Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Money Walks": LA Times Serial Storytelling Experiment

The Los Angeles Times website is publishing a serial novel. Here is the deal:

This is the first chapter in an experiment in serial storytelling called "Money Walks" that we will publish in Calendar during the next three weeks. Every weekday and Saturday between now and April 24, we will bring you another installment, first by our own Mary McNamara, and then by Los Angeles fiction writers including, among others, Seth Greenland, Marisa Silver, Aimee Bender, Denise Hamilton and Jerry Stahl.

"Money Walks," a serial novel by 16 Los Angeles writers who will be appearing at this year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, runs Monday through Saturday until April 24. The festival takes place at UCLA on April 25 and 26.

Today's installment, Chapter 4: "Finding an easy mark isn't easy," is the work of Tod Goldberg, author of Living Dead Girl, Simplify, and a forthcoming story collection entitled Other Resort Cities. Here are the opening two paragraphs of Chapter 4:

Angie believed nothing good ever happened in the Valley. She'd done her time there, like everyone else, working the day shift at Odd-Balls back in the '90s, stripping for CSUN frat boys who couldn't make it past Van Nuys, not even to see naked women.

Even then, the cities of the Valley sounded like they wanted to get out: Northridge, West Hills, North Hills. . . . each one creeping on the fringe back toward the real Los Angeles.

Here's what Tod had to say about participating in this experiment:

The way the serial has worked from a writing point of view is pretty simple. About 24 hours before my 600 words were due, the first 3 sections were emailed to me. I spent the next 18 hours trying to figure out how the hell I was going to go from Diana Wagman's section, which I suspect started with Diana trying to figure out where to go from Seth Greenland's submission, which certainly had Seth trying to figure out just what to do with the initial section, penned by LAT's writer Mary McNamara. I was also thinking, while writing, how I might be able to set up the next section for my friend Aimee Bender, who was originally supposed to go after me, but who ended up moving further down the line, but who, originally, I was going to see the very night she'd have to write her section. See, I'm all about helping others. But, yeah, that didn't work out. So I took a more mercenary approach and decided that the story needed to have a caper and needed one right now, or else the entire project was going to go down in a burning heap. Whether or not anyone else thought this -- ie, the fine folks at the LA Times -- was not made clear to me. So. Yeah. That's what I did.

It was actually quite fun to do this bit of experimental storytelling. You can feel each writer attempting to inject their brand of storytelling into the work and also expressing a will about where they'd like it to go. I don't think people reading it can expect a uniformity in style or even for the writers to try to mimic each other's tone as part of the fun is watching what each of these talented folks choose to do, how their own aesthetic shines through. I fully expect that in Aimee's section, for instance, that everyone will turn into pumpkins. And when Mark Haskell Smith is up, I expect a prolonged scene of scatalogical excess. And then Susan Straight will make it all serious and beautiful. Personally, I'm hoping for scatalogical and downtrodden, but that's just me.

Tod will be on the "Humor & Race" panel at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and the "Enough About You: Fiction & Humor" panel at noon Sunday at UCLA at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

This is interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing how this novel evolves.

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