Category Archives: About Writers

Posts on writers and how they inspire.

Considering David Foster Wallace

I have through work, and various other things seemingly unimportant, intermittently been reading essays from David Foster Wallace’s, Consider the Lobster.

I haven’t had the time or created the time to do much of my own writing or creative thinking in the past month, so in order to get through some of the lack of stimulation I have started posting youtube clips I find of poets to my poetry blog, and I thought that David Foster Wallace would be a great clip to add to this blog about short story writing. He was and is an essayist, but I feel that his work is fitting for any type of short writing form. Plus, I just love his work.

I wasn’t introduced to Wallace till well after his unfortunate death, unfortunate because he will never write anything new for us to read, unfortunate because we will never have the chance to hear him reading live or maybe if we were lucky, meet him, take a class from him. Unfortunate because he was unable to sustain the pain inside him, no matter the drugs or the therapy, unfortunate because he left those of us who so desperately wanted and needed him to stay with us.

Thank you to UCtelevision for posting this clip. This is a 28 min clip.

 

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Capote is Inspiring

Capote knew by age eleven he was a writer

I read another short story by Truman Capote. House of Flowers, it is in the same book with Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You may think I am on a Truman Capote kick, but I’m not, (though why not?) I am slowly reading through the book I have of a few collected stories. What I do have to say is that after two stories, I am absolutely in love with his writing. There are few writers that cause me to stop reading a book just to say out loud, “This is so well written.” I am happy I’m reading his work now, but disappointed that I never studied him or read him earlier. My first ever introduction to Capote was as a bit part in the movie Murder By Death (I saw it when I was little and it cracked me up, not so much now, but I still find it amusing). I knew of him as an icon and a writer, I have seen and in fact own the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but only now have I actually read a story by him. I think of all the years wasted not reading his work! Seriously, he is an incredibly crafted writer.

Awkward segue into talking about myself as the writer:

I’m moving slowly through Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg. I was presumptuous when I said her book doesn’t have many exercises. I plan to try them all, but right now, I am back to the earlier ten minute writes that she had  suggested. I wrote ten, ten minute, writes on random subjects. Her instructions were to not read any of them till two weeks had passed. I think it has been two weeks. I will post one everyday till I reach number ten, starting tomorrow (ten minutes can tend to be a lot of writing). My assignment here is to be a gentle judge. Prepare to be impressed. Capote eat your heart out right? Perhaps not, still the motto here is practice makes perfect and write, write, write.

My list subjects or ideas- to refresh the memory:

Japan
polar bears
time
The History of my desk
touch
balance
grandmothers
ghosts
Joan of arc
Appalachian girl
the health mines

This photo was shot by Irving Penn

Pep Talk and Pulp Covers. Plus some Reading.

I am halfway through Truman Capote’s, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I just have to say that I love this story. Love.

I found this cover at this site, and because I couldn’t stop laughing, I am of course going to post my favorites from this particular page, but before I do, let me go on a second about the book.

Was Breakfast at Tiffany’s considered pulp fiction?

I am surprised at how brash it is. As I read it, I find it hard to think that little Truman Capote (pictured with my favorite icon Marilyn Monroe) wrote it.

I base that on no basis what so ever, except, that I live in a time when people feel the need to splash their faces all over their work and write only about themselves. Of course Mr. Capote must be in the pages, and yes his personality was huge, but his persona is not his characters (it was written before he became famous). I guess I find it refreshing to know of a public personality before reading his work, and not being influenced by that personality, because the writing is so good that the author has faded into the back ground, and has left the characters to tell the story. I don’t know if that made sense, perhaps I am reaching.

Speaking of reaching, I didn’t even make the top 25 writers of Glimmertrain’s new writers submission contest. Deep down inside I think, “oh I suck.” In truth this is fading and the true artist in me is finally speaking out and saying, “I don’t suck, they suck.” Not to burn any bridges, but you just have to say those things, you know, because if you allow unknown faces to stop you, you’ll never send anything out again. You are witnessing my self pep talk. I probably wont submit to Glimmertrain again, not as some protest, because I’m sure they would notice and care, but because it is my second submission to them (not a lot I know) and they don’t send any type of response at all so it is hard to determine if they even find my work fitting for their lit journal. I’ve read the journal, and read Writer’s Ask. I had felt my work rang in a somewhat similar tone, but maybe I was wrong. I don’t know. So, I am left to determine, based on two non response rejections, that they don’t like my writing. Which is fine they have plenty of writers to choose from, I am certain they will survive with out my submissions. I just need to find where I fit. Hah! I say it like its out there. Pep talk is over.

Pulp fiction covers are here. And remember Death Likes it Hot.

Still in the Running

As of today, I am still in the “in process” mode for my submission into Glimmertrain. There are two weeks left until the announcement.

I finished the second novella in Elie Wiesel’s trilogy, and tonight, I am beginning, “Day” his final novella (once titled The Accident). I’m returning to short story readings next, beginning with a collection of short stories by Truman Capote. It is amazing to me that I have never read, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I had loved the film, I would have thought I’d have picked up the story by now.

I’m moving slowly through Goldberg’s Wild Mind, mainly because I don’t feel the need to rush. There are not many exercises, it is more an inspiration to write book, but I’m doing another series of ten minute writes. My assignment, is to write a ten minute write, everyday for ten days, but I am not too look at what I have written until the ten days have past. Goldberg’s theory on this is that as writers we need to have some distance from our writing to really free up our thoughts because our critique or monkey mind tends to gab away even as we are writing. This of course can cause you to not fully let go and explore the landscape of your mind. In theory, with time we can sometimes forget that we even wrote a certain piece.

Funny thing is, the piece I am posting today is something I wrote some time ago. I can’t remember when or even what inspired it. I also have no idea what I will end up doing with it in the future.

It has no title as most of my rambled notes, and practices do not have titles.

Heat caused the air to ripple and the sun, like an orange orb, moved across, and swallowed the blue of the sky, in order to pass the time. God is a child playing soldiers with dolls, spinning his globe like a wooden top and he is growing tired of his toys, and wants something more. They are broken.

Life, it’s a simple painting on blue canvas. The heat is still rippling.

Writing for Practice

I haven’t been working on short story writing, so to keep up practice, I have gone back to writing in long hand in my writing journals and doing timed writing. I’m reading Natalie Goldberg’s book on writing, Wild Mind. I had read Writing Down the Bones about a year ago. I enjoyed it. I thought I would give this one a go. I finished, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and now I am reading Night, by Elie Wiesel.

This is my latest from a ten minute writing exercise:

Straight in her head.

A came before B, and 1 came before 2, but did A come before 1 or 2; or did it equal to two or did numbers and letters add up?
It gave her a headache.
She stood on the bright linoleum between the eggs and dairy. She had difficulties keeping things straight in her head.
A came before B, and 1 came before 2, but did A come before 1 or 2 or did it equal up to 2, or did numbers and letters even add up?
It gave her a headache.
Darren had told her what he had wanted her to buy at the store, but he had said, one was more important than the other.
what was it?
Was it the eggs or the butter?
Write it down, he had said, and she did, but she forgot the note.
As usual, Darren would say.
She was getting worse and worse. Soon she would forget her favorite color, her fingernails, her name, her face, the dog she had when she was five and the neighbor man who shot him. She would forget how to walk, how to see, how to listen.
You already don’t know how to listen, Darren had said, like her father, like the neighbor, like the woman in her bed sitting naked a top her husband.
She’ll forget because Darren told her too.
Told her just forget she saw anything.
She was crazy. She was crazy and soon she’d forget that too.
In the darkness, in her forgetful silence, once she falls asleep, she’ll awake and never remember.
Never remember she dropped the eggs and watched as the shell shattered, and the yolk spread yellow like a blood, into the isles.
There was no sound but the tiniest chirp of something never born.

Uh… About the editing part…

I’ve come to that part. I think. The part where the story is finished, as the story goes. I feel a little – um – unsatisfied, dissatisfied with the very last line of the story, so in that respect I think there is still more work, but I feel I’m pretty close to the right last line. But, what I mean about “that part” is that I am at the nitty gritty. Yep, its edit time, its grammar time, and I hate it, because I suck. Suck big apples suck, like choking on the apple, you know like when snow white ate the poison apple from the witch, but later in the story you find out it was just stuck in her throat? Yeah, well that’s me, with grammar. That’s me passed out in the glass case but I aint got no prince to kiss me with some proper punctuation, and them dwarves dropped outta school in like sixth grade so I gotta figure this stuff out on my own. Annnd… I hate it.

I hate it because I can’t see the problems. I think, when I get critiqued and it is punctuation and grammar focused, I get frustrated, defensive and pissed, because I feel embarrassed. I tell myself, grammarians are not really self gratifying snobbish stuck up assholes who get off on making people feel bad about themselves for being stupid; it is just my own insecurities. Yes. Oh. Yes. That makes me feel so much better. It works like a charm every time.

I am like a petulant child being sent to clean my room. It is more agonizing a task than getting my finger nails pulled from my finger tips with tiny pliers. I hate it… and when I say that, “I hate it,” my voice is deep and exasperated rumbling low like a distant storm the kind with thunderheads, and heat spreading over a flat landscape- you know the kind of sound.

I’m reading Rhetorical Grammar by Martha Kolln and it is as dry as a friggin salt lake. My child brain is pouting and whining, “but we’ll never get through it in time we’ll be dead before we get it published! We suck, this is lame!’ My child easily morphs from one immature age to the next like an amoeba, or some cell division.

I have a response for my child though. Yesterday we, (me and all my alter egos) scanned through 442 Literary magazines ( with the help of Poets and Writers) looking for at least one or maybe two where we could send the story. It was a long process, but shortened by the fact that many lit mags don’t take submissions till January, that is their reading time. Then there was an even smaller amount that takes electronic submissions. I’m not against snail mail, but I’m poor and I can’t even afford to print my stuff out right now. Pathetic I know, but I will, I promise. Come January I will print out a bunch and send to whomever takes simultaneous submissions. Another thing I need to consider (or we if I want to stay with the schizo chat) is that I need to read these mags to make sure they would even take my kind of writing. Know your editor, know your audience. Talk about expensive. I mean I wish I could subscribe to every one, but I can’t even pay to print copies of my story. Excuses, excuses. I know, wah!

I have so far read, American Short Fiction, and I think my stuff would work there, but I also think I’m not good enough to get published by them (ouch low self confidence?) and I have read McSweeney’s; ditto on the not get published, also I feel like I’m not cool enough for those mags, like somehow they would figure out that I’m not hip. And I have read The Sun, which is great, but they like non-fiction, maybe one day. So, I decided to go local, start at home right? I picked up a copy of Glimmertrain. They have open submissions in November, giving me a little less than a month to see if I can see what I can’t see that great  know it all grammarians see. Glimmertrain has rejected me once before but I’m submitting once again.

So it is onto reading Rhetorical Grammar. My child is not thrilled, I don’t think my adult is either, but I am determined to be a great writer. Even if no one ever knows!

Working towards being a writer

I reworked Rules of the Game, and posted it up on Zoetrope, in hopes that I will get some decent feedback. I’m not completely sold on this site as far as being a good place to get valuable feedback, but I haven’t got many physical resources right now. I’ve posted a small update of the story so far.

“They beat that boy like a horse.”

My mother said this as she was standing, preparing pork chops, in the kitchen of our double wide chocolate brown trailer with the built on porch. It wasn’t really our trailer, we didn’t own it, we were just renters. The owner’s tried to make the place seem like a real house by building the porch, and parking it at the top of a cul-de-sac with a decent lawn. The place was probably owned by old people, every place in the Pines were owned by old people; old people just waiting to retire and move up from the Bay or from LA to settle in the foot hills of the Sierra Nevada’s. That’s how my mom would describe it. Old rich people she’d say: comin in and buyin up all the property long before they even moved here. Not that I really knew who owned the place, I never thought of things like owning or renting or retirement or any of that stuff, I was only eight and I didn’t think of any of that; I didn’t think about how many times we had moved, and how many times more we were probably going to move, I just woke up went to school, came home, tried to avoid my mom’s boyfriend, did some chores than went out to play till I had no choice but to return home to go back to a bed. Living in the moment that’s what kids did.

Zoetrope’s All Story is taking submissions for their short fiction contest. I had told myself that I wasn’t going to submit my work to things I had to pay a reading fee for because even though fifteen dollars isn’t much it begins to add up, and I’m poor and I can’t really afford contests, especially since I’m not a strong writer. Still, I think I will take the plunge, and give away my fifteen bucks since aside from winning money you can receive representation. I have till October 1st to get it ready. I had felt pretty good about it up until I just read Christie Hodgen‘s Short Story, Elegy For Elwood Lepoer, published in American Short Fiction vol.12 Issue 44 Summer 2009. Her story was so, SO good. From the very first line to the last- look at this first sentence:

Elwood LePoer, your head was a brick, a block, a lollipop; you were dumb as a stick, a sock, a bag of rocks.

Hodgen grabs you right away and tears you through this great story of growing up in a poor post-industrial town, and what one single moment can do to change a person, even if subtle. I didn’t put the story down I just raced through it and I was impressed with the way she worded things. I could see this girl and these characters. I especially liked the voice she wrote it in, like she was addressing Elwood, well it is an elegy. If you can get your hands on the story I recommend reading it. I also highly recommend American Short fiction as a lit journal, they publish some incredible work by some talented writers.

I enjoy reading short fiction, but I often feel like I am so far behind in the game, and skills of writing. After putting down, Hodgen’s story I thought of mine that I just finished mainly because they have somewhat similar themes, and I thought, mine isn’t good enough it needs more work, it needs to be better, especially if I want to be able to call writers such as Christie Hodgen my peer.

It has been about 3 months since I sent off my short story Sand and Wheat to the two publications, Caketrain and Memorious. Both journal’s wrote in the submission pages that it would be 3 to 6 months before hearing anything. This I think is pretty standard. I’m not holding my breath on getting published, I would like to get it back in order to re-work it as I think it probably needs the work. I know that doing a short story once a week doesn’t exactly lend itself to producing quality work but I’m hoping like anything that it will be like practising a craft and eventually I will grow and improve as a writer. If I want this to be my life this is very much how I need to look at it. Sending out submissions is the same way, I need to practice getting my work out there or I’ll never be seen and I will never improve.