Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Next Big Thing (or Thanks for the Memeries)

Here's something for another damned project I can't talk about... It's noir, though.  Believe it or not.

My pal Miranda Suri has tagged me for a meme -- it's called The Next Big Thing, and it's all about people's works in progress.

I wish I could discuss my Big Secret Thrilling Adventure here, but that's still under wraps. But this is a pretty thrilling adventure in itself -- this is something that's changing my life.

And if it sounds interesting to you, you can get a taste of it this Saturday, when I perform at Litquake's Litcrawl in San Francisco. Check it out, and come on down.

(If you want a sample of what might be in store for you, here are two of my previous performances.)

So, Oafboy, what's the next big thing?

Ten Questions for the Next Big Thing
1. What is the title of your Work in Progress?

Bone Chips.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

A number of currents in my life intersected. My novel, Ghost Rock, originally had a lot of autobiographical material in it that got cut, and there were a couple of sections that seemed to stand on their own. I wound up getting in contact with a writer I admire, John Shirley, about a blog post I'd made, and the end result was my attendance at a couple of readings in which he participated. Plain and simple, I wanted to be on the stage instead of in the audience. A local writer I've worked with, Allison Landa, performed at a local reading series called Lip Service West that specializes in edgy memoir. I submitted one of the deleted chapters from my novel, and it went over fairly well. And I found out that I love performing.

I have a friend who is going to take videos of me performing these pieces, and I'll release them on the net, then compile them into a DVD. We've begun work on this already.

This book is going to be a collection of these short pieces, edited to form a cohesive narrative.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Nick Mamatas called it misery porn, and said that it's unusual to see a guy writing it. Which is interesting, since it's specifically masculine. I think of it as confessional memoir.

The missus calls it autobiographical horror, and she's actually closest to the truth.

4. Which actors would you chose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

What the hell kind of question is that to ask someone about a memoir?

Okay, a young Brendan Frasier. The missus had a thing for him back in the day, and it could work out for me.

5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

A man struggling with alienation and mental illness resulting from childhood abuse and neglect connects to others and heals himself through art.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It is intended to be professionally published, and I'm feeling some hubris over here. (Knock wood to propitiate the gods; just kidding, fellas.)

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

How long is it going to take, not how long did it take. It depends. It could take years if I dribble it out just as fast as I can get performance gigs, it could take months if someone started signing checks. I'm thinking a year or two until I've got a solid wad of manuscript, but I've got a good start already.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Spalding Gray's Sex and Death to the Age 14 would be the best fit for structure. I'm not thinking of any voices that really resemble mine -- there's a sort of brutal erudition (I kind of hate myself now, and am ending this sentence).

9. Who, or what, inspired you to write this novel?

A couple of years ago, I was hospitalized for a stress-related medical condition. In the wake of that drama, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things. One of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is a disorganized personal story. PTSD sufferers don't have a clear narrative about themselves and their lives.

In my case, I tend to maintain ambiguous views about myself and the events of my life, and to turn those ambiguities over and over in my mind, compulsively. I try and find every possible misstep I've made, everything I could have done better or should have seen differently.

And this made it impossible for me to write memoir in a really substantial fashion. It was all fluff and vagueness and 'what the hell are you saying, here, anyway?'

While I am struggling to remember things accurately and tell the truth to the absolute limit of my ability, veracity is not the goal. The goal is to choose a personal narrative, a simple declarative story about who I am and where I came from, and then forget about it and move on. It's already working. Since I've started the project, I've grown a lot more comfortable in my skin, and the people around me notice it.

A lot of people write from their trauma. I think there's a point where you're just reinforcing old patterns. I'm writing this stuff out as form of catharsis, so I can go on to write about other things. I want to be able to write from a place of contentment, or even joy.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I have experienced race, class, culture, and gender in a fashion alien to that of most white guys. Growing up in a matriarchal family of working class intellectuals, in a community where the population was mostly black and latino has given me a view of life in the US that seems upside-down and inside-out to a lot of people.

Include the link of who tagged you, and an explanation for who you have tagged.

I repeat, it was Miranda Suri who tagged me.

And when I went to think of people to tag, they fell into two classes. People Miranda already asked, and people who would have every right to kill me if I tried to add any more labors to their current burden.

Then I remembered my new crew at December House!

Neil Vogler!

P.T. Dilloway!

What the hell are you guys up to, anyway?

(Oh -- and yesterday I ate

1 strawberry Ensure

A couple of gulps of almond milk and an apple off the tree

Two hot dogs (Nathan's Famous) on spouted wheat bread and a mixed green salad

A couple of gulps of almond milk and another apple

A slice of salami, a slice of cheddar cheese, five crackers, and two celery sticks.

Sprouted wheat toast, homemade black beans, two fried eggs and salsa verde on a bed of mixed greens. I ate two-thirds and gave the rest to the dogs because I was too full.

I ate like a responsible person. I hated it.)

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