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What makes a writer?
The real question, then, is: What makes a writer? Unfortunately, a few sentences cannot answer that. A writer is made by writing, and by reading, and by living: going to work, and eating, and being bored, being loved and being hurt, being held by your mother (or not), by sleeping, by waking up from bad dreams, by erasing one sentence, and rewriting it, erasing it again. All that, you see, cannot be summed up in a jacket flap.
Stumbled upon an old article by Edan Lepucki, this one about author bios and including (or not) details about non-writing achievements and jobs. I was interested in the whole thing, but I especially liked this little ditty.
“My favorite book this year was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I won’t even bother describing its plot (but, okay: man’s wife goes missing, he’s accused of murdering her, did he?, etc.). You’ve already read it, or you’ve been meaning to, or you just want everyone to stop talking about it already! But what can I do? It’s not my fault that the most popular girl at the dance is also the coolest and the smartest and the funniest and the sexiest; plus she’s got blood under her fingernails and one helluva snarl: ferocious, seductive, ironic and dark. If you haven’t danced with her already, why not? You aren’t scared, are you?”—Edan Lepucki’s feminist Year in Reading, folks.
“I’d say Wolitzer has written 'a novel of ideas' if said novel weren’t so engaging. (In my household, the phrase, “a novel of ideas,” is followed by an eye-roll. Such books are made for humorless people who don’t like television, candy, and/or dancing.) I read the book in four days, hushing anyone who tried to speak to me as I finished a paragraph or chapter, and laughing aloud at various cafes (yeah, I became that person).”—Sing It, Sister! On Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings by Edan Lepucki
“A project that you haven’t yet begun can still glitter in the mind, but as soon as you set it down to paper, the thing is tarnished by the limits of your skill and talent.”—The writing teacher is back! Edan Lepucki on what to do when one reaches a spork in the road.
Brief Interviews with Kickass Women
Here’s some serious awesomeness for you:
“At the same time, while I really respect writers who are able sell themselves and do it all the time, I don’t think I could do it quite as constantly as people like Tao Lin do it. Sometimes I think that overshadows the work itself. As much as I loved the launch, Deena and I spent so much more time on the writing itself and thinking about how we could market it so people could really get a sense of the aesthetic and what the story was. At the end of the day, I really want people to connect with the story and the characters. I don’t want some wacky book tour to overshadow the art.
It’s funny because I have this tumblr blog which I had started purely for entertainment and just to relax. I already wrote about books for The Millions and almost all of my friends talk about books all the time, and on twitter I made friends with all these editing, publishing, bookselling types. I didn’t want tumblr to become that. I wanted to be able to talk about books and my writing if I wanted to, but I also wanted to talk about my dog or whatever. And it turned out that tumblr was one of the best things that happened in terms of If You’re Not Yet Like Me. I sold so many copies to people on tumblr simply by the fact that I was just myself and had made friends on that community and those people are really supportive of each other. I felt like because I was myself and I wasn’t thinking about my brand that that just came across naturally. And that ultimately helped my career, quote unquote. That was a good lesson: just do what you do, and be passionate about it, and be true and that will come across and people will like that.”
“Michael Bay is actually going to film these stories in one continuous take.”
“People often think I have a lot of time on my hands. It’s not like I’m sitting on my couch watching TV all the time. Believe me, I wish that were the case.
In terms of knowing what I was in for financially when I wanted to be a writer, my father is one of the few writers I know who has never had another job. He had a job teaching high school for three years when he graduated from graduate school, around 1968 or so. Last job he ever had. He’s very unusual. I’ve always had to reconcile to myself that I’m not going to have the kind of writerly life my father has: hitting the bestseller list, getting a paycheck with lots of zeroes. I definitely went into writing knowing it was not going to be a cash explosion, and I’m O.K. with that.”
“The reader of literary genre fiction should feel the structure in her body, particularly with short stories. It’s a recognizable rhythm, it’s a shimmering in one’s veins as one moves from opening scene to well-placed background information to the next, more tense scene to that special, oh-so-revealing flashback about the time our protagonist ran over his rubber horse, or the time he knew he was in love with a real horse, or the time he — oh you see what I mean. In the genre of literary fiction, this structure must lead to a moment of revelation, suggested but never explained. The image of our protagonist in a Safeway parking lot, pushing his cart as if he were a cowboy riding a horse, the wind roughing up his hair, the distant neighs of horns in the far off distance. (Can you feel it? I can.) Let’s go ahead and give James Joyce his rightful due for such faintly falling, falling faintly moments of reverie and character change in literary fiction. (Damn that horse! Now I’m sobbing!)”—Edan Lepucki considers literary fiction as a genre ”with certain expected tropes and motifs” over at the Millions. (#1 is “The Long Title.”)
If You're Not Yet Like Me
I read If You’re Not Yet Like Me in bed wearing sweater boot slippers and looking out the window was something I wasn’t doing too often; it was a few weeks ago winter. I write this during the onslaught of spring. There are people pushing strollers with happy looking healthy looking babies in them through sidewalks lined with green things pushing up through dirt; indeed yellow and blue and pink things are already blooming. I saw a cardinal outside my window today, it was jolly and severe.
I write about the surprise, attack, and comfort of a new spring because that is what reading Edan Lupcki’s If You’re Not Yet Like Me was like. A lot of young writers claim to attempt writing in our voice, some are claimed TO write in the new voice of a new generation, a hearkening to what we can expect from literature from here on out. And I will read these writers sometimes and they’ll be unusually funny, and I’ll laugh, or they’ll be unusually empathetic and I’ll cry. But Edan Lepucki is the first I’ve read that didn’t remind me of anything else until I read about her influences. I would compare If You’re Not Yet Like Me to Sheila Heti’s Ticknor, as both are new in the best way, singular, accomplished, and thoughtful works.
Her female protagonists were stirring and avoided cliche altogether. This accomplishment alone disarmed me. But the dialogue Lepucki crafted, the silly situational plots, and the inner workings of her characters were so refreshing that I’ll be reading anything she publishes. Lepucki captured something other writers try to capture, and it felt like the familiarity of the strangeness of new spring, a recognition of what something should be like, but surprise at it finally arriving.
“The life of a writer isn’t just about producing work, it’s about showing that work to others: agents, editors, and most importantly, readers. It’s about hearing NO again and again and again, and still turning on the computer, opening the journal, and getting back to work.”— —Edan Lepucki, from her new column “Ask The Writing Teacher” (via The Millions)
“Sometimes she drove past her father's building, a big gray stucco box on a block with complicated parking restrictions, one street sign qualifying the next until you threw your hands up and drove away. Her father had moved to a place intolerant of strangers, she thought. Visitors, even.”—
Edan Lepucki, “Take Care of That Rage Problem” (from McSweeney’s 37).
(I’m a big fan of literary descriptions of arcane parking procedures—the other one in recent memory comes from Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, and it’s a doozy.
This one is pretty great, too. “[O]ne street sign qualifying the next” is top drawer. Nicely done, author-who-is-also-on-Tumblr.)