It was a day like no other, one she would remember for the rest of her life. Maxine Foster clicked off the television, her eyes blurry with tears and loaded every single Elvis Presley album she owned on the Zenith record player and pushed the lever.
“Well, it’s one for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to get ready,
Now go, cat, go.”
Holding her sides, she crumbled to the floor and cried inconsolably. It couldn’t be true. No, he couldn’t be dead.
Find out more about Maxine in Waiting available here.
If you’re looking for a good summer read, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Renee Macalino Rutledge’s debut novel, The Hour of Daydreams. This book is a reimagined Filipino folktale where myth and realism inhabit the same house. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to know more about the author. Maybe you will, too.
Renee was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in California from the age of four. She received her bachelor of arts in English from UC Berkeley and master of fine arts in English and Creative Writing from Mills College. Her articles on arts and culture, parenting, and lifestyle have appeared in ColorLines, Haute Living Magazine, Oakland and Alameda Magazine, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The East Bay Monthly, The Children’s Advocate, Parents’ Press, Red Tricycle, and others. Her reporting on minority issues facing Filipinos was nominated for a New American Media Award and New California Media Award by the editors of Filipinas Magazine. Her fiction and creative nonfiction can be found in Red Earth Review, 580 Split, Mutha Magazine, Women Writers, Women’s Books, The Ford City Anthology, and Literary Hub.
1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?
Like many writers, I’ve enjoyed reading and writing since I was a child. “How will you use your writing?” was always a question I was asked. When I decided to become an English major in college, the assumption was that I’d be a teacher. The truth is, good writing is an asset in many fields, from business to journalism to nonprofit work. I’d written for all of those industries before (and while) buckling down to write The Hour of Daydreams, my first book.
2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?
Last week, I wrote for an average of 20 minutes a day. The week before that, I wrote once, for a single block of about 2 hours at a very late hour. My writing routine feels rather skimpy and pathetic at the moment. But I try to be forgiving to myself, because I’ve spent a lot of my designated writing time doing things like completing this interview. I’m still invested in my first book, and helping it to succeed and find readers. But those rather skimpy writing sessions are starting to pay off—I’m thinking about my new book more and more.
3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?
I wrote four drafts of The Hour of Daydreams.
4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?
It’s more like an accumulation of best things, and of bad, rather than a single thing from either category standing out above the rest. Of course, signing with Forest Avenue Press was a high, but working closely with publisher Laura Stanfill has been too, as has feeling the support from my community, hearing from readers, seeing the book in the bookstore, overcoming my fear of public speaking to do readings and interviews. There are also many darker turns, from worrying about sales/exposure to wishing I had more time to write to getting radio silence after a personal pitch to insecurity about how good I am. But I try not to spend much time in the darker moments. There’s too much to be appreciative of. My trick to “detoxing mentally” is to spend a day in nature. If you don’t have time for that, take a walk around your neighborhood, feel the beat of your footsteps against the pavement, your heartbeat, your breath. If you are a parent, humor is your best friend. Kids are so darn funny and endearing—not to mention that they are creativity in motion.
5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?
I’m a nonfiction book editor and I love reading books for a living. I hate that I can’t write my own books for a living.
6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?
Love to read at all times. Many favorite authors, including Toni Morrison, Marguerite Duras, Italo Calvino, Haruki Murakami, Lysley Tenorio, Mario Vargas Llosa, Rene Denfeld, and Vanessa Hua.
7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?
“Write the story you believe,” from Yiyun Li and referring specifically to The Hour of Daydreams in its infancy stage. Any advice that claims there’s something specific you have to do religiously is the worst, and really it’s up to each of us to find our own rhythm, pace, and discipline.
8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?
Time, reading, and practice have been my most faithful mentors.
9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?
I once invoked the ghost of Gabriel Garcia Marquez to help me stay motivated, keep the fire, write like a beast. I like to think he heard me.
10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
A scientist or naturalist. Maybe an accountant or psychologist. Or an archaeologist or historian. Or perhaps a social worker or career counselor or zoologist. Or a realtor or librarian or ESL teacher. I’d still like to be all of these things plus many more.
11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?
“The creative adult is the child who has survived.” -Ursula LeGuin
12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?
I’m working on a parenting essay on creativity, and a short story about a Filipino American child’s relationship with her grandmother and an older neighbor in the California suburbs, and novel research. The next novel is getting clearer in my mind the more I research. I’m learning so much about the world and the time. I’m really excited to start writing when the moment is right.
13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?
Go to college again—relearn everything. Get my MFA again—make the most of that writing time. Life is a never-ending learning process.
14) What advice would you give beginning writers?
Write like only you can.
15) Something we don’t know about you?
I’ve have strange pregnancy experiences while abroad. Got bitten by a monkey in the face in Costa Rica during my first pregnancy; was in the Gracia neighborhood of Spain when I was surprised by the knowledge of my second pregnancy. No more babies for me. But I’ve been dreaming of my grandchildren since I was in my twenties.
And, what would you like us to know about your latest release?
The Hour of Daydreams is now available online and in bookstores. Thanks for reading!
Words of encouragement are flooding social media this month. Words like hope, peace, love, respect, patience, and even no. As a writer, I’d like to offer another. Self-sabotage. That thing many writers do to avoid moving forward.
I’m not the queen of sabotage, but I know how to procrastinate. Take this book I’ve been working on for almost twenty years. Ten years ago I shopped this book around thinking it was finished. But clearly it wasn’t or I’d be collecting royalties instead of avoiding revisions.
Why isn’t it finished? It isn’t because I don’t know how to write or deliver a product. It isn’t that I don’t love the idea of this book, I do. The only reason I can offer is that I’ve gotten in the habit of avoiding this project. Every time I set out to finish this book something gets in the way. Here are some of the ways I’ve sabotaged the completion of this book.
1) I can’t work on this book until I finish xxx. Insert clean the house, take the dogs for a walk, or do the laundry.
Life is messy and has a way of getting in the way of writing. There will always be something else that needs attention. Pretending I can’t write until the dishwasher is loaded only prolongs the project. Instead of waiting until everything is done, I need to make working on this project a priority. First thing in the morning I need to sit down and revise a chapter. Before anything else. Waiting until I have a big chunk of time to work isn’t the answer and is just a lazy excuse.
2) I need to do more research.
After twenty years I should have more than enough information to finish this book. And if I don’t I can make it up. After all, it’s fiction, not non-fiction.
3) I don’t have the skills to write this story.
Recently I listened to Alice Hoffman discuss writing. She said a writer needs to write every day. Only by writing every day do you become a better writer. So stop waiting until you have the skill level you seek. Start writing and it will come.
4) It’s not perfect, so why bother.
Good writing is revisions, lots of them. Anne Lamott says write a messy first draft. Get the story down and then do the work of revisions. That’s where skill and magic happen, in the honing of words.
5) I need feedback on this chapter before I continue.
Maybe, but probably not. Even if you are lucky enough to have friends and family who offer to read your work and comment, this can be a big way to sabotage your writing. Reading is subjective and you will get good comments and bad comments. The time for constructive feedback is after the book is done. When you know the ending of your story, you’re better equipped to identify weak plot points and motivation. Too much advice while you’re being creative and writing can stop your story dead. Rely on your gut and trust the process.
6) I’m not smart enough to write this story.
If that is true, than put it away and work on something else. Just because you don’t feel adequate to complete this story doesn’t mean you can’t produce a sexier, better story. Learn to let go. Not everything you write is golden.
7) I need to turn off the internal editor.
Often the fear of failing, or even the fear of succeeding, can prevent me from finishing a project. Yes, criticism is scary. But it’s part of the process. Don’t let fear prevent you from achieving your goal. Writing can be scary, learn to work through the fear.
8) I can’t write until I get in the mood.
The longer you work as a writer the more it becomes a job and there are days you won’t want to go to work. Waiting for the mood to strike could mean days without writing, a sure way to shoot yourself in the foot. Many times I sit down to write, in a bad mood because I don’t want to write that day, and like magic my muse shows up and I produce some pretty amazing stuff. If you want to be a good writer, write even when you don’t want to. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
9) Illness gets in the way.
My goal for 2017 is to finish this book. I had a good start, with four chapters revised before I ended up in the hospital with a nasty gallbladder. See, I told my son, this book doesn’t want to be finished. And, yes, sometimes I feel like that. But the book isn’t the writer, I am the writer, and no one else is going to finish this book but me.
Self-sabotage diminishes passion and energy. It’s just an excuse to keep you from moving forward. If you’re in the habit of self-sabotaging yourself, try to identify why. Then work toward reaching your goal. You’re in control. Only you can do it.
I’ve been quiet and you probably think I fell into the ocean or got blown away by coastal storms. But no, I’m still here, learning all I can about my new home.
The reason I’ve been silent is that I’ve been busy. For a tiny dot on the map between Yachats and Lincoln City, Newport’s population is about the same as the town I left in Idaho. If you want a Costco or a Lowe’s you have to drive several miles, just like I did in Idaho. But unlike the town I left behind, there is so much more to do here I barely have time to read, let alone write.
Check out the latest issue of Oregon Coast Today and you will see there is always something going on. Add to that everything happening in The Valley between here and Portland and there is no time to be bored. Ever.
Take for instance last weekend. Since I don’t like to drive Portland traffic my son quietly obliged, taking me to Portland’s annual book festival Wordstock. I was so revitalized I’m still vibrating. My favorite author, Alice Hoffman, was in town and spoke about her new book Faithful. She even signed my copy and thanked me for stopping by. So many other talented writers attended, not to mention many Oregon presses including Ooligan Press, Tin House, and my favorite, Laura Stanfill from Forest Avenue Press. If that wasn’t great enough, admission to the event included admittance to the Portland Art Museum and the Andy Warhol exhibit. Now my son was vibrating, snapping pictures and studying one-of-a-kind art. Yes, it was raining. But in spite of the rain, it was a positive, energizing day.
That evening my family took in The Drowsy Chaperone, a musical put on by my grandson Dante’s high school class. The students were top notch, high energy, and amazing. The day ended with dinner at The Ram and a glass of wine. Perfect.
Many people told me I was crazy to move to Oregon. Several said I’d get depressed and miss the sun. And even though I miss my friends in Idaho, and sometimes I do miss the sun, mostly I love it here. Even when it’s raining.
We’ve always been explorers, enjoying the back roads of Idaho and now Oregon. We’re not cityites who like to stare at window displays or order lattes. We like to travel back roads, sip home-brewed coffee, and enjoy the scenery.
Knowing we liked quiet places for our dogs to run, a neighbor told us to check out the road from Beaver Creek to Toledo. “It’s mostly gravel,” he said, “and it’s easy to get lost. There isn’t much traffic. Nice drive, though.”
Enjoying a challenge, we filled our coffee mugs, gathered our dogs, headed south on 101, and turned east toward Beaver Creek. We turned left where the road teed and stopped at the Beaver Creek Welcome Center, hoping they’d have a map of the area.
No maps, just a volunteer. “Follow that road,” he said. “Stay left.” He pondered a moment. “Turns to gravel. Think it’s twenty or thirty miles. Been a while since I drove it. If you get lost, you can always turn around and come back.”
We looked at each other. Turning back was rarely an option. Not when we wanted to see something new.
After considerable conversation, we waved a cheerful goodbye and followed the road. Within minutes we stopped at a small park with a picnic table and a large area for the dogs to run. While the dogs sniffed bushes, we picked blackberries and chomped on half-ripe apples from a nearby tree.
“Yuk.” I spit out the bitter fruit.
“Just right,” my husband said happily.
We rounded up the dogs, got back in the truck, and continued on.
No cars tried to pass us. No trucks met us head-on. The only vehicle on the road, we traveled slowly enjoying the drive, heavy with vegetation on both sides of the road.
“Reminds me of the road to Fall Creek,” I said, commenting on the dense undergrowth. But instead of seeing obelisks of mullein and ponderosa pine, the shoulders of these roads were thick with evening primrose, foxglove, and purple loosestrife. I gawked out the window trying to identify the plants: Queen Anne’s Lace, mountain ash, ocean spray, and wild rose. Many more varieties than I would see traveling the gravel road from Fall Creek to Featherville, which held mostly fern and pine.
“Look,” my husband said as two velveted buck dashed in front of us. He hit the brakes and we watched them dart into the trees. We knew they were watching us, waiting for us to leave. But try as we might, we couldn’t spy an eye or an antler.
Moving on, it wasn’t long before we hit gravel. The vegetation grew thicker, canopying the narrow road. Blackberry vines reached toward the truck, each branch heavy with green berries. We were driving into a jungle, secluded and uninhabited, with no signs to guide us.
“Wonder if we should turn around?” my husband said, recalling the words of the Beaver Creek volunteer. Unwilling to give up, we moved forward, deeper into the forest.
“Must be on the right road,” my husband said when we finally spotted a mile marker that looked lost on the gravel road.
“How many miles did he say?” I asked.
“Twenty or thirty.”
We’d been driving almost an hour, but I couldn’t judge mileage. We were moving slow, sometimes five miles an hour, up, then down, wind around a corner. Wind around another corner so dark with shade we couldn’t see the sun.
Climbing again, we broke out onto a sunny hilltop. The panorama of the valley was jaw-dropping, worth the worry of getting lost.
“I know where we are now,” my husband said. “Toledo is right over there.”
Leaving the forest behind, we headed down. Minutes later we were on familiar asphalt again.
“Not even twenty miles,” my husband said.
“Not bad at all,” I said. “Perfect way to spend an afternoon.”
And the very best part of the drive was that we didn’t once have to turn around.