Archive for the ‘Writing Life’ Category


#1:
groves
genie
drunk
greedy
merrier
menthol
dream
roof

#2:
beanies
gentle
alienate
gauges
bohemian
fedora
raison
froze
dozer
wild
jibed
facet
antsy
saith
tweak
cup
tide
door
lope

#3:
divines
wrest
bagger
enable
intuit
falcon
healer
thunk
about
merry
joust
opposite
raze
oxen
towed 
add
ire
anime
abuse
qui
fled

#4:
crag
bray
punk
idle
thaw
howl
pates
petunia
daze
nieve
lait
fobs
pi
ole

qi
coaxes
brays
idle
jinxes
to

I could teach you, but I must levy a fee.

People have eyes of a tongue, is the observation times for the sake of talking.

My writer-friend and roommate Roy Dequeant just found out that most of the comments he has been receiving on his poetry blog over at Blogspot are, for better or worse, Asian robots. This revelation both amused and saddened me, for a couple of reasons:

1) Dequeant is a talented poet who deserves actual literary-minded people reading and commenting on his work.

2) The comments the Asian spam-bots are leaving, once translated, are very fortune-cookie-esque, things like: “Maturity is the ability to adapt to life in the vague.” This pleases me. What was even funnier about this was that we have been trying to apply these comments to the poetry and figure out what the commenters were trying to say.

3) In my head, all of these Chinese commenters were hackers from Beyond The Great Cyber-Wall, braving labor camps and Communist oppression to read my buddy’s free verse. It was very romantic and intriguing and goddamnit, I still haven’t given up on this premise yet.

In any case, here is one of Dequeant’s most recent poems, conceived on a cross-country Greyhound trip a few weeks back:

“Preaching Appreciation”

She grew up in the Congo, man
She like to get naked
And fuck
On baseball fields
Or the side of the road
Anywhere really
I loved that girl
His glazed over eyes
From recent encounters
With the local kids
Filled with tears
That fled to the corners
And dribbled down
A stubbled mess
Quiet and man-like
Like the men that wrote
The book in my hand
While cowering in foxholes
Go home, man
And hug your mama
Tell her you love her
That’s all there is
Love, man
Love 

(See more of Dequeant’s prolific work and comment here at The Musings of an Alabaman Barista – http://pissibaobao.blogspot.com/)

Scrabble...don't make me cut a *****.

I have a confession to make – I play entirely too much Scrabble with my writer roommate (hey, at least I’m not alone in my addiction). We usually play about a game a day, give or take. We play with nine tiles instead of seven. All languages are up for grabs—we’ve thrown down words in Spanish, Latin, Japanese, you name it.

So, naturally, nobody else we know wants to play with us, because we smash them into literary oblivion. We’re pretty much only suitable for playing with each other or at the competitive level (do people actually play Scrabble competitively?)

Anyway, I have started writing down our words to save them for later, as sometimes I’ll happen on a couple of words in Scrabble that I really love. I think it’d be fun to take a Scrabble board and write a short story or vignette based around the words in any given game, but between working on We are the Weapon and Everybody But Lazarus, I haven’t really had much time to give this writing exercise a go. But if anyone gives it a shot, post or link to your results and let me know how it goes for you…

Here are a couple of boards from the past week:

#1
bombs
Jew
gaveth
bottled
joiner
charm
repay
panting
sigh
vanity
de
taxed
aside
expunged
cooler
fort
rises
queer
swirls
define
not
zit

#2
loofa
foxier
pretty
false
flaying
amber
bring
runt
yen
evade
sidhe
tusk
hang
violet
pawn
pave
side
rock
crabs
toons
astute
je
brown

#3
tamp
ova
bottle
owned
heater
matched
voted
rook
repaint
rue
keen
ode
princes
nag
qi
sassing
daily
affirm
bugs
fib
allium
tart
wean

#4
twin
tour
shard
tomato
lusty
whitens
halt
mice
amend
dork
divet
jaw
apex
pard
rival
tiled

#5
makes
mauve
panders
nuclear
zoning
believe
dialing
jousts
bondage
zip
thing
sex
is
swear
refund
gifted
name
chair
town

Writers are often influenced by the literary works of others. Stephen King built his entire Dark Tower series around a single poem by Robert Browning titled “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”. (Incidentally, I did a huge paper in school about the thematic correlations and allusions between “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” and The Dark Tower.)

My own novel-in-progress, We are the Weapon, has also been inspired by a lot of different things – the PATRIOT Act, 2012 apocalypse hysteria, biblical Revelations, The Handmaid’s Tale, the War on Terror, 9/11, WWI war poetry, and (naturally) George Orwell’s 1984.

The most disturbing part about writing a dystopian novel over a period of several years during this particular time period is that I get to continually see elements which I believe should remain firmly on the page pop up in real life current events. Mass video surveillance and martial law are no problem in the fictional realm, and they’re even fun to play around with. But seeing these things in real life is not fun, and it’s not funny.

One small piece of inspirational literature that has molded my concepts behind We are the Weapon is the poem “The Second Coming” by William Yeats. It pretty much captures the essence of the world I live in when I don’t live in this one…

“The Second Coming”

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming!
Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs,
while all about it Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

~ William Yeats, 1920

These are off of my Pandora music station “Brutus”, which I set up for music that reminds me of the protagonist of We Are The Weapon, Brutus Telfair. There’s some really good music for invoking dystopian California on there – I’ve been “training” that particular Pandora station pretty rigidly on my likes and dislikes so I always have an atmospherically appropriate playlist to turn to for writing practice.

“You Found Me” – The Fray
“Riptide” – Sick Puppies
“Headstrong” – Trapt
“The Ghost of You” – My Chemical Romance
“Capricorn (A Brand New Name)” – 30 Seconds to Mars
“Swing Life Away” – Rise Against
“Night of the Hunter” – 30 Seconds to Mars
“Shadow of the Day” – Linkin Park
“Your Guardian Angel” – Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
“Cleaning Apartment” – Clint Mansell and Chronos Quartet (Requiem for a Dream)
“21 Guns” – Green Day
“True Faith” – Anberlin
“Uprising” – Muse
“Apocalyptica” – Cult
“Famous Last Words” – My Chemical Romance

 

Some writing statistics from JenkinsGroup:

80% of adult Americans want to write a novel.

33% of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.

42% percent of college graduates never read another book after college.

80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. 

70% of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. 

57% of new books are not read to completion. 

70% of books published do not earn back their advance. 

70% of the books published do not make a profit.

53% read fiction, 43% read nonfiction. The favorite fiction category is mystery and suspense, at 19%.

55% of fiction is bought by women, 45% by men.   About 120,000 books are published each year in the U.S.

A successful fiction book sells 5,000 copies.

A successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies.   On average, a bookstore browser spends 8 seconds looking at a book’s front cover and 15 seconds looking at the back cover.  

Each day in the U.S., people spend 4 hours watching TV, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines.

…Still want to write a book? It better be a labor of love. In fact, you’d better be a literary lovestruck idiot to get into this business.

“I have great faith in fools; self-confidence, my friends call it.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

Please forgive me Mr. Remnick.

The Rejectionist is hosting an UNContest today where her legions of loyal followers have been commanded to post something on the following topic: What does form rejection mean to you? Since I consider myself a loyal follower—albeit a lurker—I am nevertheless bound to comply…because who can say no on a one year anniversary? Not this bleeding heart. Happy first year Le R!

I will share a story that happened to me back while I was at university, writing until all odd hours of the night, raising hell with my friends, so on and so forth. Typical Jack Kerouac nonsense. I was Hot Shit Young Writer at that point, because I was in a bunch of upper level writing classes and receiving, without fail, very high praises and very little criticism from every creative writing and English professor I ever had. My poem the first day of class made my poetry professor cry. I was chosen for a reading at a symposium. I was Billy Badass and Chuck Palahniuk rolled into one.

Needless to say, my ego swelled to roughly the size of New Hampshire. Luckily I come from the South, or I probably would have turned into an insufferable braggart. Instead, I (mostly) just internalized all the compliments until they began to take the opposite of their intended effect and the Ego Bubble burst. Suddenly, I didn’t believe a single nice thing anyone ever said about my work, no matter how sincerely expressed. Work on what I considered to be The Next Great American Novel, the Novel That Defined A Post-9/11 Generation, crawled to a screeching halt. I would do dozens of revisions on any piece I worked on. It’s little wonder that I went into college as a writer and left college as an editor.

However, when I started submitting work and people—random people I didn’t know—started to reject it…I actually loosened up a little. Rejections were a release for me. I let myself lighten up and write shitty first drafts, focusing on output rather than perfection. This is all one big game, I thought.

These days I still try to think of rejection that way. If I send a story to someone and they reject it, I try to immediately revise it and bat it back to someone else who might have more use for it. There’s no point in dwelling on rejection, because at the end of the day it’s not a rejection of you, it’s a rejection of your story. You are not your story, and if you make a life out of writing, you have a gazillion more where that one came from. Suck it up, buttercup: Revise, rebound, and keep writing throughout. The more you write, the less attached you get to any particular story, which I find greatly decreases the disappointment of rejection.

I still haven’t submitted very much work compared to some people, more due to an intense hatred of the post office than anything else (online submissions are helping me in that regard) but I’ve had my share of form rejections at this point. I’ll share a moment of private humiliation on the off-chance that someone else down the line somewhere decides to share it first at my expense.

Soon after I began submitting stories, I wrote a short story about a serial killer in South Boston called, “A Study in Red”. After receiving quite a bit of positive commentary back on it, I felt myself start to puff up with what can only be described as temporary insanity. I thought, “This story is so good, it could be in The New Yorker!” (True story.)

So I sent it. (Also a true story. Stop laughing.)

And they form rejected it. Duh. What did I expect? Some no-name twenty-something upstart from Boondocks, Alabama sends one of the most highly regarded publications in North America a short story completely outside of their demographic. No sort of dazzling query letter will save a faux pas like that.

And that was the first form rejection I ever received. I’m also happy to report that I’ve been form rejected from Black Warrior Review (for a story I’m happy to say was a lot closer to what they were actually looking for). BWR is the rag at my alma mater and is also a publication where I happened to intern as a rejectionist/first reader/slushpile minion one summer. So at this point I can cheerfully say I’ve been dumped by the best and the brightest (and several in between). Things can only go up from here.

In short, form rejection happens to everybody. The most important thing to do when it happens to you is laugh it off and move on. The second you let self-doubt constrict your creativity due to the rejection of some random person you don’t even know (who may be rejecting you for a reason that has absolutely nothing to do with you) you’re putting unnecessary limitations on yourself that stifle your growth as a writer.

Keep the ball in play.