First Saturday Report, August

WRITING & SUBMITTING
Since the last report I’ve gone back through The Palace of Winds and tweaked it. There were some typos that had, somehow, survived all the previous read-throughs. I also rewrote and/or expanded some scenes here and there where I realized my previous overfamiliarity (and flat out exhaustion with the thing) had left some plot holes. Now, back to sending it out.

The new project is still on hold. I’ve been preparing some vignettes and poems for a performance coming up August 11th (more on that in the podcast section). I’ve been going through old files, folders, and notebooks looking for things that are roughly 500 to a thousand words or so and are in the vein of the kind of things Bobbie Louise Hawkins was doing in her book and one woman show Absolutely Eden and her pieces from Live at the Great American Music Hall with Terry Garthwaite and Rosalie Sorrels, and in Jaded Love with Lee Christopher (which is exceptionally rare and hard to find). What I find most interesting about the hunt for suitable vignettes is that most of the time I don’t think of myself as being very productive, and not much of a short piece writer. Then I go through all the notebooks that I carry around and scribble things in from time-to-time when I’m out in the world and there are all these pieces where I’ve made some half decent observation about the world, or playfully used language and made startling juxtapositions.

And now I’m back to wondering why it’s so hard to get that to happen in my intentional prose anymore. I managed (somewhat) it in The Evolution of Shadows, but it’s been a challenge to get it teased out of The Palace of Winds (but that may have been a result of intention (long story that)). Then there’s Far Nineteen, which I’ve not looked at in almost a year now and don’t recall how flexible or artful the prose was. I guess that’s next on my list of re-tweaks. Except I really want to get back to the new project.

READING:
My most recent reads have been for the Crime/noir/detective podcast series. Recently finished James Ellroy’s American Tabloid, and Elmore Leonard’s Unknown Man #89. I’ll save the critique and review for now since it’ll all be in the podcast when those come out in October (tentatively planned for then, anyway). These days I’m reading Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and Richard Brautigan’s Dreaming of Babylon.

Honestly, I’ll be glad when I’m done with the crime/noir stuff so I can get on that new Michael Ondaatje book Warlight.

One thing I have been squeezing in when I can is reading The Altar of the Only World, a collection of new poems by Sharanya Manivannan. I hope one day an American publisher will sign her so that her work will be more easily available in the states. She’s with Harpercollins India right now, so it shouldn’t be too hard of a leap for Harpercollins to bring her here. Her writing is breathtaking and daring, and you should make every effort to read it. I would recommend getting your hands on her collection of short fiction The High Priestess Never Marries.

PODCAST
I’m finishing up the crime/noir/mystery podcast. Two more episodes to go. I’ve had a bit of technical snag with episode three (Megan Abbott and Charles Willeford), but perhaps my new “producer” can fix it. If not, we’ll come up with something.

That’s right, I’ve recruited a producer. We’re still negotiating compensation, but both excited to be working together on the podcast. I need the technical help and my would-be producer needs to build a post-radio days stuff for a portfolio. There may be some special content for sale, some begging for donations, or something along those lines to help compensate the producer’s time and effort, but it’ll be worth it for a better polished podcast.

I’m also prepping for the first live podcast. I’ll be working with a band called The Ezras to put on Outrider Live: Words and Music. It’ll be recorded on Aug. 11th and the show will released on the Podcast in late August or early September. If ti all goes well, Shawn Craver (of the Ezras and a writer) hope to do more shows with other writers and musicians.

WATCHING
I’ve started a classic movie night with friends, and so far we’ve done Breakfast at Tiffany’s (June), and The Thin Man (July), which I’d never seen before. Next up in August is Gaslight, I believe the 1944 version with Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotton, but I’m not sure.

A number of my friends haven’t seen Time Bandits, which I find astounding and am oddly excited about sharing it with them.

I’ve finally gotten around to watching the PBS, Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War, and, to cut that from time-to-time, I’ve been watching old M.A.S.H. episodes.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
There was a recent episode of the podcast Hidden Brain that got me thinking. It was called Rebel With A Cause, and it was about rule breaking—more or less—and the “curse of knowledge,” which basically means that experts sometimes forget what it’s like to be a beginner or novice and so lose the wonder, curiosity, and awkwardness that put a fire into their early forays into the field of their expertise. It put me in mind of a conversation I had with a friend not long ago about my own writing. This friend encouraged me quit worrying about putting all these elaborate requirements on my writing and just tell a story. In some ways, this friend was right.

I have been putting a lot of requirements on the projects I’ve been working on lately. My rationale has been that by putting a certain requirement in place—a limitation—it will force me to come up with a creative solution to get around that limitation. The problem, I think, isn’t the limitation itself, but how I’m responding to it. When I first started writing, and when I wrote The Evolution of Shadows, my limitations were largely unintentional. They were limitations of novice-hood and limitations born of a lack of experience as a writer. Since then, I’ve cranked out several manuscripts, even though none have been published. Each one has been a learning experience, despite their failures. Some of those manuscripts were, simply just too flawed to go anywhere, like the finished but unfixable novel By The Still, Still Water, and the 500 plus page epic conspiracy novel that ran out of gas called The God Tamers (title stolen from a line in “Silver” by Echo and Bunnymen), and the abandoned rock-n-roll serial killer novel Gravity Push (might go back to it). Then there are the finished ones that seem, at least for now, to be worthwhile—The Palace of Winds (a re-imagining of Jason & the Golden Fleece) and Far Nineteen (a story about deep-seated racial conflict and a dead body in a time capsule).

When I started out, I was fairly good at plot, dialogue, and point of view. Not a bad repertoire for a beginner, but my language as dull, functional, journalistic. There was not much poetry to it, and certainly no grace or personality. It was also missing that certain thing that comes from getting access to, and trusting, your native intelligence and the ability to tap into those truths we all know about what it means to be human and to suffer (or to be joyful, in love, etc.) and say something about those things in a new and artful way.

I think I let go of my beginner’s mindset too early. I went from asking “what do I do next?” to saying “this is what I do next” as if it was all understood now how I should apply my knowledge and proceed. I don’t like formulas, I don’t like formulaic writing, and although I enjoy various sub-genres of literature like Mystery, Sci-fi, Fantasy, etc. I don’t want to write exclusively in one sub-genre. My favorite books, and the book I’m always looking for but can’t find (ergo I then decided that I should write them), are ones like those written by Michael Ondaatje, John Berger, Lawrence Durrell, Jeff Talarigo, Emily St. John Mandel, Laird Hunt, Sharanya Manivannan, Italo Calvino, Jack Kerouac, James Tate, Michael Chabon, Alexs D. Pate, and others (William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow is astounding, Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish crushes me, David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars breaks my heart). In effect, I’d built myself a formula without knowing and have been flailing about inside it, not breaking the arbitrary rules I’d set for myself, which were based on a desire to not follow the “rules” of a formula.

Now. . . to fix it.

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First Saturday Report, July

WRITING & SUBMITTING
I’ve been letting the submissions dwindle lately and have, actually, gone back in for another pass at the manuscript for The Palace of Winds. There were some pretty obvious typos that I’d somehow missed before. The perils of self-editing. I know what I meant to say, what I wanted to say, but somehow missed typing it in correctly didn’t correct it on the page.

This means the new project is on hold for the moment, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. I’d reached that phase where the original structure and intent was fading and descending into a kind of linear porto-journalism—a recounting of things done and said, but with little insight into what was felt, or interpreted by the characters. The appropriate tone had disappeared, as well as the poetry. It’s the usual sign that I took a wrong turn somewhere and need to backtrack. Perfect time to let it sit. After a while, I’ll be able to spot the bad note and clean it out.

READING:
Knocked out Die A Little by Megan Abbott and The Woman Chaser by Charles Willeford. Also squeezed in, finally, in my 47th year, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Abbott and Willeford were read for the special podcast series I’m doing on Crime/detective/noir fiction. More on that in the podcast section.I ended up liking the Abbott better than the Willeford. At the moment, I’m reading James Ellroy’s American Tabloid and Elmore Leonard’s Unknown Mad #89. Both for the podcast.

The Little Prince was a favorite book of a friend who died several years ago from brain cancer. Perhaps if I’d read it as a kid I’d have had a slightly different reaction to it. One that wasn’t so tinged with sadness. It’s a lovely story, full of truth, such as its most famous quote—but there are other truths in it. I read it because I kind of always should have read it, but also because it may play a part in the new project I’m letting sit for a while.

One of my New Year’s plans had been to get at least one shelf’s worth of books read from my to-be-read bookshelves, but instead, I did the noir podcast and just added a new shelf. So, we’ll see.

PODCAST
The recording for the Crime/detective/noir podcast should be finished by the end of August, and the plan is to get that ready to be released sometime in October. I’ve recently made contact with an individual who has several years of audio editing experience and who seems to enjoy doing that kind of work. Hopefully, an arrangement can be reached (including payment that is both manageable for me and satisfactory for the editor). Overall, it should really improve the quality of the shows that are released.

I’m also working with a local musician to put on a live event that will be recorded for the podcast. That should happen sometime in August, with the resulting episode coming out shortly afterwards. I’m excited about he prospects both for the podcast and for engaging the wider artistic community here in Wichita.

WATCHING
I’ve been watching more things than I should. Mostly stuff from the Arrowverse on Netflix. However, I did recently see Rosemary’s Baby for the first time at the urging of Julianne. It was amusing, but I still might have sprained my eyes rolling them so often. Now, every time I utter the phrase “demon baby” Julianne adds another horror movie to the list of horror movies she’s going to make me watch. I think I can handle it. So far, the only one that’s unsettled me was The Conjuring, but I got over it.

I still don’t fully understand that fascination with horror movies, nor the enjoyment people get out of whatever it is that horror movies are supposed to do.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
Back in May I wrote a bit about the passing of Bobbie Louise Hawkins (NY Times Obituary). Bobbie was my grad school advisor, and had a very serious impact on me as a writer. Since then, I have seen a number of my grad school acquaintances write about her and the experiences they had with her both during their time at Naropa and after—and I find myself feeling a different kind of remorse and sadness. Not for Bobbie’s passing, but for the lack of connection I have with my fellow former students, and for a lack of connection with Naropa.

First, I have a few close friends, people I confide in and lean on. Some of them are writers, some aren’t. But aside from about three people I keep in semi-regular contact with via social media and email, I’m not very connected to anyone from graduate school anymore, and certainly not to any of my instructors in a way that seems similar to my fellow students.

Now, I admit that I’m a poor correspondent. Aside from making a New Year’s resolution to clean off one of my to-be-read shelves, I also resolved to begin writing to grad school friends I hadn’t talked to in a while, and to write to other writer acquaintances I’ve made over the years. I’ve failed miserably on that front as well. I may have written three or four emails to three people back in February or March, and that’s been it.

It’s all lead to a bit of introspection and self-analysis. Judging from conversations that I have had, usually via the podcast, but also the occasional successful social media interaction, I have the feeling that all these people I’ve met or once knew are much better at keeping in touch and making more intimate connections with other people than I am. Since Bobbie’s death, I’ve heard a few stories from classmates about visits with Bobbie that they had during and after their time at Naropa. Invitations to visit and chat that I don’t remember receiving.

Considering the variety of people telling these stories, I’ve realized the only constant is me. I’m the problem. I can’t decided if it’s because I’m too quiet, or if I talk too much. Am I too intimate, or am I too aloof? Too closed off, or too open. I’ve been accused of being all of those things at various times. Either way, I’m pretty sure there’s something about me that, despite my desire to have literary friendships (perhaps even my desperation), that keeps people at a distance.

One of the most important things Bobbie taught me was how to walk that line between being self-critical and gracefully accepting praise. I used to deflect any and all praise directed at my writing because, frankly, all I could see were the flaws (I still mostly see only the flaws (but not always the typos)). Bobbie told me the deflected someone’s praise of my writing, in some weird attempt to appear humble, was a subtle suggestion that I thought their judgement was flawed or wrong. It was, in effect, an insult to their taste and intelligence. She said that, I can’t stand to simply accept the praise, then I could try saying something like “Thank you, but I”m not half as good as I want to be.” That way, I avoid making people feel stupid or ashamed for liking something I wrote, and frame my self-critical voice in such a way that it presents as a tease for future work. It’s like doing a magic trick and then, after everyone applauds, giving them a wink and saying “If you like that, wait till you see the next trick.”

That lesson came in a class, I think, and not while chatting in the garden, or in the living room, or after a shared dinner. Perhaps I seem too self-contained, too self-assured, too self-reliant to need such one-on-one propping up by friends and mentors. My inability to ask for help (or anything really) perhaps reinforced that.

Oddly enough, this feeling also applies to family. Some, but not all, of my cousins on both sides of the family, have many more stories about times spent with our grandparents, while, for me, they remain mostly strangers—especially now that they’ve been dead close to thirty years in some cases.

When I was in my twenties and thirties, I don’t think it mattered to me, or, at least, I didn’t let it affect me. Now, at nearly fifty, with the world seemingly collapsing around us all, and a rising awareness that men at my age tend to start the long slow decline into isolation (which can be deadly), I’m spending a lot of time pondering how I can head off a seemingly inevitable lonely old man phase, and what I need to alter about myself to help that along.

But, of course, that doesn’t mean letting just anyone in past the gates. No one, at any age, needs narcissistic, psychopathic, selfish, manipulative, destructive, racist people near them.


Ulysses Ep. 6

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-u24wy-9361d2

1934 edition page references

 

613 through 768

 

 

My cohost is Delia Tramontina, from Flushing, NY. She earned her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Her work most recently appeared in Newtown Literary, Forum and 1111. Her chapbook CONSTRAINT is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. For 3.5 years she co-hosted the online show, Poet as Radio, on San Francisco Community Radio. She lives and works in San Francisco.

 

 

The music is The Bells of Dublin/Christmas Eve by The Chieftains 


Ulysses Ep. 5

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-zq86x-9361cb

1934 edition page references

 

460 through 612

 

 

My cohost is Delia Tramontina, from Flushing, NY. She earned her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Her work most recently appeared in Newtown Literary, Forum and 1111. Her chapbook CONSTRAINT is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. For 3.5 years she co-hosted the online show, Poet as Radio, on San Francisco Community Radio. She lives and works in San Francisco.

 

 

The music is The Bells of Dublin/Christmas Eve by The Chieftains 


Ulysses Ep. 4

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-3632t-9361bd

1934 edition page references

 

307 through 459

 

 

My cohost is Delia Tramontina, from Flushing, NY. She earned her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Her work most recently appeared in Newtown Literary, Forum and 1111. Her chapbook CONSTRAINT is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. For 3.5 years she co-hosted the online show, Poet as Radio, on San Francisco Community Radio. She lives and works in San Francisco.

 

 

The music is The Bells of Dublin/Christmas Eve by The Chieftains 


Ulysses Ep. 3

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-bbs8e-9361b1

1934 edition page references

 

154 through 306

 

 

My cohost is Delia Tramontina, from Flushing, NY. She earned her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Her work most recently appeared in Newtown Literary, Forum and 1111. Her chapbook CONSTRAINT is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. For 3.5 years she co-hosted the online show, Poet as Radio, on San Francisco Community Radio. She lives and works in San Francisco.

 

The music is The Bells of Dublin/Christmas Eve by The Chieftains 


Ulysses Ep. 2

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-9ckke-9361ad

Page references to the 1934 edition

1 through 153

 

My cohost is Delia Tramontina, from Flushing, NY. She earned her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Her work most recently appeared in Newtown Literary, Forum and 1111. Her chapbook CONSTRAINT is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. For 3.5 years she co-hosted the online show, Poet as Radio, on San Francisco Community Radio. She lives and works in San Francisco.

 

The music is The Bells of Dublin/Christmas Eve by The Chieftains