Sometimes-monthly, sometimes-weekly, when-I-have-the-time blog.

The Freedom to Write What I Want

Happy Fourth of July/Happy Birthday, America/Happy Independence Day! My sanctimonious political statement of the day: Please remember that all of us, except for the native people colonists pushed out of their homelands, were immigrants once. Also, I’m Erica. July 4th is a confusing day for me. “’MERICA!” shout the revelers. “No,” I say quietly. “I’m Erica.”

Freedom of expression is key to American literature, and I’m grateful to live in a country where all writers can say whatever they want. I can write about sex and infidelity, single motherhood, women behaving “badly,” environmental and agricultural tensions, climate change, and poverty, because of the First Amendment. And, I can continue to write about these topics, because I understand them to be an intrinsic part of not only my experience, but of the general human experience.

With that “I’ll-say-what-I-want” disclaimer, I’m delighted to announce that Litbreak Magazine published an excerpt from my novel-in-progress yesterday. It’s about mean kids, the hypocrisy of the Catholic church and its surrounding communities, and the language society uses to describe single moms (aka superheroes) and their kiddos. Oh, and Cheetos. Cheetos also make an appearance. You can read it here. A huge “Thank you!” to Dennis Haritou, editor of Litbreak Magazine, for giving my work a voice and platform.

Understatement: the last month or so has been eventful.

More-accurate statement: Life has been crazy and wonderful. Since leaving Los Angeles after my second MFA residency on June 24, most of my writing has been crammed in during my husband’s driving stints, computer on my lap, between gawking at mountain ranges. I am no longer as tired as I was immediately after residency ended, thank goodness.

The adventure: I drove from Wisconsin to Los Angeles before my MFA residency, an intensive ten-day affair full of seminars, workshops, professional guidance, catching up with peers and dear friends, and exhaustive critiquing, receiving of feedback, and reading. My journey to L.A. included stops in Minneapolis, the Badlands in South Dakota, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas. I felt like a wholesome Hunter S. Thompson, speaking of novels about the “Great American Road Trip;” my substance intake included mostly coffee, daily allergy pills, and the occasional ibuprofen to quash a whiskey-related headache or two.

The emotional journey: This solo adventure was exactly what I needed prior to the chaos of residency. Now, the trip on the way home is exactly what I needed after residency. We’ve had desert adventures, afternoons at the pool, and folk art explorations between driving and my manic typing.

The surprises:

  • I enjoyed Las Vegas more than I ever thought I would as a solo traveler. Almost nobody who lives there is actually from there, so you can strike up a conversation at a bar with anyone and find common ground.
  • I didn’t get into any car accidents in Los Angeles.
  • I found Santa Fe, New Mexico, to be a really uncomfortable place—a lot of white privilege, wealthy art patronage, and artists-in-residence in conflict with the surrounding community and landscape. (Please don’t @ me.)
  • I thought this would be a once-in-a-lifetime road trip, but now I want to do another one.

10 of my favorite novels featuring road trips or other epic travels:

  1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  4. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  5. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
  6. Into The Wild by John Krakauer
  7. Flaming Iguanas by Erika Lopez
  8. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
  9. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber – *This is technically a short story. It was also made into a highly underrated movie that I adore, directed by and starring Ben Stiller.

What are some of your favorite novels depicting the Great American Road Trip or other epic travel? And, because this is my party, all comments that mention Jack Kerouac or Hunter S. Thompson will be scoffed at for their unoriginality and deleted. :-D