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Q and A

Apr 19, 2010; littleshirlybeans Asks:

Wow! Wow! All I can say right now is wow! I love this Q and A and I love this new website. I've been living under a self-imposed rock out in Asia for the last several years and didn't know you had a new book and this new website and WOW! As you may already be able to tell, I'm a big fan. I devoured My Date With Satan, recommend it constantly and reread it regularly. I can't wait to get your new book. Anyway, my husband and I are traveling to Tucson the see David Sedaris this weekend and I was wondering if you could give us some recommendations for things to do in Tucson. Anything from "this is a great little coffee shop" to "stand on this corner at 4 a.m. and you will see more weenie dogs than you've ever seen in your life." Also, do you think learning to draw animals will help with my writing? Would this be a worthwhile use of me time? All my best, shirlybeans

Stacey answers:

Thanks shirlybeans! You are nice, smart, and pretty. I'm intrigued by the self-imposed rock in Asia. For your trip to Tucson, I recommend you have dinner at El Guero Canelo. You have to go to the one on S. 12th Ave. (there are two, but this one's in the Mexican part of town). It's sort of like an elaborate snack bar with a big covered porch. It's a great time of year to eat outside, and on the weekends they have a band playing accordion music and sometimes little kids run around and dance. You might want to try the house specialty, the Sonoran hot dog, a hot dog on a bun covered with salsa and cheese and sour cream and beans and mayonnaise and mustard and jalapenos and more.

Another great thing to do in Tucson is to go to the Desert Museum and see the raptor free flight, but I think it may be over for the season (the "season" is winter), but you should check. The Desert Museum is really a zoo/botanical garden combo, and it's nice there even without the raptors, especially if you haven't seen much of the desert before, but if it's hot most of the animals will be asleep and you will get sunburned and it's hard to beat the thrill of watching trained hawks fly over your head, then land on some lady's gloved hand and eat a dead baby mouse. Dead baby mouse? Dead baby mouse.

So, David Sedaris is reading at the Tucson Music Hall where I've spent many hours trying to amuse myself. Outside, surrounding the polar bear tank, there's an ever-proliferating array of public art, most of which glows, and you might want to take two or three minutes to contemplate it. You also might want to take a few minutes to contemplate the polar bear tank, which is not actually a polar bear tank but a public fountain with perplexing aesthetic qualities--it it ugly or beautiful or ugly-beautiful or beautiful-ugly or kitschy perfect or just wrong? No one can decide and it is a great mystery. Then, inside the lobby, it's kind of fun to put your head inside the big indentations running the length of the cast concrete walls. There's a weird acoustic effect in there, like a chorus of monster voices, at least when the lobby is bustling. Duck your head in and out to get the full effect. Also, there are an intriguing number of ancient cobwebs inside--it's like it's own ecosystem. You may feel self-conscious when you do this, but in my experience no one will be looking at you (though I'm usually in the Music Hall for Tucson Symphony concerts, when all the patrons are treading carefully so as not to break a hip).

Yes, I think learning to draw animals will help with your writing! Absolutely. It's always good to look at anything carefully, and to have another art form to flee to when the writing one is driving you insane. Plus, animals inspire feelings of tenderness and love and will make your writing cuter.

Apr 07, 2010; Marketing mama Asks:

I feel like you need to find a way to market yourself as a Q and A answerer. Could you bundle all this stuff up and sell it in book form, maybe over the holidays? Or have a seperate Q and A "Stacey Explains it all" website in which you get people to advertise lipgloss and coffins or whatever, over on the side there, and therefore, generate some revenue while still keeping this a free feature? It's something to think about. You have a clear product and demand thing going on here.

Stacey answers:

Thanks for your encouragement, Marketing mama. I like how you throw around the phrase "generate some revenue." I've thought about the same thing but like almost everything else I think about, I haven't done anything about it. I do know a brilliant marketing person here but whenever I see her she's drunk. Maybe I should try to catch her earlier in the day.

Apr 06, 2010; Teacher's Pet Asks:

Hi Stacey, What are your favorite books/stories/authors? And what are your favorite movies? Do you read blogs? If so, what are your faves?

Stacey answers:

Teacher's Pet,

I love so many books and stories that it's very hard to zero in on a short list. A few of the short stories that have amazed and obsessed me for many years are "Gimple the Fool," by Isaac Bashevis Singer, "A Hunger Artist," by Franz Kafka, "Good Country People," by Flannery O'Connor, and "A Distant Episode," by Paul Bowles. There are many, many more.

I don't really have a favorite author because there are so many wonderful books. The best I can do is to mention a few authors I've been reading and loving lately: John Updike, W.G. Sebald, and Roberto Bolano.

I'm sure I have more favorite movies but right now I can only think of two: The Night of the Hunter and The Shining.

I don't read any blogs regularly because I haven't found any I like that much.

Apr 01, 2010; Dr. Forbes Asks:

I feel that you must have foreseen when you started this Q. and A. that it would eventually devolve into dating advice; did you? Seems like a great forum for you, so why not make it a regular gig? Also, how is the long-form fiction thing coming along?

Stacey answers:

Dear Dr. Forbes,

You're right, I did anticipate it, but I don't really think of it as a devolution. I like giving dating advice. Our social lives are vital to us; even if we can arrange to spend our days curled up under the furniture (which is where I'd prefer to be), we still spend all night dreaming about our social connections. Also, answering dating questions feeds into my evil plan, which is to fuck with people's lives via the internet. I would like to make it a regular gig. Are you hiring?

The long form fiction is going well. It's taken me a really long time but I think I'm finally starting to figure it out.

Mar 30, 2010; Phoebe Asks:

Stacey! I have girl-crushes on you and Beyonce. Is there a cure?

Stacey answers:

No.

Mar 26, 2010; About men, again Asks:

Okay, so I'm trying to date nicer men. And I went out on this date with this guy and it was nice. I went on a second date with him and he went way, way, way, overboard. In my opinion, a second date should be, like, beer and darts. But this was a fancy restaurant and entertainment and I'm sure he dropped all kinds of cash. He brought me flowers, for Pete's cheesy sake. And then for reasons I won't go into here, things sort of fell apart at the end and I had to drive him about an hour and a half home. It was a disaster and he apologized to the point of discomfort. So I felt bad and suggested a do-over - this time I insisted on pizza and a movie -- and we actually had a pretty good time. Like, actually a really very nice time. But then he sent me a super goofy text about what a good time he had and wanted to hang out, like, the next day and it just kind of felt like too much. There's showing interest and then there's "love me love me love me." Now, I feel like he calls and texts and messages me to the point of, not stalker-ness, exactly, but pretty darn serious uncoolness. Yesterday he was "in my neighborhood" and texted to hang out, and then texted again that he was going home "but at least he tried" before I even saw the first text. I didn't even have a chance to accept or reject the invitation. It's hard to get excited about someone when you're constantly feeling guilty. The more he calls the less I want to talk to him. But I'm really trying harder to date nicer people who like me and are interested in me but this feels less nice and more like Jesus, guy - Get a life. On some level, I'm aware that the more I pull back the more he freaks out and clings and part of me thinks I could talk him down but - I think he's just trying way too hard and he doesn't even know me that well. I might suck. We've been out 3 times. He doesn't know, you know? And part of me feels for him because I know I've been in his position before where I've totally clung and freaked people out and got ditched (and I understand why I did that now, and I'd never do it again) but understanding the weirdness doesn't make it any more appealing. I'm trying to be all healthy in my relationships but this doesn't feel like it either. What do I do?

Stacey answers:

It sounds confused and confusing. One thing is clear though: he's spazzing out. I'm wondering if your "actually a really very nice time" means somebody got slept with, a little bit? Sometimes guys panic after that--you know, men and their emotions. Still, even with the flowers and all, he doesn't really sound that nice. He did do that weird thing where he got drunk or something and you had to drive him home. So I wouldn't let the nicer man goal cloud your judgment; you just need to see if you can get to know him in a normal way so you can figure out if you like him. I suggest you call him and tell him that he's distracting you with the message barrage, and that you had a nice time on your last date but all you really want to do now is get to know him in a normal way at a reasonable pace, because this is what you're comfortable with. You have a right to be comfortable with men, About men. He's making you uncomfortable, and that's a problem, though I think it's safe to say that he's trying to be romantic, despite the fact that his social radar is defective.

In my opinion, the healthy-relationship thing to do is to give him a clear, firm, friendly message to spaz it down. This way, you give him the opportunity to stop bugging you, and you get to see if he's capable of acting more normal upon request. He may or may not be able to, I don't know. But the clearer you are, the better. Try something like this: "Let's go out next Friday, Mr. Flowers. I can see that you like me but being showered with this much attention at this stage of our friendship makes me nervous. However, I'm fine with seeing you once a week, at the moment, and maybe talking on the phone once too. Or send me a few texts. And then we'll see how it goes."

If he persists after that, you're going to need a restraining order.

Mar 19, 2010; Rusty Brummagem Asks:

cannot discern if my dog really digs me or merely wants another treat....am completely disgusted with everyone I have ever known or presently know...in rejoinder: have pounded 4 beers and will commence with a clean shave and a hot shower...hold little hope that this will in any way alleviate my feelings...have now given up on aforesaid shower/shave...what is the nature of love?

Stacey answers:

Love has many facets but you'll know it because it's umami, which is the Japanese word for the fifth taste, often translated as "brothy" or "savory." Love gives you a warm feeling in your body, though other feelings--fear, hate, flatness, hurt--often come around to spray coldness on the warm until you can't tell what's going on. Interestingly, umami sounds like mommy, which is fitting because all love is on some level mother love, containing echoes of that primary bond, which sucks if you're ambivalent about your mother. And who isn't? Not you, Rusty. Not you.

But here's the good news: your dog loves you. Dogs are descended from wolves, and wolves live in small family groups (not packs, as previously believed). In other words, wolves grow up with a mommy and daddy and siblings, and this social structure is probably what drives the intense social needs of dogs. That's right, your doggie thinks you are his mommy. He wants another treat, sure, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to sleep on your bed and stare at you all day and chew on your underwear and generally soak up your umaminess. The dog loves you. Do you love your dog?

Mar 12, 2010; Aaron Belcher Asks:

Hi Stacey. The other day I bought two orders of fries from In-N-Out burger to share with my kids in the car. I had no container for my share, but I spied a unused Huggie in the door pocket of my Subaru Outback and placed my fries in the diaper. A few minutes later, at a stop light, a fellow motorist witnessed me eating "something" from a Huggie. She looked horrified. Do you think clean disposable diapers are an acceptable emergency dinner plate?

Stacey answers:

Hi Aaron. Thank you for your interesting question. The answer is yes, I do think clean disposable diapers are an acceptable emergency dinner plate, and I applaud your ingenuity. I have long used grocery or other bags as impromptu plates, even though they've been exposed to the germy hand/air/car/world. The trick is to not look out the window at fellow motorists, nor to mention the origin of the "plate" or call attention to your improvisation in any way. If you don't say anything, no one else will say anything. The truth is, the lady in the next car probably didn't notice you were eating French fries out of a diaper. She probably looked horrified because of the conversation she was having on her hands-free phone--or maybe she just always looks horrified. People like to think about themselves, not you, and cars confer a certain amount of privacy, even though some of it is probably just a social convention.

And let's not forget the hygiene hypothesis, which says that too much cleanliness is a problem for the immune system. You gotta challenge that puppy! By this logic, the Huggie is probably way too clean, really, when you get right down to it. I'm sure it's been bleached and sanitized for your protection and whatever.

It might be better, in the long run, to eat directly off the floor.

Feb 19, 2010; Michael Asks:

are you gonna get me for laughing?

Stacey answers:

No! I'm going to get you for ignoring the rules of capitalization.

Feb 15, 2010; One Who Wonders Asks:

Fine, maybe I'm not the greatest writer on earth, maybe I'm a little raw, but I'm not totally pathetic. My teachers say I'm good and my writing group is always impressed by my imagination and depth and verve and stuff. But everything I write is always soundly rejected without even a tiny, scrawled note of encouragement. It wouldn't be so bad, but I know other student writers who seem less accomplished than I am and they sometimes get encouraging notes. Do I just suck?

Stacey answers:

Hi One.

It doesn't sound like you just flat-out suck. You've been encouraged and that's encouraging. But it's possible that the editors you're sending your work to are not really reading it very carefully. Maybe they're not reading it at all. I will now tell you how to get an editor to read your story, so listen up. There are two things you must do. First, write a friendly, engaging, and brief cover letter. Include your accomplishments, if you have some yet, and be yourself, unless you are an asshole, and then try to imitate someone you know who's charismatic and charming. But be brief. Brief. And nice. And friendly and personable. "Dear Nice Editor, I love your magazine. I especially loved the story by Stacey Richter that you published. I'm just starting out as a writer but I'm getting an MFA at U of Uranus. Honestly, I thought this latest story of mine kicked ass, and I wanted you to read it. Here it is. Love, OWW."

The second thing you must do is send your piece in proper manuscript format. This may seem stupid but it's extreeemely important. What this means, among other things, is that you will start your story halfway down the first page. You will double-space. You will include page numbers and a title. A title. A title. Double space. Google "proper manuscript format" for more tips. Otherwise, you will look like an amateur and will be treated as one. A lot of people are offended by this, but it's just a rule, like proper grammar, that helps distinguished the experienced and educated from the beginners/outsiders/whatevers. So give it a try and tell me how it goes.

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