Feed Drop: Molly Wizenberg and Katrina Carrasco In Conversation

In this bonus listen, we're sharing a recording of a live event. Seattle writer Molly Wizenberg joined us for a discussion of her new memoir, The Fixed Stars. Katrina Carrasco, author of The Best Bad Thingsmoderated the conversation. They discussed queer identity, favorite queer writers, and more.

Listen


Download episodes on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotify, and Google.

A transcript of this episode is available at the end of our show notes.

Watch

Watch a video recording of the event with auto-generated captions on YouTube.

Recommended Reading

Check out a list of titles recommended during the event.

Molly Wizenberg and Katrina Carrasco Recommend









View Full List

Contact

If you'd like to get in touch, send an email to deskset@kcls.org.

Credit

The Desk Set is brought to you by the King County Library System. The show is hosted by librarians Britta Barrett and Emily Calkins, and produced by Britta Barrett. Our theme song is "I Know What I Want" by Math and Physics Club. Other music provided by Chad Crouch, from the Free Music Archive.

Transcript

Emily Calkins:
You are listening to the Desk Set.

Britta Barrett:
A bookish podcast for reading broadly.

Emily Calkins:
We're your hosts, Emily Calkins.

Britta Barrett:
And Britta Barrett.

Emily Calkins:
And what you're about to hear isn't a regular episode.

Britta Barrett:
Instead, it's a feed drop of a live event that we recorded recently.

Emily Calkins:
We invited Seattle author Molly Wizenberg to join us for a conversation about her new book, The Fixed Stars, in conversation with Katrina Carrasco, who you may remember from an earlier episode of the podcast.

Britta Barrett:
So without further ado, please enjoy.

Emily Calkins:
And now we are so excited to present Molly Wizenberg in conversation with Katrina Carrasco. Molly is the author of now three best-selling memoirs. Although it's almost as likely that you know her from her James Beard Award-winning blog Orangette, which has the best granola recipe of all time. She's also the co-founder of two award-winning and beloved Seattle restaurants, Delancey and Essex. And Katrina Carrasco is the author of the historical novel, The Best Bad Things, which was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and the Lambda Literary Award, and one of my favorites of 2018. So thanks so much to both of you for being with us tonight.

Molly Wizenberg:
Thank you so much.

Katrina Carrasco:
Yes, thank you Emily.

Molly Wizenberg:
I am so thrilled to be able to do this event with KCLS and with Third Place. Thank you, Emily and Kalani for making this so seamless in this weird COVID age. And thank you, Katrina, who I had such a wonderful time chatting with on phone the other day. I'm so glad that this has brought us together.

Katrina Carrasco:
I'm very excited to have this conversation tonight and I was very, very grateful for the chance to read your book. I loved it so much and I'm excited to talk about it with you and then hopefully have a bunch of readers find it and love it as well. So maybe let's get started. The first place I wanted to begin was just at the very beginning, you have a quote from Garth Greenwell and throughout the book as well, you have quotes from Maggie Nelson and other authors. And I loved that. It reminded me a lot of Nelson and the Argonauts, which is one of my favorite books, my partner and I each have our own copy on our bookshelf.

Molly Wizenberg:
Oh my God, I love that.

Katrina Carrasco:
So, I wanted to hear more about what you kind of wanted to do by bringing in these voices and maybe talking about some of the different ones, that felt like were new to you as you wrote the memoir and other ones that you maybe had carried with you for a long time and the process of bringing all those voices into your work.

Molly Wizenberg:
It's interesting because, I think when people talk about memoir or about writing in general, there's like this sort of truism, truism isn't the right word, but this sort of hackned piece of advice, this idea of like, you should write what you know, that is what your job is. Write what you know. And I think that, I couldn't do that with this story because there was so much I didn't know.

Molly Wizenberg:
And what motivated this story in fact was, was a lot of questions that I didn't have answers to. About, am I still the same person? Do other people experience this kind of dramatic shift in their sexual orientation and the way that they see themselves? Is this something that can happen to a person? And I think especially because I grew up during the AIDS epidemic and first came to learn about sexual orientation as a concept and about gayness and queerness through having an uncle who was gay and who died of what we now know as HIV/AIDS. I grew up knowing that there was this rich world of queer activism and queer literature. And this whole lineage that I had no idea that I would ever be a part of.

Molly Wizenberg:
And that once I, as my identity shifted and I began to recognize myself as queer, I felt that I owed a tremendous debt to that lineage and to all the queer writers who made it possible for someone like me to get to tell the story in the first place and have it be something that a publisher would ever get behind. So I wanted to bring in all of these other voices and all of these other things that I was reading both because I hoped that they would help me find some answers. And also because I just, I felt like this conversation has been, that this conversation about queerness and identity and family and desire has been going on for so long and I have benefited from it. And I wanted to recognize that and bring it to the table with me. And also, if anybody hasn't read Garth Greenwell, I know you and I were talking about this. Yeah, Garth Greenwell.

Katrina Carrasco:
[crosstalk 00:06:09].

Molly Wizenberg:
He [inaudible 00:06:12]. So when he was writing that book Cleanness, I think three or four of the chapters from it were printed in the New Yorker. And I, a friend of mine said, "You have to read this short story in the New Yorker called The Frog King by Garth Greenwell." And I read it while I was writing this book. And I just, I struggled to come up with words for Garth Greenwell's brilliance, especially when it comes to putting thoughts into language and putting desire into language. And so I am just so happy that he allowed me to use a snippet of the Frog King as my epigraph.

Katrina Carrasco:
I actually wanted to read that too, as we talk, from the excerpt that you use as the epigraph. "I was grateful for that too. The commonness of my feeling, I felt some stubborn strangeness in me ease. I felt like part of the human race." And I love that you opened your memoir with that, because I think one of the reasons I was asked to be in conversation with you is, I also had an experience where I came out later in life and ended up getting divorced from my ex-husband and then identifying as queer and going through all - many of the same changes. And I think, we do have this lineage of queer literature to sort of like guide ourselves with. At the same time I think this particular story in the context of coming out later and maybe having lived an entire different life before the time of the transition is still one that we don't hear about as much.

Katrina Carrasco:
And that's changing. But I think, as the quote says that there is a commonness, it's like a feeling of shared humanity. I really felt that from getting to see a story that was close to mine. And I think that was one of the things that made this book like immediately very dear and special to me. Because I think it's always, the mirror concept is always very humanizing of seeing yourself in someone else and seeing parts of your struggle in their journey and how those match. So, yeah, I love that that particular quote from him is one that you chose to open your book with.

Molly Wizenberg:
Oh my gosh. The first time I read it, it just took my breath away. It's so simple and so powerful. I love it.

Katrina Carrasco:
So let's see, I had so much stuff I want to talk to you about, so I hope we can fit it in this time. One of the big themes of the book, I think for me that came through was the sense of responsibility to yourself and to others. And especially in the context of, in the story, for our readers who might not have read it, you find yourself attracted to a woman and you're married to a man and then struggle and grapple with what that means for your marriage, for your family. And you have a small child, what it means for yourself. And you make choices kind of throughout... you document the choices you made throughout the memoir. So I was hoping you could talk a bit about that idea of when you have a responsibility to yourself, you talk a lot about motherhood and the responsibility to your child of, trying to contain a family unit, if that might be less harmful.

Katrina Carrasco:
But just, I'd love to hear more about how through writing the memoir, you kind of grappled with that sense of what it means to live your truest self, and how you come to terms with how that affects the other people in your life.

Molly Wizenberg:
This was something that from the very beginning, so the book opens and the story that sort of animates the book, they both start with this jury duty experience that I had. And right away the first feeling that arose for me was tremendous shame. And certainly some of it I think was internalized homophobia. And some of it too was how, like who does this? Who spends this kind of time in their head fantasizing about someone who isn't their spouse? I didn't want to be a person who would do that, even though I think we all do to a certain degree.

Molly Wizenberg:
I think it is very human to still have desire even after one has a monogamous partner. But, for me, it was very entangled with, I think the fact of my growing up in this culture, as a female and the fact that my being a mother, because even though I think in smaller and greater ways, I had always sort of privately chafed at the idea that anyone would expect a woman to give up herself in order to cross over into motherhood successfully or as a good mother. I think that at the same time, it's still very deep inside me this idea that because I committed myself to another person, not just romantically, but I committed myself to a child who I brought into this world. And because I was raised female in this society where women are expected to be empathetic and caregiving above all, I found it incredibly shameful to try to... I found it incredibly difficult to try to carve out space for myself as an adult woman and a human being, separate from my self-worth as a mother and as someone's spouse.

Molly Wizenberg:
And I think that that responsibility, I think that that responsibility should feel difficult to grapple with. But I think that I was hard on myself in a way that I didn't need to be because of what we expect of women and of mothers culturally. And I'm still grappling with it. My partner and I talk all the time about the ways in which I tend to like disappear from our relationship when I am actively being a mother and it's, I think it is a lifelong challenge to sort of negotiate that responsibility without losing myself.

Katrina Carrasco:
I think the experience of shame is something that I also went through. And there's a part in the book where you refer to like an exercise, your therapist gave you to look in the mirror and say, I forgive you. And I had similar, as we talked about in our chat, I was told a similar thing by a therapist. And it's so hard to do. I think there's such a weight when you're the person who's made a decision. It wasn't made for you, someone else didn't do it, when you've done the changing and you've made the decision to act in a certain way. You kind of carry that forever. And I think it's just, sometimes it's a very difficult weight, but it also, you have to think about forgiving yourself and knowing like, well, I made this choice that I thought was what I needed, and that was in some way, like helping me be fully whole, so-

Molly Wizenberg:
That's really [crosstalk 00:15:07].

Katrina Carrasco:
... really nicely explored as well. But sorry, not to interrupt.

Molly Wizenberg:
I was going to say, I don't know if you feel this to be true for you too, but I feel like going through that experience and having to, I couldn't deny the fact that the actions I had taken were having repercussions on other people, right? I was doing this for me. I was suffering as a result of my actions. It was really hard, but I was also hurting other people. And in a way, though it was very painful to acknowledge that and to start to try to like, both be accountable for it without self-flagellating. It's interesting to think about that now, when I think about like the ways that, in this particular trash fire of a year we're living in, we're all like having to get really good at like learning on the fly and changing our minds and acknowledging hurt we've done and harm we've done to other people. It's interesting because, yeah, I just...

Molly Wizenberg:
I find so much relief in not trying to pretend that I didn't mess up and hurt other people. And then it being like, okay, well, what am I going to do to get on with it and try to keep doing better?

Katrina Carrasco:
I think there's a lot in the book about the notion of fluidity and it's referred to for sexuality, but I think also it's that capacity to sort of roll with things and know that things change. They will change more and to try and go through that process with as much grace as possible.

Katrina Carrasco:
I do identify with what you were saying. And I think the notion of choices hurting other people and having to kind of sit with that. I think another similarity between our two stories that I also was interested in is the notion that, we didn't get divorced from our exes because they were like bad guys or there was a problem. I think there was a sense from your book that you and your ex-husband were very good friends, like maybe even best friends. Started to feel like it wasn't working for all the reasons that you were discovering about yourself and your sexuality. And I had a very similar experience with my ex-husband, who's a lovely man, but just after a time being together, I started to realize that I was changing or seeing things in myself that I hadn't seen before. So there's also that layer of, you know you're hurting someone that you really love. And I think that makes it a choice that feels so much heavier, but maybe, so necessary and the kind of the necessity of making it outweighs the fallout. Definitely.

Molly Wizenberg:
I think, I mean, I think in our case, in an effort to like, we always wanted the best for each other. And we always so wanted to be kind and wanted to do right by the other. And in many ways that covered up a lot of like incompatibilities that I think left both of us in the lurch.

Katrina Carrasco:
That brings me to a quote that I really loved. That again, it's when you've brought in to inform your own work, but it's from a Terry Gross interview with Esther Perel. Finding it in here in my copy that's all dog-eared. So in this interview, the therapist Esther Perel says, "When you pick a partner, you pick a story and that story becomes the life you live and the parts of you that become expressed. And sometimes you realize after years of living those parts of you, that there are other parts of you that have virtually disappeared."

Katrina Carrasco:
And I just loved thinking about the choice that you made, the choice I made kind of in that context of almost like saving or resuscitating or bringing back parts that had sort of been lost. So I wanted to ask a little more about that in the context of your story, maybe what you felt had disappeared and what you felt you were able to bring back or kind of experience a new as you went through this journey.

Molly Wizenberg:
Well, it's interesting because I, like when I, when you read that quote now and I listened to you read it, what I, like the thing that I think about as I listened to it is this idea of like the story, what was it that she said exactly? I'm going to ask you to read my own...

Katrina Carrasco:
Oh sure, no, I love this quote. She says, "When you pick a partner, you pick a story."

Molly Wizenberg:
So, I mean, what I think about now, when I think about that, is that I think that Brandon and I, we each had a story for the other that wasn't really accurate. And I think that maybe it was accurate to us when we met and I was 26 and he was 23. But at a certain point it was harmful for me to believe, to buy into the... it was harmful for me to keep buying into the story that he believed about me. And I think it was harmful for him to buy into the story that I was telling him about himself. And so I think that, what's been really interesting as you know, now we get to know each other as co-parents, which is such a different relationship. And as I now get to experience a different romantic relationship is like getting to unlearn the story that I believed about myself in my relationship with him.

Molly Wizenberg:
I think that each of us believes the other was selfish and all kinds of other things. And it's so interesting, you were saying something about like having our own story mirrored back to us. And I think that like the story that my current partner shows me about myself, is a self that I want to keep being. Does that make sense?

Katrina Carrasco:
It does. I love that so much. I love how you've taken that quote and sort of giving it a new meaning. Because I think that's a really optimistic and hopeful way to see that quote, which at first sounds kind of like dire and you know, we've lost things, but reframing it like that. I love that.

Molly Wizenberg:
It's interesting. Because when I first listened to that interview and then I went and found the transcript and grabbed that quote and was like, oh, maybe this has to be in here. I wasn't thinking of it in this way. So it's so yeah, it's... I mean, writing about our lives is always so weird because frankly by the time other people ever read it, you've probably learned a whole bunch of other things and are halfway to becoming a completely different person. But yeah, it's cool for me to hear you pull that quote out and see what it brings up for me now.

Katrina Carrasco:
Well, I like your interpretation a lot more than the one I kind of originally had. Because it makes me happier. I'm going to approach it that way as well. [crosstalk 00:23:27]. Oh, what'd you say?

Molly Wizenberg:
I was just, it seems like we both skated under wire that one.

Katrina Carrasco:
Right. I wanted to talk a little bit about language in particular. And specifically with language, to define queerness and your own identity. There's a part in the book where you have a reaction when a partner's friend refers to you as femme, and feeling like that word is maybe like ill-fitting or constricting. So I wonder, as you've written the memoir and then lived past it, do you feel like your relationship to different labels in the queer community has changed or how you see yourself identifying, if language that felt unfamiliar or restrictive feels differently now, or if it feels the same? Kind of how you've evolved and some of the ways that, like among queer community we refer to ourselves?

Molly Wizenberg:
It's interesting because I, in many ways, so that moment that you're referring to when this person I didn't know very well referred to me as femme, sort of in opposition to the idea of butch. I had this really strong reaction which was that I felt like I had sort of been like, I think the way I wrote it was I felt like I'd been sort of calf-roped. And I think that some of it is that, so these butch and femme labels have such a history, and a utility in queer culture. And in particularly in times when it would be very dangerous for two women to be seen together in many ways, like the butch in a couple would be expected to be the protector, and the femme would sort of be the one who like brings honor to this masculine presenting female partner.

Molly Wizenberg:
It's like there's this whole dynamic, Maggie Nelson writes interestingly about this. She talks about this idea of bringing honor to what is otherwise sort of this, it's a strange term to take out of context, but the idea that usually a masculine presenting female would be disparaged in hetero society. And anyway, so I knew all of this history and I think in many ways when that word was used for me, for one thing, I felt like it belonged to a history and a culture that I had sort of not earned the right to be a part of for very long, not for a very long time, but when I was initially coming out and starting to date, I really struggled to refer to myself as queer, even though that was the term that fit best. Because that term is so loaded and has such a history, first as a derogatory slur and then as a word power and the same thing kind of goes for butch and femme.

Molly Wizenberg:
And for me, none of it really felt like it fit. I think in part because I didn't feel like I fit. And I still struggle with it. It's interesting actually. Ash and I, so my partner is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. And I identify as female and use she/her pronouns. But I would never, like Ash doesn't use the term butch. So I never think about our dynamic that way. And so it's still, it's like... I think that we're living in this climate when we are incredibly lucky that there is this explosion of language to describe desire, gender, sexuality, kink, whatever you're into, and whoever you are. And there's so much nuance to all of it. And it's so exciting. And at the same time, I have to say that it feels really nice to be able to just take refuge within the community that is my partnership where I don't feel like we have to choose words for ourselves. I don't know. It's really tricky.

Katrina Carrasco:
I mean, there is that safe space of a relationship where you're each other's person, and those are the only labels that you might need. And the comfort in that.

Molly Wizenberg:
And at the same time, I have to acknowledge the power of these labels and allowing people to assert their identity and their right to exist. But yeah, I mean, you and I were talking the other day and I was saying that, that for me, what felt really strange about starting to move through queer spaces or lesbian spaces, was for me that the fact of my being a mother felt so unqueer. I think particularly in the crowd that my first, the first woman I was dating was in, which was a very young and very political queer community.

Molly Wizenberg:
And so I felt so out of place because I felt so suburban mom, and I couldn't find where I fit there. And it's just, it's been really nice to get to see over time that's just like any community, the queer community isn't a monolith. And I now know plenty of parents in it. But in the beginning, I really, I think I felt tremendous anxiety over feeling like I was an interloper on so many levels.

Katrina Carrasco:
I wanted to ask a little more about that in particular, just the experience of being in your thirties and entering a new space and how maybe things you had done when you were living and presenting straight were like read differently in queer spaces, which kind of can include like being in a younger crowd, being a mom, maybe just the way that you like presented.

Katrina Carrasco:
And if you felt any friction there as you sort of moved between? But before you answer, just want to remind everyone, you can ask questions in the chat box for the Q&A period, which will be coming up shortly. But yeah, just to put that note in, so.

Molly Wizenberg:
Thank you. I love questions, ask questions everybody. It's interesting, I think that in many ways.. actually could you ask me the question again, because you had particular way of phrasing it that I really like.

Katrina Carrasco:
I think, if there was friction between moving from more of a straight space to queer spaces and how you felt, maybe just you as a person were interpreted. I'm very interested personally in gender performance and how, if your performance of gender in any way was interpreted differently and especially I can add in the context of, in the book, you write so much about this idealized sort of womanhood that you see as a young person growing up and maybe how parts of that, that you'd internalized, like just read very differently or felt like they were being interpreted differently in queer spaces as you sort of made the transition between the two, I don't want to say, the two worlds, but in some ways, the two very different spaces.

Molly Wizenberg:
I love this question. And I know when you and I talked about this the other day, I was like, I'm going to have to really think about that. And I feel like I would love to get to talk more with you about this because I feel like there are, I think there are aspects of my experience that I'm not able to see yet about this. But one thing that I do think about is, so as I wrote in the book, I grew up in Oklahoma, which is a very conservative place. Have you ever seen the TV show Friday Night Lights?

Katrina Carrasco:
I know of it.

Molly Wizenberg:
Well, anyway, it was like, it was not Dillon, Texas, which is where that show is, it was very like football and cheerleaders. And I really did not, I remember very clearly thinking to myself as I looked at, I remember seeing a movie poster for, it wasn't Run, Lola, Run, but it was something very punk looking, sort of like that where the female lead had dyed hair or was very like non-made-up.

Molly Wizenberg:
And I remember thinking to myself, why wouldn't a woman want to make herself look beautiful? I just, it baffled me. Having grown up where I grew up, where everybody was bleaching their hair blonde and the epitome of physical beauty was like, you know, those muscular cheerleader thighs, God, I coveted American legs. I desperately wanted to have American cheerleader legs. And so it's been interesting if anything, the aspects of femininity where I felt like I could never measure up as a teenager or always sort of being like, I don't want to get a manicure.

Molly Wizenberg:
Why would I do that? My nails are fine. If anything, I felt, I certainly found plenty of women in my straight community who share my struggles with some aspects of mainstream femininity, or what I grew up with knowing as mainstream femininity. But I think if anything, the first thing that comes to mind when I think about what it felt like to take the way that I was feminine and bring it into a queer space, on the most basic level, I think I felt some relief, that if anything, I wasn't underdoing it, if anything, I could relax a little bit.

Molly Wizenberg:
But at the same time, again, this fact of motherhood, which especially in the first queer spaces that I entered into felt so present for me because it felt so other, that felt like the biggest aspect of my womanhood that I was carrying around everywhere with me and it to me read as terribly unsexy, terribly undesirable, wet blankety, et cetera.

Molly Wizenberg:
And I'm really sad to say that, but yeah, I feel so much gratitude for, I don't know, for the way that I think the naturally boundary-pushing and definition-pushing tendencies of queerness have made me feel free to toss off or to cast off some of my own definitions about what would make me a good woman or a desirable woman.

Katrina Carrasco:
There's definitely so much freedom and that feeling of coming out and thinking like at this point I could be anything, but that feeling of like a brand new start. For me, I've always, now I would say I'm kind of more femme if I have to give myself a label. But when I first came out, I got a really short haircut. I was like, I'm going to be really butch, there was a whole journey.

Katrina Carrasco:
And I had the freedom to do that in a way that I would have been terrified to do if I wasn't part of queer community where I was seeing examples of that and seeing support for people, exploring themselves in this way, exploring their gender, exploring their sexuality in ways that just don't seem as encouraged in the wider world. So there is that gift of the space where you can really try things on and be like, which feels like the closest thing to your skin.

Molly Wizenberg:
Right, I love the way you put that.

Katrina Carrasco:
I think we're getting close to our time. So I wanted to - I have way more questions, but I'm going to just ask one more questions for this. But just to return to the title of the book and the idea of The Fixed Stars that there's these constellations that we see, but they're changing what we count on as being solid and fixed is kind of ever changing. With that lens, I wanted to ask what has changed for you between when you finished the book and now, and how you've maybe seen this concept of like fluidity of evolution happening and growth between the time that you finished the memoir and today?

Molly Wizenberg:
So, and then I think the biggest change in my life, and like the most substantive or change that is visible. Wow, I am - phew! It's like bedtime or something. I feel like ugh over here. I think what feels the most meaningful to me is that my partner Ash and I got married last November.

Katrina Carrasco:
Congratulations!

Molly Wizenberg:
Thank you. And that was a big deal for me. I mean, as it should be and is for most people I think. But it took me a while. I think that Ash knew pretty early on that they wanted to have a life with me. And I knew that too, but I think that it took me the work of writing the memoir to, I think... ultimately, so I went into this book, I think, hoping to find some sort of like solid ground that I could stand on, right? I went in with this question of like, is it possible for a person to change this much? Surely it's not possible, surely I'm going to find that this was there all along. And even though that will be sad and bizarre that I hid my own queerness from myself for 36 years, what a relief it will be to know that at least there's something stable, there are things we can count on about being a human.

Molly Wizenberg:
There is a core that is unchanging somehow. And ultimately that isn't what I came to understand about myself at all, as I wrote the book. And as I read more about other people's experiences with sexual fluidity. And I think that the process of writing the book and of coming to sort of believe my own story in a way, believe my own experience and not second guess it, I think made it possible for me to believe in committing to someone in that lasting way again.

Molly Wizenberg:
I find it so, it's not that when I got married the first time, it's not that I didn't believe we would change or that I thought that everything was going to be the same or whatever, but in a different way now I know very clearly the degree to which we can change. And the real discomfort often of growing alongside another person and committing to growing together. And it feels really good to acknowledge that change and the potential of it. And instead of ignoring it or hoping it doesn't happen to like get busy building a strong partnership so that we can weather these things. So, that feels really big. And I think I wouldn't have been able to do that before finishing the book. Wouldn't have been able to say like, who knows what's going to happen and I want to do it anyway.

Katrina Carrasco:
I love that answer.

Molly Wizenberg:
Thanks. I feel so much relief hearing myself say it, I'm like, yay, Molly.

Katrina Carrasco:
Really, I mean that's like the end knowledge that you've had of this journey, which I think is really amazing. Knowing that you can change and adapt and still love yourself. Forgive yourself, love others, that is the goal. So, and so that's where you ended up after writing this and living with it for a few years.

Molly Wizenberg:
Me too. Me too.

Emily Calkins:
Well, thank you. Both of you. That was a wonderful conversation. We have lots of questions. I don't think we're going to get to them all, but we'll do the best we can. So the first one is for Molly, you're a very sensory, vibrant writer. I loved how The Fixed Stars is written in a vignette style. Was it a conscious choice to write the book that way? Or was that just how it flowed?

Molly Wizenberg:
First of all, thank you for asking that question. This book, so I've never written, none of my books were written in anything approximating like an order. My first book and The Fixed Stars were the most sort of chaotic writing processes. Delancey was a little more, it was a more discreet story that I was telling. But for this book, the first shape that it took as I was working on it, and I was about a year into writing it at this point. I sat down and I opened the word processing program I was using, which is called Scrivener. If anybody wants to use Scrivener, it's the best. I'm not sponsored by Scrivener. But Scrivener call me, I love it. Anyway, but the first form that this book took was an 11 page document that I called list of fragments. And it was everything from a particular word or concept that I wanted to explore.

Molly Wizenberg:
Like for instance, Katrina, that scene, where someone referred to me as femme, that was a fragment. Another fragment might've been this memory from childhood. Another fragment might've been that Esther Perel quote, and they were totally jumbled. And I went through and started to put them in something like not chronological order, but roughly chronological order, and then started to write my way through them. But again, that was more than a year into the writing process. So it was very fragmented. And, I think the biggest struggle for me was to find a way to tell the story at this particular, from the vantage point where I sit now without infusing what I know now into what happened before. And that was really, I felt like I had to really allow myself at times to look worse than I always felt comfortable looking, but that was how it really was. I don't know if that makes sense.

Emily Calkins:
Thank you. The next one is "What strategies did you find effective for dealing with and overcoming the shame that you talked about feeling in the early days of discovering new aspects of your sexuality, falling in love while married and just being your authentic self within our heteronormative culture?"

Molly Wizenberg:
The number one thing was therapy. Big time. My therapist, I actually sought out a new therapist at the beginning of this period of my life. And it's been very helpful to me that he is gay and just that, having a therapist who I really believed understood where I was coming from and who could really call me out on my stuff and because my stuff was often me talking really badly about myself in my own head. And so, yeah, largely it was therapy.

Molly Wizenberg:
I think that you could probably do that with some very good friends too. But yeah, for me, it took every bit of a lot of therapy and also a lot of conversations with friends and a lot of writing and a lot of reading, a lot of reading. [crosstalk 00:47:54]. Sorry.

Katrina Carrasco:
Sorry, I was just saying, I also found a queer therapist after coming out and it was a huge deal. And for me, another big thing that helped me was finding queer community. Just trying to meet other people who not necessarily had gone through the same thing, but just a place where I could see myself making kind of new friends like a new home, because it feels so, I mean, there's the shame. And then there's also the sense of uprooting your life. And I think giving yourself an idea of where you could maybe land and be happy again, is really important. So you have something to look forward to and not just a place to sit and be like ashamed and scared. Because there's a lot of that, but you can try to find somewhere soft to land.

Emily Calkins:
This is another question for Molly. As someone who writes a lot about her own life, not just yourself, but also the other people in it, especially as a parent and a partner, how do you think about your responsibility to sort of protect those people and also be as vulnerable and intimate as you are in the book?

Molly Wizenberg:
This is something I think about a lot. So I think for one thing that I have thought about with each book and something that I learned in writing my first book, A Homemade Life, is that you can't tell someone else's story and you can't tell someone else's perspective because it's not good writing and it reads as false. And I know that sounds really simplistic, but I think about it in the case of my first book, when I was writing about a lot about my father who was, he had already lived a very full life by the time I was born.

Molly Wizenberg:
He was almost 50 when I was born. And the very first book that I tried to write, which doesn't exist, was a book really about my father very specifically and about losing him when I was in my early twenties. And the further that I tried to get into writing it, the more I realized that I could not write a book about my father without calling into the room the person he was for the first 50 years of his life and that part of him didn't belong to me. And if anything, it belongs to his other children from, who were from his first marriage and knew him better than I did in many ways. So something that I took away from that is the idea that I really, I can only write about where my life intersects with someone else's.

Molly Wizenberg:
And that moment is, in that moment, I have to be sure that I am staying in my own perspective and that I am not making assumptions about what someone else thinks, what someone else would say. And that I can't, for instance, there are characters in The Fixed Stars whose behavior I think could be further fleshed out, by some other assumptions I have about them, but they never told me those things. And I know there are assumptions and so they're not in the book. And I tried to make very sure that they don't color the way I portrayed this person. So really trying to write my story where it happens to intersect with other people. The other thing is making sure that I had early readers who I could really trust, who I could trust to tell me if I was overstepping, if I was being mean or catty, that is absolutely invaluable.

Molly Wizenberg:
And then the other thing is I think just having some real ground rules too like, I really, I think I, when June was a baby, I didn't think a lot about posting pictures of her on social media or on my website or writing about her. And by the time she was a toddler that started to feel really different to me. And so, as I was writing this book, trying to figure out how to write my story without bringing more of her in then self safe, because I can't really get her consent. She's seven years old.

Molly Wizenberg:
So trying to find ways to write about what it has been like for me to be a mother, but not what it is like to have her as my daughter or what she is like. And it's all a very gray area. And I think, I definitely would not be able to do it alone without people around me to help me see what I'm doing and when I need to fix it or be more respectful.

Emily Calkins:
Thank you. Okay, one last question. What other book or author suggestions do you have for people who are coming to a new understanding about their sexuality?

Molly Wizenberg:
Oh my gosh. Wait, Katrina. I want you to suggest some too, I imagine we would both recommend The Argonauts.

Katrina Carrasco:
Yes.

Molly Wizenberg:
By Maggie Nelson, right? Excellent.

Katrina Carrasco:
We have two copies of this in our house, so Nelson's great.

Molly Wizenberg:
I recently read James Baldwin, amazing. James Baldwin's early work, like Giovanni's Room is a bit homophobic. There's some real self-loathing in there, but it's also the interiority of it and the way that he writes about desire, and sort of the queerness that's inherent in it is really beautiful. Let's see. What else? Ah, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

Katrina Carrasco:
Oh yes, read Fun Home.

Molly Wizenberg:
Yeah. Fun home. Big time.

Katrina Carrasco:
I love The Passion by Jeanette Winterson.

Molly Wizenberg:
I haven't read it.

Katrina Carrasco:
It's beautiful. And it's, I think it's very, just to the specific point of coming out, there's a great quote where it's like, if you find desire late in life, you have to tie yourself to the mass, because you'll just go like screaming towards what you miss, but you also into this new future, like it's an amazing, I think I highlighted it too many times.

Molly Wizenberg:
The Passion is what it's called?

Katrina Carrasco:
It's just, it's tremendous. And I think it's good to know that the journey is not always easy or smooth. And I think that book really beautifully illustrates that, which is not to say don't take the journey, but it's, I found it to be a helpful kind of companion.

Molly Wizenberg:
Yes. For me also reading Adrienne Rich, she has a collection called gosh, I think the dream of a new lang... or The Dream of a Common Language, and then also Diving into the Wreck. She has some amazing lesbian love poems. And specifically writing about the desire to want to tell the world who you are and who you love. Gosh, [inaudible 00:56:19].

Katrina Carrasco:
I love Ali Smith, How to Be Both. I don't know. I feel like just as a reader, before I was out, I just gravitated toward queer stories and loved them and like didn't really understand why. So many of them are very foundational for me, even though they took on a new meaning later in my life.

Molly Wizenberg:
I also, I don't... so, okay. A book that I read when I was 16, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon. It was his first novel. And the protagonist in it is, I don't think he ever gives himself a label, but he has bisexual experiences in it. And I really, I loved it. And then most recently, have you read The Death of Vivek Oji?

Katrina Carrasco:
No, but I really want to, I've heard amazing things.

Molly Wizenberg:
I just finished it a few days ago and it is a beautiful story of queerness. I mean, a beautiful story about so many things, but with a main character who's gender variant and it's just, oh my gosh. It's stunning. Beautiful.

Katrina Carrasco:
I'll get it from Third Place with the rest of the books I'm constantly ordering. For curbside pickup.

Molly Wizenberg:
Excellent. Excellent.

Britta Barrett:
My gosh. Thank you so much Katrina. This was such a pleasure. I hope we'll stay in touch.

Katrina Carrasco:
Yes this was wonderful. Thank you.

Katrina Carrasco:
Thanks to Emily for for hosting.

Emily Calkins:
Our pleasure. Thank you so much to both of you for being here and for a really wonderful conversation.