Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Where Writers Write: Jennifer Tseng

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!

Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 

This is Jennifer Tseng.

Jennifer is an award-winning poet and fiction writer. Her previous books include No so dear Jenny (Bateau Press) and Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness(Europa Editions). She teaches for the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, FAWC’s online writing program 24PearlSt, and the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing.

Where Jennifer Tseng Writes

Like many writers, I have a deep appreciation for Virginia Woolfs notion of a room of ones own and I have lived my life in search of one. As soon as we moved into our 3rd floor apartment, it was clear that this Woolfian luxury would not be mine in the traditional sense, so I set out to find a way to create a nontraditional room for myself. I experimented with a series of makeshift arrangements in various corners of the apartment until finally settling on the living room window seat. Its about two to three feet off the ground and long enough for me to lie down in. No one can just walk in; if someone wants to enter they have to climb up. Its tree like and full of light.

When I climb into the window seat and close the curtain that separates it from the living area, it becomes a small room. I have treated it as such, hanging favorite pictures on its narrow walls, adding a little lamp I got at a garage sale, a wooden box that serves as a tiny table, a row of library books, a basket containing my manuscripts-in-progress, a seat cushion. I have covered the floor with rugs and quilts. Having curtains in every direction makes the space feel like a tent. Being so high up, jutting out past the apartment proper, I feel like Im in a treehouse. From here, I can see the sky, trees, a church, the train, other apartments. I can see people on the street but they cant see me. (Ive checked.) Early in the morning, when its quiet, I can hear entire conversations being spoken on the ground below. From here, I can see without being seen, hear without being heard. Its a perfect place for a writer.

Every morning at about 4:30, I go directly to my room and write with a pencil on loose sheets of typing paper or, if I happen to have one, in a notebook. Once the rest of the apartment is awake, I go to an ergonomically friendly stand-up station that I built in a slim, doorless closet, and type up my draft. Then I go back to the living room, print the draft, climb into my room and reread. 

On rare occasions, I open the curtains and find our cat Didi sitting in my place. More often, he waits for me to wake up, then climbs in after me, sits on my lap or curls up next to me. When its cold, he wraps himself like a genie around the lamp. I imagine house cats long to find their own trees in much the same way we writers long for our own rooms. So the two of us find ourselves in the window seat, imagining one thing is another, keeping each other company in the leafy light.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Zach Boddicker's Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, TNBBC's got a fun, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20 odd bookish scenarios.

Zach Boddicker's
Would You Rather

Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?

Feet. Writing a book with one's tongue conjures up repressed images of Gene Simmons and his man-bun, and that would prove to be too much strain. Dry-mouth, cramping, swelling – that sounds horrible.

Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

I'd take the long string of moderate sellers. That at least implies that I'd be around long enough to produce such a string.

Would you rather be a well known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?

A reclusive, well-known author now – considering the thin possibility I'll be reincarnated as a literary genius with no ambition, due to a paperwork error or computer glitch.

Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?

I don't think I could go without conjunctions, so I'd have to begin every sentence with one.

Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?

I'd go with the tattoo. An engineer at Intel or some other microprocessor manufacturer could probably fit 75,000 words onto a pretty small patch of skin. The background audio option – way too many risks there. Who would do the narration? Fran Drescher? Truman Capote? Walter Brennan? This world is an unfair place, and these voices would be among my options, I'm afraid.

Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that comprises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?

Now that I've done the former, I'd be happy to write a crappy book that compromises everything I believe in. It could be a useful exercise that might lead to tremendous personal and spiritual growth. But, then to know that thousands of people were duped into reading it would probably cancel out much of that growth.

Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?

The hated plot twist would be easier to deal with. If I were being coerced by an editor or agent into writing a plot twist that sucked, it would be my first instinct to ask myself “how can I make this suck differently, or suck even worse?” If I were able to come up with something that sucked worse, I'd at least be able to take some ownership of it. Writing a character you hate seems like self-flagellation, considering all the time you spend writing them.

Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?

Skin-as-paper for smaller format pieces (postcards, stand-alone sonnets, et. al), and blood-as-ink for longer works.

Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?

I'd much prefer that the characters in The Essential Carl Mahogany escape the book and reenact the novel. Though, if that were to happen, and I were there to observe it, I wonder if I'd be thinking man, the book was way better than this bullshit!

Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?

If not alive right now, there will be someone who, for whatever reason, cannot use words that contain the letter E. Let that person develop his or her talent.

Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?

I would prefer TECM be taught, especially to students in rural areas. Banned books are a thing of the past, at least in the Western world. 

Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?

I'll take my chances with Dylan Thomas. At least there's some chance of dialogue with him, and possibly cooling him down enough to where we could head back to my place and listen to Rush's 2112 on cassette.

Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?

Speaking only in haiku wouldn't be so bad.

Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn’t read?

Give me the 50 Shades series. I can cut and paste with that.

Would you rather critics rip your book apart publicly or never talk about it at all?

I would love it if critics ripped my book apart. All are welcome and bring a guest!

Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?

The Twitter feed option would probably be best. The vast majority of everything I think is so boring that no one would pay attention.

Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?

I'm looking at my computer monitor now, thinking I wish I could quit you.

Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back?

Flat on my back please! I need the rest.

Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?

Reading naked in front of a packed room would be ok. There'd be opportunities to conduct some fun experiments and ask some awkward questions of the audience.

Would you rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content but is written well?

I would probably last longer with the poorly written, but excellent story. 


Zach Boddicker grew up living the country life north of Laporte, Colorado. Boddicker holds a B.A. in English and a MFA in Fiction from Colorado State University, which have proven useful for his endeavors into publishing. In 2014, his short story “Equipment” was published in “A Decade of Country Hits: Art on the Rural Frontier(Jap Sam Books / M12 Studio). His first book “The Essential Carl Mahogany” (2017), which has been deemed evocative of Nick Hornby, Hunter S. Thompson and Don DeLillo, is the first novel to be published by M12 Studio / Last Chance Press.

In addition to his work as an author, Boddicker has been a staple of the Roots Music scene along the Front Range for 20 years as a member of 4H Royalty, Cowboy Dave Band, Drag the River, and many others. He currently resides in Denver with his wife and two daughters.