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Mar 06, 2009; Elizabeth in DC Asks:

Ms. Richter: I was happily entertaining myself your short stories while on the tarmac while everyone else moaned and groaned when a small fire broke out in the lavatory.They are very funny and I enjoy laughing at lines like the one about photos stealing one's soul, but the soul isn't much-used anyway, the land of carniverous dinosaurs where one goes when one goes "too far," and the comical use of citations in the Princess/Prince meth amphetamine story, but I am always braced for sadness finding its way in. I am wondering if you first imagine your characters in all their neediness and quirks before you start furnishing them with family (the high-strung rock start Mom), situations (the restaurant showdown)and their epiphanies or slapdowns (awkward teenage boy rejects awkward teenage girl, so she will instead throw her chips in with her over-the-top Mom.) I am wondering because it occurred to me, as i walk about in a strange city, that I start with the awkward or telling or uncomfortable or revealing moment when I write, and then try--and mostly fail--to build a story from that. Just curious..

Stacey answers:

Hi Elizabeth. The neediness and quirks arise as I write or re-write, I find, as do the awkward or telling moments. I sort of love those moments in real life and it's a good thing too, because if I didn't love awkward moments I would be screwed (I strive to be the first to arrive at parties). It's hard for me to get a story going from a detail. I usually start with some sort of conflict between two or more characters, then allow the characters to interact with one another. Isn't that a boring answer? And yet it usually turns into some sort of story, but not always. I find a story sort of sucks up telling details and moment and metaphors almost by accident, and in a way it helps not to try too hard to be smart. I will rewrite for years, but usually I'm trying to get the rhythm right.

Mar 05, 2009; Sigh Asks:

I'm afraid I'm a failure as a fiction writer because I haven't read any contemporary work in a long time. I want to read something good, pure and unadulterated good, that's been written in the last 5 years. Doesn't matter whether it's a collection or a novel. Any ideas for me?

Stacey answers:

You are, you are a failure. Shame on you, Sigh! Go out and buy some hardbacks. It's a bad, selfish thing to want people to read your fiction while not reading anyone else's fiction yourself. You can't be in the world of books unless you're in the world of books. Also, books are wonderful and will change your life, including the new ones, though sometimes the new ones haven't quite found their place in the world yet so you have to sift through them a bit to find the ones you like the most. I'm not sure I've found anything that's pure, unadulterated good, though you can try Denis Johnson's long story Train Dreams, in the 2003 O.Henry anthology (though that's slightly outside your window), and Donald Antrim's essay I Bought a Bed in many anthologies and his book Afterlife. For extremely enjoyable and delightful but perhaps a little less than absolutely perfect, you could also sample from this varied lot: Like You'd Understand, Anyway, by Jim Shepherd, Milk, by Darcey Steinke, Twin Study, by Stacey Richter (sorry), The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, The Last Novel, by David Markson, Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link, and Drop City, by T.C. Boyle.

Mar 03, 2009; Liam, From MySpace With Love... Asks:

So, Stacey. We've all watched the endless banned-substance-revelations unfold in the world of Major League Baseball, and I think I'm not alone in wondering, "Have you, Stacey Mildred Richter (that's your middle name, right?), ever taken a performance-enhancing drug?"

I don't want to imply that I think you certainly have, but I'm just saying it seems like the right time to finally come clean and say you're sorry. That's all. But rest assured, S-Ricky, should you choose to confess, we, your mindless, sycophantic zombie-army (we prefer the labels of "the Richter Undeads" or even, more whimsically, "the Richter-lings), will absolutely forgive you, and stand behind you 100%. The ball is, as they say, in your court, my dear Mildred.

Hungering for Brains --Delicious, Delicious Brains,

Stacey answers:

Liam, Liam. Once I stole some of my ancient grandmother's Provigil, a stimulant prescribed to her when she was 99 years of age because she was sleeping 20 hours I day. I believe this is a banned substance in cycling, so yes, I have taken performance enhancing drugs. I'm not sure how feeling dizzy, wired, and tired all at the same time can enhance performance, but we have to go with the anti-doping committee's recommendation, so there it is.

Feb 28, 2009; Wag Asks:

You think I'm a zombie just because I want to eat your delicious brains?

Stacey answers:


Feb 24, 2009; Wag Asks:

Do you really know who I am? Really?

Stacey answers:

Ah, so true. Zombie?

Feb 23, 2009; NonAnon Asks:

Do you pay attention to the IP addresses of the people who ask you questions here so that, no matter what pseudonym people come up with in the little line name above, more or less, you know who is asking you questions? Just curious.

Stacey answers:

Uh, no. I don't know how to do that. Wait, I just asked someone. Okay, I see. I can check with my internet host and find out what city people are writing from, though apparently it's not always that precise, i.e. my own IP address says Phoenix even though I'm in Tucson. So even if I checked the IP address, I would only have a vague sense that certain pseudonyms might belong to the same person--which is fine, NonAnon. You can ask as many questions as you want. It's a big enough world that I doubt I could pin you down even if I knew your city. Do you think all the questions are from, like, two people I went to grade school with? That would be a little disheartening.

I do know who a few questioners are because I either know them in real life or they're pen pals who write me additional emails on the side (stretching the definition of "knowing" here). There are a lot of questions from Wag (who appears as some variation of Wag), my friend Chris, who in real life was trying to help me get my roof to drain, which is why there's a whole conversation below about how to get a roof to drain. Obviously I know who that is. Anyway, Non, to answer your question: I don't check the IP addresses, I don't know how, and I don't plan to start. Does this mean you have some sort of racy question you want to ask?

Feb 21, 2009; Possibly Stupid Asks:

So, this might be a stupid question but what *do* you eat if no grains and potatoes and whatnot? What does breakfast look like without toast or cereal or whatever? Also - don't you got fuzzy brain from lack of carbs? Or do you just eat a lot of bananas?

Stacey answers:

I eat a lot of macadamia nuts and often think of Rabbit at Rest wherein Harry Angstrom dies from, I kid you not, eating too many macadamia nuts. For breakfast I eat eggs, bacon, yogurt, fruit, cheese, and sometimes oatmeal because I'm a cheater. In general, I eat a lot of meat and vegetables and nuts and stevia. I eat fruit but I don't eat a lot of bananas. The reason I've adopted this diet is because (and again, I kid you not) people who don't eat processed food (flour, sugar, juice, Hot Pockets) seem not to get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, cavities, and a host of other ailments, some of which have been bothering me. So, essentially I'm aiming for a hunter-gatherer diet but with some dairy because I'm too lazy to do it without dairy.

I'm not fuzzy without carbs, but I had to adjust to having less of them. At first I was fuzzy and really hungry, but now in general I'm almost never feel as hungry as I used to when I ate more carbs. Still, it's a hard diet to get used to and to stick with, even for me--and I feel sick when I eat sugar.

Feb 17, 2009; Liam of MySpace fame... Asks:

Hey, Stacey. I'm having trouble losing weight. Although you seem like the naturally thin type (which makes me resent you a little), I was wondering if you had any theories as to what is the best way to get in shape.
Please share.

Stacey answers:

Hi Liam. I'm so, so glad you asked! Boy, do I have theories. I'm not exactly naturally thin, I'm sort of naturally average, but in the past three or four years I've lost about 25 pounds and now I am thin. You can't do it exactly the way I did it because I have weird, non-dangerous stomach problems--I know that's disgusting, but really it is my stomach and I'm not using that as a euphemism for my intestines, okay? Because of this, I've read dozens of books about food and diet and learned that almost all the information we have about food and diet is made-up bullshit. I know, I know, now I sound like the crazy Scientology person but really, it is, and I will provide references.

So here's what I recommend you do to lose weight: eat as much as you want of anything BUT really, really never eat: sugar, grains, potatoes and their pals, beer, fruit juice, and don't eat anything after 8 at night. Corn is a grain. Go easy on the booze and try to eat a lot of non-starchy vegetables. This will seem weird and uncivilized for a while--especially not eating bread--but then it won't seem so strange, and no one will even notice if you don't tell them. You must eat fat. Don't skip this step and don't listen to anyone who yells at you when you dump butter on your spinach. Eat as much as you want but obviously try to eat natural fats and not trans fat. Because I'm on this diet for health reasons, not weight reasons, I try to eat them in their descending order of healthfulness, which I've decided is: fish fat, coconut oil, butter, animal fat, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, whatever else.

Okay, now this is even weirder but truly don't get into a hardcore aerobic exercise program because it will make you hungry and therefore unhappy and eventually your knees will start to hurt. Resistance training is better than rampant aerobic training. You'll look and feel better. I'm nuts, sure, but my BMI is 18.8 and I promise this won't make you have a heart attack. Also, you won't be hungry after you adjust. The bad news is that when you first cut out sugar and grains you'll probably go insane. It's temporary, maybe for three weeks...or longer, especially if you've been eating a low fat, high-grain diet for a while. It's easier to ease into it if you first cut out sugar for a couple of weeks, then cut out the grains.

For references read Good Calories, Bad Calories by the fantastic science writer Gary Taubes. If you really do this and it works, please let me know.

Feb 07, 2009; Wag Asks:

Wicky-wicky-what? (sorry, couldn't resist). Lucas and Dan are just jealous that they didn't come up with my brilliant solution first. I'm doing well. Life seems to be progressing within expected parameters.

Stacey answers:

Oh good. Expected parameters sounds good!

Feb 06, 2009; Wag Asks:

Well, I figured the burlap would make a good conduit to get the water from the puddles to the roof drains, not just an increase in evaporative surface area. How are you doing?

Stacey answers:

Yes, I understood your clever principal of wicking the water off the flat roof with the burlap. I just didn't pay enough attention to see if it was wicking or what. I will try harder. It's hard to pay attention to the roof. As a child I used to hide on top of the refrigerator when we played hide & seek and even though I was in plain sight no one could ever find me.

I'm a little disappointed in life even though it's better than it's been in a long time. How are you?

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