Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Kit, Part 1, The Notebook

I was gifted a small yellow moleskin notebook once. I get gifted notebooks very often, actually. It comes with part I play as writer, I'm sure. I have, of course, my favorite notebook, the 9.75 x 7.5 wide ruled composition notebook. They're durable with sewn pages and a thick cover and a tough spine. But when I'm gifted a notebook, I always say thanks and I do my best to fill the pages with my terrible handwriting.

Back in the fall of 2010, someone gifted me a small yellow Moleskin notebook. I say small, because it was maybe 3” by 5”. It was not ruled, and that I appreciated. At any rate, I was working as a waiter at a dying restaurant at the time and I often had time to kill during my shifts. In that little notebook, I decided I would write a short story. I wrote a strange piece called “For the Love of Prosperity.” It proved to be a very short story and with several pages remaining in the little notebook, I wrote an even shorter short story called, “Funeral Tea.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Just Because You Should

A few months back I picked up Sinclair Lewis’s book Main Street. I really have no real reason why I did this. It’s an old book and for some reason I feel or perhaps I felt, I should read this book. Who knows? I’ve read all sorts of books because people tell me I should read them, and there have been a few I’ve picked up for no reason at all.

It could be because I live in a small town on the outskirts of absolutely nowhere. In my town we have a Main Street. And as I’m thinking about it, this is the first place I’ve ever lived with a Main Street. I mean, there have been Broadways, Front Avenues and that’s saying something. There just has never been a Main Street. The Main Street in my town is overlaid on US Hwy 287 which runs from the Canadian border in Montana all the way through to the Texas Gulf Coast. 287 is a very long road.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Writer and The Literary Press: The FRCC Workshop

Objective: Provide a basic understanding of the writer's relationship to literary magazines with a focus on the online journal. Knowing many young writers want to published, this brief instructional will walk through the process.

Ice breaker: Q: Why write? (A: Short Stories were made of magazines.) Q: Why publish? (A: Meet other writers and editors, readership, CV building, money.)

Literary Magazines: online vs print. My thought: it's a fickle business. Online has unlimited circulation. Print? Issue oftentimes remain in boxes in the editor's basement. Magazines come and go.

The Nuts and Bolts:
  1. Your manuscript. It had better be good. Very good.
      1. For Fiction: 12 pt. Times New Roman, double spaced with 1” margins and clean of headers and footers.(Clean, Not So Clean, Peacock)
      2. Poetry: keep it clean. Strange formatting (spaces, tabs, etc) doesn't translate.
  2. Market research. Read magazines, many-many magazines. Read. Follow. Submit.
      1. A great service used by many magazines.
      2. Greatest source for magazine listings. Free.
      3. Another great resource for writers, subscription based, about $5/mo
        Magazines I like because they offer cool features: Similar to New Pages but they offer articles Everything here is cool “self-editing advice” “free ebooks” Vets in the room? I love the format and the audience

  3. Unsolicited vs Solicited manuscripts
      1. Solicited. Not likely for you. Only editors you know are likely to ask.
        1. The query letter.
      2. Unsolicited Manuscripts are the norm.
        1. The market research
        2. Following guidelines (Siberian Tiger Handler's Wives)
        3. Your manuscript
        4. The cover letter (brief intro, brief synopsis with word count, etc.)
        5. Third person bio. (50 words or less)
  4. Housekeeping
      1. Schedules and timelines (how long/when)
      2. Stay motivated
      1. The rejection. What should you do? Plan on at least ten of these per publication.
      2. The Acceptance
        1. Be gracious and comply
        2. Tell everyone you know.
          1. Promote yourself
          2. The magazine that published you
          3. And all the other writers therein
        3. Connect with everyone: the editors, magazine, writers
          1. LinkedIn
          2. Facebook
          3. Websites
        4. Build your CV

Thank you. Connect with me: my email/LinkedIn/follow my blog

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Writer and the Literary Press: The rejection and the acceptance

Once the best possible short story (or poem) has been written, rewritten and rewritten again, then the best market has been discovered and the submission has been made, we wait. That's right, we wait.

We wait some more.

Seasons change. And we wait. In this waiting process, there are a few things that can happen. First, there is excitement, after all, we've just written the best poem (or short story) and we've let it go out into the literary world. Then the excitement wanes and uncertainty creeps in like a Lovecraft haze slowly infecting us. Did we really write the best piece? Was our cover letter good enough? Did we pick the best magazine for the submission? Are we really fit to be writers? And we wait. We wait some more.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Writer and the Literary Press: Ready, Steady, Submit!

Now comes the big moment. The big unknown moment. The unsteady, the unsure, the insecure moment. This is the moment to get others involved in our creative work. Strangers. It's time to submit.

For most writers of fiction and most poets there is only one type of submission: the unsolicited manuscript. Fortunately, most literary magazines only accept one kind of manuscript, the unsolicited. With the unsolicited manuscript comes a great deal of the unknown. With the great deal of the unknown comes the inevitable and the relentless line of rejections.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Writer and the Literary Press: The Prepared Manuscript

More than 30 years ago, I learned to type. I learned on a massive IBM Selectric. The Selectric typewriter was an unbelievable machine. It's size was impressive, if nothing else. It hummed. I liked the humming. It grew hot to the touch, and at times it was almost untouchably hot. It was a Gatling gun for my thoughts. However, in 1986 in Mr Archer's typing class, my thoughts were not more advanced than the exercises and typing drills presented to me. All said, I type nearly every day and I still use the things I learned in the 8th grade typing class.

Sure, I have my own ideas about how a manuscript should look. I have that 20th century sensibility. I like wide margins. I am a lover of Courier. I know that certain fonts will have certain affects. I mean, if you want all characters to have the same value, use Courier. However, your manuscript may not be taken seriously by an editor, especially one who has never seen an IBM Selectric if you use weird fonts. As for me, as an editor, I prefer Times New Roman 12 point font. I think it's pretty much the standard anyway, or at least the default. If you want varying fonts, get into design.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Writer and the Literary Press: An Introduction

When I began my life as a writer of fiction, I had it in my mind to write novels. All I wanted to do was write the sort of book that I like to read. Or the sorts of book that I might like to read should they exist. Of course, when I began my life as a writer I was not, and I really mean that I was not, writing novels. I wasn't really writing fiction. Well, I don't know what I was writing, but I was writing.

I think there are many writers like me. I think many of us start in the same sort nebulous way. I think it's common to want to write a novel and begin with character sketches or vignettes or pieces of writing that may or may not read well. I think the transition from these small literary studies to micro or flash fiction and later on into the short story is very logical.

I also think that a writer can spend an entire lifetime learning the best way to craft a short story. I think a really good short story is uncommon. I think a writer must write at least 100 bad short stories to be able to write a decent story. I think it takes at least 100 decent stories to write a really good one.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Call to Arms, 2017. The Conclusion.

The longer it all goes on, all those things that infect us every day, the more I say throw it all out and go make art.

There have been a few of my friends over the last few weeks who have asked me “What is art?” Good question. I really have no specific answer to that. The second question has been what is a “Call to Arms?” Here it is, in a nutshell. A call to arms, at least as far as I know it, is to get up and go. Go arm yourself and fight. I propose that we all arm ourselves with pens and paintbrushes and electric guitars. It’s my desire that everyone gets out of the rut, off the sofa and to the creative space all human beings have in them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Call to Arms, 2017. Part Five: The Village

I live in a small town on the edge of Boulder County. It's a town of about 90,000 people. I realize that it may not be considered a small town in the broadest sense, it is a small town to me. There are plenty of advantages to being in a small town, and there are some drawbacks and there are fortunes as well as misfortunes.

My town is bordered on all sides by countryside. There are wide expanses to the north of where we live, also to the east and south. The south end of town nearly tickles the few towns down the line and eventually the sprawling mass of Denver just beyond that. To the west, the Rocky Mountains which are a mere 7 miles away. It's dark here at night, and I like that. I live on the north end of town and as I drive up Frances Street toward home, I'm met with darkness where the town ends in a final cadence of street lamps. The view reminds me of the Middle East. Just darkness looking north. Actually a great deal of what I see here both day and night remind me of the Middle East. I was reminded today that this Friday, February 24th will be the 26 year anniversary of when we invaded Iraq.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Call to Arms, 2017. Part Four: Reading

I have labored under the assumption that our time has becoming increasingly limited with all the twenty-four hour conveniences and constant connectivity. I think the instant information and the fast food has, for some reason, made our time dwindle or disappear outright. I have very little scientific reasoning for this, only observation.

On a vacation years ago, on Texas's Gulf Coast, Galveston I think, I was spending my morning drinking coffee and reading a book at a picnic table. This was a long time ago, before smartphones. We were camped, as it were, on a concrete pad and in a travel trailer. My neighbor, another RV camper was out too. He was furiously fussing with a small satellite dish. The breeze from the Gulf was refreshing. Seagulls were cacophonous. I had my paperback on the table top. My neighbor huffed toward me. “Are you having trouble with your satellite reception?” he asked. “No,” I said. “I can't get the damn thing to work,” he said. “No,” I said. He huffed away. I don't know if he got the thing to work or not. I mean, what the hell was he going to watch on the tv? I didn't even have electricity. The situation still confounds me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Call to Arms, 2017. Part Three: The Mind, the Pen and the Wherewithal of Self-Reliance

I can blame all of my social thought on one thing. It's this: what goes on around me is not the way I feel inside. I mean, I live in a small, but congested town. I work, very part time, in a restaurant. I am forced to mix with people, and the more this happens, the more I lose all faith in humanity. Couple all of this with recent political events and the way events are packaged to us via news outlets and of course I have certain social thought.

I see the world with a Kaizen lens. I also see the world like my BMW 2002. Kaizen is the practice of self improvement via small but significant changes. For instance if you're fat, take the stairs instead of the elevator. This is a small change, next you'll stop eating processed food, start making your own meals with whole ingredients, sell your big suv for a small car or no car, stop watching tv and start reading. But it all started with the decision to take the stairs. The BMW 2002? I owned that car many, many years ago. I am not a good mechanic. Anything that squeaked, rattled or annoyed me on that car I simply removed. It's amazing how much you can take off of a car and it will still go and stop. I treat my life in the same way, on both points.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Call to Arms, 2017. Part Two: The Economy is Very Local

I have a neighbor who baffles me in just about every way. This neighbor taxes my imagination and my patience. This neighbor is the exact reason why I am so critical of just about every one of my countrymen. Before I go further, please know that I am not judgmental, to each his own. Also, let it be known that we need all types of people to make up the fabric of life. Last, please know that if everyone lived the way I do, modern civilization would not exist.

When I think about economy I think of one of three things. The first is Adam Smith and the classical economic debate. In a nutshell, Smith tells us that economics is the continuum of unlimited human desires overlaid on limited resources. Again, this a paraphrase, and I think it's true. The second thing I think about is the ninth point of the Boy Scout Law, A Scout is Thrifty. The tenth edition of the Boy Scout Handbook says this about it: A scout works to pay his way and to help others.
He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property. 
I know that not everyone has had the benefit of Adam Smith and The Wealth of Nations. I know that not everyone has been a Boy Scout.

Sadly, I know that not everyone has read Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Walden is the third point of my thoughts on Economy. Thoreau did not pay his taxes because he did not believe in the Fugitive Salve Act nor did he believe in the war with Mexico. What if I don't believe in building walls or banning people from predominately Muslim countries, should I forgo paying taxes? Political leanings aside, Thoreau wanted more time to spend in nature, which was the basic fundamental belief with Transcendentalism. Thoreau outlines how he spent his money and his time in the chapter “Economy” which I think is well worth the read.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Call to Arms, 2017. Part One: Hang Up the Fear

Since our recent trip to Salt Lake City, my four and a half year old son has been fascinated with airplanes. We have been building Lego airplanes. We have looked at pictures of airplanes. We have read books about airplanes. His enthusiasm, of course, is contagious. When the subject of the 747 came up in our conversation, I told him that the 747 is really the greatest plane ever to fly. When the inevitable question of why arose, I explained that a 747 can carry the Space Shuttle piggyback. “What Space Shuttle, papa?” Of course, I thought, the Space Shuttle program ended before he born. Space exploration just isn't what it used be when I was his age in the 1970s.

So, we did what you do these days, we looked up the Space Shuttle on Youtube. We watched it launch. We watched it ride on the back of the NASA 747. He watched with wild eyed interest. My face began to sting and my eyes began to water. The Space Shuttle was cool. Putting people inside of space crafts and shooting them out of the atmosphere in the name of science is cool. And it made me patriotic again for the first time in well over sixteen years. Watching those old recordings of American ingenuity just made me so proud and heartbroken.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Preamble to a Call to Arms, 2017

It's happening again as it has happened before and I am certain it will all happen again. We were in the garage at my mother's house a few days back. As we were taking off our shoes, I whispered to my wife: “I wish I wasn't such an asshole.” I got no response from her. Perhaps she wishes I wasn't such an asshole too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Being More Effective-The conclusion: Break everything up in small easily attainable tasks

Where were you in the summer of 1997? I was at Camp Dietler. I spent the summer as the shooting sports director. The job required me to load shotgun shells most of the day and in the afternoon, I taught kids how to shoot a shotgun. A shotgun. I've never been very good at shooting a shotgun. In fact, my staff used to joke that I could not hit the broad side of a barn even if I was inside.

The job also took me to Camp Tracy to get a certification. The certification process, as you might well imagine, was pretty intensive and definitely challenging. I mean, after all, you don't want just anyone teaching kids to shoot guns, do you? I went through the NRA certification program. Now, before I lose one half of you or the other half or both, hear what I have to say. The NRA has the best safety and training programs available. The NRA believes in gun safety and they believe that everyone should learn how to use a gun and use it safely. I found the training program inspiring. I also found it to have qualities that transferred over into the rest of life. Of all the merits of the training program I still use these two items:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Being More Effective - Understand that Youtube videos are short, until you watch 50 of them

In the last 25 years, maybe longer, I can count the number of months I've lived in a house with a Television. I lived with Nic at 901 Sherman, in Denver, between September 1996 and December 1997. I was there during the school year, three semesters worth. During the summers, I worked in the country far away. Nic was a TV head. He had that thing on much of the time he was at home. He turned it off during meals, which was something I was greatly appreciative for during our dinners together.

And there was a three or four month period in 2006, also a roommate situation, where a TV was in my house. This particular roommate worked in the television industry, so the fact that the TV was on all the time was almost permissible.

When I tell people that there is no TV in our house, I am almost without fail, envied. It has become a point of pride for me and my wife that we are raising our son without the TV. We do not watch reality TV, sports or political debates. In short, we are not subjected to mind-numbing entertainment augmented by commercials for pills, processed food and new cars. In a way, we are lucky.