my writing process blog tour

Lauren Westerfield (@lwwesterfield) and I survived a six-day writing workshop with Stephen Elliott. Her prose on fear and the body kept me reading. The Scotch kept us talking. Now there is this.

She hangs out here:

And then there is me.

What are you working on?

I usually tell people I write humorous essays about uncomfortable things. Most of these involve my parents, slavery or the subway. Currently, I am revising a dad damage memoir. I am also working on a book of travel essays, tentatively titled, The Worldwide Break-Up Tour.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I like concise, fearless, funny sentences; collage with a punch and white space. Is that different? Maybe not.

Why do you write what you do?

I write nonfiction because my world is too weird to make up. Just meet my parents or ask about my need to own a pocket shark. I want a five-inch Great White, alive, not sponsored by Disney, that fits in my purse.

How does your writing process work?

It usually starts with an exchange of dialogue, a snippet of snark, something that has clipped my ears or crushed me in some way. For example, in Charleston, South Carolina, everyone suggested I take the Slave Tour. I am black. My family has already taken that trip.

I then describe the place, the people, the event, the tension until I am exhausted. When it seems stuffed, I take an axe to it. When I can read it to my plants without dry heaving, I call it quits.

Now, I think you should stalk these people:

Tabitha Blankenbille. @tabithablanken She will make you worship a piece of cheese, burn down your cubicle and run off with the beer distributor. Enough said.

Deirdre Sugiuchi. @DJSugi Reform school refugee, Athens rock star. Bring it.

Jessica Walker James. We cackled like drunk donkeys on the mountain. For days. That is all.

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nailed it

My toes had barely hit the blue foam bath when two ladies bookended me at the nail salon.

“Who’s got time for gnocchi?” the lumpy one said as she hoisted herself into the padded throne. Shaped like a potato squeezed in spandex, she sounded like she ate a cheese grater for lunch.

Her pedicure partner grunted and seated herself as Cheetos fell out of her purse. She swiped the orange dust to the floor and popped a rogue snack in her fuchsia-lined mouth.

“No one, that’s who,” the first one said as she kicked off her bedazzled flip-flops.

Her friend winked at me. I nodded. I was several steps away from a top coat.

There was no immediate escape.

The Cheeto-eater plunged her feet into the sudsy water while the other one warned the floor-level Latina that she didn’t like the water too hot.

“And watch out for the pinky toe, honey.”

I started to think what I could do without: no filing, no cuticle clipping, no polish. I would pay for the foot soak and somehow find my freedom.

“He could have waited till Sylvia was cold,” the one on the right said as if no time for gnocchi meant no time to grieve.

“That witch was always cold,” the other replied.

They cackled like donkeys and looked at my feet.

No corns, no sparkly flops. Tissue tourniquets around each toe.

I focused on a poster of polished hands cupping an orchid. I hoped for silence.

The one who liked sparkles cleared her throat.

“You’re so quiet,” she said, leaning over as if we were friends. I smiled.

Half her toes were covered in neon pink, the color of clown hair or cotton candy. The nail technician was rubbing the paint off like a stubborn stain.

“What shade is that?” I asked.

“Fruit cup,” she beamed.

“And you?” she asked, motioning towards my feet.

My right toes were shellacked in a deep shade of the dark arts, blood red with a subtle shimmer.

“Wicked,” I replied, watching the clock.

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etiquette lesson

The cashier is pregnant. She smiles at us.

My father pays, pulling a tightly folded stack of twenties out of his pocket.

Breakfast for the two of us—eggs, waffles, bacon, yogurt—equals the price of a New York latte. My father brings his own fruit.

When I sit at a table near the register, he motions to one closer to the window.

“Don’t need to advertise the contraband,” he says, patting his pocket.

When he sits down, my father pulls the yogurt close as well as two bananas from his jacket. His eyes dart to the cashier.

“I’m sure she doesn’t care,” I say.

“You say that now,” he says, watching her as he slowly stirs the fruit from the bottom of the cup to the top and on to his waffle.

The empties, including the banana peels, go back in his jacket.

“She’s not married,” he says, pointing a fork at the cashier’s bulging belly.

“How do you know that?”

“I asked her,” he says.

“That’s rude,” I say.

He shakes his head.

“You know what’s rude?” he says, mouth full of fruit. “Not having a husband.”

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