I am pleased to welcome Joshua Braff, author of The Daddy Diaries to Celticlady's Reviews today! I asked how he got into writing and how he chooses what to write, it is always interesting to ask an author these questions. There are always unique answers!
How I Got Into Writing, And How I Choose What To Write
I got bit by the writing bug in the third grade. I wrote a poem about my new puppy and remember being somewhat thrilled that my attempts to vividly evoke this dog forced my teacher’s hand on my shoulder. She’d never once touched me after a math quiz. In fact, during math, her look was one of concern. I became aware that my ability to write and my inability to conquer math made me somewhat unique. New York University accepted me with the promise I’d visit their learning center and ask for help if needed. Instead, I just aimed for essay exams, classes with final papers instead of final exams and actual creative writing courses. I took one math course in college and worked my ass off for a B+. Done.
After college I decided I’d follow in my older brother Adam’s footsteps and leave the country for awhile. We both used our matured Israeli Bonds from our Bar Mitzvah's to fund post-college journeys. His had him climbing the Himalayas, disappearing from contact for three weeks, leaving my parents to call the American Embassy to ease their fears. He was fine, survived it all and came home talking of his amazing days. Three years younger I knew I’d be headed off to, but knew I wanted to try to settle somewhere and make money also. I heard there were kids taking their American diplomas to Japan and getting good paying jobs as teachers of English to Japanese salary-men and their families. So I chose Tokyo. Within a week I had one of those good paying jobs in a school. I also took on tutoring and that paid 80 bucks an hour for an English lesson to a four-year-old. “This is called green, Yuri. This one is blue.” Cha-ching! It was a very freeing time for me, living this independently, as a foreigner, an amazing lesson for a white American, heterosexual male from a mid to upper-class suburban upbringing. I was in the minority, and there was no escaping it. There was a lot to write in my journal at night. My roommate was a friend from home, a coincidence. She had lived in Japan before and was headed there once again. We decided to share an apartment. That fall she asked if I wanted to see what a synagogue in Tokyo looked like. A religious upbringing had me finished with Judaism, but I was curious as hell as to what a Japanese Rabbi might sound like. He wasn’t Japanese but an expat with a beard and a nice singing voice. The congregation was mostly westerners that had married Japanese women who either converted or were just playing along. I noticed, sitting there, the Torahs, the Judaic scripture that stood in an arc behind the Rabbi. I decided to give them voices, to allow them to speak as inanimate objects. The idea stayed with me all the way back to the apartment so I grabbed my journal and began to write. The Torah had just arrived in Japan and was telling the one next to him about his journey.
“We were all in Israel, waiting for placement. Moishe (name of one of the Torahs) was given a gig in Jerusalem. Top notch assignment, we all wanted Jerusalem. Then Itzak gets Manhattan, Ethan gets Toronto and two seconds later I’m headed to Tokyo of all places. Tokyo?! How many Jews are in Tokyo? My kingdom to be sent to Crown Heights!” He goes on to try to escape his lame placement and gets caught trying to board a train in Shinjuku Station.
I read this piece to my roommate and she gave me huge feedback, saying, wow, you’re a real writer. I kept journaling, actually finding my voice, loving the endorphin release of writing a well-oiled sentence, one that might make people laugh, even think. I kept going at night, finding myself lost in it, my hand starting to ache as the words found their way out. I was also reading a lot at this time fostering my intake of words and letting my thoughts filter into my journaling.
Once back in the United States I continued to teach English to Japanese business men in New York. When students wouldn’t arrive for class I’d pull the journal out and write creatively, attempting characters that spoke and interacted with other characters. I also remember wanting to impress my reader, my girlfriend at the time. She was a book freak, an English major at Colgate and she and I fell for each other before I left for Japan. Upon arriving home, we moved in with each other and married in 1995. At the time, computers were very antiquated but in homes for the first time. It was 1992. I had to place a floppy-disc into the face of the thing and remove it before plugging another one in. The bottom line was the end of the writing- journal and the beginning of being able to edit with great ease. Writing was about flipping paragraphs and sentences and now it was made a breeze. Everything technology would bring in the next 20 years would assist the creative writer in all ways. How anyone edited a three hundred page manuscript on a typewriter is beyond me. Let alone, communication with publishers through snail mail.
I started writing what looked like short stories. It was my hobby, but I could sense that it defined me, made me different than those that didn’t communicate this way. I wrote about five different things and my older brother, Adam, wanted to read them. I handed them to him and his reaction was the beginning of everything for me. I admired his brain and his assessment of art in all aspects. He was an art major in college and possessed an even quicker and more poignant sense of humor than mine. He encouraged the hell out of me by reacting so positively. In hindsight, I see myself getting serious right about here, where it becomes a duty, in a sense, to tap into what it is I do better than the dude next door. I started spending more time on the computer. My wife is loving what I’m doing, encouraging the crap out of me. It’s good, keep going, funny, smart, what a great character. From here you can watch the film, The World According to Garp, to see what we looked like. I started to pull the humor out of my pieces, aiming for poignancy in the ethos of it all, hoping my characters would be written well enough to walk off the page and join us for dinner. My wife would read everything I wrote first, leaving me to pace like Garp, praying she’d finish the piece with tears in her eyes, maybe a knowing, upbeat grin, “You did it again.” I became a professional writer because my wife was falling even more in love with me after reading my fiction. We will be married forever.
My wife is currently the brains behind our publishing company, Prince Street Press. After two novels with Algonquin Books, my wife, who’s been in the digital publishing industry for 20 years, approached me with the idea of forming our own press. She knew The Daddy Diaries was very current, a book about a current day family in a time where traditional marital roles are evolving in positive, nurturing ways. I’m working now on a sequel. My first.
About The Daddy Diaries
The Daddy Diaries is a humorous and poignant novel about a relationship between a stay at home dad and his two preteen kids. When his wife goes to work full time in a beach town in Florida, Jay must acclimate to life in the south. With a rich but stupid older brother, a lunatic townie friend and a teen son who’s ready to know what a “threesome” is, Jay’s world is thrown about as far as California to Florida.
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About Joshua Braff:
Joshua Braff is the author of three novels, The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, Peep Show, and The Daddy Diaries, published May 5, 2015. The Daddy Diaries is a memorable take on contemporary fatherhood and a clear-sighted look at how the upending of traditional marital roles can affect the delicate balance of familial love. Braff's work can also be found in The Huffington Post and in multiple anthologies. He has an MFA from St. Mary's College and lives in Northern California with his wife and two children. Visit his website for more information.
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