The One About Ambivalence

by Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney

An attractive nuisance walks into a bar. Everybody perks up and feels annoyed. It is a blue evening, tinged with tangerine and a fragile unreality. She remains ignorant of its nuances. She blazes across the dark room like a meteor of cheerfulness. Remember what killed the dinosaurs? You’d never guess it by looking at her, but she is concentrating on a chess problem. She likes that it’s called a “gambit.” But then again, she also likes pink glitter cocktails, and always forgets to floss. She’ll tell you her most cherished pastime is hunting for butterflies. This is an allusion to Nabokov. Inside, she is as lonely and arrogant as a very tall mountain. Maybe you’re just jealous.

Elisa Gabbert is the author of The French Exit (Birds LLC, 2010) and Thanks for Sending the Engine (Kitchen Press, 2007). She lives in Denver and blogs at The French Exit. Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press and the author of Oneiromance (an epithalamion) (Switchback Books, 2008) and the forthcoming collection Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). She lives in Chicago. Together, they are the authors of That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (Otoliths, 2008).

What can you tell us about the collaborative process? What is your specific process?

KR: EG and I have been writing pieces together back and forth over Gmail almost every single day since early 2006; we’ve never lived in the same city during this project, so that geographical separation is probably part of the process, too. Because, in collaboration, we cannot rely on the “lyric” or the “autobiographical” I, virtually everything we write together is structurally driven, which is to say before we begin to compose, we pick a form—either well-established or recently invented (sometimes by us)—and use that to get going. Sometimes we’ll select a certain kind of content, too, but we always always select a form. Other than that, our process is to try to have fun, but a very specific, productive and serious kind of fun.

What is the key to making collaborative projects with co-authors work?

EG: You can’t treat your collaborations like ugly children who must all be loved equally. Throw out at least half of what you produce.

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