Part 2 of 2 Part Series
The sun pours in from the cabin windows and from the open hatch above. A cooling breeze wafts into the cozy space smelling of salt and seaweed. The bark of harbor seals, the “ting ting” clang of various ropes hitting against wrapped sails, and the ever-present seagulls squawk overhead. Eireene and I share our thoughts on writing tucked inside the boat docked at Half Moon Bay California’s Pillar Point Harbor.
Uncommon Approaches to Structure
Eva: I like to base my writing around dialogue. Just focusing on what people would say and then tightening it up and trying to make it sound funnier. I don’t really have jokes, it’s just the situation that’s humorous.
Eireene: Did your family go back and forth a lot?
Eva: Sometimes we’d have a banter.
Eireene: I don’t think I ever learned that.
Eva: You didn’t banter?
Eireene: Yeah, I’m too serious. (laughs)
Eva: But you had music? All of your family members know how to play instruments?
Eireene: Yes. I think it helps to have that. I really write by the sounds of language a lot. So I think I paid a lot of attention to songs. As I write I’m hearing the tones and the sounds. A lot derived from poetry. I love overhearing conversations.
Eva: Right I saw some of your snippets.
Eireene: I’m trying to figure out what to do with the snippets.
Eva: So are you going to take those and make a story?
Eireene: I need to figure it out but I think that’s actually going to be my style. It’s going to have to do with how many conversations I’ve ever heard. Cause I’ve been doing it for years. I have giant files of people’s conversations.
Eva: Do you go back and look at them?
Eireene: Every now and then and I’ll modify them a little bit. And I’ve also learned a lot about storytelling. People are so good at telling stories out loud to each other like in coffee shops. I’m amazed people just visualize the whole landscape and they have a good sense of pacing.
Eireene: Nothing happens in the one little snippet but then you put another snippet next to it…
Eva: It’s like a collage.
Eireene: I like that one little story will connect to another story and deepen it. One sort of becomes a metaphor for the other one.
Eva: You’re kind of like a reporter.
I think a lot about structure. I worry about it and I think about it. And that happens until I know the big structure.
Eireene: I’m more of an arranger. Same with the historical stuff. I just get open to facts and mash them together. I think a lot about structure. I worry about it and I think about it. And that happens until I know the big structure.
Eva: I think of structure as beginning-middle-end, if it flows, if it makes sense, but you have a different scope of structure.
Eireene: I like the detours.
Eva: Do you usually know what the meaning is when you start or does it appear?
Eireene: By the time I’m done writing it’s totally something else. I usually have the beginning and the ending and I stick with those things pretty strongly. Then I spend years writing the middle.
I like the detours.
Eva: So what do you want to get that down to? A couple of months?
Eireene: I’m learning so much. There’s a structural thing about how the beginning and ending are related that you just have to figure out. You can actually, hopefully, this is how I plan to save time in the future —you can sit and think about that a lot then know.
Eireene Nealand’s stories, poems and translations have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Chicago Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Poetry International, Catamaran, Sidebrow, WHR, elimae, and The St. Petersburg Review, among other places. Her work has received multiple awards including a Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing, an Elizabeth Kosova Fellowship, and an Ivan Klima Fellowship. To her degrees from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, she recently added a Ph.D. in Literature from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied proprioception, a neurobiological phenomenon that allows us to see textures and shifts. She currently lives in Santa Cruz, where she writes and translates Russian, Bulgarian and French prose and poetry.
Eva Barrows is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer. Eva writes about local places, people and events on her website www.evabarrows.com. She founded the online literary journal Imitation Fruit www.imitationfruit.com in 2007 and has enjoyed promoting fellow writers and artists ever since. Her writing has appeared in the California Writer’s Club, Fault Zone Uplift anthology, and the San Mateo County Fair’s, Carry the Light fair winner collection.