Saturday, March 29, 2008

Who(hu)man Beings

I can't believe I cried at Horton Hears a Who last night. That kind of takes the cake as far as sentimentality goes, although I believe I once wept at the abysmal 80s film Fresh Horses as well. But, as I was trying to justify to Simone, there was something very moving/human about all the Whos in Whoville shouting "We are here!" together that reminded me of two million people marching through London to demand accountability from their government to *not* illegally attack another country. We, and yes I was among those two million, already knew that the WMD claims were spurious, so it confounds me when people say they only found out about it later. Anyway, I think I cried because it all ended up being to no avail; the government *didn't* listen; the people really couldn't speak. It reminds me of our whole planet shouting out to somewhere else in space, "We are here!". "Someone take notice!".

Or maybe I'm just pre-menstrual.

Which Epic Poet are You?

Which Epic Poet Are You?
created with
You scored as Dante Alighieri

You are Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy. You chose to employ a very complex allegorical method to attack the political and religous shortcomings of your contemporaries, as well as to express wider spiritual truths. Your affection for Vergil led you to make him a central character in your epic.

Well, I suppose "very complex allegorical method to attack the political and religious shortcomings of your contemporaries" might apply to my book Girl on a Stick as well, if I flatter myself. I've never actually read The Divine Comedy, though I've always liked the idea of it. I plan to take at least ten books to Korea to catch up on my reading, as I'll be there for 10 days and my hosts (my brother's fiancee's parents) don't speak English. I would also like to walk around Busan a lot; not to get too Genet-ish about it (or whorish?), but I really do like dock-towns and port cities. Here's a painting I did of Marseilles called The Hairy Fish-Wife. Click on it to enlarge it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On the Subject of Thin Skin

As a writer, I have tough skin, unless I have a flood of rejections in a row. I reckon I have about a 25% acceptance rate from short stories/poems/novels I send out. If I can see that the publishing company/agent has accepted someone as a client/author who I consider to be less talented, I can just shrug a rejection off and say to myself, well, bad taste, better luck next time. There is a codicil here that has to do with Girl on a Stick. I worked my ass off on Girl on a Stick, and it was devastating nearly every time I got another rejection before it was accepted, and I guess what made it particularly awful was big-deal agents saying how much they loved my writing, but this just didn't grab them/they weren't in love with it (I am sure any writer knows well the not-in-love-with-it phrase; as I've been a fiction editor, I know it's what editors use when they have no good reason to reject other than personal taste, which is fair enough).

With Girl on a Stick, it got a little pathological, and even as a published novelist and someone who has been in love with books and reading my entire life, I found myself resenting every new book I saw, and trying to keep myself from envying other people's success when I couldn't understand why GOAS wasn't being lauded/accepted. That was painful, and bitterness is not a common trait with me, or something I admire in myself. That eased when GOAS got a publisher, but I still think it hasn't gotten its due, and possibly never will. I tend to be very self-critical, so if I say that something I have created is good, it's probably very good. It has taken me years to be able to say "I am a writer" to people. People still say, "Really? Self-published?" Er, no. (And, again not something I am proud of: "Fuck you for your underestimation!", but only in my head, of course.) Anyway, GOAS aside, usually thick skin.

As a painter, even thicker skin, possibly because I am so outside the system anyway. I don't even know how to work it. I just keep painting, and putting shows on from time to time, and people keep buying the paintings. I would love to have a manager/agent who discovered and believed in me, but I don't have the energy/time to look for one. If someone doesn't like my art, I can usually think, in a good-natured way, of course, "To hell with ya." Lately, though, I see contemporaries have the $$$ to devote to their painting careers full-time and I am jealous of that, though not of them, really. I have a good feeling about my paintings, actually, like one day I actually will be discovered and hopefully by this I won't be too cynical to be delighted by the stardom.

As a filmmaker and actor, rice-paper thin skin. For the former, lack of experience playing the festival/distribution game and therefore lack of confidence in my own work (men never seem to suffer from this, I've noticed); for the latter, residual neurosis from a fucked-up experience at drama school, which has been partly healed by taking part in the lovely Sarah Wood's films and being praised etc. I am definitely someone who blooms under praise, not criticism.

My last posts have been heavily narcissistic, but that's art for ya. Besides, I feel uncomfortable spilling personal details about my life, my girlfriend, my family, my friends. And I rarely even discuss my "artistic life" anyway with anyone, so these last two posts are something quite new for me as well. One personal detail is that, for some reason, I have really been missing my London-based friend Venetia recently. It's weird to live 10 years in one place and then have all those people, all those memories, just gone. It was sort of the same with Stockholm, where I lived for around 3 years and then left abruptly, never to return. I always assume I'll just show up for a film festival or a book reading at some point. I still dream in fluent Swedish from time to time. It would be odd to see the way it smells, feels. But London, I feel, is current with me, kind of more in my present blood (like Seattle, 3 years as well). Stockholm feels like Alaska, something taken for given. It's not exactly the past. London, New York, even San Francisco, Barcelona, my sell-out dream beachhouse in San Diego, all feel like the present and the future to me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I am feeling - fuck. I don't know. I'm going to list.

I am waiting for my second novel to come out, and I have been waiting for over a year and a half from its first scheduled publication date. I think my publishers are bringing it out soon. I worked so hard on it and I have a fear that it probably won't get reviewed. It kind of breaks my heart. At the same time I really love my publishers and their vision and I know they are doing everything they can. I think it's a very good book. I just want it to come out; I don't care that it won't get its due in terms of reviews/coverage; I just want it published.

I am trying to get a U.S. agent at the moment, while still retaining my lovely UK agent. That means I have a few bigshot agents reading my stuff. I have had rejection letters in my life previously, of course, but they are never form letters and they always say "you're a terrific writer" or "you're a very talented writer", so I will choose to believe them and carry on. Honestly, though, sometimes I am close to giving up hope as a writer and a filmmaker and painter. I am already working menial temp jobs for $10/hour (I've been temping at a cool place recently, though); maybe I should just accept my fate with no ambitions, but I think that would kill me. I think it is already killing me. No one knows.

Anyway, I had my bound proofs of GIRL ON A STICK that were sent off with some of my proposals to NY agents, and most of them are still reading/considering at the moment, and that includes being read by two dream agents that I would dearly love to have. One of the few rejections I have had (actually it was more of a "please rewrite and we will reconsider" letter) was a great rejection as far as rejections go, one where they said that THE MATCHBOX should be darker and more twisted and they knew I could do dark and twisted because they'd read part of GOAS and that the characters in THE MATCHBOX were just too mainstream. I had to laugh at that one; I am not usually encouraged to be more edgy. I actually felt better after reading it, again not a common occurrence with rejection letters. At least she got it, and got me.

Is the novel which was sold to the same publishers as GOAS as part of a 2-book deal, but their schedule is delayed, so I don't know when it will be published. HE'S LUCID is kind of a cross between GIRL ON A STICK and THE MATCHBOX. It's set 131 years in the future, in an Alaska devastated by global warming. It's very funny. It's extremely playful and even lighthearted while still being edgy as fuck. I like the language best here in HE'S LUCID, though GIRL ON A STICK is a close second. HE'S LUCID is my favorite thing that I've written. The entire manuscript is complete and, having been bought, is waiting to be published. I performed some sections to dancing polar bears and a violin at Bumbershoot a few years back, but that seems so long ago too. I am waiting on this one as well.

Is my mainstream book, or at least as mainstream as I can go without feeling like I'm selling out. It is like eating a decadent chocolate fairy tale. I stand by it. I think it's clever. We'll see about that one. That is the one that is out with agents at the moment. Bloomsbury UK nearly bought it, but the final purse-strings editor wasn't as wild about it as the two commissioning editors. It has gotten a lot of support from the former editor of Granta. The entire manuscript is complete.

Is a reverse Taming of Shrew, about a cranky, glamorous food editor who discovers a male genie in a perfume bottle. It is (very) loosely based on 1,001 Arabian Nights. There are 4 completed and polished chapters for this (10,000 words). I just gave this one to my British agent. THE MATCHBOX and ALL BOTTLED UP go together, with overlapping characters, but both are stand-alone.

Is my chimp-human interbreeding science fiction blockbuster. I would love to sell this one. Proposal + 20,000 words completed. The SF novel of my heart.

Is literary fiction, set in current-day Alaska. It's sort of similar in tone to The Shipping News, playful and dark, sweet and sad. Proposal + 10,000 words complete.

A novel of linked short stories. I hope to finish this this week. 90,000 words. God knows if it will ever be published, but I am proud of it.

A children's book that I have written and illustrated. It's all completed. It's zany. I spent years on it.

A poetry manuscript, completed. Most of the poems have been published previously, but I just don't have the energy to send this off.

100+ paintings.

1 interesting, quirky feature film that feels like it's never going to get done.

1 filmed but unedited feature documentary film about craftmakers.

1 cool feature screenplay that I would like to film called Spaceships Over Corvallis.

Is it any wonder that I feel like a fucking failure? All this and all for nothing. I am just worn down. I have tried so hard for so many years, and come close so many times, and now I'm just shutting down. Am I cursed? My writing, my filmmaking, my paintings - occasionally even my acting - is beautiful and interesting. Why. Can't. I. Get. A. Break. I feel like an iris retreating in on itself. I'm sorry. I'm in a dark place. No one ever sees it, but it's there.

Yeah, I'm listing, like a ship going down with all my treasures. Fuck it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Passport Photos

Well, I am getting a new passport. And I had to choose between extreme Wednesday Addams and just averagely grumpy. I decided not to go with pure evil.

Seriously, I'm a pretty cheerful person.