Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Where Writers Write: Maryl Jo Fox

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!

Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 

Photo by Avril Lipsky

This is Maryl Jo Fox

She grew up in Idaho and studied music at the University of Idaho before transferring to UC Berkeley for a BA in English, and later, an MA in English at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Her short fiction has appeared in Passages North, Bat City Review, and other journals. Her writing also appeared in the L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. She is a former president of the L.A. Drama Critics Circle. She has taught high school English in Rochester, New York, literature and composition at Pasadena City College, Glendale College, and others, and currently leads a novels discussion group at Vromans bookstore in Pasadena. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart, short-listed for the 2002/2003 Fish Publishing Short Story Contest, and was a finalist for the 2001 James Kirkwood Prize through the UCLA Writers’ Program. Maryl discovered her writing focus in a UCLA Extension Writers’ Program class titled, “Master Sequence in Magic, Surrealism, and the Absurd.” Visit her online at https://maryljofox.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/MarylJoFoxAuthor/.

Where Maryl Jo Fox Writes

I like the idea of writing about my study, where I spend so many painful and fruitful hours.

1.   I look at this picture of my study – it’s a total mess but I’m so calm.  How is this possible?  Bits of paper –song lyrics, book lists, the homesick dream, the headless dream, the quote from Stephen Dobyns poem, “The Birth of Angels” and more -- are taped so thickly on one and a half walls that it looks like a blizzard has struck inside the house. I’m so detail-oriented that my process gets out of hand.

Despite its disarray, the room is quiet and comforting to me.  It was my son’s room, but he lives on his own now.  So it’s my room where no one comes to mess up my mess. Despite my best intentions, I always let a new mess hatch after the old mess gets cleaned up. All the paper bits taped on the walls are part of a creative hatchery for my work.

On the adjoining wall is a Jasper Johns print that always clears my mind. I'm not always crazy about Jasper Johns --.but I bought this reproduction for my office at school, and now it's here in my study at home.  The clean crisp lines, the strong colors clear my head.  I want to write like this -- clear, assertive, focused, Organized and spontaneous.  The humor is that my writing process is very laborious.  I usually sweat out each sentence as if my life depended on it.  And often my sentences are full of moodiness and half-steps.  But then I love the actual scraps of wood nailed together on the canvas to remind us of the industrial feel of the modern world.  I can almost smell the sawdust. I don’t know why this painting always gives me a lift, but it does.

But I wanted to look at human beings when I was working in my study.  So I taped some facsimiles across the bottom of the Jasper Johns.  And now the passion of the human scene bursts into this room-size collage.  An old New Yorker cover features three older gentlemen, having finished their dinner and drinks, looking wonderfully comfortable with each other. They’re playing chamber music in warm yellow light in someone’s New York apartment furnished with antique furniture.  This cover says everything needed about friendship and the sharing of food and music.  Next to them is a Doonesbury episode in the Sunday comics.  The Vietnam war is raging, Melissa has had an unwanted sexual encounter and is waiting to see Cora, her counselor.  The male counselor says she got dinged, “same as if you caught a bullet.”  Melissa silently absorbs this as Cora arrives and asks what’s going on.  Melissa says, “Dinged.  I can work with dinged.”  The counselor says, “We just dropped by the reframing shop.”

From an old Calvin and Hobbes  encounter, Calvin is freaking out.  A minor debate with his dad made him see” both sides of the issue!  Then  poor Calvin began to see both sides of EVERYTHING!”  “The multiple views provide too much information!”  He “tries to eliminate all but one perspective!  It works!”  The world looks familiar again. “You’re still wrong, Dad,” he says.


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