My friends at The Good Men Project recently asked me to contribute to their cool series, 100 Words On Love. I said yes, of course, because how hard could 100 words be to write...right?
Well, harder than you'd think. At a bloated, meandering 426 words, my first draft went on and on like Moby Dick. There was dialogue, a flashback, and even a paragraph break in there, if you can believe that. My second draft was somewhere in the three-hundreds, I think. I'd lost the flashback, but was still stupidly clinging to the dialogue.
For the next two evenings, I trimmed and cut and killed things, and this is the result. I can say with a fair degree of certainty that it's the most blatantly sentimental 100 words I've ever written. Sorry about that. But, if you're a guy and you have a daughter, you'll understand.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Click here to check it out.
In other news...
In other news...
- The new novel is coming along very well. I'm tentatively calling it "We're All Damaged," which comes from a line of dialogue between two of the main characters. But, keep in mind, before "Domestic Violets" was called "Domestic Violets," it was called "I'm Always In Love" and then "What It's Like To Be Me." So, who the hell knows, right?
- Along with the book, I'm also half-heartedly writing an essay about how much I hate taking my children to the pool. So far there's a lot of swearing.
- I just finished reading the novel "The Middlesteins" by Jami Attenberg, and I really enjoyed it. Family Sagas are my literary weakness. My non-literary weakness: Jack Daniels. But, you know what, we'll save that for another blog post.
- I think it's pretty cool that it looks like Justin Timberlake is actually reading my blog post in this image, and, frankly, he's kind of annoyed with me. Don't give me that sassy look, JT.
Monday, February 11, 2013
One of my favorite things about publishing a novel—aside from the international stardom and incalculable wealth—is that I’ve had the opportunity to call in and speak with book clubs around the country.
I’ve done it maybe a dozen times now over the last year and a half, and it’s always a good time. I say hello and try to sound literary, and then the group tells me a bit about their reaction to my book and then asks me questions.
Each group seems to ask a question that I’ve never been asked before—often about something I’ve never even thought about. But there are a handful of questions that come up a lot, and one of those relates to whether or not I ever encounter my fictional characters in real life.
Some context here. Tom Violet, the main character in my novel Domestic Violets, is haunted by this phenomenon throughout the book. Tom is himself a struggling writer, and he sees his own characters, like ghosts, at key moments in the plot of Domestic Violets.
As a writer, it’s always seemed romantic that I’d see the people I write about wandering around in real life. But it had never actually happened to me before. That is…until last week.
I’d dropped my daughters off with their nanny and was in my car working my way through downtown Baltimore on the way to work. The weather was crappy, which wasn’t helping, and I was listening to covers of Beatles songs. And suddenly, there he was. His name is Andy Carter, and he was walking out of a Dunkin Donuts with a cup of coffee. He looked at me—if just for a second, probably because I was a random guy stopped dead at a red light staring at him—and then he flipped up the hood of his rain jacket and walked across the street.
He didn’t look back at me. The light eventually turned green and I started inching forward again. It was pretty obvious that he wanted to though.
“Hey,” he would have said. “Hey, you. Do us both a big favor and quit looking at pictures of Frowny Cat online and help me figure out my fucking life. Seriously, man…it’s a cat that frowns. Ha-ha. Get over it!”
That’s the thing about my characters…they swear a lot.
And yes, I am available for book clubs. Send me an email and we’ll set up a time.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
When I was younger, each year about this time I’d come up with an elaborate list of my favorite things of the year. Books, movies, albums, TV shows. With virtually no responsibilities and an embarrassing amount of spare time, I was able to consume all of these things incessantly.
Not so much anymore. Sadly, thanks to the two small time vampires living in my house, I now read, watch, and listen less than ever. And, to make matters worse, I now have the short-term memory of an aging, wide-eyed goldfish, which has left me unable to remember anything beyond about three and a half weeks ago.
So, instead of struggling and Google searching and giving myself a big headache, I thought I’d skip all the pop culture stuff and share my favorite moment from this past year. Somehow, all by itself, it manages to be both a perfect year-end review for 2012 and an exact microcosm of my current life.
A few weeks ago, plagued by cabin fever and an odd wave of naïve optimism, my wife and I decided to take both our daughters to the shopping mall by our house. Our first stop was the Macy’s restroom where my three-year-old, Caroline, tried unsuccessfully to go to the bathroom. Our second stop was a different Macy’s restroom where Caroline tried unsuccessfully again to go to the bathroom.
“It’s not coming out,” she told me.
“Are you sure?”
And so we soldiered on. Our destination: J.Crew. I needed to find one more present for my dad, and my wife had a bunch of stuff from the store’s website to return. Like a lot of unnecessarily tall women, about 90% of what she buys online goes back immediately.
With her mother distracted at the register, my one-year-old, Hazel, sensed weakness and demanded I let her out of the stroller. She did this by writhing and screaming like a wild animal who’d been tethered to a cinder block. When I set her down, she took off running toward…well, everything. First, she tried to flip over all of the mannequins. Then she unfolded an entire table of colorful wool sweaters. Then she hid inside a clearance rack of polos and laughed at me. All the while, I kept one eye on Caroline. She stood quietly, examining some long necklaces on a table by the registers—too quietly, actually, but I was distracted by the fact that Hazel was now attempting to barge into occupied dressing rooms.
By then, a long, impatient-looking line had formed behind my wife. As luck would have it, this line was made up entirely of people in their teens and twenties. When I came out from the dressing room carrying an angry Hazel, I noticed that everyone in this line, each of them well-rested and childless, was looking at Caroline. She was saying “Mommy” over and over again, and her expression had turned panicky.
I knew right away what was happening, but I also knew that there was nothing I could do about it. I imagine it’s how a person feels seconds before witnessing a train derailment.
And then Caroline announced to all of us that poop was coming out.
Happy New Year, everyone.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
I was fortunate this month to have my short story Miss November included in a very cool, totally free digital anthology from my friends at Harper Perennial called Forty Stories.
I wrote Miss November during a break from my novel Domestic Violets, which was published last August. Seeing both of them now in retrospect, the similarities are pretty vivid. Both are very domestic stories set squarely in the middle of marriages in transition, both include couples hell bent on not talking about what they really should be talking about, and both use humor as a device to mask their author’s long list of personal insecurities.
The narrators, though, at least in my opinion, are two very different guys. While Tom from Domestic Violets infuriates everyone around him and sprints headlong toward trouble, Mitchell from Miss November is much quieter in his shortcomings, which somehow results in a more ominous conclusion.
I wish I could tell you that Miss November was easy to write—that I hammered out those thirteen or so double-spaced pages over the course of a few hours while watching old Daily Show reruns. But, in truth, it was a total pain in the ass.
A writer friend of mine named Ryan Effgen told me once that a novel is like the Grand Canyon while a short story is like a diamond. I can’t remember if he made that up or if he was quoting someone, but, either way, he was right. Domestic Violets is a big, messy hole in the ground with jagged edges and streams that seem to go nowhere. And Miss November is…well, at least my attempt at…something very small and really shiny.
You can download the entire Forty Stories anthology here to your computer, or here from Amazon.com to your space-age e-reading robot device. In either case, Miss November appears on page 298. And did I mention it’s free?
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
To say that my novel, Domestic Violets, which came out last August, was eligible to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is a true statement. Technically. Right? I mean it’s true in the same way that I was eligible to be named People’s Sexiest Man Alive. After all, I am a man, and I am alive. Regardless, I think we can all agree that I can speak about this year’s lack of a winner with a healthy bit of objectivity.
In failing to name a winner for fiction, the folks in charge of handing out Pulitzers did all of us a disservice. And by “all of us,” I mean the rapidly shrinking number of people out there who still care.
Let’s face it—it’s getting harder and harder to be a true Book Nerd. While certain aspects of TV have never been worse, much of it has never been better. Thanks a lot, HBO and AMC. Movies are delivered right to our homes now—either by mail or modem. And our actual televisions are so enormous and ridiculously advanced that even the shittiest movies you can imagine are marginally impressive, at least visually. Even the weather is against us. Thanks to Climate Change, I can’t remember the last time it was actually cold enough outside to not feel guilty about laying around and reading all day.
But, as depressing as all of that sounds, we could always look forward to the Pulitzer. The National Book Award is fun to follow—and so is the PEN/Faulkner. But there’s something different about the Pulitzer. Each year, when the winner is announced, I email my Book Nerd friends and we discuss it. If we’ve read the book, we either complain about it winning or celebrate it. If we haven’t read the book, we’re embarrassed, and so we go out and buy it right away. And for a few days, we aren’t talking about Don Draper. We aren’t talking about politics or sports or movies or whether or not 30 Rock is a repeat. We’re talking about books.
I’m not saying that choosing the best novel of the year out of thousands is an easy job. In fact, it sounds pretty overwhelming. Next year, though, for the sake of everyone in the country who is still struggling to cling to Book Nerdom…come on, seriously…just suck it up and pick one.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
We’ve all seen movies where hapless, sensationally unprepared people are thrust suddenly into parenthood. The filmmakers usually swing broadly here, giving us any number of comedic diaper malfunctions and projectile vomiting.
I can’t help rolling my eyes because these things become so commonplace so quickly that they’re basically irrelevant. The other day, my five-month-old puked on me with such force that it nearly knocked me over. Still, as warm formula and ground-up carrots ran from my chest down to my lap, I don’t even think I changed my facial expression. My only real concern was whether or not any of it got in my soda.
What the film industry fails to prepare young parents for is something far more difficult to deal with, and that is, well…boredom. Caring for small children can be really, really boring. There, I said it.
I know that sounds terrible and I should probably stop typing and go report myself to Social Services immediately, but, if you have little kids, you know that I’m right, particularly on Sunday afternoons in March when it’s just barely too cold to go outside.
You’d love to read or go see a movie at an actual theater. You’d love to listen to music, eat at a restaurant, attend a sporting event, go for a run, drive without having someone scream gibberish at you from the backseat, or have an interesting conversation with a grownup. Sadly, these things aren’t possible right now—and they won’t be for awhile.
So, instead, you sit around the house. And when I say “around the house,” I actually mean “on the floor,” because your two-year-old wants to play a game she made up called “Climb on Daddy.” And when she says, “Climb on Daddy,” what she actually means is “Step on Daddy’s Crotch.” And while your crotch is being stepped on, you’ll be watching the second half of some random, heavily edited-for-TV movie on ABC Family that you found while endlessly flipping. Today, for me, that movie was Love Actually. And you’ll do this all one-handed, because your five-month-old will insist on being in your arms the entire time, and if you put her down, even for a second, she’ll scream until she’s red-faced and gagging, and she’s not due for another nap for at least two more hours.
And, for the love of God, what’s that smell? Whatever it is, the whole house smells like it.
Please, don’t take this as me complaining. I chose all of this for myself—we all do, eventually. But if you haven’t made this choice yet, I beg you to turn off whatever device it is that you’re reading this on and go somewhere. It doesn’t matter where. Seriously. Anywhere. Please. You may never have the chance again.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the transcript of a conversation I had with my daughter today. Twice.
“I want to eat a cookie, Daddy.”
“Because you’ve been eating cookies all day.”
“I want one, though.”
“You make a good argument, but no.”
“Can I have a cookie now?”
“Can I have a cookie?”
“No. Wait, honey, why are you making that face? Do you have to go to the potty?”
“Are you sure? How about we sit on the potty for a minute?”
“No. I don’t have to.”
“Daddy, can I have a cookie to eat now?”
“I went poop.”