5 Questions with @lizapalmer…Ramble

I was at the library (they still exist, try one you may like it) last year in search of a good read when I saw a very intriguing title Seeing Me Naked by @lizapalmer. It’s about a pastry chef from a literary family who must stop being so critical and start accepting the world has other plans to make her happy if only she can let down her guard and let go of the past. I was ‘sucked in’ from page one.

I wanted more from this author, Liza Palmer, who had created such believeable characters I felt like I was with them at brunch in LA and driving up the 101. Fortunately for me there is a bookstore a few blocks from my apartment which is open past 6 P.M. when it the urgent need to read anything Liza had written hit me. Fortunately, her debut novel, Conversations with the Fat Girl, was available and incidently is currently optioned by HBO for a series development.

As fate would have it, one day @lizapalmer tweeted about the relaunch of her website. Thus a retweeting & comment of that lead me to connecting with Liza herself. When her new book  A Field Guide To Burying Your Parents was released, the pleasure extended past to  reviewing it for SheKnows.com and most delightfully getting to interview Liza.

There are so many rules to everything we do. Liza’s characters break out of the way society sees them, push forward through their issues and face who they were meant to be instead of who people expect them to be. Palmer’s characters resonate as real people because she is such a spark plug herself.

Location: Los Angeles
Vocation: Writer
Sign: Leo
website: www.lizapalmer.com

1) You’ve mentioned in interviews your creative process starts with questions. What have the questions and challenges you’ve asked your characters to face that have taught you something about yourself?

I think it’s all about this puppet theater of self-discovery.  I ask the same questions we all ask. Conversations with the Fat Girl was me asking questions about who I was – who I really was. Seeing Me Naked was me asking questions about who I was in the reflection of my parents. And A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents is me asking the question of who I am without my parents.  It’s just this ongoing conversation about these giant set pieces in our lives.  The next book (White Picket Fences: And Other Crimes Against Humanity) is me questioning what it means to be a woman.  BUT!  And there’s a big but – writing novels shouldn’t be therapy.  It can’t be.  Oh my lord, no one – NO ONE – wants to see that.  Like a friend of mine says, everybody like a hot dog, but no one wants to know how its made.

2) Your third book, A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents brings up the deep subject of what happens when the roles reverse between parent and child as the caretaker. Which Hawke character reflects how you would deal with those situations?

I think it’s in my nature to question (as evidence by the screed above) so Grace is my natural doppleganger.  I have Huston tendencies – which is understandable as those two characters are really two sides of the same coin.  But, I think each sibling is another path – which was the idea.  Grief makes us do really crazy, beautiful, amazing, bizarre, unexplainable things.  Which is why WE NEED A FIELD GUIDE.

3) Some writing courses advise staying away from writing flashbacks yet Field Guide completely does this seemlessly. What was the most difficult part of writing flashbacks and tips you would give other writers for attempting it?

Ugh, the flashbacks.  That was BY FAR the hardest part of the structure of the novel.  We thought we were going to do trading chapters – one in the present, one in the past – but that didn’t work for obvious reasons.  It was an amazing writing exercise as I had to build this whole past life for the Hawkes – even more detailed than usual.  It helped me immeasurably.  I guess it’s about just diving into the world you’ve created.

Do you dare dive into the pensieve?

Like a pensieve.  You know?  If your character is experiencing something – what baggage are they carrying around that might make a cameo in that scenario?  Because the truth of the matter is that we’re all just Jacob Marleys – clanging around with chains from our past.  And the Hawkes really needed that illustrated in 3D – shit, I should have set this whole thing on Pandora.  I COULD HAVE MADE BILLIONS.

4) You’ve spoken about the notion of “Kill Your Darlings” when it comes to the edit process. Could you elaborate on what that entails?

It’s about getting out of the way. Taking your ego and all your “craft” and this and that and ‘I was trying to do this can’t you see’ and ‘the genius of that line lies in the….’ and letting the narrative breathe a little.  It can’t be about you.  There’s no place for it.  If you think a line or scene is hilllllarious, but it doesn’t move the story forward or build a character or work really at all (and who hasn’t thought that?!?!?!) put it on a t-shirt, but don’t weight down your prose with it.

5) Music seems to play a big role in your life including getting inspired for the title of Field Guide from Death Cab For Cutie. What are you listening to now & do you listen to music while you are writing?
I’m pretty much obsessed.  It’s kind of a problem.  What am I listening to RIGHT NOW????  Kids by MGMT.  I made a mix for a friend and I’m testing it out for flow.  THAT’S RIGHT.  For flow.  It has to not only contain amazing songs, but it has to build a mooooooood.  Man oh man.

I just downloaded the new David Gray album – and it’s breathtaking.  The song, Kathleen?? Yeah, it’s pretty much on repeat.
I love anything Timbaland does – I think he’s a genius.  I’ve been on a whole Pearl Jam kick – Crazy Mary and Wishlist being the top of the pops for me. I love the alt-country: Drive by Truckers, Kings of Leon, Son Volt…and then going back to the OG: The Band, Lynryd Skynyrd, Bad Company, Marshall Tucker Band – I love it all.  I know…no method to the madness.  And there’s nothing like a Joni Mitchell song while driving over Laurel Canyon.  Court and Spark????  Perfection.

While I’m writing I have a tendency to repeat songs over and over again.  I lean on movie soundtracks during writing – they have that swooning emotionalism I need.  I love Finale by Danny Elfman from The Kingdom soundtrack.  Anything from the Narnia movies.  The Transformers soundtrack is bananas.  Anything by Harry Gregson Wagner and Thomas Newman will do – they’re brilliant.  I thanked James Newton Howard in my acknowledgments because I must have played The Healing off the Lady in the Water soundtrack non-stop for months during the final edits of Field Guide.  Just beautiful.

I like to make playlists for the books, characters and really anything that will get me out of writing.  So, Field Guide had like 7 playlists:  Grace, Grace 2.0, The Grace Project, The Hawkes, Majesty (I imagine it was particularly majestic)…and on and on.  I think Grace and John had their own playlist.  It’s pretty tortured.  Sidebar:  Someone made this heartbreak mix and I snagged a copy of it – um…no Tori Amos.  WTF????  I mean, is that even a heartbreak mix????  HOW CAN YOU HAVE A HEARTBREAK MIX WITHOUT PRECIOUS THINGS????  Well, you can’t.  So…

I could seriously talk about music all day.  Ahhh, Kathleen just came on.  Must swoon.

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5 Questions with @jrjeffrey…Ramble

IaminKansas

Kansas Baby!

Back in the days of yore, when MTV was a powerhouse breaking new artists and playing videos during the day instead of 2-6 A.M. (I wrote ‘yore’ already people!), I was working on an upfront tape with my boss, Fleminator, who never wears underpants. (If I have to know you all have to know! Imagine the fun looks that info got when he came to visit me at Disney Channel…!) The head of marketing’s assistant, @jrjeffrey called to get the tape to messenger to Mr. Fancy Pants in LA for a meeting. Upfront tapes help sell advertising by showing off the best of the programming and adding some hot little figures to lure in partners.

I convinced @jrjeffrey to entrust me to FedEx the tape to Mr. Fancy Pants because Fleminator and I weren’t done with edits. He begrudging complied. The package went AWOL due to a FedEx blunder and Mr. Fancy Pants launched screaming fit heard around the world (or at least bi-coastally), causing a chain reaction that included a FAX of the air bill to prove I had written the address correctly so that  @jrjeffrey didn’t get sacked.

Thus a friendship was born which only deepened when @jrjeffrey to move into the same building as me in LA when we both moved out there for other jobs. It has spanned the test of demanding bosses, dieting, an arch nemesis named Carrie (we love you Carrie!) who said she would rather kill him than lose him to Tori Amos, countless job changes, me breaking his screen door – opps, multiple moves, a shared love of George Michael, a tiki doll, creating a themesong for his dog’s bowel movements, a roadtrip that included 9 hours to prepare for seeing Bjork in concert (no, nine hours really isn’t enough especially when you book a hotel you can walk to the show from!) and one to Vegas listening only to five songs from Madonna’s Light Years all the way there and back to LA.

Without further rambling, five questions with my Follow Friday pick of the week, @jrjeffrey.

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Vocation: Story Producer/Writer/Fabulist
Sign: Very Virgo

1) What is a fabulist and how can I earn that title?

Okay, the word fabulist actually means “a person who invents or relates fables” as well as a ” a teller of tales or liar.” Being related to fables, it is pronounced as such. However, I prefer to pronounce it like “fabulous,” and in turn, have come up with my own unique definition:

fabulist: anyone who observes all that is fabulous in life and shares it with others.

By this definition, you are already a fabulist.

I just always liked the word play of “fable” and “fabulous.” The origin of the storyteller goes back to the fable. I think all great stories teach a moral lesson, whether overt or subtle. The “fabulous” part adds some fun to it. Writers are observers first, and tellers second. Anyone who writes knows there is a fabulous quality to that process.

2) As a story editor of reality shows, what is an example of a scene that may have been as simple as two people making a sandwich that got turned into a huge fight with the use of music and edits:

In my experience, it is very difficult to cheat a fight in reality TV. There has to be some existing drama going on in the footage. In fact, the problem with reality TV fighting is often the opposite: how do we edit this fight down so that it makes sense to the audience & fits into the time we have for it? In real life, peoples’ fights are messy & inarticulate. They are not always on point. A good story editor/producer works with an editor to capture the essence of the fight in the clearest & most dramatic way. I would personally add to that “in an ethical way as well.”

The bottom line is that when you watch raw footage it is, for the most part, very boring. Think about watching hours upon hours of someone else’s home movies unedited. Big trip to Boring Town! Much like documentary film, the footage needs to be carefully selected & woven together to tell a cohesive & compelling story while remaining faithful to the inherent truth of what’s going on.

jessica-simpson-blonde

Coyotes Ate My Dog!

Often, the most manipulated scenes are comedy ones. Humor can definitely be edited together with good shots & great music. I’ll give an example from one of my favorite shows that I’ve worked on, “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica.” I had to watch hours of Jessica Simpson training her new puppy. After watching it all, it was pretty evident that Jessica was not going to be the next “Dog Whisperer.” So, we took the most ridiculous moments of Jessica attempting to get Daisy to obey her commands, combined it with some comedic music & then cut to Nick sitting on the couch engrossed in a football game, but giving Jessica kudos for her excellent training skills. If you watched the couple hours that it all took place in, you’d be bored out of your mind. Instead we got you to laugh & enjoy it by culling the comedy of it for you.

3) As a lover of ‘ladies with piano’ (Tori Amos, Regina Spektor) who are some of the new artists you’ve fallen in love with this year?

Oh drat! I must say, I don’t know if its my laziness when it comes to sussing out new music or just a current lack of artists that are grabbing me, but I only have a limited list of newbies.

In the old-but-new category:

1- Amanda Palmer – one half of the lovely band, Dresden Dolls, has a great solo album out there. She’s an all-round artist whose performances often verge on avant garde. Her sound is unique & she loves to twitter!

2- Dolores O’Roirdan – her latest solo album may have been eclipsed by the announcement that she will be re-uniting with The Cranberries to tour. But this second solo effort is really good in my opinion. It has so much more life than the first solo album did.

Newbies:

3- Noush Skaugen – a bit more guitar than piano, but she did an awesome “Couch Series,” in which she covered songs by bands like Oasis & Foo Fighters. You can watch them at http://www.noushskaugen.com

4- Gossip – okay, I was way late to this party, but I dig Beth Ditto & their overall sound

5- Bat For Lashes – sort of an ethereal sound that harkens back to ’90s Alternative music

6- Florence & the Machine – I’m just starting to listen to her now & I’m having that feeling I had when I first heard Adele (although their sounds are worlds apart). She’s got an amazing voice. I missed her performance in LA, but heard she was AMAZING! Right now, she’s got me the most excited.

4) You’ve been a dog owner all your life and currently have a very adorable rescue dog, Kennedy. What advice would you give to people about selecting a rescue dog?

First off, find a good rescue shelter. Not all rescue shelters are created equal. Some well-meaning folks are in over their heads & running less than stellar facilities. Research the rescue shelters online before visiting them to make sure they don’t have complaints against them.

I adopted Kennedy from Pet Orphans in Van Nuys, CA – an amazing rescue foundation that’s been around for years and has a well-established reputation in the Los Angeles area.

I suggest visiting reputable no-kill, non-profit rescue groups over city shelters because often times they are getting their dogs from the city shelters themselves. The benefit is that the rescue shelters have trained personnel who can match you with an appropriate dog. Plus, an empty space in the rescue shelter means they can save another dog from the city shelters.

Bottom line is that cute dogs catch attention quick, but you will know intuitively if it’s the right fit. Keep an open mind. Be honest with yourself & get a dog that suits your lifestyle. For example, if you’re not an active person, don’t get a dog that requires a lot of exercise to stay calm & healthy.

Sometimes it takes a little time to find “the one,” but it is so worth it in the end. (Turns out, this last one guidleine also applies to finding a good man.)

5) Who would win in a fight Madonna VS. Angelina VS. Oprah VS. Ellen for your heart strings?

Oh wow! At least, you didn’t throw Tori in the mix. I’d never be able to decide.

The truth is that each of them are amazing women who have brought something much bigger than themselves to the table. BUT, I hate being indecisive, so I will choose.

oprah

Don't Mess With The O-han

Oprah. Mainly because she so clearly operates from an intuitive place & that has guided her to great things that have touched so many different lives. I have always been attracted to her spiritual nature. Her greatness comes from listening to that little voice inside.

Okay, I was gushing a bit there. So, let me step back & clarify that’s not to say she’s infallible. No one is. However, she has proven that staying true to your self is one of the surest paths to happiness. And to me, happiness is life’s greatest success!

SXSW Thursday…Ramble

Another year, another great festival full of hot dirty rockers, free flowing booze, fast formed friendships and oh yeah, some great music as well.

The instant I woke up at 5:40 a.m. things went into a breakneck speed on Thursday morning to get to JFK terminal 5. I made it and was rewarded with a plane full of music industry movers and shakers, setting a tone for the most ‘Bromantic’ festival on earth, SXSW. Exchanges of fist pounding, hand grabbing-pulling in for that half hug with a pat on the back, and we were away.

Just remember if you are going to this festival even at seven in the morning, you are expected to look your hipster best. If this isn’t second nature, remember to layer especially since going from a 30 degree temperature in NY to an 85 degrees with the sun pounding down on you Austin, here’s a few tips:


-big, gawdy jewelry you never threw away from the 80’s, gold is preferred
-oversized scarves draped around the neck like a large cloth napkin in a “v” shape

  • bold colors, the more the better, patterns that clash and may be viewed an eyesore elsewhere
  • tattoo sleeves. Why not start now while you have a year to get it done and can spread out the ink, the pain and the payments?
  • dark, chipped away nail polish
  • pointed toe shoes or boots (converse are not going to cut it walking around on the concrete so do your feet a favor and forget them!)
  • hats, although it made me hot just looking at dudes wearing wool knitted ones


Upon arrival a friend let me drop off my bag in her room and even sacrificed waiting for a ‘regular’ room for a handicap one because it was clean, eliminating any waste of party time.
We arrived at The Rhapsody party as the Vivian Girls were playing.

The photog told us to rub up on Krinsky, he was our host afterall.

The photog told us to rub up on Krinsky, he was our host afterall.

The marathon was underway where every hour feels like an entire day because so much happens. Armed with bloody marys, the crowd was thick for Glasvegas who I had “seen” (lighting is such you don’t see their faces too much during their full live show) at Shepard’s Bush in London in December with their undeniable ‘O-O-Ohs’ winning over the crowd.

Next up was dinner with ‘Big Nuts’ from a major record label and the programming/marketing/label relations staff of iTunes (about 30.) A tasty treat was local Mary a “normal person” aka housewife friend of one of the group who crowned our hostess “Big Nuts” and added “just a little bit of fish humor.” 

My favorite Appleman

In order for me to function there must be an Apple product in my hand.

In order for me to function there must be an Apple product in my hand.

, was having a slight meltdown as he lost his iPhone the night before leaving for SXSW and was reduced to …email via an iTouch. Oh my, I hope that Apple sales are not down this week as a result! Oddly, spending a lot of time with other new Apple friends, they don’t seem to have  a chip implanted in their heads running off mid-conversation when spotting co-workers. 

 

A trip to La Zona Rosa yielded another bizarre revelation– straight men love Tori Amos. I dig me some Tori but was definitely taking her in to channel the show to my gay boyfriend in LA reporting all via text. I was told reality dating show, Tough Love’s number one rule “don’t be weird” didn’t throw straight men away in this instance. In essence they like the quirky! This revelation of more bro-mance was evident by the fact the average height in the crowd was six feet.  I could sort of see Tori’s bright red crown. Why do we crucify ourselves indeed trying to stretch our necks trying to see sometimes? 

Onwards to see Chair Lift at Red 7 and our dogs were barking as we crossed town yet again. Sadly, although I think a summer tour of Winter Gloves, Chair Lift and Snow Patrol ….get it, get it…yeah okay, I haven’t had much sleep the last week…would be fun on paper, the reality was Chair Lift, the darling of music bloggers everywhere, was throughly dissappointing. The male vocals seemed unplugged and, joined by a music supervisor for a music channel, we were not entertained by the male chest hair of the guitarist– not pretty on skinny white boys. Each new song reminded us of a different 90’s female vocalist. First she was Liz Phair ala Exile in Guyville, then Bjork, then Tori…enough, find your own sound.

Fortunately next up was Rye Rye at Aces on 6th Street.

Crazy-sweaty-cardigan wearing dancers rule at Rye Rye's show

Crazy-sweaty-cardigan wearing dancers rule at Rye Rye's show

 

Rye Rye takes the M.I.A. formula of rock + dance=eceltic fun -the rock, +urban instead and you get “Wassup Wassup.” A delectable new talent indeed! ( Indeed the have recorded the song “Bang” together.) The crowd forgot their aching feet and danced. Her two dancers would come out during a song, reminding us Baltimore’s dance scene is still intact, dance like madness for a minute, then Rye Rye would lay down wickedly fun irresistible tunes. 

Coming off that high, back on the street we realized our feet were on fire again. We had to get back over to Zona Rosa for the 1am show of Steel Panthers by command from our dinner hostess, Big Nuts. After 12 hours of doing the do at SXSW, we decided it was time for a pedicab. The next one in line happened to be, a rickshaw. 

Three of us climbed in and all I could think of was my head hitting the concrete as my butt was hanging over the side. It was most amusing to passerbys who yelled out such memorable comments (as one does at that time of night) as “That’s Chinese…fun.” Going down the hill or bumps was terrifying for me but my friends loved it.

 

All smiles after we made it in one piece to La Zona Rosa

All smiles after we made it in one piece to La Zona Rosa

As for Steel Panthers, the faux awesome hair band, we were reunited with Big Nuts, Krinsky, and a few other now very ‘happy’ revelers. There was a lot of laughter, oh no they didn’t looks, and cringing at points. I especially loved the song “Asian Hookers.” That one is self explanatory. Another crowd pleaser was when Justin Hawkins, formerly of The Darkness now of Hot Leg, joined them on stage to sing “I Believe In A Thing Called Love.” The highlight though was the closer “Community Property” which is a power love ballad letting the object of affection know that she has his heart, but his dick is well, community property. 

That about wraps up Thursday….and about all the brainpower I had left on reserve today to write. 

More soon….xxGrrlgenius