Tag Archives: chick lit

Catching Up With the Seriously Funny Mary Guterson

It seems like no time at all has passed since Mary Guterson‘s second novel, Gone To The Dogs, was hitting bookshelves. It was just over a year ago, in fact, that the Bainbridge Island author seemed poised to break through in a big way as the Pacific Northwest’s resident comic chronicler of whackbag women.

But a lot can change in a year, and a lot has changed for Guterson. She’s since relocated to Los Angeles, where she works as a freelance writer of copy for movie trailers and is developing an addiction to frozen dinners from Trader Joe’s. (Ouch! Dart to the heart for us Kitsapers!) She’s done some teaching gigs, most recently at the Whidbey Island Writers Association’s MFA program. “And i don’t have an MFA,” she told me. “But they didn’t seem to care. I actually enjoyed teaching there so much that I’m thinking of trying to get myself some sort of teaching gig down here.”

And she’s working on her third novel (following Gone To The Dogs and her equally delirious, delicious We Are All Fine Here), but don’t expect another uproarious tale of a chick with a one-way ticket to Crazytown. Guterson being who she is, however, she couldn’t possibly not be funny in talking about her unfunny work-in-progress.

“For one, it’s not a comedy,” she said. “And for two, the main character is a child. Aren’t you just dying to read it??? An unfunny kid! Who wouldn’t want to rush out and pick up that book?”

She added: “In truth, it’s about the fifth novel I’ve started in the last couple of years, so I’m not at all positive this one will stick, but so far so good.”

More seriously, she elaborated: “I make no plans when I write. I don’t know what I’m going to write until I write it. So, writing a more serious work wasn’t done as part of a plan to stretch myself or to keep from being pigeonholed.

“I just write what I write, and apparently at the moment, I don’t write funny.”

Guterson’s ties to her native Northwest remain strong, and she’s a frequent flyer up this way. In October, she’ll have a short story published in a collection produced through Humanities Washington. And in the middle of the month, she’ll be participating in “The Novel: Live!”

The latter is an exciting experiment in which 36 Northwest writers — including Kitsap writers Susan Wiggs, Suzanne Selfors, Carol Cassella, Kathleen Alcala and Guterson, along with South Kitsap High grad Jamie Ford — spend two hours each writing their parts of a “marathon novel” on the cabaret stage of the Richard Hugo House before a live and participating audience. After the novel is done, it will be published and sold as an e-book in all formats, with profits going to a number of nonprofit Northwest literary causes.

“The Novel: Live! is the brainchild of Seattle7Writers, an authors’ collective of which Guterson is a founding member. Its aim is to energize and promote the area as a reading community, and Guterson is participating in that spirit. (Even if she claims she’s really in it for “free wine.”)

Writing, as we know, is generally a private, protected discipline. So I had to ask Guterson if she was intimidated by the idea of writing on display like a guppy in a fish bowl when her turn comes to take the stage on Friday, Oct. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. (Cassella’s two-word response to the same question: “Totally terrified!”)

“Maybe I should be,” Guterson said. “But I’m thinking of it as performance art. There’s no thought that we are going to produce a work of beauty. Oh, God, watch, the others will produce a work of beauty and I’ll totally f— it up by writing my usual bulls–t. Now I’m afraid. Thanks a lot, Jim.

“But no, really, I think it’ll just be a fun sort of lark.”

(On her website, Guterson has the following idea for those following her during her turn onstage: “We can make a plan in advance where I say I have to use the ladies’ room, and then you, dear reader, sit in my seat and type away, and meanwhile I take FOREVER to come out of the bathroom! And when I DO emerge, you will have done most of my writing for me. Perfect!”)

(By the way, if you can’t come in person, you can follow the whole thing on a live-streaming website and e-mail suggestions to Guterson as she’s working. More on that at a later date.)

In the meantime, Guterson continues work on her novel without a publishing contract. Which, curiously, is the way she prefers it.

“I was offered a two-book contract for both of my books, but turned down the offer both times,” she said. “I don’t want to be contractually obligated to a creative endeavor. That would kill what little creativity I’ve got.”

It stands to reason that Guterson should have a strong position in making her third book deal, then, when the time comes.

Gone To The Dogs did very well,” she said. “I believe it ended up selling more copies than my first novel …. My agent tells me that both books sold very well, and that my publishers have been very pleased. And that’s good enough for me.”

Us too.