Friday, May 27, 2011

A 1/2 Dozen for Laura Dave

Here is a 1/2 Dozen with novelist LAURA DAVE
whose latest novel -- just out --
is already being lavished with praise
and is topping my summer reading stack.
Here, she quotes some Oscar Wilde
(after you read Dave's 1/2 dozen,
indulge in this link for an Oscar Wilde-ian
take on Jersey Shore),
gives us great advice on criticism
and balance and being a work in progress.


Writing Tip #17 for Aspiring Writers – or #47 or #2. Your pick.

My tip -- let's call it #7 -- is that writing is rewriting. No one ever gets it exactly right on a first draft - or a second or third draft for that matter. So it's great to take the pressure off and remember that you'll get where you need to go. It just takes time. One of my favorite quotes, which speaks to this, is by Oscar Wilde: This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again. So my tip is to remember this, and be generous with yourself while working on something new. Generous and patient.

Criticism. It’s part of the territory. How do you handle it? Is this the way you’ve always handled it?

I don't take notes as personally as I did when I was starting out. I understand now how helpful it can be to have other voices weighing in and seeing things I may be missing. I've also learned to be a better arbiter of criticism I'm receiving. A friend in graduate school once pointed out that if you have twelve people on a bus, they will each decide there is a different way to drive it. That stuck with me. And it reminds me that ultimately -- as the creator of a piece of work -- it has to be up to you whose ideas to incorporate. And whose ideas to ignore.

Have you learned to strike a balance between your writing life and the other aspects of your life?

Oddly enough, cooking has helped me. Since I moved to Los Angeles, I've started cooking dinner almost every weekday night (which I love) and I've found that it helps serve as the divide between my work life and my home life . Particularly for those of us who work at home, finding this divide is tricky, and I'm grateful this seems to be helping. That said, some days, after I cook, I go immediately back to the computer. So, I am still a work in progress.

What other jobs have you had -- other than writing or teaching writing? Did one of these help shape you as a writer?

I had over a dozen jobs while I was working on my first book: tutoring, working at restaurants, teaching grad school and law school test-taking, working at a PR Firm, working for internet companies. One that really shaped me was reporting for ESPN The Magazine. (I'm not counting this type of reporting as a straight writing job, as often I would interview an athlete, send in that transcript, and my work was complete.) That job had a huge influence on me -- both because I learned so much about reporting, and because my editor there -- a man named Gary Belsky-- has been a supporter and guide on the writing I've done since. Also, I know about sports now. Or, I know enough to freak people out by talking about a 4-3 defense. That's always fun.

Are you a writer of place? Is place always one of your main characters?

Place is huge for me. I like to write about towns perched on the end of the world -- Montauk, Narragansett, Williamsburg. They require something different of their inhabitants. Living in a city there are so many distractions, so many ways to avoid knowing what is really going on inside of you, inside of your closest relationships. The quiet (and noise) of a small town requires an attention to one’s own life that I'm really interested in exploring. In that way, it is definitely a main character.

What's your worst writerly habit?

Either my worst -- or just my weirdest -- is that I listen to the same song on repeat while I'm working on a book. It becomes meditative for me, and helps me focus on my work. With my first novel, London Is The Best City In America, that song was by Ryan Adams; for The Divorce Party it was a song by M Ward. And for my latest, I listened to two songs. Maybe this is something like progress!

Laura Dave is the author of the acclaimed novels The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America, and The First Husband (just released from Viking Penguin, May 2011). Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Self, Glamour, Redbook, The Huffington Post, and on NPR's "All Things Considered". Dave graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and was named as a Fun and Fearless Phenom of the year by Cosmopolitan Magazine. A New York Native, she now lives in California.

To read more 1/2 Dozens by novelists, essayists, poets,
short story writers, and agents, click on the below.

Laurie Foos

Susan Henderson

Chantel Acevedo

Caroline Leavitt

Danica Novgorodoff

Rebecca Rasmussen

Laurel Snyder

Tatjana Soli

Julie Buxbaum

Randy Susan Meyers

John McNally

Justin Manask (agent)

Melissa Senate

Steve Kistulentz

Christopher Schelling (agent)

Dani Shapiro

Jeff VanderMeer

Catherine McKenzie

Emily Rapp

Stephanie Cowell

Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Paul Elwork

William Lychack

Leah Stewart

Michelle Herman

Lise Haines

Benjamin Percy

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Karen Salyer McElmurray

Kim MacQueen

Crystal Wilkinson

Michael Griffith