I wrote poetry as a child. Drawing was my first artistic expression, poetry second. It was a natural progression for me because I love words and find them as tangibly stimulating as visual art. Poems go right to the essence of a feeling, a moment, an experience—they are very economical. You can tell an entire story in a few lines, because most stories, what really matters when you boil them down to their bones, are about a specific state of existence in time and place, heart and mind. Poetry condenses the human experience into a beautiful, palm-sized package, but when you open it, like Alice’s rabbit hole, it keeps going and going and going, daring you to follow.
Everything is storytelling, whether autobiographical, inspired by, or purely imagined. Even when a work of art is lifted from your own life, it becomes a story the instant you choose to tell it. A memory is also a story—the way we remember, the way we choose to tell that remembrance—that story becomes the truth. What actually happened is lost in the instant the moment passes. What is left is the story and how we choose to tell it. I know how the woman in the poem feels. That level of nostalgia, especially when attached to an atmosphere of place, is home for me. It’s like time travel. I can know it’s fall in 2020, but if the air smells just so and the sun is warm on my skin and the sounds of my walk remind me of a spring’s past, it’s not a far leap for both mind and body to step into another time, another place. For that moment, I am living inside the memory, and all of me is present in that past. The woman of In the Golden Hour is time traveling. I do that all the time.
A lot! I lived in Queens and worked in Manhattan for almost ten years. I often say that New York saved my life. I needed to be far away from my homeland, and moving to NYC can feel like moving to another country. After the initial culture shock, I fell deeply in love with the city. Eventually, I grew weary of the lifestyle and moved away, but my time there, learning the city and making it my own, will forever be part of me. Once an honorary New Yorker, always an honorary New Yorker. She’s very much like a past lover. Writing letters to her lets me time travel into all that I still adore, without the realities of why I left.
I wanted to create a common ground for the husband and wife to meet upon. This common ground—the boy—could be many different things. A mutual affection or attraction. A child they never have or maybe one they lost. A shared experience or story. All of these things, and it can be different for each of them, might bring them together, might give them just enough purchase on the threads of their unraveling relationship. I also wanted to create an afternoon that is exceedingly ordinary, and yet something extraordinary happens in this very small space. A shared secret that looks different from each character’s point of view. The boy is a mystery, a secret discovered to each of them, separate and together.
I am also fascinated by the evolution of gender in our world. It was only a few years ago that I fully understood gender as a social construct, that I started learning new terms like pansexual and how to use they/them pronouns. I had this feeling of ‘why didn’t I know about all this sooner!?’ I love the idea and act of pushing open the tight little box we’ve built around human sexuality and love. Why should it be in a box at all? I also think, if given the opportunity and safety to be wholly honest, many people would discover their capacity for love and attraction is really quite expansive.
Recently I’ve had the pleasure of reading these phenomenal and inspirational works: Parakeet by Marie-Helene Bertino, In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha, and After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry. I love everything by Roxanne Gay. I have always enjoyed the short stories of Elizabeth Gilbert, and her book on creativity, Big Magic, forever changed how I think about my engagement with the enchantment of creating. Also Alice Munro, Adam Johnson, Paula Vogel, Barbara Kingsolver, Sena Jeter Naslund, Sarah Waters. I am drawn to character first and plot second.
Most of my life I haven’t had a process or anything that looks like a disciplined practice. I wrote for deadlines or when I couldn’t contain an idea and putting it to paper was the only way to stop obsessing and sleep again. Waiting for a deadline or that sort of burning inspiration works for some, but I let a lot of years go by without finishing many projects. When I started writing The Golden Hour, which is my play that the poem comes from, I wrote in the mornings before my full time day job. I still write in the mornings before work. I get up an hour early and for that one hour, I write (or draw when I need a break). 6AM is a magical time for me. My house is quiet. My neighborhood is quiet. My family is still asleep. That hour begins dark and is light by the end. My mind is open and fresh and not yet stressed out by the day’s work, responsibilities, and chores. And when I begin my day like this, I am typically more centered and at ease.
There is another crucial element to my practice. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, if my characters begin to speak, or a phrase forms in my mind, I stop what I am doing and capture it, usually on my phone in an email to myself unless my laptop is close enough for me to run to. I have to type it—recording my voice doesn’t work for me but it might for others. I always encourage other writers to do this. Don’t wait. Don’t trust that you’ll remember it. When creativity taps you on the shoulder (or hits you upside the head), pay attention. It might feel like a little scrap in the moment, but those scraps add up. I’ve written entire plays like this, in tidbits on the subway, in the middle of the night, pulled over in my car, on a sidewalk while walking my dog. Those kernels are often gold, incredible rabbit holes you’re going to want to run down later when you have more time.
Sometimes done is better than perfect. Know when you’ve reached that moment. Also, follow your curiosity. (Without judgement.)
Yes and yes. To some degree, all writing is autobiographical. Our ideas and imagings are filtered through our experiences, our joys, our wonderment and fears, our failures and our hopes. The world is an incredible place, full of impossible beauty and magic. It’s also, at times, a pit of despair. I think the human experience is vast, and writing—or any sort of creating—is an opportunity to engage with that vastness, to capture a little bit of stardust and examine and admire and learn and feel and expand. And then to share all of that.
Also, I think most art is intimate. Or at least, intimate to whoever it touches. I am so thankful for the creations that have edged directly into my heart and soul. I feel less alone when that happens, more a part of the world and its community. I learn so much from the ways that others observe and experience the world. I hope what I create helps do the same for someone, for whoever might need it at the moment in time.
Writing helps me process experience. Someone once said to me: you’re an emotional exhibitionist. I have a lot of feelings. So many feels! Writing helps me channel all that stimuli and understand it on a more logical level, which helps me function in the world. Plus, I’m an empath. Writing wrings out my emotional sponge.
I have always wanted to write a book. Earlier this year, I started writing what I thought was a series of essays, or autobiographical short stories. About 20,000 words in I realized that the story I want and need to tell is my own. It’s scary to say this out loud or write it down, but I think I’m writing my first book, a memoir about growing up in a violent household, the death of my father and brother, and grappling with loss, anxiety, and adulting in today’s world. I don’t know...we’ll see what happens. But for right now, I’m following my curiosity. I want to see how the story ends.