I’ll Fight If You Want Me To Fight

Before reading this post, make sure you’ve read the latest chapter, “Near Past 1”, which went up yesterday.

The teenage Emma goes to a concert in New York to see Beulah, which happens to be one of my favorite bands. I was listening to a lot of Beulah around the time I was writing To Mean Something to Someone. I hadn’t purposefully intended to mention them or to use one of their songs in a pivotal scene of the novel.

As I’ve mentioned before (link), I wrote To Mean Something to Someone over several years, the bulk of the work happening in the summer. In October 2009, during my freshman year of college, I went to Starbucks and wrote the latest chapter. Shortly after, I put the novel aside for the rest of the year. While at Starbucks, I happened to be listening to the Beulah song “If We Can Land a Man on the Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart,” which a friend had put on a CD a couple weeks before. I knew I was writing a concert scene that would result in Emma’s first big love. The song seemed to fit the mood perfectly.

Photo 107

Here is (embarrassingly) a photo of me from that day– headphones in. You can see my notebook just under my arm. For the record, I don’t usually take Photobooth photos of myself writing at Starbucks or at any other time, for that matter. I just really felt like a real writer writing at a coffee shop, many months before I began frequently coffee shops.

Anyway, for those of you interested, here are a couple videos of Beulah performing the song.

This is Beulah performing live:

This is the recorded version of the song I listened to that day:


Inspiration Quotes II

I retrieved my beloved red cahier from its storage space on Thursday. And by storage space, I do mean pile of notebooks stacked on my desk. Finding its blue companion (which I recently discovered contains nearly 30 pages of untyped revision material) proved a bit more difficult. I should perhaps stop buying packs of three identical notebooks.


Red and blue companions, both open.

Regardless, I realized I left out many of my favorite quotes copied onto the red cover:

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

“They will not know I have gone to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out.” Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

“Later, when things happened that they could never have imagined– she wrote him a letter that said: When will you learn that there isn’t a word for everything?” Nicole Kraus, The History of Love

“Nor I, answered Marianne with energy, our situations then are alike. We have neither of us anything to tell; you, because you communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.”- Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

“Lately Keiko Kai– I read the news today oh boy– I’ve been remembering too much.” -Rodrigo Fresan, Kensington Gardens

Coffee Shop Writer

Most of To Mean Something to Someone was written and revised in coffee shops. I need the bustle to stay focused. The summer after my freshman year of college, I returned home to find my house oddly silent. I couldn’t concentrate, so I decamped to my local coffee shop every afternoon after work. Since To Mean Something to Someone was written over a span of several years, my coffee shop locations have changed as I’ve traveled. Here are a few of my favorites:


Priscilla’s, Toluca Lake

I wrote the majority to To Mean Something to Someone at Priscilla’s. I would arrive, order a coffee, sit down, open my Moleskine, and scribble for the next two hours. A man once asked if I was writing in my diary, which seemed both quaint and unsettling. The Priscilla’s staff probably deserves a mention in any future acknowledgments.

Photo 107

Starbucks, Palo Alto

Several of my favorite scenes were realized here. I try to avoid taking photos of myself at Starbucks, but at least you can see my notebook here.



I eventually filled my favorite red Moleskine, necessitating a blue replacement. I couldn’t bear to retire my beloved red notebook though, so for several months I carried both with me. Taken days before I finished the novel.



I have a complex post-it revision system. I won’t attempt to explain it, but it makes sense to me– most of the time.


Tryst, Washington, D.C.

More revisions. I had one day off work, and I had no intention of squandering it. The large café au lait played a wonderful supporting role.


Les Deux Magots, Paris

Further revisions and the writing of several additional scenes. I used to visit Les Deux Magots every Sunday morning. A few neighborhood residents sometimes joined me, but I often sat on the front terrace alone. My life read like a Parisian cliché.

Of course, many more coffee shops hosted my tattered red Moleskine and me, but these were the ones where I returned again and again. They also happen to be the coffee shops where I took photos.

Anyone else have favorite writing spots?