January 2007

Amy Bryant

by Susan Henderson on January 31, 2007

POLLY is one of those books you don’t mean to read in one weekend, but you can’t help it.

It’s the story of a teenage girl who doesn’t fit in with the bops or grits or jocks – and she doesn’t want to, either. Frustrated with her homelife and school, she searches for a sense of belonging in the boys she dates and in the local hardcore punk scene.

Now, POLLY’s author, Amy Bryant, grew up in northern Virginia – same as me – and much of what you won’t see from our interview went something like this:

Did you go to school with so-and-so?
Yes! And guess who’s at my place right now?
No way! He used to hold my hair away from the toilet when I threw up!

So back to the book. Much of the book centers around music. And while your LitPark host was listening to . . .

Trouble Funk, Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers, Frankie Beverly,

and memorizing the lyrics to Teena Marie’s Playboy,

both Amy and fictional Polly listened to . . .

Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Dag Nasty, and The Replacements.

But don’t think this book is all about music. It’s about dads who’ve moved out . . .

I thought of Dad’s hands on the steering wheel of his Mustang. Dad had long fingers and thick palms, and dark hairs that grew just below his knuckles. Sometimes I had trouble picturing him, so I’d zero in on the parts of him that I remembered.
– from POLLY

and skating rinks . . .

At the end of the night the parents lined up in their cars out front, and Katie and I pretended they were limousines. Kids raced out in groups of two or three, piling inside the cars before the parents had a chance to get out. We all lived in fear of a parent coming inside the roller rink.
– from POLLY

and cynicism . . .

“That’s not much of a lunch,” the lady at the register said as I paid her.
“I have an eating disorder,” I muttered.
– from POLLY

and boyfriends . . .

I imagined Joey walking me down the hall in front of the bops and surf punks and grits and bamas. People would talk about the weird older guy and the girl they’d never noticed before for days.
– from POLLY

and so-so sex . . .

I put astericks in my schedule book for the times we had sex.
– from POLLY

and all the ways you can feel like a stranger, even in your own neighborhood . . .

Reston had a way of staying unfamiliar. You could make a wrong turn a mile from your own home and get hopelessly lost in a web of a new neighborhood that wasn’t there the last time you drove by. It wasn’t uncommon to spot a homeless deer bouncing across someone’s front yard, searching for the vanishing woods.
– from POLLY

Please welcome Amy Bryant!


How did you come up with this structure for your book – organizing Polly’s story by boyfriends? Was this the book’s initial structure?

Initially I wrote the book as a series of short stories…which I referred to as the Boy Stories…about different girls at different points in their life and the guys they were dating. So when I turned the stories into a novel with one protagonist, the format made sense.


What did you learn about Polly and about yourself by looking at her life this way?

I wanted Polly’s relationships to reflect what was going on in the rest of her life: her age, her interests, her maturity level, her sexuality, and her relationships with her friends and her family. Like a lot of teenagers, Polly is testing her boundaries and fantasizing about being independent. She’s figuring out who she is and attempting to make lasting connections outside her family.

It’s hard to say what I learned about myself through writing about Polly. At first I was scared to write a novel because it seemed too hard. For a long time I felt much safer looking at the writing as a series of short stories. The book isn’t autobiographical but the setting is. The people I was writing about were familiar types.

Here’s a photo from high school. This is my friend Susan and me in 1988, posing next to some acid wash in the hallway of Herndon High School. I’m the blonde. I was 17 when this was taken.

Why do you think she picks boyfriends who aren’t her intellectual match and don’t give much emotionally?

Why does anyone pick these kinds of relationships? Polly is scared of sex when she’s younger, and she’s also not ready for a real emotional connection with a man, as much as she wants to find love. The boys she meets let her take risks but protect her from real emotional involvement. I’m not saying that Polly knows what she’s looking for on a conscious level. I don’t think anyone really does. That’s one reason why you feel so lucky when you find someone really great.

Book party at Arlene’s Grocery Jan 12, 2007

There’s a wonderful moment in the book where the mom defends Polly’s way of dressing to her stepfather, but Polly feels stripped of her individuality hearing her mother talk as if she has teenagers all figured out. I think you captured that tension so well, and the ways the different characters try to assert their needs and identities.

Thanks! That’s really nice to hear. It’s all an accident, of course.

Polly is a girl who feels she’s scrutinized for her flaws. Can you talk about that aspect of the book, and how music seems to rescue her?

Music is where Polly really finds a community outside of her family. Not only does she love the music on its own merits, but she becomes a part of something bigger than she is. I know I felt rescued by music when I was a teenager. Even now, music is a big part of my life.

Like Polly, you grew up with the D.C. hardcore punk movement. Talk to me about that and how music shaped you into the adult you’ve become. What do you listen to now?

I was so lucky to come of age in the 80s, when there was a hardcore music scene flourishing in DC. I saw so many great bands, and I met a lot of great people. For the most part it was a really creative, positive world to be a part of, and I’m grateful for that time in my life. I still love hardcore, punk rock, all that stuff, but my taste in music is broader now. I’m married to a terrific musician…his name is Bruno Blumenfeld, and you can find him on myspace.

Lesion ruled the book party!

One of the things I love about Harper Perennial, besides Carrie Kania’s fabulous taste, is the P.S. feature in back, where you can hear more from the author. And in the P.S., you say this about the book:

When Polly goes to her first hardcore show, she hears music she loves and, more important, lyrics she cares about, as opposed to the masculine satanic themes that metal bands sing about. All of the anger and rejection she’s feeling from her family and all of her dissatisfaction with the world around her, is suddenly being expressed right in front of her, with all the emotion she can’t reveal in her own life. My adolescent angst wasn’t exactly like Polly’s, but I remember what it was like to finally make a connection with something bigger than me or my friends, and it was important for me to get that sentiment into POLLY. The first time art feels personal is a profound moment in a person’s life, whether it happens with a book, a band, a painting, a movie, whatever. As an adult you learn to seek it out, but when you’re young you usually just stumble upon it, and it’s almost a religious experience.

I love that quote, and I wonder if you’d share your first “religious” experience of this sort.

It was pretty similar to Polly’s. It was 1987, I was 16, and I went to see Corrosion of Conformity at the 9:30 Club in DC. It happened with reading too, the first time I read the John Cheever short story “Goodbye my Brother.”

NYC reading – Three Lives Bookstore January 18, 2007

Do you have any advice for writers who are still writing their first books? Advice for writers who have finished but not sold their first books?

I don’t have any advice other than just keep writing and trying to get published. I’ve had countless short stories rejected. At least 60 agents rejected Polly. You just have to keep going.

And finally, would you name a few unknown writers you believe deserve some limelight?

This is a great question. Definitely Bryan Charles. [Bryan is also on MySpace.] I can’t believe my friend Stefan Marti hasn’t been published. I don’t know how unknown these writers are, but I love Lorrie Moore, Ann Beattie, and Jim Carroll. I know there are more I should be listing here.


Question of the Week: 80s

by Susan Henderson on January 29, 2007

Where were you in the 80s? And what were you doing?


Wednesday, Amy Bryant will be here to talk about POLLY, her book set in the 1980s and featuring a teenager who wears a bracelet made of fish hooks and listens to hardcore punk.

I’ll see you then. But in the meantime, if you’re on MySpace, you can make Amy your friend.


Attention, please: Next week, I’m expecting the traffic to be very very heavy. I’m not entirely sure my site or the photos I’ll be posting can withstand the traffic. And to complicate things, I’ll be on jury duty most of the day. So, if you’re interested in being in on the fun, I’m going to ask you to subscribe to the RSS feed now. The RSS view of the site should not crash. Okay, that’s all and thanks!



by Susan Henderson on January 27, 2007

Most writers have heard of NaNoWriMo, the organization that – since 1999 – has encouraged writers to complete a novel in a single month. But do you know about FAWM (February Album Writing Month)?

(Hey, Robin, maybe your readers want to sign up? And P.S., If you want to see what Robin’s kids are up to these days, check out Adrian Belew’s site.)

This is from FAWM’s website:

The goal of FAWM is to compose 14 original works of music during the shortest month of the year, or one new song every two days on average. The site’s fast-paced collaborative songwriting approach emphasizes artistic growth and community. “Fawmers” are a mix of music professionals, students, homemakers, and people who work day jobs but rock nightclubs.

Jill of All Trades

Who’s behind this crazy idea? Let me introduce you to FAWM’s founder, Burr Settles.


Tell me what you discovered when you tried to compose an album in one month, and why you’ve decided to make it a yearly tradition.

The first thing I discovered is that it’s nearly impossible to write an “album” in a month. Writing fourteen songs in a month isn’t too thorny, but (at least with my style) it’s hard to have a collection of songs in the end that are consistent enough in quality and theme to constitute an actual album. “February Album Writing Month” just rolls off the tongue a little easier than “Write a Song Every Other Day for a Short Month,” no?

Others have pulled off single solid sets of fourteen FAWM songs, such as Andrew Grimm from Baltimore, or a trio of California songwriters who each took on a different president in U.S. history last year. (Three times fourteen equals all 42!) Those folks are made of magic. For the rest of us, a subset of FAWM output makes for the starting point of a good album. Some of my best material from the last few years came out of the FAWM challenges, I think, because I was forced past my stale ideas and ruts, leaving me with a lot of unexplored territory… and a reason (if not inspiration) to forge ahead.

As for the tradition”¦ when four of us attempted the first FAWM in 2004, I’m not sure we intended to make it a yearly ritual. We just shared a weblog to track each other’s progress since we were all in different parts of the country. Other web-surfing songwriters stumbled on the archives, or we’d tell musicians we met about it and they got interested. After enough requests to be involved, I decided to keep it going.

What kind of feedback have you received from FAWM folks? Who’s been involved?

The feedback sent to me has been universally positive. Some fawmers have never written a song before, and others try to do something like this almost every month. We’ve had musicians who used to be prolific but hadn’t found a reason to write in over a decade complete the challenge, and that’s really cool. Most are excited to see that they had it in them… even if they only make it halfway there.

Participation is around half professional and half hobbyist. Some of the professionals are in the audio recording/production industry, looking for something to drive their own creativity. The rest are unsigned independent artists more like myself. I’ve talked with a handful of higher profile singer/songwriters with label support who love the idea, but aren’t sure they can take it on. For a lot of artists at that level, the constant recording and touring schedule is prohibitive. Last year there were 371 registered participants and around 72 met the goal. If growth trends continue, there should be about a thousand fawmers this year and a couple hundred “winners,” but who knows?

Take me through the ups and downs of your career?

The ups are certainly playing shows where people are listening and buying CDs, or they say afterward that this song or that song meant something to them. Even hecklers are valuable in my experience… if someone cares enough to heckle they care enough to listen, plus they keep me on my toes. The downs are playing the very next gig where no one listens, and I wonder if I’m better off just keeping my songs to myself, you know?

As far as FAWM goes, the ups are seeing people realize their songwriting goals, and feeling like I had something to do with that. The downside is that it’s a lot of work for what amounts to a volunteer job. I organize FAWM for donations.

So far, what’s been the key to getting as far as you’ve gotten in this business? Who or what opened doors for you?

I’ve been writing songs a long time but I’ve only taken my music career seriously for about two years. So I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten that far in the business yet. What success I have had is owed, I think, to the network of artists I’ve come to know via FAWM or gigging or other channels. We’ve helped each other book tours, share resources for merch and marketing, etc. I think the fact that FAWM is such an interesting project and I get a lot of the credit for it helps a little, too.

Dust Goggles (A Love Song)

What are some of your favorite songs, and what is it about them that appeals to you?

This isn’t a fair (or reliable) question to ask a pop music junkie. But I’ll say that I’m a sucker for puzzling orchestrations and cunning wordplay.

Who are some of your favorite songwriters (established and up-and coming)?

I’ve loved Johnny Cash, Arlo Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, Tom Lehrer, and the Beatles for a long as I can remember. More recently I’ve obsessed over Beck, Elliott Smith, Ani DiFranco, Outkast and Sufjan Stevens in spurts. My favorite up-and-comers are probably Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s (partially biased because I’m friends with a couple of guys in that band), plus a lot of fellow fawmers. This question is a bit below the belt, too, by the way”¦ the list could go on and on”¦

What’s your hope for how your career might look/change in the next couple of years?

I’m not sure. Both the music industry and my perspective on it are in so much flux right now. For one thing I’ll be done with my Ph.D. in a year or so, and would like to move somewhere with more of a pulse for music. The talent here in Madison, Wis. far outweighs the demand, so I’d like to try out New York or L.A. or Seattle”¦ someplace where I can use my degree but still be part of a thriving scene. Besides, it may take a couple of years to grow into what I want to do, musically. Right now I’d like to collaborate more and immerse myself in a musical community that isn’t just online. We’ll see.

How can folks who are interested sign up for FAWM?

Go to FAWM.ORG and click on the link that says “Sign Up for FAWM!”

Oh. Finally, tell me the story behind your name.

The short version: I was born in February during an ice storm and named on a dare. The long version: it turns out to be a family name, although we didn’t find that out until I was seven. There are a few people named “Burr Settles” in Texas (plus a few dead ones) to whom I’m distantly related. I’m apparently also related to Aaron Burr, which made dating a Hamilton in college kind of difficult. We dueled a lot, so to speak.



Burr Settles was born in the back of a stalled pickup during a 70s snowstorm in Lexington, Kentucky. Years after his parents (a writer and an ichthyologist/wood truss salesman) named him on a dare, he began cutting his musical teeth at the folk/bluegrass jams in front of a fire station on Woodland Avenue. Since then, he picked up several instruments, moved briefly to Indiana, and is currently situated in Madison, Wisconsin, where he is also pursuing a PhD for some reason. Sketches is his first full-length album. More highlights:

+ Burr has toured from New York to Alaska, and among other things played the 2006 Musical Family Tree Festival in Indianapolis.

+ Sketches was nominated for “Best Americana Album” at the 2006 Madison Area Music Awards. He was also nominated for “Best Americana Artist” and the song “Sugar in the Raw” was nominated for “Best Unique Song.”

+ Burr founded the annual February Album Writing Month (FAWM) challenge, to write 14 songs in 28 days, which in 2006 had over 350 songwriters participate from 12 countries.


Weekly Wrap: Just Our Luck

by Susan Henderson on January 26, 2007

After I wrote my weekly wrap, I decided to send it to Huffington Post. If they run it, I’ll link it here. And now I’ll have to write something new, I guess.

The topic of luck sure triggered some emotions this week. I don’t know what I believe about luck. Certainly I work at my craft as if I believe that persistence and talent and good will are the key ingredients. But we all know lovely human beings who left this world with gorgeous manuscripts sitting on their hard drives. It’s a tough business, and I think we all hope we will be the ones to break through.

What I gave a good deal of thought to this week is the fact that 20-plus years of the following have not landed me a book deal: persistence, education, contacts, kindness, patience, awards, humility, stubbornness, conferences, panels, magazine publications, magazine editing, manuscript editing, knowing the market, prayer, hope, hopelessness, advanced praise blurbs, writing every day, taking criticism, taking risks, trusting agents, opening doors for others, listening to my inner voice, and having agents and editors say they’ve fallen in love with my books.

I say none of this out of self-pity. I am posting my quickie-history here as a reality check. It’s the reason LitPark exists – because this is the road we’re all traveling along. And even those of you with book deals and rabid fans know there’s no coasting in this business.

Maybe this week’s guest, Brad Listi was right to say that the most important ingredient in a writer’s career is luck.

Well, then – Can we position ourselves so we are more likely to get lucky? Is hard work, in all its various forms, akin to buying extra lottery tickets? If you buy 100 lottery tickets, are you more likely to win the lottery?

Your answers to the Question of the Week are so awfully beautiful and startling. Thanks to those of you who gave your thoughts: Lance Reynald, Simon Haynes, Betsy, Jon Armstrong, Gail Siegel, Richard, Kaytie, Heather McElhatton, Maria Headley, amy, Paula, Carolyn Burns Bass, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Aimee, Robin Slick, mikel k poet, Julie Ann Shapiro, mattilda, Ronlyn Domingue, Kimberly, Juliet, Cherie Burbach, Dennis Mahagin, and Jason Boog. Somehow, the collective answers are the very definition of a writer’s struggle. I hope you’ll go back and read them. It is truly an honor to have your company and your voice here.


In the mail, I received a book from my friend, Richard Lewis. I’m so proud of him, I want to show off the cover.

Richard lives in Indonesia, and this is his second book about the Muslim culture in his region. This one happens to be set against the catastrophic tsunami we all know about and an American brother and sister trying find their parents who have disappeared in the storm.

Richard, thank you for what you said in the acknowledgments section. It means a lot to me.


Tune in tomorrow, especially if you’re a songwriter!


Brad Listi

by Susan Henderson on January 24, 2007

Brad Listi is the best blogger on the internet. I have no qualms at all about stating that. If you haven’t read his blog, it’s a work of art. Part stand-up comedien, part social commentator, Brad creates a masterpiece everyday, and is always mindful of our short attention spans.

So I talked with Brad about luck. He believes he’s had some – from birth to publishing his bestselling book – out in paperback just yesterday. He’s a great and generous writer who has discovered a lot of up-and-coming writers. I’m going to venture to say that you’ll feel better after reading this interview.


Do you believe in luck?


There’s a quote from E.B. White, who once said that luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men. I would disagree. I believe that luck is something you can’t mention in the presence of extreme egomaniacs. Because only an extreme egomaniac – no matter how self-made he is – would be offended by the notion that all of his grand success isn’t his own doing entirely.

Along those same lines, the British historian Edward Gibbon once said that the winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators. Again, I find myself in disagreement here. Try telling that to Dick Scobee, the commander of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Or Amelia Earhart. Or even a guy like Edward John Smith.

Good luck and bad luck float around. In a lot of instances, I don’t really see any rhyme or reason to it. And I’m not a big believer in a humanistic, puppeteer-like God.

Ultimately I’m inclined to believe that dumb luck plays a big role in life. And by dumb luck I mean luck we play no conscious part in and have little to no control of; luck without a conscience. And sure, I’m willing to concede that the luck may only be “dumb” based on the limitations of human perception. Maybe what seems dumb or blind – or even tragic – to my mind is actually a part of some majestic, grand design, a matter of intricate cause and effect. Maybe when Amelia Earhart’s plane did a nosedive and the crew of the Challenger was incinerated, it was actually a remarkable stroke of cosmic luck that my limited brain can’t really comprehend. But even if that were the case, the brutality of that kind of possibility leaves me feeling edgy and ready to punch something.

I’ll end with two more quotes, the first from Jean Cocteau, who said: “Of course I believe in luck. How otherwise to explain the success of people you detest?”

That one makes me laugh.

The second quote is the famous one from Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

I don’t really agree with Jefferson in an absolute sense, because there are plenty of hardworking people on planet Earth who wind up getting Lou Gherig’s disease at a young age, but I guess if I had to pigeonhole myself, I would say that my feeling on the matter falls somewhere in between Jean Cocteau and the third president of the United States.

A.D.D. in hardcover. A.D.D. in paperback.

When you look at your career, what do you owe to luck verses hard work, determination, talent, networking?

I probably owe the majority of any success that I’ve had to luck.

Yes, I work really hard. Yes, I’m very determined and doggedly persistent. Yes, I’ve hustled and done everything in my power to remain positive and improve my lot in life. But ultimately, I’ve been incredibly lucky.

I got lucky by being born to great parents, for instance, in a country like the United States of America. I got lucky with whatever bit of talent I possess. I got lucky in receiving a great education. I got lucky in finding an agent. I got lucky in getting a book deal. I got lucky with timing. I got lucky in selling a few copies. I got lucky. Plain and simple.

To be certain, my publishing success wouldn’t have happened had I not worked very hard and been savvy, and so on. But it could have just as easily have not happened, too, despite all of those things. Plenty of hardworking people, many of whom are far more talented than I, don’t get the ride that I’ve gotten. I’m well aware of that fact, and it’s humbling.

Do you think luck happens to people who don’t also do hard work and so on, or does that increase your chance of getting lucky?

I can see how hard work and luck often coincide. There seems to be some credence to that notion, some evidence for it in the world.

It also appears to be the kind of thing that the great majority of people tell themselves when they get up to go to work every morning. It’s the mantra of the working stiff. It might very well be one of those pleasant little lies that we tell ourselves in a desperate attempt to make our cubicles feel more tolerable.

And some people who work really hard get hit by trains, and so on.

In the same breath, I also believe that sometimes people just get stupidly, insanely lucky for no good reason at all. Lazy, degenerate, rude, intolerable people sometimes win the lottery – it’s a fact. They are born on cloudless spring days, and birds land on their shoulders.

And it can get even worse, I suspect.

Somewhere in the world, there probably exists a good-hearted man with a 200-foot yacht, an inherited bankroll in the hundreds of millions of dollars, a terrific sense of humor, and a ten-inch penis. He speaks four languages fluently and gives huge amounts of money to worthy causes. He looks like a cross between John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Jakob Dylan, and he plays the electric guitar with God-given flair and proficiency.

It happens.

Tell me what appearing on the bestseller list did or didn’t change in your mood, your career.

Being on the bestseller list definitely changed my mood. I found out about it on a Sunday morning and spent about eleven hours in an unruly state of crazed elation, thinking that I was going to be instantly rich and famous. I was talking to a lot of people on the telephone, and I kept on hugging my girlfriend (who is now my fiancée). My imagination did a temporary number on me. I saw myself swarmed at bookstores from coast to coast. I saw myself leading a hip, reclusive, international lifestyle, owning multiple places of residence around the world, fathering ten beautiful children, putting them all through private school, and entertaining a concubine in my spare time.

Then I woke up and paid my rent.

How would you describe A.D.D., and how did you come up with the title?

This kind of question, for whatever reason, is always a bit challenging for me. Trying to describe a work of fiction is kind of like trying to describe a song to someone who’s never actually heard it before.

The irony, of course, is that I get asked this question more often than I get asked pretty much anything. And so naturally I have some answers that I’ve developed in an effort to properly explain myself:

1.) Attention. Deficit. Disorder. is a contemporary rendition of the classic coming of age novel.

2.) Attention. Deficit. Disorder. is about the difficulties inherent in trying to find meaning in the so-called Age of Information.

3.) Attention. Deficit. Disorder. is about a guy whose ex-girlfriend kills herself and had an abortion but never actually told him about it and so then it becomes this kind of picaresque road novel with lots of thematically relevant nonfiction non sequiturs that attempt to reflect and replicate what it’s like to try to find meaning in an age of information overload, but please don’t think that the book is some kind of hugely depressing bummer like Sophie’s Choice or anything, because it’s actually got quite a few laughs in it, and ultimately it’s meant to uplift people and give them hope, rather than crush them and make them feel sad.

4.) Attention. Deficit. Disorder. is about Cuba, hookers, pizza, weed, freezers, mentally disabled Cajuns, skydiving, spelunking, New York City, sand, and fire.

As to where I came up with the title: I had a little piece of paper in my desk drawer as I was writing the manuscript, and I would jot down title ideas whenever they came to mind. Attention. Deficit. Disorder. happened one day as an offshoot of what I was doing with the novel from a structural point of view. It just popped into my head, and I wrote down the words. I looked at them and considered them individually, laughed, and put a period after each one. And then it made sense.

Describe your fans to me — why do you think they’re so attached to this book and to your blog?

My readers are great. I love them. I’m aware of the fact that there are a lot of books out there on the shelf. When someone takes the time to read my novel, and then has the decency to like it: Jesus. I appreciate the kindness enormously.

That said, I don’t really feel qualified to speak on their behalf, as they all have their own reasons for liking (or even kind of liking) Attention. Deficit. Disorder. If I had to venture a guess, though, I would say it’s probably pretty simple. It’s probably because they like the story and can relate to the characters. The novel entertains them and edifies them, and it moves them emotionally, and at its best, it maybe even changes the way they see the world a little bit. It does, I hope, what good books do.

As for their attachment to it, and their attachment to The A.D.D. Blog, again: I think it has something to do with the storytelling, the attempt at honesty, the attempt at intimate communication, the attempts at humor, and so on. I guess I’m somehow talking to them in a language they understand.

And I also think it probably has something to do with the fact that I’m very willing to engage people. I’m pretty easygoing, and I try to be honest. I’m not insulated. If someone reads my book and my blog and sends me an email or a letter, I always write them back. I take the time to talk with my readers, and I’m consistent with it. I try to be friendly and genuine and have good manners, and so on.

What would you say to those writers who haven’t experienced luck in their careers?

Do drugs. Hard ones, preferably. Drugs will help you to numb yourself against the toxic feelings of bitterness that could easily overwhelm a lesser, more sober man.

And aside from that, I would probably suggest expanding one’s definition of luck. If you’re healthy, and you’re writing, and you have the time to write and the mind to write and the freedom to say whatever you want, creatively, then on many levels you have ample cause to feel fortunate in a very concrete way – New York publishers be damned.

In my experience, it’s the doing of the thing that always brings me the most joy, anyway. The greatest happiness I feel as a writer is not when I’m signing a publishing contract or looking at my book on the shelf or giving a reading at a bookstore. Those things are great, sure, but the most fun I ever have is when I’m locked in my bedroom office, hunched over my keyboard with the headphones on, trying to put the words in the right order. At times, the work can be incredibly frustrating. But even when it’s at its worst, I’m always careful to remind myself how much fun it ultimately is. It’s kids’ stuff, really. It’s storytelling. It’s imagination hour. So enjoy the doing. Make it fun. Make it big. Make it weird. Make it big and fun and weird. Why not?

And then beyond that, hope that in the long run somebody will pay you lots and lots of money for your big fun weirdness, so that you can buy more drugs and live a hip, reclusive, international lifestyle with your beautiful spouse and your ten beautiful children and your massive, adoring concubine in the middle of the Indian Ocean on a 200-foot yacht called Ha.