The Editor - June 6th, 2012
‘I once produced a play in which my boyfriend, George, delivered several monologues. George was a writer, not an actor, and his delivery, while charming, was stilted. I called in an acting coach, Scott Kelman, who led exercises at Buddhist retreats I’d been going to. (This was L.A.) George performed his first monologue. When he finished, Scott asked, “Who are you delivering the monologues to?” George said he was picking a spot on the wall above the people’s heads. Scott said, “I want you to do it again. And this time, I want you to look into the people’s eyes, and I want you to dig it, baby.” George’s monologue instantly felt spontaneous and risky, his thrill in delivering it, infectious.
A couple years ago, I was in a bad way. I had quit my TV writing career and moved to Seattle, where everyone I met seemed to take an instant dislike to me. I was bursting with giggling love for my little daughter, but worried I was somehow wrecking her. My first novel didn’t sell well. Some people liked it, others hated it and the whole experience left me crippled with shame and failure. Worse: I had spent two years writing and rewriting a novel full of agreeable characters which I hoped would deliver me commercial success. The pages were lifeless beyond repair. I abandoned the whole thing. There was nothing new to write about. I blamed Seattle. Also, I really missed having an assistant. Plus, George was genuinely worried I had gone insane.
I was droning on about this to a friend in L.A. He finally couldn’t take it anymore and said, “You can’t believe any of this nonsense. Maria, you must write. If you don’t write, you’ll become a menace to society.” I suddenly realized: this toxic brew of self-pity, defensiveness, love, and artistic paralysis I had become, while humiliating to admit to, was actually kind of funny. The character of Bernadette popped into my head, fully formed.
I sat down at the computer, opened a new document and wrote at the top: “This time, look into people’s eyes. And dig it, baby.” Four months later I had a first draft of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.’
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