Holistic health

How hard is it to write?

Sometimes it’s;

Look: I am certified online in holistic health.

I’m not a technology enthusiast. In fact, I’m a technology resistor.

I haven’t actually started the book yet.

Who’s buying books?

I’m actually intelligent.

This isn’t gonna be another Godfather. People into the topic may buy it.

Maybe I’ll put some blood in it. You know, someone’s doing yoga and their legs fall off.

Or maybe I’ll put something sexual in it. You know, there’s always that innuendo with yoga.

People are always getting the sexuality in things.

On “Barcelona, 1972”

I got a story published at Collapsar

I started “Barcelona, 1972” a couple years after asking my mom what it was like to live in Spain under Franco’s rule. “I loved it,” she told me. She meant the country, not the regime. Spain’s beauty stood out in her mind like nothing else about the place. She never said that about many places at all. Definitely not Lincoln, Nebraska or Las Vegas, the two places she grew up.

How factual is the story? I know she lived in Madrid and Barcelona at times from 1969-1972. In one of those cities, she lived in a convent. I think it was Barcelona.

She told me little about Franco, but she livened up when she said she watched a gypsy girl sell candy and gum on the train one day. The girl had a little brother, and the way my mom spoke of those two kids, her memory of them over forty years old, was part nostalgia and part wish that my sister and I were more affectionate toward each other. That will never happen.

The only other fact in the story is that my mom had a friend, Silvana, a local girl. Silvana was cool. I met her once. She aged just like my mom, slow and quiet.

The playwright, the homeless man, the time of day, these were all things I added in to make the story about performance. Everyone’s a performer.

I worked on this story for over a year, mostly revising the last couple paragraphs. Once I got it right, I closed the window and worked on other stuff for a week.

Now that it’s out there, I find that I don’t want to look at the story. I’ll give it a few months and read it. I really hope I’m not disappointed.

Bad goth

In a late-90s interview, The Cure’s Robert Smith explained the influence of alcohol in his songwriting process. To capture certain moods, he’d curate his drinking while working out parts: red wine for gloom, vodka for buoyancy, beer to slow the pace to a dirge. I don’t remember the formulas precisely—I read the interview in high school—but I recall being intrigued.

We’ve all been thinking about how our cultural (rather than literal) consumption affects our work. Maybe in a perfect world we’d be indiscriminate readers with a wide range of interests. But there’s good reason to be selective. Someone who writes short stories might read more short stories to better understand the form. Folks with politically-minded preferences may, like me and Xtina, shy away from books by white men. Often there’s research to be done; my preoccupation with gender has led me to several anthologies of queer nonfiction and poetry.

But what about mood? I don’t recall ever reading a book based solely on how it would make me feel. Without paying much attention to how texts evoke or provoke particular emotions, I sometimes find it difficult—though not impossible—to do the same in my own writing

So much of my nonfiction of late focuses on when I was 19 (I’m 33 now). It was a liminal age; consciously or not, I at last realized I had to grow the fuck up. Apart from the need to curtail my drunken shenanigans, I decided to lean less on my culturally-constructed love of darkness (read: my goth past). Now, without a fully-developed vocabulary to describe that facet of my identity, I often struggle to reconstruct my youthful, nihilistic joy on the page.

I’ve read mostly literary fiction over the years. Little of that canon equipped me to cultivate a goth (as opposed to a gothic) aesthetic. I listened (and still listen) to the classic albums; I wear all black several times a week. Yet there are so many gaps to fill. So I’m putting together a list of everything a good goth kid should have devoured in their teen years. Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, the Weetzie Bat books. Nosferatu, The Crow, The Craft.

To be clear, I’m not interested in injecting my writing with a macabre dreariness. In my mind, a goth aesthetic would be one of—to borrow a phrase coined by Xtina—transgressive glee. The world is irredeemable and meaningless, so put on your eyeliner and a Clan of Xymox record. We’ll dance the night away.



When is it okay to not write?

When you really just want to play games.

When you’re parenting, if you’re parenting. Pets count.

When you’re vicariously stressed for friends going through some shit.

When you have stories submitted and you’re just waiting for the Barbarians rejections.

When you’re done with essays for the minute and want to do an story but you can’t think of how to start it.

When you read that one piece and you’re like, “I will never write as good as this.”

When all your brain juice is consumed by some other bullshit.

When you’re high as fuck and thinking about other things.

When you have nothing on the burner ATM.

When you’re already writing.

Free Writing and Writer’s Block

I’ve been dealing with some annoying writer’s block lately. I am writing here and there, but nothing has gone anywhere. I’ve started a few projects that I quickly abandoned, and I have a longer piece that I’ll probably go back to at some point. At the moment, though, I feel like I’m out of ideas.

So this week I decided to try free writing. I wanted to see if I could shake any ideas loose from my brain. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I’ve been writing for 45 minutes to an hour, taking down whatever comes to mind. And wow, it’s amazing how deep you can get when you’re not censoring yourself! I’m very excited to turn the ideas I came up with into essays. Here are some of them (frequency noted in parentheses; keep in mind this is from 5 writing sessions):

How interesting it is that hyphens are falling out of favor (2): Even for adjectives! This is fascinating! Chicago now recommends “late twentieth-century developments” instead of “late-twentieth-century developments.” I could talk about hyphens all day.

A list of stuff that’s on my desk (2): Mostly piles of grown-up stuff that I should go through but won’t.

The Kennedys, superiority of Bobby to John (2): He could have fixed everything!

Deep Space Nine (4): Not counting the times I mentioned Weyoun the cat.

Breakfast, variations on and excitement for (4): Will I slice a banana into my oatmeal? Or will I have an orange on the side instead? Who can say?

Coffee (5): Sometimes I have regular milk. Sometimes I have almond milk.

How glad I am not to be teaching anymore (8): It is very pleasant to get ready for work in the morning and not feel like I can’t breathe or am going to throw up. Highly recommended.

Feeling old and tired all the time (10): I hurt my back shoveling snow this week, then exacerbated it picking up a heavy trash bag. Google searches for “exercises to strengthen lower back” followed. Most of the models were in their seventies.

Having nothing to write about (11): If I could say something to expand on this point, I wouldn’t be in this situation, would I?

Angela and Weyoun (16): Look at their little faces!


Tennis (22): Why does no one appreciate Novak Djokovic? He’s been the best male player for five years! Five years, people! Roger me no Rogers.


Plotting and Omitting

Everyone in the club seems busy with their own work.

I’m trying to catch up on my list of books to read. I’ve gotten some out of the way, deleted others (priorities, man!), and shuffled some around. Currently also reading some writers on writing. Nothing spectacular to report.

I have eight stories submitted for publication and I’m looking to clean one up and send it off this week.

I’m a firm believer that once you start a story, it can live on its own in your mind first while you look for the right stuff to feed it. If you keep trying, it’ll either grow up to be a middle manager or go wild and turn on its maker.

South Philadelphia Manifesto (Draft)


Guidelines for an emergent poetics:

  1. Everything is possible in outer space, especially loneliness and death.
  2. Indulge nostalgia with care.
  3. I want that good girl faith and a tight little skirt.
  4. Fuck the gender binary.
  5. Guilt follows every action, no matter how well-intentioned.
  6. All boys lack honor.
  7. The compulsion to confess is more interesting than confession itself.
  8. Those who choose corporeality suffer its limitations.
  9. Broken glass everywhere.
  10. Old movies have a curious, generative power.
  11. One must accept the persistent filth of Broad and Snyder.
  12. Never come to terms with the imprecision of memory.