A Thread

A quick and incomplete thread of things in the Cara Benson writing world for the year just past as this new year is upon us. It’s a brief, slightly annotated list, with pics and links.

A church, two kitties, and a podium walk into a thread…

In March, a fine place to start, I facilitated a panel at AWP called Listening to the Art. I was inspired to propose the panel based on the response I got to a post I’d written for Grub Street. Here’s a pic of the panel – we had fun!

awp

As a result of that panel, HocTok reached out for an interview wherein I answered questions that made me squeamish, like what is my definition of happiness. Yeesh.

University of Rochester Decarceration Research Initiative commissioned a poem and that went live in May. The premise of the project was to use photos of the sky taken within close proximity to a number of correctional facilities in Western New York as prompts. The resultant art is intended to focus attention on the rampant carceral state the US has become.

In July The Brooklyn Rail published an excerpt of my novel in progress WHAT WOULD EMMA GOLDMAN DO?. The piece includes a political protest, an uninsured doctor visit, my beloved Jon, and Max Weber. That same month I read from a part of the excerpt at @KGBBarRedRm IN THE VERY ROOM EMMA HAD MEETINGS of her secret society of anarchists.

Somewhere in there I bought a church to live and write in. My writing sanctuary. There will be workshops and readings, too, at some point.

church sunset

Here’s the sanctuary workshop table.

workshop table

In late fall, I signed with @AEAkinwumi of Willenfield Literary Agency so that EMMA will get out into the world. Akin was up til 1 AM reading the ms.!! I’m working on edits now and definitely in the third trimester…

Then the always interesting Hobart pubbed a short of mine. Libraries, drinking water, internet. The usual suspects.

And now I’m juggling these two cuties while finishing up those revisions on the novel.

two cuties

The Long and Short of It

Going to AWP in Texas. Gonna talk about novels, how they come to be out of shorter things sometimes, how my current came out of nowhere, is out there somewhere, nearly ready for you to read. How now when I write I carry the body memory of that novel’s universe in me and everything that comes after feels like a phantom limb. Like a shark ate my homework. San Antonio, 2020.

Excerpt at The Brooklyn Rail

Thanks to the amazing Donald Breckenridge, I’ve got an excerpt of my current novel in progress (tho truth be told I am SO READY to have this baby out in the world, I’ve been in the third trimester with it for more than three months, just saying) up at the equally amazing publication The Brooklyn Rail. I think you should read it. What’s stopping you, really. It’s in hard copy but also free online right here.

From the description of the book I gave them: WHAT WOULD EMMA GOLDMAN DO? is an autobiographical novel set in late capitalism and climate crisis. The lead character considers her life and politics in comparison with historical and contemporary figures, notably anarchist Emma Goldman, in an effort to determine what would be radical enough to meet the moment. She is on a job search and lives with her romantic partner in a mortgaged house. Self-doubt and online petitions ensue.

What are you waiting for? Click away, my friends. Click away. Tell ’em Emma sent you.

Emma_Goldman_seated.jpg

Happiness & Success

A not-for-profit art endeavor asked me a few questions about writing, praise, and my definition of success. Hooboy did I want to avoid those questions! But I didn’t. This isn’t a treatise or in-depth manifesto, but I do give it a shot. Also, some words on writing and how to stick with it. Have a look! Plus, they use a photo of a mountain! In lieu of being able to give you theirs, here’s this.

IMG_4397

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Suck

I’m working on a piece for Grub Street on how to stay motivated while working on a long term creative project — in my case, a novel. That, too, isn’t happening overnight, but it’s coming. Meantime, for your viewing and #MondayMotivation pleasure, here’s Junot Diaz on developing a tolerance for imperfection in your own writing. It’s three minutes well worth watching.

Revise, revise, revise

Novelist William Gass passed away last week at the age of 93. He was beloved, or so it seems his novels were if the paeans to him on Twitter are to be believed. I confess I’d not only not read him, but not heard of him (that I recall) until his death. He’d probably hate me for that, but then he’d get some writing out of it so I’m not too worried.

What I have now read – or skimmed, to be honest – are some of the posts of aggregated quotes from Gass on writing. I will add at least one of his novels to my ever-expanding to be read list, and maybe you might, too. Meantime, these two passages (as compiled at LitHub) are keepers:

“Something gets on paper, and then it gets revised, and then it gets revised, and then it gets revised. And then I’m finally at the end.”

—from a 2005 interview with The Believer.

“I write slowly because I write badly. I have to rewrite everything many, many times just to achieve mediocrity. Time can give you a good critical perspective, and I often have to go slow so that I can look back on what sort of botch of things I made three months ago. Much of the stuff which I will finally publish, with all its flaws, as if it had been dashed off with a felt pen, will have begun eight or more years earlier, and worried and slowly chewed on and left for dead many times in the interim.”

—from a 1976 interview with The Paris Review.

There are no shortcuts in writing, much as I’d love cash and prizes for my first drafts. So I am posting these two as fuel. Reminders. Notes to self as I continue the work of revision on my current manuscript. The story of that story is a long one, and I cannot wait to tell you all about it. And I will. Soon as it’s finished. Thanks, Bill. He wouldn’t mind me calling him that, do you think?

apollo
(Apollo)