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Q and A

Dec 25, 2009; Madam Meh Asks:

How come Christmas sometimes makes a person sad?

Stacey answers:

It makes many people sad. I'm sure you're familiar with the Christmastime suicide spike. There are a couple of reasons for this:

Family gatherings are often hellish, and if they're not hellish, they can be weird or fraught or spiked with unpleasantness or covered with a haze of disappointment. Even if the gathering is okay, it probably doesn't live up to the cinnamon glow of holiday car commercials. Advertising exists to make us feel hollow and bad about our lives. That way, we'll shop more in an attempt to FILL THE HOLE. But advertising works so well that it's hard to perceive what's happening. Overall, it just seems like other people are having a better time than we are, and that's a sucky feeling.

Also, at this time of year, the short days and long nights fuck with some people's heads in a biological way, making them feel sad.

Dec 23, 2009; Ruben Grey Asks:

On the topic of cavemen (cavefolks?) and their intellectual lives, have you read "on the origins of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind," or pondered the theses contained in that book? What is your favorite breed of dog?

Stacey answers:

I haven't read it, though I am a bit familiar with the idea because I've been reading a lot of books about consciousness lately. And, even though I was woken up last night by a strange and loud auditory hallucination, I find Julian Jaynes's thesis unconvincing. He says that until 3000 years ago, humans had a sort of split right brain/left brain consciousness which caused them to experience ideas and inspirations as actual voices from outside themselves, much as schizophrenics hear Elvis or Satan or strange tones in the middle of the night today. Consciousness as we experience it now is a cultural construction. I should read the book before I argue against it, so this isn't an argument, but I just think that we are basically like our ancestors in most of the general ways, just as we are all basically like one another in most ways, even if we were raised in the rain forest instead of a city. I think Jaynes doesn't quite get the idea of a metaphor. But maybe I should read the book.

My favorite breed of dog is the sheltie. Is Santa bringing me one?

Dec 04, 2009; ryan Asks:

Hi Stacey, I recently started writing again after a long absence from it and am having trouble getting started back with it. I have certain themes and issues that I want to explore but am having difficulty in finding a starting point.

What exercises have been helpful for you in overcoming difficulty in writing? The most common answer that I've seen for this has been "Just start writing" but it does seem that if I were able to "just start" then I wouldn't have had to "just ask", when I've tried that method it comes out in a stream-of-consciousness style that doesn't really help in forming a structured narrative, kind of how this sentence became one huge run-on sentence rather than being a concise statement of why the most common suggestion hasn't proved helpful to me. Thank you for any ideas that you have! I hope that you're having a nice day!

Stacey answers:

Hi Ryan. Okay, well, two things. Thereís only one exercise I like, and thatís describing people and places and recounting bits of interesting conversation that float past, because so much of writing is about noticing things. One way to do this is when the places/people are in front of you; another is to do it a little later. You may think this is pointless and boring. The trick is to make it not boring by injecting your own view of the world into what you see, so that someone is not 5 foot 8 inches tall with brown eyes and a side part, but rather looks like your Uncle Henry, with the same self-preening air and overpuffed physique of a middle-aged gym rat. It doesnít have to be quite that complicated, the aim is to get it to feel natural and therefore enjoyable. This exercise can help your writing in two ways. First, it helps you create characters, or pieces of characters, and it sounds like you need some characters. Second, it helps get you out of your head and into the world, since so many people who like to write are in fact very observant, but with the introvertís knack of observing their internal states at the expense of everything else. Sometimes these people end up writing stories where solitary characters wander around ruminating to themselves, and while maybe this isnít the worst thing in the world, itís nice to have a few more choices.

This brings me to the other thing that will help you write a structured narrative: before you even sit down at your keyboard, see if you can think of two characters (or more) who will interact with each other, but who donít want the same thing. Thatís really it. I always find it more productive to start with characters who are in some sort of a situation with each other than to start with themes and issues. Themes and issues might be too abstract to get you going! And anyway, they have a way of soaking into a narrative on their own, without much effort, once you start. Iím not sure how this happens. It has something to do with the subconscious.

Nov 26, 2009; Wag Asks:

Hi Stacey! Happy Thanksgiving? Love, Wag.

Stacey answers:

Thanks! Happy Thanksgiving? to you too.

Nov 08, 2009; hey Asks:

do they have condoms for women

Stacey answers:


Nov 08, 2009; sexy bitch Asks:

why is sex sooooooooooooooo fun.

Stacey answers:

To compensate for the miseries of being an adult, and to encourage us to procreate, even though procreation tends to lead to less sex in the long term, and more responsibilities, and hence more of the miseries of adulthood.

Nov 08, 2009; Eliza Asks:

Were the cavemen smart? If they were can you give me some facts why they were?

Stacey answers:

It depends on what we mean by cavemen. I'm not sure if you mean the cavemen in my story or the actual, prehistoric cavemen of yore. I'm going to go with the latter and say yes, they were smart, at least compared to all other animals (except maybe whales). The people who made the cave paintings of 20,000 years ago were intellectually identical to us, or at least biologically identical. Their culture was different though, and most artifacts haven't survived the 20,000 years of intervening time. Therefore, what they knew and made and how they did these things is information that is not really available to us. But they did make remarkable cave paintings that are unmatched in presence and power, in my opinion, by most art of our historical epoch, maybe with the exception of medieval cathedrals. So they knew something.

Nov 08, 2009; Wag Asks:

I know it's a little early to be asking this, but what are you going to be dressing up as for Pearl Harbor Day?

Stacey answers:

Is this a traditional dress-up day? I did not know that! I guess I'll be a giant carrot.

Oct 29, 2009; Liam, with a second question that will hopefully be typo-free Asks:

Dame Richter,
So, I've been reviewing the answers you've provided to my questions over the years (quick note: You DID fully answer my tough, literary question from Feb. '08. You answered it fully and awesomely, and I stand corrected and cowed.), and I caught something that I either missed or forgot about. You once said that you "made a movie." What!?! Details!

Stacey answers:

In the early nineties, I made a movie with a friend and a 16mm camera. It was sort of long. It played in a lot of film festivals, which was nice, I guess. It's sort of long and stupid and cute. It has a lot of great shots of Tucson in it, including some now-lost Tucson locations, and I think it's mainly notable for that. If I showed it to you, you would think it was kind of cute but mostly boring.

Oct 29, 2009; Liam from in-the-flesh interfacing as opposed to just P2P site chicanery... Asks:

Lady Richter,
There tons of theories as to why contemporary literary-fiction and contemporary literary-fiction-writers aren't as prominent in society today as they were a hundred years ago. What's your take on this phenomenon?

Stacey answers:

Because we suck.

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