It's been about a year since I met Brian Benson, a writer whose memoir is about to be released into the wild via an awesome book-bike tour. In addition to being a charming, endearing (I know those words are synonymous but I couldn't decide on one and he's absolutely both), kind and funny friend, he's also one hell of a writer. I'm going to give you my most official-sounding review of his memoir about taking a cross-country bike trip with a woman he fell in love with:
Before opening his book GOING SOMEWHERE, set aside an entire afternoon and evening because once this ride starts, you won't want to go anywhere else. With gorgeous prose and heartfelt candor, Benson speaks to his readers as if they are friends sharing a pint. His stunning self-perception as he bares his innermost thoughts (about life, love independence and the idea of going somewhere) will have you nodding your head in recognition even as it breaks your heart. More than a story of adventure or going on a journey, this is a story of humanity. Benson's humanity -- his beautiful, brave, flawed, insightful, maddening, relatable, funny, wise, charming, devastating humanity -- shines.
I really can't recommend this book highly enough and I'm very excited that his book-bike tour is mere weeks away. The book launch starts at Powell's on Tuesday, June 24th and from there, Brian will be riding his bike to various bookstores and libraries across the nation. You can find more information about this lovely person and his wonderful book at brianbensonwrites.com.
Speaking of book tours, Brian invited me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour, which I'll use his words to describe: "a writer answers a few questions about how and why and what they write, and then they ask a pal or three to do the same, and as the weeks go by, more and more of us share our precious secrets about the creative process, until eventually, probably in like mid-September, we all simultaneously self-actualize."
So, that's how this thing works. You can view Brian's responses to the writerly questions here.
And you can view my responses here.
1.) What are you working on?
I am working on trying not to freak out about the lack of things I'm working on right now. I have a lot of thoughts flowing through my head lately, but I've had a difficult time translating them to the page. It's been a strange period for me as a writer.
Of course, another way to answer that is this: I'm revising a novel and I have about fifteen half-starts of new essays.
2.) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I like to write about death, dying, disease, dementia, loss, heartbreak, rejection, fear and loneliness, and I also like to write with a sense of humor. I don't know if this is terribly unique, but I do know I have a very difficult time writing any other way.
3.) Why do you write what you write?
I write personal essays because they're the only way I know how to communicate my experiences. I write reality-based fiction because I've always been fascinated by the way humans engage with each other. I believe everyone is inherently a good person, but we all make sloppy decisions and often hurt others in the process. There can be so much distance between our thoughts and our actions -- we long for one thing but say something else out loud -- and I've always been intrigued by the various ways people show their interior and exterior selves. I've never gravitated to science fiction or romance or magical realism or horror or any other sub-genres (although I have tremendous respect for writers who do) because to me, there is simple nothing more intriguing than the relationships and interactions between people.
4.) How does your writing process work?
Oof. I am a big proponent of going with the flow and not having a real process. I feel like this is an idea that doesn't sit well with a lot of writers. I suppose I think my job as a writer who writes so much about people and relationships is to first and foremost be a living, breathing person. Sometimes that means I don't write every day. Sometimes that means I write many hours in one day. Sometimes that means I'm spending time with the people I love and other times I'm reading book after book after book and other times I'm going on a run and writing in my head. I'm simultaneously loosey-goosey and serious about my craft. I'm a huge advocate of telling each writer to figure out whatever works best individually and to never buy into the idea that you have to do anything a certain way in order for it to be accomplished. Do it your way. My way is pretty screwy but it works for me.
Brian's responses went up last week, my responses are up today, and more lovely writers are going to contribute their responses next week.
First up, there's my wonderful friend Jacqui Morton, a fellow Antiochian and one hell of a poet and essayist. My personal favorite essay of hers (of which there are many, and you should check them all out): is this gut-wrenching piece she did for The Rumpus: Standard of Care. Her chapbook "Turning Cozy Dark" was published last year by Finishing Line Press. Her work has appeared in Salon, Role/Reboot, The Rumpus, Mamamia, Drunk Monkeys, The Provo Orem Word, The Splinter Generation, and many other places. I really cannot overstate how much she kicks ass as a writer and I encourage you to visit www.jacquimorton.com to check out all of her work. She also blogs at www.confessionalmama.com. In addition to being a beautiful writer, she is a lovely person and friend and mom and I'm grateful our paths crossed in graduate school. Be sure to check out her work now and her responses to these questions next week.
Next up is Margaret LaFleur, whom I had the honor of meeting via the miracle of the internet many years ago and am still looking forward to meeting in person someday. Margaret is an extremely talented writer whose essays, reviews and fiction have been published in Minnesota Women's Press, The Millions, Used Furniture Review, The Review Review, the Ploughshares blog, and many other places. She is also a fun person to follow on social media because she keeps up with current events, reads a lot of books, and takes beautiful photos. She has been championing my writing for a long time and I'm beyond thrilled anytime I get the chance to do the same for her. She is such a lovely person and you can find out more at margaretlafleur.com.
Thanks for tuning into this episode of the Writing Process Blog Tour. Come again sometime.