I Can Only Confirm That I Wrote This Story (But Not Which Parts Are True)

Most of you who follow this blog probably don’t know that wine and food journalism is only part of my overall writing repertoire. Fiction, as well, is a large part of my life, and it’s actually because of my desire to learn fiction writing that I fell into this whole wine thing: I was writing a novel, and taking a really engrossing workshop called the Writers Institute, at the City University of New York. Having hostessed and served in restaurants throughout high school and college, I figured that working in a restaurant would be the logical way to support these unprofitable habits. Just a few tastes of the vin nature at Reynard, and as soon as the manuscript was finished I cast it aside–the proverbial first novel in the drawer; I’m glad I wrote the whole book but I don’t think anyone needs to read it–and I promptly delved into wine study.

But today, I am really happy to share a published short story, that I wrote back when I was studying fiction at the Writers Institute, on the Daily Beast. I hope you’ll find a moment to sit back with a glass of wine (or two? It’s a fairly long piece) and read it–link here. And if any of you out there are fiction writers, I’d love to hear what literary publications you’re into at the moment. I might start polishing up some more of these old workshop stories to send out!

Only one request . . . if you do read my story, “Dancer,” which takes place in Costa Rica, please don’t try to get me to divulge what parts of it are true. I’m sure it’s tempting, but don’t even bother; I am a seasoned writer and I know when to zip my lips, only offering the phrase, “I can neither confirm nor deny.” (OK, I can confirm that I’ve been to Costa Rica. But that’s all! No more concessions.)

Written from a quiet hillside in Italy, where I’m on the Franciacorta trail at the moment. Stay tuned.

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February update

I just wrote 38 bar reviews in 24 hours, it was crazy (and believe it or not, I’ve actually been to *most* of them) . . .

But what I really wanted to say is that I had some fiction published recently, which is great, because it’s nice to write about something besides food and drinking, check it out here! thanks for reading.

Also, I went to Amsterdam (!!!) to write a feature about Heineken.

And lastly, I updated the “about” section of this website, revealing never before told truths about myself! OK not so much but there is a bit more info there.

My feature on Heineken will be out in Tasting Panel magazine later this spring.

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Sheila Heti on Writing Outside of the Academy

From Page Turner:

“SH: Well, if you’re working on a book, the book poses a bunch of questions. Maybe it’s (in the case of my second book, Ticknor) “What were the early birth control pioneers like?” or “What was Florence Nightingale all about?” Most of your curiosities don’t even make it into the book, but you think they will. Moments come where you have to find out about something or you can’t go on. So you start reading in that area (Havelock Ellis, Marie Stopes) and you take in the stuff at a really deep level because your need to know it is at once mysterious (why is Marie Stopes so important to you right now?) and really practical (it might help you finish a scene). I guess the main difference is that you are led down reading paths as you go, rather than coming up with a reading list at the start. Read more

Sentence Level, thoughts during the editing process

I’m nearly done editing the first draft of a novel, and it’s a very engrossing process. I think I agree with Verlyn Klinkenborg that the most important task of a writer is to work at the level of the sentence. You can worry about plot and character and POV as much as you want but it won’t matter if the sentences aren’t works of art – ideally, every single one of them. I credit poets in particular with an understanding of the import of sentences. They can distill a thought down to a few words, or evoke an entire landscape with a phrase. One of my writing teachers at The Writers Institute, Harper’s editor Chris Cox, quoted someone saying that a short story should read like a poem, and a novel should read like a short story. This may be true and applicable in terms of structure. But in terms of voice, the ways that one can write a novel are infinite. There is no determinate on what makes fiction a work of high art. Read more

browser poem

CM Capture 4somebody once told me that when she gets distracted by the Internet, she just makes a poem out of the open tabs on her browser.

 

1)   gmail – here I just e-mailed my boss

2)   wethinkalone.us – here I signed up to receive a weekly e-mail from some writers including Sheila Heti, whose novel I’ve just read

3)   Vamoose Bus – here I am investigating the purchase of a bus ticket to Virginia, where my family lives, for Thanksgiving

4)   WebBeams – this is a portal used to get online at a coffee shop; today I used it at Bedford Hill, one of my staple writing spots, and I reflected that it’s a nice change to see fewer people on computers (because Bedford Hill only implemented the WebBeams policy recently; I’ve noticed other Brooklyn coffee shops doing this lately!)

5)   http://www.margauxwilliamson.com/ – a painter portrayed in Sheila Heti’s novel as the narrator’s (Sheila Heti’s) best friend. Much has been written about Heti’s novel so I’m late the literary party as usual, but God that woman has transformed literature in this hemisphere forever, I am sure of it. A woman writing about being a woman, and how fucking confusing that is (both the writing about being one, and the being one). A new work of literary fiction that takes place outside of New York, for a very nice change (ahem, Mr. Shteyngart/Mr. Lipsyte/Ms. Egan/Mr. Auster, etc etc etc). And the form—the e-mails! Each snippet of meaning, separated out and numbered! The lowercase letters! Each chapter title: “Margaux Goes To . . .” As if it were a children’s book, so cute, this woman’s story about the utter pain of living, of being a postmodernist creature divorced from most of nature, enslaved by economics, addicted to screens and substances. This is vital, crucial! Anyway, I think Margaux is a beautiful name (imagine having a name that ends with “X!” Wouldn’t you feel so special?) and I like her paintings

6)   A map of the New Amsterdam Market, where I went this afternoon for some special events, including an array of goods delivered by a wind-powered barge that sailed from Vermont. Don’t worry, all the magazines are writing about it already. After the event, I tried to shop at the market, but everything was too expensive. I finally bought a delicatta squash for two bucks (which I knew it would cost, even before it was weighed) and a ham/cheese/béchamel hot pocket thingy

7)   The Groupon page for exercise classes – I have too much energy, and I need to dance more often