Seattle P-I: RIP

Today, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer prints its last.

The P-I, as it is known about town, is not only the first newpaper to publish here in the ekvelt (Yiddish for “the hinterland”), it is also Seattle’s oldest continually operating business. By shutting down its print publication, The P-I becomes the first major daily to publish solely on online.

 Read all about it, for the last time, here.


One of the “Other” Readers: Jennifer Finney Boylan

Ms. Boylan has the lightening wit of a Restoration comedy clown, and balls the size of England.

Jennifer Finney Boylan is a long drink of water with ginger hair and the mouth of a sailor, which I’d lay money was true back when she was a man. If she ever was. Jenny—as she calls herself when not on Oprah as the go-to gal for sex-change dishing—defines her check-box as ” born transgendered.” She married, published (Remind Me to Murder You Later, Getting In) earned tenure, and fathered two children as James Finney Boylan. Until 2001.

Hello world. Meet Jennifer Finney Boylan.

Two memoirs later (She’s Not There, winner of the Lambda Award, and a follow-up, I’m Looking Through You), Jenny was touring for the latter when I caught her act at Elliot Bay Books. Every seventh word was unprintable (and I used to write for The Stranger). The ones that weren’t were unbelievably funny. Ms. Boylan has the lightening wit of a Restoration comedy clown, and balls the size of England. (Can I say that?) She is to the lit scene what Barak Obama was to the ’04 Democratic Convention, except that she is white. And now has a vagina.

What will this rock-star-hilarious, tranny-heroine say about her Avatar? And what will she think of my piece?

Get yer tix:

More on My Avatar—because I WON

We now move out of the sonorous passive voice, as it is considered poor writing.

Perhaps it is not obvious, but I am still reveling in the fact that I won.

Many of you wanted to know more about the contest: every year since it opened its Victorian doors, Richard Hugo House throws a New Works Competition. A theme is given, a word count maximum established, and a date set by which submissions must be received. We now move out of the sonorous passive voice, as it is considered poor writing, to say that because I won, I am invited to read at the fourth and final installment of this year’s Hugo Literary Series, alongside Famous Writers.

We will be sharing our work around the theme “My Avatar” at Seattle’s top-notch literary venue Town Hall. Included on the evening’s bill are Jennifer Boylan and Vikram Chandra.

Oh, yes; A-hem: and me. Because I won.

For those Philistines who have not connected with the work of  “Jenny” and “Vik” (??), future blog posts will inform and inspire. You. To come.

Get yer tix at:

Literary vs. commercial writing

Generalities emerge to plague us.

What is the difference?

In some corners of the writing world, there is great fracas regarding what constitutes literary and what constitutes commercial writing; aka: genre. Generalities emerge to plague us:

  • literary writing is good; commercial writing makes money
  • literary writing is character-driven; commercial writing is plot-driven
  • literary writing uses long sentences and big words; commercial writing is for bird-brains who can’t grasp metaphor. They need similes.
  • literary writing is boring; commercial writing is entertaining
  • literary writing ends with all characters miserable and the reader feeling like committing suicide; commercial writing is fluff

Balderdash. The first thing to know about the alleged division is: what matters to a reader is that the writing is good. Readers define for themselves what constitutes “good.”

Literary and commercial writing do vary in their use of language, such in the way that Beethoven sounds like Beethoven and Patsy Cline sounds like Patsy Cline. Music has a sound. Writing has a voice. Literary writing sounds literary, and commercial writing sounds commercial.

Important Thing To Know, The Second: the genres literary and commercial are a necessary divisions only when it comes to getting your writing to a reader. In other words: selling.

Submitting to literary journals

How many stories you think one person needs before they submit to journals?

RL in Tacoma writes: How many stories or pieces do you think one person needs to have or build up before they submit to journals? 

One. One very good piece.  So good, your teeth hurt. If it’s not that good, keep working.

As soon as you send it, start working on the next one.


Create time to write

I would write all night. As the birds began chirping on Saturday mornings, I would lower the shades and flop into bed, a deeply satisfied stereotype.

My friend Susan Guyette asks: How do you create your time to write?

Susan, I cannot tell you how pleased I am that you did not ask, “How do you find the time to write?” No one finds the time to write. Writers hunt down writing time. We stab it, drag it back in by the knife handle and feast, jealously guarding our bloody, juicy morsels.

I create time for my writing by acknowledging that I am a writer. Writers write. You will know if you, too, are a writer, by not writing. Try a day and a half. If you can go a day and a half without developing a mad itch, you may not be a writer.

OK, maybe three days.

The other way to make sure I create time to write is to work on something I am passionate about. Then, try to stop me.

When I first started my as-of-yet unpublished novel—a girl and her backpack in Southeast Asia—I had no real outside distractions. I was single and childless. My job existed to feed my writing habit. Leaving work on Fridays, I would write all night. As the birds began chirping on Saturday mornings, I would lower the shades and flop into bed, a deeply satisfied stereotype. I’d see friends on Saturday nights and spend Sundays doing that which was necessary to show up clothed for work on Monday morning. I would think about my novel all week, living for the moment when I could unplug the phone and plunge back in. Never once in the four years it took me to assemble a first draft did I have block. 

Eventually, I met the adorable fellow whom I eventually married, I switched my writing binge to Sundays. He watched sports, I wrote. We met for dinner, where  I talked about nothing but my work. The man is a saint, a saint.

When we had our first child, I didn’t write for six months. After that, see above: go nuts if you don’t.  With alarming irregularity, I squeezed in a few hours, a couple times a week. My focus, however, had shifted. With the addition of our second child, I sensed I would be more like a year. It was longer. These days, my commitment is as least fifteen minutes a day, first thing in the morning, at least three days a week. I generally hit about a half-hour, four times a week.

For excellent ideas on tracking down and knifing your own writing schedule, please visit this outstanding and free website. Write Habit is run by Angela Jane Fountas, currently the writer-in-residence at Richard Hugo House.

The Bee Gees hook up with Abba, all melt

You must see “La Boum,” the cleanest French film out there. Set in the early 80s, before hair got as big as shoulder pads (or perhaps b/c the film is French and the fashion is just better), we follow a young teen going to “boums” (very mild parties—”Get me a coke?” “Ah, oui,”) and doing some even milder making out. Each time she makes out, the camera spins in a dreamy way and the soundtrack plays what sounds like the Bee Gees hook up with Abba, and then they all melt.

I can relate.

I just got the news that my essay, “My 70s Avatar” WON the Richard Hugo House New Works Competition. I will be reading “My 70s Avatar” on Friday, March 20, 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, with Vikram Chandra and Jennifer Finney Boylan, also reading new work with the theme “My Avatar”.

Until then, I will be in my trailer.