Thursday, June 01, 2006

How To Become A Writer

I read fashion magazines at the gym while I walk on the treadmill at a very low rate of speed because I loathe exercise and can't stand it unless I'm distracted by beautiful women in beautiful clothes that I wish to buy, but probably won't. In this way, the gym serves as a vacation from reality, a sombulant exercise in mental la la land. Unfortunately, I sometimes run out of the celebrity tabloids and Vogue and am forced to read hard news to make the violet minutes on the treadmill pass. Not too long ago, I ran across a story about a woman, a political prisoner, who had horrible atrocities visited upon her by her captors during the Saddam regime. I knew as soon as I started reading the story, I didn't want to finish it because it would be burned in my mind like acid. She had been raped, tortured, and beaten in the bleakest ways imaginable. After her release, she chose to stay in the house of her suffering and literally write all over the walls. She wrote every bad thing that had happened to her in red, she said, and when she had finished with every misery, she would be free.

I continued to walk on the treadmill, all the wind knocked out of me. My heart broke at the thought of this poor woman choosing to act as a witness to all that happened to her. I wondered what she would do with her house after all the writing was on the walls. Would she live in it or burn it? At the end of my work-out, I hit the stop button on the machine I had been walking on for a little over an hour on a machine where I could look at myself in the wall of mirrors, getting smaller, feeling like I was in a much different place than I had started even though in reality I had been going nowhere.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"You spend too much time slouched and demoralized." Lorrie Moore, How To Become A Writer
Writer's Block Diet (this will cure it)

1 can of chicken noodle soup (you can also use chicken and stars, preferably Campbell's soup)
1 can of Dr. Pepper
2 grape popsicles

Do not hit the booze until after you write!

Benedictions and Maledictions

Dearest readers,

Love the questions! I'll address the first two today and return to poetry tomorrow.

For Bonnie and her question about foundation:

Foundation is extremely important, I think. My favorite foundation is no longer sold -- Loreal Translucide in Ivory. Heather Locklear used to pimp for it, but couldn't keep it on the market, even though the stuff works better than almost anything else. Now I'm a bit unfaithful on the foundation issue, although my favorite is the pricey Dior Pure Light in shade 100. (The lightest shade in Dior is 001, but that's even too white for me and a night at the City Club which is saying something.) For a less expensive alternative, I would suggest any Loreal line, also in Ivory or Pure Ivory for a more goth look.

For Insomniac in Troy (Wichita-Lineman at

If you could be in a band, what would the name of your band be, and what type of music would you play? Where would your band play and what type of stage props would you use? What song would your band cover for the big encore finale?

I would definitely play tambourine as I have nearly no musical talent and nobody needs to hear me sing. I'm of two minds on what type of band to have -- one would be punkish and named Harm Button, and I'd use all sort of Chucky P. (of Fight Club fame) props like fake snakes and whatnot to liven the show up. If this were my band, it would be all women and we'd cover "Ball and Chain" (the long version by the most brilliant and gorgeous Janis Joplin) for an encore. Or I'd go with a Carpenter's type variety act (I worship Karen Carpenter and love her creepy-ass brother as well). My brother-like companion would keen soulfully into my eyes with a matching tambourine (this fantasy also borrows from Donnie and Marie Osmond) and we'd have lots of glitter and whatnot. The closer for this show might be "We've Only Just Begun," one of the most depressing songs ever.


cindy said...

Oh, Michelle,
That article sounds terrible. But the foundation advice is excellent and I love the idea of an all-woman band. Even though I have no musical talent, either, I have other talents, and would sign on in a heartbeat. Love the Janis-Karen combo, very powerful.

xo (shake shake your tambourine!)

Keith Hood said...

Hey Michelle,

Theresa and I graduated from High School in 1971 and "We've Only Just Begun" was the class song. I didn't vote for it. I voted for something more radical but the name of the song I voted for escapes me. Anyway, I'm e-mailing you a picture from that year.


Cheri said...

Michelle, that song always reminds me of "How Do You Mend a Broken Heart" from the Virgin Suicides.

John said...

Dear Michelle,

Great post! First, a lovely shot of the writer in her natural element. Next, sounds like my kind of workout; third, I'll not try the foundation anytime soon, but good to be aware of. And finally the band, splendid! I'll be there -- you'll be the most alluring tambourine shaker in Detroit, of that I've no doubt. Happy the Pistons won, too. Bravo!
Q: for you, what is the most interesting aspect of being a Catholic woman?

bonnie said...

Hi, honey,
Aren't you sweet? Thanks for the idea, I'll search out the Dior Pure Light in shade 100 first thing this weekend. The only other thing we can do is avoid the Sun as much as possible. You look so pretty! You can be on the cover of those mags, for sure! Give a whole new slant to Poets and Writers ;)

JR's Thumbprints said...

Sorry Michelle but Harm Button doesn't cut it for me. How about a steady diet of Liquid Ham punk music? Now there's a band name! (Not to be dispectful to anyone with an eating disorder.) --Jim

Wichita-Lineman said...


I don't know if you know or not but the beginning stages of a movie about Janis Joplin is in the writing stage as we speak. It’s to be called "Gospel According To Janis" and is being directed by Penelope Spheeris. She was on the Henry Rollins Show last week talking about it. No one has been casted for the big part yet but she seems to be aiming for Kate Hudson, a much finer choice than the two women who already tried out for the part: Pink and Britney Spears (That’s what she said on the Rollins Show). The movie is listed as a 2008 Release. Here's the brief write up...

Plot Outline: A biopic on singer Janis Joplin focusing on the period in her life when she first moved to California, and ending with her death eight years later at the age of 27.

Keep your fingers crossed!!!

cindy said...

That's quite a manly scoop, W-L. It's only been in the works for three plus years or so, along with two other aborted Janis projects. Better late than never -- first est. release date was 2005; as if. Here we go again. Worth the wait, if it's good.

Anonymous said...

Michelle, Ray Carver was a writing teacher. In one word, what is the theme of his story "Cathedral"?