Patricia Dunn and I stayed up long nights back in college to put together an alternative campus newspaper. She had a friend who owned a computer – exciting enough in the mid-80s – but it also had desktop publishing software. We were in awe. I remember having to space out columns the old-fashioned way in high school. But Pat hooked us up to the big time. We had big dreams, and we still do.
A couple of years ago saw the release of Pat’s kick-ass debut young adult novel “Rebels by Accident.” As she works on her next great book, she took time to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour, and she asked if I could participate.
Another story from the past: When Pat and I first met at UCLA, she talked to me about starting an alternative campus paper. I literally jumped up and down in excitement. She stared at me with a polite smile that barely hid her East Coast leery, “who-is-this-wacko” look. As noted above, though, we led our comrades-in-arms in making a pretty decent paper. (It featured, among other things, probably one of the last interviews granted by celebrated yippie Abbie Hoffman.)
This time around, it was Pat’s turn to, figuratively, jump up-and-down in excitement as she e-mailed to convince me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Urgency rang from her every word, and despite my leeriness of taking on another writing project, I quickly said yes.
So thank you, Pat, for your excited, though gentle, nudge. (Here is her entry for the Blog Tour published last week.)
Writing Process Blog Tour has four questions:
1) What are you working on?
the gar spot is approaching its fourth anniversary this fall. It continues to receive the bulk of my writing attention. Though admittedly, this year has been a bit of a slacker, for unfortunate reasons. However, I’m currently in the midst of a dystopian serial set in the Bay Area in the year 2157. The Bay has swollen and swallowed up much of what was once Oakland and Berkeley – Emeryville is history by this point. Water is strictly rationed. And my protagonist has to find a new source after he learns that the house he’s been squatting in for a long while, somewhere in the Lafayette area, will no longer receive regular water service. At the moment, he’s just been rescued from starvation and dehydration, but he doesn’t know yet by whom. To be continued.
I’m also starting a second book manuscript, about which I don’t want to say too much, adhering to an old James Baldwin superstition about talking too much about current projects. However, I will say that the story involves gay teen runaways and you can find hints of the story here and here.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Idol Duke Ellington famously said that he hated categories. The highest complement he paid someone was to say that s/he was “beyond category.”
the gar spot is best described by its tagline. In that sense, it is certainly beyond category. Fiction appears one week, ranting essays the next. It all depends on the mood.
I don’t know what genre my fiction falls into. General? Black? Gay? Categories, bah! A Jedi craves not these things.
However, most of my fiction deals with black and gay characters. How does my work in this area differ from others who have written similar pieces? Hard to say. I just see myself as part of a continuum, telling the stories.
3) Why do you write what you do?
For a time in the 90s, it was fashionable in queer lit circles to declare that the “coming out” story was passé, hackneyed. To this I say hogwash. First, there are likely as many coming out stories as there are snowflakes on a whitened field. Each snowflake is made of water ice crystals, but that’s where the similarities end. Similarly, each human story takes on different shades, nuances, and subtleties. Each story is worthy of its own telling.
Second, we have had a glut of boy-meets-girl/boy-lose-girl stories dating back to the beginning of time. Even Romeo and Juliet was a cliché when the Bard of Avon penned the play. And yet, there continues to be no shortage of such stories. Why should we stifle ours? I can’t help but wonder if some form of deeply buried, internalized homophobia is at work when queer writers complain about coming out stories.
In my mind, black gay folks are not well represented in writing. I write to help correct that omission. I am by no means the end all be all of black queer folks. Far from it. But I have a voice, and I strive to put it to the best use I can.
4) How does your writing process work?
Generally speaking I prefer peaceful solitude and a clean desk. I’m rather fanatical about having the desk where my computer sits free of clutter. The return can have junk on it, but the space I see while writing has only my computer, its speakers, the volume control, the keyboard charger, and my iPhone in its charger. That’s it. It’s a clear glass desk with a clear glass keyboard tray. I can’t untangle the clutter in my head if I’m faced with clutter. Distractions are deadly.
I stick to natural light during the day and keep the lights dimmed at night, using an LED task light – I’ve never been one for bright overhead lights. And, when I don’t require silence, I play instrumental jazz. (Vocals can cause a collision with the words trying to get out of my head.) When I’m editing a long work, like a book manuscript, then I typically turn to Wayne Shorter’s seminal masterpiece Speak No Evil. That sets the mood better than anything else.
I have software to help organize the writing process. I can do virtual flashcards, character notes, scene notes, and other such things on the computer. Sometimes I’ve been known to do an outline. But I usually rely on the “thought-experiment” approach. I think things out ahead of time – scenes, characters, emotions, actions, motivations. When a picture has crystalized, then I start writing it out to see where I can go with it. If it works, splendid. If it doesn’t, then I usually know because I get slugging about getting back to it again. A day or two might pass, then I’ll finally say, “Yeah, OK, that sucked.” That’s when I’ll tear it asunder and either rework it majorly or start over. It has taken a while, but I have finally trained myself not to “settle” for anything. “Good enough” means, “I’m sick of working on it.” That way leads to death.
Thank you again, Pat, for your enthusiasm and invitation to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour.
I’m proud and happy to introduce Hans Hirschi, an excellent writer and blogger, who will continue the Writing Process tour on his blog Tumbleweed’s World next week. Here is more about Hans:
Hans M. Hirschi (b. 1967) has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life efficiently put an end to his fictional writing for over twenty years.
A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world and had previously published non-fictional titles.
The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with the opportunity to unleash his creative writing once again. With little influence over his brain’s creative workings, he indulges it, going with the flow.
A deeply rooted passion for, faith in a better world, in love, tolerance and diversity are a red thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work. His novels might best be described as “literary romance, engaging characters and relevant stories that won’t leave you untouched, but hopeful.”
Hans is a proud member of the Swedish Writers’ Union, the Writers’ Center in Sweden and serves as chair of the Swedish Federation of Self- & Independent Publishers.