My sister hears voices. They call her godawful names. She also has visions, of Jesus in the tv. As a poet, using the same word we associate with madness to describe an essential quality, is, well, freaky.
“Narcissism and Shame,” my essay about writing FREAK SHOW that appeared on Jaded Ibis Productions:
I’ll be teaching a four-week poetry workshop in October 2013
“Poetic Calisthenics: Four ways to stretch what you now about writing poems”
Reading Monday, September 16, 2013 at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ, 7PM.
Reading Thursday, September 26, 2013 at Phoenix College in Phoenix, AZ, 7PM – 9PM.
Reading Friday, October 4, 2013 at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM.
Reading Tuesday, November 5 at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, AZ, 2 PM, PVCC Library.
“Two Weeks” by Valerie Bandura, from Ploughshares Winter 2012-13, guest-edited by Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles.
Matthew Lippman, my new hero these days, tagged me in the same week I’m pulling apart pink tissue paper for flowers in preparation for a six year-old’s Valentine’s party, sewing ten fairy costumes for my son’s schools’ Midsummer Night’s Dream play, grading 70 student essays, and putting the house back together daily after a crazy terrier rips it apart when we’re gone.
But oh I am so thrilled to have been asked to take part in this seemingly frantic who’s cool in school party. For reals. I just can’t seem to muster the sincerity to go along with the sentiment. It’s like a bad gimp. And the prosthetic to hide it looks too fake too. Who flung poo?
What is the working title of the book?
As in My family’s one big freak show.
As in getting tapped on the shoulder and told you’re a “commie” freak show.
Voices-in-your-head freak show.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
When I was 15 or 16 I realized driving under an overpass that to make my work stand out I had to write about the exact thing I try to hide—that I’m an immigrant, my sister’s crazy, I’m a Jew, and don’t know one prayer.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ben Stiller’s parents as my parents. Glen Close a la The Big Chill as myself, and Kurt Cobain as my genius yet nutso sister.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Think of The Weeping Wall in Jerusalem, but when everyone’s praying and bowing to God, they start to hear God’s voice in their heads–and the voice is swearing.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
More time than I’m going to admit. It was an exorcism. A guts on the walls exorcism. But now I can write all the fun stuff I want to write. Sex and head and birds falling from the sky and blue rubber testicles swinging from the hitch on the truck in front of me all the way home. Instead of looking in I can look lout—Look out!
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I had a high school teacher, Charlotte Gordon, who asked us in class one day to describe an object without telling us what it is. I chose a moldy piece of plumbing and spilled all my angst out in the description. I was the only one she praised. I loved that praise. I loved seeing myself in the piece of plumbing. And I realized I could see the world like that, as a mirror for my inner life. So, narcissism, I guess.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Voyeurism. Steve Orlen used to tell me that when he got old enough he stopped participating and started being a voyeur. So sit back, and let the inner freak out.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Slated for publication in May by Black Lawrence Press.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday are: