Tabs open on your screen right now: Gmail, Submittable (where I’m reading fiction submissions for the next issue of No Tokens), Dictionary.com (where I was looking up a synonym for the word “spurt”), Traffic School 4 Busy People (I recently acquired my very first speeding ticket).
If you had to brag about yourself: A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I am actually an excellent baker. Around the holidays I’m always whipping up some sort of complicated dessert. I find it weirdly calming to follow a recipe. I make my own pie dough and everything. It’s the one thing I’ll brag shamelessly about.
Your writer crush: Claire Vaye Watkins.
Favorite lyric: His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean / And you’re the best thing that he’s ever seen (Bob Dylan, “Lay Lady Lay”).
Any place in the world: Paris, always and forever.
Best breakfast: Avocado toast on really delicious crusty French bread with thinly sliced radishes, arugula, lemon, olive oil, sea salt, cumin and black pepper. Poached eggs on the side. A big glass of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. And a strong cappuccino with my homemade almond milk.
Favorite online places right now: No Tokens, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Cosmonauts Avenue!
Sweetest thing: Swimming naked. Spending rainy days in bed with a person I love (or a really really good book). First edition books. Books that make me wish I’d written them. Autumn on the east coast, when the leaves change. Jacaranda trees in bloom. Old cinemas. English gardens. French New Wave films. Driving down the coast with all the windows open. The smell of redwoods and campfires. Bubble baths. Mountains. Lying on my back looking up at the stars and remembering how small I am.
Your rituals (writing or not): I am always burning things in my bedroom– palo santo, sage, candles. I try to meditate for twenty minutes each morning, though I have found this generally doesn’t happen unless I do it first thing, the minute I wake up. It makes my day go more smoothly and helps me to feel more grounded and present, especially if I’m going to be writing. I am a huge advocate of the leisurely morning– I like to wake up earlier than I need to so that I have time to write down my dreams and read something (usually a short story or two) while I have my morning coffee and breakfast. I’m not one of those writers who wakes up at the same time every day and writes for several hours. I really wish I could be– I might get more done– but I get bored and start feeling trapped with too much of a routine. Hopefully I’ll get there one day, but for now I sort of like to let it happen more organically. I am pretty much always writing in my head– figuring out plotlines and characters and settings and dialogue while I’m doing other things, jotting down sentences and ideas in the little notebook I carry around with me everywhere. The actual writing part usually happens late at night in my bedroom, in these giant semi-manic spurts. Kind of like sprinting rather than long-distance running. I always write longhand first, in my ruled large soft-cover Moleskine notebook, and then once I have a few pages and a good idea of where the story is going I’ll type it up and finish it on the computer. When I’m in the throes of working on a story, I find time to sit down and work on it at least three or four times a week. Having a deadline, some kind of contest or fellowship to submit to, always helps. Once I have a solid first draft of a story, I’ll send it to one of a few specific people who I trust and admire deeply for notes.
Least impressive thing about you: I am incredibly nearsighted. I remember getting my first pair of glasses at five years old and seeing the stars and the individual leaves on trees for the very first time, being blown away by the fact that normal people could see the world this clearly. Now I wear contact lenses. I wish I could wear my glasses out in public more often– I actually love glasses, but the lenses on mine are so thick that they make me look supremely nerdy. I also have flat feet, which destroyed my childhood dreams of becoming a ballerina. And I have a really, really hard time being punctual. That is probably my worst quality, though I am working on it. My brain just doesn’t fully comprehend the concept of time and I always end up thinking I have a lot more of it than I actually do.
Favorite space to write: At the beautiful old Biedermeier desk I inherited from my grandmother, with my favorite Feu de Bois candle burning (it smells like campfires). I also like to write in coffee shops sometimes for a change of scenery, though in Los Angeles this inevitably means listening to a group of dudes next to you discussing their latest spec script. Which can get old.
What should we know: Apart from writing, I also draw and paint, take photos, act and make films. Last year, I wrote, directed, executive-produced and starred in a short film based on my short story “The Ravine,” which first appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue. The film premiered at the Cannes Short Film Corner in May 2016 and went on to win “Best Mystery Short” and “Best Actress in a Short Film” (yours truly) at the Independent Filmmakers Showcase (IFS) Festival in Los Angeles. I’m deeply grateful to the CA editors for believing in this story and giving it a home, and for being a large part of the seed that grew into my very first film!
Guilty literary pleasure: I don’t know if I necessarily feel guilty about any of the books I read nowadays, but my preteen reading years were marked by several different beloved YA series, most notably Francesca Lia Block’s “Weetzie Bat” books. I still have them all on my bookshelf. I was probably her biggest fan. I remember being so inspired and surprised by this sort of magical-realist, postmodern fairytale of Los Angeles she had created, where anything could happen. I actually got the chance to meet Ms. Block at AWP this past year, when she stopped by our No Tokens booth and complimented our founding editor-in-chief, T Kira Madden, on her shoes. My tween self fainted with joy.
Best book nobody talks about: “First, Body” by Melanie Rae Thon, “Two if by Sea” by Anne-E. Wood, “Black Tickets” by Jayne Anne Phillips.
Character (TV, book, movie) you most identify with: Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
Last time you lied: A few days ago.
The lie: Told a creepy guy I had a boyfriend so he’d stop trying to talk to me.
Question you secretly want to be asked: What superpower would you most like to possess?
The answer: I think about this one a lot. Being able to snap my fingers and teleport myself from one location to another, no matter how far away, in a split second. Either that or being able to speak and understand every language in the world.