AN EVENING WITH TOMMY ORANGE | SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY CREATIVE WRITING DEPARTMENT

AN EVENING WITH TOMMY ORANGE | SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY CREATIVE WRITING DEPARTMENT

October 26, 2019 1 By Stanley Isaacs


>>Wait, we’re going to start. They should be turning
on in a few seconds.>>Hello, hello, hello. Thank you. I’m so happy to see
all these people here. It’s wonderful. I’m Nona Caspers. I’m the current chair of the
Creative Writing Department. I am doing light framing at
the beginning of this event, because really it is
the Fourteen Hills– it’s the Fourteen Hills editors
and graduate students along with Carolina De
Robertis who did the work to make this event happen. One more sentence. The– So the Creative Writing
Department has been very lucky this year. And we are very grateful
to have received a Marcus, George and Judy Marcus
Foundation for excellence in creative writing
endowment which means money, which made it possible for
us to support the department, to support Fourteen Hills which
is the national literary review that sponsored by the department
and by the university. In this, their 10th Gina
Berriault Award celebration, and tonight we very lucky
to have with us and to honor with the Gina Berriault Award, the author of the thank
goodness, it hit the world, that’s what I call it. The thank goodness, it hit the
world novel, “There There”. Tommy Orange. [ Applause and Cheering ] He does not like to
be forced to dance. Just so you know. Nobody try it. Danny Bueno and Nik Greene who
is the current editor-in-chief of Fourteen Hills,
please take the stage and introduce Tommy Orange. [ Applause and Cheering ]>>Before we begin,
please take a second and silence your cell phones. Nice. Thanks. Welcome. I’m Nik Greene, creative writing MFA
candidate here at SF State and the current editor-in-chief
of Fourteen Hills, San Francisco State’s
Graduate Run Literary Journal.>>My name is Danny Bueno. I’m also a creative
writing MFA student here. I did my undergrad at San
Francisco State University in creative writing as well. I’ve studied with some
amazing professors who continue to help me grow. And to me, this school
represents in its history and the people that are a
part of it, true community. I’m honored to be
here with you tonight. [ Applause ]>>Tonight, we’re here
to honor the winner of the 2019 Gina
Berriault Award. But first, I want to say
thank you to the many people who have helped make
tonight possible. Professor Caspers, the Creative
Writing Department chair, you just met, along with Jane
George and Katherine Kwid from the department office
for the 100 things they did to manifest tonight,
and 100 things, 100 things I know they
did and 100 things that I don’t know they did. Dan Shifren for his notes on Gina Berriault
Award ceremonies past, many Fourteen Hills’ editors
and staff, I don’t have time to think individually. I appreciate all your efforts. And finally, I’d like to
thank Professor De Robertis. Without her energy,
encouragement, and enthusiasm tonight
cannot have happened. As Professor Caspers already
mentioned, we at Fourteen Hills, along with the Creative
Writing Department and Marcus Fund are overjoyed
to celebrate this year’s winner of the Gina Berriault
Award, Tommy Orange. The award was inaugurated
in 2009 to pay homage to Gina Berriault, a former
San Francisco State professor, who displayed a selflessness
and unflinching compassion in her writing and as a teacher. Since then, each
year, we find a writer who brings a similar
spirit to their work. Born Arline Shandling in Long
Beach, California in 1926 to Russian Jewish
immigrant parents, Gina Berriault started
writing early, inspired in part by her father. And over the years
turned out four novels, three short story collections, which collectively earned her
the National Books Critics Circle Award, a PEN/Faulkner
Award, two of Henry Awards, and the Paris Reviews
Aga Khan Fiction Prize. Through her career, Berriault
was known as a writer’s writer. Tobin Harshaw reviewing
women in their beds, and for The New York Times
wrote, “One struggles to find a sentence
that is anything less than jewel box perfect.” But Berriault was a hidden
jewel, not known as well as she should have been, which is partly why former SF
State Professor Peter Orner along with Fourteen Hills
Press created an award to honor both Berriault and the
living writer whose work met the same and lightened
standards as hers. Past winners include
Adam Johnson, Yiyun Li, Cristina Garcia, and
NoViolet Bulawayo. Today’s honoree, Tommy Orange, with his novel “There
There” matches, Gina Berriault’s combination
of sparkling prose, boundless empathy, a love of
storytelling, and in addition, his demonstrated
commitment to teaching and helping young writers.>>And here we are tonight at
San Francisco State University, an institution of higher
learning that has been a leader in humanistic and
artistic endeavors. We celebrate 50 years since
the protests and the strike that brought us our
Ethnic Studies Department, as well as our branch of the
Creative Writing Department. [ Applause and Cheering ] And we continue in that
vain of art and humanism to honor a great American
novel “There There” and the artists behind it. I’m honored both as a Native
American and as a writer to have Tommy Orange
here with us. I come with– I actually
connect with this novel on a very personal level. My father is Native
American and our family comes from the [inaudible] Pueblo
and White Mountain Apache, growing up with my grandparents,
uncles, aunts, cousins, and my father, hearing
stories and histories from them is something that I’ve
always felt lucky to have had. When I read “There
There” for the first time, I was taken aback by
how familiar it was, almost like I was getting one
of those stories from my family, almost like reading
a story of my family. “There There” explores being
Native American, but also being of mixed heritage was such
a truth and tenderness. “There There” shows
characters who, like Walt Whitman said,
contain multitudes. It’s easy to see that Tommy
Orange honors his history, as well as the stories of
modern living Native Americans. He also honors the
city where he lived. “There There” is truly a
Berriault and Oakland novel. As writers were often told
to write what we know. And Tommy Orange showcases
how to write what’s right under our noses, and to
artistically elevate it with the craft of
words and language. He shows how to represent
our history and our home at the same time, even if
those things are different. I was able to meet Tommy
Orange right before this novel came out. And it was so wonderful
talking with him hearing where he came from, where
he was heading to next. And we were able to connect
not only on our heritage but as writers and as
well as just both being from Northern California. Meeting him I knew I’d found a
kindred soul, one of compassion for people both in
and out of stories, a deep care for all experience,
as well as the way he spoke of his writing and
encouraged others to write. I continue to be
inspired by his journey. [ Applause ]>>And Danny is not the only one in the school who’s
been inspired by Tommy Orange’s writing. A year ago, when I
and other editors at Fourteen Hills were tasked
with finding a worthy recipient for the Gina Berriault Award,
our design editor, Rachel, who had recently
read “There There” and Professor May-lee
Chai’s class asked me, what about Tommy Orange? Haven’t you read this book? I have not. But on Rachel’s recommendation,
I did. And similar to Danny, I was
floored by this book’s scope, its kaleidoscopic point of
view, its complex structure, its resonant themes of
loss, identity and unity, and especially its language for
Tommy Orange, like Berriault, craft sentences that are
nothing short of mesmerizing. And we’re not the only ones to have given this book
its deserved acclaim. “There There” was short– was long listed for the
National Book Award, won the Hemingway
Foundation PEN Award. And it was a 2019
finalist for one of the most prestigious awards in literature, the
Pulitzer Prize. [ Cheering and Applause ]>>And no one voice can
represent a community. Tommy Orange’s characters range from Gen Z years
to baby boomers. He weaves a tapestry of family
and relationships that are as complex as the
native experience itself. Tommy Orange is also able to
write the pain and suffering of his characters right next to their transcendence
and their beauty. Tony Loneman ran and he
never stopped running. Tommy Orange fuses
together emotional elements that gives his story
an authentic complexity that rings true to life. And it’s not just these
emotional aspects that are side by side, but also
a wonderful play with the past and the present. In “There There” Tommy
Orange show stories passed down generational
beliefs of native people. While equally giving breath to
our current use of technology, whether it’s drones, 3D
printing, text messaging, internet forum, Tommy Orange
gives reverence to the song, to the dance, and to the drum, right next to a hip
hop master MF Doom. From the context and foundation
laid of the real history in the prologue and interlude,
to the epigraphs, quoting, great writers such as
Baldwin and Baudelaire, to the way Tommy Orange
renders the breathing, pulsing, urban experience with a
setting that is as real as the characters on the page. Tommy Orange as Nik
described Gina Berriault is a writer’s writer.>>So we’re going to
honor two writers tonight. But I think we can take a moment
and also honor all writers and recognize the powerture
[phonetic] of literature in books, books written by
authors who crafted work, challenging our preconceived
perceptions of the world, speaking truth to
institutions of power, attempting to capture
the weirdness of living on this planet right now. Literature is an
incredible technology. In “There There”, we
can be with Blue hiding in the bathroom stall,
the Greyhound Station, or Daniel Gonzales as
he flies his drone right over the lip of the coliseum. But we don’t just
experience their actions or see the things they see. We’re actually inside their
thoughts and feelings, their dreams and their memories. We’re actually inside the mind of another person even
if they’re fictional. In “There There”, Dene Oxendene
says, when you hear stories from people like you,
you feel less alone. Dene he speaks the truth. And stories don’t only
bring people together they expand outwards. When you read, your consciousness
alters to include others. Your understanding of
them grows, the heights, the depths of human
experience are revealed. Books are empathy
machines, they change us. I don’t know for better
or nicer afterwards, but hopefully we’re wiser. So please support writers and
you can do this by reading them. Fiction writers like Tommy
Orange, Jamel Brinkley, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Carmen
Maria Machado, Reid Melville, and Morrison and Garcia
Marquez, support poets too and journalists, memoirists,
from New York Times bestsellers, to your professors,
to Danny’s book, “When not if”, he publishes it. If you can afford to buy their
books, but most importantly read and listen to the
stories they have to tell.>>And Tommy Orange has
shown how important it is to have a voice that’s heard. A voice that tells the
real history of cultures that are oppressed, unheard,
and not as widely known. In a time where there’s
so much misunderstanding and misrepresentation,
Tommy Orange and his novel “There There” shows how powerful
and honest and soulful voice within those oppressed
cultures can be. Tommy Orange is a graduate of
the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts,
where he now teaches. He’s an enrolled member of the
Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. He was born and raised
in Oakland, California. His debut novel “There There”
won the PEN/Hemingway award, was long listed for the National
Book Award, and shortlisted for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize. Tonight, we add one more
honor to a deserving voice with the Gina Berriault Award. Let’s please give a warm
welcome to Tommy Orange. [ Applause ]>>The rest of what you’ll hear for me is surely to
be disappointing. Thank you so much. That was beautiful. I appreciate that. Yeah, so it’s been
about a year and a half since the book came out,
a little longer than that since my whole life has changed
in pretty significant way. But well before that, I was
here at San Francisco State because I told my
boss I was a writer. And she’s sort of
struggling to have– to find native writers
in her classroom. So is Esther Lucero, she
was a teacher at the time. I was working at the Native
American Health Center in Oakland, and she
brought me to her classroom. And I read some garbage story. And, you know, even while
I was reading it just felt like I was complete fraud. And I was. And in some ways I still am. And the feeling I don’t
think ever goes away. And me saying, I still
am maybe you could argue that that’s not true,
but it’s the feeling of it doesn’t go away. Feeling like you ever
deserved to be where you are. That same year, I had
started writing this book. And my wife was a
project director for a native youth
suicide prevention grant. And I’d also told my wife,
I was a writer obviously. And she was putting together
a thing for the youth to– we brought them to Alcatraz
and we brought them up to your out country and did
a cultural exchange. And then to UC Berkeley
for an author’s reading, and so I was an author. But I’d never published a thing. Even though I– one of
the many places I tried to publish was Fourteen Hills. [ Laughter and Applause ] But it was a year I after
starting to write it, that I started writing this
book that I was to read to native youth who– they
brought me and I was like a jack of all trades, did
a lot of flyers. I designed way too
many bad flyers and still done probably
data entry. And– But they brought me
in to be with native youth because I look like
a native youth. And they hadn’t– so my wife had
me read what I’d written up to that point, which was a year
into writing this novel. And I’m going to read
you something right now, from the novel that I read to
them that remained in the novel. And reading to them and
having them react to it after seeing them not react to
so much that we did for them, which not to criticize them. It’s just, you know, it’s hard
to reach youth in general, especially with readings
from authors. But they reacted in
an emotional way. And it really spurred
me on from that point. This was like 2013
at UC Berkeley. So I’m just going to read
a little bit from that. Thank you all for coming out. Thank you, Carolina,
for coordinating. This is from the prologue, which
everyone calls an essay now, like, like I was bringing
something new form to the novel, like, include essays in a novel. And that’s not what
I was doing at all. I just want to dispel that
idea that I was like bring– I was just like,
this is a prologue. You can do whatever you want in
prologue, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t trying to bring
an essay form to the novel. Hard, Fast. Getting us to cities was
supposed to be the final, necessary step in our
assimilation, absorption, erasure, the completion of a
500-year-old genocidal campaign. But the city made us
new, and we made it ours. We didn’t get lost amidst
the sprawl of tall buildings, the stream of anonymous masses,
the ceaseless din of traffic. We found one other,
started up Indian Centers, brought out our families
and powwows, our dances, our songs, our beadwork. We bought and rented
homes, slept on the streets, under freeways, we went to
school, joined the armed forces, populated Indian bars in
the Fruitvale in Oakland, and in the Mission
in San Francisco. We lived in boxcar
villages in Richmond. We made art and we made babies
and we made way for our people to go back and forth
between reservation and city. We did not move to
cities to die. The sidewalks and streets, the
concrete absorbed our heaviness. The glass, metal, rubber,
and wires, the speed, the hurtling masses,
the city took us in. We were not Urban Indians then. This was part of the Indian
Relocation Act, which was part of the Indian Termination
Policy, which was and is exactly what
it sounds like. Make them look and act like us. Become us. And so disappear. But it wasn’t just like that. Plenty of us came by choice,
to start over, to make money, or for a new experience. Some of us came to cities
to escape the reservation. We stayed after fighting in the Second World
War after Vietnam too. We stayed because the
city sounds like a war, and you can’t leave a
war once you’ve been, you can only keep it at bay,
which is easier when you can see and hear it near you, that fast
metal, that constant firing around you, cars up
and down the streets and freeways like bullets. The quiet of the reservation,
the side-of-the-highway towns, rural communities, that kind
of silence just makes the sound of your brain on fire
that much more pronounced. Plenty of us are urban now. If not because we live in
cities than because we live on the internet,
inside the high rise of multiple browser windows. They used to call us sidewalk
Indians, called us citified, superficial, inauthentic,
cultureless refugees, apples. An apple is red on the outside
and white on the inside. But what we are is
what our ancestors did. How they survived. We are the memories we don’t
remember, which live in us, which we feel, which
make us sing and dance and pray the way we do, feelings
from memories that flare and bloom unexpectedly
in our lives like blood through a blanket from a
wound made by a bullet fired by a man shooting us in the back
for our hair, for our heads, for a bounty, or just
to get rid of us. When they first came for
us with their bullets, we didn’t stop moving even
though the bullets moved twice as fast as the sound
of our screams. And even when their heat
and speed broke our skin, shattered our bones, skulls,
pierced our hearts, we kept on. Even when we saw the bullets
send our bodies flailing through the air like flags, like
the many flags and buildings that went up in place of everything we knew
this land to be before. The bullets were
premonitions, ghosts from dreams of a hard fast future. The bullets moved on
after moving through us, became the promise of what
was to come, the speed and the killing, the hard fast
lines of borders and buildings. They took everything
and ground it down to dust as fine
as gunpowder. They fired their guns
into the air in victory and the strays flew out
into the nothingness of histories written wrong
and meant to be forgotten. Stray bullets and
consequences are landing on our unsuspecting
bodies even now. Urban Indians were that
generation born in the city. We’ve been moving
for a long time, but the land moves
with you like memory. An Urban Indian belongs
to the city, and cities belong to the earth. Everything here is formed in
relation to every other living and nonliving thing from the
earth, all our relations. The process that brings anything
to its current form, chemical, synthetic, technological,
or otherwise, doesn’t make the product not
a product of the living earth, buildings, freeways, cars,
are these not of the earth? Were they shipped in
from Mars, the moon? Is it because they’re
processed, manufactured, or that we handle them? Are we so different? Were we at one time not
something else entirely, homosapiens, single-celled
organisms, space dust, unidentifiable pre-bang
quantum theory? Cities form in the
same way as galaxies. Urban Indians feel at
home walking in the shadow of a downtown building. We came to know the downtown
Oakland skyline better than we did any sacred
mountain range, the redwoods in the Oakland hills better
than any other deep wild forest. We know the sound of the freeway
better than we do rivers, the howl of distant trains
better than wolf howls. We know the smell of gas
and freshly wet concrete, and burnt rubber better than we
do the smell of cedar or sage or even frybread, which
isn’t traditional, like reservations
aren’t traditional. But nothing is original. Everything comes from
something that came before, which was once nothing. Everything is new and doomed. We ride buses, trains,
and cars across, over, and under concrete plains. Being Indian has never been
about returning to the land. The land is everywhere
or nowhere. [ Applause ] So if there’s a little
more time, is that OK?>>[Simultaneously] Yes.>>I’m sorry to read
off of my phone. There’s something that
I wrote a long time ago. I don’t think I submitted
it to Fourteen Hills. But I looked at it
again recently. My phone stopped
working this morning and so new phone special
shout out to our poor Diaz for his graciousness
this morning, he’s a wonderful person sitting
out in the audience here, a round of applause for her. [ Applause ] But let me read off my phone. DJ Ron. I get paid
for what I do. But I never exactly
been a dreamer. I’m a DJ at small
bars in Oakland. So it’s obviously kind
of dumb what I do. But people move to
what I play at least, and all the drinks might
be doing the better share of the work. I’m still there before the crest
of sound, pressing buttons, and turning knobs, and well. I’m not proud but I
get paid a little. So I work like everyone
else had a job that helps to pay the bills and allows me
the funds to buy new records and gear and allows me to
spend time at bars on nights. I’m not working when I’m
actually working doing the real work which is making friends and
acquaintances to let them know when I play and convince them to
come listen, so I have a crowd, so I keep getting
paid to come back. I’ve always found
ever since I was a kid that if you have something
to look forward to, you can get through anything. The trick is finding
some shaky love enough that you can look forward
to it, because if you run out of that, you’re fucked. I know, because it’s
happened to me too. And when you run out and you’re
just going through the motions of life with no enjoyment, you
start to dig your own grave. And I don’t mean
like metaphorically, I think you actually start
building disease like the start of some future deadly cancer,
you can pull over closer to your vital organs and shed
if you stop enjoying this life and it just making your way through without anything
to look forward to. Because that’s what the
whole thing is set up for, for us to look forward and
move toward that thing. We’re looking forward to whether
that’d be some future marriage or kids or house
or car retirement or enlightenment or
I don’t know what. There are some great
job or fame or award. I don’t know what people dream
about or look forward to. I just know what
I look forward to. And it’s not some
distant future. It’s just the next time I
could DJ at a club or in a bar at home alone with my headphones
and I’m blunt if I can get it which sometimes my
buddy Ron doesn’t roll through for me on
a weekly basis. Like when he goes out
of town, didn’t tell me. He’ll just not show
up Monday morning when he usually comes
before I go to work. The restaurant I
work at Washington DC to supplement my income. Actually, it’s how I
make most of my money. The DJing is the supplement. We got one of those high
powered high heat hoses I use with thick rubber gloves
so I don’t get burned. And I just stand there
and fucking spray the shit out of those dishes until
they’re super smooth the food and ready to dry in order
to go back out on the floor and it doesn’t stop
the whole time. I’m there at my shift just
one dish or glass or piece of silverware at a
time but I don’t mind because my shift goes
by and it’s done. And I don’t have to think
single thought about work again in the rest of the day, which
wasn’t the case where I used to work doing nonprofit stuff
in downtown Oakland over there at youth radio, where I help
kids learn about production and broadcasting and all the
show I learned at SF State, or I graduated a
million years ago. Back then I was all serious,
like something big would happen, like I’d end up in a studio
recording big time, big timers. But this was analog
recording when I was there. And that should all
became irrelevant on me like overnight it fell. I stayed in those dorms as old military plus old
missionary haunted ass buildings with three other dudes who
dreamed the same dream as me. What is it about
being young and dumb? It’s just dream attenuation. Like what you do to sound
if it gets too loud. You realize when you get older,
you were dreaming too loud. So you make it smaller. So, you know, you can get
there at least nearing. After I graduated, I decided
I just wanted to make music. I got near it because even
if that just ended up looking like putting other people’s
music together seamlessly in the dark, so drunk people that never think
the songs ended, so they’d stay and
keep drinking. That’s why they paid me what
they paid me which wasn’t much and the drinks for free. Tonight I’m going to
this warehouse party with my buddy Ron. Yeah, it’s the same
Ron who sells me weed. We’re actually friends and don’t
just pretend to be when it comes over to selling me weed. I don’t know who’s
playing tonight. I just wanted to go out with it. Being one of my friends is sets
and just do something Ron wanted to do because Ron was
always coming to my shows. So, you know, I’m trying
to be a good friend and be reciprocal or whatever. Actually, my DJ name is
DJ Ron because of Ron. I didn’t know its how
plain and dumb sounding but it seemed funny at the
time that I made it up. And Ron thought it was
too and we were high and just becoming good friends. So that seemed to seal it. Plus, now, that I’m
somewhat known, I made enough to
get regular gigs. I can’t change it because
I would lose business because people know me
as DJ Ron and show up. They see my name
in a fire at a bar. So I’m stuck with DJ Ron
which is fine and stupid. Me and Ron were at
SF State together. He got his degree in
sound engineering too. We got into selling
weed at first illegally and now legally to clubs. So we obviously made it
the better choice, right? I’ll never forget this one night
when we were there at SF State, we climbed over the walls
of the zoo and tried to see what the animals would do
when they’re not being watched. They do the same thing. This is not the people
watching but the cages that make them how they are. Except one tiger was like
circling his perimeter in this way that seemed
to mean something more. And Ron was like, the
tiger is circling its cage to know its cage better. I didn’t think much of it then. But the thought came
up, still comes up. Like it means something
enough to keep being revealed over time circling our cages to know them better,
or I don’t know. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Wow. Thank you so much
for both of those readings. Weren’t they incredible? [ Applause ] So, good evening everyone. It’s been said, but I’m– just in case, I am
Carolina De Robertis. And I’m the assistant
professor in creative writing. And have been delighted
to be part of the team of making this happen. That was mainly the–
incredibly hard to get into apparently Fourteen
Hills [laughs]. And, and so many other
people in the department. But we’re going to
converse a little bit, have a little bit
of conversation. And then from there,
we’re going to flow into Q&A with the audience. So just be aware that that’s
coming in a few minutes. And feel free to start
percolating with your questions that you might have for Tommy. So I’m so glad you
read that piece that has the SF State
reference, right, this character that’s
actually been to SF State, which I think is a real
gift for all of us have that be visible in the fiction. And how long ago
did you write that?>>I don’t know.>>Yeah.>>I have a lot of old stuff. And I’ll just like,
all my stuff is in Google Drive and Google Docs.>>OK.>>Because I have a history of sleep erasing stuff
from my computer. And that version of myself who is destructively
sleep erased a lot of writing is not sophisticated
enough to erase, and then erase from the garbage
within the online.>>Yeah, so it’s like a child
safety gate for yourself–>>Well, I’ve done–>>– kind of.>>– it on the computer.>>Yeah.>>I’ve emptied the garbage
after erasing the things on my computer, which
is why I switched to writing only on Google Drive. But I’ve yet to erase from– I found all my stuff in
the Google Docs garbage. But it hasn’t been–>>But you found it there.>>– erased from–>>You’ve been able
to retrieve it. So you don’t totally
mess up the technology. So this is a good system.>>Yeah. It hasn’t
happened in a while.>>But there are things that are
lost like that, like lost, lost?>>It has been. It has been. Yeah.>>Is that rough?>>Yeah.>>Yeah [laughs]. It is just rough. And it was, oh, it’s
like, oh, no.>>It’s like a lot of time lost if maybe the writing was
horrible and it probably was, but at the time that you
feel this distinct experience of having devoted
your time to something and all of that is gone. Like the work may not be worth
it, but the time that you spent on it to even consider,
is it worth it? It’s all gone.>>Right. And you’ll never
get back that exact same flow. I mean, even this felt
like there was so much flow in that voice, like the
cadence, the cadence of stream of consciousness
was really powerful. Even hearing it right out
loud, it’s very rhythmic. And you show us that even S
bombs can be lyrical, right? Because there’s like– because
there’s that down to earthiness in the voice and then
there’s also the lyricism of it, it’s very alive. Has it been published?>>No.>>Not yet. I just pulled it out of
wherever it was from.>>I wonder if you’d be willing to consider giving
it to Fourteen Hills.>>If they would consider me.>>The editor-in-chief
might be persuaded.>>I would be happy to have a
home in Fourteen Hills for it.>>All right, you’d be open. All right [applause].>>Yeah.>>Do you see that? That is publishing in action. Awesome. Thank you. It’s amazing.>>I’m going to use
a public platform to pressure Nik into it.>>Yeah, right [laughs].>>Publication.>>Pressure, Nik
Greene, editor-in-chief. Yes. So that’s– I mean, so
we were just actually talking in workshop today at fiction
workshop in the MFA program about this, about having pieces
that you don’t know where to go with next, or they
don’t quite get done or you never make it
to polishing with it. Whether you just don’t
see the vision for it, or you’re working a
lot of things at once, and then the possibility
of circling back to them years later, and
seeing the potential in them or they get absorbed into a
new novel or you return to them or you never returned to them. They’re in the compost heap
forever or the graveyard or whatever metaphor
works, right? Do you ever return
to this old stuff? What do you think?>>Let’s stop using
the dead baby metaphor. Have you heard this one–>>No, which one is this.>>People use this dead baby
metaphor, which is horrible.>>Which is like the–
it’s like a dead baby. The work that you don’t
return to is like a dead baby. That’s great. Well, you know, I have this
compost metaphor for me–>>That’s OK.>>OK. It’s like you
put it in the compost.>>I’m sorry I brought it up but
I thought people knew about it. OK. It’s horrible.>>But it reminds me
of Cristina Garcia, who also won the Gina
Berriault Award a few years ago, “Dreaming in Cuban” and so
many other great novels. And I was talking to her
and a couple other novelists about how I was putting a part
of a novel into a compost heap. And I was like, you know,
it’s in the compost heap, it might turn in some,
she’s like, that’s nice. But to me, I have the second
novel I never finished and I just go back
and I cannibalize it.>>That’s more of what I do.>>Yeah. OK. Yeah, you want to speak to that?>>For this book, my editor– so a lot of characters
died along the way. There’s a lot of
characters already in it. But there was 15 going into, like my editors read
and edit of it. And she said she won three
dead and a new chapter born. So it needs–>>Dead like, like dead
baby, like out of the book.>>Well, they weren’t,
literally, I’m sorry I brought up the dead baby thing [laughs],
just gone out of the book. So I killed two. And I cannibalized one to make
the new chapter she wanted.>>Oh.>>So I did do cannibalism?>>That was kind of lit. Which chapter was that?>>So the new opal
chapter where she’s older.>>Oh, yeah.>>Cannibalized on
a younger person.>>A younger person,
maybe he’s too fat, yeah? Yeah, that’s great. I mean, that’s interesting
right in the editorial process where you have so much and
then have to think about like, you know, balancing what
is gained and what is lost by having a lot of
things having vastness, having structure
and cohesion, right? And especially in
such an ambitious work as this that’s being– as
a polyphonic novel, right? So many voices telling the
story and holding the narrative from the first person plural
in the not-an-essay prologue, right, to all of these different
voices telling their stories and then circling together. It’s a lot to put together. Was there a lot of revision in making those things
work together cohere or?>>For sure. And, I think, to move away
from cannibalism into music–>>Great.>>– I think when you’re
working with something that totally has similarities,
if you think in terms of music, pulling a section
from a piece of music that feels totally
similar, makes more sense to transpose it, or just
to pull directly a passage that could work in
another section of the music you’re
working with. I think can make a lot of
sense and not to have to work, do more work than
you need to do. I’ve found when I’ve been
depressed or like uninspired, like, I don’t want
to make new work.>>Yeah.>>And I like feel to self
deprecating or self loathing to be in a space where
I can make new work. I’m like, whoa, what
did I already do that, like in a rework. So sometimes it’s like sort
of survival instinct to just like grasps at straws for
what I can put together for what’s being asked for. Because at that particular point in my life during this
particular three-week cycle, where I’m like, feeling
particularly like, I’m worthless, how– why am
I trying to write a book? Or I’m like, well, at
that point in time, I can capture where I felt good. And actually that
writing was inspired and whatever I would try
to write new would not be, so let me try to, I can
work something out of that.>>Right. So you can almost
take refuge in revision when the generating part is
like it just feels too hard. It feels overwhelming
or impossible. And then you can kind of
work with what you have, and it’s a little
more accessible.>>I think more than 50%
of writing is revision. There’s so much like the
new exciting like I want to write something new
is a great feeling. And the next day or the day of
you’re like, this is amazing and great, like so soon
after you’re like–>>Aren’t those great moments?>>– oh, my god, this
is so stupid [laughter]. But the revision, what it can do to what you then realize
is not really a good– it’s really cool about writing. And where writing is
revision makes the most sense because most people can’t
write first great sentences like always the Allen
Ginsberg or that group was like first thought, best
thought or whatever.>>Yeah.>>It’s usually not true.>>It’s not true, maybe
not even for them.>>For sure.>>All right. So I mean I think one of
the things that you’ve– one of the many, many
things you’ve achieved in this book is textural
variance like you would have
tones, musical tones. There’s so much textural
variants within this book because there’s different
voices. Everyone’s voice
has its own cadence like on a sentence level,
like the style of each person, their voices, their
consciousness is so alive. And so particular
and it happens at– like the way the
translator Emily Wilson talks about it is it happens at the
microscopic level of the word, right, the stories
matter, you know, that– how we tell them matters. And it’s at the microscopic
level of the word that there’s so much power achieved here. And you have said in an
interview that you partly wanted to write a polyphonic
novel because you come from a voiceless community
and wanting to build in as much voice as possible,
there was an urgency there. Is that looking back? Is that still what’s
true for you? And how would you– can
you talk about that?>>I think when I first
started talking about the book, I wanted to sound smarter
about it than it actually was?>>Uh-huh. This is an nearly– This
was an early interview.>>Uh-huh.>>OK.>>I mean, I wanted to
sound more intentional. When I was writing it, I wasn’t
like, sort of meta, like, I come from a voiceless
community. Let me do a polyphonic
novel to sort of remedy that particular positioning
as a community that I feel. To be involved with a big long
work, I think you’re working with the unconscious with
which can like do things like mysteriously that
that sort of answered to some of these problems. What I was thinking at the
time of writing it was like, I like books that
have a lot of voices.>>Yeah.>>Let me try that.>>Yeah, that’s great. That’s such a good reason to
write a particular style, right? I love this. I’m drawn to it. I’m going to take the plunge.>>And then for sure, knowing
that there was a vacuum of this particular community
added to the want to, like, poor invoices, to like,
there’s no representation of this particular voice. So it wasn’t totally
unintentional.>>Yeah.>>But sometimes I’ll hear
things that I’ve said before. And I’m like that was–>>Yeah.>>I don’t–>>But I– that’s understandable
though, because like, we always don’t always know
why we wrote what we write. And, like, one of the hardest
questions can be, you know, what made you want
to write this book? You’re like, there’s
16,000 reasons. Because it’s such a deep
thing, right, to write a book. So maybe they’re all true. But I love what you said about the unconscious
also working, right? We don’t always know
why we’re pulled to write in a particular way. And it seems like you also
follow your intuition a lot, so.>>I think a lot of things and this gets a little
bit whoo, whoo. And I don’t like that
direction in general.>>We don’t have to
take that direction.>>But I just want to
take it for a second.>>Good. OK. We can also take that direction.>>I think a lot of people work
from an unconscious place more than they are comfortable
admitting to. And the ego sort of does
the work of being like, no, this is all my doing.>>Mm-hmm.>>And I don’t think
that’s– that much true.>>Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. How does reading factor in
to your process in terms of listening to intuition
knowing how the story wants to be told, who is going
to be in the story, right, like shaping the world of
your fiction, whether it’s in revising on a sentence level or like just generating
the world? I know you’re a deep reader
and an intrepid reader. I mean, and that’s
clear from the book with all the intertextuality
and all of the beautiful quotes and references Gertrude
Stein and Brecht and Baldwin and Baudelaire, what
you mentioned. And I, you know– Last time I
saw you was the Berriault Book Festival, you were
reading a Lispector novel, and you’d brought
in Elaine Castillo’s “America Is Not the Heart”,
which is why I first heard of her book and thank
you for that because when I read
it, it’s amazing. So, you know, you’re– you
have a rich reading life. Can you talk about how it
flows with your writing life?>>Yeah, I feel like I’m
constantly reading a ton of books at once.>>Yeah.>>I’ve also been asked
to like blurb a lot. And I had so much blurb love
that I like want to give back. There’s certain writers that are
like the whole blurb world is. I don’t know, shallow
and whatever, not real. And I totally failed
on your book. Oh, whatever. And there’s all these like
interpersonal relationships and the timing of it and
whether or not it works.>>Of course. Yeah.>>And it’s a weird world. The blurb world is
a weird world.>>It’s a very weird
world [laughs]. Yeah.>>But– So I’m reading a
lot constantly new books because I’ve always since I
decided I wanted to write, I’ve always been reading
contemporary fiction because I wanted to see
what people are doing. How it influences my work now. It’s less, less so
than it did before. I think research, after
a certain point research influences more of my
work than reading does. I try to get my moments
where I’m just reading to it, enjoy reading as much
as I can, which is hard. But they– I really
love reading and eating. And that’s been like, since I
first fell in love with reading, is just something about like
going out to eat with a book.>>Yeah.>>It’s been– or
not even necessarily out like it’s any kind
of eating but reading and eating has been a love
of mine for a long time.>>Yeah. Do you have strategies
for propping the book open?>>Yeah.>>Yeah [laughter].>>It’s very intricate.>>Yeah.>>Like the whole thing
is sort of a dance.>>Totally. Yeah.>>You have to– I’ve gotten
really deft with my left hand because I eat with my right.>>Oh.>>And there’s certain foods that work better to
do– to eat with.>>Yes, absolutely. Because it’s like hand foods
like burgers are rough.>>Yeah.>>Yeah. Oh, and I
don’t do burgers.>>I found butter knives. That could hold it down.>>Certain things that I wouldn’t necessarily
eat with a fork. I do eat with a fork when
I’m reading and eating because the messiness
of the page– I don’t want to mess
up the page too much.>>Ah, yeah.>>All my pages ended up sort
of end up sort of destroyed. But I just don’t
treat my books well. But I try to minimize it. So I don’t look like
a complete slob.>>Maybe it’s just like
a visceral kind of love that you have for your books.>>It is.>>I mean, you know,
then maybe that’s a way of treating them well. I mean, I think this is a
really, personally, I mean– I think that’s a really– this is like an exciting
avenue of conversation. It’s just the physicality
of reading, right? The physicality of being in
those moments of pleasure in imbibing a book than
imbibing it as you imbibe food–>>Yeah.>>– nourishing on
all these levels.>>And like relationships
are messy, like–>>Why can’t reading be? Why can’t your relationship
with books be?>>They should be.>>Yeah.>>So reading has influenced
me as a writer just completely and I’ve read a lot
over the years. Reading out loud, which is
just sort of a side subject, is a huge part of
my revision process. So I like to work in hotel rooms where I know no one is
necessarily listening. And I read out loud when I
get to a certain draft stage. And I’ll know if a sentence
is where it should be because of the way it sounds
out loud, and that’s a huge part of my revision process.>>And that’s like when
you’re ready for the polishing to read the sentence
level sound. Yeah, yeah. I say, can we talk a
little about being a writer in these political times,
like these political and cultural times
like we’re here on this stage, we’re in a world. It’s a lot of different
things going on in this world. And just what it’s like to
walk in the world as a writer, as a Native American
writer, as a writer of color, what challenges or opportunities
you see in being part of cultural conversation
in a time like this? [Inaudible] you want?>>No, I mean, my books
been tied to everything at this moment right now,
from the very beginning. Like I–>>How is that for you? Sort of ends up with
me attributing a lot of success in my book to Trump.>>Can I use an expletive
[laughs]?>>It’s sad, but
no, there’s truth. There’s truth to it that’s
uncomfortable that’s real. Like, I’m just going to give you
some two very real realities.>>Sure.>>I’m not like just saying like
because it’s a political time, and that he’s dumb shit monster
that like the books doing well.>>Yeah.>>Because it’s like
the opposite of that.>>Yeah, yeah.>>I mean like I read
at a writing conference that I’m going to teach at
on– as of Wednesday night. This is like tomorrow night. I go to this writing
conference–>>OK.>>– writing by writers. Pam Houston puts it on.>>OK.>>I was a fellow there
and another writer, Claire Vaye Watkins, heard
me read and she sent– she said she would send my
manuscript to her agent, and this is October 2016. And I was like, cool,
that’s amazing. But then like nothing
really happened. And it was like the day
after Trump got elected, her and her husband,
both had my manuscript, both sent to their respective
agents as a call to action, because a lot of people who, like literary people,
what do you do. This is– you can’t do much. You can write toward
it or you can, like, try to promote other
authors, both sent it out. Her agent who ended up being a
really big literary agent was up with anxiety three nights
later because she was– she had to leave the country
and there was a Muslim ban, and she’s Arabic origins. And she was afraid she couldn’t
get back into the country. She was up at 4:00 a.m. reading
my manuscript that was sent as a call to action to
Trump being elected, and said it gave her hope
in that sort of dark time. And she called me the
next day and signed me. And so, it’s very related. Also, “Standing Rock”
had just happened, and native literature being
paid attention to has a history of having big political moments
right before the interest. So the occupation of Alcatraz
was followed by a sort of Renaissance and
publishing attention. Ninety-nineties, “Dances with Wolves” won a bunch
of Academy Awards–>>Right.>>– and a bunch of– and a lot of native lectures being
published at the time, “Standing Rock,” and
now there’s a sort of native renaissance happening. So it’s all connected
to a political moment that I can’t say
that’s not there. I’m not trying to say like,
my writing is worthless and just related to
a political time, but I can’t look away from that. I mean, the part of my
question was like, what are some of the challenges
and opportunities, and maybe that is part
of the opportunity of this time is that, there are
some people who are horrified by what’s happening, the many
injustices, and the sweep like terrible things that are
happening in our politics, who are awakened by it in ways that they might not
have been before, and maybe whose blinders are
dropping or expanding open in ways that they hadn’t before. And that opens opportunities
for works by marginalized riders
to be seen. Maybe it was that they weren’t. That doesn’t mean that your
success is attributable to Trump. I’m sorry, fuck that guy. He doesn’t get to have it. It’s yours.>>Yeah.>>You know? You know what I mean?>>Totally. [ Applause ] A couple of Trump
supporters, I guess.>>What’s that? [Laughter] Oh.>>I’m kidding.>>Possibly.>>No way.>>I know. So, you know– but
that’s– I mean, that is my, you know, that is my opinion. This, you know, this
is a public university that has an explicit
social justice mission. And that is part of how
we’re sitting on this stage. And that is part of how
we’re having the level of frank conversation
that we’re having.>>Well, I think what
you’re saying is true, like, none of this would be possible. I’m not trying to
attribute more to Trump.>>Yeah.>>But if this didn’t happen,
it’s like a cancer showing up.>>Yeah.>>And like somebody
getting healthier, and getting something seen to
that would have killed them. Well, like it’s ugly for a
long time, you would hope that the help that you get because you saw the cancer would
eventually lead to recovering.>>Yeah.>>And we’re still in
the moment of like, will it kill us or will it be–>>Right. Will it–
where we go with it. I mean, there is–
I mean there’s– there is some awakening that is
coming out of being in an era of backlash, of racist backlash
and bigotry of many forms. And that backlash can also
trigger awakenings, right? And so, you know, if your book
got swept up to the surface through that awakening,
then that is fantastic. You know, I mean– and
that, you know, we can think about that with– There are
people in this room who are, you know, emerging or
aspiring or hopeful writers. And I think it’s important
to think about, you know, how do we– how can
we participate in shaping the future of culture
in a time where we can look around and we can
see so much backlash. We can see so much
repression, and we can see so much unapologetic
racism, you know. But we can also see some really
powerful voices in our culture, also getting lifted
and staying strong.>>And I think there needs
to be a line drawn between. So I come from– I have a
chip on my shoulder, like, I come from an experience of
getting into certain things that are prestigious,
and actually hearing from white people
that also got in. And me expressing to them sort
of sincerely and honestly, like, I’m always afraid that I got
in and because I’m native, and having the experience of
having more than once people who are being like, well,
isn’t that way you got in? Like that being a real
reaction from people who really think
that’s the reason. And I think there needs to be
line drawn because I think we’re at a moment that I don’t know
when it was, but at some point, there was the white NBA, right? So my dad was really
good at basketball. And he didn’t– he
couldn’t play in college because his college
coach was racist, and it was an all white team. At some point, there
was a white NBA. And then at some point,
they realized, oh.>>Yeah [laughter].>>And this is happening
in literature and the arts.>>That’s the– oh.>>And it’s not just tokenism,
and it’s not just do it for quota or do it for this,
it’s like, we’re better because we had to fight harder. And this is why they were better
in the NBA and why it’s now– this is where we’re at. And this is where it’s going. It’s not just a moment,
political moment. Like we’re better
because we had to be, and we will continue to be.>>Mm-hmm. [ Applause ] And we need the work
that comes from that. We’ve needed this book. Yeah. So I’m going to
ask one more question, and then we’re going
to, I think, make our move towards
audience questions. Can you tell us about
what you’re working on? One of the things you’re working
on is going to many places, and talking about your work
and reading from your work, and we’re all very
grateful for that. Can you tell us about creative
work that’s percolating?>>Sure. Only because my agent
recently OKed what I’m doing. I’m working on a new novel,
which is actually a follow up to this novel, which
feels like a bad word to say, but it’s a sequel.>>Oh it is?>>Uh-huh.>>That’s exciting. So there’s something
that we get to hear from these characters again?>>Yeah.>>Oh is anybody
else really excited? [ Applause ]>>So, I’m trying to sell
a short story collection, which goes in a lot of different
directions, and then a follow up to this novel, which is
also a very different novel. But it’s sort of like how do
you come back from something which wasn’t was not a
tragedy, which is what it feels like to be native, to
not be allowed to feel like what it felt, what it
feels like, because people are– people minimalize
your experience and history is told wrong. And so, there are sort of the
microcosm of the macrocosm of the Native American
experience is experienced by the characters that try to
come back from this tragedy. That’s not really a tragedy, it was just like are
armed robbery gone wrong. So it’s sort of– has
these layers to it.>>Hmm, yeah, exciting layers. Very cool. Is there anything else you want to say before we turn
it over to the audience?>>No, just thank you
all for coming out. I appreciate it. Special shout out to
Elizabeth Tom [assume spelling] in the front row here. I’ve worked with over the years at the Native American
House Center. I appreciate seeing you.>>Oh, beautiful. Thank you. [ Applause ] All right, so we’ve got the mic. If you’d like to ask a question,
please raise your hand. And– Sure, go ahead, sir. So we’re going to bring
the mic over to you. We’re going to ask you to
definitely speak your questions into the mic because
we’re recording.>>OK. I just was wondering,
Tommy, if you were a big reader when you were a kid
and growing up, and what did you
enjoy reading then?>>I was not a reader
at all as a kid. We would read the Diamond
Library in Oakland. We would read–>>Oh my god, that’s my
neighborhood library.>>Yeah.>>[Laughs] Where my kids
read, that’s beautiful.>>We would read enough books
to be able to get Ace’s ticket. [ Laughter and Applause ] So I wasn’t a reader,
and nobody encouraged me to do anything academically. Our family was like,
there’s a lot going on, a lot of crazy stuff going on. And I didn’t start reading
until after college. So I would– there’s nothing for
me to say about that [laughter].>>Yeah, OK. Thank you, great. Another question. Yes, sir.>>Hi. I was just wondering,
have you written any memoirs or any writing about
your own life story? And if you have,
what have you written or do you have any
plans on doing that?>>Well, there’s some in the book that’s very
thinly veiled in the novel. I started writing an
autobiographical novel, a family novel, that–
from the voice of, the voices of all my
members of my family. Everyone in my family
started getting really intense about that and then backed
off of it [laughter]. I would like to write
something eventually and dig back into that novel. Recently, actually, that my
next novel start cannibalizing that novel project
and that might happen. Every time I go to write
something that’s not fiction, be it essay or memoir
type stuff, I feel like it’s homework. And I– and even if like I’m
getting paid or like somebody, I’m on deadline for
something, I like want to cheat on it to go write fiction. So like, I love fiction the
most and what it can do. And I think that’ll always
be what I want to do. But eventually, I think I’ll
probably do other stuff, but I’d love fiction the most.>>Hi. Can you go back and talk
about the feedback that you got from the students when
you read that section? And have they read the book and
what they think about it now?>>And then also, can you talk
about the research you had to do for these characters and
that process a little bit? Thanks.>>So I haven’t seen
any of the students after that first
year of writing it. What happened in
that session was that young people were crying
and asking a lot of questions, which that’s one of the
things that they didn’t do. And it was just a very emotional
moment, which was also something that wasn’t characteristic
of our time with the youth. The native Oakland reaction in
general, from community members who know that community
has been really amazing. And that’s all I’ve
had to gauge it by. Sorry, the second part
of the question was what?>>It’s about the research you
had to do to get your characters and their stories organized.>>I didn’t do any intentional
research for the characters. I grew up in Oakland. I worked in a community
for almost a decade. I did a lot of storytelling
work. And intentionally, did not base
my characters on real people. Because I came to revere how
people earn their details. It’s like when you
bring up a detail, it may seem like an
interesting detail to use. But a lot of this language,
like, it’s colonization. And I never felt comfortable
like basing a character to use for my– like, I can’t get
around the language of even like talking about the idea
of somebody else’s story for my fictional work. So, aside from my own
story and my family story, who I’ve gotten permission
to use, I never based any of my characters on real people. So any influence was composite
based on years of experience, just living in the community
and working in the community. But was never like, like, I’m
doing research for a character, and then I’m starting
this character based on this person specifically, that was never a
part of my process.>>I read that you live
in Angels Camp now, that’s not very urban. So I wonder if you
could talk a little bit about the silence there. And also, I haven’t read
your novel by the way, but I read a little
bit about you. And it sounds like you are
nurtured by the urban community and I wonder what it’s like
to be away from it now.>>Yeah, I miss the
city for sure. Me and my wife, both
had jobs lined up at a tribal organization, the head of tribal leadership
change, which can happen at certain tribal organizations, and we both didn’t
have jobs suddenly. So we moved from
Oakland to Copperopolis, which is where my wife grew up. And it’s a very rural, very
Trump friendly environment. It’s not by choice. And I don’t love it. We recently tried to
move back to Oakland and it was still too expensive
even though my book has had pretty good success. But it’s like book
success is not the same as like tech success [laughter].>>Alas.>>So, we bought a house
up, further up the mountain from where she grew up, and I need to sell
another book to move back. I love the city. I love Oakland. I want to be here. But we’ve sort of got
dislocated by the inability for certain people to be
able to afford to live here.>>Yeah.>>Hi. I’m just curious
as to what you are hoping that non-indigenous readers
take away from this book about urban natives,
especially when most of the stories are
surrounding, like, Ras natives or natives of the “past”.>>I wrote the book without
thinking there would be a nonnative audience,
because that’s usually who reads native work. And I was in at the Institute
of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, doing my MFA. And the director of my school
said, if you publish a book, I’ll give you a job
as a teacher. And so, I wanted
to finish the book because I wanted a
job as a teacher. It’s a very base level goal. And so, I was thinking
I would publish it at a small university. And like my other– my fellow
teachers would read it, and I’d make my students
read it [laughter]. But I never like had a goal
in mind for nonnative people. I certainly edit with a
general reader in mind. That’s just like trying to respect the reader-writer
relationship like respecting your readers, any reader’s time
spent on the page. Try to respect that
relationship. And like give them what
readers like, which is like, keep a good pace, have dialogue
and scene also have like, you know, thoughts
that penetrate further than the surface of dialogue and
scene and balance it all well, but I never had, what are the– what is the nonnative
audience going to think of this in mind while writing.>>There are now a lot of hands. Tommy, do you want to pick? [Laughter] Pressure. Is that too rough?>>I feel like it
went up in a wave.>>Yeah, it was a wave.>>Hi, I’m Christina. I’m an MFA candidate here. I’m just wondering what element
of craft came to you most easily when you began writing, and
perhaps is still very easy, and which is the hardest
for you currently.>>I’m always confused
about the elements of craft and what the official ones are. I mean, there are definitely
like dialogue, description. Is that even one? I always felt that I was inept
and all of them and I’m just like faking my way along. I think voice like moving into–
starting a piece with like a– feeling like I was
convinced by a voice that came when I started writing. And whether I move that from
first person to third, to second or third close or third
removed like to play with the eventual POV,
I feel like building from a strong voice, his
voice of element of craft, OK. So I feel like that’s the
thing that’s come easy, or like it’s the thing that’s
been able to convince me to keep working with
a character.>>There’s a hand in that–>>This guy right here.>>Oh you go ahead.>>He’s after him.>>Oh sorry. Good eye, Tommy. Thank you.>>Thank you. You mentioned that
you’re working on or maybe you finished a
short story collection, I’d love to hear how the process of putting together
those short stories or even writing the short
stories was different than, you know, writing
your first novel, and now writing your second
novel, how you kind of think about that, and how
it has been different in those two different
kinds of formats.>>Well, with novels, you’re
very much stuck within the sort of make a world and you’re stuck
within the rules of that world that you make to some extent, and the characters
that you decide on. Short stories, you can
kind of do anything, and I love that about
short stories. I have one short story
that got published. It’s over seven years
I tried to– I entered the Zoetrope
Short Fiction Contest. And on the seventh year, I
got an honorable mention. And to me it was a win. It was all that I needed. And at the last fall,
they asked me to submit a short
story, which was amazing. And they accepted it, which
was more amazing to me. And it’s about a guy who has
a third hand that’s going out of his chest. And about a friendship with
a guy that knows this secret. And not that much
happens in the story, but it’s a very different story
than anything in the novel. And the thing that you– that
I read is just very different in tone and even rhythmically. So I love that short stories can
kind of do whatever they want within the span that
they live within. And novels, you sort of– you’re
stuck with what you decide on in terms of the world
that you decide to convey. So I like that I can have
both happening at once. Did I answer your question?>>We have time for
one more question.>>I think this guy back there.>>Hi, I’m Danny. I actually grew up in good
old Copperopolis, California.>>Oh wow.>>And I know how
the people are. And I was wondering, living
in that kind of climate did that influenced your writing
at all or how did that if– yeah, how did that
influence your writing, level writing there?>>Well, I grew up in
Oakland, so like living in Copperopolis was like I
was just afraid [laughter]. I don’t know which
part of Copperopolis. Was this before new old town?>>Yes.>>I mean, in some ways, when
you live outside of a place, you can get a better perspective
on it and write about it better. So I didn’t have to be
in Copperopolis to write about Oakland from
outside of Oakland. I could have been
almost anywhere, I think. I just moved outside of Angels
Camp, which I lived there for a few years, and just
started writing a short story. I’m really happy about after
moving out of Angels Camp, which I’m sure you
know Angels Camp if you grew up in Copperopolis. Angels Camp is where Mark Twain
launched his literary career. And this is where
I launched mine. And Mark Twain is all over
the town and frogs are too because he– the short
story of the “Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and
they have a frog jump, every year frog, it’s a
fair, it’s a state fair. The kids get three
days out of school–>>For the frog jump?>>Yup.>>Wow.>>And nobody even remembers
that Mark Twain wrote a story. It’s just the frog jump.>>Wow.>>And this is what
it looks like. People out there like
you all, the stage, and frogs get plopped
down on a circle. And these crazy white
people, it’s all white people, it’s just all white people. I’m not saying– it’s just
an observation [laughter].>>It is an observation. It is just an observation.>>They scream under
the frog butts.>>Under the what? I’m sorry.>>Frog butts.>>Yes, OK. I thought I had something
in my ear but no.>>So–>>That’s fantastic.>>– the idea– You
would think that they’re like impressive frog jumps
like distances, right?>>Yeah.>>It’s three jump– three
unimpressive jumps added up. And what you’re– what we’re
talking about is frog escaped from crazy white people
screaming under their butts. They’re trying to escape. And you just see
like three jumps, not even the same direction. They’re just like freaking out
because they’re like [screams], they get under their butts, they scream under
their butts, [screams].>>So if you were to write
this in a short story, can you just imagine the
potential for subtext? It’s– I–>>This is in the story
that I’m writing now. This is–>>Yes, OK [applause].>>It’s craziness.>>Genius.>>And it all ends with
a demolition derby.>>In your story
or in real life?>>In real life.>>Oh, wow.>>I’ve been to three of them. It’s crazy.>>Well, this story from
your pen is just going to be right on. Thank you so much. Fantastic on that exciting note. [ Applause ]>>Thank you.>>Thank you so much, Tommy
Orange, for joining us, for being here at
San Francisco State. San Francisco State loves
you, Fourteen Hills loves you.>>We’ll see.>>We all are so damn
thrilled you’re here. Thank you.>>Thank you, Carolina.>>Thank you all
so much for coming. Thank you all so
much for coming. There are books for sale. Thank you to the San Francisco
State University Bookstore and India Chakravarti
[assumed spelling] who not only works there, but
he’s one of our MFA students, will be selling books. And Tommy will sign books. So if you have a book that you
brought, or that you are buying, you can come and get it signed
from Tommy and say hello. And thank you all so very much. Have a good evening.