In this week’s installment of Meet A Human, meet Emily Logan. Singer. Pianist. Copywriter. Admitted Nook owner. Blogger. And, most recently, published author. Logan’s novella, Paper, about a writer and a fictional character whose worlds increasingly intersect in reality, is available now. We spoke about the story, the writing process, seeing yourself in your work, the secretly delightful violence of editing, and – because it’s my blog – The Walking Dead.
How did Paper come about?
EL: I started writing it in Roger Rosenblatt’s class.* It was the very first class in the MFA that I took, so I think…the idea might have come from my fear that I was starting this whole writing journey and maybe I wasn’t cut out for it. Because I thought a lot about how much I go back and forth with writing, and I kind of feel guilty – “Why am I in this writing program if I have no idea how to write or finish a story?”
* [Editor’s note: I was in the same novella class.]
What was your writing process like with this story?
EL: My mind goes to different places at night, like when I’m just sitting there thinking about things and falling into a pit. Continue reading
I interviewed Professor Jessica Hautsch for Stony Brook’s PWR blog. Hautsch, a writing professor, studied kinesthetic learning and considered how performance and creative work could help her students with one of the slipperiest tasks a writing professor faces: teaching grammar. Check it out: the end-result ranges from talk of teaching to student anxiety to Garrison Keillor to Abbott and Costello. There’s even talk of strangling a kitten.*
*Note: no kittens were harmed in the making of this blog.
This week for the Stony Brook writing program’s blog, I interviewed Shreeya Tuladhar, a biology major minoring in writing and anthropology. Tuladhar was a child model in Nepal, an experience that began a lifetime of struggling with body image issues and one exacerbated by her family later moving to New York City; she skipped a grade and was the smallest student in her classes, something other classmates bullied and abused her about. She had so many thoughts she didn’t feel she could express, so she wrote about them. She kept a diary. She posted poems to hi5. As her studies continued she wrote and read more and more, and in college a class project gave her an opening to create a written document and a digital film that talked about her experiences and invited her audience to share their own insecurities and literally re-frame them as part of what makes them beautiful. And so “Project BEaUtiful” was born. Check out my interview with Tuladhar and her video below.
I give up, writing. I think.
The first story I wrote was in 1989, when I was 11, after an earthquake interrupted the World Series. It was a short story about humans discovering two warring nations beneath the surface of the Earth – one benevolent and friendly, the other violent and obsessed with power.
The last story I had published was seven months ago: a sultan in an ancient Muslim paradise must decide which of his three sons should succeed him. Two of the sons, the twins, are fools; the third son is born of a slave girl and never speaks. The father gives them a test, a magical bird. Whoever gains the most with it will gain the throne.
The last story I wrote? I don’t remember.
Many of my friends are successful/aspiring writers. Sometimes that’s cool. Writers are weirdos. They’re grown-ass adults who voluntarily spend much of their lifespan alone, obsessing about the world of make-believe. Company helps. Ever seen a mental patient on the street versus one in a psych ward? Company helps. Sometimes knowing so many writers blows. Because just like when you were in elementary school and always comparing your height to your peers, as an adult writer you end up comparing your life to the people you know who chose to be the same lonely make-believe weirdo you chose to be. Yet comparing yourself to another writer is a fool’s errand, since it’s impossible to ever really know how any other human being is ever really doing, much less one who excels at storytelling. Writers excel at manipulating reality and spinning believable falsehoods. Writers are basically taking selfies 24/7, only selfies of places that don’t exist. People who take selfies look like they’re seizing the day, but stopping life to freeze a frieze of it’s not carpe diem. It’s carpe cellulaire.
This week, at both colleges where I teach, someone posted flyers advertising for a paper-writing service. They marketed themselves as a “current Master’s student.” I was struck by the seeming audacity and doublethink of this. So I called the ad, pretended to be a student, and set up a meeting. I wanted to find out how someone in academia came to the conclusion that writing papers for others is kosher. I also wanted to hear from students about their feelings regarding plagiarism. Check it the story over at the Stony Brook Writing & Rhetoric blog.
It’s 3:13 TIME in the morning and I can’t sleep. Haven’t been able to all week.
Some Israeli science wizards did a study that found sleep deprivation and interrupted sleep are both detrimental to one’s cognition. I’m not sure who’d find this newsworthy. If you’re getting solid sleep, your cognition’s unimpaired, so this finding’s about as revelatory as a study on how eating week-old sushi left out in the sun can suck; if, like me, you aren’t getting sleep, then you’re already aware of the negative side effects and don’t need some Tel Aviv wise-asses to clue you in. Continue reading
I recently reviewed the novel Shirley, by Susan Scarf Merrell, for the literary journal Prick of the Spindle. It was not at all what I’d anticipated and became something more than I expected…something more than a novel. You can read the review here.
From mid-April till last week, I was, body and soul, the property of the 80 or so students in my writing classes. Their end of semester workloads were coming due, and anxieties were crescendo-ing. I offered to meet with and help anyone who had 10-15 minutes to spare. I held more conferences than an airport Radisson. Offered more advice than an airport Radisson conference full of Dear Abbys and Ann Landerseseses. I learned much about the Keystone Pipeline, a couple viruses I’d never heard of, and how depleting the global population of tigers can negatively impact human civilization, too.
Do advice columnists get tenure?
“In ancient Phrygia, in a temple in Telmissus, there was a great wonder: the reins of a cart, twisted by the dead king Gordius, into a knot that nobody could untie. The reins were made of Cornel bark, which had shrunk and compacted over the years. And they were tied in what’s called a Turkish knot, with no visible ends. Hundreds of men had tried and failed to loosen it.”
I’ve been working on a new short story. A guy gets a friend request from his ex and has to decide whether to accept it or reject it. The story alternates between flashbacks to different eras in their relationship—the halcyon early months, the helpless hurt of the last weeks, the vertiginous in-between—and the present-day moment of decision. Beneath a starry night sky, the protagonist balances what once seemed to matter against what’s left of what was, and tries to understand: if matter is neither created nor destroyed, then what is left after love and hate run their course? In their most basic state, stripped of all our ornamentation, what survives? Continue reading
9:24. I’m going to start working on my new short story at 9:30.
The downstairs kicking-and-screamers started arguing one minute ago. She just walked out of the apartment. He just stormed after her. If she does not leave, this will get physical. Quickly. If she does leave, it will get physical when she comes home in the middle of the night. Continue reading