Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Quality of Descent

Oh, hey, I wrote a story and you can read it! "The Quality of Descent" is over at Lightspeed Magazine. It’s about a girl with wings, love, falling, theatrical lies by way of magic show, and faith. I actually love this story a whole lot, though it took me forever to write and kind of hurt along the way.
"The trick begins like this: The magician throws an egg up into the air, where it flies — small and white and full of import — up and up, high into the black reaches of the proscenium. We await the descent, holding our breaths, expecting at any moment the crash of slapstick hilarity, exploding like a bomb. But the egg simply vanishes."
They even made an audio version for their podcast. As a fan of audiobooks and radio plays and most situations that involve having a story read to me by someone with a nice voice, I’m over the moon about this. It’s the first time I’ve heard one of my stories read aloud by someone else and it makes me giddy.
The lovely Liz Argall also interviewed me about the story here.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

our show is so beautiful and it's making me sad

So, Peter and the Wolf, the show I've been working on since January with Sharp & Fine​ has turned out to be one of the most frustrating and most wonderful projects I've ever done. With three other dancers and four musicians, we've been figuring out how to tell a story in new ways. We have the musicians moving (even dancing) and the dancers sunk deep inside their characters and everyone making things up in the moment onstage, but all inside a structure and a story that we've spent months drafting together. It's been exploration that turned into excitement that got railroaded by frustration and beat up by strife that slid into anxiety and then, somehow, flew into the theater in a thousand pieces and transformed into a beautiful monster. It was a hard and sometimes awful process (Shan and I fought a whole lot over this one... nasty, truly sisterly fights), but the thing it's turned into lives up to the most surprising and meaningful parts of the stuff we found during it.

I think it might be the best show that my sister and I have made so far. Everyone in it is extraordinary. We've had two shows already and each time I've been onstage having a hard time not falling out of my own character because I'm so flattened by their goodness. It's exactly what I wanted the show to be, even though I didn't know what that was until it was done.

But, hardly anyone is coming to see it and I am so heartbroken about this. I feel like I'm letting our little band of tenacious, brave, and exceptionally, generously skilled players down because they're onstage, pouring so much effort into this story and it's spilling out to such a sparse audience. They deserve to have hearts to move and brains to challenge.

Reasons you should come see Peter and the Wolf tonight or tomorrow if you are anywhere near San Francisco:
  1. These artists are totally, fucking amazing. Let me give you their names: Katharine Hawthorne (Peter), Marissa Brown & Joshua Marshall (the Wolf, Josh on tenor sax), Carson Stein & Theo Padouvas (the Duck, Theo on cornet), Shannon Kurashige & Max Judelson (the Cat, Max on cello), Aram Shelton & me (the Bird, Aram on clarinet), Stephanie Buchner on lights. The dancers are really good. Like, some of my favorites ever, continuously forcing me to abandon my jadedness. And the musicians are incredible. And Stephanie is a magician who transforms a weird, brick theater into a surrealist interpretation of a forest going through a day and a night.
  2. It's a really good dance show. And a really good music show. And the musicians dance too. 
  3. I have no idea when or if this will ever happen again. The thing about building a show on top of the talents of particular individuals is that it ends up fitting them exactly. I can't imagine Peter without every person already in it. Dance shows so often have such short public lives. One weekend and they're gone. 
  4. It's fun. People laughed out loud. An old couple (strangers, shockingly) stood up to clap, all alone in their row. My three-year-old cousin watched the entire show, happily fascinated.
Please come. It'll make me happy.
Peter and the Wolf at ODC Theater, San Francisco
Saturday, 10/25 at 8pm; Sunday, 10/26 at 2pm
Tickets: $23 in advance, $28 at theater, $18 students/seniors

Here are some more pictures to tempt you. All of these were taken by the marvelous Benjamin Hersh.

(this one is me, with Aram, doing our bird duet. It's one of most enjoyable duets I've done in ages)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

expectations of chivalry

Chivalry: The brave, honorable, and courteous character attributed to the ideal knight; disinterested bravery, honor, and courtesy; chivalrousness. --Oxford English Dictionary

A few weeks ago, I was riding the BART from Oakland to San Francisco. It was night, but not yet very late. I was with my sister and a friend, three women on our way home from a music show in a friend of a friend's living room. We were dressed nicely, but not extraordinarily. We were sober, tired, and probably talking about books or food. Across the aisle from us were four young men, well dressed, not boisterous. They were talking about apps and office politics.

Standing in the aisle, there was a crazy drunk.

The crazy drunk was muttering, occasionally shouting, and he smelled of drink, drink, drink. He sat down next to my friend and reached into my lap to grab my hands. He had filthy hair, filthy clothes, and his hands were so dirty that I could feel his palms sticking to my wrists. He said something and then he laughed. His eyes were very wet and very red. I thought about how unfortunate it was that I had crossed my legs with my bad knee on top. What if I kicked him and I was at a disadvantage because I have a leg that is slightly less confident in force? "Don't touch me," I said. He laughed and laughed. He was a cartoon lunatic, every now and then thrusting his chin or chest at one of us so we would clutch and wilt.

We didn't say anything because we were scared. We are physically capable women. I don't think any of us would hesitate to tell off an overeager man in a bar, to deflect a grope with a swat or a slap. But, when the harassment is both drunk and unstable, when you can't trust the efficacy of shame in returning  the situation to accepted boundaries, it seems safer to stay silent and hold still.

The four men across the aisle didn't say anything either. They looked at us out of the corner of their eyes and talked about bourbon and a co-worker's latest mistakes.

Eventually, the crazy drunk left us. He went to the other end of the car, slapped a man across the face, and started a fight. He had to be restrained by another man and pushed out of the train when we finally emerged from the tunnel that runs under the Bay.

People clapped for the man who restrained the crazy drunk. The four men across the aisle from us pointedly did not look. They talked about their plans for the weekend.

When my sister, friend, and I got off the train, we discovered that each of us was upset that the men across from us said nothing. We also discovered that each of us instantly felt guilty for feeling upset. We felt guilty for expecting a certain behavior, for expecting someone to rescue us from the situation. Why couldn't we do it ourselves? Aren't we strong? Aren't we adults? Why do we have the expectation that a person will intervene on our behalf, just because he is physically capable and a man?

We talked about how different a city is when you walk around it with a man from when you walk around it with another woman. We talked about how we have all been in situations where we were harassed, menaced, and scared by a man, but had the aggression immediately dissipate when another man leaned over and said, "are you bothering her?" Just that. "Are you bothering her?" We talked about how we have all been in similar situations where another woman asked the same thing and the harassment grew more belligerent, gleeful, unhinged. "How funny," says the man who harasses, gropes, or threatens us. "You're so angry. You look so pretty when you're angry." I have sat on a bus while a young man scraped a knife back and forth across the pole between us and told his friends that "girls like it when you have a knife, oh yeah, they think it's sexy," and I said nothing because I was scared.

It makes me feel both fussy and ridiculous to realize that I have expectations of chivalry from men. But, it makes me angry to know that, in certain situations, my desire to not be touched or threatened is not taken seriously until it is reinforced by a man. It makes me sad that experience has taught me that any upset I display has less effect than a man leaning over to say, "hey, man, are you bothering her?"

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"no one liked it when the cousins came up for air."

My sister and I had a conversation about dandyism and underground drug farms. It left me with a half-baked story idea that I may or may not end up working on because I am the laziest when it comes to doing research for stories.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"oh, Margot," said the tape recorder

I'm working on a new short story. It's a little bit ridiculous. 

A trick I've discovered: when bored with your own turns of phrase, particularly when you're as prone to lollygagging sentences as I am, it helps to draw a picture and write the words on the picture in as attractive a fashion as possible. Seeing them as actual objects on the paper makes me reconsider all those extra clotting words. I once had the pleasure of talking to Daniel Clowes. He told me that lettering by hand is sometimes the only way he can know what the word that should come next is. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

stories (mine) of 2013

I've left this blog cold and unattended for a long while. A long while in which many things happened and I acquired a taste for the sort of panicked mania that is brought on by working on something with equal amounts of passion and fear. 

(More about this one day, maybe. Sharp & Fine put on a show that put me through the wringer and that I loved to pieces. It was called Queen of Knives and adapted from Neil Gaiman's poem of the same name. Pretty pictures HERE.)

So, 2013: the year of frequent passion and terror. And, somehow, also the first year I've ever had more than one story published. I had exactly one more than one--and for someone who finishes a story only rarely due to laziness and frequent distraction, having two come out in one year seems incredibly indulgent--and I am going to savor that fact for a little moment, feel very queenly and pleased with myself, before returning to the world of dance and passions and, hopefully, a bit less fear.


The Manticore, the Mermaid, and Me (in Unnatural Creatures, ed. by Neil Gaiman and Maria Dahvana Headley, April 2013). A story about two young people who are very dear to each other, but who can't quite seem to see the same thing at the same time. Also, a story about a natural history museum, monsters, an overheated summer, and overheated hearts. Indulges my obsessions with rogue taxidermy and awkward transformations.

Because of this story, I have an email thread in which Neil asks whether I have a story he might like and to which I reply, in the wee hours of the morning, by calling Neil and Maria the cat's pajamas, making the unrelated declaration that "I HATE LOVE," and blaming all email typos on a slew of French 75s.

Eating the Pomegranate (Electric Velocipede, December 2013). A story about things that I don't normally write stories about: sisters, strange fixations on appetite, Persephone. Also, a story about the things I'm always writing about: ghosts, disasters, people leaving. The people in this story are mostly unhappy, the kind of people I'd find a drag to be around if they were real, but who somehow became bizarrely inescapable when I made them up. I told myself, very specifically, that I didn't want to write about Persephone (I mean, how annoying is she, with her whiff of piteous manipulation?), but, apparently, I couldn't help myself.


This is what I look like after a year in which I have been very, very excited and equally nervous for a long time (and, it seems, incapable of scheduling a haircut). I think I am trying to look intense. My friend Lauren made a Marat/Sade comment. I have since made friends with my hairbrush again.

Cheers, 2013.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

sharing a table with strangers

A recent coffeeshop experience.
(or, call me Miss Lonelyhearts, apparently)

(click for larger + clearer)