Showing posts from October, 2015

the old college try

Today I sat in on the creative writing class at Homeboy (yeah, the one I used to teach; another teacher took over while I was on maternity leave and ended up staying, and I try not to have an ego about it), and the topic was: Write about a place. I've already written about all the L.A. neighborhoods I've lived in and about the South Bay, where I grew up, so I decided to write about dorm life.  I just realized that living in a triple at UCLA is not unlike living in a two-bedroom with minimal storage space and a baby. We were stacked three to a room in ten-story residence halls, concrete walls as thick as our freshman skulls. The carpet hid stains. Our mini fridges were stocked with diet soda and apples growing soft, as we filled up on waffle fries, Froot Loops and build-your-own omelets. We'd fled the suburbs to be here--Manhattan Beach, La Jolla, El Cajon, Walnut Grove. We circled the city, curious about its secrets but still removed. A guy down the hall from me sa

find a stranger

When I was in high school, I usually walked home with my friend Karen, who was taking creative writing as an elective. She was working on a novel. “It’s about four girls who are best friends, and then one of them gets AIDS and dies,” she said. At the time, it struck me as both melodramatic (I was pretty sure Karen’s experience of AIDS, like mine, was limited to watching And the Band Played On in health class) and genius. Googling '80s YA book covers is actually really getting me in the mood to write. It's Pavlovian. Over the years, I’ve started hundreds of novels in my head. Most of them are terrible, influenced more by sitcoms and eighties YA books than by the authors I name-check as my favorites now. The low-stakes playing-around is the whole point. A lot of the bad-novels-in-my-head are variations on Karen’s theme. Not the AIDS part, necessarily, but the best friends and how they turn out. I’m a little bit obsessed with the idea, and I’m not sure why. Ma