- What do you love the most about writing in your discipline (poetry, fiction, etc)?
I switch disciplines a lot. It’s sort of like pushing all of the buttons to see which one does anything. In this metaphor I am in a rocketship hurtling toward the sun and don’t know how to work it. I spent years writing novels, comics, and some poetry but recently my nonfiction work has been getting a lot of attention so I’ve been writing more of that. I really enjoy trying to characterize something in the most eloquent way possible using a set of ideas. Actually, it’s an agonizing struggle. But it’s really satisfying when I’m done and either I have defeated it or it has defeated me. I like hearing from people who say they read my work and it really changed their thinking on something, or clarified an issue for them they never understood. So I guess it’s the end result I enjoy. Like the most satisfying part about building a house is living in the house, or in this case, writing an essay then getting a small amount of money that could never buy you a house and maybe also some mild attention on the internet.
- Who are you reading right now? Any shout outs or recommendations?
I am re-reading several books for an essay I’m writing. These include Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, J. Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man, Isaac Asimov’s Life and Energy— all excellent and interesting books. Arendt’s book is a particularly astonishing work that really lends insight to history and politics on so many levels. I’m also reading Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It’s pretty good! So far it’s been a succession of ever more uncomfortable tea parties, but that’s my jam (pun intended). I’m slowly learning to navigate the perils of picking a respectable suitor in 19th century England for an educated young lady with a discerning disposition. I’m enjoying it not as much as Wuthering Heights, but more than Jane Eyre.
- Do you ever write from personal experience (memoirists, duh, stupid question), and if so, where do you draw the line when writing about your life?
Yes, but I do it less and less. I regard it as something you have to do when you start. All unskilled art immediately divulges everything the artist doesn’t even know about themselves. All novelists’ first books are about themselves. If they’re not, it means that they just wisely burned that first book Kafka-style. But once the novelist learns to get out of the way, generally the books get much better. Abstracting out your own experience being a human being so other humans can relate to it and feel better about being a human is the sweet spot.
- Kurt Vonugut once said ‘When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.’ How does this make you feel?
Sounds about right.
- Do you often write outside of the genre you are representing at Writers & Words?
Yes, almost all genres, except poetry these days, not because I wouldn’t enjoy it, I just don’t think anyone would read it. Well, I guess I also don’t write plays or screenplays because it’s already a struggle to complete a work and get it to an audience in a way that is acceptable so I would never set out to write something that would be inherently incomplete unless some filmmaker or director I trusted wandered by or something.
Bonus question: If you could do it all again, would you?
No, only some of it.
Come out and hear Dale read at Writers & Words Tuesday, June 13th at 7pm at Charmingtons. I, for one, am hoping or more tea party puns.