Home No. 5

Hi, I'm Jami Attenberg. I write books, and much, much more. My fourth book, The Middlesteins, came out in 2012. You can order it here or here. My fifth book, Saint Mazie, will be published in 2015.

Also I like dogs and fighting crime.

This is the fifth place to find me on the internet. Please don't tell me I need a sixth.

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Here is a point I write to sometimes: I want people to read my writing and think, “Holy crap, I didn’t know she had it in her.” Sometimes I have a real screw you, you didn’t believe in me attitude when I’m working. I don’t even know who I’m saying that to anymore. I have plenty of people who believe in me. But I still think I’m saying it to someone and I still think it’s driving me and who am I to argue with something that makes me get my work done.

I took a two-hour walk with the dog yesterday morning and I had an enormous revelation on what the book was about. Oh my god, I thought. Now I know. I was pretty sure I was a genius. Pretty sure! Then I remembered this is the hundredth time this has happened while writing this book. Each time it is a slight variation on the previous revelation, and basically, spoiler, the book is just about life and its struggles.

Writers are boring and predictable.

Somehow I’ve cut 4,000 words from my book, which has worked out to be about seventeen pages. I wanted to cut twenty-five total. (Fifty pages would be a dream, but seems unlikely.) I’m not yet halfway through my revision but I don’t expect to cut a lot from the final third. Still, cutting 2,000 more words seems possible. I’ve started with 450 pages. Usually my books are about 300 pages.

I want this book to be slimmer and move like the wind. I want you to pick up the book and have all the pages fly through your fingertips as if they were enchanted.

Stayed in (mostly) last night so I could get up early and work on the book before I go to yoga and then a bunch of parades today. Most of what I am thinking about this morning while I’m editing, what I’m infusing it with I guess you could say, is the idea that I write because I want to see things exist. They aren’t already there, and they should be — at least for my own benefit or enjoyment.

Once I ran into my friend Andrew on the subway platform in my neighborhood. He was wearing headphones, and we waved hello. I’ve loved Andrew’s music for twenty years, so of course I asked what he was listening to, and he said his own songs. He told me that he wrote music so he would have something to listen to. I don’t think that means he hates other music. (He is a pretty loving guy.) It’s just that he knows what he loves best.

There are plenty of things for me to read out there but it’s true, the work I like to spend the most time with is my own. I’ll read this book, these sentences, consider these characters, a hundred times before I’m done. I’ll fall in and out of love with them during that time, but hopefully I’ll land on love in the end.

My French publisher made a tiny chocolate version of their edition of my book. (They made chocolate versions of other covers on their fall list but I ate them all.) (Of course.)

My French publisher made a tiny chocolate version of their edition of my book. (They made chocolate versions of other covers on their fall list but I ate them all.) (Of course.)

This morning I was reading this gem (which I always keep by my desk for inspiration), and I found this little nugget from September 24. 1947: “Important thing in the novel is the message that anything done for love is in itself enough reward and nothing is too much to do.”

It never has to be more complicated than that for a story to work and also: What a beautiful thing to want to communicate.

86,476 words later and this monster of a first draft is done.

Impossible not to post

  • Me: Do you feel sometimes like books you write choose you rather than you choose them?
  • Kate: Always -- that's exactly what happens. You're just the custodian/midwife.
  • Me: Well if I'm the midwife, how do I deliver this baby soundly? Right now it doesn't feel soundly. This isn't a sterile hospital with well-educated doctors steady at the wheel, or even an at-home water birth with magical doulas burning sage. It feels a little bit like it's in the back of a cab.

At WORD, I handsold Carver, Rebecca Lee, Saunders, Isa Does It, and myself to:

  • A young, lovely lawyer turned aspiring writer. She was looking for inspiration, and I also made her a handwritten list of recommendations.
  • The nice guy with the cute rat terrier I met this morning at the dog park. He was buying presents for his sister.
  • A woman buying a holiday gift for a friend who had recently turned vegan. We all agreed the cover was pretty.

Also Michael Northrop and Molly D stopped by, and I met Amy Shearn and Myke Cole.

This all happened in an hour! A magic hour!