My writing life


My friend Adrianne Kalfopoulou lives in Greece. She’s the author of the soon to be released Ruin about the threads that bind a Greek woman in another country to Greece, the threads that bring one back to one’s homeland and the chaos that Greece has become. It’s about colonialism and post colonialism, it’s about what’s left of a country when it tries to become something it is not. It’s about what’s glorious about Greece and how the personal and collective intertwine in a country best known for myths.

Why do I write what I do?
It’s hard to say. Stories creep up on me in the dark. I write stories that talk to me at night. Stories that keep me up at night. When I work on opera librettos, I try to pick subjects that want to be told. I don’t think it’s worth diving into a story unless I’m crazy for it, unless it’s haunting me.

How does my work differ from that of other writers working in the same genre?

That’s hard to say because our work is built on the work of others. I like to think that the work of Anne Carson and C.D. Wright are inside my fingers when I’m writing. I like to think that my work is lyric and narrative at the same time, but becoming a writer is always a work in progress.

How does my writing process work?
I spend a lot of time when I should be writing just avoiding writing. When people say that writing just pulls to them and they can’t escape it, I don’t know what they’re talking about. A story pulls me but I wrestle with putting it down on paper. I have a story that I want to write, but I can knock about and avoid that story for an awfully long time. The writing that pulls at me is blogging and writing for Huffington Post and librettos. That is fun, it’s like finger painting. But the writing that’s a lot more work is poetry and creative non fiction especially the lyric memoir pieces. I just finished a memoir and I’m sure that more editing will be necessary, but when it was finished, I drank champagne, the story had finally poured out and I was ready to celebrate. The more serious the writing, the closer it is to my heart and skin, the harder it is to get myself to do it. The more distant it is, the easier it is to write because it’s writing with my head more than my heart. The writing of the mind is smart and plastic. The writing of the heart is messy and sometimes leaves the writing slipping into slippery stuff.

What am I working on now?
Like Adrianne, I am superstitious about talking about work in progress, but I have a couple projects I can discuss. I am finishing the editing on a few librettos. One is called Gargoyles and is a children’s opera I’m writing with a composer named Julia Adolphe. It’s riffing on Alice in Wonderland and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I have a final revision to do on an opera in progress, The Inner Circle based on the life of Dr. Kinsey with composer Daniel Felsenfeld. It may be the sexiest opera ever made. Then there’s a video opera with composer Michael Roth called Ravi’s Dream based on Tyler Clementi’s suicide off the George Washington Bridge as a result of being videotaped having sex with a man in his dorm room, and then there’s the Che Guevara opera with Armando Bayola which is pretty much done but may need some tweaking. Librettos need ongoing work until they you see them on stage. This year I expect to keep working on all of these librettos. I’ve got a new book of poetry cooking but I doubt I’ll make much headway on it until summer as I’ve got two poetry books coming out this year: The Goldilocks Zone with the University of New Mexico Press and Echo Light with Red Mountain Press. Starting this week, all my energy is going into promoting those two books. Touring takes a lot of energy especially if you have a full time job. When you have a book coming out, that’s where your creative energy goes until it’s fully launched.

My friend Nicelle Davis has a new book out called Becoming Judas which is somewhere between a romp and a mystical journey into how myth making threads personal narrative and cultural icons. I highly recommend her books of poetry: Circe from Lowbrow Press and Becoming Judas from Red Hen Press.

Published in: on February 1, 2014 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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