March 31, 2014

Bonnie ZoBell Talks About Her Writing Process

I'm so honored to be part of a #MyWritingProcessTour, where writers talk about their work.  I don't know about you, but this fascinates me! Today, the fabulous Bonnie ZoBell is visiting here.  Before we get started, a little about Bonnie, and make sure to pre-order her great new collection, What Happened Here

Bonnie ZoBell lives in a casita in San Diego with her husband, dogs, cats, and many succulents. She is the author of What Happened Here and The Whack-Job Girls. She's a recipient of an NEA Fellowship and a notable story included in the storySouth Million Writers Award, among other awards, and her publications are numerous. Bonnie is one of those amazingly supportive writers with such subtle and moving work that I seek out every time I get a chance. If you don't know her, you should!   

Bonnie ZoBell: My Writing Process:  Blog Tour
Today I'm taking part in the #MyWritingProcessTour. It's so interesting and instructive to see how other writers go about their work. I was nominated by my friend, Susan Tepper, writer extraordinaire.  Be sure to get a copy of Susan's latest book, The Merrill Diaries, beautifully written and a thought-provoking romp through the U.S. and parts of Europe.
The awkward part about writing this blog post is that at the moment I don't have much of a writing process because besides teaching, I'm in the process of birthing my newest book, What Happened Here: a novella & stories. I'm doing everything I can to ease her passage into the world, making sure she's nurtured in every possible way, and giving her a good wholesome introduction with the hope people will be as good to her as they've been to me. At the moment, it's on pre-release and available only on my site, but she'll be officially launched on May 3rd. What I'll do here is write about my process when I'm writing. I warn you: This process isn't entirely the healthiest for children and other living things, in other words younger writers. Don't show this to your students.
What am I working on?
I've gone back to an old novel, most recently called Animals Voices—which I worked on for many years—because I think I've finally figured out a solution to a problem I was having. The story starts out with some young kids, the boy very curious about the unusual girl, after he gets over her strangeness and the way all his friends make fun of her, because she can communicate with animals. They grow up and marry and he is diagnosed with AIDS in the early years. Communication is difficult when no one will acknowledge the disease, probably even more so than communicating with owls. Then I'm going to go back to another novel that I also spent years on called Bearded Women, about a woman who goes to an electrologist because she's hirsute. There are class issues between her and the electrologist, and it comes down to the main character needing to pluck other parts of her persona as well.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I'd call what I write literary fiction, though I'd like to write more magical realism. Oh, give me anything to read that contains beautiful language and a good story, and I'll devour it. Perhaps mine differs because of my love of setting. I'm thrilled going back to Animal Voices, getting the chance to revisit the southern part of Del Mar in San Diego, land filled with an estuary, all kinds of unique crawly life, and the magnificent Torrey Pine trees. These gnarled pines grow crooked because they're on the bluffs right above the ocean and therefore get a lot of strong winds. They'd be creepy if they weren't so beautiful.
I'm no minimalist, though I try to be as spare as I can. I like to think that sometimes I'm successful at writing beautiful, in-depth descriptions that let you see images in life in a unusual way without going overboard. 
I'm whimsical.
Why do I write what I do?
I write because I love language and because writing fiction helps me figure out the world. I'd be lost without it.
How does my writing process work?
This is the unhealthy part: I'm a binge writer. I can go for days, weeks, even a couple of years and do nothing but write. I ignore my husband and animals, my hair gets dirty, my bills don't get paid, and I wear clothes that should have been recycled some time ago if I get really passionate and possessed about what I'm writing. But it takes a toll. So after doing this for a while, it's hard to allow myself to go back there—there's so much deprivation. Unfortunately, the other side of it is that I can also go for a long time not writing at all. That's where I am right now while I promote and regroup from my collection. But I'm daydreaming about those Torrey Pine trees

Bonnie is tagging the lovely Myfanwy Collins, author of  Echolocation, I Am Holding Your Hand, and The Book of Laney, and James Claffey, author of Blood a Cold Blue, as well as myself.

I'll be posting my responses to these questions next Monday, and I'll let you know those writers I'm tagging.  Stay tuned!!

March 19, 2014

What Lorde Has that Miley Doesn’t

Pop Star Lorde by Faerwin Wallpapers

People crave authenticity. What do I mean by authenticity?  I mean things that feel real, that feel like they mean something, you know?  In our wonderfully overabundant media existence, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing but games and masks and people whose motives are sketchy. They’re only trying to sell something or to get ahead.  All that has its own charm, to be sure, but authenticity is what changes a run-of-the-mill wizard story into Harry Potter, an avid amateur singer into Adele.

I was struck by this as I watched Lorde’s “Royals” video.  It’s the quality of her voice and the way she stares into the camera, not playing to stereotypes.  It’s her beauty and the beauty of her voice.  It’s the young men just doing what they do.  It’s charming and heart-wrenching without being in your face, and it defies stereotypes.  It runs the gamut of emotions.  In a word, it is authentic. 

It’s interesting to contrast this video with Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.”  She has a beautiful voice and she’s an amazing artist, but it feels inauthentic, you know?  She’s trying too hard.  She’s trying to fit conventions that came way before her and will continue on into the foreseeable future.  She’s trying to stretch herself to be a phenomenon.

Lorde is a phenomenon, while Miley is trying to be one. People sense authenticity, even if they can’t quite name it.

It’s a great reminder to “be yourself.”  It’s such a hard thing to do, to embrace who you are and where you’re from, even and especially those parts of yourself that are embarrassing and less attractive and less acceptable.  That’s actually where the artistic gold is.  Those places that make you cringe, that make you who you are. 

I remember as a teenager it was particularly hard.  I didn’t know who I was.  How can you be yourself when you don’t know who that self is.  But now I know part of it, at least, is owning where you come from, listening to yourself and noting those things you love and you hate, and “running screaming toward the fear” as Steve Almond says.

The art that we create deserves nothing less than our true, authentic,  flawed but glowing selves.

Now here’s Lorde.

PS It's the reason why this is so charming.

March 14, 2014

Beauty Seeped Into Your Bones

Have you ever wondered how the landscapes of your childhood influence your art?  Whether its beauty seeped into your bones?

I have the distinct pleasure of stopping by SunnyRoomStudio today with a guest blog ("The Cool of the Evening After the Baking of the Day") specifically about this question.  Daisy, the propietor of this wonderful space, is such a generous and thoughtful person.  She regularly makes my day with her posts and her cheery hellos on Twitter.  She is one of the amazing people who gathers and bolsters all those around her.  I can't thank her enough.

So please stop by and check it out!  Here's a taste: 
And so the landscape of my childhood, its beauty and loneliness, is inextricably linked to my art, whether it’s writing or photography or something else. It’s the reason I am an artist. And it’s not just because of the beauty ~ it’s also the deep ambivalence it created in me.

March 12, 2014

The Winner of the 'How to Be a Man' Virtual Book Tour Gift Card Giveaway!

And the winner is ....

Cheryl Hart, a book-hoarding sweet-tea-lovin' southern writer from Georgia!! 

Over the course of the month-long book tour, we received a whopping 9,700 entries for the How to Be a Man Virtual Book Tour Gift Card Giveaway.  I'm so sorry you didn't win, but I'm thrilled to be able to send one Cheryl's way! 

And I'm so grateful to everyone who made it possible. Thank you for entering, and thanks to Roxanne Rhoads at Bewitching Book Tours for setting it up and making the book tour possible. 

March 11, 2014

Amazing Book Tour Statistics

Yesterday was the last official day of my How to Be a Man Virtual Book Tour.  I’ve had a wonderful time! Thanks to all the wonderful hosts who had me on their blogs and a special thanks to Roxanne Rhoads at Bewitching Book Tours for her valiant efforts on my behalf.  She rocks! 

Although the official virtual tour is over, I’ll still be popping up here and there, so stay tuned. 

Is it wrong to admit I’m a bit tired of the sound of my own voice?  Hopefully I haven’t inundated you so much that you are too! I’m really excited to get back to doing some other creative projects, like posting photos for my on-again off-again Project 365.

Some amazing statistics:

  • On the  Rafflecopter $100 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card giveaway that ends in 13 hours, I’ve had 9260 entries! Isn’t that amazing?
  • On the Goodreads worldwide giveaway of 20 books, 869 people entered.
  • In the past month, I’ve stopped at at least 21 wonderful sites, including web TV, radio shows, and newspapers, and I have at least five more stops coming up.
  • I’ve gotten wonderful reviews, including a kickass Kirkus review, and generous people have stopped by to review or rate How to Be a Man on Amazon and Goodreads and Barnes and Noble.  (It’s not too late.  If you liked the collection, I would be so grateful if you’d stop by and say a few words about it!)

Above all else, I’m so grateful for your kind generosity!  I hope How to Be a Man is a good read and is its own reward of all you kind attention.

March 7, 2014

In Which I Dish on Old Boyfriends (Not Really)

I am having such fun on the How to Be a Man Virtual BookTour.  Yesterday,  I had two great stops on the tour.  I stopped by Lissette E. Manning’s blog, TheRandom Musings of a Writer.  Thank you, Lissette! 

She just nailed the book in her review, I thought:

While it may look like the stories are randomly thrown together, they’re not. They center around the theme of how to assert yourself in any situation. To make decisions based on what moves you and what’s in your heart. Some might consider the title to touch on the subject of how to actually be a man. To live life through a man’s eyes, but it’s far from that. The title itself is used in a metaphorical sense.

I also had the distinct pleasure to chat with Desmond Haas at the Romance Radio Network.  He’s a wonderful writer and a great reviewer, and the conversation ranged from how How to Be a Man relates to romance to why I broke up with my boyfriends.  (Admit it ~ you're curious!)  Thank you, Desmond, for the great conversation and the thought-provoking questions! 


Click here to listen to the interview.

I can’t thank you both enough!!

March 5, 2014


Still recovering from my wonderful conference and trying to get caught up.  In the meantime, puppies!

March 3, 2014

A WebTV Interview with Julia Widdop, Talk Story TV

I was so honored to visit Julia Widdop at Talk Story TV last week!  I didn't have a chance to post then ~ as I was at AWP ~ but I wanted to make sure and thank Julia for her wonderful energy and all the great things she does for books, and I also wanted to make sure to post the video.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a few glitches, but you can listen to it, if nothing else. Again, thank you so much, Julia!

Today I'm visiting Bertena at Midnight Musings for the How to Be a Man Virtual Book Tour.  I'm so thankful she's hosting me! Everyone's been so gracious.  So make sure to check that out.

And for the rest of the week, in addition to my whistlestops and even a radio interview, I'll be posting the AWP writers conference wrap up.  I'll post generally about the conference and then about each panel and reading I went to.  I just got back today, and I'm exhausted, but it's been so great ~ I can't tell you how much!! Well, I will tell you ~ tomorrow. There'll be a lots of good information on craft and on promotions and on the great writers who are hard at work today.