
confusing or generally unintelligible jargon; gobbledegook: an insurance policy written in bafflegab impenetrable to a lay person

A firm or individual engaged in the loading or unloading of a vessel.

To remove or dissipate by melting, vaporization, erosion, etc.:to ablate a metal surface with intense heat.

1.a pendulous fold of skin under the throat of a bovine animal.
2. any similar part in other animals, as the wattle of fowl or the inflatable loose skin under the throat of some lizards.

1.a sortie of troops from a besieged place upon an enemy.
2. a sudden rushing forth or activity.
3. an excursion or trip, usually off the main course.
–verb (used without object)
7. make a sally, as a body of troops from a besieged place.
8. set out on a side trip or excursion.
9. set out briskly or energetically.

To produce or discharge pus, as a wound; maturate.

A congenital or acquired persistent, rapid, involuntary, and oscillatory movement of the eyeball, usually from side to side.

1.a crosspiece separating a door or the like from a window or fanlight above it.
2.Also called transom light, transom window. a window above such a crosspiece.
3.a crossbar of wood or stone, dividing a window horizontally.

A disease of plants characterized by restricted, discolored lesions,caused by a fungus.


A disorder of vision due to a deviation from normal orientation of one or both eyes so that both cannot be directed at the same object at the same time; squint; crossed eyes.

Of or pertaining to knowledge or the conditions for acquiring it.

1. belonging or pertaining to the Sauria,  a group of reptiles originally including the lizards, crocodiles, and several extinct forms but now technically restricted to the lizards.
2. resembling a lizard.

Having protrusive jaws; having a gnathic index over 103.

Architecture noting or pertaining to one of the five classical orders, developed in Greece and altered by the Romans. The Greek Doric order consists typically of a channeled column without a base, having as a capital a circular echinus supporting a square abacus, above which come a plain architrave, a frieze of triglyphs and metopes, and a cornice,the corona of which has mutules on its soffit. In the Roman Doric order, the columns usually have bases, the channeling is sometimes altered or omitted, and the capital usually consists of three parts: a thick, bandlike necking, an echinus with an ovolo outline, and a molded abacus.

The running on of the thought from one line, couplet, or stanza to the next without a syntactical break.

1. knit with a reverse stitch.
2. to finish with loops or a looped edging.
3. to flow with curling or rippling motion, as a shallow stream does over stones.
4. to flow with a murmuring sound.
5. to pass in a manner or with a sound likened to this.

1. Usually, fantods. A state of extreme nervousness or restlessness; the willies; the fidgets (usually preceded by the): We all developed the fantods when the plane was late in arriving.
2.a sudden outpouring of anger, outrage,or a similar intense emotion.

1. Also called corselet. defensive armor for the torso comprising a breastplate and backplate, originally made of leather.
2. either of the plates forming such armor.
3. any similar covering, as the protective armor of a ship.

1. the gape of the mouth of a bird.
2. the gaping or opening of the mouth.

1. well-being, prosperity, or happiness: the public weal; weal and woe.
2. Obsolete . wealth or riches.
3. Obsolete . the body politic; the state.

1. a furrow or track in the ground, especially one made by the passage of a vehicle or vehicles.
2. any furrow, groove, etc.
3. a fixed or established mode of procedure or course of life,usually dull or unpromising: to fall into a rut.
4. to make a rut or ruts in; furrow.

1. shaped like the letter C.
2. shaped like the letter S.
3. of, pertaining to, or situated near the sigmoid flexure of the large intestine.

1. insincere, especially conventional expressions of enthusiasm for high ideals, goodness, or piety.
2. the private language of the underworld.
3.the phraseology peculiar to a particular class, party,profession, etc.: the cant of the fashion industry.
–verb (used without object)
5. talk hypocritically.
6. speak in the whining or singsong tone of a beggar; beg.

1. to shake slightly; move to and fro, as by repeated jerks;jiggle: She joggled the key in the lock a couple of times before getting the door open.
2. to cause to shake or totter as by a sudden, slight push;jostle.
3. to join or fasten by fitting a projection into a recess.
–verb (used without object)
5. to move irregularly; have a jogging  or jolting motion; shake.

The shattering effect of a high explosive.

1. the investment of emotional significance in an activity,object, or idea.
2. the charge of psychic energy so invested.

1. firmly twisted yarn or thread spun from combed, stapled wool fibers of the same length, for weaving, knitting, etc. Compare woolen.
2. wool cloth woven from such yarns, having a hard, smooth surface and no nap.

1. incised carving, as opposed to carving in relief.
2. ornamentation with a figure or design sunk below the surface.
3. a gem, seal, piece of jewelry, or the like, cut with an incised or sunken design.

A localized area of tissue, as in the heart or kidney, that is dying or dead, having been deprived of its blood supply because of an obstruction by embolism or thrombosis.

1. belonging to, or partaking of the characteristics of, both sexes: Fashions in clothing are becoming increasingly epicene.
2. flaccid; feeble; weak: an epicene style of writing.
3. effeminate; unmasculine

to cry in a thin voice; whine; whimper.

a woman's headcloth drawn in folds about the chin, formerly worn out of doors, and still in use by some nuns.


1. Anatomy, Zoology .
a. middle ear.
b. tympanic membrane.
2. Architecture 
a. the recessed, usually triangular space enclosed between the horizontal and sloping cornices of a pediment, often decorated with sculpture.
b. a similar space between an arch and the horizontal head of a door or window below.
3. Electricity . the diaphragm of a telephone.

1. being at leisure; idle; indolent.
2. ineffective or futile.
3. superfluous or useless.

1. a county in the N Republic of Ireland. 124,783; 1865 sq. mi.(4830 sq. km). County seat:  Lifford.
2. Also called Donegal tweed . a plain or herringbone tweed with colored slubs.

1. any hairy plant belonging to the genus Heliotropium,  of theborage family, as H. arborescens,  cultivated for its small,fragrant purple flowers.
2. any of various other plants, as the valerian or the winter heliotrope.
3. any plant that turns toward the sun.

The omission of one of two similar adjacent syllables or sounds in a word, as in substituting morphonemic  for morphophonemic  or in the pronunciation  [prob-lee]

1. Pathology . an abnormal forward curvature of the spine in the lumbar region, resulting in a swaybacked posture. Compare kyphosis, scoliosis.
2. a posture assumed by some female mammals during mating, in which the back arches downward.

Characterized by or given to extreme optimism, especially in the face of unrelieved hardship or adversity.

A narrowing or stricture of a passage or vessel.

A substance that, because of the reactions it causes, is used in analysis and synthesis.

Of, pertaining to, or situated in the groin.

a set of kettledrums, especially as used in an orchestra or band.

1. a very strong wind.
2. Meteorology . a wind of 32–63 miles per hour (14–28 m/sec).
3. a noisy outburst: a gale of laughter filled the room.

1. to move (a baby, child, etc.) lightly up and down, as on one's knee or in one's arms.
2. to pet; pamper.

1. having the form of a wedge; wedge-shaped.
2. composed of slim triangular or wedge-shaped elements, as the characters used in writing by the ancient Akkadians,Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and others.
3. written in cuneiform characters: cuneiform inscription.

1. Pathology . continuous, usually nonsexual erection of the penis, especially due to disease.
2. prurient behavior or display.

A cannon having a comparatively short barrel, used especially for firing shells at a high angle of elevation, as for reaching a target behind cover or in a trench.

1. the club carried by a police officer; billy.
2. a staff representing an office or authority; baton.
3. the shattered shaft of a spear.

perception governed by proprioceptors, as awareness of the position of one's body.
“couldn’t tell his ass from his elbow.”

   [shuh-ley-lee, -luh]
–noun (esp. in Ireland)
a cudgel, traditionally of blackthorn or oak.

1.Television . a pattern of scanning lines covering the area upon which the image is projected in the cathode-ray tube of a television set.
2. Computers . a set of horizontal lines composed of individual pixels, used to form an image on a CRT or other screen.

1. the forepart of the skull.
2. the upper part of the skull.

An ornamental pattern or border, as in architecture, consisting of paired ribbons or lines flowing in interlaced curves around a series of circular voids.

1. Architecture .
a. the part of a classical entablature between the architrave and the cornice, usually decorated with sculpture in low relief.
b. any decorative band on an outside wall, broader than a string course and bearing lettering, sculpture, etc.
2. any decorative band at the top or beneath the cornice of an interior wall, a piece of furniture, etc.
3. Furniture . skirt ( def. 6b ) 

1. Also, piaffer. a cadenced trot (horse) executed on one spot, with a well-elevated leg action.

The bony protuberance on either side of the ankle, at the lower end of the fibula or of the tibula.

Loss of coordination of the muscles, especially of the extremities.

Death of a circumscribed portion of animal or plant tissue.

1. Architecture . a semicircular or polygonal termination or recess in a building, usually vaulted and used especially at the end of a choir in a church.
2. Astronomy . an apsis.

1. sooty; smoky: the fuliginous air hanging over an industrial city.
2. of the color of soot, as dark gray, dull brown, black, etc.

1. a small lump or stunted piece; stub.
2. a small or imperfect ear of corn.
3. an undeveloped fruit.

Psychiatry . (not in technical use) nervous debility and exhaustion occurring in the absence of objective causes or lesions; nervous exhaustion.

A long, slender cigar, usually with straight sides and tapering to a point at the closed end.

1. serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of furthering investigation.
2. encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error: a heuristic teaching method.
3. of, pertaining to, or based on experimentation, evaluation, ortrial-and-error methods.

*As for The Sopranos, I watched all 6.5 seasons for the first time over a month this summer. Each show was a short story, that moved me more than most of the books I read this year. It made reading really, really hard, especially the episode "Whoever Did This."

My Top Ten Reads of 2012

Zeroville--Or as I like to call it, "Oneseville!"  The best novel I read this year. "Americans are in love with shame," Vikar says. "Can you imagine Bogart fucking Bergman with a cube of butter on the Champs-Elysees?" If you’re only going to read one book in 2013 (how sad), this is it.

I Am Not Sidney Poitier--Probably the most absurd, and possibly, sharpest story...ever.  "I am the ill-starred fruit of a hysterical pregnancy, and surprisingly, odd though I might be, I am not hysterical myself."

We Need To Talk About Kevin--Book as birth control. Disturbing and so beautiful. "We white folks cling to such an abiding sense of entitlement that when things go amiss, we cannot let go of this tortuously sunny, idiotically cheerful doppelganger of a world that we deserve in which life is swell."

Among the Dead—Misanthropic masterpiece. Not since Joseph Heller's Something Happened, have I read anything quite so mean, funny and honest. I don’t see anyone I know liking this. Not the most quotable book either.

Elsewhere, California--Funny, relatable, an earnest account of identity in crisis, and blooming. "Once you know someone's story, or even pieces of it, it's hard to dismiss them to pretend you know all there is to know about a person."

Shards--The truth is elusive and debatable, funny and painful, and one big contradiction. "It's shit in your mouth, but officially it's called ice cream."

Widow--Kobe Steak...Tartare. Short stories, slow reading pleasure. "So, it could be that she was shrill and laughing, insistently laughing, a laughter that demanded itself into being, her mind leaping at any possible comment by someone, or any attribute that could be made a joke, funny, fodder for the laugh track, and she knew it to be happening when it happened, was conscious of the laughing faces around her, conscious as though she stood behind glass and the faces at once stared, and laughed, their lips and eyes and mouths all laughing...and she could hear her body's desperate bullhorning." 

A Brilliant Novel in the Works--I laughed so hard I started crying; then I cried so hard, people asked if I was okay. Hyper-metafiction. You've been warned. “When my wife comes into the room and sees me in my underwear, with my $30 Lamy pen in my fist, and standing on my desk, she isn’t terribly impressed with me and my work habits.” 

These Dreams of You--I defy you not to like Oppan Erickson Style.  "Doesn't everyone choose aspects of his or her identity, or is race the rubicon on authenticity?"

Infinite Jest-- Neither a beach nor holiday read, it's been both to me. I read it last summer, and fell in love. This time around I couldn't read it slow enough; it’s nourishing on some many levels, you don’t want it to end. Re-reading this has officially become my end-of-year tradition to be reminded of the pain that so many people endure and share. “That 99% of compulsive thinkers’ thinking is about themselves; that 99% of this self-directed thinking consists of imagining and then getting ready for things that are going to happen to them; and then, weirdly, that if they stop to think about it, that 100% of the things they spend 99% of their time and energy imagining and trying to prepare for all the contingencies and consequences are never good. Then that this connects interestingly with the early-sobriety urge to pray for the literal loss of one’s mind. In short that 99% of the head’s thinking activity consists of trying to scare the everliving shit out of itself.”

*One of the most memorable, and by that I mean disturbing, things I read this year, is the butterfly eating scene from The SatanicVerses. There's something about Rushdie, and I've only read two of his books, I love his writing so much, I just don't get torn apart by it, except for this scene, which I hated and loved and had nightmares about. Too long to quote, just read the book; it's in chapter IV Ayesha.

**Better as a movie than a book: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, though the book does have a fantastic line that the movie doesn’t, “He wondered whether there was any love between human beings that did not rest upon some sort of self-delusion.”

What I'm really looking forward to in 2013:

Broom of the System (because the best way to combat DFW withdrawal is with more DFW)

baracktica update


You all made the Baracktica a great success. Your donations, support and enthusiasm have brought us a step closer to making sure Barack Obama becomes our 44th president.

Throughout the evening there were about 75 barackticans, and we collected $1,277!

Thank you, all.



All of this money is going directly towards the ground game in swing states such as Nevada. But we have three weeks to go and there is still a whole lot to be done.

  • Go to mybarackobama.com create an account and get involved with a group. The best thing you can do right now is make phone calls to Nevada. This is something you can do every day. You can do it from home or in a group.
  • Visit the Obama So. Cal Headquarters in Culver City. It's located at 3619 Motor Ave. 2nd Floor Los Angeles, 90034. If you're not so excited about making phone calls, you will definitely be inspired to be more active in a way you feel comfortable with. They also have a small store there where you can buy a lawn sign, stickers, or a t-shirt. I love this place.
  • Take a weekend trip to Nevada. On Halloween night, Tamas and I are driving to Nevada to spend the weekend encouraging people to vote for Obama. Spanish speakers are in high demand for this. You can find out more about the trip to Nevada here:http://my.barackobama.com/page/s/nvdfc
  • If you'll be in NYC on October 18th, go to the Obamalonga: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/event.php?eid=29667329411
Yes, We can !

Tango Fundraiser for Barack Obama: BARACKTICA

What better way to get involved in the Obama Campaign than a late afternoon Baracktica.*

Help raise money for Barack Obama while doing one of your favorite things--TANGO.

With a $10** donation you will enjoy 3 hours of dancing to the traditional and neo-tango musical selections of Moses Moti Buchboot, a dynamic intro-class taught by Mitra Martin and a raffle ticket, which may make you the winner of an eco-friendly prize.***

Date: Sunday, October 12, 2008

Time: Beginners Class starts promptly at 4:30 PM. Practica from 4:30-7:30 PM

Location: Your Neighborhood Studio 11154 Washington Boulevard
(One Block East of Sepulveda) Culver City, CA 90232

If you prefer to donate in person, please bring check or credit card to the event. To RSVP and donate please go here:


*A Practica in tango terminology is an informal tango practice session. Absolute beginners and the tango-curious are more than welcome!

**100% of your donation goes directly to the Obama campaign.

***The prizes are not extravagant, please don't expect a Prius or a date with Eric Garcetti. And please, feel free to donate more than $10—it’s our future we’re talking about.


$25 donation entitles you to two raffle tickets, $50 will get ya three tickets and a fun bag. And with $100 you will receive our endless love and affection, and a lil’ something extra.

To keep expenses at a minimum, and to encourage ecological responsibility, we'd like to ask you to bring your own water/water bottle, drinks etc. ☺