Thursday, September 30, 2010


I am reading on Friday. God, reading is the best, I love reading. Don't you? I don't. I'm terrified.

Why am I afraid of speaking in front of people? Why?

It's not a rhetorical question, I would really like to know.

If I had to guess, I would guess this: Sometimes I go to a reading, and it is very boring. And the person who is generating all the boredom does not seem aware of it. This person looks out at me in the audience and seems to be thinking, I am here to please you. I can see that you are pleased, I can definitely see that in you. Therefore, I am going to read for another 20 minutes.

I don't want to be that person. But the person who is that person? I doubt they want to be that person either. Do they? But they are.

I am a grown woman. I have a job and whatnot. It's embarrassing, isn't it? It is. Fear is embarrassing.

If I drink I will feel less fear but afterwards I will feel more fear and I will wonder, Which parts of me did everybody hate that were the real me? And which parts of me did everybody hate that were the drunk me?

If I don't drink, I only have to answer the first question. Unfortunately I also have to be terrified real-time.

When my kids were critically ill, I was suddenly and temporarily freed from stage fright. I went to work every day, and talked my head off in meetings, and for the first time in life, I was not scared whatsoever. Impending Baby Death took up all the fear space in my head and Public Speaking could not wedge its way in. Then they got better.

Thank god, but still, what am I supposed to do about this reading?

Here is my thought: Do you think someone would be willing to almost die right before my reading to help me out? Is that, generally speaking, thought of as "a lot to ask?"

Sometimes to calm my nerves, I tell myself, "Somebody is in a war getting his arms blown off at this very moment. And also, at this very moment, somebody is reading poetry in front of five people."

Does this work? No. I feel really sorry for the person getting his arms blown off but that's about it.

I started this post on Thursday. And now, in one hour, unless I die on the way to the Book Cellar, I will be reading in front of a live audience.

It occurs to me that talking about fear may be stupid. Does letting the lion out of its cage make the lion even bigger? A lion cannot be made bigger, can it? Aside from something radical like a high-calorie diet, no. A lion is a lion.

I would like to tell myself something meaningful now, something I believe, and then repeat it and repeat it and repeat it.

What do you tell yourself in times of fear? How does one learn to love fear?


My friend got broken up with. She's sad about it. She liked the guy, and they had great sex, and it all unraveled quickly and unexpectedly.

Now she's writing poems about the breakup. Good for you, I say. Climb out of the trashcan you got dumped in, radiant with sorrow, a pile of poems in your grubby hands. A pile of poems that communicate to the world:

You are bad and I am good. That is the very reason this did not work out, motherfucker.

It is impressive to me, this output of my sad friend. I could never do it.

If I am sad in love, forget it. Bed wins. And if I am happy in love, forget it. Bed wins in a different way.

I've become convinced that the secret to production is moderate misery. I sing moderate misery's praises to the sky.

I don't mean ambivalence. I think I mean a general disheartenment combined with hopefulness. I'm not sure what I mean actually.

That's not true. I know it because I feel it. I am it. But I don't know what words to use to describe it.

How would you describe it?


Jenny Boully's "A Short Essay on Being" is great all the way through, but I especially appreciate its crazily associative and circuitous start. Here's the first paragraph.

A pad is something you can write in, as in sheets of paper bound together. It is also what you bleed on when you first start. When I grew older, a pad was someone’s house. My college roommate and I had, according to many persons who traipsed in and out of our campus apartment during our senior year, a cool pad, a “budget” pad. You could also pad something, as in stuff it with cotton, or you could have a bra with built-in or removable pads: a padded bra. Pad is all of these, but seven years ago, I learned that it is a type of Thai noodle dish: pad Thai, it’s called. One weekend, I was going to visit a friend from graduate school in Austin. I told her that I would visit and make her pot Thai. She told me, “It’s pad Thai.” And even though she knew I was Thai and even though she knew that I was born in Thailand and had been back numerous times and even though she knew that my mother raised me to speak Thai and still spoke to me in Thai, I thanked her for correcting me.

It's at the new online
Triquarterly--looking pretty snappy btw. The Boully essay is hilarious and I laughed outloud at points.

Speaking of laughing (or not), I read Sara Zarr's
STORY OF A GIRL the other day. It was completely humorless and I loved it. I did not laugh out loud one time. I also did not put the book down one time. I read the entire thing one night at a Barnes and Noble in Valparaiso, Indiana.

I generally do not appreciate stories (or people) with no humor. But the story was straight and clean and continually engaging and the characters were smart and lovable. Sara Zarr knows funny, I'm pretty sure. It's just not her program. Or it wasn't for this book. That's fine. Some people don't know funny, and yet, strangely, it's their only program. That's not fine. That's awkward.

Do you require humor in your reading materials? I thought I did. Not, "Ha ha, God, is that a pisser, I tell ya." But at least an undercurrent of humor. A palpable awareness of humor--if not in the book, then somewhere in the world.

This post is not funny I'm aware.


Sometimes I am really bored at work. Sometimes I am really busy at work. I don't want to talk about it. It's not so interesting. Not everybody has gotten that memo. Some people are so very busy and the reason you know this is because they shout it out to the trees every hour or so.

Personally, I think they should consider making a sign and holding it up so they don't have to keep saying the same words in the same order over and over again. How about something like this?


Can you help me? I can't read and somebody cut off my clit. Also? I have rickets. One more thing, people keep telling me to walk two miles to get fresh water. Otherwise, I will end up with the guinea worm. Frankly I'm not sure how I'm supposed to be on all these committees and teach four classes a term and go get water and take care of my rickets and circumcised clit and learn how to read in my "spare" time. Life is super strenuous is all I have to say.

Did I tell you the "book" I've been working on is set in Africa? It seems there may be worse problems in the world than being busy is all I'm saying.

For example, a worse problem may be that my book is set in Africa and I am not African, nor have I ever visited the continent of Africa? That's another post.

In other news, the NYT has been getting under my skin lately. A recent food column included this sentence: The last of the tomatoes are coming in now, wide and cracked, heavy with the captured humidity of passing summer, each one a Neruda poem shedding its own light, benign majesty.

I would like to make the NYT a sign too: STFU.

Some people need slapping machines. There aren't enough to go around unfortch.

Do you ever write signs for people in your head to help them out so they can stop saying what they've been saying since they've been born?

What do those signs say?


Sometimes it seems freaking is my life function. Here is my latest freakout.

L: I'm dividing my young adult book into scenes and I am realizing a small problem. My book has no scenes.

K: How do you define scenes? You can fix it!

L: Imagine my book were a movie. Somebody would be talking deep thoughts about the past with meadows flying by in the periphery. That is it.

K: Oooh -- that would be a good elevator pitch if people thought that would make a good movie. Which, admittedly, most would not.

K: By the way, I define scene as one setting, some conflict happens, or some resolution happens, then it moves onto next setting/scene, for example:

Scene 1: Jane goes to the hospital, finds out her mother is going to be okay from choking on chicken bone, but one small thing: She has throat cancer and that is why she choked. She has three weeks to live.

Scene 2: Driving home with her brother Joe, Jane is crying but it is revealed . . . from happiness. Because her mother exposed her and Joe ritualistic satanic abuse and she's been hoping her mother would die for years.

K: Did you just make those scenes up? I think you just wrote a short short. Send it out?

My other friend K said to me, "Many brilliant books have been written without great attention to scenes. That's what screenwriters are for, writing scenes from non-scene-y books."
Still, I really want some scenes.

Have you ever read a book with no scenes? If not, it's because you haven't read mine.


Could my daughter have written a poem? I think so. I took transcription the other night. I might send it to the Boston Review.


Dear Julia,
I wish you could come
to my house. But you can't
because you live in a different
world than I do. You live
in Switzerland and you come
to see us sometimes but I wish
you could see us now. But it's bed-
time already. I guess you got some
sleep already. Bye dear. I miss
you. Bye Julia.
Love, Zazi

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


How to describe Brett Fletcher Lauer's project Ships that Pass?

I'll let
The Funky Apple do the honors. In a nutshell:

"One of the best things about Craigslist's Missed Connections sections is the replies. Not every post about lost love on the L train gets a reply. Nay, only the truly passionate, absurd, or insane posts are honored with a response."

"The problem is, not every real-life connection warrants a response. But the fake missed connections...well, that's a different story. And that's just the premise that blogger Brett Fletcher Lauer runs with on his blog, Ships that Pass, where Lauer posts his fake missed connections along with the real responses they generate."

"It's quite simple, really. Make up a brilliant missed connection, post it to craigslist, and wait for replies. Some of the replies are heart warming, others are hilarious, but unlike posts, they're all real."

Ships That Pass.