"I dunno he was just very strange, he wanted, he talked with me very clearly and insisting--like intensely looking right at me and at great length but smiling about the simplest commonplace subjects but we both knew we meant everything else that we said-"
Kerouac's The Subterraneans
Writing Process Blog Tour is an exercise that my buddy, the Ultimate Clare Ultimo asked me to be part of. My post is delayed, but my sentiment is current. She was connected to this project through our friend and mentor, Annie Lanzillotto, author of L is For Lion.
I met Annie almost a year ago, during her Women’s Creation Circle series. An old coworker pal of mine connected us because she felt that Annie and I shared the same philosophies and that I would grow as a writer, women, spiritual individual from being around her. For me, Annie re-instilled that I am an artist, first.
“You’ve got to be a crazy person to lock yourself in a room and write all day.” Annie Lanzillotto
Clare and I were a part of this cohort of women and one young man who gathered in a downtown restaurant on 2nd Ave and near 6th street on Sundays, last summer. We all shared our work, our fears, backgrounds, and the responsibilities that kept us from writing. Our name evolved into LOL: Literary Outlaws for Liberation. We had a secret handshake. Sometimes I practice it on the subway while traveling to work.
It had been awhile since I had shared my work in such an intimate setting, probably since college. We were opening up about personal loss and painful transgressions in hopes of putting “our shit on paper” like our sister Gloria Anzaldua told us. Tears were shared, community connections happened and art was offered. I am fortunate for my new, loving friend/survivors/advocates.
The Blog Tour questions and my answers:
1. What are you working on?
There’s two essays on my radar right now. The First is about archetypes. I can see myself standing in front of my recent archetypes/image fixation, with our noses touching. I haven’t opened my eyes yet, but at least we are facing each other. I am taking my concepts of the feminine and masculine damned binary and framing them against my life’s patterns. This has allowed me to unlock very deeply rooted systems and it feels good. All of that translates into my stories about my father, my lovers, and an incredible bowl of chili that I couldn't find the bottom of. I like to think of Annie as a catalyst for some “wicked hard” art therapy.
The other is called “Laundry” and it is about my love, my beacon. This piece is about sadness, as a choice and habit. And the realization that your lover's spirit can unlock any desired irritability. This is not attempt to discount/answer/disrespect mental health issues because I am someone who struggles heavily with depression. But I do want to value the divine spirits that are able to effortlessly lift us out of our darkness.
I write this for my baby.
Cat Power's "The Greatest" inspires this piece and is on heavy rotation.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I tend to write nonfiction...but my stories are similar to some of the fictitious narratives by other black women writers. Stories that tend to be closely related to my own story. Toni Morrison’s Pecola Breedlove from The Bluest Eye wove numerous threads into my context, as is the through line for many black women. These are narratives based on truth - blurring the lines of fiction and nonfiction. A blur that I find so fertile for valuable writing. This is work that raised me. Within my work, I attempt to use allegory and religiosity to deconstruct my racial and sexual identity. My fears, and, at times misguided context, serve as a landscape for my story. So right now, I don’t find my work to be fiction, but sometimes I tell my story like righteous mythology. I enjoy weaving in spirituality to bring clarity to my standpoint and to also develop some of the missing truths in my previous work. Very slowly, this is making my work less complicated and more direct. Friends, peers, and loved ones tend to ask for copies of my work after I have read it at public gatherings. I used to find this to be complimentary but I now I recognize how this magnified lyricism is a shroud for my objective-- my voice. I am working on making things less layered, less intellectual, and more ME. Perhaps, I will begin to write more fiction.
Personal history and geography:
I am queer black ex-ballerina(!) who was raised in Amish country. I moved to New York at 18 to complete my undergraduate education. After college, I spent a lot of time making theater, motherless, living in France, and hiding in my Astoria apartment. I discovered sex that satisfied me…. through men with crooked teeth and women with incredible smiles. I never knew that the intimacy I craved could be liberated through connecting to my femininity...and the femininity of others. I would love to discuss “coming out” by removing the “out” and discussing the extremely delicious “coming.”
And right now, I feel all types of HYPE about beginning the Creative Nonfiction MFA program at Sarah Lawrence this fall.
3. Why do you write what you do?
I Write to heal and create space for others. I write to offer the imagery that I didn’t have or wasn’t ready to behold for a very long time. I write to tell my story.
4. How does your writing process work?
First off, I gotta say, that Clare Ultimo and I are daughters from the same suckling tit or an eccentric breed from similar flesh--worshiping at the altar of our dear Annie Lanzillotto. After reading Clare’s post, I am loving how many connections there are. Specifically our simultaneous belief in Kerouac’s bible of passionate urgencies, “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose.” I have kept that list under my pillow for a decade. In July of 2007, I shared my own list called, "My Beatitudes". Here are two of my faves from his beatnik hum that lives in my mouth when I need some affirmation to roll between my teeth and gums.
be in love with yr life
you are a genius all the time.
In my early twenties, my process was very cerebral and automatic. I would bolt upward and jump out of bed at around 8:30, regardless of whether or not I was hungover, hungry, pissed off, freshly sexed, or freezing. I had an urgency to keep up my schedule. That was 2007 and posting on my blog was a requirement. I would read the news and pick out things that I wanted to write about and pontificate Djuna Barnes style on this blog. Also, I would return to a project, research publishing opportunities or just would write to feel free. After re-reading some of my previous posts, I marvel at the woman that created them. I want Her to walk in the room, I want to look at Her. I am no longer "her". Particles of Her still exist. However, I would like to combine Her confidence with the person I consider to be (for this post!) my evolved self.
But, as I grew older and my demons crept up begging for answers, it became harder to get out of bed. My head and heart were arguing which created an overwhelming space and I would spend hours staring at the ceiling in a waltz with my anxiety. There are years that I sincerely feel were wasted or live within the "fade to black" from the movies. The lights had not turned back on, life wasn't able to be lived....YET.
However, if I had a writing assignment or gig I would plug away at it. #ikonsmagazine
After joining the LOL writing group, my hunger was back. I was ready again. I needed to return as the omnivore that I declared myself to be many moons prior. I knew that I was queer; I just had a different name for it.
To raise the stakes on my ass, I started collaborating with a pal a few years ago. We became cyber pals and exchanged work via email or in written letters. Our collaboration still exists. Her name is Cindy, and I love her. She will be posting to the blogroll, next.
The next writers on my Blogroll are all family members. Here they are:
Nadine Friedman - feminist media critic and photographer, Piscean hermanita who is destined to live FOREVER
Ella Boureau - lesbian writer, editor of In the Flesh Magazine, kindred spirit a al Francais
Cindy Molina - Howell - Poet, photographer, and writing pal and stakeholder in my kinship family of dynamic queers