Bridget Hoida on: Writing in Bathtubs

I was asked, today, by a fabulous reporter, what my writing method is.  “Longhand, computer, cocktail napkins?” he inquired, which caused me to pause, (deep breath) because I sincerely wish I was still as sexy as the drunken scrawl of a cocktail napkin. But writing. With kids. Is something else entirely.

When I was young(er), (read: childless & broke) I lived in a fabulous one bedroom on Dohney, just off the Sunset Strip. I was shacked up with my then boyfriend (now husband) and we believed that because we lived next-door to the couple that appeared on that reality show, Temptation Island, (hosted by Marky Mark, minus the “Funky Bunch“) that we were happening. I won’t mention that only one burner worked on that thing we called a stove, because for the most part we ordered out. But I will mention that then, writing was a process. We were broke (did I mention that?) and my “desk” of choice was the defunct bathtub in our carpeted bathroom. Yeah, the bathroom had carpet. I’ll spare you the details but to say, it had a shower (on the left side) and a claw foot tub on the right. Because we had a bed, that gawd-awful stove, an olive-green refrigerator, and a view (did I mention the view?) there wasn’t much room to eat, or write, in our 550 square feet, so I holed up in the only available space: the broken bathtub. Outfitted with over-sized pillows and a cookie sheet writing desk, it was almost fashionable. When I wrote then, I had the luxury of habit. Of method.

Before kids I could make organic, free-trade lattes. Light a candle. Call a few friends long-distance. Do lunch. Take a walk on the beach. Take a nap. Light another candle, (bougainvillea this time because peony is so passe). Burn a new CD. And then write.

When you’re paying someone, hourly, to watch your kids you have no time for atmosphere or ambiance.

You sit down in a chair –with a cold cup of coffee, if you’re lucky—and you write until the babysitter reminds you she needs to go home, NOW. And even then, you try to squeak out a few more words, another page, before the kids start asking for blueberries and their ninja costumes.

Today, my habit is the back of a Target receipt in the queue of a carpool line. My method? Stolen moments.

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Bridget Hoida on: macramé bikinis (or why characters are not people)

I was at a magical gathering last night–starlight, fire-glow, sea air, and an expanding circle of plush deck chairs occupied by a few dozen striking women. As the conversation shifted focus: from Cabernet to chicken farmers; chicken farmers to iPhone apps; iPhone apps to the genetic composition of jelly fish… it eventually landed on literature.  And it wasn’t too long [insert vampires, a certain non-vibrant color spectrum, and a post-apocalyptic survival game] before someone asked: “Well you wrote a book, how much of it is real?”

It’s a tricky question, that one. Because unless you’re dealing with the aforementioned supernatural creatures or speculative geographies, it’s hard not to say: Everything.

It’s hard not to say: Nothing.

I’ve been living with this book, with these characters for years now. To say I know them intimately is comical. I know them surgically well. I birthed them in the painful, messy, magical way all bodies are brought into being. But that doesn’t mean I am them. That I know them off the page. That I’ve dated them. Held them. Or covered my screams as they fell to their death from high, rocky places.

Magdalena, the protagonist of So L.A. and I have lived in a lot of the same places. And we’re both blonde. But that’s about the extent of our similarities. Moving to Los Angeles from Berkeley was extremely difficult for me and I suppose that, in part, is how Magdalena was “born.” Perhaps I was unconsciously embodying a B-movie cliché, but I really did take my first steps on the streets of Los Angeles in a pair of Birkenstocks and a tie-dyed sundress. I wasn’t tan, I didn’t have a designer purse, and even kitten heels made my ankles wobble. It took a good three years before I felt comfortable wearing a bikini, even to the beach, but I was surrounded by these insanely beautiful women who seemed to have been raised in string bikinis and had no qualms wearing them to school. In fact, I was teaching a class at USC called “Social Issues in Sex & Gender,” and one of my students did exactly that. She showed up to class in what people from Berkeley might consider a string of macramé potholders, or maybe a dream catcher? Either way, she was wearing this extremely revealing “bit” as a dress and I was simultaneously awestruck and horrified.

Was she mindlessly objectifying herself or was she making, as she claimed, a bold feminist statement?  Magdalena has a lot of moments like this; moments where the means and the ends get confused and tangled up by someone else’s perception.