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.
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.
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.
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.
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.