Writers’ Blog Tour

by Jason Tougaw

Welcome to the writers’ blog tour. I hear it’s sweeping the nation. I’m thankful Maud Casey–for being Maud,  for inviting me to join the tour, and for writing  The Man Who Walked Away, a tender and somehow physical novel that I’ve thought about most days since I read it. You can read Maud’s eloquent contribution to the tour here

If you want, you can follow the tour backwards, starting with Maud’s. To make it easier, I’ll link to Kerri Majors’s and Robin Houghton’s posts. On deck for next week (June 19): Scott Cheshire, Kaitlyn Greenridge, and Roger Sedarat.

1) What are you working on?

I’m revising a novel I’ve written, entitled Unbecoming. I challenged myself to write suspense, and I think I’ve pulled that much off. The story is set at an elite liberal arts college and narrated by a cocky, possibly sociopathic student raised by psychologists who taught him to dig out the secrets in other people’s minds (and brains). It turns out there are a lot of secrets at this elite college. It’s been a fun learning experience to write in a voice so far outside my usual repertoire–or who I am as a person. In a way, it’s like I’ve acquired a new way to think. I can step into my narrator’s voice and look at situations from his point of view, though it’s not a good idea to spend too much time there. 

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre? 

Unbecoming is a campus novel, like Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot, Jane Smiley’s Moo, or Thomas Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons. My narrator aspires to be a porn star, and the story takes place on two campuses. The second is a porn compound that calls itself a university, offering an education in sex work. So the story contains a lot of sex. I want to write about sex in a way that captures the totality of the experience–physically, emotionally, psychologically, logistically–the way I’d write about any other  fundamental element of human experience. I want the sex to be sexy and philosophical. The world of the novel is a sort of thought experiment: What would be different is sex wasn’t stigmatized, if we treated like eating or working or making art? The trick is not to let the agenda dominate or get in the way of telling an organic story.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I’m sure I have no access to many of my motives for writing. Most are probably not conscious–some loaded with personal history and some a product of my disposition. But I want to use language and story to give concrete form to what it feels like to be. Humans are willful creatures, and we want control of our lives, but most of life is beyond our control. We are shaped by an inexorable series of accidents. We respond with some will and a lot of impulse. When I write in any genre–essays, literary criticism, autobiography, or fiction– I hope to contribute to a collective conversation about the predicaments being human entails and the life strands that make us who we are.

4) How does your writing process work?

When I’m writing, I designate a certain number of mornings to the project. I wake up and write some stream of consciousness for fifteen or twenty minutes. This usually veers into some thinking about what I want to work on during particular day. I try to work only on parts of the project I feel ready to accomplish. Once these get written, they make other parts possible. I guess it’s like following a trail. I write until my motivation dims.  That’s usually a few hours. If I’m on a deadline or really on a roll, it’s sometimes six or seven hours, but that’s rare.

Next up:

Scott Cheshire earned his MFA from Hunter College. He teaches writing at the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop. His work has been published in SliceAGNIGuernica and the Picador anthology The Book of Men. His first novel High as the Horses’ Bridles is forthcoming from Henry Holt. He lives in New York City. 

Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel We Love You Charlie Freeman is forthcoming from Algonquin Press. Her work has appeared in “The Believer”, “Green Mountains Review”, “Guernica/PEN Flash Fiction Series”, “At Length Magazine” and “American Short Fiction” among other places. She has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She lives in Brooklyn.

Roger Sedarat is the author of two poetry collections: Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic, which won Ohio UP’s 2007 Hollis Summers’ Prize, and Ghazal Games (Ohio UP, 2011). His translations of modern and classical Persian poetry have appeared in World Literature Today, Arroyo, and Ezra. He also has a forthcoming selection of verse translations by the modern Persian poet Nader Naderpour (Teneo). He teaches poetry and literary translation in the MFA program at Queens College, City University of New York.


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