Thursday, December 12, 2013
I Stumbled upon some great poetry by a Connecticut resident, David Morse.
I've included a sample (below)
Actually, I didn't just find Mr. Morse, by chance. I had a friend once, a mentor, a talented professor and poet. I took one of her poetry courses at the University of Connecticut. Her name was Joan Joffe Hall. She loved my narrative poetry (more than me) and encouraged my writing. She wrote me letters of recommendation. When I won the Jennie Hackman Memorial Award for Short Fiction, she put an arm around me and said "You got it...the Hackman." It was a poignant moment, for me. I won a thousand dollars,(I was in shock...for a story!) an opportunity to read from my story "Yielding", and publication in the Long River Review. It was the first time I took myself seriously as a fiction writer. My English professors inquired about my writing, asked me what I planned on doing. I had no idea why they asked, or what I might do. I completed graduate school, became an English teacher, and, later, when I couldn't quit the writing bug, Joan helped me get into an MFA program (which I decided to quit). She was always rooting for me, even if we didn't keep in touch, she was on my mind. I was going to forward her my latest publications, small gains but something, and I discovered she had passed on in September, 2013. David Morse was her talented husband.
"Honor the Stones", from David's chapbook. Available from Dogwood Press.
Waiting for Spring
I take the first pew in this rough church,
seat myself on flat stones and look up
at fractured bedrock bulging skyward,
vertical black stripe painted by groundwater
curved into a bow, picture the arrow flying
across the valley and try not to think about
Darfur, or the woman at the embassy of Sudan
whose job is to delay requests for visas,
or flies dabbling in a dead baby's wound,
women's eyes dulled by rape and loss
of everything; helicopter gunships, devils
on horseback. This is Connecticut,
green land waiting for spring to untie
the black knot of winter. Soon will come
choirs of spring peepers, skunk cabbage.
Last night on a hill I inhaled the soft
sweet fragrance of maple sap funneling
moonlit steam into the shape of Africa.
Links to Joan Joffe Hall's publications
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Monday, December 2, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
Friday, November 1, 2013
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Photo by Vincent Bongiovanni
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Due to its length, editor, Branden Hart of Empty Sink Publishing, proposed serializing my story, "Fugue". I agreed, of course, so the first half will be in the December issue and the second half in the January issue.
"Coveted" was accepted by editor, Peter Jelen of BareBack Magazine and it will appear in the November issue.
It is wonderful to know my stories found homes in two fabulous literary and arts magazines and will sit alongside other like-minded artists.
Monday, September 16, 2013
I have an infatuation with first person, present tense so I sought out some of my favorites to determine why.
Excerpt from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
A group of people is coming towards us. They're tourists, from Japan it looks like, a trade delegation perhaps, on a tour of the historic landmarks or out for local color. They're diminutive and neatly turned out; each has his or her camera, his or her smile. They look around, bright-eyed, cocking their heads to one side like robins, their very cheerfulness aggressive, and I can't help staring. It's been a long time since I've seen skirts that short on women. The skirts reach just below the knee and the legs come out from beneath them, nearly naked in their thin stockings, blatant, the high-heeled shoes with their straps attached to the feet like delicate instruments of torture. The women teeter on their spiked feet as if on stilts, but off balance, their backs arch at the waist, thrusting the buttocks out. Their heads are uncovered and their hair too is exposed, in all its darkness and sexuality. They wear lipstick, red, outlining the damp cavities of their mouths, like scrawls on a washroom wall, of the time before.
I stop walking. Ofglen stops beside me and I know that she too cannot take her eyes off these women. We are fascinated, but also repelled. They seem undressed. It has taken so little time to change our minds about things like this.
Then I think: I used to dress like that. That was freedom.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
by Susan Howe
Day is a type when visible
objects change then put
on form but the anti-type
That thing not shadowed
The way music is formed of
cloud and fire once actually
concrete now accidental as
half truth or as whole truth
Is light anything like this
stray pencil commonplace
copy as to one aberrant
A secular arietta variation
Grass angels perish in this
harmonic collision because
non-being cannot be 'this'
Not spirit not space finite
Not infinite to those fixed—
That this millstone as such
Quiet which side on which—
Is one mind put into another
in us unknown to ourselves
by going about among trees
and fields in moonlight or in
a garden to ease distance to
fetch home spiritual things
That a solitary person bears
witness to law in the ark to
an altar of snow and every
age or century for a day is
Friday, August 30, 2013
The Tollund Man
By Seamus Heaney
Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.
In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,
Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time.
Bridegroom to the goddess,
She tightened her torc on him
And opened her fen,
Those dark juices working
Him to a saint's kept body,
Trove of the turfcutters'
Now his stained face
Reposes at Aarhus.
I could risk blasphemy,
Consecrate the cauldron bog
Our holy ground and pray
Him to make germinate
The scattered, ambushed
Flesh of labourers,
Laid out in the farmyards,
Tell-tale skin and teeth
Flecking the sleepers
Of four young brothers, trailed
For miles along the lines.
Something of his sad freedom
As he rode the tumbril
Should come to me, driving,
Saying the names
Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard,
Watching the pointing hands
Of country people,
Not knowing their tongue.
Out here in Jutland
In the old man-killing parishes
I will feel lost,
Unhappy and at home.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Day creeps down. The moon is creeping up.
The sun is a corbeil of flowers the moon Blanche
Places there, a bouquet. Ho-ho…The dump is full
Of images. Days pass like papers from a press.
The bouquets come here in the papers. So the sun,
And so the moon, both come, and the janitor's poems
Of every day, the wrapper on the can of pears,
The cat in the paper-bag, the corset, the box
From Esthonia: the tiger chest, for tea.
The freshness of night has been fresh a long time.
The freshness of morning, the blowing of day, one says
That it puffs as Cornelius Nepos reads, it puffs
More than, less than or it puffs like this or that.
The green smacks in the eye, the dew in the green
Smacks like fresh water in a can, like the sea
On a cocoanut—how many men have copied dew
For buttons, how many women have covered themselves
With dew, dew dresses, stones and chains of dew, heads
Of the floweriest flowers dewed with the dewiest dew.
One grows to hate these things except on the dump.
Now in the time of spring (azaleas, trilliums,
Myrtle, viburnums, daffodils, blue phlox) ,
Between that disgust and this, between the things
That are on the dump (azaleas and so on)
And those that will be (azaleas and so on) ,
One feels the purifying change. One rejects
That's the moment when the moon creeps up
To the bubbling of bassoons. That's the time
One looks at the elephant-colorings of tires.
Everything is shed; and the moon comes up as the moon
(All its images are in the dump) and you see
As a man (not like an image of a man) ,
You see the moon rise in the empty sky.
One sits and beats an old tin can, lard pail.
One beats and beats for that which one believes.
That's what one wants to get near. Could it after all
Be merely oneself, as superior as the ear
To a crow's voice? Did the nightingale torture the ear,
Pack the heart and scratch the mind? And does the ear
Solace itself in peevish birds? Is it peace,
Is it a philosopher's honeymoon, one finds
On the dump? Is it to sit among mattresses of the dead,
Bottles, pots, shoes, and grass and murmur aptest eve:
Is it to hear the blatter of grackles and say
Invisible priest; is it to eject, to pull
The day to pieces and cry stanza my stone?
Where was it one first heard of the truth? The the.
Wallace Stevens (1942)
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Canibal to his Audience (W.H. Auden, The Sea and the Mirror, 1944)
Yet, at this very moment when we do at last see ourselves as we are, neither cosy nor playful, but swaying out on the ultimate wind-whipped cornice that overhangs the unabiding void--we have never stood anywhere else,--when our reasons are silenced by the heavy huge derision,--there is nothing to say. There never has been,--and our wills chuck in their hands--There is no way out. There never was,--it is at this moment that for the first time in our lives we hear, not the sounds which, as born actors, we have hitherto condescended to use as an excellent vehicle for displaying our personalities and looks, but the real Word which is our only raison d'être. Not that we have improved; everything, the massacres, the whippings, the lies, the twaddle, and all their carbon copies are still present, more obviously than ever; nothing has been reconstructed; our shame, our fear, our incorrigible staginess, all wish and no resolve, are still, and more intensely than ever, all we have: only now it is not in spite of them but with them that we are blessed by that Wholly Other Life from which we are separated by an essential emphatic gulf of which our contrived fissures of mirror and proscenium arch--we understand them at last--are feebly figurative signs, so that all our meanings are reversed and it is precisely in its negative image of Judgment that we can positively envisage Mercy; it is just here, among the ruins and the bones, that we may rejoice in the perfected Work which is not ours. Its great coherences stand out through our secular blur in all their overwhelmingly righteous obligation; its voice speaks through our muffling banks of artificial flowers and unflinchingly delivers its authentic molar pardon; its spaces greet us with all their grand old prospect of wonder and width; the working charm is the full bloom of the unbothered state; the sounded note is the restored relation.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
I have completed my novella, Word of Pia. I combined parts I and II and added lots I didn't expect to add. So it is no longer a trilogy. It ends with a sense that there will be more to come. But I plan on working on some other projects. I'll just let this one go for awhile. It is odd in areas and mysteriously surreal in others. Dali's painting comes to mind when I think of the end.
Overall, good quick read for those that like to dwell in the land of the psychological, science fiction genre. I don't know how to place it, actually. It is what it is.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
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Monday, June 3, 2013
“Oh my children! Do they cry? Do they hear their father sigh? Now they look abroad to see. Now return and weep for me.” Minnie was singing a song Maura had never heard. It sounded like an old poem, or maybe a hymn. It was familiar. She had been singing this for a few days now and Maura ignored it, figured she learned it at preschool or heard it in church. But she didn’t recall
“Please, what is it doll? What is that song you keep singing?”
Minnie looked up from her stirring. She pressed the wood stick up against her forehead, held it there as if she were trying to hide behind it.”
“Darling, stop that. You’ll hurt yourself. Now tell me where you learned that song.”
“Stick Grammy. Stick, please!” she bellowed. Maura had taught her to say please. Maura couldn’t resist her now or ever when she made this particular face— the way her nose scrunched up just like Daddy's when he was the sad or scared; the resemblance was uncanny. Even the freckle under her right eyebrow and Maura saw her son in these moments and then recalled it like yesterday, the breaking news, smells of meatloaf baking, the news reporter’s voice blaring out the speaker of a vintage pink commodore transistor radio: Young officer of Robertson county killed in the line of duty, Cool Spring Road...the Zimmermann property. Gunshot wound to the head looks to be self-inflicted. The details as of yet are unclear. The mug’s weight was enormous. Maura’s legs wobbled over to Minnie—little Minnie on the couch, snuggled into her furry teddy bear blanket, waiting for Daddy, pink horses galloping across the screen with songs and merry children smiling and laughing. It was all over. Maura knew it was gone, that any semblance of the old life was no more for Minnie or for herself. First, she loses a mother and now...Maura couldn’t consider it. She knew like a mother knows. When the phone rang she rushed into the kitchen to retrieve it, put the cup down but missed the counter and it crashed to the ground. Minnie crawled over to her “Boo boo, Grammy?”
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Read review here.
Maurice, where are you Maurice. I need you. You’re calling me. I hear you. I need to go, Markel. I need to go home. I need Maurice. I don’t say that. “Will you be okay?”
“I’m always okay,” he says, dazed, trance-like. The cat lopes towards him. I see Markel pull the cat to him. Go now. Get out. I reach for the door handle. A wind whips my hair. Debris flies by. The trees bend, limbs crack. A black shelf forms overhead and I look back again at Markel, walking quickly towards me as if he might try to prevent me from leaving. I freeze. He is holding the cat, but something is different. It’s not the black and white one. It’s an orange one. “Where did you…?” My words trail off. “I need to go, Markel.”
"Pia is here. The storm is coming. The storm is gaining speed.” He points to the sky.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Leave a comment. Please do. Share your own experiences.
One day, mark my words, when one of my best sellers (that I haven't written yet) is viral, I will look back on these lonely blogging days and say how do you like that...dreams do come true.
Thanks for the read!
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Here's what I believe based on theory, experience and reading on the subject: Three areas of a person's life determine the level of functioning, degree of affliction and overall emotional health (especially if a child is born on the spectrum):
2. parental advocacy and support (education level of parents)
That's all I'll say on it.
Of course anyone who fixates or fascinates in one area will, eventually, become an expert in that field. But when comorbid conditions crop up such as OCD or depression or anxiety, then it complicates matters. Or when the fascination is discouraged or removed altogether(often happens when formal schooling begins) this causes an imbalance, increased anxiety, and behavioral issues ensue. The balance is tricky and often difficult to discern and regulate with a child on the autism spectrum. Communication related to desires, difficulties, confusion, and other emotive expressions come much later and have to be learned--communication is not natural or intuited, initially. I do believe it can be learned because it is inherent, and there is the desire to reach out and connect to others. It is powerful, the need to relate, to be part of society. Hence, the aspies natural inclination to excel with technology, which allows for attention to finer details, and also a connection in a safer realm.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
And when I receive a 3 star review and the reader who doesn't normally read short stories enjoyed mine, Dying for Dusty, and will "definitely watch for more from this author" that makes my day.
So, thanks to my readers. You make it all worth it.
Leave a comment with a link to your blog or website!
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Hence my latest publication/letter to the Hartford Courant. Maybe it is a stretch--an analogy between a fourth grade lashing out in anger and an impending missile strike. Hm. Well, I'll let you be the judge.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
I am working on my Word of Pia trilogy, part ii and once I'm finished I will return, finally, to The Sins of Dom Novella, Book II. I realize it is long long overdue.
Thanks for the read. Leave a comment, feedback, and I will be sure to reciprocate.
I watch Paw Bo crawl across the floor. She prefers it, even though she can walk. I think if I could be infantile I might; it is a time when life is bliss, raw and real, a time when all faculties are heightened. If Annie wants to leave, I won’t argue. I’ll say fine, just go then. I have had it with your bullshit. I have played it out, the various scenarios. Maybe not profanity...too much not like me and she will suspect. I almost took a shower today but couldn’t do it. Annie will ask me if I took a shower. The thought of water on my skin makes me cringe. I can’t tell. She is starting to suspect. She knows the signs of a deteriorating mind—hygiene goes first. I think she told me that. Someone did.
“No no,” I say, gently. She startles, looks at me oddly as if she can see the words exiting my mouth. “What do you see?” I ask her and she turns away from me. “You want some lunch?” I open the cupboard and see the empty shelves, remember I was supposed to go to the store. The idea of shopping feels burdensome. “You can’t keep eating out. It’s not healthy,” Annie had said. I know all that already. But it’s easier. I'm weak, heavy feeling. I quickly slip on Paw Bo’s white Hush Puppy sandals; “Chick a chick a boom boom,” I say, and she smiles. I should say it again and she’ll laugh. I’m too tired for it all; she stares down at my hands whenever I buckle her shoe; “One two buckle my shoe,” more smiles and a small giggle. “More?” she says. I swing her up to my side and her thin downy hair sweeps my cheek, smells like peaches; I could cry from the sweetness.
We walk outside. The air is thick and morose. A spate of dark clouds encroaches. Just take each moment as it comes. Moment to moment—Maggie, she said it. It was after the Zimmermann incident, the time when we clung to each other, to our sanity, hearing Pia’s voice in our heads, hallucinating; it was the time when I wanted to die and Maggie saved me with her kisses, both of us saving each other with flesh and lust and next Paw Bo, her teeny face, eager, reaching arms. I walk quickly to the safety of the car. Paw Bo says “We go now?” repeatedly. She will keep saying it until she gets a response. “Yes, going.” I finally answer. When I buckle her into her seat she squirms and then makes sounds like “NOAP!” which could be a combination of no and stop. Annie might tickle her and make her giggle, distract her. I’m inept.
The drive settles her and me. I glance out the window at the neatly painted houses, too neat, the dolor rows of taupe, steel-grey, white, and then the repeated pattern that has evolved into a searing dullness. I try to recall the days when it may have evoked a comfortable feeling of predictability; but now I find it too obscure a memory, too distant and tainted; I stare at it in an attempt to make it real--the sharp green hedges and sleek white fences marking boundaries, lush and blossoming fruit trees dropping petals and spotting well manicured lawns, tall stemmed dahlias top heavy and leaning against sides of chimneys like frail birds, miniature roses thorny and blood-red languishing on trellises, gleaming metal of bikes and scooters and pogo sticks tipped onto their sides, stray balls rolling along like tumbleweeds in some phantom breeze. I imagine the neighborhood evacuated, leaving behind a hollow vacancy. It is more alive if I imagine it this way. I glance upwards and see dark clouds gathering, plotting as if in secret concession.
"Storm, Da Da." I tighten my grip on the wheel. "No, no," I say, gently. I fix my eyes on the road, resolute, readying for some battle...Pia Zimmermann is here--the idea snakes itself into my mind like an unwavering melancholy.
FIND WORD OF PIA TRILOGY PART I ON AMAZON.COM
Saturday, March 23, 2013
A writer (like myself) toils to create scenes like the ones in this trailer. I always fall short.
Regardless, this Bill is ludicrous and seeks to identify kids who are falling through the cracks. Idyllically, yes, it would be nice to save all the children. But it's not realistic. We have scarce resources to meet the current needs of our mentally ill population. I came across another op-ed arguing against the screening by Leslie Wolfgang.
Andrea Spencer is describing an inner city child. The children targeted for these potential mental health screenings would be the ones most targeted now, the most vulnerable-- the poor. Children, all children, need time to develop. Screening and diagnosing them early on puts them at risk, high risk, for a cocktail of meds--this is not the answer. The ones most likely to be screened and diagnosed come from poverty ridden areas and suffer from emotional stresses that present as anxiety and depression. Academic support is not always there. They are promoted through no fault of their own. And their mental health problems are triggered by environmental factors rather than neurological factors; so instead of a diagnosis and drugs, these kids need the right school environment, the right role models, mentors, a positive learning environment. On the contrary, where these kids spend most of their day is not always so healthy; many of the inner city elementary schools are in need of fixing. But we don't do it. We are creating many magnet schools that are refurbished and filled with new materials that are modern and aesthetically designed. and it's a step in the right direction. But, still, the inner city kids experience more academic failure, humiliation, teasing, bullying, fighting, aggression--it is a miracle some emerge unscathed. And then there are the older schools, the ones that are not magnets. Our youngest and most fragile children attend these schools, sit in less than par classrooms with old desks and mismatched chairs, collapsing ceilings, chipped paint, exposed pipes and asbestos; and many of these buildings should no longer be called schools; they should be condemned. Mental health issues will continue to grow and become even more complicated and unmanageable if we don't take care of the inequity in our educational system. As Andrea Spencer points out, if we go back to the school records, there is an origin.
Friday, March 22, 2013
Once a dream did weave a shade…O’er my angel guarded bed…That an emmet lost its way…Where on grass methought I lay. I hear her. I hear her now. But where is she? I don’t see her. The wind eddied at her feet. The sun, a canary yellow, jettied its last rays outward—spindly fingers groping, grasping.
I am not here. I will come for you soon. I will tell you what I know. Look to the sky an you will see the signs. See the clouds, brother. They speak in words no one knows.
“Here she comes. She says she’s not. But I feel her. She likes to trick."
You know nothing, brother; you are weary, trapped in your small world. The storm is coming. And you must spread the word to others. It is big. It will destroy those who have turned away.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
A sight to behold on the heels of controversy surrounding Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign. The hand of God at work, or mere coincidence? Some skeptics say the government is putting on a light show. Hm. Now, that sounds the least credible. I know that Saint Peter's Bascilica is the holiest church for catholics. I was raised a Roman Catholic. Many have turned their backs on the church for various reasons, citing hypocrisy, cover-ups, scandalous happenings. rigidity or lack of progression. But, all in all, I'm sure other religions could score just as high in the department of fallibility.
Nevertheless, popes usually don't resign. They depart when God has called a new pope. So, is Pope Benedict XVI overriding God's will?
I'm left awestruck,humbled, believing it very well could be a mysterious divine power. I know the Pope worked hard, tirelessly, at promoting global peace and love. He devoted his entire life to his faith, to improving humanity. We may never know why the bolts of lightening hit the Vatican. But it can't hurt to say a prayer for the Pope and the world. As the great poet W.H.Auden put it "We must love one another or die." And love, the kind of selfless love people of all faith are taught, includes forgiveness.
Monday, February 11, 2013
I think I could be better at self-promotion. But, I'm not. I am satisfied just to write and publish. Writing is akin to raising children, instructing children--this same kind of feeling--rewarding that way. A job that's well done, a complete and utter feeling of satisfaction, fulfillment. When I don't write for a few days, a story sits there, unattended. And I feel antsy, careless. It calls me back like the child seeking attention. Then when I return to it, I find areas to tweak, enhance, delete. It's a piece of art, fickle and flexible--evolving into itself, taking on a life of its own, outside of me. I don't plan. It just happens. And when it's grown big enough, I send it off, out of the nest.
Writing is always solitary--you sit with your work and words, alone, like the teacher in the classroom, or the stay at home parent. What you say, how you say it, matters enormously. There is no one there to consult, no one to tell you it's right or wrong. You have faith, a divine pulse--a moral conscience to guide you.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Now, for bad reviews. I'm finding that my books are evoking sharp variations in responses. One says "thought provoking" and another says "no depth" for the same work! Shortly after publishing a blog about bad reviews boosting sales, I got my first one star review for They Think That I Am Somewhat. The reviewer referred to it as "profoundly uncomfortable" but then described it as "brilliant" but missing the mark in terms of educating the autistic population in the right way. FWIW, I wrote all my stories at different stages, and I didn't set out to publish a collection.
Athough some might say autism is the overarching theme in my collection, it is not necessarily written to be used as a guide or for research. As a matter of fact, autism is only mentioned in one of the stories. What I do include in all stories are observable traits, a realistic look at what happens when autism is either not diagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Nonetheless, there it is a big fat ONE STAR! And it drags my book down to a four star book. I can't say I'm not disapointed. I mean, when you have twenty reviews, a few one-star reviews don't matter as much.
That's that. I'm moving forward, hoping for another 5 star review.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
I read an article entitled Bad Reviews Can Boost Sales. Heres Why by Jonah Berger, which refers to a study that found for unknown authors one star reviews can actually boost sales. I guess human beings are curious by nature. I was reminded of my failed project that received an entire blog entry (read it here) and the remarks were scathing, so much so that I found it humorous, laugh aloud funny. I guess the idea that this critic would go to such great length to disparage my work was both jarring and impressive.
So, according to the study, Blue Jackson should be selling like hotcakes. I mean, this one blog entry is equal to about ten one star reviews. Truth be told, if I sold even one I'd be thrilled. Okay, so the language is deep southern slang, and I guess I should have paid attention to my sister's gasp when I told her I published it, realized that most people don't want to read more than a paragraph of dat and dem. Nevertheless, I'm still committed as an artist and lover of authenticity. It had so many possibilities, so much potential; maybe it was the blog? Or, maybe it was just plain unreadable. At any rate, I've accepted defeat. I'm rewriting it in easier to read language, regular old Queen's English with a sprinkling of slang. I decided it will be a thriller trilogy too. I already have part II (in my head).
Even though I'm knee-deep in an unexpected short story that's growing possibly into a novella, and my two other novellas, left undone, I couldn't bear to look at Blue Jackson anymore, climbing steadily upwards to the 900k range so I took her down and am making it a priority to get her fixed up with a new look and improved readability.
Updates to follow.
Monday, January 21, 2013
Q: You have published an enormous variety of stories in literary journals and anthologies and won numerous awards and accolades for your short story collections, including your latest entitled Little Sinners which is the recipient of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize. How has your gift for the short story helped you with writing your novel?
I’m afraid that being able to write a good short story doesn’t necessarily prepare you to write a novel. For a long time I believed that a short story was just a miniature version of the novel—that you might create a place and a group of characters, provide them with some quirky conflicts, have them react and interact, and leave them in a different place than you found them—and if you stretched this out to three hundred pages, as opposed to twenty, you’d have a book. I tried this method five times—and I’ve got five bundles of printed pages filled with some interesting bits of potential material—but I don’t have five books.
I approached my current novel differently—with an eye toward the whole. I wasn’t entirely sure how it would end, but I established from the opening a reason for the reader to want to get there. I learned you can’t rely on beautifully written scenes, but that you have to focus on the reader—on why she is reading, and what might keep her reading. If you’ve dangled a lure, you can’t forget to return to it, to involve it in the story. It sounds like plot, but plot has everything to do with character. I guess if I learned anything from the short story it is that—the character is an integral part of the momentum.
Q: What advice would you give the short story writer who is considering writing his or her first novel? Who were some of your earlier influences?
It sounds like you’re asking about reading—about what writers I read as I wrote my novel, or what writers influenced me as I wrote. I’m certain that all writers are influenced to some extent by others, and for each project (novel, short story) we undertake there are a set of influences that emerge. I’ve always been a big fan of the work of Cheever, Salinger, and Updike. They wrote with a certain tone about a certain time and place that I felt I knew—the suburban world—and they inspired me to look at this setting in an entirely different way. Salinger’s “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut” brilliantly revealed how characters might feel forced to hide their true emotions—often loss and longing—dictated to behave in a certain way by the society in which they lived.
I think each short story inspires certain reading, and certain reading finds its way into each short story. I used to keep notes about what I read as I wrote, but I stopped that practice several years ago. I do sense that each story has its own tone and voice, its own style. Whether this came about because I was reading Wuthering Heights, or a short story I discovered in The New Yorker, I couldn’t say now. With the novel I read more as research—not for inspiration for style, but for ways to flesh out the setting and themes. I read articles about Connecticut lore, diaries of colonial mid-wives. I read about 1970s cars, and clothing styles. While the short story feels closer to the poem—dependent on style and mood—I feel the novel requires a wider scope of reading, a wider confluence of sources of inspiration. You can’t throw everything in of course. But you’re working on it for so long it becomes a project you live with, and you gravitate toward the reading that best informs that world, deepens it and makes it viable.
Q: Women are your theme--women in a variety of roles. Yet in each, you tap into the deepest recesses of women's unrequited desires and ambitions. Women are always seeking some lost part of themselves. How does your work, and especially your debut novel The Longings of Wayward Girls, achieve this?
I’m not sure that it is just women who feel that along the way—growing up, maybe marrying, having children, or a career—they lost some vital part of themselves they come to mourn. Maybe it is a creative side, or a potential they once believed in. Perhaps it is a talent or skill they felt they might one day explore. As children we all seem more authentically ourselves. Traditionally, women tend to believe that they must live their lives for others—children, husbands, family—that this is a nobler role than pursuing a dream. In The Longings of Wayward Girls the protagonist, Sadie, grows up being the one in charge of all of the creative neighborhood games—and particularly one that leads to tragedy. Her regret, and guilt, has followed her to adulthood, and possibly influenced her choices in life. When she loses a child, and runs into someone from her past, she is prompted to revisit that time, to re-examine these choices. The book’s setting alternates between the present and the past so that we can see Sadie as both a child, and an adult, at the same time. This structure emphasizes the power of choice, and the inability to control the choices of others.
Q: I've read most of your work before it was even published. Your descriptions are poignant, reminiscent of an older forgotten style of writing such as Willa Cather or Mary Shelley. It's interesting to read a review sharing a similar observation that your characters, at times, possess a haunting presence about them. I would venture so far as to say, in these moments, the description becomes the dominant feature in the passage with the characters floating in and out of scenes or placed like props. I happen to love this style of writing. Do you feel this is a conscious habit, or is it more on an unconscious level?
I once told a friend from a writing group that I wasn’t so much interested in having things happen in a story. My job, as I saw it, was to make the reader feel what it was like when things did. To this end, the atmosphere, the setting of a story, through the perspective of a character, has always been vital. It is basically the classic John Gardner writing exercise from The Art of Fiction: Describe a barn as seen by a man whose son has just been killed in a war. Do not mention the son, or war, or death.This may have been something I practiced and perfected, or it may have simply been something I’ve always done. I’m not sure which.
Q: We grew up together in Connecticut and share similar memories. Yet, your memory for things and particular details of a situation, is uncanny. Is that part of a writer's innate style or can it be developed?
In a fiction class I’m teaching this semester we’re reading Alice LaPlante’s excellent creative writing text, Method and Madness, and she talks about just this thing in her opening chapter. Cultivating the habit of noticing the world around you is something that any writer can do. I think it is necessary, and should be developed. And honestly I am always impressed with the amount of detail other writers can produce—writers like Steven Millhauser, for example, who can recreate a childhood bedroom in such brilliant detail. As for remembering more than you—no two people remember the same things, and I began the practice of “noticing” before you did.
Q: A writer requires a tough skin to stick with it. What is some great advice you have to offer an aspiring novelist?
Read widely and practice your art so that you are always improving. This means know your genre, and your readers. Try to publish some stories, and build up a list that might attract an agent when your manuscript is completed, revised, and ready. Find some like-minded readers who will take a look at your drafts. Don’t forget that you are writing for them.
I’ve already shared the existence of my first five novels—persistence is a writer’s winning hand. If you don’t enjoy what you do, and recognize that you will do it regardless of any measureable success, if you aren’t willing to set time aside, if you don’t see small things as encouragement (the rejection slip with “try us again!” handwritten on the bottom), you aren’t going to be a writer. In the meantime, as you wait for fame, be conscious of how wonderful it is to be caught in the grip of a story, to have it follow you through the day, to jot down some lines that you know will tie up all the loose ends and finally finish that piece—so you can start all over again.
Find out more about Karen Brown at Simon & Schuster and here at www.karenbrownbooks.com
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Sunday, January 20, 2013
One of Arnold's last lines is "I'm home." And his fans will concur--he is back in the movies where he belongs. We lost him to politics for awhile, and now he can entertain us once again. The Last Stand is great--action, characters, script...lots of fun with interesting story, build up of suspense, comedic edge. It's all there. Check it out!
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
In every profession, you'll get some bad apples, those who refuse bo play by the rules. Follow this link and you will see a clear example of why Amazon needs to crack down more on fake reviews.
Too many authors are buying reviews, 5 star reviews, or finding deceitful ways to get them (check out NY Times Best Selling novelist Jodi Picoult's FB post). The readers lose faith and it is unfair to the many authors (like myself) who work hard at drumming up a readership for my work.
"You don't need anything but a pad and a pencil," according to Ray Bradbury. Oh, Lord... the old wise ones who easily bore the dickens out of a younger Google generation brought up on fast paced, give it to me quick, get-to-the-point kind of discussions.
Well, this one is worth a like, a tweet, a post, a listen. Bradbury has that good old fashioned wit; he is part of an old world, a vanishing world, a pre-digital era. Bradbury promotes resourcefulness, simplicity. Make no mistake, he is far from simple and encourages complexity, minus the technology. His method is cheap, simple, and readily available--it's called the book.
In 2013 ,and for the past decade or more, we are breeding nonbook readers. The hard cover book is at risk for becoming archaic, a relic in its time. Well, maybe that's a tad hyperbolic. But as Bradbury insists, we need to be mindful of resourcefulness. Undeniably, we are tech-dependent, and frequently glued to a screen, knee deep in technology, networking, sloshing through the mire of social media, increasing followers with a tweet, liking pages, subscribing, promoting this and that. I can have 20K followers on my twitter account, 30k, 90k ... but what does it all mean? Critics will argue that it is an isolating, impersonal connecting of sorts--the ruin of us. I don't know if I agree, entirely. But admit that a phone conversation, or a lunch date, or a hug, or face to face conversation is always much better than a like on my FB page.
(Warning: Grossly self-indulgent, self-promotion coming up)
In my latest wip, which is a dystopian novel, I explore the repercussions of a section of the population that is stripped of all technology, forced backwards in time. They are powerless, easily controlled by DEF (Digital Enforcement Faction); in this dystopian world, freedoms are removed, and even book reading is prohibited. Needless to say, it is not a nice place to live if you happen to reside in the mid-west or eastern sections of what was once the U.S.
Maybe I'm biased. I always espoused to the notion that you are what you read. Now, I'm wiser, realize that there other ways of knowing. Still, I agree with Bradbury that books teach us everything we need to know, empower us, encourage us to consider other viewpoints, realities, and fantastical musings. It is no wonder that in a dystopian world books are removed.
I know that schools promote good old fashioned instruction, and it's not working. I know the copier is the greatest asset in any school. It is always overused and always breaking down. The paper wasted in our schools is astronomical. Yet, most students abhor paper and pencil, worksheet packets, heavy text books. They are part of a digital age; one might say they enter the classroom digitally programmed to learn in a new way. Why make 200 copies when you can use an LCD and project the same information on the screen? Or give the students the URL and they can find it themselves and read online? For assessment of learning, have students respond in a blog.
The classroom is lagging behind. That's the reality. So, we either get with the program and allow for more self-study, more integration of technology, or we stand to keep losing ground. Students are saavy, know they can Google what they want to know. So, why not allow it? Ray Bradbury, a critic of current formal schooling, is on board with self-study; he suggests the library is your schooling. You can learn anything you want in a book. You can find your match. As he states "We are all looking for someone like ourselves...Jesus, God, if I were to go to a deserted island tomorrow what books would I bring?...the Bible of course and the essays of George Bernard Shaw."
I'm going to try to get my hands on those Shaw essays. They must be something if Bradbury liked them so much. I'll Google and more than likely come up with numerous hits. I don't know if Bradbury would approve or not. But he said it himself "Whatever works."
thx for the read. follow me on twitter bethbrown555.
Monday, January 14, 2013
Aaron Swartz fought, vehemently, for the freedom of information, and our constitutional rights and he was threatened for two years with years of imprisonment and a million dollar fine. Although we've lost this bright star, we need to continue his fight against the abuses of Government and an overreaching power.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
That Tarantino has fire-- love it just like his two adversarial players--Christopher Waltz and Leonardo DeCaprio-- in his latest movie Django Unchained; Tarantino portrays an era expertly enough with a stroke of artistic flair and opens up a long overdue debate regarding slavery, which he claims is the holocaust of the antebellum era. But, yes, it's in Tarantino style--embellished blood baths etc., I admit myself to a few moments of cover the eyes and ears. But, all in all, it beats Chainsaw Massacre hands down; the script, characters, music, setting, dark aspects of slavery are profound and brilliantly executed. A must see.
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Friday, January 4, 2013
I am anxious to return to The Sins of Dom sequel. I did have agent wanting to see sequel, after it was written. But so much time has passed—big agent. I should be working diligently on this…why I’m not? I don’t know. I like the feel of being in charge, regardless of the indie bias. It is what it is.
I republished Blogging to the dead and it is available in both print and kindle.
If you made it this far, thx.