In this brilliantly rendered, LA Times Book Prize nominated debut collection, Sara Lippmann draws the reader into the intimate lives of characters seeking connection beyond their scripted worlds. She captures the beguiling transformation from child to adult with humor, heartache, and desperation. From grieving mothers to fathers adrift, old flames to restless teens, isolated characters in Doll Palace are united by conflicting desires and the private struggles of the heart. A girl ditches her innocence at a state fair. Strippers ponder love over a Brazilian wax. A father falls for a drug-addled babysitter. A mother ends a pregnancy. Doll Palace dwells in the harder-edged territories of human compassion, navigating the powerful, often unsettling ground rarely spoken of with awareness, care, and grace. Doll Palace is that rare collection that invites imitation but leaves a vast majority wondering how she did it.
Sometimes you meet fellow creatives who are both brilliant and heartfelt, both accomplished and grounded. Today, I’m going to share with you a few of these fellow creatives whom I call friends, confidantes and truly gifted authors/poets. I recommend them to you highly, not only for the genius they put into the world but also for the way they put themselves into the world: Rosebud Ben-Oni, Cris Mazza, Vallie Lynn Watson, Michael Nye, Luke Goebel and my writing workshop group at Aspen Writers’ Summer Words workshop led by Andre Dubus III. Rosebud invited me to this party, and she’s asked me to answer a few questions on my process of writing. Heheh. But first, I want to introduce Rosebud Ben-Oni:
Rosebud Ben-Oni is the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists’ Collective, 2013) and a CantoMundo Fellow. Her work appears in The American Poetry Review, Bayou, Arts & Letters, Puerto del Sol, The Feminist Wire, Dialogist, B O D Y, Lana Turner Journal, Slice Magazine, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and elsewhere. In 2010, her story “A Way out of the Colonia” won the Editor’s Prize in Camera Obscura. Please read more about Rosebud at rosebudbenoni.com. She is super-talented and she does good things at VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. If you don’t know her then that’s only because you are lame. Don’t be lame. Check out her book and her site. @rosebudbenoni
Now, on the Process of Writing…
On what am I currently working?
A drug-infused cult ride through a McDonald’s, a chapel, addictions, more addictions, sex, drive-thru redemption and snake worshipping. It’s a novel. Or it might have been my last book tour. I’m a little groggy on the details.
How does your work differ from others’ works in the same genre?
Richard Peabody described my writing as “akin to doing the tango with a succubus.” Frederick Barthelme said my words “point you, by what’s left out, to a spot on this good earth where the heart might flourish.” Which is to say my work will dance with you and suck at you and will urge you toward some lighter space outside the confines of your dark room. I like this. I value dark and intimate spaces. They are the best way to know yourself and the best way to search out the light, whether or not you ever find it. Makes no matter. It is the journey. This is what I look for in my reading and it’s what I endeavor to inflict on my characters. Why is this unique? I’ll tell you a secret. I am a dancer and a succubus.
Why do you write what you do?
I read to contemplate. I write for the same reason. Contemplation. I have no patience for readers or writers who wish to be led by the hand. If I’m not challenged intellectually and emotionally by what I’ve read or written, I’m bored. And there is nothing worse than a bored writer.
How does your writing process work?
Penelope’s tapestry. I’ll weave it and unweave it. Then I’ll weave it and unweave it again. For twenty long years I’ll weave and unweave the damn thing until it is smarter than me and figures out a way to weave itself. At one point, or several, it will piss me off and I’ll start mixing metaphors and throwing lip curls and beer bottles at it and then I’ll break it all to pieces. A real Sid Vicious. In the morning I’ll build it up again and sit down and get to work.
*How much of this self-interview is true?
Some of it. None of it. More. Or less. It doesn’t really matter what I say about myself as a writer. It makes no difference to the work. If you’re looking for writing advice or formulas, there are none. I mean, people will say things like write everyday (or whatever your rhythm is). And revision is the true art of writing. And they are correct. But most of it, the truly important pieces, you’ll have to work out for yourself along the way. Sorry. That’s the truth of it. Except for socks. I really like socks. I can’t wear shoes when I’m writing and if my feet are cold, I’m too distracted. Everything is lost in the discomfort of cold digits. So that’s my advice. Socks. Keep a pair of comfy socks nearby. They are your path to Pulitzer. I think. But I don’t now. I’m just writing. Oh. Oh. Actually. Here’s something Dubus (III) said in a workshop this last month, quoting Richard Bausch: “Dream dream dream.” Don’t overthink it when in the process of first putting words to paper. I like this. Dream it through. I think Dubus’ words were, “Dream it through, brother, dream it through.” He also meant sister.
Next week, Tune into Cris Mazza, Vallie Lynn Watson, Michael Nye and Luke Goebel…
Cris Mazza | Cris Mazza is the author of Something Wrong With Her, a hybrid memoir published by Jaded Ibis Press in 2014, a companion piece to Various Men Who Knew Us As Girls. She has authored over a dozen other books, mostly novels and collections of short fiction. She is the winner of the Pen/Nelson Algren Award. Mazza now lives in the Midwest and is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois Chicago. @crismazzaauthor
Vallie Lynn Watson | Vallie Lynn Watson is the author of the novel A River So Long (Luminis Books, 2012). Her work has appeared in dozens of literary magazines such as PANK, decomP magazinE, andGargoyle. She is an editor at New World Writing, formerly Mississippi Review online. Watson received her doctorate at the Center for Writers, the University of Southern Mississippi, and is teaching part-time in the Creative Writing and English departments at University of North Carolina Wilmington. In her spare time she is earning a hot air ballooning license. @vallielwatson
Michael Nye | Michael Nye is the author of Strategies Against Extinction, his debut short-story collection, was released from Queen’s Ferry Press in October 2012. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Crab Orchard Review, Kenyon Review, New South, Sou’wester, and South Dakota Review, among many others. His work has been a finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in fiction and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is at work on new stories and a novel. He lives in the Midwest and works as the managing editor of The Missouri Review. @mpnye
Luke Goebel | Luke B. Goebel is a fiction writer living in Texas. His first novel, Fourteen Stories: None of Them Are Yours, will be released in September of 2014 by FC2 as the latest winner of the Ronald Sukenick Prize for Innovative Fiction.
And Then There Is Aspen…
I must give a special shout-out to an amazing writing group at The Aspen Writers Summer Workshop this June in Aspen, Colorado. A big thank you to Aspen Writer’s for bringing me out and a bow to Vannessa Hua, Alex Wilson, Cara Lopez Lee, Terry Dubow, Tom Bernard, Dennis Vaughn, Lija Fisher, Cristal Thomas, Kathy Conde and, of course, our truly spectacular leader, Andre Dubus III, who I now affectionately refer to as sensei. Also, it was a treat to meet Meg Wolitzer, Melissa Bank and Billy Collins.
Here we are…
And here is the bottle we shot and autographed after our last workshop story.
Rae Bryant is the author of the short story collection, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals (Patasola Press, 2011). Her stories, essays, and poetry have appeared in print and online at The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, McSweeney’s, Huffington Post, New World Writing, Gargoyle Magazine, and Redivider, among other publications. Her intermedia has exhibited in New York, DC, Baltimore and Florence, Italy. She has won prizes and fellowships from Johns Hopkins, Aspen Writers Foundation, VCCA and Whidbey Writers and has been nominated for the Pen/Hemingway, Pen Emerging Writers, The &NOW Award and multiple times for the Pushcart award. Rae earned a Masters in Writing from Hopkins where she continues to teach creative writing and is founding editor of The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. She also teaches and lectures in the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa and The Eckleburg Workshops. She is represented by Jennifer Carlson with Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. @raebryant | #mywritingprocess