Bold, Brilliant, Beautiful! Kind, Generous, Wise! I don’t want to forget fun and funny, serious and sunny! Oh, what a great joy it is to bring you a convo with a woman who is ALL OF THAT and more! Meg Tuite! Did I mention supremely talented? Colorful? (Check out all the pics of her amazing animals and Santa Fe home!) I can think of no better person to ring in the New Year with!
May 2024 bring you everything you wish for. Thank you for starting it off with Meg–and me!
Diane: I’m so excited to have you on the WomanPause blog! The name, WomanPause—it’s my antidote to menopause.
Meg: I love that. And it shows. It looks like there’s a little boob in the logo.
Diane: Boobs, or it could be a butt.
Meg: It could be a butt, but I see kind of the cleavage.
Meg: I don’t think that’s just you, babe.
Diane: I’m so excited to talk to you because–everybody reading–I LOVE this woman! Let’s start by talking about these two books. Well, actually it’s like four because this is a three in one. So many things struck me about your writing. First of all, you just have these sentences that just pop! So would you call Three by Tuite a trilogy?
“Maybe He Got to Buy the Moped with My Royalties, Which Actually Is Really Bad Karma, If You Think About It”
Meg: Well, the first one I wrote was Domestic Apparition without the S. It didn’t have an S on it. Someone else put an S on it. I’m the type who doesn’t go back and say, “You know what? I don’t want…” I’m just thankful that we’re editing it and putting it together.
It was my first writing, which is like 12 years ago. It’s probably longer—like 25. I have no idea. It’s a long time ago, Diane. Anyway, I got a press that I’d never heard of before, San Francisco Bay Press. The guy was so great and so nice. But just to tell people about the way things go with certain publications, it’s always different for everyone. I hate to be negative, but I never got royalties. He kept all of them. Fine. I sold more of that book than I sold almost of any of my books. Anyway, I didn’t really care. I should have because I’m not rich. I got no cash, baby, no cash. But he was a young guy and kind of a rock-and-roller dude. I just felt like I owed him because he had said yes to me, and I didn’t know anything. Anyway, I found out on Facebook maybe five years ago that he died on a moped. I’m just scrolling through and I see this and I’m reading it, and I’m like, “What?” He had a couple other people he worked with, but I never was able to get a hold of any of them. He was gone, plus his soul and all my royalties. Maybe he got to buy the moped with my royalties, which actually is really bad karma, if you think about it. Anyway, so that was my first experience with publishing.
“She Said, ‘I Want You to Write Longer Stories’ Rather Than What We Usually Do, ‘Hone It In, Baby, Hone It In.’”
Diane:Wait, the moral of that story is give people their royalties, right?
Meg: Or maybe don’t buy a moped-
That’s why it became part of the trilogy or whatever we’re going to call it. Okay, so that’s one.
Number two was a great one with Paula Bomer, Bound by Blue. She said, “I want you to write longer stories” rather than what we usually do, “Hone it in, baby, hone it in.” So with her, it was a different experience. It was fun and I loved it, but then she is still publishing her own work, and it was too hard to do both. So that’s how that was number two. Then Her Skin is a Costume was by Red Bird Chaps, and I love them too. They did the most beautiful book I’ve ever had.
They hand-stitched a hundred pages.
Diane: Oh, wow.
Meg: But the one thing with Red Bird Chaps is they do not want to do ISBNs. I said, “I’ll pay for it,” because with an ISBN, you can get reviews, you can get on Amazon, you can get on Goodreads. They were so nice because they said, “Do you want to keep it, or do you want us to keep going with it because it’s still selling?” I said, “I hope you don’t take this personally because I loved working with you in every way, but I really want to keep it for an ISBN.” That’s why that’s the third one. Does that make sense now?
“Now People Spend a Lot More Time with Their Kids. Then That Wasn’t Even a Thing”
Diane: It does. I want to go back to your sentences, the gorgeous sentences. Here’s one I loved from Her Skin is a Costume: “So much beauty is discovered in thrown-away objects.” I think that’s a theme in these books. So many throwaway girls. So many throwaway humans. We don’t see their beauty. I read that sentence metaphorically.
Meg: I love that you did because it has a lot to say about everything we do in this world.
These kids are kind of thrown away. It’s true for a lot of us from a certain generation. In my neighborhood, Chicago, Rogers Park, USA, I called it, it was kind of working class. Kids were kind of thrown out and “Don’t come home till 6:00,” the whole summer. Now people spend a lot more time with their kids. Then that wasn’t even a thing. It was like, “Get out of here. Just go.”
Diane: It’s so true. So the epilogue in Domestic Apparitions is an abecedarian.
Can I just read a few of them?
Meg: Oh God, yes.
Diane: “Are we not all trash collectors of the past?”
“I wanted to unhinge her skull and see what kept her alive.”
“Memory is a collection we store in our pockets of brains like we would on a shelf.”
Here’s one more, “One thing I learned from my family is that secrets are expected to be buried.” I wanted to talk to you about that one because I think a lot of what you do is dig up secrets or spill them to shed light on stuff that needs light, right?
“I Have Always Been Under the Impression that I Wanted to Write This Story of the Matriarchy of My Family”
Diane: Do you ever struggle with what needs to stay buried and what to bring to the light?
Meg: Yeah, I’m struggling with that now because I have a novel that I want to make into a memoir, but every person in a family sees events differently. I can only write from my experience and don’t want to hurt anyone by my work. I know a lot of writers go through this. I’ll never forget, there was some festival in Santa Fe like 20 years ago when I was just starting to publish. I walked past this well-known writer. She’s in a cowboy hat, and she’s standing up and she goes, “Lose your fucking family. Just write it.” I was like, “Wow, I get speaking your truth, but damn I almost fell to my knees.” I was like, “No, I don’t believe I’d ever be ready for that. I love my family deeply.”
But, I have always been under the impression that I wanted to write this story of the matriarchy of my family.
I think “Garbage Picker of Memory” is my favorite story I’ve ever written.
Diane: I love it too.
Meg: That one was picked up by Valparaiso University. That’s in California, right? Yeah, you’re a New Yorker. I’m fucking out here in the Southwest, what do I know?
Anyway, every month I get an email that tells me how many more readers have read that piece.
I don’t even know where it is and why I get the readership, but I’m glad it’s still out there somewhere. Anyway, my mother and her sister were incest survivors. By an uncle who babysat them.
“What I Really Come Up with Again and Again Is that I Need to Be a Voice for the Voiceless”
My mother didn’t tell us the story. We were watching some Hallmark made-for-TV movie about incest and my mom said, “Oh, that happened to me.” My older sister and I were watching with her eating popcorn. We weren’t sure what “that” was because there were these little semi-plots. “Oh, did you have a bad stepfather?” She’s like, “Oh, no, no, not that.” Then we figured it out. I’m like, “What?” That’s how we found out about my mom and her sister. They were seven and nine, very young children.
My mother had survivor syndrome. My aunt died in her forties. When my mom was dying she kept saying, “I should have been the one to die.” I said, “Mom, you were a child. Your sister, she really meant to die.” You know how some people will commit suicide but it’s almost a call for help because nobody’s listening? My aunt got a hotel room and slit her throat.
Diane: Oh my goodness. That’s so terrible.
Meg: Women do not usually do that.
So the stories in the books are fiction, but it kind of feels like it’s a mix, right?
Meg: Hills and valley, as we call it. Hills and valleys.
Diane: Hills and valleys. So how would writing a memoir be all that different?
Meg: I don’t really know. It’s a struggle.
Diane: I have a very similar struggle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve submitted pieces and then pulled them.
Meg: You don’t want to hurt anyone.
It’s like, what are we here in the world for? I think about that all the time, but what I really come up with again and again is that I need to be a voice for the voiceless.
“When We Went to Their Houses, We Felt What Was Going Down, At Least I Did”
Diane: I’m so glad you said that. You have a whole host of these really feisty, badass, tough girl characters who also have tender wounded hearts and bodies, and they don’t know how to balance any of that, right?
Diane: I mean, how do you balance that? You write about older women, too, but it feels like the younger girls, the teenagers, the girls in their 20s, whatever, those are your peeps in some ways, and that you’re giving them a voice.
It’s sort of like a message to all these girls: “I see you. I hear you. I love you.” That’s what it feels like. It’s almost like a love story to them.
Meg: Well, I feel like it would be like, “I see you. I’m afraid of you a little bit.”
Diane: That’s true. And afraid for you, right?
Meg: Yeah, “I see you. I’m afraid of you. I hear you.” But also “I know where this is all coming from. It’s coming from the same place, like my house.”
That was all the people I used to hang out with in my neighborhood. We didn’t talk about our families. That was not a thing. We didn’t talk about parents. But we knew when we went to their houses, we felt what was going down, at least I did.
Diane: Well, of course. When you’re subject to that kind of parenting, or adulting, if it’s an uncle or whatever, you have to grow these antennae, and your eyes are always going back and forth.
I want to get back to the “Garbage Picker of Memory,” which is really about the painful legacies we carry through generations. Do you feel like writing is a way of stopping the cycle?
Meg: I think it has to be.
“I Started to Write Down Some of the Stories of the Jane Does”
I love how you braid your fiction, like a braided essay. I don’t see that as often in fictional stories.
Meg: Sara Lippmann is a great braider.
Diane: So are you.
Meg: I think the reason why Bound by Blue has a lot of braiding in it is because I had to expand the stories. I had to kind of put another story within a story and try to work them together. It’s not really something I came to easily.
Diane: You’d never know because it’s beautiful. You do a beautiful job.
Meg: Thank you.
Diane: Let’s talk about White Van. I want to say these stories are really hard, but they all have soft bellies.
Meg: Oh, love that you said that. Can you put that in Goodreads?
Diane: Of course!
Meg: That is such a beautiful way of putting it.
Diane: It’s really true. They have soft bellies. They do. But White Van is also pretty hard. Tell us your take on it and why you wrote it when you wrote it.
Meg: I was listening to the podcast, My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. God, I love those girls.
They’re just the cutest, hilarious damn beings. I found them when they first started their podcast. It was a lot about serial killers. I’d never been into that before, and all of a sudden, I was driving and listening to them all the time … So I started to write down some of the stories of the Jane Does. There were all these documentaries starting to come out. Netflix became a big deal. It was different than TV when I grew up. No cable. Just Channel 2, 5, 7, 9
“A Lot of These Girls Would Just Take Off in a Car with Anybody. They Didn’t Think Twice About It”
Meg: … 11. So I started to watch documentaries, and I would write down thoughts. I grew up in the neighborhood where girls were really on the edge, like, “I’ll go fuck him if you don’t,” kind of thing. A lot of these girls would just take off in a car with anybody. They didn’t think twice about it. We were doing a lot of drugs and drinking maniacally.
I don’t remember losing people, thank God. But I do remember stories on the TV news about all the Jane Doe’s. Then there was Nightline and true crime shows. Some of White Van is based on those stories, but I would consider the book more of a big fictional tale–fictional in my mind, but not fictional out there.
The hardest was getting into a predator’s mind. I have one of those in there. I wrote it as a pantoum. I thought maybe the reader was going to have an easier time getting through it if I put it in poetic prose or into a pantoum, which is a very, very straightforward, rigid structure. RHINO wanted to take that piece. It’s the best rejection I ever received. They had all the editors discussing that piece.
They said something like, “The fact that you put it in a pantoum makes it more difficult not to grab it. But ultimately, the subject matter was too intense. Some editors just couldn’t take it and all of the editors need to agree, not just some at RHINO, so it was a no.
“While I Was Writing It, There Were White Vans Surrounding Me Everywhere, Always. It Was Weird and Freaky”
Diane: That leads me to the next thing. I used to feel that writing was healing for me. I would write hard things and I would, if not work them out, at least work out a piece of them. Writing was a therapeutic tool. I’m not finding that so much anymore. When I finish a hard piece, I don’t necessarily feel any better. When you write this kind of stuff, how do you release that energy when you’re done?
Meg: I had a couple of people check on me, who were worried after they read it. I get a cathartic feeling from outing these things. I’m so thankful for DNA now because we’re getting a lot of Jane Doe body’s found. One thing that I’ll say is while I was writing it, there were white vans surrounding me everywhere, always. It was weird and freaky.
I’d park my car, and there’d be a white van next to it. I’d get in traffic, there’d be a white van front, on two sides, and the back. I was like, “What is this?” I was seeing them everywhere. Now, they might’ve always been there, but once I named this … When I sent out the book, I got a lot of no’s.
Diane: Oh, I would think this would be a real hard one to get published.
Meg: A lot of no’s. Then beautiful Jonathan Penton, the EIC of Unlikely Books said, “Hell yes, and he worked with me to get it ready for AWP,” and in three months he had this put together.
“Robert, He’s a Leo. And I’m a Libra. We are Yin and Yang. I Think We Work Well Together”
Diane: So you know a lot of people. I think when you’ve been at this, you meet people, but it’s also who you are. You do a lot of stuff in the literary world besides writing. You are one of the most generous literary citizens out there.
Meg: Look at you. Who’s talking to who here?
All right, all right. But truly. I want to thank you so much for your support of Awakenings.
Meg: I love it. I have to tell you, Awakenings is brilliant. What you did, it’s so important. It should be taught in schools. It needs to be in book clubs, that kind of thing.
Diane: Oh thanks, lovely Meg. But you. You teach workshops, you do the retreats with dear, dear Robert Vaughan.
Tell me what this other side of the literary world means to you? The teaching, the workshops, being with writers or editing the literary journal Bending Genres.
Meg: It keeps me in the circle of people. Otherwise, I’d be hanging with dogs and cats all day, and that would be it.
It could be worse.
Meg: Seriously. So Robert, he’s a Leo. And I’m a Libra. We are Yin and Yang. I think we work well together.
Diane: Oh, you’re perfect.
Meg: … we’re so different, but yet not so different. I adore him.
Diane: But you two are wonderful together because you’re so different but your hearts are in the same place.
And the energy, how you bounce off each other, there’s magic in your retreats.
Meg: I think a connection with writers is when I can look at their work and see the brilliance, the things that just shine in them.
“I Learn and Am Inspired by Everyone I Work With”
Diane: Isn’t that wonderful when you see that?
Meg: Truly, it’s a gift to work with them. I learn and am inspired by everyone I work with.
I don’t think we can really teach anyone to write. But what we can do is guide people through things we love and show them different authors to read. That’s what I do in my online class. I’m just finishing up my quarterly Bending Genres Round Table, and then Robert will do the next January through April.
Diane: I’ve never done one of those. I should, right?
Meg: Oh, you’d love it.
Diane: Yeah, I bet I would.
Meg: They’re really great. It’s only 12 students, and boy, do we get a lot going. And they publish like crazy out of those classes.
Diane: I can tell you have fun when you teach. It’s wonderful.
Now … I have to hear about you and your animals.
Meg: My real dream is to have an animal rescue.
Diane: I used to have that dream. Some say I kind of lived it!
I had four dogs, 13 cats, three bunnies, and they were all rescues. They were the ones scheduled to get the needle, so a one-eyed dog, three-legged dog, mean old cats.
Meg: God, I LOVE YOU! I also never get little babies.
I get all these beautiful beings at different ages. We have 11 acres here.
Diane: Oh, wow.
“We Kept Our Pink Christmas Tree Up for Two Years Straight”
Meg: Two or three acres are already enclosed. Then we have a smaller one, which is for when they go out at night because there are coyotes.
We want to get the whole thing enclosed.
I’m trying to work Paolo into that. He’s feeling a bit overwhelmed. I wanted to just get a cat for Christmas, another cat. I believe if we have the room and the means to save another one, we should try. That’s what my dream is, always. Go get one, save it, bring it back. We have so many cat beds. I go to second-hand stores, I buy another one. I buy tons of blankets for them. These guys are living a good life.
Diane: They are.
You also have a lot of color in your life. I didn’t know that about you until I started following you on Instagram.
The colors in your house are just amazing, and the colors where you live in Santa Fe!
Meg: After a snow, the color’s beautiful. We kept our pink Christmas tree up for two years straight. We just have lights all the time outside, trees lit up.
Diane: Oh Meg! I know I’ve said this before, but I just love you! You are one big heart and have a brilliant brain and are a brave and beautiful soul! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me. It’s been great fun!
Meg: Thank you so much for inviting me, Diane! I LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU! This was a blast!
AND … so pleased to let you know that Meg’s new collection “Planked By the Abyss” will be published in 2024 by Whiskey Tit Books!
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please write a comment or send me an email.
AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!! MAY YOURS BE BOLD, BRILLIANT, AND BEAUTIFUL!!!
WISHING YOU ALL GOOD THINGS ALWAYS!
See you soon!