I herewith enter my work into a blog post relay, invited to do so by a wonderfully talented and generous blogger by the name of Thelma Adams. You can see Thelma pictured here, in a photo I pilfered from her FB post, showing her with MoMA film curator Rajenda Roy at the Provincetown Film FEstival.
You can read her blog here: http://www.thelmadams.com. The first part of the process is to answer a few questions about my process.
1. What am I working on now? Oh, dear, that is a convoluted question. Is it ever not a convoluted question for writers? It looks like we’re doing nothing but staying home and grazing, avoiding the telephone, shunning family and friends, being insular. But in fact, we have several projects at work in various stages, and everything out there is a distraction, every loved one an unwitting saboteur. Okay. So I’ll attempt to answer the question. I am at present accumulating research notes on life in Vienna and Zagreb between world wars, especially in the assimilated Jewish community, for a book I am writing about my mother’s generation, the losses they endured, and the devastating effect of that loss on my generation. At the same time, I am interviewing people, visiting sites in NYC for my column in Catch & Release, the Columbia Journal online (http://catchandrelease.columbiajournal.org/2014/06/12/get-real-robert-schenkkan-helps-unpack-the-paradox-of-all-the-way/), which I file every other Thursday. So far, I have posted stories about Hilton Als, Robert Schenkkan; a look at the Leslie-Lohman Museum will debut Thursday, and I am working on my post for the week of the 10th of July. Stay tuned. When it comes to my blog, I try to write my own observations. Sometimes I review film or theater or literature, sometimes I’ll describe a character or characters, other times I’ll comment on a social condition. Often, I reprint articles that I have published elsewhere.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? Like most skillful writers, I have a distinct voice, a specific point of view. I am a story teller, and I try to infuse some of my sense of irony, even my dark humor, but I am not a comic writer; I tell stories with pathos, but I am not a dark dramatist. I let the story mirror its own emotion, keep it as non-manipulative as the story allows me to be. I am more interested in the people I write about than the plot of their story, so there will always be more detail about the life my characters live than the blow-by-blow of the storyline.
3. Why do I write what I do? I am compelled to write about moments I believe will shine a light on other people’s circumstances. I hope that there is a universal nugget in every story I tell, a portal to understanding some aspect of the human existence that had been hiding under a different point of view. I am especially interested in why and how people survive, what survival costs and what it earns, how survival redirects lives. I am less interested in heroics than I am in the more difficult task of surviving in the face of powerlessness. There is more acknowledgement for the survivor who rails against fate and wrestles it to the death than there is for the survivor who flees. Sometimes escape takes more courage, more strength than any kind of pushback, and I want to tell stories of people who endured, carried on, lived with the knowledge that they did not turn things around.
4. How does my writing process work? As you can plainly see from my first reply here, I am an inveterate procrastinator, but that procrastination is integral to my process. I must take walks, wander my apartment investigating the contents of my cupboards and refrigerator, flip tv channels, crunch chips or cucumbers or cauliflower, play a few rounds of Scrabble while my thoughts gel, and then I can begin to formulate the words on a page. I am a good excuse fabricator, but in the final analysis, I can get down to business pretty efficiently, especially if I know I have a deadlines, to which I am very responsive. (One reason I returned to school last year was to impose stricter deadlines on myself.) Mostly, I think the hardest thing I have to accomplish is giving myself permission to write. I grew up being trained to see my duty to family, house and community as far more important than the simple accumulation of words, and I a constantly reminding myself that writing is my work now, writing is my obligation, writing is my reason for being.
I have invited three writers to join me on this tour, and I am awaiting confirmation from two. But fortunately for everyone, Caroline Gerardo, the author of several novels, including Toxic Assets and The Lucky Boy, has agreed to join. Besides being a novelist, Caroline is a performance poet, a photographer a blogger (http://carolinegerardo.blogspot.com ). Caroline lives in California and Wyoming with her children, and you can learn more about her here: http://carolinegerardo.com/home. I am posting today, and she will post her tour blog next week. Coming in the next day or two, the names and bios of my second and third partners in this venture.
My newest blog post, entitled LA MISERABLE, will appear here tomorrow at 8 a.m.