April 13, 2010
Writer John Fischer recently left New York to go hone his craft in Mexico. Today, Converse.com contributor Francesca Tallone finds out why.
Early this year, my friend John Fischer cashed in his New York minutes for the more leisurely Mexican epochs, setting strict novel-writing deadlines for himself and sending me numerous photos of quaint villages and idyllic beaches. Out of envy and intrigue, I interviewed for him Converse.com.
Francesca: So, Mexico. Why Mexico?
John Fischer: It was by accident, really. When I decided to take some time off, I emailed all my friends to see if they knew of places where I could crash for free. It turns out a friend of mine is originally from Mexico and has family there.
It was between there and Singapore and I’d never been to Mexico before, so I booked a flight, forgetting for the moment that I didn’t speak any Spanish.
Francesca: Why’d you want to quit New York?
John Fischer: It was partially an economic decision. I said: I’d like to write something. I probably can’t commit the necessary time to that with a full time job, so I’ll be broke and that probably means going somewhere where I’m not tempted to spend four bucks on a cup of coffee. But it was also less utilitarian than all that. I think New York is a great place for cultural enrichment; it’s not such an awesome place if you want to hide out and focus on a single craft for a while. Plus, trying to write in my apartment is like trying to sing karaoke sober.
Francesca: Did you set any sort of writing goals for yourself? What’s your overarching plan?
John Fischer: Yeah, that was actually the part that made the project feel the most tangible. I figured I’d need at least four hours of uninterrupted time every day to write, so from there I figured I could probably produce the first draft of a novel and a bunch of short stories. I started clocking myself at 2000 words a day, then I figured, at the end of three or four months I would probably have a lot of crap and a little bit of useable material. The plan has, of course, (d)evolved since I’ve gotten into it. What I’m hoping to do is produce a handful of short stories that I can start publishing more immediately and the draft of a novel that’s been sitting on the back-burner of my life for a few years.
Francesca: Those sound like totally achievable goals. Do you have any stories that feel finished?
John Fischer: Definitely. After a month I’d say I’ve got three or four that are ready to go out the door, and another few that are getting close. It’s hard to know when to stop working on one. I think I could tinker indefinitely. Fortunately, what seems to happen is that I’ll get sucked into a new one at about the point when the old one is ready to take a break. For example, I’m finishing up one now about an elderly astronaut who is coming to terms with his own mortality, and I’ve got one foot out the door for a new draft of a story about a couple that falls in love while sleepwalking. Hopefully they’ll balance each other out. I’m hoping to hand-bind a few of them into a book when I get back.
Francesca: Where in Mexico are you living? Are you getting to travel?
John Fischer: I’m living in a city called Leon, which is in the northern central highlands. It’s equidistant from Mexico City and Guadalajara. It’s also the seat of Mexico’s leather industry, which lends the city an interesting smell. I’ve traveled less than I would have liked to, but again, it’s that “work and goals” thing: Do I travel or do I stick to the plan to write every day for four hours?
That said, I’ve recently been to the neighboring city of Guanajuato which is the capital of the state, and a beautiful, historic, colonial-style city. I also just got back from a few days in San Miguel de Allende which is like a cruise for awesome retired American hippies, if that cruise were a city. But San Miguel also has a really vibrant arts community, so it was nice to hang there for a little while with lots of writers and photographers and painters.
Francesca: How much longer do you have there?
John Fischer: I leave on Saturday, then LA for a week. Then I head to Cape Cod for six weeks of house-sitting. After that, I’m not sure, it depends on how the checking account is holding up.
Francesca: So you’ll continue the plan in Cape Cod?
John Fischer: That’s the goal. It’ll be interesting because I don’t know anyone who lives there and I will be in a house all by myself, tending to a cat and a garden.
Francesca: Well, that sounds idyllic. So when will we see something in print?
John Fischer: Who knows. That’s a bit out of my control but I would say the plan is for the short stories to be in print in some form or another within the year and then to have a finished draft of the novel done and ready to submit to literary agents by the end of the year.
Francesca: That seems totally reasonable. So tell me, have you been partaking of the mezcal?
John Fischer: Shhh…
John is blogging his trip at asharpright.com