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Author Archive: "Monica Drake"

Our Roving Literary Rave

When my second novel, The Stud Book, was published, people asked, "Will they send you on a tour?"

The phrasing of the question made a tour sound so passive, so receptive. It sounded like punishment: Are they going to send you to your room?

There are authors who dread tours. I'm not one of them. For better or worse though, I wasn't sent on a tour at all, but soon enough I was invited on one. With the release of Chuck Palahniuk's most recent novel, Doomed, he was sent on a tour and invited me onboard.

Chuck Palahniuk.

Of Fight Club fame. He's a culture-maker. Chuck, who interviewed Marilyn Manson, among others, who knows Brad Pitt, who writes a book a year and has a reputation for sending personalized presents to his fans.

When Chuck Palahniuk invites you to join his book tour, there's only one answer: yes.

I packed my bags.

I put six sets of pajamas, one thousand customized condoms with the words The Stud Book on each wrapper, my best eyeliner, and a pair of slippers in a single carry-on, and zipped it. ...


A Few Scenes from My Book Launch: The Stud Book

When I first started writing, I'd ride my bike to work. I always had an office job and a gallery job, two or three or more part-time jobs piled up on top of each other. I still have a version of that. In the early evening, on the way home I'd swing by Powell's. I'd rather ride my bike in the dark than during a rush hour commute, and Powell's Books was a place to wait out the most traffic-filled hour and a half or so. I'd read, drink coffee, and almost every night it seemed there was an author reading, if I wanted to stick around.

Dropping by the constant stream of readings at Powell's in that casual way had a lot to do with making the possibility of being a writer real for me. There were writers around, all the time.

One memorable night I saw Joy Williams. Williams is the author of many books, including, State of Grace, which I'd just finished reading at the time. She's since written The Quick and the Dead, and Ill ...


Making It Work

I am one small part of the best writing workshop ever to exist in the entire time-space continuum.

What's that — you question my assertion? You're already doubting the memoir I haven't yet written? Go ahead, parse the definition of "workshop." Hold up the Bloomsbury group, the Algonquin Round Table, a history of Native American story tradition, the "tribe scribe," Greek orators and students, the apprenticeship of Chinese storytellers.

Fie.

Truth is subjective. I offer, in all hyperbole and no qualifications: ours. Try to change my mind.

Sometimes writers, getting started, ask if I think they would do well to join a workshop. They ask if I like workshop. Sometimes they ask if they can join mine. I appreciate the urge, and understand entirely. But it's like asking if I like marriage in general, if they should get married, and then if they might join our long-standing union of nine, walk in, and be intimate.

A good workshop is intimate, even when it seems like it's not.

Once a week, every week, we get together in whatever space we have — basements, living rooms, most recently the back room ...


Elephants

People ask how long it takes to write a novel. It's a hard question to answer. There's the writing process itself, but also the life history, time spent collecting material whether you know you're doing it or not.

When I was 17, I saw a flyer tacked up in a school hallway offering an internship at the Oregon Zoo. I applied and got it.

Then I had this lovely, unpaid gig watching animals. I was sort of an animal babysitter, minus the frozen pizza and any actual power to set a bedtime. For hours, usually in a light rain, I'd stand near an enclosure at the zoo and watch a herd of three elephant cows and their three babies. I had a clipboard, a checklist, and a timer. I'd read long textbooks on animal behavior. Once in a while I'd take a test on theory and terminology. Mostly, my job meant being alone, sometimes in a crowd, with time to think.

Every 45 seconds, when the timer went off, I'd record behavior: Play behavior. Motoring. Grooming. Nursing.

This habit of observation became a way of looking at ...


Getting Started Writing

Find a notebook small enough to slide into your shirt pocket, or your back pocket, the pocket on your jeans; small enough to lose in the depths of your purse or slip in a tiny purse next to your ID and credit card when you go out dancing. It works best if it can be there, with you, when you don't know it's there.

This notebook might cost 79 cents out of a bin. You could lift it from a hotel lobby or bedside, where housekeeping arranged it near the phone. Maybe on a flush day you'll spend $4.95 or even $8 at the art museum so your notebook can sport a yellow-toned reproduction of van Gogh with his bandaged ear or one of Toulouse-Lautrec's dancers kicking up a heel.

It's all the same. That's the cover.

What matters is that it has paper inside, and you've already scored a pen. Feel the cover between your index finger and your thumb. Open your notebook. Uncap your pen.

My father grew up on Portland's Eastside, in a part of town some call Felony Flats. His mother, my grandmother, said there was ...


My Big Plan

There's an art to making a scrambled egg sandwich. Even more, there's an art to enjoying an egg sandwich, and if you can manage that, you can own the world. Count yourself lucky.

I'll tell you how.

Pour a golden drop of virgin olive oil in a clean pan. That's the most expensive ingredient. A little goes a long way.

Half the town? They're out chasing moneyed thrills. They're standing in long lines, blowing good cash, ordering high-end drinks, paying as much for a glass as they would for a bottle while they wait for a table smaller than any table they'd allow in their own place. They're spending their lifetime earning money, pouring it out.

But you.

Stay home, money in your pocket. If you buy anything, buy a pencil. Buy a book. Underline sentences that lift your heart, make your guts sing. Maybe there's one that pushes tears to your eyes for no reason you can remember.

But you want to speak back to it.

Make a scrambled egg sandwich and get your writing done. That's the big deal: write your book. Time and money go ...


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