Alison Clement

observations from a novelist who sometimes wants to say something small and see it published immediately

writing

to my high school English teacher

Dear Mrs. Gist, I remember when you were my English teacher and encouraged me to read poetry. I remember you took me to a reading competition, and I read a poem by Ferlinghetti. I remember once you assigned us to give show and tells, and I showed how to make a Molotov cocktail, which was an intentionally provocative choice on my part — and you jumped up from your seat in alarm. […]

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Larry Love

Am I including the subplot of Larry Love, the phony modeling agent, in my novel because the scenes I’ve written about it are my darlings? Do those scenes belong in the novel? My eugenics mystery. Or maybe eugenics thriller.  I spent last week talking to my students about the narrative thesis. Get rid of everything that falls outside of your focus. Just because you love something, doesn’t mean it belongs. […]

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targeted for elimination

  I wrote a novel based on eugenics, but my agent didn’t like it. Once she didn’t like it, I found that I didn’t either. I thought the backstory was more interesting than the front story. I thought the whole section that takes place when the protagonist lives with a male prostitute in New York City was just an excuse for me to write about when I lived with a […]

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Like a Little God

opening of Like a Little God, a novel Every fall you can see the fish gathered at the mouths of the rivers or in the tidewaters, waiting, and the fishermen waiting, too.  The rains come, the water rises and the fish begin to swim upstream. A steelhead is the same as a rainbow trout, except a rainbow trout stays in fresh water and the steelhead doesn’t. A rainbow trout has […]

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The Northwest Blog Tour

(the official) NORTHWEST BLOG TOUR in which writers answer four questions and then post those answers to their blog What am I working on? So many things! Last week I finished a young adult novel, The 5 ½ Senses of Sophie LaVelle, based on the Tarot cards, a family curse and the 19th century secret society, The Golden Dawn. I did not write this because YA is a hot market, […]

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the wrong reader

Dense, dreary and boring,  one Amazon reviewer calls WG Sebold’s book, Austerlitz, like it doesn’t occur to him that he might simply be the wrong reader. Like maybe he doesn’t get it. Man Ray says if you don’t like something, turn away, go find something else. Which is hard to do but good to keep in mind. I was walking with Harrison yesterday at dusk, my favorite time of day. […]

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Man Ray

Man Ray once said if you don’t like something, then turn away from it. Just shut up and go to the next thing. I’m paraphrasing. Maybe it wasn’t even Man Ray. The last week of term. Impossible for me to critique one more thing. I read my workshop stories and don’t have one single useful comment. I just want to read the stories, that’s all. I don’t want to ask […]

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Cheese is One Whole Course

I was having a problem with my story.  For one thing it had a terrible title, a title meant to imply that not only was it my character’s last day in Paris, but the final day of her marriage. Which wasn’t the point of the story. The point was not her marriage. It was the man on the bicycle. It was the women at the next table with their elaborate […]

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Axolotl and the defiance of thought

I’ve been thinking about this one story since I was 22 years old, but I never wrote it before. Okay, I wrote a nonfiction version. I wrote a fictional third person version, told as a report. I gave it up. And then Kerry showed us the short story, Axolotl, by Julio Cortázar. And Margery said what Cortázar did, his method, was to take a subject and stick with it, follow […]

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