By Theresa Miller
Writer Antonia Crane has just published her first book, and we got to sit down with her to talk about it. She shares some great advice and lets us in on her writing process. We’re proud to say that Antonia is a past Writing Pad student.
1. You just published your memoir, Spent. Congratulations! What’s your book about?
It’s about sex and death. Meaning, you think you are reading a story about a bold girl who works in the sex industry, but it’s really about a girl who goes to see her mother die and the love she has for her mother. It explores the ways we fall apart and the places we hide ourselves when raging with grief.
2. What led you to sign up for a Writing Pad class and tell us about the kinds of classes you have taken at Writing Pad?
My friend Paul Maisano (who just got accepted for a full ride to Iowa Writer’s Workshop!) and I decided to take the class together on a whim. I can’t remember exactly how we found Writing Pad. Maybe we snatched up a flyer at a coffee shop in Silverlake. I’ve been taking classes at Writing Pad since 2004. It sparked my imagination and prepared me for grad school. Marilyn led the class with fun, compelling writing prompts and I did my best to keep up. We laughed a lot.
3. How did taking classes at Writing Pad improve your writing/help your writing career?
Writing Pad has very much served as a launching pad for me. The first story I worked directly with Marilyn. She came to my house and explained her edits to me. I was awkward about feedback at that time. Now I love it and see it as a huge generosity. That essay was later published in Black Clock journal #11 called “Rosebud” and it also awarded me a scholarship to attend Squaw Valley Community of Writers. It’s also a section in my book. I’ve especially enjoyed Writing Pad’s essay classes. Marilyn always brings in experienced, personable instructors. I’m now enjoying Chris Reed’s screenwriting class because I’m trying to adapt my book into a screenplay.
4. You’re a columnist for The Rumpus, a contributing editor for The Weeklings, senior editor and founder of The Citron Review, and a Moth StorySlam winner. You’ve also published essays in Playboy, The Believer, The Los Angeles Review, Salon and DAME Magazine. You are also a teacher. What is your writing process? How do you balance teaching, reading your writing and finding time to write?
It’s a struggle. I wish there were 4+ more hours in the day. I have to be very structured, but the plan often bombs because survival can get in the way of writing/reading time. I am a fast reader and editor but a slow writer. I like to write when I’m fresh in the morning so I carve out time to do that. I also have to devote a certain amount of time to reading, editing student work and working directly with authors who submit work to The Weeklings and The Citron Review. I also run, mentor girls in a 12-step program and wait tables. And I devote time building my literary community, which means paying attention to other writers work, attending their events and writing reviews. When I look at this on paper, it seems impossible, but I’m particularly driven because I have a burning desire to write, I do it every day. It’s like brushing my teeth. I don’t have a family, kids or a significant other, so I get to work without certain demands on my time.
5. In reference to your book “Spent”, Stephen Elliott (The Adderall Diaries) said that your writing will “change how you look at the world”. Why do you think he said that? What is unique about your perspective and writing style?
Stephen Elliott is very generous and has been very kind to me and lots of other writers. I’m not exactly sure what he meant. I think all writing changes the way we see the world. I just read a collection of short stories by Adam Wilson, “What’s Important is Feeling” and it altered my perspective. Wilson has a way of being extremely casual about things that are incredibly heavy and his endings shift the ground beneath you. His stories were surprising in a great way. Cheryl Strayed and Roxane Gay’s work change and inform the way I look at the world because they have access to deep emotions and huge political problems that they address so that they feel extremely personal. Maybe Stephen was thinking about the places in my book that goes into the grisly spaces of sex work and the strange intimacy of it that isn’t often revealed. The sex worker memoirs I have read (and enjoyed) are a bit coarse and I wanted to avoid that. I hope my book offers a new perspective.
6. What advice can you give writers looking to break into the industry?
I don’t know how to break into the industry. In some ways my path was conventional because I got an MFA. After speaking to many writers who have books out and some success, I’m not sure that they feel they have “made it” as writers. Anyone who wishes to write, I would say read everything and toughen your skin because the rejection is big time and all the time and forever. But keep reading and keep writing anyway because you have to, not to get fame or attention or Twitter followers. Good writing will always shine.
Thanks Antonia! That was really helpful and fascinating. We are so excited for your memoir Spent! Click on the link and buy a copy–it’s an excellent read.