Today, Claire recorded the first part of our film’s score at Jack Straw Studios. I am so immensely proud of her and the amazing work she’s done. I can’t wait for you all to hear this music! Our movie is honored to have it. (at Jack Straw Productions)
I spent all of today sitting in the middle of a pile of transcript clippings, watching interview footage, trying to procure archival materials from museums, and making chicken consommé.
At the end of the day, I feel very productive: I have enough broth to use in homemade soups for the next two months. The other film-related stuff? It won the day. We’ll see how I do tomorrow.
In other, non-soup news: HAPPY OCTOBER!
Hi Jess! It’s nice to meet you here on Tumblr. I’m sure I met you at one of the girls’ parties over the years (there was a pirate themed one I helped out with years ago for maryksalcedo.) And is the Ian you speak of: ian-denning? I know him here on Tumblr too! I love Tumblr. I’m excited to see more and more Seattle writers and artists jump on and get involved sharing art and prose here. And you should make sure you check out Hugo House in October during LitCrawl.
And yeah, your art looks amazing. I don’t know if you already have a web comic in the works, but if not, you should. Your drawings are great and you have a fun sense of humor that goes with them.
Thanks for finding me and sending me this note! And to everyone who isn’t me or Jess… follow Jess!
The Eternal Struggle
All wisdom in the world comes from Calvin & Hobbes.
Extra innings! #mariners #baseballUpdate: my sister Emily treated the whole family to an impromptu game tonight. It was incredible, but it’s the most out of doors Vasant and I have been in three weeks trying to get over this bronchitis.
We yelled and whooped and now… the cough is back harder than ever. Well, it was worth it. We got to see tumblr loves Jules, Cody, and the Helm’s Deep clan today. We got a lot of work done on the film this afternoon. It was a big, exhausting day, and now we’re home to keep editing on the documentary, instead of sleeping, because we have a huge deadline coming.
We might never get well, but we are having fun.
1. Why Write?
When I was little, before I could write, I told stories. Mom says I’d get up and crawl in her lap and tell her these elaborate dreams and she could always tell when the actual dream had ended and I was taking over the narrative there in her lap and spinning it into a full-on tale. Writing was the evolution of this habit. I write and film because I was telling stories as soon as I could talk.
For fashion? For film? At home? I’m not sure what this question is supposed to be about. I have a classy but comfortable home. I’ve always liked that feeling of a beautiful place that also feels inviting. People I used to bring to my parents’ house always said that’s what our home felt like. I think I may’ve adopted that into everything about me. Classy but comfortable. I’m not inelegant, but I’m not stuffy. In my home, you’ll find sophistication, but you’d feel comfortable taking a nap. I hope in my art you’d find that too: a sophistication in the prose or cinematography, but an intimacy and a heart that makes you feel a part of the piece. I can’t speak for my fashion. I wear a lot of soft dresses and capey cardigans lately. I can’t tell if thats sophisticated and welcoming, or just lazy and slightly appealing if you’re into that sort of curvy, cotton scene.
For fiction (my novel and the short stories I write,) I tell myself the story over and over until I know it. Storytelling is what I’m truly gifted at, writing is something I constantly work towards. Once I know the story, wandered through my imagination and placed every character, pictured all the big moments, I find someone new to tell it to and see if I can get them excited about it. If I can, then the story works, and I sit down and outline the plot, figure out what scenes need to take place to get from beginning to end, create musical playlists to write to for the different themes (loss, discovery, love, grief, anger) and then start writing. I find out so much about my characters and where they live and what they’re like in the writing process itself, but it’s the broad storytelling at the beginning that is the necessary compass I need to even get to that prose stage.
For nonfiction (whether these are nonfiction essays or my documentary,) I start with a question and then learn as much as I can. I read everything I can get my hands on, listen to those that know more than me, and wait for the story to reveal itself. This might sound obvious, but I’ve met people who go into stories like this deciding what the story is before they listen to those who are living it, or cramming their past fit into a narrative they want to tell.
Once I feel I’ve learned all I can, I fall back into the same pattern as with my fiction: tell the story to myself over and over until it’s compelling. Then I tell it to someone else and see if I can make it compelling to them as well. Then I outline, break down the scenes and begin to write.
4. At the moment?
99% of my time this year has been consumed by the film, Promised Land. Nothing but the film will be worked on until November at least. Festival deadlines are looming. I’ve got about four short stories I’ve been tinkering with for the last couple of years whenever there’s a breath on the film and I’m not in the mood to plumb my neuroses for one of the many personal essays I’m working on.
I’m pretentious and I’m poor. Too literal and too absurd. Too serious. Not serious enough. Literary snob. Weird comic-obsessed nerd. Person of faith. Not religious enough. Skeptic. Seeker. Distrustful of government. Democrat. Too talkative. Too shy. Alcoholic. Rarely drinks at parties (you wouldn’t believe how many people tell me that I make them uncomfortable by not doing that.) Melodramatic. Overconfident. Anxious.
These are the top ranked shortcomings that have been suggested to me by friends, co-workers, family and acquaintances over the years. They are all possibly true. They’re not what I see as shortcomings.
All my shortcomings have strengths to them and a ton of my strengths come with natural flipsides that can be shortcomings, either if I let them get away from me or just in the eyes of people who see the worst rather than the best in me. I don’t view making mistakes as shortcomings, because you’re human and if you learn from them, you’re not likely to repeat them. The things that do repeat tend to be a part of me that will stay, for better or worse. The truly bad parts of me, the parts of me that used to hurt others, were tamed a long time ago. Some were completely banished, like my out of control temper; others, like my depression, will always be with me but are well-managed and honestly, like I said above, come with so many advantages that it’s hard to see it as a shortcoming. Depression is awful, but I can’t imagine my art or ability to empathize with others, or understand the way light and hope works without that natural darkness in me. I accept my shadow and if I can’t banish it, make it work for me.
I’m trying to stop inviting shame into my life is what I’m basically saying. This section isn’t as relevant to the author as to the artist, and I don’t know if I got too personal or was too defensive.
The only thing I should ever really feel bad about is my height. In my heart, I’m at least ten feet tall and life is naturally setup to be a disappointment when you’re not as tall as you picture yourself. I’m constantly looking up at people and sighing to myself, “Oh right. I’m down here.”
6. A writer is?
Easily distracted. But I’m giving myself an excuse for taking quizzes today because I’m sick.
Tag! You’re it: erikaswyler, washuta, clairesalcedo, tomfjord, jennhoney (for your art, although you’re also a damn fine writer), johncabrera (for writing or directing or both,) helms-deep (same as John,) and new follower jjjiraffe (I looked at your art and it’s amazing so I’d love to know your process too. Also, welcome!)
So both Jennifer and Rhia have tagged me in the music meme going around. The rules: “You can tell a lot about a person from the music they listen to. Put your music device on shuffle and write the first 20 songs that play without skipping. Tag 10 people afterwards.”
These are the twenty that came up, but I decided to go a bit further than just listing them. I dumped them into a playlist, tracked down the right version on the internet (sorry for the cheesy images that might accompany the YouTube versions,) and wrote about some of my favorites.)
“The Snow" - Claire Salcedo
“Hyper-Ballad” - Björk
One of the songs that has defined me, does define me and will always define me.
“Cuando Sali de Cuba” - Celia Cruz
I adore Celia Cruz. If you don’t know her, she’s the Latin American Ella Fitzgerald. Possibly better.
“Requiem pour un con” - Serge Gainsbourg
Unbelievably cool French jazz/pop from the sixties.
“Under the Knife” - The Rural Alberta Advantage
Their whole album Departing is one of my favorites over the last several years.”Tornado ‘87” is my favorite song on this album, but this is my second favorite.
“Orono Park” - The Wilderness of Manitoba
Apparently I have two Canadian provinces referenced on this playlist and because this song is pure magic. It’s twilight trapped in harmonies and strings. You can see the amber sun lighting up the tips of long grasses bobbing to rhythm of this song.
“My Favorite Things” - John Coltrane
One of my favorite things. Duh.
“Break” - Fugazi
My favorite Fugazi song. I used to put this album on and drive for hours at night, back when gas was cheap enough that driving aimlessly was an acceptable habit for a young, stupid kid. I hear this song and I immediately picture orange streetlights and flashing white stripes disappearing under my car on the highway.
“48” - Sunny Day Real Estate
One of my gateway bands into emo as a kid, because I’m officially old. There. I said it. Do the kids even call emo a thing now, or is it just relegated to the hipster nostalgia music bin?
“Lilacs, Op. 21, No. 5” - Sergei Rachmaninov
One of my favorite “wake-up” songs to play while getting ready for the day.
“A Praise Chorus” - Jimmy Eat World
Still one of my favorite songs on one of my favorite albums. Listening to this song, this album makes me feel less alone and connected to the whole of who I am and where I’ve been.
“Dumb Like That” - Vroom
Because I’ve been dumb like that a lot in my life, in relationships and friendships, although some from my past would be quick to point out that I’ve also been the girl in the song as well. We all get hurt. This is still one of my favorite songs to sing. The hurt in the vocals pulls at the heart and its a release to belt out.
“Let Down” - Radiohead
My very first best friend gave me this song as a gift. Every time I get to 3:40 in the song I still cry because of who we were when the song found us.
“Chain of Fools” - Aretha Franklin
Badass bitch song. A song to sing when you’re finally ready to start growing up and stop letting unhealthy people position you in their lives.
“Synthetica” - Metric
I found this song as I really got to work on an essay about being put on Adderall off of a misdiagnosis when I was 18. I wish I’d had this song then. Wasn’t a fan of synthetic solutions then, but I didn’t have the words or the nerve to refuse what I’d been put on.
“In Years to Come” - Thrice
The first love song I truly loved. Growing up, love songs were something I wanted to be about me. That’s how you usually view those songs and films as a kid. You see yourself in the one pursued, and those early songs expressed the way I wanted to be loved. This was the first song that captured how I wanted to LOVE someone else. It’s visceral and intense and makes me think of this painting, and few songs make me think of art like that.
“John Hurt” - Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Most recently acquired song on the list. I am so in love with this band, and they’re named after a The Office quote, so why wouldn’t I be? This band holds my heart under their drum pedal.
“Quiet Dog” - Mos Def
Sexy song on a sexy playlist.
“A Friend I Had” - Aaron Sprinkle
I bought this album at a going-out-of-business sale on my 21st birthday, a birthday marked not only for it’s passage into adulthood but also by the fact that I spent it alone. On the drive home from the store, I heard this song and began to cry. This became one of five songs I’d listen to every year the morning of my birthday. The words sink in more each year.
“Stardust” - Nat King Cole
I’ve always loved and been afraid of this song. I don’t know why the fear has been there, but it has been since I heard this first as a child. It gives me the chills. Feels odd for this to pop up on the threshold of summer. Nat King Cole is autumn music.
“Rusalka, Op. 114: ‘Mesicku na nebi hlubokém’”- Renee Fleming, Antonín Dvořák
One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite operas, after anything by Wagner, or course.
“Somewhere North” - Caedmon’s Call
One of the five birthday songs I mentioned earlier. I was sent away when I was 18. Part of the story I mentioned in the footnotes on “Synthetica.” This was my angry, longing cry from the South where I had been exiled and I listen to it every year because “my mind is [still] somewhere North of here.”
Thanks, Jennifer and Rhia, this was actually pretty fun, even though I went about it in a super complicated, nerdy way. I guess that’s what made it so fun? I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you want to join in, tag me back and let me know so I can read your list too.
John recently tagged me in this, but I’m cheating and reblogging the one I listed earlier this summer. I honestly have been too sick to drive anywhere other than the doctor’s for the last week and half, so I haven’t played anything. Just sleeping and working (with The League autoplaying on Netflix in the background.) In my defense, The League is really funny.
Still sick with bronchitis. Taking care of myself with early evenings in bed with books, ginger EVERYTHING, and tomato soup in teacups.
Post rainstorm sunset.
Two weeks of bronchitis and I’ve managed to convince the dog that we speak the same language now. I bark, Lilo barks, Vasant barks. I can tell she misses the sound of English, but much prefers that we’re all finally communicating equally.
She’ll be disappointed when we switch back to non-coughing English.
In other, non-sick news, this week we approved Claire’s score and she set about finding amazing musicians, and booked studio time at Jack Straw. It’s an amazing score and we can’t wait to set it to the film. One more post-production hurdle jumped!
Hope you’re all doing well. We’re only a couple days away from fall! It’s going to be 90 on Sunday, but we can only hope that means rain is on its way.
johncabrera replied to your photo “Filming Charles Baxter talking about the craft of plot at Hugo House’s…”
Plot is the unpopular kid in fiction, these days. Character is the current darling.
So much of the literary fiction I’ve read lately is lacking character too. I’ve heard both derided so much in favor of style that sometimes it’s hard not to despair over the state of literary fiction (of course, there are books that are full of great examples of both, some that I’ve been lucky enough to read this summer, but they’re still so sneered at.)
One person, who went through a very elite literary MFA program, told me she’d never read Shakespeare and didn’t intend to because it’s only considered literary because it’s old, and that contemporary critics of Shakespeare pointed out his plays were too plot driven (screw you, Ben Jonson.) She then turns around and asked if I’d read David Foster Wallace and went on about the beauty of the incomprehensible in his works, and I just stood there dumbfounded. She had actually been through seven years of higher education and not read Shakespeare, but been instructed instead in Joyce and Wallace (I love their work, but come on. Start with the fundamentals.) The thought that today’s writers are being taught that Shakespeare is too plot-focused and that style should be praised above all nauseates me.
Fortunately, the other night’s event was fantastic. Charles Baxter said so much great stuff, ripping at the literary establishment for eschewing plot and then diving into a master class on developing good, character-driven plot.
One of my favorite quotes that night was:
"Secrecy leads to plots. [They] contain massive amounts of negative energy. The narrative reveals and heals." -Charles Baxter
I love that. “The narrative reveals and heals.”
badooney replied to your photo “Lilo and I share a trait of being both small and large depending on…”
I’m glad you wrote this list. It’s always nice to hear what you have to say. I appreciate your insights and I hope things are going well. : )
Thanks. I appreciate that. Depression is hard to write about, but for whatever it’s worth now that he’s gone, when Robin Williams talked about his, it helped me as a kid and was something I thought of often as I grew up. Being affected by that kind of transparency creates a responsibility, no matter how awkward, to be transparent yourself, even if I’m not writing about things like this as much as I could be in order to fulfill that responsibility.
Things are going well, though. The funny thing about depression is that it strikes irregardless of whether things are going well. I think writing about it (as well as reaching out) is helpful, and hopefully might be helpful to read. All this is to say, I am really thankful you left your comment.
razadeluna replied to your photo “Vasant and I are both sick today with a bad cough. Luckily, Lilo…”
caffeinatedcephalopod replied to your photo “Vasant and I are both sick today with a bad cough. Luckily, Lilo…”
*hugs* i love you so ♥♥♥ xoxoxoxo
palmtreepalmtree replied to your photo “Vasant and I are both sick today with a bad cough. Luckily, Lilo…”
Aww, feel better!
helms-deep replied to your photo “Vasant and I are both sick today with a bad cough. Luckily, Lilo…”
So are we! Ugh. This September cold sucks! Feel better soon, friend.
jennhoney replied to your photo “Vasant and I are both sick today with a bad cough. Luckily, Lilo…”
sending esoup! get good rest <3
Thank you all!!! I’m feeling a bit better today. The cough I’ve got has been kicking my butt all week, but it’s not as severe today. I might even have enough energy to go looking for the aurora borealis tonight (we’re supposed to get a chance to view them tonight and tomorrow!) I hope all of you are feeling good. Change of season colds can be the worst.
Hopefully I’ll turn a corner soon. Until then, keep sending all the e-soup you can, light on the e-cumin.
Filming Charles Baxter talking about the craft of plot at Hugo House’s Word Works series. This is one of the best craft talks yet in the second year of this series. Plot is too often looked down on in literary fiction, and yet, it’s what is sorely lacking from most of the offerings in the literary realm.
Vasant and I are both sick today with a bad cough. Luckily, Lilo senses that and has crawled up on the bed to act as our pillow. It’s adorable, but what would be really adorable would be if she knew how to make soup. I need soup.