Fiction Points: Sarah Gerard

SarahbyDavidSarah Gerard is the author of a novel, Binary Star (2015); two chapbooks, BFF (2015)  and Things I Told My Mother (2013); and a forthcoming collection of essays, Sunshine State, centered on her childhood in Florida, the home state she shares with PointsShe also writes a monthly column on artists’ notebooks, “Paper Trail” for Hazlitt. Gerard’s chapbooks garnered praise from tastemakers such as Hobart and The Rumpus, and Binary Star received glowing reviews from, among other publications, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, NPR, Vanity Fair, and The Los Angeles Times, which chose the book as a finalist for its Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.  Buzzfeed, Flavorwire, Largehearted Boy, NPR, and Vanity Fair put Gerard’s debut novel on their 2015 year-end lists. Her short stories, essays, and criticism have appeared in venues including BOMB Magazine, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times, New York Magazine’s “The Cut,” The Paris Review Daily, and Vice, as well as in anthologies for Joyland and The Saturday Evening Post. She teaches writing in New York City and has been a visiting writer at the University of Maine, The New School, Pratt, and other institutions.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

I write about the intersection of arctic birds and religion. Can I interview you?

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

Well, the protagonist of Binary Star is anorexic and addicted to diet pills. Her boyfriend is an alcoholic and takes his psychiatric medication not exactly as prescribed. So, they may find that interesting. I write about drugs and alcohol in a rather different way in my essay collection, which I’m finishing now. I kind of toy with the boundaries of what is a drug: alcohol is a drug, ecstasy is a drug, but is religion also a drug? Is capitalism? Is success? Also, I don’t like to categorically vilify drugs and alcohol. Sometimes recreational drugs are a lot of fun, and sometimes they’re used as medication when another isn’t available. Read More »

Fiction Points: Eileen Cronin

CRONINEileen Cronin is a writer and clinical psychologist. Her book Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience (2014) centers on her search for the truth about her body and the role that the drug thalidomide played in its shape, her childhood in a large Catholic family, her mother’s mental illness, her marriage, and her own struggles with alcohol. In addition to nonfiction, Cronin writes poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Bellevue Literary Review, Los Angeles Times, Third Coast,  and Best American Essays, among other venues. She also writes for The Huffington Post. Mermaid appeared on O, The Oprah Magazine‘s Best Memoirs of 2014 list and Pop Sugar‘s “Must Reads of 2014.” In 2008, Cronin won the Washington Writing Prize for Short Fiction. Her nonfiction has earned her a Pushcart Prize nomination, and her two novels were finalists for the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Award for Novels-in-Progress. Cronin serves as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine and lives in Los Angeles. 

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

I can’t help but to notice the resemblance between these folks at the bar. But I don’t ask about that, nor do I tell them that I have written about a nun who looked like a penguin when she ran. Instead I tell them what I have in common with them. I write about Catholics, sort of like Alice McDermott but with a bit more of an edge.Read More »

Fiction Points: Chloe Caldwell

Chloe Caldwell in Kingston, NY for Grazia 5/31/14Chloe Caldwell is the author of the novella WOMEN (2014) and the essay collection Legs Get Led Astray (2012). Her work has appeared in VICE, Salon, The Rumpus, The Sun, Men’s Health, several anthologies (including Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York)and elsewhere. Lena Dunham named WOMEN among her 10 Favorite Books in the New York Times, and Caldwell’s work has earned her praise from Bitch Magazine, Buzzfeed Books, The Master’s Review, and Publisher’s Weekly, among others. Coffee House Press/Emily Books will publish her next essay collection, I’ll Tell You in Person, in October 2016.

 

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

This is my worst nightmare. I change what I write about depending on who I’m talking to and what I think they can ingest. I meet them where they are. So female! When I’m talking to a parent’s friend or something, I say, travel essays. I really dislike talking about my work with strangers. It takes away the magic of the work. I suck at talking about my work. I’d rather have it speak for itself. So I’d probably get guarded and weird and tell them I wrote a novella. Then I’d text my friends saying OMFG there’s a penguin and a nun in this bar.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

I’m stumped!

caldwell_illtellyou_cover_9781566894531-e1462461416588

What led you to write about drugs and alcohol in the first place?

Because I was using drugs and alcohol and writing about my life. So….was inevitable.

How would you describe the way that drugs function in your work, whether in terms of thematic concerns or the choices you make about how to craft a narrative? Do you think there are things that you wouldn’t be able to explore as successfully if drugs weren’t in your writing arsenal?

The essay I wrote “Heroin and Acne” for Salon is a good example of this. I like exploring gray areas and middle grounds of themes. Our culture always wants people to be black or white: you’re either a drug addict or you’re not. You’re either a lesbian or your straight. I’ve struggled with identity issues throughout my twenties (like everyone) because often I fell in between, and there weren’t many narratives for me to read that were coming from that place, so I wanted to write them.

What do you personally find most interesting about how drugs work in your writing, and where do you see that interest leading you in future projects?

WOMENI like how drugs and alcohol inform the narrator’s choices in WOMEN. One event in the book is the narrator moves to a new town to get away from the drugs she’s doing, but she finds Finn and begins an addictive relationship with her. I’m interested in any addictive behaviors. in my own life, in books and films, in my friends’ lives, and I don’t mean with drugs and alcohol specifically—with the internet, chocolate, fruit, exercise, coffee.

I’m not sure where it will lead me in future projects. I don’t do drugs anymore, but I still reflect on them a ton and am always fascinated with them as much as I am with recovery and health. It’s important to me to un-cliche the way addiction and recovery stories are told. The ways people stay physically and mentally healthy are just as if not more fascinating than addiction stories.

BONUS QUESTION: Let’s hope that your novella Women gets made into a major motion picture. If you have your choice, which is it, and what song do you fantasize about hearing as the credits roll?

Better Off” by Haim or “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” by Natalie Prass or “Daydreaming” by Dark Dark Dark.

Fiction Points: Scott McClanahan

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Scott McClanahan (credit: HTMLGiant)

Scott McClanahan is the author of the novel Hill William (2013), the nonfiction work Crapalachia: A Biography of Place (2013), and the short story collections Stories (2008), Stories II (2009), Stories V! (2011), and The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan Vol. 1 (2012), which includes the out-of-print Stories and Stories II. He cofounded the production company and press Holler Presents with Chris Oxley, who plays beside McClanahan in the band Holler Boys. McClanahan also makes films, available online via Holler Presents. Crapalachia received positive reviews from the New York TimesThe Paris Review, Paste, and The Washington Post, among others; The Huffington Post gave Stories V! a heartfelt rave, and The Fader has called McClanahan “one of [its] favorite writers.”  He appeared on Dzanc Books’ “20 Writers to Watch: An Alternate List” list in 2010 and won Philadelphia’s third Literary Death Match in 2012. He lives in West Virginia with his wife, the writer Juliet Escoria, who has also been featured on Points.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

First, I’d never introduce myself as a writer, but I’d probably ask them about being a nun or a penguin. That seems a hell of a lot more interesting. I think if you found a penguin talking you should probably ask the talking penguin about how it learned to talk rather than babbling about your stupid writing. “Well, it’s called flash fiction Mr. Penguin because it’s really short and flashy.” Nah.Read More »

Fiction Points: Elissa Washuta

elissawashutapicElissa Washuta is the author of Starvation Mode: A Memoir of Food, Consumption, and Control (2015) and My Body is a Book of Rules (2014), the latter of which was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Washuta has received fellowships and awards from Artist Trust, 4Culture, Potlatch Fund, and Hugo House. Her essays have appeared in Buzzfeed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Literary HubSalon, Third Coast, and elsewhere. Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and teaches nonfiction in the Institute for American Indian Arts’ MFA program, where she is also the faculty advisor for Mud City Journal. Additionally, she serves as the undergraduate advisor for the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington, from which she earned her MFA. She lives outside Seattle.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

Differently than I would answer almost anyone else, probably, because my first book, My Body Is a Book of Rules, is about sex, (psych) drugs, violence, alcohol, Indigenous identity, and the nuns who tried to teach me how to live. I might whisper to the penguin that I still have all the issues of Cosmopolitan from December 2007 to May 2011 that I used to create a quote-comparison of the magazine’s sex tips and text from The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

Prescribing Information,” one of the chapters in My Body Is a Book of Rules, takes the form of a list of the prescription drugs for bipolar disorder I used and, occasionally, abused between 2006 and 2009. The voice is inspired by that of the information pharmacies dispense alongside prescription drugs. Throughout the book, I write about the effects—helpful and harmful—of those drugs, including Seroquel, Abilify, Xanax, Ativan, and lithium.Read More »

Fiction Points: Elizabeth Ellen

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Elizabeth Ellen reads from Fast Machine

Elizabeth Ellen is a writer and editor who resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is the author of the story collections Before You She was a Pit Bull (2006) and Fast Machine (2012), an assemblage of her best work from the last decade. A chapbook of her flash fiction, entitled Sixteen Miles Outside of Phoenix, appears in Rose Metal Press’ A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (2008), and Ellen released a poetry collection, Bridget Fonda, in 2015. Her short story “Teen Culture” won a Pushcart Prize in 2012, and her work has been published online or in print by American Short FictionBOMBHTMLGiant, The GuardianLazy Fascist ReviewMcSweeney’s, MuuMuu House, and Vol. 1 Brooklyn among other venues. Ellen also co-edits the journal Hobart and oversees its book division, Short Flight/Long Drive Books.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

I tell them the same thing I tell everyone who asks that question: myself. Because I’m a narcissist and solipsistic. And the two nuns and the penguin don’t interest me half as much as I interest myself. LOL. Though I can’t imagine telling anyone in a bar I’m a writer. Read More »

Fiction Points: Mira Gonzalez

miragonzalez
Mira  Gonzalez (credit: her Tumblr)

Mira Gonzalez is the author of the poetry collection i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together (2013) and Selected Tweets (2015), a collaborative double-book with recent Fiction Points interviewee Tao Lin. Her work has appeared in Vice, Hobart, MuuMuu House, The Quietus, and elsewhere. Gonzalez’s poems, tweets, essays, and musings are also available for your reading pleasure on her Tumblr page, at Thought Catalog, and in the two drug-infused columns she writes for Broadly. In 2014, i will never be beautiful enough… made the shortlist for the Believer Poetry Award; Flavorwire named Gonzalez among its “23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013,” and her book has been reviewed by The RumpusNylon, Vice, and other publications. Gonzalez lives in Brooklyn and hails from Los Angeles.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?
I would probably be too confused by the penguin in a bar and concerned that my writing would offend the nuns to even tell them my name. I get worried about offending people. I want everybody to like me.
Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?
I mean, if drugs and alcohol are what they find most interesting then I guess they would be most interested in my drug and alcohol use, particularly my use of less common drugs such as DMT. Or, I guess what I’m saying is that if I were an alcohol and drug historian, I would be most interested in less common, particularly psychedelic drugs, such as DMT.

Read More »

Fiction Points: Sean H. Doyle

seandoyle
Sean H. Doyle

Sean H. Doyle is the author of This Must Be The Place (2015), a memoir in fragments. The book received praise from the Chicago TribuneVol. 1 Brooklyn, Gawker, and Poets & Writers. His work has appeared in MonkeybicyclePANKVol. 1 Brooklyn, WhiskeyPaper, and other venues, including on his own website, which offers a wonderfully overwhelming and oft-updated look into his brain. Doyle also makes music as shenxian. He lives in Brooklyn.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

Did the nuns ask me to confess some character flaw? I don’t normally tell people—or penguins—that I write. In my experience, folks who offer that up right away are usually welders or CEOs in disguise. I’d probably answer by telling them that I write about my inability to unsee the world and the things that happen around me or to me or inside of me.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

Maybe the audience would find my work interesting because my work doesn’t apologize at all? Drugs and alcohol are a part of every life, even those lives seemingly free of imbibing. My life has not been perfect, will never be perfect, and my experiences with drugs and alcohol have been important to my understanding of my past/current/future self and how I fit into and out of the world around me.Read More »

Fiction Points: Wendy C. Ortiz

WendyCOrtiznewWendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (2014), Hollywood Notebook (2015), and Bruja (forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms in late 2016). Entropy Magazine put Hollywood Notebook not only on its Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 list but also on its list of Most Notable Books in the same year; Excavation was named among Large-Hearted Boy‘s best nonfiction books of 2014 and featured in Bustle‘s “11 Groundbreaking Books about Women Making History with Their Thinking, Activism, and Courage.”  Ortiz’s work has appeared in the New York TimesPalabraThe Rumpus, and Vol. 1 Brooklyn, among other venues. For the entirety of 2014, she wrote a monthly column for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, “On the Trail of Mary Jane,” about Southern California’s medical-marijuana dispensary culture. Ortiz cofounded and, from 2001 until 2015, curated the Rhapsodomancy Reading Series in Los Angeles, where she was born and raised and currently resides.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

Am I on LSD? Well, okay, two nuns and a penguin. I write about growing up in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles; gestating into adulthood in the Pacific Northwest, and living in Los Angeles since 2001. More specifically? Adolescent sexual agency, sexuality, spirituality in its broadest sense, power dynamics in relationships, “relationships” and many of the things that fall under that umbrella, and what it’s like to live in this body at this time. Read More »

Fiction Points: Rob Roberge

RobRoberge
Rob Roberge

Rob Roberge is the author of the memoir Liar (2016), three novels–The Cost of Living (2013), More Than They Could Chew (2005), and Drive (2001)–and the short-story collection Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life (2010). Liar has been excerpted by The Rumpus and praised in The LA Review of BooksPublisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus, and Roberge’s previous work earned him a spot on The Literary Review’s “Ten Writers Worth Knowing” list as well as the admiration of authors including Steve Almond, previous Fiction Points participant Stephen Elliott, Janet Fitch, and Cheryl Strayed. His work has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, The Nervous BreakdownPenthouse, The Rumpus, and  ZYZZYVA, among other venues. Roberge is also a musician, singing and playing guitar in the Los Angeles-based band The Urinals. He teaches in the University of California Riverside/Palm Desert’s MFA program and received his own MFA from Vermont College.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

Hmm. Well, I probably wouldn’t tell them I’m a writer unless they’d asked what I do, as I try not to force that info on people (and, I would suppose, Penguins). And I’m terrible (as many writers are) at answering the question of what I write about. Sometimes I say black humor, but that’s only an aspect of it—not the whole deal. I probably write the most about the quietly horrifying gap between who we know we are capable of being at our best, and who we actually are in our day to day lives.Read More »