Tuesday, December 25, 2012
A bunch of friends and I had a tradition for years: they would come by my apartment with pie and bitch about their families. They didn't know each other's families and we would always be in helpless giggles halfway through the evening: everyone had an inappropriate uncle, a drunk brother, a slutty cousin, or any and all of the combinations thereof. My friends would be quite loopy at the end of the evening (lots of champagne with the pie); we had a big girls' sleepover. I'd get up in the morning and serve my friends coffee and pancakes while they relaxed in their sleeping bags.
The weather has been crappy and I have no urge to go to town, but the island is perking up and the show is about to begin. There are a few more people on the island because there are a few more lights here and there. But the big rush comes for New Year's. People like to come here, get hammered and drive around -- because they can. There are only 30 residents and it isn't like we have a police force.
I don't drink, never have, and the idea of careening around hammered strikes me as exceptionally silly -- but what do I know, right? We find folks in the ditches all the time and they certainly seem to think they're having fun. Occasionally they go to remote corners of the island and that's a problem. If you drive off the road out in the middle of nowhere, it is very likely that no one will find you. Heck, you don't even have to be out in the middle of nowhere, you can be on one of the roads that we all go along frequently -- but not at night.
Did I mention we have no streetlights? True. If I have to drive after dark I have to be careful to pick a car that has headlights. My favorite vehicle doesn't, though I can still drive it just fine as long as I have moonlight.
So there you are, drunky person, in the ditch, in the dark. You pull out your cell phone. Guess what? We have lousy coverage.
Even if you get your cell to work, you can't dial 911 and expect a helicopter to rush out and pick you up -- as many people have found out. "911" dialed from a cell phone roams; you might get any one of three or four dispatch offices in any one of four counties, we even get Canada. If you manage to get to the emergency services folks that are supposed to respond to us, they will want to send the boat (politics at work). It's a very nice boat which the driver put up on the rocks last summer running emergency patients to... not the hospital nearest us, but to another bigger facility that was farther away (more politics).
Moral of the story: if you must get drunk, do so with at least a dozen of your friends, so when you go joyriding and careen off the road, you can huddle together for warmth 'til we find you in the morning. Or you can stagger together down the road and sing loudly and off-key. Either way you'll have a great story to tell.
And so will I.
Monday, December 17, 2012
There could be a plot thread here -- what if my character created the diagnosis of Asperger's for herself so she could get state benefits? What happens if the syndrome is no longer in the DSM-V? Hmmm -- interesting premise but I can her you all out there yawning.
What if I make her a psychopath? What is a psychoath? "A person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior without empathy or remorse."
OK, but she's not antisocial or aggressive or perverted.
Maybe she's sociopath -- ah -- now we're getting warmer. Our girl has no conscience she cannot love, she can do anything and feel no guilt. She's spontaneous, complex, and talented but doesn't care what happens to the people around her. Her goal is to dominate the people and "win".
Time to re-read The Sociopath Next Door (interesting reviews on Goodreads.... hmmm)
I recall something I read years ago -- an actress playing Salome is presented with the head of John the Baptist on a platter -- how does she react?
She recoils in horror, had to her mouth. (Cliche.)
She laughs manically. (Cliche.)
She acts as if she'd gone mad -- tearing of hair, wild eyes. (Bad acting)
She acts as if the severed head is the cutest puppy she ever saw. (perfect - and - scene).
Crazy behavior is normal behavior taken out of context...
Monday, December 10, 2012
And in the interest of comparison -- both books are cheaper on Amazon than on eBay.
Heck of a week! I was part of a BIG group show in Seattle -- the 30-Day Art Challenge and I mean BIG -- 107 artists, each of us made thirty 8 x 10 works and on December 5 and 6, the opening was a eyeball blowing cacophony of color and pattern.
The VIP Friends and Family opening was Dec 5 -- which was crowded, but nothing compared to the crush during First Thursday, December 6. I could barely move -- the gal doing the counting said she'd clicked in 167 people in a single 15-minute period. That's more people than I see in a months on end here on the island -- with the exception of Saturday Markets in summer.
The cool thing? If you liked something on the wall, you could take it down and buy it -- $50.00 bought you any piece of art you fancied and mid-evening the line to buy art snaked around the foyer outside the gallery.
Ah city life -- sometimes I miss it, meetings with cool folksa bout cool projects, coffee with friends. What I don't miss is this -- can't go out the door without spending money. And... always walking on a hard surface. Quite the contrast to my muddy life here; and there's no place to spend money unless I buy eggs!
Life on an island....
Monday, December 3, 2012
Del's favorite coffee shop, Java Jive, had been bought by the cafe next door. It was renamed the El Jive and he was pleased to see that none of his favorite baristas had left -- and dogs were still welcome. The baristas told him that they were now part of the Cafe El Marz Cooperative, there was a profit-sharing program and in fact, the restaurant and the coffee shop would be owned by the employees in a few years.
That seemed like a good thing to Dell and he congratulated the baristas.
He and Elvis went home and got ready to go to work at Doggie Daycare.
There's a parvovirus outbreak in the city, a dozen cases traced to an off-leash park across the city from the Doggie Daycare. Amy has been busy assuring her customers that she doesn't take their dogs to that park and making sure that all their dog-clients have been vaccinated against parvo. She also bought a case of bleach and put all the volunteers, including Del, to work scrubbing and bleaching every inch of the floor, the kennels, and the runs. The boss had all the chips and dirt scraped off the play area and replaced with fresh dirt, gravel and chips.
Everything smelled good and fresh, Del thought, like a laundromat in a hamster cage. Most of the Doggie Daycare customers took a look at how clean everything was and didn't worry that their dogs would get sick.
However, some clients have asked Amy and Tom to care for their dogs at home and have paid a pretty penny for the service. Del has been assigned to one dog in his neighborhood and for these duties, he is paid. The little extra bit of money was good to have -- Del planned to buy himself a nice big steak at the store -- and share the bone with Elvis.
The dog owners have left very specific instructions: no dog parks, don't let the dog sniff at anything, no contact with other dogs, exactly one cup of dry food at 9:30 in the morning, scooped poop goes into the special garbage can... the list went on for two pages. Del left Elvis in the car and carefully walked the dog around the neighborhood three times a day, and played a little fetch with her. After three days it was clear to him that the dog was lonely and he asked Amy if Fluffball could come back to doggie daycare.
"I'll ask," Amy said, "But they're scared that the dog will catch parvo. She's been vaccinated and is young and healthy, but her owners are ultra-cautious."
It was a week before Fluffball came back to Doggie Daycare, even though her owners insisted she be kept in a separate run and not be allowed to come in contact with any of the other dogs. Still, she seemed to be happier with the other dogs around, Dell thought.
It has been raining non-stop for days and Elvis, who hates rain, has been a big grumble. Dell has to get the golf umbrella out to coax him outside, but today it's too windy for the umbrella. They have to use a default walk out by the covered play shed on the school grounds. Dogs are not technically allowed on the school grounds, but the kids know Elvis and Dell is careful to pick up after Elvis very carefully.
Other dogs get in and do their business near the shed too, really, the shed is a kind of dog magnet. Dell picks up after them too, but today even Dell is a little jumpy about parvo. There are stray dogs in the neighborhood, so he took Elvis, grumbling the whole way, to another corner of the field, where he had to do his business in the rain.
He grumbled and glared at Dell the whole way back to the house.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
My favorite genre to edit is historical fiction; and by that I don't mean romances that are -- incidentally -- set during a time of turbulent history. (OK, I'll make an exception for Casablanca.)
It was E.L. Doctrow's Ragtime that did it for me -- written in syncopated style, when I read passages aloud I could feel the rhythms of ragtime in the words. And Evelyn Nesbit! Doctrow called her the first media darling, a woman who was famous for being famous. Doctrow drew his characters very well; and though I knew that Stanford White, Henry Thaw and Evelyn Nesbit were real, I was disappointed to discover that Coalhouse Walker was fictional.
I am not a huge fan of French and English history, though I studied both to understanding the context of Shakespeare's plays. If I were a fan, I could keep reading Jean Plaidy or Sharon Kay Penman for years... possibly decades.
I recently read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall -- a lot of reading at 600+ pages. Mantel finds fresh life in the stories of Henry VIII by skimming through Prince Hal and his many wives and writing about Oliver Cromwell and Thomas More -- but she wasn't writing a history book, her hybrid novel is historical fiction.
A chuckle here--Mantel's book arrived in the mail from a friend who bought it thinking she was getting some light reading -- sex, scandal and intrigue (still at 600+ pages) in the vein of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl.
The Other Boleyn Girl is also historical fiction and Gregory took great liberties with the historical context and characters in the book, which makes for a great novel, but made historians cross. However, the book was made into a big-budget movie and I don't expect to see "Wolf Hall" as a movie soon. (Maybe a BBC4 documentary.)
Historical bodice rippers aside, Larissa Macfarquar at the New Yorker feels that Hilary Mantel has revitalized historical fiction.
Historical Fiction -- partial reading list from my freshman literature class, circa 1993:
Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers
Ann Rinaldi, (YA books with historical background)
Ken Follett (yes!), Pillars of the Earth
More (imagined) Adventures of Elvis Rain
Elvis is not thrilled with the rain -- no, the deluge -- today. Dell had to practically drag him down to the Java Jive to watch the action between Ms UB, her dog B+ and Noodles' owner, the object of Ms UB's affections.
The only way Dell could get Elvis out the door was to put his red "Therapy Dog" vest on -- Elvis was used to wearing a vest. When the vest was on, he knew it was time to go to work.
When the Doggie Daycare van pulled up, Elvis made a dash for the side door-- it was dry inside the van and he was tired of standing under the drippy eaves at Java Jive. Dell reined him back in and the young woman driving the van smiled at him while B+ and Noodles got on board.
On a whim, Dell asked, "Do you need help?"
"We're not hiring."
"I was thinking of volunteering. Elvis and I were in the Beagle Brigade, and he's-- we're -- a trained therapy team, maybe we can be of use to you."
The young woman latched the doors on the dog crates, then stood up and pulled a business card from the driver's-side visor. "You bet," she said. Normally I'd say no, but you might be a good addition to our team. Call the boss -- Tom, tell him Amy told you to call."
"Amy, OK. Thanks," Dell said. They shook hands.
Elvis trotted along expectantly beside Dell and he realized that they couldn't go back to the house, Elvis expected to go to work. They walked to the Mini-School Cooperative Daycare--they knew Dell and Elvis there -- and the parents and kids going in all gave Elvis a pet. After that Elvis was happy to go home.
Monday, November 12, 2012
More (imagined) adventures of Elvis, the Barking Rain Press mascot...
Dell and Elvis moved last week to newer, but smaller digs in a posh (but slightly odd) neighborhood; Elvis doesn't have to ride the elevator up and down from the fourth anymore and the dog park is only six blocks away. Elvis is thrilled, he's never liked elevators.
However, Elvis constantly alerts to the house next door; sits down in front of the house and won't move. Dell wonders what's going on -- Elvis was trained to sniff out contraband fruit in airline luggage; he can't imagine that there's a illegal mango-growing operation next door. Eventually he caught a whiff of what Elvis smelled--something fruity--ah--the neighbor is using fruit-scented dryer sheets. Mystery solved.
Elvis loves the dog park even though he's not interested in the other dogs, being off-leash or playing fetch. (Elvis pointedly does not fetch.) His passion is collecting tennis balls and he won't leave the park until he has collected every tennis ball. A first he carefully made a pile of them at Dell's feet; that didn't work because other dogs would steal the balls back. Now Dell brings a big garbage bag along and puts all the tennis balls in it; when Elvis is done he leaves the bag on the bench.
Java Jive the coffee shop comes after the dog park. Elvis dutifully will alert to any fruit on the counter: today it's a display of Satsuma oranges. Dell gets a large drip and Elvis gets a dog biscuit; they've been coming every morning at about the same time and Dell has started to recognize the regulars. The morning starts with a gaggle of high school kids who hop off their buses and grab lattes and mochas before going to school (their private high school is across the street). As soon as they're gone a woman who reeks of cigarettes and booze comes in and shakily nurses small drip; the Doggie Daycare Van stops in front of Java Jive and picks up a half-dozen dogs every morning; there seems to be a romance brewing between the owner of Noodles, a curly gray dog and B+, who is some sort of Labrador mix. His owner is a nervous woman Dell calls "Ms. UB" because she is always in a sweatshirt that says "UB" -- university-of-something? Dell isn't sure; but he knows she waits until she sees Noodles and his owner before going into Java Jive and she always orders a dry cap.
Elvis alerts to B+ as if he's another service dog, Ms UB curtly told Dell that he flunked service dog school.
Dell tried out a small joke: "His name is B+? So he's a good dog, but not an excellent one, right?"
Ms. UB looked at Dell flatly. "His name is Ben, his name tag is scratched up." She scampered out the door after Noodles and his owner, the dogs got into the Doggie Daycare van, Ms. UB laughed loudly at something Noodles' owner said.
Answer: Very carefully. I sent the student a little diagram showing how we would edit thoroughly on paper before sending copy to the typesetter, the process of pulling and reviewing galley proofs. The whole process took a long time -- I think of this every time I do a quick edit in InDesign.
And among my who-needs-it-now skills, I can read accurately upside-down and backwards and can spot a 1/4 point of bad kerning or leading at 40 paces.
Next week: Elvis, Noodles and B+
Monday, November 5, 2012
Monday, October 29, 2012
More (imaginary) adventures of Elvis, our mascot...
Is Elvis, our mascot a beagle or a basset hound? My friends who raise basset hounds say he looks more like a basset, but not quite. A basgle? A be-set?
Rain, Rain and Rain
Elvis decidedly did not like the deluge of rain this week -- not all week thank goodness or we'd be afloat. His human (Wendell -- also known as Dell) said he spent all week barking at the rain through the patio door and grumbling whenever he went outside.
He also keeps alerting to apples and mangoes when Wendell brings them home -- he found a lot of both. stuffed in luggage as contraband in his Beagle Brigade days. Wendell thinks that either he can't shake his training or he wants more dried liver treats. He'd sit by the kitchen counter for hours in alert position if Dell didn't reward him with a dried liver treat, their usual MO when they were a working team at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
Dell decided that maybe he was getting bored being retired from the Beagle Brigade. His friend Amy from the coffee shop suggested that they try Pet Partners to see if Elvis would be a good therapy dog. They just finished training and Elvis went on his first supervised therapy visit with Amy and Ranger, who is a retired drug sniffing dog. Elvis did pretty well, despite alerting to a package of dried mango slices in one patient's room.
That is, he did pretty well until Ranger caused a mild uproar by alerting to an empty hospice room, something he's never done. But after Elvis alerted to the mango slices, Ranger -- maybe showing off a bit -- alerted to a corner of an empty room.
Amy had to find a subtle way to telling the staff the Ranger smelled something. The something turned out to be a half-gram of marijuana that had fallen into the back corner of the bedside stand. It probably wasn't illegal -- many of the hospice patients are in the last stages of terminal cancer and are registered to receive medicinal marijuana. However, when Elvis got a whiff of the grass, he started howling and wouldn't stop. Dell had to drag him out of the hospice, though he found out later that everyone got a good laugh out of Elvis's behavior and they've been invited back.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Monday, October 15, 2012
The kids could even read to a dog, thanks to friendly support from therapy dogs from Pet Partners (formerly known as the Delta Society). The dogs were a big hit: one little girl carefully held the "Very Hungry Caterpillar" open so Jack the dog could see the pictures: he looked at them gravely and wagged his tail.
I was holding down a corner of the Barking Rain Press booth; and in the course of a couple of days of chatting with folks who stopped by I realized that we have published no stories about barking, rain or dogs: our beagle mascot, Elvis, has no backstory!
I have decided that Elvis is a retired drug-sniffing beagle: rescued from the pound and very good at his job. However, he hates the rain: he won't go outside unless his person puts an umbrella up... and now to think of some adventures for Elvis...
Monday, October 8, 2012
Monday, October 1, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
There is no shortage of great ideas -- the writer's CRAFT is the difference. Often the craft is finding a new way to tell a familiar story; or a familiar way to tell a familiar story -- as a friend who writes romance novels says, "I give my readers the stories they expect."
But there is also the unexpected.
How do you give Shakespeare -- specifically "Hamlet" -- a twist? Tom Stoppard does it with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. A line near the end of "Hamlet" triggers the entire play, first produced in 1966 (and made into a film in 1990). This play is interwoven with scenes from Hamlet; often with the two protagonists looking on in amazement at the action on the stage. I often taught the two plays together and one of my students said, "That Stoppard guy, he's just samplin' Shakespeare, right?"
Monday, September 17, 2012
I subscribe to a freelancer listserv and every week there's a request for a writer to ghost or "polish" a memoir or a novel about pioneer ancestors or dad's World War II experiences. I reviewed dozens of these manuscripts at my first editing job and by the tenth or maybe the twentieth it was apparent that the stories were all interesting, but much more interesting to the family than to a potential audience of readers.
We had a stack in the slush pile that were carefully typewritten and bound with a nice title page -- "The Johnson-Inglemoor Family History". Maybe it is fascinating to the family to know how great-grandpa and grandma got to Canada or the USA; met, married, had trials and tribulations, and ultimately prospered. Cue the three-generations family reunion photo, newest baby in great-grandma's lap.
But it’s BORING to the rest of us: we've got our own family stories. How is yours different?
The "Als" (see blog post from May 28, 2012) used to call these manuscripts R2R (rags-to-riches), or 40AM (forty-acres-and-a-mule), or IMG (immigrant makes good).
There was only one manuscript among the dozens of R2R, 40AM and IMG manscripts that intrigued the "Als". In Chapter Two the author wrote, "There was a rumor that great-grandpa had a whole 'nother family back in Kentucky..."
Sunday, September 9, 2012
YAY! A publisher has accepted your manuscript, you've been assigned an editor. Are you ready for the hard work? Do you really, really love that manuscript? I hope you do because it is time to launch your book: you will be its biggest cheerleader, its biggest promoter, and you will be talking about it non-stop. A friend said doing her doctoral dissertation was easier than selling her first book: "At least I had the PhD after years of research and writing: I have been selling this book for THREE YEARS and everyone asks me when I'm going to write another one!"
I had a long list of suggestions prepared for authors preparing to launch books, but I discovered that I couldn't say it better than Michael Hyatt, who describes in detail not only how to launch a book, but How to Launch a Bestselling Book
The entire post (summarized below) is an excellent primer on working every angle to get your book not just noticed, but SELLING.
Hyatt writes, " I can’t promise this will work for you. While I characterize this as a “formula,” I refer to it as my formula. This is what worked for me. Hopefully, you can personalize what I have done and build on it. This assumes you have a wow product. As I say in my Platform keynote speech (quoting from David Ogilvy), “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.” Your book must meet a felt need, be well-written, and have the potential to reach a large enough segment of the population.
This (list) doesn’t include what the publisher did... I assumed personal responsibility. I wasn’t expecting the publishing company to make me famous or make my book successful. I’ve been in this business a long time, and that’s not how it works. If you expect this, you will be disappointed."
Hyatt's bullet points are:
- I set a specific goal.
- I engaged my tribe early. (Hyatt blogged parts of his book before publication)
- I secured endorsements.
- I formed a launch team.
- I focused the promotion.
- I created a can’t-say-no offer.
Monday, September 3, 2012
You've got a completed manuscript! Congratulations! But is it really done?
Every publisher has a "slush pile" -- manuscripts that have promise, but...
Following are the top five varieties of manuscripts I've read in countless slush piles: (1) a "completed" manuscript that reads like a first or second draft--particularly common after the 3-Day Novel Contest and NaNoWriMo; (2) a writer who should know better; (3) endless description about the wonderful place I'm about to enter; (4) a great story that doesn't start in Chapter One; (5) a story that's all exposition and dialogue that's more exposition.
1. This reads like a second draft. There's a story in here, but I can hardly find it. Reject.
2. Author says he has a MFA in Creative Writing -- then he should know about arc of action -- there isn't one, even if I allow for the new-age-ish plotline and POV; horrible spelling, grammar and punctuation. Reject.
3. Great story premise but author spends first several chapters telling me all about the land of Oshtofoguwitz, I know where every hovel and castle is, but author doesn't get to the point of the travelogue until Chapter Eight. Recommend author edit and resubmit for reconsideration in six months.
4. Excellent story and intriguing characters; but too much exposition at beginning -- story doesn't start until chapter five. Start story with Chapter Five, fold in exposition and this is a winner. If author is willing to make these edits, accept manuscript.
5. Endless exposition and when there's dialogue it's something like, "Remember when we killed that girl, well, we'd better be careful the cops don't catch us." Reject.
You're a Genius
I'm willing to admit that we editors and publishers may know nothing of your genius. The publishing world has many stories about rejected manuscripts that eventually became best sellers. However, how many times have you heard the SAME stories about The Thorn Birds or J.K. Rowling? (I'm tired of hearing them too.)
If your manuscript is the fabulous work you think it is, then publishers will take notice. And if you keep getting rejection letter after rejection letter and you are positive that your work is exactly what you want it to be, explore the pros and cons of every publishing avenue open to you.
As Nayia Moysidis says in her blog -- Unpublished? You Don’t Actually Suck: "Each year, a publishing house can expect to receive about 10,000 unsolicited manuscripts. Out of every 10,000 manuscripts submitted, about 3 are published. The odds are horrifying, which is perhaps why so many undiscovered writers turn to self-publication... There's no one to blame. It's not the publishing houses. It's not the literary agencies. It's not even you. With so much talent in the publishing world, it's opportunity that's the problem."
Moysidis goes on to promote her project -- the Writer's Bloq, currently seeking funding on Kickstarter: "If your work doesn't have a home on the streets you recognize, it's time to start a new path. If your writing simply doesn't belong to the neighborhoods you've visited, it's time to join our Bloq." An interesting premise and worth a look.
Next week: You got a manuscript accepted! Now comes the hard work: launching your book.
Monday, August 27, 2012
I look for myth structure when I’m editing; every protagonist goes through some portion of the hero’s journey and tension builds when he stalls on a step, tries to skip a step, or runs away from the journey.
The Call to Adventure
Refusal of the Call
Supernatural Aid (the Helper appears)
The Crossing of the First Threshold (into adventure)
The Belly of the Whale (hero separates from known world and self)
The Road of Trials (tests, often in threes)
The Meeting with the “Goddess” (the union of opposites)
Woman as the Temptress (hero is tempted)
Atonement with the Father (“father” as ultimate power)
Apotheosis (deification, hero rests)
The Ultimate Boon (the goal of the quest)
ReturnRefusal of the Return (to everyday life)
The Magic Flight (escape)
Rescue from Without
The Crossing of the Return Threshold (returning with wisdom)
Master of the Two Worlds (maybe just the material and spiritual worlds)
Freedom to Live
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Monday, August 13, 2012
“The ugly fact is books are made out of books.” (Cormac McCarthy, The New York Times, 1992)
Plagarism has been in the news again, this time a storm around TV host, Washington Post columnist and author Fareed Zakaria. He acknowledged and apologized for lifting parts of a magazine article and parts of one his books. But wait, maybe he didn’t plagiarize, according to The Daily Beast. Maybe he or his researchers were guilty of being lazy -- grabbing a clip online and not bothering to track down the source.
I am fascinated by the story behind Q.R. Markham's "Assassin of Secrets"; which is comprised of passages lifted from a number of other novels, which led many to ask-- why did the author think--in the age of Google -- that he could get away with it? Or was it an elaborate ruse?
This New Yorker article says “Assassin of Secrets” is looking more and more like pastiche or collage, rather than a “novel,” as we properly understand the word.
Rowan wouldn’t be the only writer in recent years—the era of redefining what is meant by ‘intellectual property’—to use plagiarism to make a statement. Those whose points have been well-taken, however, have generally been up-front about their borrowing. Among the best-known are Jonathan Lethem, whose 2007 essay in Harper’s, ‘The Ecastasy of Influence: A Plagiarism,’ comprised only lifted passages; and the British “collagiste” Graham Rawle, whose 2009 novel “Woman’s World” was “assembled from 40,000 fragments of text snipped from women’s magazines.”
Both of these were praised for their meta properties: they worked on the story level and also critiqued and commented upon the stories they told through their acts of appropriation. If Rowan is trying to comment upon the spy genre—on how it is both tired and endlessly renewable, on how we as readers of the genre want nothing but to be astonished again and again by the same old thing—then he has done a bang-up job. If he wants to comment on our current notions of discovery, to turn us all into armchair detectives, Googling here and there and everywhere to solve the puzzle, he is a genius. (David Shields, whom James Wood wrote about last year in this magazine, might approve of his project.)
Monday, August 6, 2012
It really is all about the story and I can’t say it better than Bob Mayer:
The consumer is the reader. Not the bookstores, the platform, the distributor, the sales force. The Reader.
Authors produce story. Readers consume story. If anyone is in the path between Author and Reader they must add value to that connection.
I taught "Writing for Non-Writers" at a community college years ago. I expected maybe a half-dozen students, to my surprise, forty-plus people signed up. In the first class, I handed out two index cards to each student: on one, I asked students to write down what they wanted to write about.
Invariably, someone said, "I don't want to write down my topic because someone will steal it."
I had the class find the others who were writing in their genre; another invariable question, "Do we have to stay in these groups?"
"Of course not, but who's going to understand better your struggles than someone who's writing in the same genre as you?"
"Everything was going fine and something happened to upset the apple cart; everything was going to hell in a handbasket and something happened to make it less hellish; or nothing happened -- that is, something is always on the verge of happening, but it doesn't happen, or perhaps earth-shaking events are happening around your hero, your protagonist, but they don't affect him or her."
The room was dead silent except for the sound of pens scratching and laptop keys tapping.
"Can you repeat that?"
"Why don't you have slides?"
Not OK - OK
The two poets looked at each other and laughed. I said, "Poetry is a little different. There can be an arc of action--that's what we're talking about here -- the arc of action; but many poems are a snapshot of something in the human condition, explored in nuanced ways; poetry is more like painting to me."
“But there’s still a story.” said one of the students. “I make up stories about paintings all the time.”
I wrote on the whiteboard: