Cris Mazza is the author of over 17 books, including Various Men Who Knew Us as Girls, Waterbaby, Trickle-Down Timeline, and Is It Sexual Harassment Yet? Her first novel, How to Leave a Country, won the PEN/Nelson Algren Award for book-length fiction. Mazza has co-edited three anthologies, including Men Undressed: Women Writers on the Male Sexual Experience. In addition to fiction, Mazza has authored collection of personal essays, Indigenous: Growing Up Californian. Currently living 50 miles west of Chicago, she is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
As part of her virtual book tour for her new “real-time” memoir, SOMETHING WRONG WITH HER, Cris discusses things she’s done to promote her books!
1. Something Wrong With Her contains a story thread involving female sexual dysfunction. Part of publicity for the book involved my participation in radio sex-and-relationship-advice shows. On one of the shows, the host — clearly prepared with information and also educated as a therapist — held an impromptu sex-therapy session with me. Over the radio. Not the usual setting for discussing one’s sexual issues. But look, I wrote a book about it that I do intend people to read, so I’m still going to let anyone who wants to listen in.
2. Another aspect of the book is the “real-time story” of a reconnection with a man from my distant past. The story of the re-developing relationship with him happened while I was writing the book (he’s part of the past that the memoir explores) so the growing relationship happens on the page as well, including the guilt, tribulations, temporary backpedaling, regret and grief. Mostly in emails, the man also shares his memories of the same events the memoir is presenting. Mark is a jazz saxophonist, and a year after the book went into production, he moved 2000 miles east to come live with me—something he thought he should have been doing since we were 22. So we give readings together, and he plays unaccompanied improvisational jazz in between the segments of the reading.
3. Related to the above, my publisher commissioned a composer to write a “soundtrack” to the memoir, so there’s a companion CD titled “Time Stroll,” featuring Mark as the sax soloist (and very brief excerpts read my me). Seen here (the red CD cover).
4. For the anthology Men Undressed: Women Writers on the Male Sexual Experience, a group of the authors (myself included) chose a male writer-friend to “be” us at a reading. The men did not dress in drag, but the women did … which is always easier and less spectacular, and says something in-and-of-itself.
5. Many years ago, as a writer-in-residence at a college in Tennessee that was near an army base, I read a story that involved a military character while wearing fatigues borrowed from an active-army student. After that story, I stripped off the fatigues on stage, down to the stretch pants and T-shirt I was wearing underneath, and read the second story.
I’d like to give a big thank you to Chris Mazza and Melanie Page who organized the tour.