The Blog Tour: Some Notes on My Writing Process

Thank you Adrianne Kalfopoulou for inviting me to join this merry chain of writers talking about their work. Adrianne, whose marvelous book of essays, Ruin: Essays in Exilic Life, is forthcoming has written many books of poetry, including Passion Maps and Cumulus and published many essays. Adrianne lives and teaches in Athens, Greece where she is currently on the faculty of Hellenic American University.

To answer the questions I’ve been asked (is this mike on?) for this blog tour (I was originally told it was the blog tour de france!), in order–

Occasional Desire

1–What am I working on?

Well, for awhile I thought about working on my abs (as in, abs-centuate the positive), but it seems you have to leave the house for that. So, I thought I’d work on getting through all of the seven deadly sins. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve already covered a few of them. But I thought it might be fun to see if I could could get through all of them in one day. But it seems you have to leave the house for that, too, and the day I chose, here in Chicago, was eighty-nine below zero. Retrograde! Besides, I was getting stuck on one or two of them.

So, I thought I’d work on filling in the missing parts of the filmography of Chuck McCann I haven’t seen and coaching my son’s burgeoning career as an Oscar Levant impersonator.

In terms of writing projects, I and my co-editor, Patrick Madden, have submitted our ms. of essays, After Montaigne, to the University of Georgia Press. The essays are re-imaginings of Montaignes essays by contemporary essayists, such as Barrie Jean Borich, Mary Cappello, Wayne Koestenbaum, Phillip Lopate, Maggie Nelson, Lia Purpura, Vivian Gornick, and a bunch of others.

And I’ve finished a book of prose poems, called “Who’s Afraid of Helen of Troy,” and am almost finished with a book of aphorisms, tentatively titled, “Mothers,” with glorious illustrations by Heather Frise.

The next project I’m working on is a book of essays about character actors. I haven’t finalized the list completely yet. But Jack Carson, Thelma Ritter, Edward Everett Horton and William Demarest are some of the likely . . . characters.

I’m also continuing to curate interviews for In the coming months, Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Ann Snitow and Patricia Foster and Joy Castro will be appearing.

And I’m happy to say that the new issue of Hotel Amerika will be out in three weeks.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Mine is prettier, because mother put mine in a basket, and gave me a lovely red hood to wear on the way to grandmother’s house.

3) Why do I write what I do?

a) Because Robert Walser already wrote what he wrote.

b) Because writing is like concentrated blood-letting. After I write, I can think again.

c) Because it was my ticket out of a normal life.

d) Because trying to write the sentence that makes the doors fly open still energizes me.

e) Because I can’t stop interrupting myself.

f) Because I’m still inspired by Montaigne, Hazlitt, Woolf, Lamb, Emerson et al.

g) I don’t know why I love you like I do, I don’t know why, I just do.

h) Because I’m privileged to be able to write what I want to write.

4) How does your writing process work?

Let me ask it.

There now.

It seems it’s immersed in chaos. It’s inconsistent, but once it gets going, it seems it works rather furiously, and doesn’t like being disturbed. It’s capable of working for hours and hours at a stretch, but it isn’t one of those grey-flannelled writing processes. Not that I’m gainsaying those; on the contrary, I admire the discipline of the daily, routinized writer. It wish it partook of that.

It’s frequently noctournal, likes the wee small hours of the morning, when the whole wide world is fast asleep.

Revision is like parenting; it’s a process that has no real end. I never stop revising. I admit to a very occasional frisson of pleasure, when I look back at something, but then grab a pencil and make a mark in the margin, in the book, shaking my head, gritting my teeth, wondering, always wondering how I could not have made it better.

Aren’t you lucky!!! Next week you get Tour entries from the marvelous Barrie Jean Borich and Joe Harrington! See below and visit their websites.

Barrie Jean Borich is the author of Body Geographic (University of Nebraska Press/American Lives Series). Her previous book, My Lesbian Husband (Graywolf), won the ALA Stonewall Book Award. Her work has been cited in Best American Essays and Best American Non-Required Reading and she’s currently working on a book-length essay about repurposed industrial landscapes, urban joy, and riding her bicycle on the mean streets of Chicago. Borich was the first creative nonfiction editor of Hamline University’s Water~Stone Review and is currently a member of the creative writing faculty of the English Department/MA in Writing & Publishing Program at Chicago’s DePaul University, where she’s developing Slag Glass City, a creative nonfiction and new media journal focused on sustainability, identity and the arts in urban environments. Borich earned her MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop and lives now with her spouse Linnea a few blocks from Lake Michigan in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, which was recently voted the most “incomparable” gayborhood in the world.

Joseph Harrington is the author of Things Come On (an amneoir) (Wesleyan Univ. Press 2011), a mixed-genre work relating the twinned narratives of the Watergate scandal and his mother’s cancer; it was a Rumpus magazine Poetry Book Club selection. He is the author of the chapbooks Earth Day Suite (Beard of Bees 2010) and Of Some Sky (Bedouin, forthcoming), was well as the critical work Poetry and the Public (Wesleyan 2002). Harrington’s creative work has appeared in Hotel Amerika, Rumpus, Atticus Review, BathHouse, 1913: a journal of forms, No Tell Motel, With+Stand, Otoliths, Fact-Simile, and P-Queue, among others. He is the recipient of a Millay Colony residency and a Fulbright Distinguished Chair, and is currently Professor of English at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.