Adventures in Los Angeles: Day Six

June 19, 2007

It feels strange to write this.  I cant believe I’ve been here that long.  It feels like I got here yesterday.

So I got my mentor today.  I’ll be working with Terry Wolverton, who’s a really well-published writer in California.  She’s this very elegant, pretty woman.  Every time I’ve seen her she’s draped in some kind of brightly colored shawl.  She speaks lyrically… referring to the odds of something in one of our conversations as being "slender."  I fell in love with her after that. 

I went to her reading a few days ago.  It was this wonderful essay about garbage called "Waste."  I’m going to learn a butt-load from her.  I’m so happy I decided to do this. 

My mentor group (the other people who have Terry as their mentor) are less than awesome.  The one guy is pretty cool, even if he occasionally oinks from what I’ve decided will be allergies.  He’s nice and everything.  But one of the women in this group is in my workshop… and I absolutely detest her. 

Engaging in any kind of artistic endeavor means coming up against some serious egos.  I’m used to this.  I hate this.  Which is why I’ve always been very aware of mine… or lack thereof… and have always sought, both with myself and with others, to remain very humble… and focus entirely on the actual work, rather than the bragging rights.  I’ve made a bit of a name for myself so far… my comments in my workshop are well accepted, and it’s been made pretty clear to me by some of the higher-ups and the faculty that I’m a good writer… and that’s all I could ever really ask for. 

Not to get on too much of a meta-writing rant here… but ego really cant be a part of something like this.  If you want to create something… whether it be an essay, a poem, a short story, a song, shit… even a piece of performance art… you’ve got to leave your ego behind.  Referring to your work as your "Work," constantly discussing your own brilliance or the people you know… it’s just bullshit.  It gets in the way… because it isn’t about you.  It’s about what you’re writing.  I know this probably sounds preachy and lame… but it’s true.  I’ve met some really talented, decent people here.  In fact… the vast majority of the people I’ve met here deserve egos, judging by what I’ve read so far.  What’s so refreshing about them is that they dont have them… they check them at the door and bring only a charming and airy desire to have fun.  Everyone likes to have a drink and make fun of George Bush.  50% of the people here smoke… sure, people book drop a lot… and every conversation is a cold war of intelligence and exposure… but ultimately, the vast majority of the people here are here for the community.  I like this a lot.

But there are a few…

One is actually pretty talented… but is a total bitch.  She’s nice to me… but I cant tell why yet.  It’s either A. because she actually respects me and wants to get to know me (which is unlikely), or B. because she wants me to think she’s great.  Certianly not because she’s interested in me at all.  I dont think she’s ever asked a single question about my life, what I think about things… what movies I like.  She just talks about who she knows.  Now… she knows Mark Doty.  I’ll admit… I’m impressed.  I like Mark Doty a lot… and (while skeptical about her relationship to him) am excited to be at a place where a person’s relationship to him extends beyond the bookshelf.  But still… if you know Mark Doty… you’re already cool… you dont have to be a cunt about it.  She’s bossy and dripping with entitlement.  She is completely self-focused… and I’m convinced that it’s going to kill her writing over time.  Because so far… it’s all about her.  Not about the work.  So fuck her.

The other fevered ego here is totally undeserved.  It belongs to an older woman, who tragically confuses ignorance for insight.  This is a woman who wrote a personal essay in the third-person omniscient voice… telling the reader what everyone in the story was thinking.  "Brad thought this… while Monica believed that."  At first I wondered if she was doing so to break from convention… spice up CNF a bit.  It’s a genre that, in most cases anyway, lends itself to the first person… what with it being the author’s experience half the time.  She chose to hide  herself in a character… and to dictate how other people thought or felt… following fiction rules in a nonfiction piece… and then bristled when the entire workshop expressed some level of confusion.  I’d never tell a person what they could or couldn’t write… again, I think it’s really interesting to play around with perspective like that… but you have to know why you’re doing it.  This woman just had no clue.  She was ignorant… which is fine…. but when some of us offered to clarify things… she just chorteled arrogantly, throwing out passive-agressive bits of nonsense like "I cant believe people in a Grad school program would nitpick like this."  As though we were bitching about comma placement.  She couldn’t understand how a nonfiction piece couldn’t work like a fiction piece… how we as readers couldn’t trust a narrator who, through her insight, seemed to be psychic.  She has no authority in what she’s doing… and she knows it. So of course rather than evolving a bit… she just becomes more resolute.

She’s a bitch

So that’s about that.  I’m really tired… my eyes are closing.  Final bit of news – I’ve offically made my one important friend here – Awesome Laura.  She’s humble and funny and weird and really talented.  She and I had dinner and drinks tonight… and I’ve decided that she’s pretty much the coolest person on the planet.

I like my one friend.

I’ve also gotten in good with some of the upper classmen – such as it were… and feel like the cool kid in high school.

There’s a first time for everything.

I might be going to Porn Star Karaoke tomorrow night… but I’m not sure.

I’m gonna wait and see what Awesome Laura’s doing… since I dont really feel like getting stuck with some lame-os without her around to bitch with.

I swear… she’s like my long lost sister.



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