Tag Archives: reading

Questions Nobody Asks Me About My Novel

cover for TUTTOne of the reasons I enjoy interviews about my writing (other than the most ridiculous ego-tripping reasons, of course) is because it gives me insight into how people are interpreting my work, which is often something new or that I wasn’t creating intentionally. Sometimes an interview veers in an unexpected direction, and then I’m joyful as I get caught up talking about texts and narrative and form and extrapolating into popular culture more generally. But often there are pieces of the story that I think are glaring for readers but that never come up in conversation. So for my love of talking about textuality and literature, I thought I’d go over a few aspects of The Unintentional Time Traveler that haven’t come up in any of my Q&As.

The protagonist’s name(s)—I could answer this self-imposed question in a few different ways. First, “Jackson” is an intentional play on patrilineage, which the character winds up disrupting by choosing at the end to spend a lot of time as Jacqueline instead of in the time of Jackson’s actual life. But more important to me was the iconic use of the name “Jack” as it appears in scads of children’s literature: nursery rhymes, Jack & Jill, Jack & the Beanstalk, Jack Frost, Jack Sprat, etc. It’s almost at the level of generic marker for boys. So I wanted to create a narrative that took the mainstay name and immersed it in a novel that was focused on LGBT themes and characters. I want to see our stories and our lives within this greater mythology and literature, not apart from it. Jack was the perfect moniker to use to make this kind of a statement. And Inman is the name of a family I know from Washington, DC, but it’s also a great double entredre.  Read More…

Why I Wrote The Unintentional Time Traveler

The short answer, of course, is “Because I wanted to.” Last summer at the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Emerging Writer Workshop in Los Angeles, someone asked Sarah Schulman how she figures out if she should “trunk” (meaning put aside) a book project. She may have blinked once or twice before answering, but her response was her classic curtness:

Why would I start any book I didn’t want to finish?

Well played, Ms. Schulman. And of course, it makes sense for a veteran writer and focused activist to say something along those lines. I try to write with confidence. Fortunately, it comes more easily during book number 5 (with two earlier trunked books in a forgotten computer somewhere in my house) than in my first foray for long form. Now if an idea kicks around in my head long enough, I grant it some kind of existence, either as back story, short story, or full-fledged novel.

So it was with The Unintentional Time Traveler. I’ve wondered and pondered my past history as an epileptic for a couple of decades now, trying to process what it meant for a person who didn’t know any differently at the time. I also love time travel stories, everything from H.G. Wells to Dr. Who. The more I tried to come up with reasons to write this story, the more reasons I identified, as if some kind of narrative fission was happening.  That was also a sign that this was a story worth telling and never ever trunking. So here are just a few ideas behind the book: Read More…

Ode to Libraries

Carnegie Free LibraryI often insist to people who ask about my early education that Catholic school was just fine for preparing me in the ways of the three R’s, even if I did believe, upon high school graduation, that the world consisted of Catholics, Jews, and protesters. I could diagram my sentences, perform passable algebraic calculations, type 85 words per minute, and name every state capitol city (Trenton! Montpelier! Madison!). But more importantly I had a curiosity for learning and wanted to get the hell out of Dodge. For while parochial school had some fine qualities for me the student, it certainly lacked in other areas, like its library.

I read through most of the sections by 5th grade, and I only started at that school as a third-grader. Soon enough I was pestering my mother to get a Princeton Public Library card, and devouring books on maritime history, the American Civil War, young adult fiction, and anything by Stephen King. Now there were too many books for me to read, but I took that as a challenge instead of demotivation. Nothing suited a precocious child more than the idea that the world’s knowledge is just at their fingertips. Read More…

Useless Fears About Reading One’s Work

in other words bookstore frontI’m reading this afternoon at In Other Words, the last nonprofit feminist bookstore in the country. The one featured in Portlandia, but I won’t mention that today when I’m there, in case they’re sore about it. As is typical for me and my neuroses, I have some worst-case scenarios in my head that won’t leave me alone, even though I know they’re extremely improbable. Here is the list of “what ifs” that I’ve dwelt on so far:

1. I will get motion sickness from trying to figure out how to use my new bifocals that I throw up on myself or the audience.

2. A recent rain in Portland will create a puddle over by the electrical panel and my mic will electrocute me when I’m talking about intimate like packing or breasts.

3. My ex will show up to challenge everything I wrote about him like I’m the next and more disappointing version of James Frey.

4. My bow tie will be too tight and my head will explode.

5. Everyone will realize that they’re so tired of my announcements about this reading they’ll decide not to show up after all. The coffee shop on the next block, however, will be swamped with an impromptu open mic event.

None of these are likely to happen, I know. But neither are they impossible. At least I haven’t envisioned the zombie apocalypse beginning at this very event.

Damn it!

Fiction Flashback: Stranger with My Face

This originally ran over at IFryMineinButter.com.

I was an avid fan of anything suspenseful when I was a teenager. Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Dean Koontz novels, Hitchcock movies, I soaked them up like lemonade. Once I had read through a book, chances are I would read it again immediately thereafter, in order to actually comprehend its pages sans hyperventilation. I entered into those narratives with high expectations, but not so for Stranger with My Face, by Lois Duncan. It was the first novel of hers that I read, and it spawned my love for all things fantastic. I think it’s fair to say that I read Ursula K. Le Guin because I read Duncan first, and yes, I understand how different these two writers are. Read More…

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