Wednesday, December 27, 2017

nanowrimo refelctions of a creative challenge: The Second Door hook and excerpt

The Second DoorShort Synopsis :
After preventing the suicide of a stranger, Robert Coates becomes a minor local celebrity. Trying to defend his "good deed" as a basic human duty, he is forced to analyze the way we interact as people in modern America.

After the death of his dear friend and benefactor, Robert becomes the reluctant patriarch of his community, a job he is unsure he can to do. He keeps his community together but an untimely visit from his past causes him to doubt his strength.

Set in Northwest Portland, The Second Door does not feel like the dreary last days of the year, the wintertime winds. It feels like the dramas next door, the second door, the one you might want to avoid.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

nanowrimo reflections of a creative challenge: The Second Door

I decided I would compose directly on the computer. That said, I figured the novel would be in a workable format instantly, but it would be just a first draft. Ultimately, the whole goal of nanowrimo is to focus on writing daily and getting the draft down.

From the nanowrimo side, I really enjoyed the organization on their website. I liked having my own page. I liked the email function with the other members. I loved the process chart, stats page and the awards. Awards? Oh yeah, they're called badges. I'm proud to say that I earned every one of them. Admittedly, I did not do the 30 day word count update because I finished early and verified on November 20th.

It took me 13 days to complete 50K words. I wrote on average 3,850 words a day. That was about 12 pages double spaced Times New Roman 12pt font with one inch margins.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

nanowrimo reflections of a creative challenge: My Prep

So, I accepted the challenge to do nanowrimo. Janice was the one who suggested it to me because her good friend wanted to do it too. I also convinced my buddy Dave to do it with me. And at about this time, Freesia, my penpal of over 30 years announced she was doing it too. So, I now had my own group of four people doing this with me.

My insecurities were very high. I did not think I could do it. I considered the daily target of 1,667 words and the overall goal of 50K. I know myself, I know that I can write way more than 1,667 words in a single session, but I also work in fits: 5,000 today and then nothing for days. I also had no ideas of a story which needed writing.

I write a good many short stories. I try to write about fifteen of them a year. I had figured on writing three more by the end of the year at the time I signed up for nanowrimo.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

nanowrimo reflections of a creative challenge: What I did and what I did it for

I had heard of National Novel Writing Month, or nanowrimo, and I've even known a few people who participated in it over the years. For those of you who don't know, it is an organization that helps the participants write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

A 50,000 word novel in November? Yup. Should a participant follow the plan, it's a mere composition of 1,667 words daily from November 1 to November 30. It seems like a daunting task, 50,000 words in 30 days.

Breaking it down, at least from my perspective, 50,000 words is a fairly short novel. Both of my novels, Dysphoric Notions and Undertakers of Rain are about 50K. They're short. I've drafted a number of these short novels. I write short novels because I like to read short novels. I believe that the best novels are the ones the average reader can read in one sitting. In short, I don't think 50,000 words is too much to tackle, not for a seasoned writer nor a writer who has just picked up a pen for the first time.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Noise part 2 & Conclusion

I lost that first digital camera in a burglary. Perhaps the loss of that first digital camera was karma for the first 35MM camera. Let's be clear, the acquisition of the 35MM camera was suspect, yes, but I did not steal the camera. I came to it honestly, but the person I got it from did not. At any rate, I had lost that first digital camera.

My father, feeling bad about the burglary gifted me a new digital camera, and I still use it to this day. And this camera has brought me more joy than just about anything else.

This particular camera, a Casio xs-10, does pretty well. And up until I got back to Oregon in late 2010, I used this camera like all my other cameras and took pictures of everything. The difference was this, I used this camera for nighttime photography.

So much of my life had been happening during the night, and so much of my photography depended on the day. Now, suddenly, I no longer needed the sun for taking pictures.

I took the camera with me at night, and I recorded bars and roads and cities in startling reality complete with noise. And I was happy.

I also took to writing during the day, the mornings. And by this time, by 2010, I had become the writer I wanted to be and I became the photographer I wanted to be. Alone in the morning with pallid filtered daylight and alone at night with a camera.

Thank you for taking the time to read this series. I wrote these posts in late October as I was preparing for National Novel Writing Month. My preparation was mostly seeing how fast I could write something somewhat coherent. Traditionally, a blogpost takes me about 90 minutes to 2 hours. I wrote this entire series in one hour 15. Not being used to this speed, or this type of writing, it was a refreshing experience.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Noise part 1

I have not been back to New Orleans since Katrina. I'm terrified to see the place. I was in New Orleans, briefly, in 2001 trying to hustle a buck. I was back there in the spring of 2005 as my ex and I were pushing our way to the Atlantic.

In 2001, I had just come off a few years of trying to be someone else. Trying to be someone else so seldom ends well. The fall of 2000 had me knee deep in words. I had come back to myself for the first time in a few years. I had explained to all the people, the responsible people in my life that I just wanted to write, and living life for a paycheck and too many other stupid things was taking my time, energy and life away from what I really wanted to do, and that was write.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Grain part 2

The clearest photographs I've ever taken were the several rolls of 35MM film from my time in Portugal in 1998. By this time, all of the large manual cameras had made way for very small point and shoot models. I had a tiny Olympus. The blues of the skies at midday contrasted with the whites of old churches made me question that the reality of the journey was possible when the photographs afterward looked so different.

In Portugal, believe me, I was not looking for perfection. I was reading John Irving. I was writing pointless meandering fictions. I was trying to figure out in my post college graduation year of malaise what I wanted to do with my life. I came to only one conclusion: I wanted to write.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Grain part 1

It was one of those wet and rainy summers as I recall. These sorts of summers happen on the Palmer Divide out there in Elbert County, Colorado. It was the summer of 1987, thirty years ago, in my youth. I lived in a small cabin with 16 other camp counselors. It was a tremendous time, we were all about fifteen years old, away from home for weeks and doing fun stuff.

This was the summer when I really began to think about writing. My buddy Shawn and I wandered the hills and valleys in and around camp. We were probably shirking work, but at fifteen years old, how much work were they really wanting us to do? My time with Shawn was invaluable. Shawn was an odd dude, funny, imaginative and I loved him. Shawn wrote poetry. He encouraged me to write poetry too, and although I was not very good at it, I did my best. It was more of an exercise for writing and thinking and exploring creativity. At the time, I wrote more poetry than I read. My advice to young poets, or any poet: read more poetry than you write.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Grain and the Noise: Preamble

Jeez, the sky was so clear today, the morning sun coming through the crystal atmosphere and the colors on the autumn trees was a sight. Very much a sight. As I walked Lucian to school I doubted I had ever seen the world in such crystal clarity. I mean, not all the psychedelics could make such colors and shapes and clearness as I saw this morning. Impressive.

This is, of course, not the way I generally see the world. I doubt I see the world different than most. What I generally see is not a crystal clear morning, but the eerie and comforting glow of street lights. I have, at least for most of the last 20 years, lived almost exclusively at night. Even since the birth of my son when I have been forced to get up in the morning, I did not venture out of the house as early as we do now that school is in session.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

What can happen in a year: Making an endgame.

With the end so near at hand, and with so few pieces left on the board, the execution of the final blows becomes the focus. For me, in my writing year, it feels good to know how the end gets played out before I start. The endgame, happening in the waning weeks of the year, must be the most productive, the most efficient and the final cadences of all projects.

However, it is only October. It is, of course, the end of October. So, that said, there are two months left in the year. Two months. But let's consider the two months that we have: November and December. The holidays, heavy at the end of November and December tend to get away from me, from everyone I suspect. So, I've always considered December a loss for getting work done and I have always used those halcyon days of winter to plan the upcoming year. And November? November for me has generally be the month to tie up all projects for the year.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What can happen in a year: Milestones

I can divide a year up in so many ways. I can do it seasonally, but here in Colorado, there really aren't seasons like there are in other places. Sometimes the spring feels like winter and sometimes there are warm days in January when the sun feels near and the air is almost alive. But the seasons, at least in theory come at least four times a year. I like February here. In February the light and length of day changes drastically from the beginning to the end of the month.

Likewise, I can divide up the year by my Umbrella Factory Magazine schedule. We publish quarterly, and so in a way, the magazine's annual schedule is really an extension of the seasons. I know that I feel very differently in the spring than the other seasons and I am wistful in the fall. These feelings influence what I choose for the magazine, and they influence what I write.

I could divide the year up by month. I don't. I don't divide the year up weekly either, although it would make sense if I consider how much I love small easily attainable tasks.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What can happen in a year. Part two: Working

I overheard a conversation today between two young women. I say young women, but I would imagine the two of them nearing 30. Anyhow, two women much younger than me. One said to the other “Can't you multitask?” and the second said, “Of course.” I tried my best to keep a straight face and make it seem like I wasn't listening.

Multitask? I don't even know what that means.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What can happen in a year. Part one: Setting goals

I think the best thing a writer can do is to set up a list of goals. I know a list of goals seems like it would be enough, but it isn't. To add to the list of goals, I think a writer needs to set up a timeline complete with dead lines. For instance, my list of goals was: 10 publications, one new novel manuscript and a new group of short stories. What this meant for me, simply, two manuscript length pieces and any number of publications. But if I just said that that was what I wanted to do and gave it no time limit, I may be working on it for the rest of my life. I set these goals to be accomplished in 2017, from January to December.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Finishing What Was Started Part 5, the end

Once I finished writing a screenplay for the fictitious movie, Blood Sucking Coal Miner Zombies I had absolutely no excuse not to finish my novel, Coppertown.

I've lived in Colorado for most of my life. Rather, I have lived here for far too long feeling like an outsider, an alien. I don't ski. I don't drive a Subaru, I loathe dogs. I don't care about the Broncos, the Nuggets, the Avalanche or the Rockies. In fact, I don't care about mountains, weed or fracking wells. And truth be known, I don't really like the sun.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Finishing What Was Started Part 3, the middle

I knew I was in trouble when I considered the long months I had been stalled out on Coppertown. I knew I was in trouble because of derelict condition of my thoughts about the manuscript. I also remember the moment, sometime last spring when these thoughts occurred to me.

In the spring I knew two things: I would have time come the fall and I would not be able to rejoin the manuscript with any sort of easy. It's like running a race, making it half to the finish line and then sitting down for months, or years and trying to move on after the hiatus.

What I did know was that the entire story of Coppertown revolved around the town itself. A dead Colorado mountain town that has seen it's heyday some time ago. I knew that the town had been part of the gold then silver rush then died in or around 1890. I knew the town had been the site of the 1977 film Blood Sucking Coal Miner Zombies. So, that's what I knew of the town I had manufactured for the story.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Finishing What Was Started Part 2, the end of the beginning

I have no idea why I was unable to abandon this project. I guess it's only because I worked on it for so long that I was just unable to forgo it. I'm also that type of person who has to finish something. Not everything, but everything that I've given any time to. I have begun stories that I thought might become something, but after a few scribbly-scrawly pages I ditched them. This was not the case with Coppertown. I wrote and wrote and wrote all sorts of small vignettes, then I began writing the story.

I also began to write the story many times. In a way, the entire first half of the manuscript is the beginning of the story three times.

I remember reading I, the Divine and loving that it was nothing but the first chapter written over and over and over again. It was a well thought out book and one that was well written.

Not the case with Coppertown.

If I can draw experience from all the other manuscripts I've written over the years, it is this: write them fast. I never spent less than six weeks and never more than three months on a manuscript. None of course accept this one. Something else I've learned is that the first half of a story takes about 90% of the time, and the second half goes very quickly. At least for me.

The end of the beginning has taken place for months. Every time I opened up this manuscript and began to write anew, it was, in a way, a new beginning. What a hassle.

Moral? Just write it. Sit down and do it. Don't drag it out.

Next time:
Finishing What Was Started Part 3, the middle

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Finishing What Was Started Part 1: The Beginning

I began Coppertown during the summer of 2013, in the waning days of my Portland, OR life. I wish I could sum up the time. The summer of 2013, August especially, was a whirlwind of finality. I do mean finality. The oldest date I can find for this project is August 5, 2013 when “Coppertown: First Thoughts” launched at Sophia Ballou.

First Thoughts” was not something that I continued. It was sort of a short story, mostly a little vignette about a young couple in a fabricated Colorado mountain town. The two were in a restaurant. There was some conflict and ultimately I wanted one of them to murder the other.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Greed and Lust

I have always believed that all human beings are greedy. I don't mean this in a bad way. I have always believed that all people are lusty too. Also, not intended to be a bad thing. So, here we are, we're all lusty and greedy.

It seems to me that most people are looking for wealth. It's all about how you define that wealth. It could be money or material things. It could be education, it could be loved ones and family. It could be experiences. So, here we are, what do you lust after?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Daily Practice

In the olden times, I had a very specific daily writing practice. I did it everyday. At the time, I began writing whenever I woke up and made the coffee. I would write until it was time to get off to work. I never stopped thinking about writing or what it was I was writing. There were times I could write at work. It was something that I did every day, I couldn't stop.

I did stop, though. I stopped writing daily when my son was born. My hours were traded: writing for baby care. Later it was playtime, trains, cars and Legos, namely. It has been the two of us, my boy and me for years.

Kindergarten started last week.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pursuing Education

I think the pursuit of education, in way, shape and form, is about the best thing you can do for yourself. This does not necessarily have to center around writing. I think any education is good. I think taking a T'ai Chi class at the local rec center has just as much merit as taking a course in poetry. It's an issue of expanding your mind, thinking new thoughts and meeting new people.

As a writer, I can think of at least three times that the pursuit of education influenced me. When I say influenced me, I mean that I was a different person, a different writer and I thought differently coming out of the experience than I was going in.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Prospecting Perspectives

The moment comes and only I know it. It's become so predictable now, after all these years, that it has become trite. Perhaps after all these years, I too, have become trite. The story goes like this: I am somewhere, doing something, add gin. After a few gins and especially after the night wears on, I will say yes to just about everything. This is partly because of my personality and partly because I have a genuine interest in what is happening, and what will happen.

I'll talk to just about everyone too. I have not been hurt by a conversation with a stranger. It's has always been good, talking with strangers, because I will use situations and conversations in my writing. I cannot directly report a conversation tit for tat, but I will almost always use several conversations I've had to craft a piece of dialog.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Is that Initial Desire a Continuation of Childhood Play?

Who knows where it really starts: that initial desire to be a writer. I've asked all of my friends when their ah-ah moment was. In interviews I've ask other writers. Sometimes I get a clever answer, but oftentimes I get the answer that I give. It was just something I started to do as a child so the adults would leave me alone.

Marcy lived next door to me when I was a very little boy, 4 years old maybe. I remember her as a great playmate. She was blonde. I only remember her being on the other side of the short fence. Years later, when visiting my grandmother, whose house was next door to Marcy's, we had a big gathering. We had a big gathering because I was there, and I was often not there. After everything settled down I said I was going next door to say hello to Marcy.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Kit, Part 3, The Bag

I once walked from South Sacramento to Freeport. I walked along the river. I spent the night in the grass. I was blessed with good dreams. When I awoke, I walked back to South Sacramento. It was a certain time of my life, in my youth, when I could do things like that. I wandered around and that's just what I did. I did this for most of the 1990s. Everywhere I went I had my notebook and pen, and not much else. I often did not have money, or a change of clothes or a toothbrush. In my youth I cared only for adventure, no matter how that came about.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Kit, Part 2, The Pen

I wore long hair for years. My mother called it nappy, “Nappy Anthony hair.” I always felt like she didn't approve, but it wasn't until years later that I realized that she didn't like her own hair, which suspiciously looks like my hair. Nonetheless, I wore long hair.

I always wore a pony tail. In the years I was a bartender, it was just better that my hair was back. During my shifts behind the bar, when my hair was pulled back, I had a convenient place to put the bar pens. These pens were the cheap disposable ballpoints. They were, of course, for signing credit card receipts. During the course of a ten hour shift I would collect a dozen pens in my hair. And my hair, being as nappy as it is, I could smuggle ten pens out and not be noticed. At home, I had a cheap pen collection second to none.

Why I Write Reprise

“I thought I already heard this song,” Janice said. On our toy CD player, we were listening to a Book of Love CD.

You have,” I said. It's a 30 year old CD, who knows how many times she'd heard this song.

No, I mean today,” she said.

I don't know,” I said.

She picked up the CD case, flipped it over and started to giggle. “You know, this was recorded in the days of the reprise.”

Reprise?” I asked.

There's like four versions of every song on this.”

Oh, yeah, right,” I said. 1980's electronica, yeah, as soon as she said it, I remembered that remixes and reprises, etc were the norm.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Just Because You Should, part 2

I feel like books just aren't fashionable anymore. I know it can't be true, not exactly. But I do wonder how likely it may be.

I just say books, and not reading. I think people are reading as much as ever. I hope they are reading. But books seem to be a medium not necessary anymore.

The Kindle, or Nook, or whatever app seems so much more convenient. You can have dozens or hundreds of books in your cloud and that bookshelf, well, you just don't need that heavy piece of furniture anymore.

I read Sinclair Lewis's Main Street recently. I read it on my Kindle. Yes, on my Kindle. I have entire rooms filled with books and bookshelves, and I read Main Street on my Kindle.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Where Have All Artists Gone? The Conclusion: They're right here.

It's a question I often ask my coworkers: “What would The Breakfast Club be about today?” Would it be about five misfits learning that they're more alike than not, or would it be five kids on cellphones? I think the question is appropriate. I also ask about the common experiences kids have these days. Are pills and video games as prevalent as I think they are and can you really bond over such stuff? Also, what are the art and music and creative classes happening in schools these days? I don't feel like art programs are nearly as common anymore.

If we remove spending for art and theater and music in school, what will happen to our future?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Where Have All Artists Gone? Part 2, Your Artist Community

In those analog days I knew a great many people. At any given time I probably knew about 40 to 50 people. I had classmates, coworkers, and neighborhood friends. I still have about the same amount of people now. This group of people is fluid, they change, people come and people go. This 40 to 50 number of people is a very accurate assessment. This is strange only because I'm around this many people and I'm intimate with this number of people, so how is it possible that I have around 800 friends on Facebook currently?

When I was in my 20s and living in Denver's Capitol Hill the 40 to 50 people I knew were all doing something. We were all around the same age too. None of us had much, no mortgages, few had cars and no one had any kids. But there we were. I knew carpenters, musicians and people who worked serving breakfast so their afternoons could be spend making art.

Making art is not easy. It's not convenient. Oftentimes making art isn't even very much fun. When I think about sitting at my desk and writing, yes, I want to do it, but riding my bike or drinking gin sounds like a lot more fun. In fact if I could spend my days riding my bike and drinking gin, I just don't think I could ever get tired of it. I would, however, feel like I'm not doing the thing I should be doing, and that's writing.

The artist community that I knew in my 20s is mostly scattered now. Most of us have jobs, careers even, that do not reflect our artistic endeavors. Many of us have bills and debts and all of us seem to have children. The part of life I'm in now just cannot revolve solely around making art. Although, I think it should.

Yet, I feel like we talk about it. We talk about art, or writing, or music. We talk about the things we are doing, what we want to do. And I'm grateful that we do not talk about the things we did do.

My community is more varied now than ever. I don't hang around with artist solely. I do not always have someone to talk to about reading and writing. And the people I know these days find it strange that I do not know one spectator sport from another and I do not watch tv.

Your community, I think, defines who you are. I have friends that when we're together we party into the small hours and drink like the dawn will never come. I love these people and I love these times, but I'm grateful they aren't common anymore. If you want to be an artist, and no matter where you are in life, a young student, or a middle aged parent or an older empty nester, you must surround yourself with other artists. There are artists all around us.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Where Have All Artists Gone? Part 1, Was it easier back then?

At the risk of sounding like a sentimental old man with recounted tales of the good old days, let me deflate the notion instantly.

First, the good old days were anything but. Pick any decade and really think about the condition of the world, our country and you'll know that times have never been any better, or any worse than they are right now. These are the good old days. These are the days, and they will continue to be the good days until the last day. Also, there we have just as many freedoms along with just as many distractions now than we ever had.

But I do have to wonder if it was easier to just be an artist way back when. I suppose I should define way back when and I should describe the zeitgeist. For the sake of this post, I will classify back then as the world in analog (before say the W administration).

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Where Have All Artists Gone? The Preamble

We took a walk through an unsavory part of town today. I mean, sort of, there really isn't much in our little town that is unsavory. We got derelict neighborhoods, abandoned factories and we still haven't finished repairs from the 2013 floods.

Along the St Vrain river greenway between Issak Walton pond and Main Street, we walked through many an urban providence. Nearest the pond, which had been recently treated with a water herbicide, the views are of junkyards and quarries. Then past Boston Ave and Left Hand Brewing, it's vacant lots which are anything but. Later on, near the railroad tracks, the homeless encampments bring back memories of the Occupy Movement of 2011.

Sure, it's an industrial district, a warehouse and shipping area complete with trailer parks and railroads. I felt icky there. I especially felt icky when two shady characters were shooting up in a picnic pavilion.

At supper, we were recounting the views of the day. Janice mentioned these types of warehouse areas, mostly abandoned, should be a place for artists. How right. But where have the artists gone? I don't know any artists in our town. I do, but they're much older, live in nicer houses and made their money in real estate, banking or oil.

We talked about the artists we knew when we were younger, in our twenties, in early 1990s Denver. Perhaps it was easier to be an artist then.

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, May 24, 2017

A Revision: in the time to eat lunch

A few weeks back I wrote out my list for short fictions to read during a lunch hour.

I would like to revise the Richard Brautigan story "The Weather in San Francisco" for this one:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In the time it takes to eat lunch

I'm an incredibly fast eater. It happens to those of us who have had to eat in a rush. I won't even sit down. I'll hold my plate with one hand and eat with the other. It's not attractive, I know, but it's what I do. Even when I slow down, I'm still finished eating within seconds. Ultimately it's because I have always felt like eating is a chore and I'd rather be outside playing.

I bring it up only because I've recently read Rachel Grate's 14 Brilliant Pieces of Literature You Can Read in the Time it Takes to Eat Lunch. I agree with her list, fully and totally. She has picked some great pieces of literature.

But I eat very fast.

So here's my list:

1. "Happy Endings" Margaret Atwood
2. "Girl" Jamaica Kincaid
3. "The Elephant" Slawomir Morzek
4. "An Episode of War" Stephen Crane
5. "A Clean, Well-lighted Place" Ernest Hemingway
6. "Midnight Mass" Paul Bowles
7. "On Meeting the 100% Most Perfect Girl One Fine April Morning" Haruki Maurakami
8. "Homage for Issac Babel" Doris Lessing
9. "Crossing into Poland" Issac Babel
10. "The Dead Man" Jorge Luis Borges
11. "The Dead Man" Horacio Quiroga
12. "The Weather in San Francisco" Ricard Brautigan
13. "The Other Wife" Collette
and if you can eat slowly, and I mean slowly:
14. Things That Hang From Trees by T.A. Louis

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Here's a copy of the zine I made for my Front Range Community College workshop "The Writer and the Literary Press." If you don't know how a zine works, please see this tutorial

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.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


I made a bunch of these recently and what fun. Here's the tutorial I found most helpful.

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.