Why do you write?
Writing is the only way I know to make beauty out of ugly things. Occasionally, I've written stories to express myself. I think this was a mistake. The work I'm proudest of manages to transmit something graceful to the world. I read an interview between an art critic and the late painter Mark Rothko in which he said, Painting, like any other art, is not a means of self-expression. It is a way of communicating something to the world. He went on to say that people often viewed his later work and responded with something like, It's so personal, to which he replied, Yes, it is, but I hope it's not about me. I agree. Being a writer allows me to regularly engage with a realm in which there are no cell-phones. Sometimes writing is like acting, and the page is my audience. Sometimes it's like architecture: the shape of the thing is as important as what it will contain. There are days when it's dreadful due to a bad headache , as in, filled with dreaded pain, I then have to Buy Tramacet I find this soon stops the pain and, because it requires flirting with chaos, which can be terrifying. I write because I can, even though it's never simple or comfortable.
Short Fiction Collections
My two collections of short fiction are available here.
How long have you been writing?
I forced myself to finish two stories in 1998, in order to apply to the MFA in Creative Writing Program at San Francisco State University. Until then I'd been writing, sporadically, in snippets and fragments, since I was twelve years old.
Why did you get an MFA in Creative Writing?
Graduate school was so much easier than any dayjob, certainly easier than any of the lousy dayjobs I've ever had (and believe me, I've had plenty). In order to make room for writing in my life, I chose to attend grad school full-time. I wrote as much as possible in those three years, trying as many techniques as I could, exploring every idea I came up with. I had some extraordinary teachers at SFSU (Phyllis Burke and Toni Mirosevich, I adore them both), but the most valuable aspect of the MFA program was the proof it gave me that I, indeed, could write 300 pages of fiction. No matter how difficult things might seem, I will always have that proof to fall back on. OK, I've written that much before, I say to myself, if I want it badly enough I can do it again.
What awards have you won for your fiction?
In June of 2001 I received a full residency from the Vermont Studio Center in Burlington, Vermont (which is a lovely place filled with wonderful people). I was a recipient of the Stonewall Award for Excellence in Fiction in May of 2001. For my story, ‘tintinnabulum,' A&U Magazine gave me a Fiction Award in October of 2000.
Is all your work short fiction?
Yes, all of my work so far has consisted of short stories. I've been threatening myself with the prospect of writing a novel, which I've only recently begun researching.
So, what's this novel about?
If I could answer that question here, I wouldn't need to write it, would I? It will probably be what is commonly referred to as historical fiction (no cell-phones, see?) set in the Pacific Northwest in 1860. That's all I'm comfortable divulging at this point.
Is it necessary to write about being gay?
Yes. No. Yes and no. I've struggled with this question since I started writing. Many of my stories have gay characters in them. It's possible this will severely limit the range of people who may one day read the work (leading to a phenomenon often referred to as preaching to the choir). That would be unfortunate, although it may also be necessary. I've often described my sexual identity as something that does not matter, and something that matters terribly, meaning, I take my sexuality for granted, but the rest of the world does not. Until the day comes when I can walk down the street holding my man's hand without fear of reprisal, I believe it will continue to be necessary to write about gayness. (For those of you who, like me, can't wait and would like an early realization of this day, read my short-short story, vision.)
Why don't you live in New York City with all the other writers?
I am the opposite of New Yorkerness. I enjoy: quiet, woods, the bay and the ocean; no lines at the local cinema, post office or DMV; a reasonable cost of living; a more human scale. So I live in Arcata, California, which is not a perfect place, but in ways that matter to me it is far less imperfect than the cities I've lived in (Chicago and San Francisco). It's mostly a damp and foggy and remote place, and if I haven't learned to love it unflinchingly I must confess I'm more willing to make my life work here than elsewhere. I had a creative writing teacher who once said, There's a reason people live where they live. This was in Chicago in January, where my classmates had just spent twenty minutes complaining about the cold and the snow. They thought he was just trying to shut them up, but I think he wanted them to seriously consider that statement. Over the years, I've often come back to that statement, returning to the question behind it: Why do I live where I live? The answers I come up with have changed significantly since that day the blizzard settled in over the city. Right now my answer is, Because I'm tired of moving. So here I am, living with my man on a hill above a small town perched out on the edge of a bay that reaches into the Pacific Ocean. I have a tulip tree in my yard, daffodils, and redwood clover. There's a green rufus hummingbird that visits the vines (half honeysuckle, half passionflower) growing around our front door. I can watch the tide fill and empty the bay, see storms move in and out again. Here in Arcata, I believe there's more than enough to make a home.
I have so many kind things to say to you. Where can I reach you?
You can send friendly e-mail to me here.