Thursday, May 31, 2012


                                                                          Heavy

            We were poor, so we butchered chickens.  Mother used a hatchet to lop off their heads.  Afterward, my brother kicked each carcass in the ass, sending the birds caroming down the hill with blood spurting wildly.

That was years ago.

Now Mother’s dead and my brother slow dances in a tuxedo.  He and she are the only couple.  Even in the dim lighting, you can tell his bride is pretty.  My brother is a stock broker.  He’s the one who’s gotten heavy.  He eats well, all kinds of meat.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


--YOU USED TO BE A LION


…I’ve been away, but now I’m back.  I had a lot of fun, still it’s nice to be home and getting back to it.
Here are some fun, random things for you:

Samuel L. Jackson trivia:
He's the highest grossing actor of all time.  His box office take: $10.3 Billion
He's been in 111 movies
Has worn a trench coat on screen nine different times
Has died on screen 17 times
Said "Motherf--er" 63 times in my favorite film, "Pulp Fiction"
Has spelled "Mother--er" 56 different ways since he's been on Twitter in October of 2011
7 Days, 23 Hours --Time it would take to watch all of Samuel L.'s films

 States with the largest Mexican-born populations:
CA --4.3 Million
TX --2.5 M
IL --.7 M
GA --.3

TAmerica's Top Names for Girls in 2011
1. Sophia
2. Isabella
3. Emma
4. Olivia
5. Ava

Top Boys Names
1. Jacob
2. Mason
3. William
4. Jayden
5. Noah

Recently Los Angeles held a weapons buyback project over a weekend that included 791 handguns, 527 rifles and one rocket  launcher (really) being turned in from civilians.

30% --Percentage of Americans who have sleepwalked
3.6% --Percentage who have sleepwalked in the past year

If America had to eliminate a holiday, it would be:
35% --Presidents Day
22% --Martin Luther King Day
20% --Labor Day
4%   --Memorial Day
2%   --Veterans Day

Public figure you'd most like to follow on Twitter:
31% --Obama
15% --Dalai Lama
10% --The Pope
7%   --Ashton Kutcher

If there is a God, emotions you think he'd feel about us:
49% --Love
30% --Disappointment
7%   --Disinterest
5%   --Pride
5%   --Anger

Which of the following types of muside do you find the hardest to enjoy?
47% --Heavy metal
25% --Hip-hop
13% --Country
7%   --Jazz
6%   --Classical

$1.4 Billion -- Annual sales of Romance novels
9% --Percentage of male buyers
49 ---Mean age for Romance book buyers

Where Romance readers reign:
38% --South
26% --Midwest
19% --West
17% --Northeast

Top lottery paydays:
March 2007 --$390 Million
Jan. 2011 --$380 Million
Oct. 2005 --$340 Million

When do you expect to retire?
54% --60-69
25% --70 or older
14% --Not retireing
7%   --Before 60

Top Life Goals for Men:
#1 Provide for my family
#2 Find a career that makes me happy
#3 Fine someone to spend the rest of my life with

33% --Percentage of men who are more successful than they expected to be
37% --Percentage who are less successful than they expected to be
35% --Percentage of men who say getting into a physical fight is acceptable and a normal part of being a man
44% --Percentage decrease in a person's cancer risk if you are a lifelong viborous exerciser
3 years --Amount added to your life if you exercise just 15 minutes a day
94% of Americans believe they can't get ahead

How much do you spend buying lunch per week?
$41 or more -- 25%
$21-40  -- 32%
$11-20 -- 25%
Less than $11 -- 18%

Countries with the highest percentage of adults who use social networking sits:
53% --Israel
50% --U.S.
43% --Britian
43% --Russia
42% --Spain

81% of people ages 18-35 use Facebook.
Facebook's IPO Deal is valued at $500 billion.
Over 50% of it's revenue comes from advertizing.
57% of Facebook's users say they never click on pop up ads, and 23% say they only click rarely.
44% of users say Facebook is a passing fad.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


--MAN IN A BOAT ON A BOAT BOATING


…Yesterday I wrote poetry.  For a bit I did.
Here’s one short poem that came of it:
 
Since You

I watched a man fall a tree today.
He must have known the strange danger of root systems.
His truck couldn’t carry all the wood.
When he returns, I aim to tell him
a proper story about murder.

 …Last night just, before dark, it rained harder than I’ve ever seen it.  I rose from my desk and stood by a window in my office that overlooks the lake and watched the torrent.  The lake looked like puckered green skin, rippled goose flesh.  No one was out on the lake but there were empty boats at a few docks, uncovered, and I wondered if the boats might fill with rain and sink.  I wondered how hard it is for eagles to fly through a downpour such as that.  I wondered what it’d be like to be a fish looking up at the surface and thought it’d likely be a little frightening, a fish’s way of thinking Armageddon had arrived.

The rain sounded like a hailstorm but without the pinging ring.  If I needed to talk to someone I would have had to shout, so it’s probably a good thing I was alone.

It rained so hard, rain bouncing off the lake and ground and other rain pools, that the shore on the other side became sheathed in a mist and houses disappeared behind the fog so that the silhouettes of trees was the only thing visible, but even they had a ghostly quality, something from a Slasher movie maybe.

After quite a long while, the downpour decreased to heavy drizzle.  Wind came out of nowhere, slicing sideways, and sure enough an eagle flew overhead, a little, slippery fish caught in its talons.

It’s raining again, tears on my window.  They must be happy tears, though, because I’m smiling.


Thursday, May 24, 2012


--NOT GOING TO HAPPEN

…Yesterday Egyptians voted for their president.  It was the first time in 5,000 years.  (Really, it was.)

…Yesterday I wrote a story called, “The Crying Girl” about a supermodel who becomes famous for crying on the runway.  It was such a sad story that even I felt a little depressed when I was done.

…I finished “This Is How” by M.J. Hyland.  It was 375 pages, yet one of the fastest reads ever.  Some sentences are one or two or three words.  She repeats words all the time, which is a pet peeve of mine, but in her case, it works.  The story captivated me and I’d recommend it, as I would all of her books.

…I’m often dumbfounded by the number of very long Facebook posts some writers put up, many times a day, about all kinds of things, often with attachments and quite a lot of commentary.  These are writers with side jobs and writers who are prodigious authors.

…I’m still not sure what to do with Twitter.  I’m an idiot on there.  I can’t think of anything pithy to say, …so all I do is share intriguing quotes.  Roxane Gay says it’s one of her favorite mediums and she seems to have a lot of fun with it, but she’s Roxane and anything she does seems worthwhile and meaningful

…People keep saying there are more readers than ever.  I also find articles almost every week saying it’s just a matter of months before Barnes and Noble goes bankrupt.  If that happens, I’ll be heartbroken.  I still don’t do the Kindle.  Don’t hate it, but I just prefer the sensory experience of a book in my hands, even if it means toting a dozen tomes in a suitcase for vacation.

…I saw two more posts about the inequities of male versus female writers, how men are favored or more prominent.  Maybe that’s true.  Maybe I’m just reading all the women.  I sure seem to love the female authors.

…I’m not a snob, but sometimes when I turn the television on and try to watch the popular network shows, well, I feel sorry for my country and sort of worry that we’ve become a bunch of dolts.  “Celebrity Apprentice” is appalling.  “Dancing With The Stars” is god awful.  “American’s Got Talent” is inane. 
It’s true.  I’m just saying.

...Here are some good things to ponder:

“I don't know what I think until I write it down.” Joan Didion

“When in doubt, choose to live.” Terry Pratchett

"Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work." Gustave Flaubert

"Develop a sense of nostalgia for something or you'll never figure out what's important." Gary Shteyngart

"Wisdom begins in wonder." Socrates

"I'm going to turn on the light and we'll be two people in a room looking at each other wondering why on earth we were afraid of the dark." Gale Wilhelm

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


--NOTHING'S GOING TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL ABOUT ME NOW


...I'm reading "This Is How" by M.J. Hyland.  I loved both her other books and especially "How The Light Gets In."  Her writing is incredibly clean and spare, with undertones of sorrow.  She has a uniquely fresh voice, which is hard to find anymore.

...Yesterday I finished "Is Life Like This?" by John Dufresne.  It's about novel writing, but really more than that.  It's been helpful as I slog through my novel. 
Here are some of the best bits:


-We make sense of the world by telling stories.  Stories order the chaos of life.

-You can’t tell a proper story while you’re in tears.

-The writer’s problem, and her opportunity, is knowing the world.

-We spend too much of our lives not feeling, not living, so much as acting, going through the motions.

-Failure is a more humbling experience than most of us want to suffer.

-You have to get over the notion that you are wasting your time by sitting and writing, by thinking and feeling frustrated at what you’ve written.

-In the long run, you want to be a writer more than you want to have written one book.

-Every novel is about trouble.

-Fiction is a humbling business.

-Talk is how we find our solace, after all.

-Travel trains us to notice.  We allow ourselves to become susceptible to the stimuli around us.

--Writing is like carpentry—it’s a craft.  You learn it through a long apprenticeship.

--Being a fiction writer is being an archeologist.

--The truth about a good novel is that nothing is ever what it seems to be.

--We read novels for the people who live in them because we read to learn about ourselves.

--Everyone who has a life thinks he has a novel to write.

-At the heart of humor, as at the heart of all art, as at the heart of truth and beauty, is suffering.

-Responsible fiction is subversive in that it asks us to question our lives and the status quo, and it doesn’t let us get away with glib answers.

-The telephone, the internet…All of this keeps us from examining our lives, keeps us bewildered.
-Our job—our privilege—as fiction writers, is to imagine and inhabit the lives of others.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


--I DIDN'T PLAN IT THAT WAY

We all have dreams.  Some of us get to them.  Most of us don't.  Are aspirations--the really big ones--sit there like a giant heap of marbles in our pockets and brains, chinking every once in a while.
Below is a post about "How not to write," but it could be about how not to do whatever it is you've always wanted to do.
I thought it was interesting and hope you do, too:

--How not to write? 

Sign up for another writer’s conference instead of actually writing.

Constantly tell yourself you have nothing to say.

Consult your horoscope.

Make a list of all the people who don’t think you’ll cut it as a writer.

Open an office.

Look for affirmation from everyone around you.

Ignore your own sorrows, passions, and music.

Whine about how nobody understands you.

Talk to telemarketers.

Play solitaire on the computer.

Complain about the English teacher who scared you.

Make a to-do list with writing as the top priority.

Edit as you go.

Check the rules of grammar and punctuation before you finish every paragraph.

Talk about your ideas so much that even you lose interest.

Wait until you have children.

Wait until your children stop teething, finish soccer season, and go off to college.  Wait until you have two hours of interrupted time to write.

Wait until you quit smoking, quit drinking, or find the right drink and are stone drunk.

Wait until your siblings move and your parents die.  Wait until you meet the love of your life.  Wait until the divorce is final.

Wait until you go on vacation.  Wait until the vacation is over.  Wait until you retire.

Wait until you find your muse and are inspired.

Wait until a doctor says you have six months to live.

Then die with your words inside of you. --Regina Brett


Thursday, May 17, 2012


--THERE WAS NOTHING TO WATCH
 

…Here are some things I've learned (some very unpleasant) of late, or at least the first bit, which I've been following closely and feel compelled to share:

First off, let's get this out of the way:

-On Monday the bodies of 43 men and six women were tossed on a Mexican freeway in Monterrey.  The corpses had their hands and feet cut off.
-On May 4th, nine people were hanged from a bridge in a Mexican town just south of Loredo, Texas.  That same day, in the same city, 14 people were found decapitated.
(Is no one doing anything about this?)

-Sixty percent of all American workers say that the value of their savings and investments is less than $25,000
-42% say it's $1,500 or less. 

-It's just been reported that Robert Downey Jr. is set to make $50 million dollars from the film "The Avengers"

-Average size of new single-family homes (in square feet):
1980 --1,740
1990 --2080
2000 --2266
2010 --2392

Most Well-Read Cities:
12. Seattle
11. Knoxville, TN
10. Pittsburg
9.   Salt Lake
8.   Washington, D.C.
7.   Arlington, VA
6.   Miami
5.   Boulder, CO
4.   Ann Arbor, MI
3.   Berkely, CA
2.   Cambridge, MA
1.   Alexandria, VA
(the two VA cities are merely suburbs of Wash., D.C.)

-32% of all white women aged 18-21 say they've used an indoor tanning bed at least once in the past year.

 -Number of magazine launches and closures in 2010 vs. 2011
2010 Launched: 301
2010 Closed:  311
2011 Launced: 273
2011 Closed: 174

--If you could predict a previous president to run the country today, whom would it be?
36% --Ronald Reagan
29% -- FDR
14% --Thomas Jefferson
8%   --Harry Truman
1%   -- William Henry Harrison

-If Joe Biden does run for vice president next year, which democrat would you favor replacing him?
43% --Hillary Clinton
8%   -- Warren Buffett
6%   --David Patraeus
5%   --Oprah Winfrey
4%   --Andrew Cuomo

 -3 in 4 --Number who say they would vote for a Mormon for president

-1 in 5 --Number who think God has a soft spot for the United States

-44 --Percentage who see natural disasters as signs of biblical "end times."

-29 --Percentage who think God punishes nations for the sins of their citizens

-1 in 2 --Number of men who say religion influenced their choice of spouse

-1 in 2-Number who pray every day

-42 --Percentage of Catholics who know that Genesis is the first book of the Bible

-79 --Percentage of atheists and agnostics who know

-27% --Number of women who are happy with their looks
24% --Number of women who are neutral about their looks
49% --Number of women who are not happy with the way they look

-73% --Percentage of men who are okay daying women who earn significantly more than they do
-19% --Percentage of men who are stay at home dads

-According to Parent and Child Magazine and Scholastic, these are the top 5 Childrens books of all time:
1. -- Charlotte's Web
2. -- Goodnight Moon
3. -- A Wrinkle in Time
4. -- The Snowy Day
5. -- Where the Wild Things Are

 -Number of Billionaires worldwide:
1987 --140
1992 --288
1997 --486
2002 --497
2007 --946
2012 --1,226
 
-13,539 babies are born addicted every year.  That's one every hour.

 -Through March of this year, 6.5% of all new cars purchased had stick shifts.
That's double the rate in each of the past five years.

 -There are seven billion living people and about 98 billion dead people i.e., fourteen dead people for every living person.

-57% of single women have sent a "sext"

-69% of women who are dating have sent a naked photo in an em-mail or text message

-72% of women who are not dating are likely to post something Facebook to grab someone's attention

-67% of people feel more comfortable flirting on Facebook vs. approaching them at a bar

-800,000,000  -- Number of Facebook users

-75 -- Percentage of Facebook users outside of the US 

-Current valuation of Facebook = $110 Billion


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


--IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK, BUT WHERE AM I?

…Maybe it’s this way for everyone, I don’t know, but as a kid, I was terribly afraid of death.
Death—humans dying, real people dying--scared the crap out of me.   To be there one day and not the next—not ever again—well, it seemed not just unfair but totally creepy.
Seeing a corpse seemed even worse.  What if it leapt up and sucked my face off, drained my blood?  After all, zombies were real.   I’d seen the pasty-faced living dead tottering around small towns in some movies.  I’d seen vampires sleeping in coffins, only to have them bound out and sink their teeth into some unsuspecting lass.  (This was back in the “Dark Shadows” TV days when vampires only appeared at night.)   
This fear lingered a long time and more than likely it might have been the reason that I didn’t attend my first funeral until the age of 32.  It certainly wasn’t because I hadn’t had anyone close to me die before then.  No, I was a bit cowardly, always camouflaging this fear with excuses—“I can’t go because I have to do this or be there.  I can’t go because I have a stomach ache, tooth ache, heart ache…”
It took me that initial ceremony and then a few others to understand what John Green points out in his latest novel, “The Fault of Our Stars,” where a character of his says, “Funerals are for the living.” 
Yesterday I went to a memorial of a very distant relative, only related to me by law and not by blood.
It was a long event.  Many of the speakers were naturally nervous, but once they settled in, they espoused too long.  Some of the vignettes they relayed were more about them than the deceased.  Most of those in the audience were elderly and did not seem to mind whatsoever.  In fact, each time I found my patience running thin, someone would chime in for the speaker to tell another story or elaborate on one already in progress.
The memorial was a tribute to both a father and son who had passed away.  The son’s name was Dan.  I’d never met him.
At one point early in the proceedings, the focus was on what his mother labeled “Dan’s Dash,” or the hash mark on a tombstone that bluntly represents all those years lived between birth and death.  Aside from the nice touch of alliteration, the label seemed a smart one, something that at once got each of us ruminating about ourselves, replaying the past, current, and probable future events of our own Dash.
Or at least I was thinking those things.

It’s hard to attend a funeral or service of that ilk and not ponder what kind of (and here I use this word gingerly because it can often sound pretentious and gaudy) legacy you’ll leave behind.
What type of life will I have lived when my days are all gone?
What will my priorities have been, and how will I have exhibited that?  (Having “shown” and not “told” what they were.)
Who might be around, interested, bored, duty-bound or guilt-ridden enough to even show up for my memorial?  What would these people say?  Would their comments be as heart-felt as the ones I was hearing?  Would there be any funny stories?  Would family and friends be at the forefront of most stories told?

After the memorial concluded and people gathered around in their separate huddles no one complained about it being an overwrought service.  Instead, they all remarked about how special it was, what fine tributes had been given.  I’m not sure if they sounded envious, but I’ll admit I was.  Just a bit, I was.

The other day I read a book written by a woman who overcame cancer and learned to live life hard and full, one day at a time.  Here are a couple things she wrote that struck me:

-“Every day somebody gets cancer.  The first thing you do is cry.  Then you ask questions for which you might not want to hear the answers: Is it curable?  Is it treatable?  Has it spread?
What you really want to know is this:  How long will I live?”
-“Envy is a waste of time.  You already have everything you need.”
-“Happiness is a choice.  It’s choosing to love what you already have.”
-“No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up for life.”
-“Most of us are walking around blind to the gifts that we have been given until we see the problems others have endured.”
-“I’ve never seen a hearse with a luggage rack.  And coffins don’t carry trophy cases.”
-“Growing old beats the alternative.  Dying young only looks good in movies.”
-“We aren’t stuck growing old.  We get to grow old.”

Sunday, May 13, 2012


--THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF WAYS TO FORGET



…How's weekend?  I hope it's the best ever.

…I got my copy of the print anthology of “Crack the Spine.”
I had two short pieces in it.
This was one:

     Bad Fruit



            Each day she comes to the same place, bringing a knife and nothing else. 
It is not a mountain but a hill.  After all these months of climbing up and down, she should be in better physical condition, yet she’s always winded by the time she reaches the top.  He is never there, but one day, after so long, after so many attempts, he is.
            His back is turned towards her.  He’s picking wild huckleberries from the scraggly bushes on the slope.  The sun, looming large, is a bright blister filled with pus.   There is no wind.  Sparrows--usually a mainstay here—are now nonexistent.
            He’s focused, picking the fruit.  This irony is not lost on her. 
            The knife feels like a heavy slab in her hand, cold instead of hot.  She tests the blade, and though it slices her thumb, drawing a red rivulet of blood, she is numb.
            All these years she has waited to have her revenge and now this: a stupid dullness.
            But once she is halfway down the hill, he calls, “Sister!  Sister, wait!”
            His voice--a vibrato cobra--lassoes her neck and instead of running, she stops, waits, the knife now molten in her hand.


…Here are a few things I like:

"She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful." Terri St. Cloud

"Art is meant to disturb." Georges Braque

“You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” Ray Bradbury

"God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers." Jewish proverb

"Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content." Helen Keller

"Every man stamps his value on himself... man is made great or small by his own will." J.C.F. von Schiller

Friday, May 11, 2012



--SOMEONE WHO LOOKS A LOT LIKE YOU SHOWED UP, BUT JUST TO SAY GOODBYE


…The other day I finished John Green's Young Adult novel, "The Fault in Our Stars."

It was not perfectly well written.  Sometimes the story bordered on cheesy or melodrama.  Yet it soared and stung.  It was loaded with heavy, important themes about life and death and what those entail.

The story, about two terminal teenagers, star-crossed lovers, grabbed me by the shirt collar and demanded to be devoured. 

Which I did.

Here are some snippets from the book.  Really they're life lessons, philosophies, wisdom to ponder when life gives you the moment to do so

Enjoy:

There are only two emotions—love and fear.

Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.

The thing about pain is it demands to be felt.

I will not tell you our love story, because—like all real love stories—it will die with us, as it should.

The word “okay” is very flirty.  “Okay” is bursting with sensuality.

The universe needs to make and unmake all that is possible.

“I have wonderful news!  You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!”

Funerals are for the living.

Pain is like fabric: The stronger it is, the more it’s worth.

Not many people are lucky enough to be so good at something.

The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside of them, even though they contain most of our lives…and maybe that’s sort of the point of architecture.

I know that love is just a shout into the void.

Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom.  And in freedom, most people find sin.

People always get used to beauty.

Everyone wants to lead an extraordinary life.

The thing about dead people is you sound like a bastard if you don’t romanticize them, but the truth is… complicated.

It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.

Like all sick children, you say you don’t want pity, but your very existence depends upon it.

You have a choice in this world, about how to tell sad stories.

Sometimes it seems the universe wants to be noticed.

I want to leave a mark.







Wednesday, May 9, 2012


--THE MIRROR KEEPS ASKING ME WHO I AM


…A lifetime ago, three years ago, to be exact, on May 9th, I had my first story published.

At the time, it seemed like a feat of magic to wake up, check the cell phone, and find something I'd written printed in a literary journal.

I remember standing in the bathroom, in my underwear, bleary-eyed, having just woken, re-reading the message two or three times.

For a few moments, I thought I was being Punked.  I even looked over both shoulders.

Maybe for the non-writer this experience is like hearing your lover say those three words for the first time.  Or maybe it’s like hearing them say those other three words—“I miss you”—for the first time.

What I’m saying is I’d never felt anything quite like it.

When I started out submitting, I had no idea what I was doing.  I didn't even know what "Flash Fiction" was.  I’d written some poetry, a lot of it really, but the bulk was drivel.  My stories, up until then meandered.  My dialogue was stilted at best.

But I learned.  I got better.

But I read a lot and paid attention.  I found people whose writing I admired and studied the places where their work was published, and then I had the audacity to solicit those very same sites.

And I guess that's how you do it.  You find the best.  You find writers who are somewhat similar to your aesthetic.  And then, writing in your own voice, you do the workmanlike things that they do. 

And you keep doing it, knowing full well that rejection is a sort of crass, loud-mouthed friend who will tell you the truth even when it's a bullet to the gut.

Since then, I've had over 650 pieces accepted. 

Six hundred and fifty is a lot of words, a lot of sentences and paragraphs.

It’s a lot of printed pages that end up recycled.  It’s a lot of anguish over one or two words.

But it’s quite a bit of fun as well.

The thrill of having one's work validated never lessens.  The rejections still sting, of course, but they joy of publication is what pushed and pulls and propels you to keep at it, and when it does come, no matter how often, it always arrives with both a bolt of surprise and elation, however temporary.

It's a brave thing to be a writer.  I think it is.

It takes moxie to put yourself out there in the public eye.

While it's rare to be brazenly criticized, friends or family might read something you've written--say, a rather "dark" piece--and look at you a little differently.  They might ask, "What the hell?"  They might ask, "Is that story about me?"  They might say, "You sure have a twisted mind."

Writing truthfully means standing naked under a spotlight. 

Readers who know you have a hard time separating author from friend/father/husband/relative.  If you write about a boyfriend having revenge by killing his lover, "Well," they think, "what's to keep you(writer) from committing such an act?"

And that’s why writing for publication takes courage to the second power.

You’re not only braving defeat, but also blanket scrutiny.

But to create this little globe of life, and to have it take form in such a keen way that it feels real--even when rendered raw or vicious--is to have shone a light on life lived in the shadows and cracks.

Anyway, that's how I see it.

So May 9th is a special day.

And like any anniversary, it creates a good reason to pause and reflect, to consider what’s been made manifest and what lies ahead.


Monday, May 7, 2012


--MY MEMORIES ALL TASTE LIKE NAPALM


…Need some inspiration to start the week?  Of course.
Well, here’s some:

"Art is meant to disturb." Georges Braque

“You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
Ray Bradbury

"God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers." Jewish proverb
 
"Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content." Helen Keller

"Every man stamps his value on himself... man is made great or small by his own will." J.C.F. von Schiller

"So let us go forward quietly, each on his own path, forever making for the light." Vincent Van Gogh

"I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of." Montaigne

"It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there." Asphodel

"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." Agatha Christie

"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night
and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”  e.e. Cummings

"You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on." Heraclitus

"Whenever he thought about Vietnam, he felt terrible.  And so, at least, he came to a fateful decision.  He decided not to think about it." Anon

"Love your self's self where it lives." Anne Sexton

"The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one
heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but
because he is a man of high and heroic temper." Aristotle

"The words 'I am…" are potent words; be careful what you hitch them to.  The thing you're claiming has a way of reaching back and claiming you." A.L. Kitselman


Sunday, May 6, 2012


--I STOPPED DOING THAT A LONG TIME AGO

 You may wonder how you start, how you catch the first inspiration.  What do you use for bait?
You have no choice.
One bad winter in the Arctic an Algonquin woman and her baby were left alone after everyone else in their winter camp had starved.  The woman walked from camp where everyone had died, and found at a lake a cache.  The cache contained one small fishhook.  It simple to rig a line, but she had no bait, and no hope of bait.  The baby cried.  She took a knife and cut a strip from her own thigh.  She fished with the worm of her own flesh and caught a jackfish; she fed the child and herself.  Of course she saved the fish gut for bait.  She lived alone at the lake, on fish, until spring, when she walked out again and found people.”


Friday, May 4, 2012



--BLAME IT ON THE WEEKEND


*It is easy, after all, not to be a writer.  Most people aren’t writers, and very little harm comes to them. -Flaubert

This is your life.  You are a Seminole alligator wrestler.  Half naked, with our two bare hands, you hold and fight a sentence’s head while its tail tries to knock you over.

At its best, the sensation of writing is that any of unmerited grace.  It is handed to you, but only if you look for it.  It is handed to you, but only if you look for it.  You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then—and only then—it is handed to you.

One line of a poem, the poet said—only one line, but thank God for that one line—drops from the ceiling.

If a shoe salesman fails to appear one morning, someone will notice and miss him.  Your manuscript on which you lavish such care, has no needs or wishes; it knows you not.  Nor does anyone need your manuscript; everyone needs shoes more.

Out of a human population of five billion, perhaps twenty people can write a serious book in a year.  Some people can lift cars, too.

Sometimes part of a book simply gets up and walks away.  The writer cannot force it back in place.  It wanders off to die.  It is like the astonishing—and common-starfish called the sea star.  From time to time a sea star breaks one of its arms off and no one knows why.

The written word is weak.  Many people prefer life to it.  Life gets your blood going, and it smells good.  Writing is mere writing.  It appeals only to the subtlest senses—the imagination’s vision, and the imagination’s hearing.  This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.

You can read in the space of a coffin, and you can write in the space of a toolshed meant for mowers and spades.

There is no shortage of good days.  It is good lives that are hard to come by.

*It should surprise no one that the life of a writer is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation.  Many writers do little else than sit in small rooms recalling the real world.

 *Why people want to be writers I will never know, unless it is that their lives lack a material footing.

*I do not write a book so much as sit up with it, as with a dying friend.

 *Write as if you were dying.  What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon?

*It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in ‘Moby Dick.”  So you might as well write ‘Moby Dick.’

The writer studies literature, not the world.  He lives in the world; he cannot miss it.  If he has ever bought a hamburger, or taken a commercial airplane flight, he spares his readers a report of his experiences.  *He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write.  He is careful of what he learn, because that is what he will know.

“The Writing Life,” by Annie Dillard

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


--I'M ALIVE IN THE UNDERTOW



…Today is a very happy day.  Can I tell you about it?

Yesterday I signed a contract with Aqueous Books for a story collection—“I’m Not Supposed To Be Here and Neither Are You”—to be published in August of 2014.  My hands were shaking when I wrote out my name.

Even for a person who writes, it’s difficult to put into words how special this is for me.

As a boy with five older brothers, I was once extraordinarily shy.  My siblings were all handsome, muscular, athletic and confident.  They could fix things, take apart a car engine and put it back together blindfolded.  I couldn’t.  In fact, I still don’t even know where, or what, a carburetor is.  I was skinny, with longish hair, wore puka shells and read constantly.  My friends were imaginary characters I created and played with in the wending woods far behind the trailer home where we lived.

When I was nine years old I started writing stories.  At school, in English class, we’d be given five different options/topics to choose from but I’d go ahead and write all of them, sometimes even creating my own subject ideas and writing those, too. 

Around fourth grade, a teacher--Mrs. East was her name--said, “I think you’re going to be a writer when you grow up.”

I was a little stunned.  Writers seemed Zeus-like to me, famous faraway scribes, regal and untouchable.

But the more I thought about it, the more Mrs. East’s comment took root.  A writer.  Me.  Yes.

One day—and I remember it distinctly--I became brave and got the nerve up to share my plans with family members. 

It didn’t go so well. 

It was explained to me that most writers starve to death or have to have real jobs in order to make a living.

Growing up poor, in a family of ten with a dad who was a mechanic, we were taught to be pragmatic.  It was okay to dream so long as we knew where those boundary lines began and ended.  This world view wasn’t meant to be cruel, only realistic, as that was the only world my parents—blue collar folk—knew.

So, for the rest of my life I put the notion of becoming a serious writer aside.  After college, I got a job, a “real” one.  I worked incredibly hard for many years, had a great career and retired (very fortunately) at a reasonably young age, and started writing full-time three years ago.

It’s been a joy.  Every day it has.

And now I feel like I’m nine years old again.  I’m still skinny.  My hair isn’t quite as long and I don’t have those puka shells any more, but I’m a writer after all.