Anastasia Royal - Full Video


Uploaded by cahEIU on 20.05.2011

Transcript:

(Ms. Anastasia Royal). After thinking it over,
no feeling it over and then thinking it over,
there were things I should've said as my husband was leaving
for good, for good, I don't think so.
I could shrink the good down into a locket and wear it next
to my heart, but even that little bit would break me.
Yep, I should have said a lot of things like
we could start over, I'm still a great dancer.
Wait your underwear's in the dryer, I hate you,
the children, the children, I love you, I made you a cake,
I'll make you laugh, touch me, please come back,
but I didn't say anything, we had already said too much.
Well, I guess this is where I should open a vein in case
I need to get an IV started later and
spill some facts about how it all began.
He's the first man I see that night as I pace the gallery,
it's an opening for an exhibit of drawings
by a group of sculptures.
I look around the packed gallery for anyone I know.
Most of the crowd are Adams family look-alikes,
pallid, gangly men in black and women with long layered hair.
They murmur without looking at each other,
or the drawings on the walls.
Both sexes sway slightly as they sip wine,
inhaling cigarette smoke deeply to accentuate waists
that are singed with thin colorful belts,
but I have already seen him.
As sheik as a 1920's movie star, high cheek bones,
face angular, tan, smooth, his shiny hair swings into his eyes,
and his up-tilted head catches the light.
Among all the darkly clad people he gleams so brightly
in that first moment, he could be the sun outside a
train window, everyone and everything else are just
scenery whizzing by.
I notice he's wearing a scarf in summer twisted around a
slate gray shirt under a perfectly tailored,
creamy linen suit, a tall version of the little prince.
There's a buzz coming from all the women around him.
I hear he comes from Germany and his name is Tobin Klienhertz,
but the secret name I give him is 'wears scarves in summer'.
Oh my God, looking back, especially at the good,
is more painful than I'd imagined.
Though there is nothing in between for seeing Tobin
and falling for him, love was a parrot on my shoulder
repeating his name.
Did I fail to see some sign that we would end badly?
Like a flock of crows or snakes crawling along the sidewalk.
Now, I'm standing here between the before and after of love.
Not a good spot I know, but here I am
and a freshwater lake is out there in front of me.
We were love, we were ships, our bodies fragile boats are afloat.
Water seeps into the carved out part of his chest.
My belly, our thighs, how we rise and fall together,
our skin illumined from above and from each other.
We stretch limbs like mass, bed linens taught to catch the wind
to carry us from certain shore.
We push off each other setting ravens free.
Love and water for days and nights,
a dove returns with a twig in its beak, a sign that
land, though unwelcome is almost in sight.
Tobin and I were married in a church
on a hill in Lake Forest, Illinois.
The wedding was a misty June day in the beginning of the 1980s.
Soon everything will be all wrong.
Marriage is a high-flying risk, dizzying and invigorating
as diving through clouds or throttling a car at full speed.
You are socially, legally, economically, sexually
totally joined to one person, a person you choose in sickness
and in health, but the priest didn't say in misery, did he?
A few years after we married and into the marriage,
I realized that Tobin had stopped stroking my hair.
Then he graduates to never calling me by name, unless
he's asking me to pick up his dry cleaning.
Our children, sparkly Elendor and cuddly Marcus,
don't seem to know anything that's going on.
Until Tobin is watching a public television show.
It's a series on WWII, a subject on which he is obsessed.
I come into the room, 'Tobin I have to talk to you', no answer.
'The children's daycare has to be payed by tomorrow',
background rumbling with weapons of destruction,
'we're three months late', no answer.
And more artillery sounds from electric box
in front of German husband.
Tobin, he turns up the box, the children run into the room
to see what the noise is.
Tobin grabs the nearest lamp and hurls it to the ground,
more loud noise and shattering of glass, the children stare.
He picks up the television and stands over me as I cower,
not the most dignified of positions,
especially in front of the children.
Television is about to turn my brain into rot,
in an odd and electrified moment we both know
he's going to kill me in front of our two children.
Of course he doesn't kill me but our love dies."
How to poison.
"I'm sure there are shelves and shelves of books that deal with
how to inform children that their parents are splitting up.
There must be books that outline a way to do it gently
and with the least amount of harm.
Maybe Tobin and I should have read one.
All I know is that the children, Elendor, age 8, and Marcus,
age 7, are frozen on the landing of the stairs when I come home.
They look at me as I'm an intruder, daddy told us not to
worry, but you're getting divorced Elendor yells at me.
Marcus plugs his ears screaming, I don't want to talk about it.
Is it true mommy, Elendor cries, is it?
An explosion inside me goes no where.
I want to send out comfort, but right now the children
seem like an investment gone bad.
I can only say this, you can try as hard as you can to
fool yourself, but you are not in divorce mode until the
children know, and once they do, everything that follows
will leave bite marks.
After.
In lieu of morphine, there's chocolate.
I devour it, try not to.
Getting out of bed is the equivalent of miles of brisk
walking--I feel paralyzed, I need to see the humor.
I have no money, no car, no toilet paper,
I slog through snow like Julie Christie in "Doctor Zhivago",
but instead of getting to Omar I reach a nearby restaurant
and steal the extra roll of toilet paper.
More than half my bed is covered with open books occupying
roughly the same amount of space Tobin would have.
I skim and switch between them, then settle into one
all night long whenever I forget that beds are for resting,
for sleeping, for making love.
Reading is my substitute for sleep and my conciliation prize
for being alone.
Sometimes I stay in bed all day long just enough guilt gives me
the energy to shout into the kitchen where my children are
milling around, 'I'll get up soon and make dinner'.
'What are we having', they chorus.
'Kids, I don't know let me rest for a minute'.
My definition of motherhood-- your child slits your jugular,
laps up every lickable drop of blood, then with ruddy cheaks
he or she scoots off to college saying to your
inert form on the floor, thanks for everything.
When we go through craziness in life, somewhere along the way,
we start thinking we are making good decisions, wrong and wrong.
We are not thinking clearly at all, the pieces are falling
faster than we can pick them up.
Run, you're in danger of being physically harmed I screamed,
child abuse yells Elendor running to her bedroom,
parent abuse I yell back chasing Marcus.
I'm trying to get out of this house to go out,
if I can ever get out of this house.
I play the piano to calm down then stand
at Elendor's closed door.
You cannot forget that one rule in this house,
never throw objects at someone's face.
I don't care comes through the door, you have to care I say.
You would be sorry later if someone's eye was hurt.
Besides, that's not the only rule she says sassier than
a cat--never put dishes with food or drink on the piano.
Always establish your own personal rituals
Marcus yells from his room, okay I say,
This is serious, you don't throw utensils at me or your brother
in anger ever, period!
Silence.
And you Marcus--I say because he's obviously listening--
don't grab food from your sister or anything period.
Silence...'Marcus, yeah, I'm going out with
our friend Quentin for a political rally,
I need to know that you guys are going to get along.'
They both come out, I feel bad leaving them alone but
I don't ever have money for a babysitter, my parents who are
sometimes available for backup are out of town.
'Stay out late mom,' Marcus says.
'We want to see if we can handle it.'
'Okay, I won't be far, you can reach me on my pager
or Quen's cellphone, you know the number.'
Quentin and his lover are ordering drinks when I arrive.
As soon as the program is under way my pager goes off,
most likely Elen and Marcus.
They might be needing something, so I go over to tell Quentin.
For a guy without kids he's quick on the uptake.
Without me asking, he hands me his cellphone
saying take it on the way home.
I call the kids.
'Mom,' Elen says, 'Marcus answered the phone
and it was this creepy guy', '
'What why was he talking to him?'
I asked, getting my coat on.
'That's what I said, he asked if we were home alone'.
'Who was he?'
'I don't know, Marcus doesn't either'.
'I'll be there in 20 minutes, I'll talk to you and Marcus
as I'm driving home'.
Once in the car I phone him, 'Marcus'.
'Mom I'm sorry I talked to him, but he kept asking questions'.
'Honey, it's not your fault but next time
don't talk to strangers on the phone'.
'Okay', he says, 'Mom are you g...'
'Marcus, honey', the phone goes dead.
I panic, try to breathe, you'll be there in 15 minutes
I comfort myself, I'm not sure if it's the phone that has run
out of batteries or if something has happened to the kids.
I dial our neighborhood police station,
'Hi, I'm on my way home and my children are waiting for me,
but they received a weird phone call'.
'Do you want us to send someone over?'
'Yes, I'll be there any second myself, I'm a little worried.'
I give her our address.
'How old exactly, ma'am, are your children she says',
exhibiting a disturbing officious tone.
'Oh, 7 and 8, almost nine, a friend was watching them'.
How easy it is to lie when a knife is to my heart.
'If they're home alone when the officers get there, ma'am,
they'll have to be taken into custody'.
Double-edge swordish, Caucasian chalk circlesque,
I have called to protect my children and now risk
having them taken away from me.
I'll probably be back before they even get there, I say,
noticeably hyperventilating and pressuring my foot
on the gas pedal.
Should I run red lights and get pulled over, or risk
arriving too late as my children drive off in a squad car?
As I approach the house I can already see the bright lights,
I run inside, luckily it looks as if the
three male police officers have only just walked in.
I try to smile at them I advise myself.
Hugging Marcus tight I think frantically, where's Elendor?
She's the one I need.
'Hi, I'm so glad your here' I say, 'I'll go get my daughter',
noticing her out of the corner of my eye starting to walk down
I tear up the stairs, 'Hi sweetie' I say, practically
carrying her up to the landing, out of view of the officers.
I put my finger to my mouth,
bring her into the bedroom soundlessly close the door.
'Elendor', I whispered deep in her ear, 'I need to do this for
me or the police will take you away for me,
you have to lie now and say that Nina was looking after you'.
I'm buzzing with so much fear that I can't see her reaction.
I hug her as we walk downstairs, calm yourself.
I hear my brain, she'll be perfect.
I say to the cops, 'well thank you so much for coming,
I was a bit worried with that crazy phone...'.
The burly one interrupts, 'We'll need to talk to your daughter,
she's the older one?'
'Yes' I say, 'no problem'.
'Honey can you talk to the police officer?'
'Sure' she's says, my brilliant little actress.
'Honey how long did mommy leave you two alone tonight?'
'Oh, we weren't alone' she says, Nina was looking after us.
'Who's she?'
'Mom's friend.'
'Where's she at now?'
Yawning, she says 'she had to return a movie.'
A-plus.
We'll have to talk to her, ma'am do you have her phone number?
Of course, I say, writing it down knowing she's away
for the weekend.
The other officer calls, 'No answer,' he says and hangs up.
Yes, they all three head for the door, good sign.
'Have a good evening ma'am,' one says.
'Thank you so much for coming, I really appreciate it,'
I say, slowly following them out.
Once they're gone I collapse on the couch,
Marcus and Elendor sit on either side of me.
'Guys I'm really sorry, that was an experiment
that just didn't work.'
'I'm sorry for talking to that guy,' says Marcus.
'Sweetie', I say, hugging them close, 'there's a lot of creeps
out there, I'm just glad you're both okay.
That's all I care about.
We never find out who he is, but the menacing call magnifies
our sense of being without a protector,
I won't leave them alone again, but I do feel alone.
I'm not a stay at home monk, but almost.
They come in the night, men a few young, a few old,
with an internal map dotted with need leading
to the destination of moi.
And I don't even sleep with most of them.
They say I'm the warmest of women, perhaps I'm fevering.
I've been living alone with my kids for three and a half years
and one man says, 'I bet no one has ever called you a bitch'.
He's right, but I've noticed bitches keep their men,
lashing out at them when finding the slightest fault,
demanding more and more until their man feels no longer
worthy of licking any part of her except her boot spur.
An acquaintance of mine complained about her
husband buying her a red BMW.
'I told him I wanted a dusky color' she whined.
Why does she get a BMW and bitch about it,
and I get zilch and happily wait for bread crumbs.
Why do men stay with the bitches and leave nice women like me?
Because the night belongs to the bitch, that's why.
But there are intimate penalties.
It's snowing wet clumps of white that stick to our coats
like burs, and the wind is picking up.
Tobin brushes the snow off my hair and pulls up my hood to
cover my head, his warm hands hold my face
and our eyes almost meet before I see that
the snowflakes are tinged with orange.
My first thought is, must be lights from an ambulance,
but the silence is so thick you can hear the orange snow
landing on the ground.
My second thought is more complicated and comes from a
cloud's snowing psycho-babble, but seems to me to be true,
at least for the time being, yes love is magic,
but it is also pure deception.
Love is the ultimate cover-up, blanketing every disappointment
and betrayal, at least my brand of love, a non-bitch form of it.
The kind that men like Tobin learn to run from because
they, like untamed animals, need to play hardball.
I reach under Tobin's coat to pull him closer
and my fingers touch his naked skin.
The orange snowflakes are forming into balls, fear and
love makes me catch them before they dissolve at our feet.
Tobin's coat is in shreds and falls off his body.
He stands there naked before me, and then he disappears.
'Elendor, Marcus,' they're pretending they don't hear me.
'Come over here.'
It's pretty nice, the lake is turquoise brushed with pale,
pale sage, and bubbly white foam and snow.
No response.
'Oh wait, I think I can see your dad, wait a second.'
Oh, now they're showing some interest.
'Your dad, your dad's out there, he's in a chunk of ice
way out there in the horizon.
Wonder if he's alright.
Maybe he'll send us a sign like smoke signals.
Oh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, there's a little puff,
do you see it Marcus?
Like a cloud forming, Elendor look.
See Elendor, right there.
It's getting bigger and forming letters, T and A,
and what's that, oh, it's a K.
Take the--oh I can make out C-H-I--take the children home.
Oh wait it's still coming, take the children home, I'm okay.
We're better then, okay do you hear that?
We're doing great.
Thank you.
[audience applause].
[unclear dialogue].
(Ms. Royal). Thank you so much for coming.
It's a great turnout for such a scary evening.
It's a lot colder in Chicago though we're I'm coming from.
(male speaker). I was just thinking about the
way you're structuring things, the forms you working with here.
I kept thinking of the writer Pam Houston.
I don'w know if you're familiar with her work.
She wrote a book called, "Cowboys and Their Weaknesses".
(Ms. Royal). I've heard of that book, yeah.
(male speaker). And I think that there's
something about the almost aphoristic, the way you
treat these moments, from the narrative [unclear dialogue]
you're building, but from the narrative itself remains.
There's a consistency, at the same time there's
a broken quality to it that I really like.
Could you talk about some of your influences?
(Ms. Royal). Oh, absolutely.
Well that's a really interesting and perceptive that you say
about the aphoristic because every, there's eight different
parts of the book, it has a lot of scaffolding in the book
because I wanted to tell the story in such a way that
it would be from a traumatic, sort of a mind in trauma.
So when you have trauma, you sort of go back and forth
thinking, trying to piece together what happened
and whether you missed signs along the way,
and how you could have prevented it.
And I think the mind jumps back and forth and says,
well when did it start and oh my gosh should I have done this?
You're in the present, but then you're in the past
and you really don't have a future at that point so
it's sort of a jagged puzzle.
And so there's a lot of scaffolding in the book because
of that jagged quality, and so I wanted to give enough form to
the structure so that it could be easily followed,
and every segment of the book has an aphorism,
and one of the aphorisms is love is the dog we let into our bed,
even when it bites.
So there's, every section has a aphorism and then every 50 pages
is a clue, clue number 1, 2, and the final deadly clue.
They're all clues that your relationship is going bad.
So, yeah the aphoristic quality and just, I don't know
if I answered your question, but I just felt like since
I wanted to have this mind that was totally influx
and trying to grasp, it's sort of like a catastrophe.
You have an earthquake, in this case kind of a soul-quake
and everything is debris and detritus
and you don't know where your standing.
So you're trying to piece together things in your head of
what happened and...
(male speaker). The narrator's kind of seeing
stars and that comes through.
(Ms. Royal). Yes, exactly, this is.
I did write extra things for this to make it a dramatization.
there's a few intact scenes but the rest of it is just for
the play and not actually appearing in the book.
(male speaker). Could you give us some
of those clues that your relationship is going bad?
(Ms. Royal). Yeah, sure, one of them.
I think the final deadly clue sort of speaks
to a lot of people, usually.
I think it's she no longer feels protected by him
and he no longer feels needed by her.
What's another one?
Let me think, there's a lot of them.
There's 50 pages so...
I'm drawing a blank of the other clues.
(female speaker). Buy the book to find out.
(Ms. Royal). Yes, good plug Laticia.
Very good.
Another clue, do you remember any other clues?
I'm just drawing a blank.
Wow, this is not good.
On to the next.
You'll have to read the book and see.
Are you asking from a personal standpoint or...
[audience laughter].
I sincerely hope not.
Well, as I'm sure I choose a very weird subject
because I'm sure no one has ever gone through heartbreak
in this whole room.
I'm sure it's a very foreign subject for everyone.
(female speaker). I actually had a related
question about the way you structured the book.
You know you're also a musician.
Predominantly you're a classical pianist.
(Ms. Royal). Right, I was trained to be
a concert pianist and now I write a lot of music.
I have a song, "Undoing I Do", it's available on iTunes,
actually I have a lot of really cool musicians playing
so I can, I have a little street cred.
My brother-in-law use to play with Smashing Pumpkins
and now he plays with Morrisey,
and he plays on the song that I wrote.
And we have some other really cool...
(female speaker). Oh, I'm dating myself there.
Ah, I'm wondering about how your music works with your writing.
A friend of mine wrote a story that was based on the musical
concert for the few where he wrote the same story several
times but with variations in it, deliberately--he was working
with it so I'm wondering if there 's any sense of
musicality in your writing.
(Ms. Royal). Well, totally, I mean the
character in the book is, oddly enough, also a musician,
and so I do have a soundtrack to the book.
It's on my website, and it's a partial soundtrack.
the songs that are mentioned in the book that she is writing to
cope with her tragedy, her own little personal hell,
are on the soundtrack on my website,
and, again, the theme song is on iTunes.
But I have a music video as well, but, yeah.
The way I structured it, there's a lot of musical terms
and the first chapter is actually "Final Chord. "
So, it's another way that I wrote it, I think that made it
seem a little bit elegiac, because you know that the arc
of the story is, that basically, she's getting divorced.
The first chapter is her complete implosion of
their relationship and he moves out that day.
And well, there is a little prelude to that.
It is actually prelude to a burn,
and its their consummation night.
So it's consummation and then the leaving of the husband,
so it's her slam bam and just hits the ground running.
So you know right away, sort of in the style of Brecht, I think,
that like, when the Berliner Ensemble did Brecht's work
"Mother Courage" or whatever, they had signage and it said
something like, in this chapter, you will see the mother dying
and the baby will get thrown into the river.
And then, so it has this quality of not only dread, but extreme
sadness and grieving, that you know this is going to happen,
but you're going to see it unfolding before your eyes.
So I kind of like that as an example for this particular
story because I thought, well, we all know that people fall in
love and then the next moment it's like a before and an after.
You know, before you're in love and people can't believe it, and
oh my god, she looks great and he looks great, and they're in
love, and the next second its over and you're like,
how did that happen, they look horrible,
and people are looking cadaverous and can't eat,
and it's just terrible.
And so I thought, that's kind of a good way to start,
just, you know, that it's over.
But there's a beautiful scene, I guess the first line of the book
is men and women should meet in beautiful rooms, stroke each
other for hours, and then go back to their separate lives.
So that's the aphorism of the whole book,
and then every part has its own aphorism.
So that sort of disprove that through the characters, that it
would be nice in a way, you'd never have divorce if we all
sort of beautiful roomed it, but then it doesn't happen that way
because you want to be with that person because you fall in love,
and you fall into their life.
So then I think the arc of the story is just, that happens
and then it's this sort of going back and forth into also
sort of part of the scene of Tobin in the snow is sort of an
unattainable past, or an unattainable future, where,
wow, this, I should have seen it,
I should have seen this happening, but I didn't see it.
Any other questions?
I also, when I do Barnes and Noble readings or Borders
readings this year, I've had a breakup box, and people have
put in their choice break up stories and I've read them.
And it's been really fun, probably not for them,
but does anybody have any particularly strange or
wild breakup story they want to share with everybody
in the whole room?
(female speaker). You can say it's your friend.
(Ms. Royal). Josh, is it Josh?
(male speaker). I actually have a question,
[unclear dialogue].
(Ms. Royal). Say whatever you want,
tell us what you like to write, I mean I'm interested in
hearing what the students do with their time when
they're sitting in front of a computer as well.
(male speaker). It was more a mattert of
coincidence than anything else, and in retrospect I realized
how insensitive I was, but there was a dance
that, well I had gone back home because it was my birthday
weekend and on that same day there was my high school's
homecoming dance and it was my freshman year.
And I was suppose to go with an old friend.
Well this was also the point at which I realized that
me and my ex, or my ex now, but at the time we were dating
and it was kind of the clicking point where I realized that
we weren't going to make it and so we were kind of
sitting on the couch and I was just like
I don't think we can do this, and she gives me this look
and then she just like collapses to the floor.
Which is exceptionally awkward because this
is my first break up.
So you know she starts crying and the only thing
that can come to my mind is you gotta stop crying,
you're going to wake up my parents.
[audience laughter].
And so, once again I didn't realize until afterwards, a
couple minutes later, I was like there are probably more
sensitive ways to go about that particular situation
and I still suffer for it, we're friends now.
(Ms. Royal). Sure you are, sure.
That's what they all say.
(male speaker). It's been a long road.
but I guess that kind of segways into my question.
One of the things that we talked about, and I took fiction
with Dr. Moffitt last semester, and one of the things that we
always talked about was that a lot of things that you write
about are in one way or another autobiographical,
you know, it has some sort of internal content.
Do you feel like your book kind of hits some crucial points,
and if hits a point that's sensitive,
how do you write through that?
(Ms. Royal). Well, actually, it's totally
fictional work because I've never even met a man,
I've never, you know, no, just kidding.
It's a lot of overlap in my life, but I felt,
what's really helpful is, and you're right, everything has an
internal, I think of it kind of like any story you may write,
and I like to write short stories as well.
When you dream, you have all these characters in your dream
and they're like shadow selves, people, your world is your
oyster, you can pick any person you want, you can use materials
and details from their life and you can shift it,
and I felt halfway through writing the book that I really
did fictionalize it because I didn't have an axe to grind,
I didn't want to do the Jerry Springer tell-all
or confessional style and I also felt I could free me up to
remember things that happened even though I wasn't really
remembering them in terms of the actual verity of it.
I just kind of what Lucy Grealey says when she wrote that book
Anatomy of a Face, if any of you have read that.
And people said, oh my God,
how did you remember all those details?
And she said, wait a second, I didn't remember it, I wrote it.
And that's what I think, in response to your question,
that, I think writing is different than remembering,
but you do remember and there is a lot of unconscious
and emotional content that's coming out when you write.
And you're filling in to the details so that it will
make sense to someone who is reading it, and it will.
It's sort of a worn path through just all of these things
that you could say, but then you make a path and you choose,
you choose different things, and you, and it serves from A to B.
So the reader has meaning, and there's meaning and there's,
your job as a writer isn't to confound or befuddle people,
so, yes you do choose whatever you want, but it has to be,
it has to make sense from a structural and tone standpoint,
and craft, there's a lot of craft involved obviously.
Pardon me?
(male speaker). Oh, I'm sorry.
[unclear dialogue] I completely lost my train of thought.
[audience laughter].
I guess it's nice in attempting to write and just hitting
those points where you encounter sort of the emotional content
behind what you're writing, especially when you
can write about a severe situation such as heartbreak
or something like that [unclear dialogue].
(Ms. Royal). I think you need to get that
distance and I think our parents had their
World War and we have divorce, and that's actually
a good theme because I think it is a, it goes across the board.
There's so many people who have gone through break-ups or very
severe divorces and it is becoming enough of a theme
that we can make art out of it, but it's kind difficult,
you do have to have a vehicle, so I think the confessional
style isn't necessarily one that would be a good one for this.
You maybe would be fictionalizing it, or.
It's like anything, there's all kinds of stories about love
and tons of them, and [unclear dialogue]
or anything you can think of, and people keep telling
the story over and over again, it just has to be told in a way
that, you know, is interesting to people,
and not, you know, cliche or just oh, I fell in
love, and she had a heart of gold, and she broke my heart.
Oh, I'm sorry.
(male speaker). One of the things for learning
a few things in Dr. Moffitt's 5020 class, a graduate class,
one of the things is generation.
We're learning not to generate our writing.
What kind of techniques did you use?
(Ms. Royal). Not to generate?
(male speaker). Generate your writing,
what kind of techniques did you do to generate
your flow of thought, and what authors influenced you?
(Ms. Royal). Well, I tend to stay up
all night, which is a very bad thing, but it's because
I teach piano during the day and so, I sit at the piano
and then I, or I mean I sit at the keyboard
and think, you know, computer, oh, I'll just stay up for
a few hours and write and suddenly the birds are chirping
and it's very scary.
So that kind of generates, because you get into this sort
of a fugue state of exhaustion, and I finished the book
that way--it was not a good way to do it.
I started the book about 12 years ago with the most
high-minded motive--revenge.
So, but then it quickly, instead of deteriorating, it sort of
got a little more high minded, and I realized actually
what I'm writing about is love, more than anything.
By the way, I don't usually sound like this, I've actually
lost my voice two days ago, so I'm very sorry that,
I've got the, I've heard it's called the Charleston cough,
I have it from Chicago though, so it's bizarre, but anyway, to
generate writing again, I just think it has to be a habit,
you know, it has to be something that you just, you do, and
in my case, I think I started it a long time ago and then
I had a, I had a theatre company, so I did one-woman
shows and then I directed a little bit, so I kind of put it
on hold for many years, And then, "Undoing, I Do" became
kind of a little musical I did in Chicago, and from a musical
I went to Ragdale which is in Lake Forest,
and then I started to fiendishly concentrate
on the book and the core writing of it.
And then, I got an agent through, he's a very good agent
in New York, but he actually lost my work about five times in
a row, so it just shows you that, you know, you'll send it,
and they'll say 'oh, I lost it', then you'll send it again,
'oh, I lost it', so eventually it could work,
but it's a little bit akin to being struck by lightning
I guess, but, and I'm probably the oldest first-time novelist
to be published in the United States.
I think they're usually looking for 20-year-olds,
but I feel honored.
And it should generate writing and my influences, well,
I really like this one book, which I told Letitia about.
It was the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955,
Sigrid Undset's book, "Kristin Lavransdatter."
And I really like her style, it's very terse, very dry,
but it's in the 14th century, so it's this
incredibly fabulous tale, and other influences, I don't know.
When I was writing the book, I guess I just read all the time
so I read all kinds of things--I read poetry,
I read short stories, I read Frank O'Conner,
I read metaphysical poetry, just anything to sort of
have fun while I'm doing it.
And there's a lot of people like Dorothy Parker had said, I guess
famously that some people like to have written,
I actually like writing, I enjoy it.
To me it's kind of like practicing the piano, it's just
fun, I enjoy itand I love editing, so,
I think the editing process is so fabulous because it
gets better and better, or it should.
And when my editor in New York would say, can you take out this
paragraph or something, I would say, take the whole chapter out
and she'd be like, what?
I'd go, 'Well, just take out 50 pages right there'
and I took out like 150 pages of the book,
so it was a lot longer, but I just love killing my babies,
I just really enjoy it, and because I think it
just gets it better, it just streamlines it much more.
And so people who want to hang on to their work,
I'm trying to say to them, don't hang on to it, just,
there's more where that came from,
just don't be afraid to let go.
So, what are some of your favorite authors?
I probably just love them all.
I'm reading Willa Cather right now, "Song of the Lark".
(male speaker). My ex-fiance was related
to Willa Cather.
(Ms. Royal). Pardon me?
(male speaker). My ex-fiance was related
to Willa Cather.
(Ms. Royal). Oh, very cool.
(male speaker). And I like [unclear audio].
(Ms. Royal). Okay, neat, I love them all.
Did anybody else want to talk, say what they like to do,
or what, any other questions, I would love to hear from,
and I have to say that, this university is so amazing,
This theatre and the people I've met today,
I was telling Letitia, I don't think I've ever met
so many fabulous people in half an hour than
I've met in Eastern Illinois University.
Really, I mean, I met Dyva and Marty,
(Letitia). Who are recruiting her
to scrabble by the way.
[audience laughter].
(Ms. Royal). Yes, I'm a convert,
and my husband and I are going to be,
and Bruce and Victoria, fabulous,
and of course Letitia, who's amazing.
And all of the students too, it just seems that everybody is
with it here, so I think we'll move from Chicago and come here.
My husband's a film critic up in Chicago area, so,
he's also a writer, which is helpful.
He's my little secret weapon.
And he would, he would, he was kind of sort of like when,
I guess, Tolstoy had the famous, in the margins, his wife,
was it Tolstoy or was it Dostoyevsky was, he wrote these
copious notebooks and she would come and write these
horrible comments and then he would say, you bitch,
and then she would say, yeah, I did not mean it that way.
"Yes, you did!" and go buy bread or something.
And so my husband would edit my work after I have another person
who I met at Ragdale who's a poet and edits my
first versions, and I'm working on a second book and he's
just in town, that's why I'm sick, because we stayed
up for eight nights editing, we're insane.
But my husband would come home and after my editor had edited
it then he would edit it, and he would just write these things
in the side, "slut" and different things.
I was like, it's just fictional here.
But it's fun having a person at home who can,
I'm sorry, were you just raising your hand?
(male speaker). I just had another question.
I wrote a story in class called "Space",
and basically it was an account of a recent
relationship that I was in, and that didn't pan out for myself.
I like the fact that I started off with an argument
and I think that my professor said that worked well too,
because it adds instant conflict.
So I'm dropping right to the conflict.
(Ms. Royal). Right, instead of having
backstory, backstory, backstory, yeah.
(male speaker). And then throughout the course
of my story I have a guy driving about an hour
and a half to another location listening to different songs
that kind of remind him of what he had with her,
but then throughout the story he realizes that
he needs his space, too, which is why I call it "Space".
(Ms. Royal). I like the title, really neat.
(male speaker). Well, I often felt that
I kind of maybe used too much, too many songs.
Kind of like a soundtrack and I think that way too.
I'm sitting here and I could name like 50 songs in it.
I just kind of think I made it muddled, did you ever feel in
your stories, you were getting...
(Ms. Royal). Sidetracked?
(male speaker). Sidetracked.
(Ms. Royal). That's an interesting question.
Yeah, again, you know, it's like editing, editing really helps
when you're working on something, but I think the songs
were sort of an integral part of the scene, so it wasn't just,
I'm going to drop the names of the songs she's composing
right now, it was more, holistically built into
the scene, when she's in court, and she's singing
a song that she just wrote, and the judge is coming in
and out and people are like, who the hell is singing
in a divorce court?
So I think it kind of works that way, it has to be incorporated
into the scene and make sense, it can't just sort of be
decoupaged onto, you know the structure of the book,
or what's happening.
Back there?
(male speaker). I'm working on my first novel.
I'm just wondering if you have any advice as to what to do
when you have a bad case of writer's block,
because I find that when I work on a certain chapter for
so long I get so frustrated with it that oftentimes it's just
like there's this big wall in the way and I can't get around.
(Ms. Royal). Have some children.
[audience laughter].
And you'll really want to write, because you'll be changing
diapers, and you're like, could I just live, have this cast of
mind where I can get into this imaginary world, you know.
No, writer's block, that's an interesting question.
I think if you have writer's block, maybe you should tell
yourself that you just should sit down and just do a free
write or something, just don't, just write no matter what, and
just do a, I guess Anne Lamott says, do a shitty first draft,
and hope you don't die before you can change it.
Just get it out, and don't start editing yourself and think, oh,
I don't know if it's going to be good, don't have that part of
your brain in your head, just do it.
And just feel lucky that you're able to do it.
(male speaker). So, being a writer
and being a published author, which are two significantly
different things, and then this coming of comedy,
I'd imagine it would be even more difficult to be published.
Tips, tricks, or business cards to pass out?
(Ms. Royal). Business, well, I mean, I guess
that's why I kind of did the whole multimedia thing,
because I feel like the more you can market yourself,
and you build your platform sort of, that horrible term,
but it is kind of important to have things, I have a web show
coming up as well that's called "Interview With A Broken Heart".
And what we do is I interview people about their breakups and
then we have a panel of Saturday Night Live
and Second City people who make fun of them.
And it's hilarious, I'm not kidding, it's crazy funny
because people come, and I'm like open your heart to us,
and we just, and they just start the little peanut gallery
and it gets very crazy.
And we have a little gilded Kleenex box that gets rolled up
onto the stage, so that's kind of a cool web show
that I thought, well, I kind of want to continue this while
I'm writing my second book, which has nothing to do with
the first book at all--it's a lot more about sexual healing
and, um, sexual healing, and I think that's enough.
It's very tantalizing.
And it's totally fictional, has a little bit of sci-fi in it,
so I kind of wanted to keep that stream going with the, yeah?
(male speaker). I was just wondering--
you do so many different things, paint, compose, write.
Do you find that you certain, certain outlets for
certain emotions, or do you find your art as a whole progresses
together and you [unclear dialogue].
(Ms. Royal). Yeah, that's really interesting.
I've always sort of struggled with the fact that I really love
to write, and I've always written, so I just, since I've
been really young, I've filled up, like I have a whole
bookshelf of blank books that are filled with drawings and
writings and they're just like, I couldn't, I must be stopped.
But, yeah, so then I always did artwork as well,
and I do composing and I teach and I do piano,
and I do concerts too sometimes if I actually can practice,
but I just try to do it all basically, and I think I've
concentrated on different segments of my life in different
things, right now I'm totally concentrating on the writing,
because it's really difficult to do, I mean
it's hard to do everything at once at the same time,
but, you know, I did a music video for this book,
I did a song for this book, I designed a dramatization.
And the thing that I read today was done by an equity actor at
Writers' Theatre in Glencoe in near Chicago and it's a fabulous
theatre and they did a beautiful job.
I wish he could have been here tonight, but, so I try to do
everything I can do to get my hand in it, and I think anything
you can bring, and lots of people are multi-disciplined
artists that I, you know, do you do more than one thing?
(Letitia). Oh I barely can do one thing.
(Ms. Royal). What about you, do you do
more than one thing?
(male speaker). Ah yeah, I do.
(Ms. Royal). What do you do?
(male speaker). Ceramics, photography, painting,
writing, and poetry.
The next thing I want to start doing, too, is performance art.
(Ms. Royal). Fantastic, I've done that
as well at the Art Institute.
Performance art, that's a pretty trippy thing to do, yeah.
That's fabulous, well you sound like you're very talented.
But they do feed on each other, I don't know why it seems to me
that there are so many people that are talented,
and I guess, the danger is that you'd be kind of a dilettante
and you would get nothing done.
But, sometimes it can be very advantageous, I think,
to a product if you do get something out, you can sort of
funnel all your other talents and creativity into that
and it can be very helpful.
Because they're kind of looking for that too now, at least now,
because editors, when you're first-time published, they don't
do a lot for you, you kind of have to do it all yourself, so.
(Leticia). Anymore questions?
(Ms. Royal). I think someone back there,
is someone back there raising their hand or
was I just imagining it?
Thank you so much for coming, this was a fabulous turnout,
and delighted to be here.
Thank you so much.
[audience applause].