Monday, May 20, 2019

Talking Books with Carol Es, Author of Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley

Self-taught artist, writer and musician, Carol Es is known primarily for creating personal narratives within a wide spectrum of media. A native Los Angelina, she often uses past experience as fuel for her subject matter.  Writing on art, her articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Whitehot Magazine, and Coagula Art Journal; her prose published with small presses — Bottle of Smoke Press, Islands Fold, and Chance Press among them. Additionally, she makes handmade Artist’s books which have been acquired for such collections as the Getty and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Carol is a two-time recipient of the ARC Grant from the Durfee Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner, and a Wynn Newhouse Award for her art. She’s also earned grants from Asylum Arts and the National Arts and Disability Center/California Arts Council for writing. In 2019, she won the Bruce Geller Memorial Prize (WORD Grant) from the American Jewish University.

Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley is a guided tour through a Tilt-A-Whirl life that takes so many turns that you may find yourself looking up from the pages and wondering how the hell one person
managed to fit them all into 40-odd years. And many of them are odd years indeed. From a rootless, abusive childhood and mental illness through serious and successful careers in music and art, much of which were achieved while being involved in a notoriously destructive mind-control cult. Carol Es presents her story straight up. No padding, no parachute, no dancing around the hard stuff. Through the darkness, she somehow finds a glimmer of light by looking the big bad wolf straight in the eye, and it is liberating. When you dare to deal with truth, you are free. Free to find the humor that is just underneath everything and the joy that comes with taking the bumpy ride.

Illustrated with original sketches throughout, Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley is not just another survivor's tale, it’s a creative perspective through moments of vulnerability where the most raw and intimate revelations are laid bare. As an artist and a woman finding self-worth, it’s truly a courageous, relatable story that will keep you engaged to the very end.



Barnes & Noble

Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

Thanks for the opportunity! I am very glad to have your interest. When I’m not writing, I am making art:

When did you start writing?

When I was very young. I wrote (what I thought) were poems. I started writing short stories by the time I was 14 or 15.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

When I was working with real professionals (editors and such) and later receiving various types of rejection, I began to crumble. It didn’t matter if the rejection had nothing to do with my writing. I also got what seemed like 1000 outside opinions from “experts.” But only a fraction of their advice was actually useful. I had to fall to the absolute bottom of self-doubt before I had no other choice than to trust my own instincts. I seemed to rise from the gutter then and start listening to the writing voice I’d heard inside me all along. It got easier.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

Preferably somewhere in the High Deserts of California, like Joshua Tree. I’ve always had the most success writing out there because I love the climate and the deafening silence. All you can hear are the birds and the wind. I write and nap and definitely leave all the worries from home behind. It feels like home for my soul or something like that.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Lay down with my dog and tell her jokes until we fell asleep.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

New York or Italy.

Back to your present book, Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley, how did you publish it?

After making a valiant attempt at trying to find a fancy NY agent and getting nowhere, I finally decided to create my own independent press. I already operate one for my own Artist’s book (Careless Press), which consist of handmade editions—and though this endeavor is not the same, I felt if I studied up on publishing commercial books enough, maybe I could pull it together. So it’s a hybrid publication because I’m in a partnership with an independent press and use IngramSpark distribution.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

I did, but those parts of my story did not end up in the finial version of my book. I went to Chicago to help my backstory regarding my mom. Earlier versions had many chapters dedicated to my parents’ stories growing up, and even their families before them. All that got edited out.

Why was writing Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley so important to you?

That’s an interesting question with a multi-prong answer, but I’ll try to keep it simple. While I wasn’t always sure I was going to publish this book, writing it was important for me as a form of catharticism. I needed to know what happened in my life if only as facts. Once I got the information down, I needed to evaluate my true connection to the scenes. That was perhaps the hardest part of the process—facing the ugliest moment of my part. And in order to make the book look interesting and not just a confession, I felt the need to share my present perspective and what I learned from it (if anything). Either way, I wanted to be honest and hoped someone out there would be able to relate. I knew I was putting out a vulnerable book, but I knew I’d feel free in the end to speak out for people like me.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

I get my ideas from real life. Even my fiction comes from real life. There’s nothing more absurd.

Any final words?

Keep going if you’re able. Even if you’re not, go through the motions anyway. Keep pushing and pushing along as a robot would until your great epiphany comes. Who knows? Maybe along the way, the pushy robot produces something brilliant while you weren’t even looking.

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