How Much Wandering Before I’m No Longer Lost?

photo by Rick Harrison

We’re thrilled that we’ve managed to successfully twist the arm of an former WU’er, bringing him back for a guest post, because he is a favorite of ours! Please welcome Yuvi Zalkow, who’s here to tell us about a new project–and a few significant revelations. Enjoy!

I’m very excited to be visiting Writer Unboxed again after my departure. Let’s see if I still remember how to write a blog post…

I’ve been in this transitional period for at least a year now. My book came out last year. I stopped doing my I’m a Failed Writer video series about a year ago as well. I’ve left those comfortable places to learn and experiment with new forms, new writing styles, new voices. And new failures.

I am working on a new novel that is more of a stretch for me than I ever imagined. It is forcing me to step out of my own neurotic comfort zone (and into other characters’ neurotic comfort zones). I’m digging into these characters living in rural Georgia in 1938. Not as easy to tap into their minds as it was with my first novel’s character (named Yuvi Zalkow) who was struggling to write a novel. My new audio and video series is still a work in progress and doesn’t yet have the exact form I’m striving for. I’m particularly nervous because now I’m trying to capture other people’s stories as well as my own. For a sneak peek, here is a video (that I’m going to officially publish this week), which captures a few things I loved about my conversation with writer Kristen Forbes. She has some cool things to say about how she writes her emotionally powerful essays and I’m trying to use her words to think about that middle ground between over-outlining and under-outlining a piece of work:

This project still scares me. My biggest fear: nothing I create will have an effect on others. That I’ll never connect with another person through my work. That I’ll never tap into that voice that I maybe momentarily had in the past.

I’ve been given lots of advice during this phase. [Read more…]

0

About Yuvi Zalkow

Yuvi Zalkow writes and worries in Portland, Oregon. His stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, Carve Magazine, and others. His first neurotic novel is now available. He is working on a second novel (about one Jew obsessed with napkins and another Jew in the Klan). He recently received an MFA from Antioch University, which makes him feel official.

Weaseling Out of Literary Things… To Do Literary Things

weasel

I was supposed to return to my monthly Writer Unboxed column this month. But I’m not. Well… I’m here at the moment, but I’m only here to say that I’m not going to be here. Make sense?

But I have an excuse!

I love this community and it has been so fabulous to be a part of it. I owe plenty to this relationship with WU, and to its great members, and to the amazing Therese Walsh. So I’d like to explain why I’m leaving.

I seriously burned out last year trying to take on too many tasks in too many areas. And I sort of lost my voice (in just about all areas) along the way. Also went through a bout of depression that had the scary result of causing me not to enjoy making fun of myself. (I’m better in that regard, FYI. I’m a bumbling fool and it’s funny again.)

So this year I’m trying a different tact. No more blogging. Less social media. Less online stuff. More offline writing time. My writing isn’t honestly going as smoothly as it was before; I suspect it needs some serious attention to find my way again. I’ll also be working on videos, since that is a sort of therapy for me, but I decided that I don’t want to just do videos about writing. I feel like I told some of my key tales in that realm with the I’m a Failed Writer series. Now I’d like to branch out in all kinds of shameless directions so I can discuss very important things… like my little boy’s obsession with My Little Pony. To keep my life in balance, the videos will often be very short and the schedule won’t be too fixed. (I recently launched the intro episode of my new video series — The Scribbling Bucket — so if you want to follow these even-more-misdirected videos, you can visit my website and sign up by email or RSS.)

scribble-bucket

Anyway, I hope y’all understand. This whole day job + family life + writing life + video making life + online life + social media life is just not doable for me. I’m about 3.5 lives overbooked.

Please feel free to check-in with me at any point. I’m most responsive on Twitter though I’ll eventually come around in other forms of communication.

Wish you all the best. In writing. And in the rest of life.

0

About Yuvi Zalkow

Yuvi Zalkow writes and worries in Portland, Oregon. His stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, Carve Magazine, and others. His first neurotic novel is now available. He is working on a second novel (about one Jew obsessed with napkins and another Jew in the Klan). He recently received an MFA from Antioch University, which makes him feel official.

A Brilliant Book Tour in the Works

Damn. This has been a tough month. A tough month with very little writing. A month of reading at bookstores around the west coast and doing interviews and doing a not-so-great job at publicizing the release of my novel (A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS). It is amazing how consuming even doing a bad job of publicizing a book can be. I can tell you that I’m not a natural at publicity. Follow my lame Facebook author page to get an idea. (I’m admittedly better at Twitter, but if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll learn more about my drinking and parenting problems than any book news.) Even though there have been plenty of moments this month when I want to hide in my attic and never confront humanity again, there have been some fabulous moments too, like when someone grabs me after a reading and says, “I made my husband read your book. He never reads fiction. But he loved this book… even the weird parts.” Those moments are worth a hundred hide-from-humanity moments (which gives you an idea of how many hide-from-humanity moments I’ve had lately). There is too much to say about this subject, but I need time to digest — both the good and the bad — so let’s focus on just one thing this round: the art of presenting yourself to a live audience. I can safely say that this part of things was not a total failure. Let me explain.

In case it hasn’t been far-too-obvious already, I’m a nervous angst-ridden mess. Even more so when speaking in public. I freeze up to the point where I can’t even count to five when on stage. But there are things I have going for me. For one, I’m decent at planning things in advance (aka brooding at 3am). I also can make these video thingies. And most important of all, I actually take comfort in sharing about my fears and failures to others. So I structured my whole book tour experience around these qualities of mine.

To get more specific, here is how I decided to structure my reading events: [Read more…]

0

About Yuvi Zalkow

Yuvi Zalkow writes and worries in Portland, Oregon. His stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, Carve Magazine, and others. His first neurotic novel is now available. He is working on a second novel (about one Jew obsessed with napkins and another Jew in the Klan). He recently received an MFA from Antioch University, which makes him feel official.

Notes from the (Failure) Field

This month I have a short video with a bit of an update on two fronts related to what’s been going on with me (along with, of course, the emotional baggage that goes along with any of my stories).

For one, I want to share about how I experimented with using video at a few of my public readings. I’ve often found author readings a little tedious, which is strange because I love reading and I love authors. There are a lot of obvious pitfalls that can cause a bad reading. A reading can go on too long. The author may choose an imperfect excerpt to read. There could be a lack of connection between author and audience for some reason. A big problem I face is that I have serious stage fright. This can all make for a less-than-stellar author reading, even when the book itself is solid. Since I’ve been getting a kick out of doing these videos, I decided to see if I could blend the video shtick alongside an author reading.

I was fortunate in that the fabulous Cheryl Strayed asked me if I would participate in the Rumpus event in San Francisco to celebrate the release of Cheryl’s new book (Tiny Beautiful Things). My book was chosen as a Rumpus Book Club pick for July so I definitely wanted to read from my book at a Rumpus event. But I also decided to experiment with playing some animation as I talked about how Cheryl mentored me back in 2009. The animations were timed so that they expanded on (or contradicted) what I was saying at the time. I wasn’t perfectly smooth at doing this, but I still think it’s an interesting way to shake up an author reading. (West coasters: check out my event schedule to find out if I’ll be fumbling my way through a presentation at a bookstore near you.)

On another front, I want to share the experience of getting my first really bad book review. I’ll let you watch the experience for yourself. A crying, drinking anteater can more effectively express the experience than any of my words.

What do you think about author readings? Have you seen any innovative ways to shake them up?
And what about handling the critics? Any personal anecdotes or experiences in that realm?

0

About Yuvi Zalkow

Yuvi Zalkow writes and worries in Portland, Oregon. His stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, Carve Magazine, and others. His first neurotic novel is now available. He is working on a second novel (about one Jew obsessed with napkins and another Jew in the Klan). He recently received an MFA from Antioch University, which makes him feel official.

Project Mismanagement

So when I showed a good friend of mine an early version of this video, he said, “you are out of your mind.” Actually, he had a more colorful way to say it. Basically, the original video made it sound like I was done making videos: so long, suckers!

First of all, it would be impressively idiotic marketing (even for me!) to quit making these quasi-popular videos just before my book launches. But also, it’s not true. I’ll still be posting videos for two more months, and even after that I just intend to take a three-month break (October, November, December) from the official Failed Writer series and from Writer Unboxed posts. I’ll still post things (maybe even a few short videos) on my website. And then I’ll be back at Writer Unboxed in January.

It’s tricky to explain this kind of plan, partly because it’s difficult for me to come to the realization that I’m spread too thin. I’m sure a lot of you readers also struggle with juggling too many compelling projects.

I need time to focus on novel #2 to see if I can overcome a few challenges with this work-in-progress. I’m honestly terrified by its bigness, by its complexity, by its audacity. Rather than drawing from what I learned with novel #1, I’ve stubbornly decided to take on something very different and I’ve bumped up against some issues that I honestly don’t know if I can resolve. (What was I thinking when I set it in rural Georgia in 1938?!) But I need more time to see if I can work through these issues. Given that each video takes me 20 to 30 hours to create, the video-making stuff eats a chunk out of my life. Particularly when there are other responsibilities — like paying for my family’s food and health insurance. And so even fabulous things may sometimes need to go, at least temporarily. I also want time to re-think the Failed Writer series. It’s not that I’m bored with it — these videos are a real joy to create — but I’m wondering how I might evolve it in some way.

Check out my video and see if I’ve retooled it enough to properly articulate a more coherent message:

What about you? How do you handle having too many projects at once?

0

About Yuvi Zalkow

Yuvi Zalkow writes and worries in Portland, Oregon. His stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, Carve Magazine, and others. His first neurotic novel is now available. He is working on a second novel (about one Jew obsessed with napkins and another Jew in the Klan). He recently received an MFA from Antioch University, which makes him feel official.