I WENT TO UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE in 2000 with an undeclared major, but that summer, before classes started I was paralyzed with anxiety over going in without a purpose, so I emailed some people and was able to start freshman year with a major in biology of all things even though I was an editor on the newspaper staff at Cajon High and was just naturally proficient in writing-- at least technically (due to a lifetime of reading every single day). From there, I remember loving my college English courses-- although I was getting A's in calculus and having fun in chem lab. I had an amazing TA in one of my very first writing classes, and he encouraged me to explore writing beyond academia and hone those technical writing aspects into a way of writing that was my own, which led me to switching my major to literary journalism-- a brand new major at the campus that year. And from literary journalism came writing gigs with various OC and LA music and lifestyle publications until I made my way over to the fiction side, which I'm stuck on now-- especially in short form.
But the text assigned for my first quarter as a lit journ major was Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem. This book of essays changed my life. You hear about that happening, but to experience it is another thing entirely. She pretty much is the reason I chose to pursue writing. Her essay "On Keeping a Notebook" really spoke to me, made me want to explore and investigate the human condition to better understand myself as well. I think what draws me to Didion is her unsentimental prose, even when covering sentimental topics-- no flowery language or pretty words, but somehow it's still lyric and compelling. She's a realist, depicting an LA that's raw and devoid of that sense of glamour and predictability. She's also proof positive that you can be both a writer AND stylish (there's also Miranda July for that, too!). I teach English at the college level, for those of you who are new to this blog here, and when I teach 101, I now use Slouching as the text. It makes it easier to teach things I love to talk about.
Anyway, the whole point here was to talk about Joan Didion's documentary and how excited I am to see it. It's being produced by her niece and nephew Annabelle and Griffin Dunne, and in her niece's words will "show Joan's life through her words and put those words to images." They funded it by way of a Kickstarter campaign, which I was too late on participating in. I was really hoping to contribute. In any case, though, I'm glad it's in production!