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.  

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