Tuesday, December 6, 2016

IWSG - Ghost Ship Fire - Oakland - R.I.P.

It's the first Wednesday of the month, time for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group post! The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a safe place where we get together to share our insecurities. To join and/or learn more CLICK HERE!!!!

Inside the warehouse before the fire.

It has been a devastating weekend. An artist collective located in an Oakland warehouse was destroyed during a Golden Donna concert. It was the last 'first Friday celebration' of 2016. 

Every first Friday of the month at the warehouse most popularly known as Ghost Ship, artists got together to showcase their work and make merry. Last Friday the ship caught fire.

Ghost Ship post fire.

Like many of the 'affordable' artist work/lofts in the area, the place wasn't up to code. As a result a confirmed 36 artists and attendees lost their lives.

At first, news reporters were portraying Ghost Ship as a group of irresponsible "ravers" ruining neighborhoods, and endangering our youth. Mainstream media has since changed their tune. They are now mourning the lives of writers, musicians, visual artists, and scholars. 

As a writer soon to be out of grad school, I am devastated, not just for the artists and educators who died and for those who mourn them, but for the artists who are struggling to remain here in the Bay. This needless tragedy was in big part a result of the housing crisis. We are literally loosing our artists!

"Why can't you go live somewhere more affordable?" Residents who work in industries unrelated to the arts have asked me. 

This is where our community is! There are tech employees renting closets in my building. Pretty sure that's not legal either.

I'm insecure that because I'm a freelance writer, novelist, and academic my community doesn't see me as worthy enough to keep around.

What do you think? We've been pushed out San Francisco and into Oakland, now we're getting pushed out of the East Bay. What should we do? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Performance Art Collaboration With Guillermo Gomez-Pena

Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Belatronica, the cyborg poet held a Performance Making workshop at San Francisco's Center for Sex and Culture in collaboration with California Institute of Integral Studies' Dancing With The So Called Dead festival.
The performance culminated around the creation of two human statues and then make an altar. The two living altars were juxtaposed to each other. The concept was an altar to America: The Fallen Diva! This performance piece left the Center for Sex and Culture and was reconstructed back at the Desai Matter Gallery to be created into a seance! 
This was a beautiful piece to be apart of!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Attended an awesome workshop with Sean San Jose, then saw Nogales. Amazing!


by Richard Montoya and directed by Sean San Jose

After attending an intense workshop led by Sean San Jose at California Institute of Integral Studies I went to check out Nogales at Magic Theatre. Here I was told an amazing story of a murder, investigation, and performance making that can truly instigate change.

On October 10, 2012 Jose Antonio Elena Rodrigues was shot fifteen times by a US Border Patrol Agent. The investigative performance given by Carla Pantoja, Richard Montoya, Sean San Jose, and ensemble was informed, intelligent, raw. Nogales magnifies truth and highlights chaos.

When confronting such crushing social justice issues you have to be able to laugh to stay engaged with the terrifying testimony.  Nogales is no exception. The quick wit and cutting  reality was delivered unapologetically and kept us on the edge of our seats. Most of us stood up to give a standing ovation.

“Thank you friends for your standing applause! For those of you who remained seated, please have a safe drive back to Walnut Creek!” Richard Montoya kept us laughing past the end of the performance. I observed the people who had remained seated. They laughed in spite of themselves. Bravo!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

IWSG - Warning: This is depressing.

It's the first Wednesday of the month y'all! Time for Alex J. Cavanaugh's brain child's blog hop. IWSG is a safe place for writer's of all walks of life to get together, share our insecurities, and support each other. To join The Insecure Writer's Support Group CLICK HERE!!! 

I've been crazy busy this last month. I've been promoting our month long interdisciplinary arts festival Dancing With The So Called Dead and attended a few workshops. It's been awesome, and I'm filled with gratitude for the experience, but I feel so guilty.

A woman I knew died in the middle of all this. I found out through a friend that she took her own life. She took an Uber to the Golden Gate Bridge, and jumped. I'm so angry at the Uber driver. Who drives an upset person to a fucking bridge? I'm angry at her boyfriend. When someone tells you they're going to commit suicide, you don't ignore them. Mostly, I'm just pissed off with San Francisco. This permissive city punishes all the wrong people. 

My friend wrote a really beautiful piece on this poor girl: - https://medium.com/@bodacious_and_loquacious

I've written a few pieces myself to cope, and it's becoming a giant rant of an essay. Do any of you deal with your grief the same way?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Being yourself, not caring what other people think, and why that's so hard.

It's the first Wednesday of the month! Time for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group post. This is a safe place for writers to post their insecurities and get valuable feedback from others. To join Alex's brainchild and receive support from these amazing people CLICK HERE!!!

I just submitted and audio video essay to my Art of the Essay class and braced myself for mixed review. The video I made dealt with controversial topics as a comedy skit. I do try hard not to take my beliefs and philosophy too seriously. In my younger years I wasted so much time angry and upset. It took a minute to learn when I make a joke out of serious issues it makes them more palatable for the reader/viewer to stomach. In my work, I use dark humor to subvert the mystery novel similar to Raymond Chandler. While uncovering the mystery I introduce social justice issues the reader wasn't expecting, much like Walter Mosley. 

When I'm bored or feel like I'm being misunderstood it puts a stop to my creative process. I was scared I would feel this way after I submitted my assignment. Thankfully, neither of the above happened.  October is usually my most productive time of the year. 

The video was a bit off, and because I'm in art school people just assumed it was artfully done. I didn't mean for the voice to be out of synch. That was a result of hack video editing. Ha. I suppose I'm the most revealing in my videos because it's easier for me to be honest while doing a comedy skit. Similar to writer Jenny Lawson, I find it's easier to make fun of myself, my honest self during the big reveal. It's empowering. It takes away the power other people have to call me out on my flaws when I call them out first. I'll be posting my video here shortly. 

Do any of you find a specific medium or genre more honest for your work? If so, what?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG - Using euphemisms to write the sex scene. Why not to do it. I'm insecure about critiquing others work!

It's the first Wednesday of the month. Time for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support group, when we all digitally get together and share what we feel insecure about.

To sign up, click here!

You might have seen the last post where I rant about the three worst pieces of writing advice I've received. Show don't tell, only one point of view per manuscript, and don't worry about the title. I would like to add one more. Using euphemism to write a sex scene.

Periscope - ahem-

Does anyone think it attractive when their significant other uses euphemisms to describe sex? Is it a turn on to be told it's time for: "The old in-and-out." "Making the beast with two backs." "Doing the wild monkey dance."?


So why do it in your writing? 

Here's one for you. Bad prose is like bad sex. It's uncomfortable and can be painful. An MFA student in my graduate cohort argues that art is always about sex and death. I can go with that, but in art sex is most real when it's unaffected. I don't want to read about your submarine's erect periscope in search of her sandy beaches.

I'm saying this here because I'm too insecure to directly critique those who do this. I need to check my earlier writing. I could be guilty of it, too.

Have you ever experienced this? Hope everyone is ready for fall and not being tortured like I am. You guys rock!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Is Microdosing A Good Idea For Insecure Writers?

Art work by LeahG
I'm a bad insecure writer. I missed my monthly insecure writers support group post this month. Bad. Bad. Bad.

I am now the Master Fine Arts Program Assistant at CIIS. I work in the office next to our lovely Program Coordinator, Paula. I've been dialoguing with agents in New York trying to get representation for my MFA thesis, and I've been receiving the nicest rejection letters! Between that, homework, and working on another indie project I can use a boost. 

My school has a center for psychedelic research, and Silicon Valley has made taking amounts of LSD and psilocybin that are below the perceptual threshold into 'a thing'.  It's more than peaked my interest. Hundreds of people are taking small doses of psychedelics on a regular schedule to improve mood, focus, and creativity. Users have reported relief from headaches and depression.

You might be thinking, "Alright, cool. I've  done enough psychedelics for the courts to see me as clinically insane. I must be a genius."


You only take it every four days, and you're not supposed to feel it. It goes like this. Day one, you dose. Day four, you does again. 

I'm seriously considering it, but the idea gives me pause. I have a lot of balls in the air on top of being a second year grad student, and I'm not sure I can risk negative side effects. Any thoughts? I heart comments!

IWSG - Why I'm worried I'm censoring myself.

It's the first Wednesday of the month. Time to post for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group!

I'm in grad school workshopping a mystery novel that shines a light in a few of San Francisco's dark corners. Because it touches on controversial topics, including recent true crimes, I've been catching a bit of flack for it.

I chose the school I'm attending over others I was accepted to due to it's nontraditional bent. Still, I feel like the controversial topics are making a few people uncomfortable. . . Only read below if you don't mind being an urban tourist. ;)

*Because all blog work is considered "published" I had to delete the excerpt below.*

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

IWSG Writing and Self Care

It's the first Wednesday of the month. Time for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. Here, we get together to show support to all our fellow writers and unload our insecurities. To sign up and join, click below.

I've been revisiting A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I would usually skip the forward introductions to all books in my twenties. Now, that I write preludes and forwards to almost every project, I paid more attention when revisiting this old dog eared copy of mine.

The forward is by Walter Percy, the man who 'discovered' the manuscript. In his own words he describes how a lady contacted him with a preposterous proposal. Her son had committed suicide, and she wanted Mr. Percy to read her dead son's manuscript, because she thought it's a great novel. 

It wasn't until she stood over him in his office that he read a bit of it, which he wanted badly to be 'bad'. Then he could honestly tell the mother her dead novelist son wrote the heavy manuscript in vain. 

Protagonist, Ignatius Reilly is a mad philosopher. A flatulating tortured genius trapped in modern times. Ignatius's lunatic rages and pyloric valve closing adventures continues on as, Dunces is still on the must read book list at all three of the indie bookstores I've worked in. Still, this artist never tasted success.  

It's not an uncommon story, and after he was a awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction ten years after his death, Toole's is a famous one. The rejection of Dunces contributed to his suicide.

A friend of mine asked me, "Are writers like show people? Even when all their efforts seems futile, they just can't consider anything else?"

"Yeah, pretty much." Right after answering I thought of my running shoes, and debated on how to transition out of the conversation. Then I remembered a book of mine signed by Chuck Palahnuik who was rejected countless times.

I think this is good advice for all of us.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

IWSG Top 3 Worst Pieces of Writing Advice

It's the first Wednesday of the month! Time for author, Alex J. Cavanaugh's brain child, The Insecure Writer's Support Group to get together and help each other out. To sign up click here - http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Kickin it down Pirate Alley in New Orleans.

I just got back from New Orleans ya'll! I went to the Faulkner House bookstore where William Faulkner wrote his very first novel, A Soldier's Pay. On the assumption that the house must be a conduit of creative genius, I attempted to soak up as much as I could before I was asked to leave. Just kidding. The booksellers were very nice.
In this very room, William Faulkner wrote his first novel.

Look how serious my face is. What a nerd!

After discussing it with other writers, I narrowed down what I think are the worst pieces writing advice I've been given over the years.

Here are my 3 worst pieces of writing advice ever -

1. "Show don't tell"
I give an example of how I break this rule in my excerpt below. When dialogue just isn't enough, exposition can be artfully done. There's a way to keep it conversational. Just sayin'.

2. Only one point of view per manuscript.
What the hell? Why? Why do so many workshops insist on this? To say F. Scott Fitzgerald ruined your suspension of disbelief in The Great Gatsby is mind boggling to me. Look at Virginia Wolfe's Mrs. Dalloway. Parallel plot lines. Hello.

3. Don't worry about your title.
Some editors argue that the title is the most important part of your query letter and oral pitch. A bad title can ensure you never get that foot in the door. A bad title cloaks a good book in failure. 

On to my insecurity. It's officially been a month now. I've read through my completed 60,000 word manuscript four times. I need to hit the send button to my cohort and professors. 

When do you know your projects are ready for review? Please let me know in the comments below!

I've posted another teaser of my book. If you're not into exotic dancer mystery novels please skip down to the comments below. 

Happy summer everyone!

Below is the first chapter of North Beach. It begins after two preludes from two different perspectives. Not only do I break the one perspective per manuscript rule, I totally break the "show don't tell rule". Yeah, I broke that b*tch! The rest of the book is fast action dialogue, including the preludes.

*Because all blog work is considered "published", I had to delete the excerpt that was below.*

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

IWSG - Staying motivated. How to keep typing. Plus, an excerpt from that Exotic Dancing Mystery Novel.

It's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group's monthly post! To find out more about Alex J. Cavanaugh's brain chile, click HERE! http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/
My first year of grad school is over. (It's a weird semester schedule. Jan 1st through May 1st) My master thesis project proposal was approved by CIIS's MFA faculty, and my faculty advisor is the amazing Carolyn Cooke
The really exciting part is -drum roll- I finished my novel! It's the most important/ complicated project I've ever attempted. I'm in the process of my first read through.

This is the outline for North Beach. BTW, I hate the fuckwit working title.

Here's a sample of the mystery novel's tone:
(note: Lucifer is a bookseller and paramedic who just has an unusual name.)

The two men reek of Armani White cologne and whisky. It’s one of the colognes we keep in the men’s room at Penthouse Club, a smell I’ve grown to loathe. They must have had a long and blasted evening last night. The right arm of Raymond’s sport coat is slick with a Victoria’s Secret glitter lotion, a.k.a. stripper juice. Probably from one of the all-night bottom-feeder clubs still open after Penthouse closes at three. Stripper juice is forbidden for dancers to wear at both Penthouse and the Gold Club. It not only rubs off on customers, it also makes the two story poles slick and dangerous.
            Outside is Raymond’s blue Ferrari. It’s double-parked. How long is this interrogation going to last? Lucifer is staring at me drop jawed, and I avoid meeting his eyes.
            “How many times was she supposed to meet you in Paris? How much money do you give to her outside the club? She’s been married and divorced. Did she tell you that? She was married when she met you. She’s been using you, mon frere.”
            “Your name is, Ali? You didn’t even tell me your real name?”
            Really? This wealthy grown man who’s traveled the world has to have it spelled out for him?
            “She’s a writer. Did you know that? This has all been a game to her.”
            Isn’t it, though? I’m supposed to feel bad about doing what every dancer is paid to do? It’s not like these men had good intentions for me. Having sex is easy, but true seduction is an art form. The representation is always better than the real thing. Representations are perfection. Whore’s can have real sex and come out scathed, used, even if they’re financially well off. Exotic dancers selling fake sex can make a fortune. It’s like the ‘dachshund author’ who had a paw-signing. Fake books, fake sex, that’s where the money’s at. But some times you have to deal with this shit.
            “You were married?”

Now that I have three months to baby it and pitch it, I've been allowing myself to do this -

And this -

And best of all, this!

Kickin it in the Presidio with my bookseller friend, Anne!
I've also been looking for more freelance writing work on Craigslist. San Francisco Craigslist posts can be both hilarious and mind-boggling.

You have to admit, it's kind of adorable she's too scared to go to a Mac or Benefit counter. Still, come on lady. If you want to emphasize your assets you need to go get berated and belittled by snotty cosmetologists like the rest of us. 

Harvard. Baby. Just. Ew.

I'm working for Public Programs and Performances about every other week. I teach a Writing Workshop Thursday evenings and write a ton, but keeping self imposed deadlines is hard. I'm already missing school. 

How do you stay motivated and typing? Please share in the comments below!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

IWSG - 3 Things NOT To Do In Creative Writing

Hey guys! It's the first Wednesday of the month. Time for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group post. IWSG is the brain child of science fiction novelist Alex J. Cavanaugh. To learn more about how to become one of his Space Ninjas, click HERE!

It's the last week of my second MFA semester at CIIS. I have, urm, like sixty pages to type up by Sunday. Gulp. After all our "speed typing" this is what my cohort and I have nailed down as the top three mistakes we make while writing. Time to backspace delete. -sob- 

1. A catalog of details.  
"Once I was ready to edit I plugged in my computer, organized my stack of papers (regular white computer paper), lined up my black, red, and blue pens to my left (I'm left handed), and pulled out various forms of white out -- liquid paper, the rolling kind, and one that is quick dry." 
- Good to read as a sleep aid. 

2. A non-subjective, perfunctory, and generic description lacking the writer's opinion or emotional significance.
"It was a six hundred square foot apartment on the sixth floor of the downtown San Francisco building. The kind that usually costs around three to four thousand a month in rent. The sixth floor rose above the building located in front of its main windows, allowing sunlight to enter into the space." 
-Good for selling real estate. Not good for creative writing.

3. Flowery description that doesn't add to atmosphere or plot. "The cavernous dam holding back the throb crumbles. It can hold back the infatuation no longer. The torrent of lust consumes and overwhelms."
- The barf buckets overflow with self-indulgent description.

Those are all great descriptions of bad writing, and they're all mine! (Yeah, I wrote that crap.)

Wish me luck kids. If you're in town, I'm reading at the showcase listed in the flyer below. And below that I have a quick question!

I showed you mine. You show me yours.

When you're editing a first draft, what do you find yourself wincing at the most? Hope you're having an awesome spring.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

IWSG - Writing Through A Funk - Depression Just Happens

It's the first Wednesday of the month. Time for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group Post! Click here to join!

I just finished writing a response to an article by Zadie Smith comparing nineteenth century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer's, On the Suffering of the World to modern films like Kaufman's Anomalisa and Being John Malcovich

This put me in a bad mood for days. On an even more depressing note, Shopenhauer states it's cool to commit suicide to relieve yourself of suffering. He hated his mother, pushed his land lady down the stairs, and made me want to change my philosophy major to anything else after writing my senior thesis on his work, World As Will and Representation. The two volume work literally said I would never find enlightenment due to their use as a ladder and my own will. (insert raspberry noise here)

My friends asked what the hell was wrong with me, and I tried to refocus. 

I do a few things to snap out of a funk.  From my pre-teen years on I have kept notebooks filled with poems, diatribes, and more petty than political observations. Now, that I'm an adult with major responsibilites I watch Lumpy Space Princess.

When I'm stuck with an injury and can't do cardio, or if I feel overwhelmed by my academic and work life, I'm prone to stagnate. Yet, when I do manage to get work done it tends to be my best stuff. I write tops when I'm relieving tension. 

Committing to good writing habits can help ensure you are able to make something beautiful out of the terrible crap you're dealing with. 

I try to write first thing in the morning, before I have time to think too hard and brood. What are your strategies?