May 7, 2013 § 12 Comments
Guess what? I wrote a book. No, seriously. I’m not kidding.
Co-wrote it, actually, with a dear friend of mine who is a lawyer. He had this wacky idea that it might be fun to create a gift book for other lawyers, a collection of funny poems capturing some of the inside humor that goes along with the job: all the anxieties, crazy characters, and bizarre situations that only fellow lawyers (and those who know and love them) can really appreciate. He pitched the idea almost two years ago: If he could come up with the poem ideas, could I help write them?
Write a book of poems and let someone else do the work of coming up with all the ideas? Oh, hell yes.
So I’m delighted to introduce you to Poetic Justice: Legal Humor in Verse.
It’s a little bitty book – just 100 pages, each poem a snapshot of some scenario or character or feeling that anyone who’s been to law school or worked in the field will understand. Those who have already read it say it puts into words some of the things everyone thinks but no one says out loud, including some of the darker, cynical stuff, but in a funny way.
(By the way, if you’re lawyer who was once a liberal arts major or an English nerd, you’ll appreciate that these are, well, “real” poems. I mean, they’re not just broken up sentences without punctuation. We got your sonnets, haikus, riffs on well-known verses you probably had to memorize in 10th grade, the whole shebang.)
Need a gift for law school graduation, lawyer friends, mother’s day, father’s day, birthdays? Here you go, easy – just throw it in your cart on Amazon.
Bonus: We are donating a portion of all book proceeds to a fantastic nonprofit called WomensLaw.org, which provides free information and services to individuals getting out of domestic violence situations. So you’re helping to enable something good in the world when you buy the book.
To check out a different sample poem each week — and to see my co-author wearing a sweater vest — visit the book’s site: PoeticJusticeTheBook.com
April 23, 2013 § 22 Comments
Spring magazines are out. You know what that means.
Once again, we don’t even have to read the articles to know what’s hot for this season. All we have to do is pay attention to the advertising, and we’ll learn not just about the world of fashion, but about the world itself. About beauty, happiness, business… about life, my friends. A few lessons for spring:
* * *
To look, feel, and smell like a celebrity, emulate their entire lifestyle.
This perfume bottle has a lovely feminine hourglass shape. So it’s fitting that Jessica Chastain wears it, because she, too, has a gorgeous figure. Do you want to be like Jessica? Then know this: She keeps her curves in perfect proportion by making sure no fast food ever passes her lips. And that’s not all. To make sure no one else falls prey to the evils of the Big Mac or McRib, Jessica personally murdered Grimace, then finger-painted the walls with his blood. May that image never leave your mind, and may you order a salad at lunch.
* * *
The most accurate way to tell time is to hold your watch next to the face of a beautiful woman.
Think about it: Whenever you want to know what time it is, don’t you put your arm up next to your head (if you are a beautiful woman yourself) or someone else’s (if you are ugly or a man)? Of course you do: “Hey, Stacy, what time is it?” “A quarter past my face, bitch.”
* * *
If you wait long enough, everything will get easier.
You mean now I can spray Vaseline on my OWN ass? Wow. The wait IS over! The world is getting more convenient by the minute.
* * *
Always say what you mean.
Quattro TrimStyle by Schick. Because nothing says, “prune your bush,” like actually saying it. (Subtle, Schick. Subtle.)
* * *
Some things are harder than they look.
The jacket-over-briefs look isn’t as easy to pull off as you might think. Sure, it looks simple, but you can’t just throw a bomber over your bosom and go. Trust me on this. You have to get the face right. You don’t want to look too joyful (left), because then it’s like, “What are you so excited about? You can’t even afford a shirt.” Likewise, you don’t want to seem too dour (right), because then people want to slap you and shout, “Hey. Buck up. At least you HAVE a jacket.” Only one person knows how to get this look exactly right…
* * *
Kate Moss can do anything she wants. Ever.
The secret is never to waver in your because-I’m-Kate-Moss-and-I-fucking-say-so expression.
* * *
You are too old to shop at H&M.
Daphne, Joan, Lindsey, and Lin Wen just want to make one thing clear: You’re past your goddamn prime.
* * *
The Great Gatsby look is back, and it’s everywhere.
Which is awesome, because aren’t we all just living the Gatsby story every day? I know I am. Speaking of which, I’ve gotta run in a minute – it’s almost time for me to plow my friend down with my car and then skip town.
* * *
Never sign a cosmetics contract.
The way it works is they give you 50 pages of small print to sign. The first few pages are like, “Emma Stone, you will get bazillions of dollars for letting us put your pretty face on magazine ads.” But on about page 47, there’s a tiny line that reads, “PS: Once you sign this, we can dress you up like a rainbow clown and gel your hair like it’s 1989 and pose you on a surfboard, because WE OWN YOUR ASS NOW.”
* * *
Sometimes a missed opportunity is a blessing in disguise.
Bullfights are SO in. And at first, Sophia, on the far left, was super-pissed because she didn’t get a bolero OR a hat for this shoot, so clearly she’s not invited to Pamplona with the rest of the girls. Well, fuck them. At least she won’t end up gored.
* * *
It doesn’t have to make sense to work.
Dolce & Gabbana. Because Scarlett Johansson makes out with smooth-nippled statues, so buy this makeup.
* * *
Know someone who could use a little instruction on the finer points of looking good and living right? Share these lessons and change a life.
April 17, 2013 § 62 Comments
The first time I said, “Fuck math,” I was in 8th grade. I haven’t stopped saying it since.
(For the record: It was algebra’s fault. What the hell are X and Y doing in the middle of a math problem? Math is supposed to be about numbers, not letters. Letters are my thing. Leave the letters alone and keep walking, math, you greedy sonofabitch.)
Don’t get me wrong. I see the value in numbers. I like balance and evidence and science. And I totally know that math education is important, so please, teachers, don’t get all over me for this one. Just let me make my case.
* * *
Fuck Math: Exhibit A
Gather ’round, ye fellow nerds. I need to shed a dorky little tear. A few weeks ago, I went into a big chain bookstore and tried to find a new novel that had just been glowingly reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. This place is the only bookseller anywhere near my part of town, so it was my only choice if I wanted the book in my hands that day. (We used to have a great independent bookstore, but it went out of business.)
They didn’t have the book in stock. They did, however, have 16 shelves of calendars (3 shelves just for the ones about cats) and a wide selection of coffee mugs, bookmarks, and chocolates. The sales associate explained it to me as such: “Well, it’s just, like, that’s kind of a weird book, so, like, if we don’t know how it’ll sell, we don’t order very many copies. It’s just, you know, math.”
Outwardly, I said: “Thank you.”
Inwardly, I said: FUCK MATH.
That’s not the first time I’ve had that book shopping experience. And look, I’m not going to get all You’ve Got Mail about it. I understand that superstores with the benefit of massive purchasing power can sell things for less than the cool little bookstores that actually curate a good inventory. That’s why the little places go under and the big places survive. Then, when the big places are the only ones left, they can sell or not sell whatever they want. I get that. I took economics. But still: FUCK MATH.
Oh hell, never mind. I AM going to get all You’ve Got Mail about it. In Nashville, where I don’t live but maybe should, there’s a glorious little bookshop called Parnassus Books. It’s co-owned by the novelist Ann Patchett. (Perhaps you’ve read about it.) It’s fantastic – a glorious selection of books, not to mention a delightful shopping experience. The well-read staff love what they do and can help you find what you want. I enjoyed it so much the first time I visited that now I call and order books from there sometimes, just because — even though I like Amazon and dig how I can have any book in the world on my doorstep the next day — I like to support a bookstore that puts some thought into what it sells. Maybe I pay a buck or two more, but you know what? FUCK MATH.
* * *
Fuck Math: Exhibit B
Recently, I went down to my favorite getaway spot – a little island off the Carolina coast where I’ve been spending summers and random weekends for 25 years. It’s home to me. Over the past dozen years or so, I’ve increasingly had to put my hands up like blinders as I crossed the bridge to the island, because where once there were unobstructed views of the water, there are now a CVS, a Chili’s, and a Bed, Bath & BeFuckingYond. Where once there was a sandy playground, there’s now a parking deck and a conference center. What once was a small, quirky, friendly community is now a “resort destination.” I understand that the economy is rough these days and that a place has to do what it has to do to keep cash rolling in. Money is important. But also: FUCK MATH.
One of my favorite things to do upon arrival on the island is to stop in at the Red & White, the only grocery store on the island itself. Sure, I could drive back over the bridge to a major chain store, but shopping at the tiny, bizarrely stocked, locally staffed Red & White is an experience. I have known my way around that store since I was a kid, and I could maneuver its aisles blindfolded, starting with the bin of colorfully worded drink can koozies.
So when I was out there this month, I headed straight over to the Red & White to get a magazine and a jug of wine (oh, I said jug, yes, I did) and maybe a box of waffles. But oh-sweet-humanity-save-my-soul, the place was closed. FOREVER.
I tried to explain my horror to someone else, and they said, “Well, yeah. That place had moldy produce and sticky floors and magazines that cost $7. There’s no way they could have stayed open in this economy.” So you know what I said, of course: FUCK MATH.
* * *
Anyway. I know I’m a big dummy to get all sad and enraged over things like this. The world turns on math, when it comes right down to it. And math is just doing what it does. It’s about numbers. (Except when it’s about letters.)
Some things cannot be quantified. Not properly anyway. So FUCK MATH.
* * *
PS: I’ve decided to add Fuck Math onto other catchphrases, thereby forming new, compound catchphrases which put forth helpful messages while also relaying a disdain for math-based living. Like so:
Save The Whales. Fuck Math.
Rock The Vote. Fuck Math.
It Takes a Village. Fuck Math.
Live and Let Live. Fuck Math.
Don’t Eat Yellow Snow. Fuck Math.
Give Blood. Fuck Math.
You get the idea.
* * *
PPS: The lovely folks over at YeahWrite invited me to share this post over there this week. (Thank you, YeahWrite.) They’re doing neat things. If you haven’t yet, you should check out YeahWrite, for several reasons:
1. If you like reading good blogs, you’ll enjoy clicking through their great weekly collection of posts. Good stuff.
2. If you’re a blogging writer, you might like sharing your own post there with their readers.
3. Just for fun, you can also vote on your favorite post of the week (voting is open on Thursday and Friday), and the bloggers there (that would include me, this week) can win prizes. I didn’t totally read through the contest details, but I’m pretty sure it’s like a pot of gold and a live unicorn and maybe the winner also gets to make out with one of the editors there? Something like that. So I’m in.
October 30, 2012 § 22 Comments
As you may have heard, two big publishing houses have just announced plans to merge. As one combined entity, Random House and Penguin Books would become the largest publisher of consumer books in the world.
(Stay with me – this gets less dorky, I swear.)
Booknerds everywhere, myself included, started wondering what the new company might be called. Book House? Random Books? Penguin House? Igloo?
I wondered about it on Twitter, and Catherine Fain, the super-stylish gal behind the fashion site, Southern Arrondissement, tweeted back. We hatched an idea!
I then spent the rest of my workday imagining little penguins showing up in the middle of books. As comic relief… to break the tension in a particularly dramatic scene… just for kicks…
(Sorry, that didn’t really get less dorky, did it?)
Someone in publishing: Do this.
September 5, 2012 § 17 Comments
This is just a quick post to say, go buy the latest issue of Vogue. It looks like this:
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why should I buy a magazine with a picture of Lady Gaga dressed as an electrified disco mermaid on the cover?
That is a fair question.
Here’s why: Because I can’t find a link to share with you any other way Ann Patchett’s fantastic essay, “The Sense of An Ending.” Dog people (of which I am one) will appreciate her remembrances of her pooch, Rose. (Maybe even cat people? I don’t know. That’s hard for me to say, because cats make me wheeze until I can’t say anything at all.) Just-plain-people will enjoy it for Patchett’s astute observations about pet and human relationships in general.
“I came to realize… that there was between me and every person I had ever loved some element of separation, and I had never seen it until now. There had been long periods spent apart from the different people I loved, due to nothing more than circumstances. There had been arguments and disappointments, for the most part small and easily reconciled, but over time people break apart, no matter how enormous the love they feel for one another is, and it is through the breaking and the reconciliation, the love and the doubting of love, the judgment and then the coming together again, that we find our own identity and define our relationships.
Except that I had never broken from Rose. I had never judged her or wanted her to be different, never wished myself free from her for a single day.”
Note: If you’ve experienced the loss of your dog very recently, you may especially love it, but you might need to tuck it away to read later, not right now. Or maybe you’re tough enough to read lines like this without sniffling at your desk:
“Sometimes love does not have the most honorable beginnings, and the endings, the endings will break you in half. It’s everything in between we live for.”
Anyway, buy the magazine. It’s worth the $5.99 for that essay.
PS: The essay is Rose’s second appearance in Vogue. The first time, when she was but a pup, was in “This Dog’s Life,” which you can read in its entirety here.
August 30, 2012 § 19 Comments
Every now and then, one of my booknerd friends will send an email asking for recommendations. A few folks will chime in with their latest picks; someone will loop in another friend or two; and before we know it, there’s a 20-person virtual book exchange going on in a mile-long email thread. These emails take the place of a formal book club for me, because I’m better at title-swapping than synchronized reading.
It’s very candid – there are always a few “You liked that? I hated it!” exchanges – but also very civil. No one is ever like, “Your taste in books is as bad as your taste in men, WHOREBAG.” Well, not often.
So, here we are — the summer book stack has dwindled down to almost nothing. To save a few emails, I’ll offer up my report here on what I’ve read and liked lately in exchange for any ideas on what might be good to read next. All these books have one thing in common: I almost didn’t read them, but I’m really glad I did.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Marisha Pessl)
Almost didn’t read it because: The title. Just in case you, like me, are an idiot and take titles literally or have mini-seizures at the sight of math words, let’s go ahead and get one thing straight: IT’S NOT ABOUT PHYSICS. Don’t freak out.
Quick plot summary: The narrator’s a shy, smart teenage girl named Blue who lives with her professor father. Blue and her dad move to a new town; Blue meets a charismatic/sexy/strange film teacher and the popular/smart/hot kids who follow that teacher around; Blue falls in with the super-cools; intrigue ensues.
Why I’d recommend it: This wins as my favorite of the summer. Juicy story, great characters, beautifully written. Quirky and different, in a good way. (I know, it’s not new. It came out in 2006; I received it as a gift a year and a half ago; and I just now got around to reading it.) If you liked the mysterious-band-of-students thing in Donna Tartt’s masterpiece, The Secret History, you might like this. Not that the two books are much alike, just that there’s that similar element.
Note: This book is dense. Blue annotates her thoughts and conversations with various historic, literary, scientific, and cultural references, which are fun to trace but occasionally a bit distracting. Give it several chapters before the story really coalesces and gets going. It’s worth it. The plot keeps twisting, right up to the end.
The Age of Miracles (Karen Thompson Walker)
Almost didn’t read it because: The backdrop to this coming-of-age story is a natural disaster of sorts, the gradual but catastrophic slowing of the earth’s rotation. Normally, anything remotely space-like would turn me off. (Sci-fi is not my bag.) But I was delighted to find that the author treats the science stuff very carefully, and the whole thing feels completely realistic — no aliens or anything.
Quick plot summary: Imagine how disorienting it would be if we could no longer tell time by the steady turning of the earth and the reliable light and shadows of each season – if 7 a.m. were as bright as noon or as dark as midnight. That’s what happens in this story, narrated by 11-year-old Julia. When days and nights become longer, life’s daily tasks come unhinged from their circadian rhythms. Pair that with the process of turning from a child into a teenager (talk about coming unhinged), and it’s a fascinating tale, plainly and beautifully told.
Why I’d recommend it: The personal story trumps the planetary one (though the latter is undeniably haunting). This is Julia’s version of how life changed after “the slowing.” As she points out when describing a blossoming friendship: “What happened after that has been well recorded elsewhere. But I doubt that [his] name has appeared in any account but mine.”
(PS: Check out some great insights into this one from my booknerd friend Laura H. in her summer reading wrap-up, too.)
The Art of Fielding (Chad Harbach)
Almost didn’t read it because: The first thing I heard about this book was that it was “about baseball,” so I kept putting it off. No. This book is as much about baseball as The Age of Miracles is about planets. You can enjoy it even if you are as athletically inclined as I am (meaning, when someone throws a ball at you, you duck and scream at them to stop throwing balls in the library).
Quick plot summary: Henry is a baseball phenom recruited from his small town to a prestigious college, where he’s taken under the wing of an older teammate named Mike. Parents, roommates, friends are all added into the mix, and relationships get all tangled up. (That’s a ridiculous oversimplification of plot, but I’m trying not to give anything away.)
Why I’d recommend it: I’m a sucker for college stories, what can I say. The friendships I made in college are, to this day, some of the central relationships in my life. It’s fun to be immersed in that world again for a while. I may not have been as crazy in love with this book as some were (there was one important relationship where the chemistry just didn’t seem 100% real), but I really enjoyed it.
This Bright River (Patrick Somerville)
Almost didn’t read it because: Well, I knew I was going to read it, but I was unsure whether I’d like it, because I committed to reading it without having much clue what it was about. I loved Somerville’s ballsy, funny, honest article in response to the negative (and erroneous) review his book received in The New York Times – so much so that I wrote him a note and swore I’d read his novel. He wrote a brief message back. I thought that was awesome. So I bought the book.
Quick plot summary: Ben and Lauren, both in their early 30s, each find themselves back in their Wisconsin hometown after all sorts of bad shit goes down in their lives. (Oversimplifying again, sorry. Trying not to get into spoiler territory.) They meet again, having not been acquainted since high school, and as they get to know one another, we get to know more about what happened to each of them. Secrets emerge. The first third or so of the novel feels slow – not bad-slow, just slow – as we meet the cast of characters; then it picks up momentum and turns into quite a thriller.
Why I’d recommend it: When this one really gets rolling, it’s hard to put down. I stayed up until 1 a.m. finishing it. Somerville does a nice job of showing multiple points on the spectrum between simply flawed (human) and truly mad (dangerous). I loved this line: “I thought about how people are, how men are, where monsters have been imagined from…” The worst things in our imaginations all have their origin in something real. Word.
Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)
Almost didn’t read it because: EVERYONE is reading it. When everyone is reading something and raving about it, I always worry I’m headed for disappointment if I read it and find that it actually sucks.
Quick plot summary: Nick and Amy have been married five years when Amy goes missing. And that is all I’m going to tell you.
Why I’d recommend it: It didn’t suck. In fact, it was deliciously twisted and easy to read. Reese Witherspoon bought the movie rights, I think, so we’ll get to see this one on the big screen, too.
The Chaperone (Laura Moriarty)
Almost didn’t read it because: I feel like I’ve read more bad historical fiction than good. (Ye olden thymes, they get on my nerves.) I was skeptical.
Quick plot summary: Before she becomes a movie star, a teenage Louise Brooks is chaperoned on a trip to New York in 1922 by her 30-something neighbor, Kansas housewife Cora Carlisle.
Why I’d (kind of) recommend it: I didn’t love this book to pieces, but I ended up liking it more than I did at first. At the beginning, the metaphors were feeling a bit heavy-handed and trite. For example, Cora is repeatedly irritated by her corset – it leaves marks on her skin, it restricts her mobility, etc. GET IT? She is a woman who is being RESTRAINED! Housewifely repression! But I enjoyed the story more as it went on and the characters developed a bit. An entertaining read.
And Two More…
I grabbed these two in a hurry at the bookstore when I was on my way out of town for the weekend, had nothing to read, and intended to buy The Age of Miracles, then realized it wasn’t out yet.
What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty) – The premise: Alice wakes up in a hospital after a gym accident she doesn’t remember. In fact, the last thing she recalls is being 29 with an adoring hubby, a bun in the oven, and an all-around peachy life. Now, all of a sudden with no memory of the past decade, she’s 39 with two kids, her husband hates her guts, and her other relationships are pretty screwed up too. I wouldn’t rank this one up with the others, but the story was entertaining. A good beach read. I mean, who doesn’t feel sometimes like the past decade just flew by in a blur? Plus, there’s a good cautionary tale here for married folk: don’t turn into an asshole.
The Red Book (Deborah Copaken Kogan) – Meh. This one didn’t do it for me. I bought it because I saw “college reunion” in the description. I just couldn’t connect with the characters, who seemed rather shallowly developed, or their predictable stories. That said, I did finish it. And these days, if something totally blows, I have no qualms about giving it 100 pages and then putting it down. So, that’s something, I guess.
So there you go. And on that note, I could use some tips on what to read next. Ideas?
August 9, 2012 § 10 Comments
Fellow writers will understand what I’m talking about when I say the compulsion to edit is something that starts early and never goes away.
Did you sit at the breakfast table as a child, shoveling Cheerios into your face while staring at the cereal box and rewording that blurb about whole grain goodness to fix a split infinitive? Did you watch My Little Pony commercials and rewrite them in your head to convey more compellingly the true awesomeness of My Little Ponies? Then you know: you can’t help it. It happens all the time, anytime you look at something with words on it.
It even happens on vacation.
July 11, 2012 § 9 Comments
Sometimes, I imagine the classes I would teach if I were an English professor, as I once thought I might be.
I don’t have the patience it takes to be a good teacher. And I’d have to screen for mean people and pretentious douchebags at the door and let only fun nerds into my classroom, because I have a low asshole tolerance. So it probably never would have worked out. But I think about it.
If I do wake up one day in a parallel universe where someone has granted me a professorship despite my lack of proper experience, my classes might include “Love, Lies, and Other SciFi Twists: Boarding School Novels” (syllabus: Prep, Gentlemen and Players, and Never Let Me Go) and “Funny, Funnier, Funniest” (various humor essays, culminating with David Sedaris). And we’ll have a writing course called, “Bridging the Gap: Who Are You Writing For?”
(Someone in the class will probably point out that it should be “For Whom Are You Writing?” and I will cite them for cramping my style and remind them that they barely passed that test at the door and they might ought to zip it.)
Luckily, I won’t have to do much work to teach this class. I’ll just pass out two articles, which the smart kids will discuss while I sit back and work on my cuticles.
First, this old interview with Ted Hughes from the Paris Review. He talks about how many writers start out, writing for their first reader, a teacher:
“I first started writing those comic verses when I was eleven, when I went to grammar school. I realized that certain things I wrote amused my teacher and my classmates. I began to regard myself as a writer, writing as my specialty.”
And later: “I started showing them to my English teacher… I was sensitive, of course, to any bit of recognition of anything in my writing. I remember her—probably groping to say something encouraging—pointing to one phrase saying, This is really . . . interesting. Then she said, It’s real poetry… I immediately pricked up my ears. That moment still seems the crucial one. Suddenly I became interested in producing more of that kind of thing. Her words somehow directed me to the main pleasure in my own life, the kind of experience I lived for.”
(High-fives to all the great teachers out there. You should be paid a lot more.)
Later, Hughes discusses the need to write not just for one specific reader, but for a wider audience, to have one’s writing witnessed on a larger scale:
“Maybe it’s the same with any writing that has real poetic life. Maybe all poetry, insofar as it moves us and connects with us, is a revealing of something that the writer doesn’t actually want to say but desperately needs to communicate, to be delivered of… We think we’re writing something to amuse, but we’re actually saying something we desperately need to share.
…like those Native American groups who periodically told everything that was wrong and painful in their lives in the presence of the whole tribe. It was no good doing it in secret; it had to be done in front of everybody else. Maybe that’s why poets go to such lengths to get their poems published. It’s no good whispering them to a priest or a confessional. And it’s not for fame, because they go on doing it after they’ve learned what fame amounts to. No, until the revelation’s actually published, the poet feels no release.”
(Well said, Ted. High-five in memory of your wisdom.)
And then comes that moment when a writer first encounters critics and reviews — and realizes that those people witnessing what he writes are going to talk about it:
“I think it’s the shock of every writer’s life when their first book is published. The shock of their lives. One has somehow to adjust from being anonymous, a figure in ambush, working from concealment, to being and working in full public view. It had an enormous effect on me. My impression was that I had suddenly walked into a wall of heavy hostile fire.”
Which brings us to reading #2 — “Thank You For Killing My Novel,” Patrick Somerville’s insightful and self-deprecatingly funny reaction to an unfavorable review in The New York Times of his new book, This Bright River.
Somerville describes writing as the start of a conversation — the writer talking to the reader and the reader talking back. He also calls bullshit on the idea of ignoring reviews.
“I read the reviews of my books and I am greatly affected by the reviews of my books. I can’t help it. They matter, both artistically and commercially. They scare me and I love them. How other people react is a part of storytelling. What reviewers say affects the book’s life. And because of this, the week before the reviews come, I am catatonic, greatly troubled by the storms of anticipation.”
(It takes balls to admit fretting over the reaction of others. High-five to that. I mean, not… I would never high-five someone’s balls. You know what I mean.)
And here’s his way of describing the space between the writer and the reader, the speaker and the listener, in storytelling:
“In the end nothing matters but the work. You can’t control how it’s taken, and the act of telling a story always involves a gap… Two humans face one another, words come out of one, words go into the other mind through the ears and eyes of the listener. It’s a story. It’s simple. The gap is the thing. Make sure you build the bridge.”
The gap is the thing.
(Mr. Somerville is a teacher, by the way. A real one.)
His next and last point makes me think of all the folks I know who are everyday writers and readers on a less grand scale — all of us who are one another’s audience. The people we interact with in writing, whom we don’t see everyday in real life but whose words we carry around with us and whose reactions matter to us just like a teacher’s reaction matters to a beginning writer:
“How many ghost relationships do you have? … People you’ve only met through email, or Facebook or Twitter? Authors you’ve read whom you may very well love, and I mean actually love, even though they’re dead? People who’ve commented on something you’ve done having never seen your face? People from afar who’ve changed your life?…Our lives are filled up with these people; they often play a role in our pivot points.”
Ghost friends. Isn’t that a great way to put it?
So anyway. To wrap up our imaginary class, students will then read a selection of works written at different points in writers’ careers to analyze how their writing changed as their audience grew, while I crank up the margarita machine and Channing Tatum comes in to do a shirtless guacamole-making demonstration. Because it’s my classroom, and that is how we learn.