Inside the Writer’s Studio
Recently I have been addicted to DVR’d episodes of Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton. I find the discussion of craft fascinating and I appreciate the honest ask-then-listen aspect. There is no drama here, just active learning.
At the end of every interview, before the guest actor answers questions from the class, James Lipton asks the same ten revelatory questions. It’s interesting to hear different actors supply diverse answers to the same basic questions.
So recently, I posted the same ten questions to my Facebook friends (and if we aren’t Facebook friends, why not?) Once again, the diversity of the answers was riveting.
Nicole’s Answers to Mr. James Lipton
1. What is your favorite word?
Uxorious. Fun to say and spell and lovely to benefit from.
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on?
The sound of laughter. Drum beats.
4. What turns you off?
Elitism and guilt trips
5. What sound do you love?
Nature: Wind in the trees, bird trills, water rushing. My kids cracking up. The garage door opening, indicating my husband is home. The mail truck rounding the corner.
6. What sound do you hate?
Raised, angry voices, talk radio of ANY kind, sports commentators, sugar-sweet, simpering voices (Delilah and most DJs on Christian radio), and the old dialup squawk.
7. What is your favorite curse word?
Son of a bitch. (Because I require a mouthful of words rather than one concise one.)
8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Professional speaker or seminar presenter, likely on writing.
9. What profession would you not like to do?
Anything involving driving—truck driver, taxi driver, race car driver. I am nearly phobic about cars.
10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Everyone is here.
So you can imagine my pleasure when my good friend, Tara at Faith in Ambiguity, tagged me a question post. I don’t think Mr. Lipton will change his questions to hers but I found them fascinating to answers nonetheless.
1. Would you ever dissect a cat—if no one was using it and it was already dead? If so, why?
Probably, provided it wasn’t a pet of mine. I am sure I could use the experience somewhere in a future book or story.
And how does one use a dead cat?
2. Are you a writer or a blogger? Does your answer affect what you do?
I am a writer with a sporadic blog. But more specifically, I am a storyteller, plotter, editor, and terrible dawdler. Actual writing time is eclipsed by my preparations and procrastinations. This is not a good habit to cultivate.
3. Sushi—yes or no?
No. An emphatic no. Fire good.
4. What sorts of things really offend you, not just on an abstract level, but in day-to-day life?
A saccharine tone of voice gooey enough to induce cavities. Myopic surety in your absolute truth when you have a 0.01% view of the world. Sense of entitlement on the road (and in other places.)
5. What’s the one secret ingredient that brings life to your cooking (or, you know, your re-heated Lean Cuisines)?
Basil. The taste is a miraculous meld of summer sunlight, verdant verve, and melancholy.
6. Santa Claus: magical childhood delight or insult to children everywhere?
A long standing tradition of story, cause and effect, and a translation of our own childhood memories.
7. Name the best piece of short fiction you’ve ever read.
Killer Heart by Barb Johnson (Glimmer Train, issue 67). I reread it often to remind myself how to portion out a story.
8. Name a novel that changed your life.
My own. Not said with conceit, but I think it is impossible to write a book without effecting how you read books. Once I wrote a complete novel length book, I understood firsthand what a challenge it was. My respect for novelists and storytellers grew exponentially with every chapter I wrestled to the ground. Great writers became gods.
9. What is the thing that everyone likes but you, and even so, you know you’re right?
Reality shows. Everyone makes their arguments for their favorites. “They are cautionary tales.” “I only watch reality shows which involved talent/home improvement/weight loss/etc.” “It’s a guilty pleasure.” But I can’t tolerate them. They are a pale facsimile of story and should instantly trigger a mental assessment for those who want to participate.
10. If you’re on the right path, will you be happy? Or are some people called to walk a harder path?
As long as I am moving, I can be happy on most paths. I hate standstill traffic—in life and metaphorically.
As for harder paths, I do not claim to understand why I won the genetic and locality lottery. By being born white and middle class in the US, I have privileges the bulk of the world can only wish for. Locality also decides your religion so I take umbrage with the idea that the American God preassigned the bulk of the world into the wrong religion and greater hardships.
11. Name a really good soup that can be bought in a can.
Bean and Bacon soup. Much like yellow powdered macaroni cheese awakens childhood taste buds; the overprocessed bean soup is the familiar road home.
Maybe Mr. Lipton should consider adding to his question repertoire.
So let me ask you a question.
What startling idea have you recently tripped over?