Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Elena Passarello

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

Usually on Writerhead Wednesday, I put the author’s photo up here at the top of the blog post (like this). And although—like all authors who have graced the pages of Writerhead—Elena Passarello is a beaut, I just had to put the cover of her new collection of essays here instead. How could I not? I mean, LOOK AT THIS COVER!

Elena is an actor and author of the new collection of essays about the human voice, LET ME CLEAR MY THROAT. As you can imagine, she’s got some juicy stuff to say about her writerhead.


1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

Writerhead for me is not an easy thing to come by, because my most generative days are the days in which I do not allow myself to get still in some kind of still, tunnel-vision-ed writer zone. Every moment of my writerhead is so specific to the unique “writertask” du jour that I have to court it royally. So it’s never just “sit in front of the computer, feel inspired, and clackety clack”; it’s “clackety at the computer for an hour, then go hand-write in the garden for a while, then take a long walk, talking out loud and taking notes, then hit a noisy coffee shop and clackety some more, then wake up in the middle of the night and type when it’s so quiet you feel like the last survivor in a zombie apocalypse and clackety until sun-up.”

I love it when I get the chance to do it, but an eighteen-hour, multi-locational writerhead bender is a rare opportunity. This means that, more often than not, I am working while out of writerhead—and that’s an important lesson I always try to keep in mind. Writerhead is a treat, but writing is a constant.

One thing is dead necessary, however, no matter what: in order to even begin to achieve any kind of writerly success, I must be wearing stretchy-waist pants.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

Well, the reaction depends upon the distraction:

Phone Call: Not a problem, because I never know where my phone is.

Spouse: My partner is also a writer, and so he is amazing at steering clear of my work time, writerhead or not. But if he ever does interrupt me, I relent, because he is handsome/ winsome/ awesome and I am a total sucker for him.

Lover: My lover is the Internet, and she has much worse manners than my spouse’s. What a vile temptress she is. I have built up some resistance, but I am not always immune to her distractions, especially if said distractions include cat videos.

Coffee Shop: My most violent reactions. I shoot dirty looks, loudly stack papers, rant to the barista about these total jerks sitting next to me who won’t stop yelling about their stupid Ugg Boots and who will soon get a latte dumped on said stupid Ugg Boots. One time, I even tried to fart in the general direction of a gaggle of high-decibel stroller moms. It did not work. Also, I might need therapy.

Computer Crash: When the computer crashes (or the cat pukes on the keyboard and zorches two hours of work, which happened last Spring) I quit. I just quit. I go eat an entire Big Grab of kettle cooked potato chips and take a nap. Because sometimes, life just isn’t fair.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

For me, writerhead is like one of those dates you have to work really hard to impress. It can’t just be dinner and a movie; it has to be dinner and a movie and a gondola ride and ice skating in an empty hockey arena and “let’s do it” spelled out in rose petals on the sidewalk AND a very special serenade from D’Angelo AND a three-dimensional scrapbook of our relationship—with holograms—mailed with a bushel-sized bouquet the next morning. But when it finally puts out? Good googly moogly.

BIO: Elena Passarello is an actor and essayist whose first book, Let Me Clear My Throat, is a shout-out to some of the most memorable human voices in history: Howard Dean, Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, Caruso, etc. Her work has appeared in publications including Slate, Creative Nonfiction, and Iowa Review, and in the music writing anthology Pop When the World Falls Apart. Last year, she became the first woman winner of the “Stella!” Screaming contest in New Orleans.

CONNECT: Oodles of ways to connect with Elena Passarello:

5 Responses to Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Elena Passarello

  1. I love the idea of the Internet as your lover. I relate. As a mom with a young child I am constantly working outside of writerhead. I can appreciate the distinction you made between working and flowing.

    That cover is terrific!

  2. Thank you for such a wonderful post and glimpse into your head, Elena. I am new to this blog and am thrilled to have found it. It’s funny (or maybe not), I determined earlier this evening after clearing my own head after a game of Angry Birds (with which I apparently have been blessed with mad skillz tonight) that I don’t know if I’ll ever make it as one of those huge bloggers with a gazillion followers because I’m not savvy to pop culture and trends and that actually made me happy because it affirmed for me that I’m stuck in my “writerhead” – creating and describing and progressing, like a screen play almost, my stories and that’s good. Reading this piece solidified that: you have to really court what you’re doing and cajole it and spend time with it to make it outstanding and while hot bloggers may be great and hooray for them, I’m good with not pursuing that. I’m finally… ready. Ready to sit down and do the Work to get the work done. When I’m not doing that, I’ll feed my blog, like a pet, but amazingly *right now* I feel as though I have a path. So… thanks. 🙂

    • Molly, so glad to hear that Elena’s interview resonated with you. In the end, it truly is sitting down (and getting up and sitting down…) to do the work. Lovely, excruciating work. Happy you found your way to Writerhead.