New Mexico Reading

The New Mexico reading went really well.  The bookstore sold out of books and ordered more signed copies (total 27 sold).  I saw some old friends and acquaintances, family came from out of town, and I made some new friends.  No more plans for readings at this point.  Feeling tired, and stressed about money/life.  Just a reminder that you can check out my most active blog here: https://failingatlove.com

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On Being Interviewed

Well, my first interview for the book got published.  I learned some things about being interviewed that I thought I’d share here.

It’s true what they say: prepare.  Just like for a job interview, have several responses to potential questions ready in your head.  You don’t want to be referring to written notes, but you also don’t want to sit there blankly when asked about the meaning of certain themes in your book.  Take some time beforehand (hopefully give yourself a few days) to think about the areas you want the interview to focus on, and have some exciting things to say about them.

You might be asked to choose the location for the interview.  Either way, do go scope it out ahead of time if it’s a public place.  You’ll want to be sure you’ll have enough space to spread out a bit, at least a small table’s worth of space, so make sure that it won’t be too crowded during the hour of your interview.  You’ll also want to have enough privacy that you’re not self-conscious during the interview.  Worrying about what you sound like to the people at the next table is not helpful when you are trying to formulate smart, authentic answers.

Vet the interviewer as thoroughly as you can.  It’s hard to turn down free publicity, but you also don’t want to be portrayed in a way that will turn your audience off.  Read through recent pieces by your interviewer, and also try to find their most read pieces and review those.  That is probably the style he/she will be going for with you.  Have they demonstrated a negative attitude toward the demographic you’re targeting?  Will their writing style appear to your audience and be something your readers will want to share with each other?  If not, it might not be worth being interviewed by them.  Not all publicity is good publicity.  On a more positive note, do have a compliment on their writing to give them when you meet.  Tell them of a piece you particularly liked, or something about their style you admire.  You want them to know that you’re excited to be interviewed by them  in particular.

During the interview, be polite and professional.  Arrive about five minutes early, but not more.  It’s the interviewers job to arrive earlier and scout out a spot.  If you think they have chosen poorly, you can politely suggest a different table (but not a different location altogether, unless it really is terrible, and then they should be readily agreeing with you).  They might surprise you and want to take your picture, so dress how you would like to appear to your readers.  Thank the interviewer at the beginning for meeting you, and say how nice it is to meet them.  Thank the interviewer again at the end for taking the time to interview you, and say you look forward to the piece.

Direct the interview.  It’s your show.  If you don’t like a question, divert like a politician.  Say something like, “Well, to answer that question I think you really have to understand this other thing about the book,” and then talk about that other thing.  If they ask a great question, tell them.  Say, “Wow, great question!” and then give a great answer.  You are not captive to their agenda.  Remember that they are just as nervous as you are.  Help them by steering the interview into the waters where you are going to be the strongest and give the best answers.

Mince your words.  You are probably being recorded, and the interviewer has a deadline.  They might just quote you directly, so be careful how many times you are saying words like “really,” “like,” and “um.”  This interview will hopefully turn into a clipping you can send to bookstore owners, awards judges, festivals, publishers, and all kinds of people whom you want to convince of your talent and eloquence.  Make sure you are saying what you want to say.  The interviewer won’t quote your silences, other than to say that you “thought for a few moments”, which makes you sound reflective.  So don’t be afraid to take a moment to gather your thoughts, speak slowly, and try to say your words exactly as you want them to be read.

But also, relax and have fun.  You’re being interviewed!  It’s exciting!  Enjoy it!  You are also building a relationship with the interviewer, who might turn into an important ally in your career.  By being relaxed and enjoying the process, you will help put them at ease and help them have a good time, too.  Feel free to chit-chat a bit.  Think of this person as a potential friend, but not so much that you linger once the interview is done.  They might be planning to stay at the location and organize their notes, and you don’t want to be in their hair.  You also want to look like an important writer who has work to get to!  So thank them and be on your way.

Follow up with a thank you email later that day, or the next morning if your interview was late in the day.  If you want to be really classy, send a handwritten thank you note, but send it immediately.  They should receive their written thank you within the week.  When the interview comes out, share it widely on all your pages.  Link back to the interviewer when you can, use their name in a hashtag, and comment on their “great interview.”  The more you help their career, the more they’ll want to help yours.  If they end up writing a terrible piece, you can silently ignore it and hope nobody notices.  But they won’t, because you did such a good job directing the interview and made the interviewer have a good time in your charming, writerly presence.

New Blog is Up!

My new blog is up as of today.  Failing at Love.  Check it out!

Have you ever fallen madly in love with a celibate monk? Had somebody seduce you by putting ballerina clothes on you? Persuaded a stranger to blindfold themselves alone on their porch? These are a few of the many stories you can find on my blog about dating, love, modern romance, and losing/finding ourselves in love. Please read, subscribe, share, and enjoy 🙂 Watch for new stories every week!
https://failingatlove.com

My Heart is a Fig Tree

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After sex in his back yard A expresses anxiety.

“I don’t want to be your boyfriend,” he says.

“You’re not my boyfriend.”

“Oh good.”

There is a fig tree in A’s back yard.  It got too top heavy and fell over.  We propped it up with a board and tied it to the fence.  Then buried the roots up and gave it some water.  It shines jade green in the moonlight.  You would never know how lightly it grips the earth by looking at its fat, plentiful leaves and tight-skinned fruit.

A says, “I can’t have an emotional erection right now.”

I jump out of his van in the intersection and watch him drive away.  He needs to make things right with his last love.  He had breakfast with her this morning.

“Are you going to get back together?”

“I don’t know…”

I’m holding my heart in after it toppled for him when we first met.  I’ve found a sturdy plank and some rope, have got it mostly secured for now.  It just can’t get jostled too much.

A is an orphan.  He has disowned his father, and his mother died a few years ago.  The few times I’ve asked about her his face became pained and he went mute.  I know that she was a painter and he has bought a house to hang her artwork in.  I have urges to take care of him.

Before I became a mother I wanted to find a daddy figure in my lovers, or maybe it was a mommy.  I wanted to be taken care of.  I wanted to fall asleep on the couch listening to the sound of someone doing dishes in the next room.  Now I long to take care of my lovers.  It wasn’t this way at first.  When I first had a baby, I had nothing to offer anyone else.  100 percent of me poured into the baby.  And then I grew, I suppose, or something happened, so that now I have endless nurturing for the world.  I want to give my lovers baths, comb their hair, trim their nails, rub their feet and hands.  I want to spoil them with attention, with love, with care.  I have become the Mom I suppose.

I think I know that A will be helpless to this kind of nurturing, because he needs it so badly.  So I refrain from spoiling him.  I want to wait until I am sure he wants me to love him, and is ready to love me back.  And maybe he wants to be with his old love, or alone, or with somebody else altogether.  I can do this now, I can give him space to choose.  It is good to be a grown-up, finally.

Your Heart is a Battleground

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I waited all evening for Monsieur.  He says such sweet things to me on the phone, but never appears for our dates.  I think he might be trying to recruit me for ISIS.  This is what I think many of the men on okcupid are doing.  Perhaps I enter into our exchanges with an air of suspicion, which is why the chemistry mostly fails to take off.  When it does take off, I am left with a P or an A, which is sort of like loving the air beside you in bed, pretending it’s a person.

P is sitting at home painting.  His apartment was tolerable for a week because his new maid came.  But now the empty bags of chips, half drank bottles of red wine, and plastic bottles are drifting back in.  His lack of enthusiasm toward me is keeping me at bay.  I get one word, lukewarm texts in response.  He does not invite me out on dates, or even over.  I am too tired, too old to be tolerated.

The dating is getting to me.  I am beginning to resent the time taken from my writing.  A few days ago I went out with Señor.  He was handsome, silver-haired, with gentlemanly manners.  He cracked corny jokes throughout dinner, and folded a paper airplane that he threw at the waiter.  We walked to a nearby bar so he could sit near a fire.  A very drunk man jumped onto the firepit and made a big show out of clenching a loonie in his butt cheeks, then holding it there while he walked around the fire.  Later, the same man joined our conversation and spent half an hour giving Señor valuable dating advice like, “Kiss the woman no matter what, even if she says no.  Just do what you want to do.  Women like that.”

I wanted Señor to make Loonie leave, to be firm.  I wanted him to take control and I kept having thoughts like, “Be a man!”, which is what Loonie was trying to teach him in his backward way.  But I did not make Loonie leave.  I did not wrest control back, not even when Loonie grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet, turning to Señor and saying, “There, see what I just did?  I took control.”   Shortly after, Señor got up and went to the restroom, leaving me with Loonie who began to criticize my date.  I half-heartedly stood up for Señor, but really I just wanted to get home.  I missed P.

I saw P the next night.  We talked until 2am, lying in bed, our legs tangled up.  I want to let go into this falling, but his heart is a battleground.  It is rigged with minefields, razor wire, hidden trenches, snipers, bombs.  I stand on the soft ground, pink flesh.  The rush of his blood moving is like bird song.  The air smells of warm milk, vanilla, cedar.  I am alone inside of him.  One false move and I’ll be torn to shreds.  If I stay frozen I am safe.  My feet planted, my senses open.  It is so lovely in here.  So very lovely.  And lonely.

Fucking I Love You

6/5/15

I turned 40 without any fanfare.  My usual birthday tradition of buying myself new books at the bookstore, out to lunch, and aimless meandering.  But this day my head was full of P.  I couldn’t shake him.  I was seeing the whole day through a lens of what I thought it would look like to him.  Simultaneous self-consciousness and thrilling exhibitionism.  Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore and sent him a text saying I wanted to come steal a few kisses.  He responded by writing, “Lucky me”.  So I blew off the pedicure and drove to his apartment.

He didn’t answer the door right away and I had a sinking fear that he was out with another woman.  We owe each other nothing, or hardly anything.  It’s new enough between us that it would just be weird if I made demands of him, or he of me.  But it would still hurt if he were with someone else.  He answered, heavy eyed, shirtless.  “I was taking a rest,” he said, stepping back to let me in.  I ignored the terrible mess that dominates his apartment and set my stuff down on the crumb-layered day bed.  He stepped toward me, hand to my head, and kissed me.  Such a wonderful, tentative, eager, hello kiss.  It was confident.  Like he knew I wanted it.  I realized then that I wanted to owe him my time and affection.

We went to cuddle in the bedroom, which inevitably led to a hot and heavy make out session.  P likes to hold me tight, and kiss me like we’re saying good-bye forever.  It kills me, takes my heart and just smushes it into a mess.  He sucks on my lower lip, feeds me sexy moans, works me up until I’m all laid out like well kneaded bread dough.  That’s as far as we go.  P is terrified of getting a woman pregnant.  Like me, he’s dealing with an ex and a kid.  It’s not going well.  That day we ended up sweating and quivering, pinned together and trying to catch our breath.  He asked me if I was okay and I said yes.  It didn’t even occur to me to ask him.  I just assume that I like him so much more than he likes me.  That’s my default.  Later, when we were walking to my car, he commented that he was dizzy.  “I feel like I just went through a whirlpool of sexual desire,” he said.

I dropped him off near his daughter’s bus stop.  He can tell I’m falling hard for him.  I even said “I love you” while making out.  Catching our breath I said, “That’s an ‘I love you because you’re fucking me’,” which was only partly true.  Before getting out of the car, P said “It’s just that when people start to be in love there’s all these demands on your time and what you’re allowed to do”.  I did some generic reassuring that I’m not gonna do that, that’s not how I feel, I just want to love him.  Like I’m some Altruistic Love Angel capable of pouring it all out while he fucks off and fucks around.  I’m so sick of wounded people who are afraid of being loved, of giving love.  But the unwounded don’t unlock anything in me.

Standing Up

A few days ago, I fulfilled a years long dream of doing stand up comedy.  I got up at an open mic, nervous as hell, and told my jokes.  It was great!!

There are multiple open mics nearly every night of the week in Portland.  The first open mic I went to was at Helium, a great club in Portland that bills some top names.  I went with my friend Lauren, who is a total whore when it comes to humor (like me, she’ll laugh at almost anything).  The quality of the comics was pretty great, with one dude in particular KILLING it within seconds of his 3-minute act.  Lauren and I had tears streaming down our faces by the end.  Super impressive.  Only a couple people flopped.  I left feeling pretty intimidated.

Next, I checked out Brody Theater in Portland.  Brody is a funky downtown space that holds workshops and classes in improv, physical comedy, and other stuff.  They have 3 open mics every week.  The first time I went to watch an open mic there I was like, “These guys are a bunch of assholes!”  There was hardly any laughter.  Several people flopped so painfully I practically cried real tears for them.  I left thinking I wouldn’t go back.  But, a few weeks later I did.

This time, I was prepared for the stoic audience and was better able to focus on the comedians.  I was very surprised to see some of the same folks get up as the last time.  I thought, “Why are they getting up again, knowing how tough this audience is?”  I also thought, “Jeez, I don’t know anybody here.  They’re not laughing anyway… Maybe this would be a good place to try getting up for the first time”.

I went back a third time, with the express purpose of studying the process so I could get up in the future, possibly even that night.  Same deal.  Mostly silent audience, lots of flopping comics.  But toward the end of the night, this guy got up and said, “I didn’t prepare anything, but I’m just gonna run some jokes, if that’s okay.  I mean, we’re all comics here, right?  Is there anybody here who’s not a comedian?”  Two people raised their hands and a light bulb popped on over my head.  OH…!  They’re ALL COMEDIANS.  No wonder it’s so quiet!  They’re all too busy studying each other to laugh.  Suddenly, the room went from feeling awkward and mean to supportive and friendly.  I couldn’t wait to get up.

First I had to work up a set.  Luckily, I am dating people from an online dating site, so I’ve got plenty of new material.  In the past few weeks, I just happened to have a guy reveal to me, a bit embarrassed, that he likes to hold his own balls.  GOLD!  I worked up a set about testicles, dating, the nature of secrets, and coveting thick skin.  At Brody, each comic is given 3 minutes onstage, which is not very much.  I practiced my set when I was driving around town, slowly shaving time off until I got it to 3:08, which I thought was good enough.

I went back and forth about inviting any friends to come watch.  In the end, I decided it would be nice to have one friendly face in the crowd, so invited Lauren (she has also made threats against me if I ever considered performing without inviting her…).  We arrived at 9:15, 15 minutes before the show.  I had signed up online that morning, as instructed on their website.  I checked the list, and didn’t see my name.  That was quickly remedied, and they put me in at #11.  Perfect, I thought.

Lauren and I ordered tea.  I stopped drinking a couple months ago, and I knew I would do better onstage without the booze.  We watched one comic get up after another, and the quality was much better than I’d ever seen at Brody.  I had confidence in my set, though, so didn’t feel too nervous.  The nervousness and anxiety hit me in waves that were short and not too intense.  I kept getting up to check the list, and I noticed they were adding names before mine, which made me a tad grumpy…

Finally, the comic before me went up.  The emcee gave me a little signal, letting me know I was next.  I went and stood by the wall near the stage, like I’d seen the others doing.  The guy before me was TERRIBLE.  He delivered a downright offensive set about the transgender teen who recently committed suicide in the midwest.  The only people laughing were his two friends.  I know comedy can talk about touchy subjects, and make us laugh about what is normally forbidden or taboo.  But this was just pure ridicule of a person who was dead, smashed, and heartbroken by our cruel world.  I was surprised he wasn’t made to get down.  If I hadn’t been so busy running my jokes in my head I might have booed him…

The emcee asked if he could tell the audience it was my first time.  He said some people didn’t like that, but I said he could.  After Terrible Comic got down, the emcee gave me a stellar introduction, encouraging the audience to treat me right because it was my first time.  The crowd whooped and stomped me onto the stage, which felt amazing.  Then, the whole world felt far away.  The lights were bright, but I could see the crowd (probably 40 people).  I suddenly felt like my body was weirdly proportioned, and I wasn’t totally in control of how the words were coming out of my mouth, or even quite what words.

My first joke got a good laugh.  At 2 minutes, the emcee flashed a red light at me to let me know I had one minute left.  I had lost track of the timing of the set, and headed into the last bit too late.  He flashed his phone at me, the 3-minute warning, when I had just started the set up for the last joke.  I knew the joke took about 45 seconds to deliver, so I told the audience I had run out of time but was going to do the joke anyway.  In retrospect, I should have cut myself off and told them they would get the joke next time.  I got some pretty good laughs during the set, but folks seemed a bit squirmy for the last joke.  I think that, once the audience knows you’re going over your time, they feel both annoyed that you’re taking time from another comic, and uncomfortable because they don’t want to see you get in trouble.  Because of that, the joke didn’t come off as strong as I’d hoped, but it was fine.

It was really helpful and encouraging to see Lauren cracking up throughout the set.  I hadn’t told her the jokes because I wanted them to be fresh for her.  I got down, shook the emcee’s hand on the way, and headed to my seat amidst the crowd’s applause.  Wheee!!  As soon as I sat down, a woman came over and stuck her hand in my face.  “That was awesome,” she said.  “Don’t stop doing this.”  I asked her name, because I want some comedian friends!  Several other people complimented me before we left, which felt so great.  I apologized to the emcee for going over, before I left, and said I’d do better next time.

I left feeling like a crazy anime creature that spews rainbows from her feet and rides them over the city.  Anatoli Brant, the usual host of the night and general open mic hotshot, walked with us for a few steps and said, “You survived!  But you went over your time…”

I was awake until 3am with nerves and excitement.  Definitely doing it again!  I’m going to shoot for 1-2 open mics/week, assuming I can write material that fast.  I’d like to eventually incorporate my guitar into the sets, as dorky as that is.  SO, moral of this post is this: THERE IS NOTHING LIKE JUST GETTING UP AND DOING IT.