Sunday, July 22, 2007


It's taken me quite a while to respond to the 5 questions Jessie so kindly asked of me. I should have known that she, a thoughtful, creative, insightful, kind, and soulful blogger, would ask tough questions that are hard to fake. I'm also not such a good faker these days--for better or worse, I'm more myself than ever.

So here goes:

1. Describe what you consider to be the perfect writing environment (real or imagined).

It's just me and my dog in a simple beachhouse on Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket or some island like that. The beach is right in front of me and I can feel and smell the ocean air any time I want. I have an unlimited supply of cigarettes and white wine, which I consume all day into the night. I write each morning and each late afternoon. In between, I might walk the beach, sketch, or read a book. I am drinking and smoking whenever and where ever. Around dinner time I hear a voice or respond to a knock on the door and it's poet Mary Oliver or writer Natalie Goldberg, who happen to live down the beach. We drink and smoke together before and after a light dinner of cheese and fruit with sesame crackers and Peet's Italian Roast coffee.

Wow. Here's the truth: long ago I read about a woman who started her life over, out of necessity, by holing up as I have described. It struck me then as an opportunity for unleashed romantic literary freedom and I still have that idea in my head--even though I know, for me, drinking and smoking can't be akin to good writing. Not to mention I would be miserable without access to the people I so dearly love. (P.S. I stopped drinking and smoking 18 years ago and I would be in a fine and predictable mess if I went anywhere near this fantasy.)

2. If you could have a getaway home anywhere in the world, where would it be and what would it look like?

Easy question: it would either be an oceanfront simple beachhouse with large windows and white driftwood walls, probably in Provincetown on Cape Cod, perhaps in Sarasota or some other coastal area I'm not aware of yet; or it would be an apartment in Montmartre in Paris. Either place would be simple and uncluttered. It would have ample books, Ces' artwork on the walls, and a small sweet kitchen with an interesting window scene. The space would be cozy. It could easily be a one room studio with a pull out couch.

3. What is your writing process like?

I'm kind of schizophrenic unless I'm strict about a schedule and stick to a certain project. In any given week, I'm writing poems, short stories, revisions for my self help book, re-reading the first draft of the NaNo novel, and putting posts on my blog. I usually write late at night or early mornings because I'm one of these people who likes to work before I play. I have daily doses of telephone talking with my best friend which could be distracting but instead is inspiring. These days I am am writing as freely and randomly as ever, but I am holding myself to preparing and mailing 5 queries or submissions a week. After a year of free form writing, it's time to take steps to get published. That's not true for everyone who writes, but it's important to me.

I don't really know what I'm going to write before or while I write. It just spills out, and I let it. I tend to go back and strengthen the words--the verbs especially--at least once, sometimes twice, before I finish. I sometimes start with an idea: for example, I'm writing a story about the loving special friendship between Casey and Izzy--two characters I just adore--and I know I want to write about Izzy's distain for mental health (which happens to be Casey's occupation). I will just write and let them provide the dialogue and guide the story, which they will do with non-stop chatter and tender humor.

4. In what way has your dog, Stella, changed your life the most?

Well, I should start by saying I am a dog person and my dog Rosie, who died at 14 three years ago, was the love of my life. When we got Stella, she was so fearful and withdrawn, even though she did everything she could to be obedient. JB and I were on pins and needles trying to help her relax until we had a one hour phonecall with a dog communicator (aka dog "psychic") who "spoke" to Stella and told us to lighten up and stop talking about her abusive past. During that call, Stella also "asked" for more chicken. Laugh if you want but after that call, all three of us had remarkably changed.

I did not expect to love or respond to Stella the way I did with Rosie because Stella asked for and expected so little. That was a year ago. Today is a very different story. She comes into my study, turns her sweet head just slightly, and says "Will you come and sit with me while I eat my cookie?"

This is a long winded way of saying that I love Stella with every fiber. I am a kind and caring person with her, I factor in her needs, I massage her as long as she wants, I take her with me as often as possible, and before my eyes I see how love has healed her. This has contributed to the way I try to live, which is based on a deep abiding love for the people and creatures I care so much about, a kind and non-judgemental acceptance and caring of anyone I connect with, and yes, of course, more vulnerability than I've ever experienced. Please note: I'm not complaining. I wouldn't change a thing. Also please note: I am not the saint this makes me sound like. :)

5. You have just been commissioned to create a very large mural on the side of an important building, that, in some way, tells the story of your life. Without worrying about your level of talent, what visions come to mind?

Oh jeez, Jessie! Well:

I would have people of various races and backgrounds, some alone, some in groups of two or three--some crying, some embracing, others raising their arms upward, some defending, some protecting, some reaching out, some doing creative meaningful work, some sharing, some teaching, some hugging animals, and one or two with faces that totally show how love transforms. And I would have my Mother and Father, JB and Jessica, Mike and Ryan, Ces, Moose, and Willa standing underneath all the light that could ever be.
P.S. If anyone wants five questions from me, I will happily oblige. You just have to say so.


  1. It's late and I'm waiting to go get my Harry Potter book at midnight ... and I just thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, KJ. I could hear your voice really clearly tonight! Great questions and super answers that I really took my time reading. I would love five questions from you ... Have a great weekend!

  2. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it too! I would help you with the mural! I love the ocean and all those same places too! I would also love to smoke and drink and paint. I quit smoking years ago but my wild side wishes i still did... i never drink but would like too. Really fun and in answer to your idea, ok!

  3. melissa, you have the book in your hand as i write this! or close to it.

    five questions will be coming. oooh, i will like to ask you five questions.

    val, you would be THE person i would want to paint this mural. re: my idea: ok! i'm working on it.

  4. For a minute I began worrying about your health until the PS...
    I gave up smoking 22 years ago but I love wine...
    Yes, a flat in Montmartre or a villa overlooking the Med!
    Your mural "looks" amazing, KJ!

  5. Haahaaa, I agree with Cream, your mural looks amazing! Also enjoyed reading whilst chain smoking in a simple and uncluttered room next to a beach. Going to get a drink now and sit with a parrot eating a cookie :))

  6. you wanna sublet your get-away?:)

  7. Wonderful questions. Even better answers! (You are definitely a writer!) As for those lovely islands you mention, you and JB must one day visit the Pacific Northwest. You would love British Columbia's Gulf Islands and Washington state's San Juan Islands (same chain -- different name).

  8. PS We're waiting for our HP book to be driven up to our doorstep as i speak. We worked out the queue order (for the four of us!) in advance.

  9. cream, thanks. it's hard to be in the restaurant business without drinking and smoking, don't you think?

    singleton, sublet? does that mean i'm not around to enjoy the fun?

    andrea, we have a neice in seattle. i figure one of those days we'll visit b.c. and you!
    our hp book won't arrive from amazon until the 28th. obviously i didn't order it correctly. drats!

  10. anon, i almost overlooked your comment, which true to form is as witty and clever as a comment could be. how about five questions to you, anon? i was hoping you'd ask..... :)

  11. Awesome blog I smok drink and paint all the time best thing ever, check blogs out love to hear what any other bloggers think

  12. Hi KJ!
    I found Jessie's questions very thoughtful and interesting. You are a true dog lover, my favorite kind of people.

    We will probably drive from Portland to Portsmouth to soak up Maine's coastline. Maybe a covered bridge in NH. :) HUGS

  13. Oh no no no no no five questions for me thank you KJ ... I wouldn't be Anonymous then! Jack still has two weird answers to find , so even he is out of the question ...s :)

  14. I love the answers you've provided for the questions. it's always fascinating to be inside someone else's mind. Your mind is a warm and welcoming and colourful place I find!

  15. kj, i loved reading these answers! and i espeically enoyed reading about your love for stella. these days i'm reading "Dog Love" by Mark Doty. i think you would like the book a lot. we are all so vulnerable when we really, truly open our hearts to love. of course, dogs make it easy to do that. anyway, i loved reading your words.

    oh...but you also make me want to smoke and drink white wine! would you mind if i showed up once in awhile to hang out with you and natalie and mary oliver? good god that would be wonderful! :)

    much love to you kj. i had fun reading this! :)

  16. oscar, not my point exactly...

    tammy, have a wonderful time. you're my kind of people too!

    anon, ok. ok!

    thanks, chief.

    jessie, mark doty is a provincetown guy. i don't know him personally but in ptown everybody kind of knows everybody. thanks for such great questions. it was actually fun to answer them. i would share my wine and cigarettes with you any day, jessie. much love to you too.


  17. I did not read anything yet. I just wanted to drop in and say hello. More later.

  18. The perfect writing environment is surely in your head :-)
    I can understand the romance of Montmartre, but surely it is far to commercialized, too touristic.
    But to be honest, I wouldn't know where to choose in Paris, and I worked and lived in the place for 6 months, I know it farely well.
    The 3rd and 4th district Le Marais I find very cute, and no, I'm not gay :-)
    Or le Quartier Latin, the 5th and 6th.

  19. Wow! I enjoyed reading your responses to those really fine questions on two levels - I love your candor about your feelings and ideas and the way each thing you tell adds to what we've learned so far about you, and I love the rhythm of your writing. My favorite responses... well, having met sweet Stella, I am touched by your words about her, and I have such a strong visual of your mural. You are a pleasure to read, kj! I'm so glad you're submitting work to publishers!

  20. First off, happy belated birthday to Jess!!

    What thoughtful, humorous, wonderful answers you gave. I love learning about you this way. I'm up for 5 questions if you have them.

    Say hi to Stell for me!

  21. Very your words about Stella...she's a beautiful girl & I simply love that y'all found one another & are willing to take whatever steps are needed to understand one another. Unconditional love cures all.

  22. pieterbie, i was only in montmartre for one day but i kept watching all these interesting people come onto the streets from their apartments. it all looked so compact and neighborly. i would love to hear about your time in paris.

    carla, the rhythm of my writing? (blush). i only hope i am worthy of your kind words.

    kris, stell sends you a lavish lick. five questions for you coming up--!!

    skinny, as you hopefully know i like and admire your take on the world.


  23. My, my, my! You KJ are much too much.

  24. I especially appreciated your response to #4. Dogs are the best.

  25. A very thoughtful and thorough set of answers to those questions. Like a little window into your mind. I loved getting to read this one.

  26. i LOVED reading this, kj!!! i am so interested in others' writing processes. i am back from a conference, and am just now catching up with everyone. hope all is well!