Monthly Archives: February 2012

AWP and a Writer’s Packing List

new york taxi tangerine

I’m off to AWP in Chicago! This is my second AWP in five years; the first time I went was not too long after my stroke. I dragged my recovering brain to one panel a day and then slept the rest of the day in my hotel room. I don’t even remember the panels I attended, because I was so brain damaged the information either never got into my brain or they’re lost in that weird black hole.

In that sea of activity and sensory overload, I remember two valuable things from that very first AWP:

I remember John Irving’s keynote speech–how he said he writes the last chapters of his novels, first. And how that got me unstuck in my own novel, because months and months and a year later, I tried writing the last chapter of my novel, and that helped unfurl the entire narrative of that first draft.

And I remember meeting Nova for the first time irl, after months and months and years of interacting online via our blogs. We had falafel. And giggled over my yellow umbrella in a sea of NYC black umbrellas. I don’t remember what we talked about, only that we made a real connection and became, officially, “irl friends.”

This is my first AWP with my entire brain. I’m no longer an MFA student, but I am looking forward to mindshare on the writing process and writing life. I’m looking forward to a few more irl connections, and a number of panels per day. I’m also petrified of being exhausted and overwhelmed, so my backup plan is to stay in my hotel room in the fetal position.

The twitterverse is bustling with AWP anxiety and travel updates. Writers are converging upon Chicago! I travel so much that this will be my second trip to the airport in three days. And by the time I return home, I’ll have been at an airport three times in seven days.

But here’s the upside about traveling so much: I can pack my bags in 5-10 minutes. Really. (Ok, confession: I meditate upon what clothes to bring for days, but the packing process is very speedy once I figure out my wardrobe). And I’m going to share a little bit what I’ve learned, and because there are no “packing lists for writers,” I’ve put together a packing list for writers…

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The Edge of Maybe Giveaway: winner!

Scarlet the Wiener Dog reading "The Edge of Maybe" by Ericka Lutz

…Someone has won The Edge of Maybe giveaway. Yes. One of you had to win.

As always, I assigned each of you who entered the giveaway, a number. I gave out numbers in the order of commenting (the first commenter was #1, the 2nd was #2, etc., etc).

Seriously, there you all are…

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Then I went on a walk. And had some tea. Sat with my dogs and petted them on the head.

You know, things that would drive you nuts if you were waiting for the winner of the giveaway to be announced.

Oh.

Oops.

I pulled up random.org, my handy dandy online number generator and told it to pick a number between 1 and 15.

And guess what? The winner was…

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The winner is #1! Entrant #1 is none other than Dave Holper who as his comment wrote:

I went to high school with her, and I’d like to see what’s she writing.

Congratulations, Dave! You win a signed copy of Ericka Lutz’s The Edge of Maybe along with The Edge of Maybe postcards and refrigerator (or file cabinet or other metal object) magnet.

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The Disenchantments Book Giveaway (and winner)

Scarlet the Wiener Dog and Nina LaCour's "The Disenchantments"

I’m giving away a signed copy of my friend Nina LaCour’s amazing YA novel The Disenchantments! I love this book, and whether you are a young adult or someone who is thirty-eight years old *ahem*, The Disenchantments is pure pleasure to read.

Nina writes books that I wish existed when I was younger, and I’m so glad they exist.

The Disenchantments is out in stores now, with rave reviews from many venues including The LA Times, which proclaimed it “not just for kids.” I totally agree–!

As always, I will sweeten your intrigue with the opening lines of the giveaway book. I don’t know about you, but for me one of the biggest deciding factors in choosing to read a book are the opening lines. Because in the end, no one can tell you which book to like–that’s between you and the book.

Opening lines of the novel:

“Bev says when she’s onstage she feels the world holding its breath for her. She feels electric, louder than a thousand wailing sirens, more powerful than God.

‘I thought you didn’t believe in God,’ I say.

She says, ‘Okay. More powerful than the universe, then.’

Bev is the lead singer of a band called The Disenchantments. They aren’t very good, but they play so loud the speakers crackle and the bass makes your bones tremble. And they look amazing.”

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The copy I’m giving away is a brand new hardcover signed by Nina, who has graciously offered up free sticker-tattoos to sweeten the giveaway deal.

Isn’t the book beautiful? And the sticker tattoos, fabulous?

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Oh, and have I told you how much I love the sticker tattoos? Here I am, modeling one.

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Lately, I’ve been doing, James Lipton-esque, Proust Questionnaire-based interviews with the book giveaway authors via twitter or other messaging (yes, these interviews happen “in real time”). I’m hoping it will give you some insight into the writer behind the book and of course, we always have a bit of fun with these questions. So here we go…

1. What is your favorite occupation?
Nina LaCour: I would love to be a haberdasher so that I could say the word a lot.

2. Where would you like to live?
NL: I would like to live exactly where I live: on the border of two beautiful, urban areas of Oakland, but I would turn my apartment into a house with a huge yard and an attic for writing and a front porch where I could sit all day and spy on the neighbors.

3. What is your greatest extravagance?
NL: Cheese. I buy really expensive cheese, and I buy it at a fancy cheese counter in a gourmet shop almost every day.

Interested?

Here’s how to enter:
1) Leave a comment below. You can say anything you want–e.g., you can choose to tell me why you want a copy of the book, or tell me about a roadtrip you’ve taken, or share the name of your favorite music band (and if you’re compelled, why you love them). Do fill out your email address when you fill out the fields in the comment box (it won’t be published to the world, but I will need it in order to contact you in case you win)!
2) 1 entry per person. If you tweet about this giveaway (& tag @czilka in your tweet so that I can track it), you get an extra entry.
3) The giveaway is open worldwide.
4) If you win the contest, I will email you for your mailing address.
5) Winners will be chosen by a random number generator.
6) I will be announcing the contest winner on the blog. None of your personal information will be posted, aside from your first name and last initial (or the nickname you choose to list in your comment). If you see that someone else has entered the same name as you, please try to pick a different nickname to call yourself, so as to avoid confusion.
7) If you are below the age of 13, please ask your parents to fill out the comment field with their information.

The deadline to enter a comment/tweet is Monday March 5, 2012 12:00pm EST. The winner (picked at random) will be announced Monday March 5, 2012 by 6:00pm EST.

GOOD LUCK! And I hope you all find your way to a copy of The Disenchantments soon!

UPDATE

The winner is announced!

Methodology:
As always, I assigned each of you a number in the order you commented. If you RT’d my tweet, or tweeted about the giveaway on twitter, I gave you an additional entry, and I assigned additional numbers in the order you tweeted.

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There were a total of 44 entries…and I used random.org to generate the winning entry number. I taped all of this, and if you’d like to watch it live (with a cameo by my unwilling, but deserving husband)…the video is below…

Otherwise, if you don’t feel like watching the video, the winning number is…

*drum roll*
*drum roll*
*drum roll some more*
*take a sip of water*
*drum roll*
*cough*
*drum rolll….*

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The winner is #33, also known as “Vanessa Buzeta (@dayzer389), whose comment was:

“I loved her novel, Hold Still. I thought it was amazing and it completely blew me away. I’d love to read her next novel. Thanks for the awesome giveaway.”

I’m happy a faithful reader of Nina LaCour’s work is now the proud owner of a free copy of The Disenchantments. 🙂

And I hope the rest of you find yourself a copy of The Disenchantments soon!

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My Turning Point

board day 3

I wrote about my turning point as a writer on Nova Ren Suma’s blog, Distraction No. 99.

(At this moment, you can also enter to win a copy of Men Undressed which contains an excerpt from my novel-in-progress on Nova’s blog).

My turning point is my stroke at the age of 33. It’s a topic to which I often allude, but do not often write about as a central subject. I find it awkward to talk about my stroke. I don’t want it to define me. Some people are just not interested in hearing about a past ailment. But awkward or not, it is undeniably The Turning Point of My Entire Life.

So when Nova asked me to write about my turning point as a writer, I inevitably found myself writing about recovery from my stroke, as lesson-filled an experience it was.

One of my friends, while visiting me in the early days of recovery, wisely advised me to look for lessons throughout my recovery; my hunt for lessons learned made what could have seemed like a meaningless random and stupid happening a much more meaningful and valuable experience.

I shared a few of the things I learned about myself as a writer in the wake of my stroke and as I fought to write my novel again. The message of my story is, as quoted from the last paragraph of my post at Distraction No. 99:

“It took years before I could remember this experience as a cohesive narrative. And while most writers don’t have strokes at the age of 33, I don’t think my experience is all too unique, because many of us have been kept from our writing in one way or another in our crazy writing lives. It could be a year away from writing as you raise a new baby, or a year away from writing as you immerse yourself in financially-necessary work, or a year away from writing because your writing just breaks your heart and you just can’t look at it anymore. Maybe you were really sick and couldn’t write. But sometimes, it is that very time away that forms the negative space around your identity and determination and your writing. When you come back, you know who you are, more than ever. And who you are is a writer to the core.”

I hope you check out Nova’s Turning Points series, which includes a number of amazing and inspiring posts about writing.

*The picture above is a picture of the whiteboard in my hospital room where I lived for 10 days following my stroke. The nurses were so nice, and left me uplifting messages!

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Feeding the Muse Jan/Feb 2012

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I snarfed this idea, in which she lists her recent meals, from my friend Jamey over at Modern Conjure. My first feeding the muse post is here. It’s been a while, so I thought I’d post some of the things I’ve eaten (and bothered to take pictures) in the last two months…if my track record serves any purpose–the Muse likes it when I *don’t* eat so much.

top row, left to right:

  • a homemade meyer lemon bar. best lemon bar i’ve ever made.
  • dry fried green beans + tofu over rice. this is my new obsession.
  • the BluePrint Cleanse juices. good stuff.
  • cafe du monde beignets.

second row from top, left to right:

  • crawfish + dungeness crab boil in New Orleans.
  • fried green tomato and shrimp remoulade ‘po boy from crabby jack’s. quite possibly the most delicious sandwich i have ever eaten. btw, i hate sandwiches.
  • stuffed flounder topped with crawfish sauce and crab. triplet cardiac threat!
  • roasted trout over napa cabbage and scallions. based on Whitney Chen’s “fearlessly roast (and eat) a whole fish recipe. i used mirin + soy sauce. so healthy so tasty so good.

third row from top, left to right:

  • my first bread–King Arthur extra sour sourdough bread. kind of a meh success. the crumb could have been a lot better.
  • yuki guni ramen from ippudo. miso based ramen with cheese! yes.
  • pomme frites. from pomme frites. best french fries ever. i love french fries.
  • homemade spaghetti carbonara. so good. i’m making this again. why did i wait so long to make spaghetti carbonara? ohyah. it’s because i generally dislike pork.

bottom row, left to right:

  • my first juice out of my new juicer. made from kale, celery, cucumber, sorrel, parsley, lemon, apple, and kiwi. super yum. and super virtuous. it took my going to NYC to become a hippie who loves yoga and juicing.
  • chaat at vik’s in Berkeley: lamb roti on the left for the hubby, and masala dosa on the right for me. (offscreen: pani puri, bhel puri, and samosa).
  • praline from tee eva’s. sugarrrrr.
  • “Lin-sational” Baller dessert at NYC’s dessert club. it has *bananas* in it. /palmface. i technically did not eat this. but i had a taste. it was decent. even though i was eating an “Asian banana” dessert (get it? yellow on the outside, white on the–*shaking my head*).

I also ate a good amount of Shake Shack burgers and many other delicious things.

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The Edge of Maybe Book Giveaway!

Scarlet the Wiener Dog reading "The Edge of Maybe" by Ericka Lutz

I”m giving away a signed copy of my friend Ericka Lutz’s book The Edge of Maybe!

Her book will be released in March, and I’m happy and proud to offer it as a giveaway ahead of its publication date!

Opening lines of the novel:

“There were strangers on the porch of their Oakland, California bungalow, a young woman in pink sweats and a small boy in dirty blue pajamas. They waited as Kira and Polly walked from the car to the house, Kira balancing groceries, purse, phone, keys, Polly wearing a backpack too large for her thin, thirteen-year-old frame. The woman sat on the top step, thick-bodied and barefoot; she rested her bandaged right ankle on a dingy canvas bag. The little boy crouched by the redwood planter, breaking Kira’s dendroideum succulent. He held each section between tiny thumb and forefinger–snap.”

Along with the book (signed by the author), the winner of the giveaway will receive a refrigerator magnet, and two postcards all featuring The Edge of Maybe cover.

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Lately, I’ve been doing, James Lipton-esque, Proust Questionnaire-based interviews with the book giveaway authors via twitter or other forms of online chatting (yes, these interviews happened “in real time”). I’m hoping it will give you some insight into the writer behind the book and of course, we always have a bit of fun with these questions. So here we go…

1. What is your favorite journey?
Erica Lutz: It’s nature-filled, not too hot or cold, with a friendly and loving companion, in silence, with deep introspection and physical beauty.

2. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
EL: I just found out I’m 2.9% Neanderthal, so: a prehistorical woman artist, carving a mammouth (I saw) on a cave wall in the South of France. That sense of carving in the dark, something you love, that someday somebody might enjoy.

3. When and where were you happiest?
EL: It’s crazy, but I’m insanely happy right now. My novel is being born, my daughter is thriving, I have health, love, and the cutest dog ever.

Interested?

Here’s how to enter:
1) Leave a comment below. You can say anything you want–e.g., you can choose to tell me why you want a copy of the book, or tell me something about an unexpected gamechanging surprise in your life, or share what you like/dislike most about the SF Bay Area (the book is set in San Francisco/Berkeley/Oakland). Do fill out your email address when you fill out the fields in the comment box (it won’t be published to the world, but I will need it in order to contact you in case you win)!
2) 1 entry per person
3) The giveaway is open worldwide.
4) If you win the contest, I will email you for your mailing address.
5) Winners will be chosen by a random number generator.
6) I will be announcing the contest winner on the blog. None of your personal information will be posted, aside from your first name and last initial (or the nickname you choose to list in your comment). If you see that someone else has entered the same name as you, please try to pick a different nickname to call yourself, so as to avoid confusion.
7) If you are below the age of 13, please ask your parents to fill out the comment field with their information.

The deadline to enter a comment is Wednesday Friday February 24, 2012 3:00pm EST. The winner (picked at random) will be announced February 24, 2012 by 11:00pm EST.

GOOD LUCK!

Note: I realized I’d incorrectly written Wednesday February 24 and corrected it to the more accurate and more generous deadline of Friday February 24.

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It had to be you, it had to be yooouuuu: Cheryl Strayed = Sugar

write like a motherfucker: thank you Sugar

Last night, we all got to find out who has been writing the words behind the anonymous advice column Dear Sugar at The Rumpus.

I love sugar, the sweet stuff that makes so many things palatable, so many things sing with yumminess. And I love Sugar, the advice columnist who gave it to us sweet and gave it to us true, who told us “how you get unstuck” and to “write like a motherfucker.” Every advice column spoke to me–Junot Díaz told us once that “there is universality in the particular,” and that defined Sugar’s advice columns, which were more like essays, addressing something specific, but telling us so much more.

Last night, we all found out that Sugar is Cheryl Strayed, the author of the amazing novel Torch and the upcoming memoir Wild, which you can should preorder now.

So many of us knew, or had an inkling of who Sugar was in real life. And I love how all of us kept it quiet, because we love Sugar so much. We wanted to honor Sugar.

My friend Nova Ren Suma knew who she was, and so did I. Nova told me her suspicions over a year ago, and so I decided to do some research (a fortuneteller once told me I would make an excellent FBI agent–and when I was a small child, I wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel so much that I’d rifle through my parents’ bedroom each time they left the house. I found a few embarrassing things in my parents bedroom, and I also figured out where my father kept the Snickers stash).

By this point, I’d befriended Cheryl Strayed on Facebook, and didn’t care whether or not she was Sugar. Because Cheryl Strayed was rad–she was warm and supportive and amazing and smart. She had become my friend.

But I still wanted to know who Sugar was–and also, the Investigator Instinct runs strong in me.

I read Strayed’s Torch. The diction and voice were so Sugar. It was unmistakable. It made me realize how distinct our voices are in the universe, that we are each like fingerprints. It had to be her. But I was still a touch uncertain.

And then–this was around the time she wrote the Write Like a Motherfucker column–I googled the words “write like a motherfucker”…and up popped an interview between M.J. Rose and Cheryl Strayed–an interview that detailed a life very close to Sugar’s, and one in which Strayed used the phrase, “write like a motherfucker.” Aha. I hurriedly messaged Nova, and said as emphatically as one can type without typing in ALL CAPS that Cheryl had to be Sugar. Had to.

We got really f’ing kind of excited about it, and then we made a vow: we would tell NO ONE. And so we kept it secret. People asked us, and we would each slyly nod and say we had an idea but no thank you, we wouldn’t tell.

In recent weeks leading up to the unveiling, other friends of mine also whispered that they knew who Sugar might be. It’s funny; we never revealed our guesses, only that we knew. Because we all love Sugar.

It’s hard to remain anonymous, and it’s hard to come out of the closet from anonymity, on so many levels. I used to have an anonymous blog, one in which I chronicled my recovery from stroke as it pertained to my life and writing. At one point, I told a reader who I was, and she expressed disappointment–that she liked it better when she didn’t know who I was. I was shocked that someone wouldn’t welcome me into her reality, but she did not. This is how things are, sometimes. (I also made many many friends to whom I revealed my identity, too–so it’s nowhere near a loss).

Sugar came out of anonymity. And I fully support her.

I’m so happy Cheryl Strayed and Sugar are entering a new chapter.

And I’m going to repeat what I tweeted last night after the unveiling:

You should buy Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild. This is how you thank Sugar, who has so long supported us. http://www.cherylstrayed.com/pre_order_wild_108676.htm

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