Monday, September 27, 2010

Don't Quote Me on This

You must do the things you think you cannot do. 
Eleanor Roosevelt 

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt 

Be the change that you want to see in the world. Gandhi 

Politics is the art of controlling your environment. Hunter S. Thompson 

When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional. Hunter S. Thompson 

If real life were a book, it would never find a publisher.
Jasper Fforde

I love quotes, even though I don't trust them. I mean, rarely do we quote a person in context, and then if we do, there's the question of whether or not the person we quote is actually quoting someone else. And if so, is s/he doing so in the context of the originator or adapting it to his or her own experience? 

One day, a long, long time ago, I shared a quote with my mother that went something like:  "No one's opinion of me is any of my business," and I attributed said quote to drag queen extraordinaire, Rupaul.  Mom was amused and sweetly said, "Rupaul is right, but you should probably attribute that quote to Eleanor Roosevelt, I think she said it first."  But who knows whether Eleanor borrowed the phrase from her mother or grandmother? When I researched it, I found that the quote had also been accredited to Ronald Reagan and some guy from an online AA meeting chatroom. (No matter who says it: Rupaul, Reagan or Jon X from Cleveland, the quote is fierce.) 

After verifying my mother's claim that Eleanor Roosevelt had at one time intoned the same profound words later delivered by Rupaul, I found quite a few other quotes by Roosevelt that I loved and have held on to since, for reference, inspiration, or a general laugh.  A funny one: I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall. (I wonder how accurately she quoted the catalogue.)

Then there are those quotes that make me laugh and cringe simultaneously; the unfortunate truths.  The one above, by Fforde, for instance. I laughed at this, nodded, then thought, "Hey, nuh uh!"  Publishers do buy these stories, I know, I've read them.  Life lends itself to stories all the time, and not just in under-read books and underground plays, no, many a blockbuster movie, book, series, play, etc... has been a person's retelling of life events, albeit not all of them.

Perhaps what Fforde (or whomever) meant is that if all the details of a life were included, we, as readers, would be bored to tears.  Even so, I'm still not so sure I agree.  I have been riveted by personal essays that have added beauty and humor to the most mundane of topics: migraines, belly button lint, antisocial behavior, the Internet, walking, sitting still, being confused, eating a peanut butter sandwich, and on and on and on... and most of these essays were published.  Anyway, I still love the quote, and I see a grain of truth there.

In this way, quotes are often only as accurate as a reader's experience. Then again, there are the life-changing quotes that cannot be disqualified or argued with.  "Be the change you want to see in the world." Indeed! Who is going to argue with Gandhi?  I mean, really. "When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional." Hell yeah!  We try... don't deny it.

I adore quotes, and if you follow me on Twitter, you know this.  Just thought I'd share my reasoning .... 

I never said most of the things I said. Yogi Berra 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Real Author Interview with Oana

Born in Bucharest, Romania, Oana lived twenty years under the grotesque dictatorial regime of Ceausescu. She has worn many hats: translator, teacher and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center worker. Oana lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where she devotes her time to her animals and to writing. She is an active member of Central Phoenix Writing Workshop. The Healings -- the hilarious story of a lonely man and his cat, traveling from “healer” to “healer” in their quest for wholeness -- will be soon released by ATTM Press.

The English Language Dream
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I could hold a pen, but my evolution as a writer is a little bit awkward. I have discovered myself as a writer relatively late. I started writing in high school and college, and in more than one language. But right after I finished college and I started working as a translator, I stopped writing. And I could not write anything for over ten years or maybe more.
After I immigrated to the US in 2001, I started having this strange dream. It was a recurring dream about my graduation and my Master’s degree. In my dream I was either refused graduation and sent back to study more, or I would discover that I had never been awarded my degree because of a missing exam. Regardless of the characters and the events from my dream the reason that prevented me from graduating was the same: I had yet to pass the English language exam.
That dream had haunted me. It was very powerful, in most cases I would wake up and run to the drawer where I kept my diploma to see if it was real and if it was there. And then, I could not understand it. English was not my major. Why would I have to go back to school for English? I studied Polish, Chinese, I had learned other languages as well, French, German and Yiddish, but English was mostly a communication tool. I passed English with flying colors. I had never thought of English as being the language I would choose to express myself in writing.
And then one day, it just happened. One afternoon in 2008, I joined the Central Phoenix Writing Workshop, I went to one of their meet-ups and I started writing. It didn’t happen overnight; it took me a few months to start writing as in writing and sharing my thoughts with other people. But if you think of it, overall it was pretty overwhelming. I joined the group in 2008 and my book will be released in 2010.
What was the most unusual thing you discovered while writing your book,The Healings?
The most unusual thing I discovered was the fact that the characters live inside your mind. Or they become you. And when you place them in a situation or another, you go there as well. By case-studying them we are simultaneously studying our own selves.
I think writers -- and generally speaking artists -- are very brave people. If you have the guts to reveal so much about you, this means you are at the point where you do not feel like hiding things from your self and others. The scariest lesson I have learned about people -- remember, I grew up under a communist dictatorship -- is that anything you say can and will be used against you. It’s a rule that applies wherever there’s a social group, but it became very obvious under terror.
The message a writer should send out there is a message of honesty, if you will. And of inner strength. If you are not afraid or ashamed of the imperfect being that you are, your words will have weight and true healing powers.
What makes The Healings stand out from the crowd?
Simplicity. I love keeping things simple. My character is honest and simple. His problem is that he tries to understand a world that is made complicated by people, societies, agendas. The truth is not easy to find, as it is often masked, covered, disguised, or sugarcoated.
But the way his message is delivered is simple as well. Short stories, short sentences. He is blunt sometimes, painfully blunt. As my friends would say, “Typically Oana.”
What is the purpose of writing sophisticated endless sentences, making the reader sleepy, except perhaps if your target audience suffers from chronic insomnia. Besides, times have changed, too. I have my coffee in the morning while driving to work and not on the porch indulging in the latest written Word of Wisdom. I wish I could but… So are my readers, so I am trying to show respect to them.
Another thing would be the fact that my main character is nameless and there are very few hints as to his physical appearance. Why? Because I wanted the reader to follow his mind, and not get distracted by irrelevant vanities. The man in “The Healings” is one of us. He can be any of us. I want the reader to be able to relate to him instantly, to be able to place himself in this guy’s mind. It is a journey into the universal mind and body, not into someone’s color of the skin, hair or eyes. His problems could be ours as well: family, education, politics, religion, poverty, love, success, loneliness etc.
His quest for what he calls Knowledge forces us to examine our own daily journey through life, the people we interact with, the things we learn… or not. By laughing at him, we laugh at our own human nature.The idea of the book is that we all need a break and some comic relief now and then. And the cat helps with that a lot. The cat is everyone’s favorite.
Are you a cat or a dog person?
NeitherI am an animal person, period. I have worked with many species, both domesticated and wild. I have been observing animals and people since childhood. Animals taught me very valuable lessons as to our instinct-driven behavior. I know, I know, many people, especially men rush to assure me that they are not animals. I find that hilarious to say the least. But, if you want to learn more about how I feel about the animal side of humans, read The Healings.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I am currently working on a memoir titled “Romanian Rhapsody.” It is a book about those “magnificent” twenty years spent under the rule of great terror and stupidity. It’s not a grim book -- after all, I am here and I have retained my sense of humor -- but rather a different perspective on achieving personal freedom and rising above hell. Believe it or not, it can be done. The hardest part is not surviving and escaping, but coping with the aftermath. And for some of us, the aftermath can last for a very long time, or it can last forever.
Will the "mechanical" standards of writing hold? Grammar, sentence structure, etc.? Does it matter? Why or why not?
I have always said that a writer is born a writer. To me, things are pretty simple. One can or cannot write. Of course grammar, punctuation etc. are important as a general value. As a writer I admit that I admire originality and a little bit of playfulness as well. Some very good folks can and will play with the language, nothing wrong with that. Language belongs to everyone and no one. Words even migrate from one language to another -- why wouldn’t they, they don’t need an immigrant visa to become citizens and settle in. Let’s not become fanatics and attach ourselves emotionally to every comma and every word. Always remember that the “object of your desire” might be replaced in a few years with another one. Who knows, maybe fifty years from now, there will be no commas, bored users -- read: the real owners of the language -- will replace them with a pause or a star. Having said that, I have also seen writers locking horns over mechanics, and not once. With all due respect, at some point it is ridiculous. We are not defending a certain purity of expression, we defend a form. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
As long as the message is delivered correctly, I could not care less for such existential issues, as: “Colon or… semi-colon?” So, moderation, moderation, moderation. When I am unsure, I always ask my editor. Why? Because he knows better than me, that is his job, and I truly respect his knowledge. I don’t want to hold two jobs. Being a writer is more than enough for me.
The long way from manuscript to print. How did you find your publisher?How did I find my publisher? This is a story that need to be told. When I read at the writers’ meet-up what was to become the opening chapter of The Healings, my now-friend and writer Kenneth Weene ( author  of Widow’s Walk and Memoirs from the Asylum) looked at me and said: “I like it. Keep writing. A year from now you’ll have a book.” I looked at him in great surprise. Back then I had no intention to write a book. No, I rephrase: I thought I wasn’t capable of writing a book. Then Kenneth stopped going to the meet-ups -- personal problems, working on his books -- and he showed up again right when I delivered the last chapter. He then looked at me and asked: “What are you going to do with this? Where are you going to submit it?” I replied: “I don’t know.” “Why don’t you try and submit it to my publisher, see if they like it? It is a great publishing house and I love working with them.” Which I did. And they liked the book, and here I am. I am very grateful for meeting Ken. It’s just one of those life situations. I call him “my guardian angel in publishing.”
I think there must be strong chemistry between you as a writer, your editors and your publishers. It’s not just the book itself. It’s not just the writer. It is a greater work. I was lucky to get both, awesome editors and an awesome publisher, which is ATTM Press.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
The written word has a power that not even writers are aware of at times. I think of my words as arrows. Once released, you cannot take them back. And yes, they can kill too.
The word will have its strength and deliver its message regardless if it is delivered electronically, on paper or even scratched on a wall or rock.
I am not afraid or concerned about the future of the format; I am rather curious to see the future of the audience. Will people still read tomorrow or they will switch to other forms of enterntainment such as movies or shows, that require less effort on their side?
That I am curious to see.
How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
That is a hard question. Where am I? I don’t know. Had I known, I wouldn’t have written The Healings. But wherever I am, I got here through hardship and a very scary hard-to-predict twist of events. At some point in my life, I was thrown financially and emotionally at the very bottom of the bottom. It was a very abrupt landing, it involved a lot of traumas. But, being who I am, I took my time and looked very carefully at the situation and the people who were around me, as a whole. I have discovered that, oh well, the overall outcome of that ordeal was a tremendous personal growth. Sounds ridiculous, but it gave me a totally different perspective on who I was and where I was going. For the first time in my life I knew exactly where I wanted to be. In my writing, that is.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Interview with Mark Lewandowski, author of Halibut Rodeo

Halibut Rodeo
Today, I welcome fellow All Things That Matter Press author, Mark Lewandowski, to my humble little blog. A bit about Mark, then I'll ask the questions and get the answers.

Mark Lewandowski is an Associate Professor of English at Indiana State University. His stories and essays have appeared in many literary journals, including The North American Review, The Gettysburg Review, and The Florida Review. His essays have been listed as "Notable" in The Best American Travel Writing, and twice in The Best American Essays. His fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and has been listed as "Notable" in The Best American Nonrequired Reading. "Positioning," a short film taken from his screenplay and directed by Hans Montelius, premiered at the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. It has since screened at eight other festivals.
In 1991, Mark joined the Peace Corps and taught English at a teacher's college in Biala Podlaska, Poland. He also taught creative writing and American Studies as a Fulbright Scholar at Siauliai University in Lithuania. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Wichita State University.

Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?
I was born in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York, but as my father climbed the corporate ladder we moved, first to Albany, then to Pittsburgh, back to Buffalo, and finally, when I was 14, to Overland Park, Kansas.  All I knew of Kansas came from The Wizard of Oz.  I was genuinely surprised to find paved roads there.  I really didn’t start reading compulsively until college, though before then I was obsessed with J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert.  My very first publication was a poem called “Isildor’s Bane,” a retelling of Aragorn’s ancestor finding, and then becoming corrupted by the One Ring.  It appeared in a cheap fanzine called The Rivendell Review.  I think I was 16.  I still remember the thrill of the editor calling me to offer some editing suggestions.  For some reason, though, I didn’t become a poet, never even tried to publish another one.  I suppose I just prefer to tell stories.  The writer that probably influenced me most as a young writer was Harlan Ellison.  He has such a singular voice, both as a short story writer and an essayist.  He won scads of Hugo and Nebula awards, but since he wasn’t really a novelist he was bit off the radar.  He was the one who really got me interested in the short form.

Why do you write?
I once complained to poet Rick Mulkey about how much work writing could be, that you spend days, months, years writing something that no one else will ever likely want to read.  Just sitting down to do it can be incredibly painful and heartbreaking.  At the same time, I have no real choice.  If I don’t write I just feel off kilter; I get cranky and can’t sleep.  I have these voices in my head, you see, and the only way to get rid of them is to put them on paper.  My mind races, I endlessly speculate about my own life, as well as the lives of imaginary people.  All that gunk in my brain has to go somewhere.  Rick suggested, only half-kiddingly, that if it’s too much work I should get drunk and forget about it.  I guess I write because it’s cheaper and healthier than drinking. It’s no surprise to me that alcoholism and writing often go hand-in-hand.

Your new book IS HALIBUT RODEO which is a collection of short stories about the Alaskan fishing industry. Why the Alaskan fishing industry?

I spent a summer working at a fish processing plant in Homer, Alaska.  I was between undergraduate and graduate school, and found myself disassembling fish alongside the kinds of people I never would have met in suburbia: Eskimos, Old Believers, migrant workers, Japanese immigrants, etc. along with a hodgepodge of others who just never fit into mainstream America.  The whole experience was totally alien to me.  And Homer, too, with its glaciated mountains seemingly rising right out of the sea, its moose, bears, bald eagles, was as different from the plains of Kansas that I could possibly imagine.  I never had interest in writing about where I had come from.  Suburban American was, perhaps, too familiar to me to engage my creative interests.  So before I went to Homer most of my stories were science fiction tales.  Alaska changed all that.  I found I could write about my own experiences, that I could be influenced not just by the books I read, but by real life.

HALIBUT RODEO has been said to be a "collection of stories about lonely people trying to find each other and hold on." Explain.

I never really noticed that until I started editing the book for publication.  It’s true, though; every protagonist in the book is lonely, and looks to alleviate that loneliness.  It’s kind of eerie.  Most of the stories were conceived when I was still in my 20s.  I’m now 45 and I’m still unmarried.  Some part of me knew something about how I would live my life long before I was consciously aware of it.  

Explain your title HALIBUT RODEO as it relates to the collection.
One of the jobs I endured before salmon season started was Glacier Crew.  The details of this job are illustrated in “Breaking the Halibut,” the second story in the collection.  We basically built “halibut glaciers” by alternating layers of halibut and ice in order to temporarily preserve the fish.  Once the slime-line was caught up and ready to clean the fish, we tore down the glacier.  John, one of the guys I worked with, pulled out a fish and ended up sliding down the glacier with it.  When he got to the bottom he jumped and “yeehawed” in a silly pseudo western twang.  I took that kernel and imagined a more elaborate “rodeo” for the short story.  Alaska has been referred to as America’s “last frontier.”  When many people hear “frontier,” they think of the “wild west,” with rodeo riders and such.  The modern day rodeo is one of the last remnants of a very much romanticized time in our history.  My Alaskan-style rodeo seems to me a vivid image that encapsulates the whole book, and kind of symbolizes the frontier spirit that lives on in Homer. 
What is about the short story you like compared to writing a novel?
I greatly admire Edgar Allen Poe, not just his stories and poems, but also his theories of composition. He is certainly the father of Practical Criticism, the idea that all the elements of the narrative (character, plot, setting, etc) work in tandem to create a “unity of effect.”  This he believed is best achieved in a short work.  Reading a short story is a totally different experience than reading a novel.  It’s often easier for me to see the artistry at work in a story.  At the same time, though, I like to see how individual stories work alongside others by the same author, especially when the stories are conceived as part of a book, like Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, or more recently, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler.  Once I had written the initial draft of the second story in Halibut Rodeo, I knew I was writing a book, not just individual stories that might be collected in a book.  There is a difference.  Before The Moody Blues released “Days of Future Passed” in 1965, rock albums were nothing more than collections of singles.  The Moody Blues changed that.  Like the songs on their “Days” album, the stories in Halibut Rodeo bleed into one another.  Each story resonates in different ways because of the stories around it.

What do you hope to achieve with HALIBUT RODEO?
To reach a wider audience would be nice.  Short stories are a hard sell.  Short story collections?  Even harder.  Seven of the nine stories in this collection were published in literary journals, but who knows how many people actually read them.  At one time writers like Poe and London and Hawthorne reached big audiences by publishing in journals.  Those days are gone.  Even The Atlantic has given up on the short story, and with funding drying up at universities, literary print journals are falling to the wayside.  This is a shame, since the short story is the most American of the literary genres.  Many would say that Washington Irving essentially invented the form.  Big publishing houses won’t touch collections unless you have a pop novel to go with it.  Thankfully, small businesses like All Things That Matter Press are helping to keep the form alive.

What was the last book you read?
I just finished In Search of Conrad by Gavin Young.  It’s a travelogue about Young’s attempt to find the real life origins of some of Joseph Conrad’s major characters, most notably Lord Jim, the antihero of my favorite novel from my favorite Dead White Male writer.  There’s no writer I respect more than Conrad.  He wrote some of the most beautiful prose in English, despite the fact it was his fourth language and he learned it on ships and not until he was already in his 20s. 

What's next?
I have the habit of working on multiple projects at one time.  I’ve been told that’s a bad thing for writers, but there you go.  Right now I’m trying to sell a screenplay called How to Seduce Your Neighbor that I co-wrote with Hans Montelius, a Swedish filmmaker and a long time friend.  He directed a short of mine called “Positioning,” which premiered at the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.  I’m also finishing a second collection of stories called Red, Under the Trees.  This collection is inspired by my two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Poland.  I also write creative nonfiction, and will someday finish a collection called Home and Abroad.

Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?
I travel.  Most of my stories and essays are informed by traveling and living elsewhere.  That’s one of the benefits of being an English Professor.  I’ve taught as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Poland, as a Fulbright Scholar in Lithuania, and did some summer teaching gigs in France and England.  Having some time off in the summer also allows me to travel for pleasure.  Many of the experiences end up in essays.  A strong sense of place has always been important to my writing.  It’s something that I often struggle to impart upon my writing students.  Young writers often disregard the importance of place, despite the fact that so many writers are inexorably tied to particular settings.  Joyce has his Dublin, Faulkner has Yoknapatawpha County, Anderson has Winesburg…Even Stephanie Meyer has the small, dreary town of Forks, Washington.  I think leaving familiar confines gives you a far better sense of where you live.   You’ll cast a more critical eye on surroundings, allowing you to more easily see the particular details so important to good writing.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What the Hell Am I Doing Here?

I have no time to write in my blog.  I am too, too busy, attempting to keep up with the piles of papers to grade and the endless demands of my small apartment in San Antonio.  My dog needs walked, stories need revisited and coddled, student loans need paid, dishes need washed, friends need to be called back, lesson plans need revised, appointments need to be made...

But here I am thinking about Jonathan Franzen and his new book, Freedom, which I bought immediately after reading an article in Time Magazine that glamorizes the author in that gritty, sepia-exposed way authors are often glamorized.  I am not going to review the book here, but I do plan to do so eventually.  Instead, what I want to know is why I was compelled to buy it?  The book is a bestseller, probably will be for some time, and yet I make it a habit to avoid reading bestselling books if only because everyone else is reading them, so why bother?  I'd prefer to work down my list of authors whose books are often shushed, to dig for genius in the less-noticed, recently marked-down books I find at Half-Price because this is more fun.  The hunt, the unknown.  The bestseller is a widely accepted work, either by the mainstream reading demographic or, less-often, by the literary community consisting of those academics and writers who run literary journals, MFA programs and who pride themselves in an ability to provide in-depth reviews of writing for context and prose as well as pure, passive entertainment.  Franzen's work, it seems, has more of the latter's endorsement, and this is probably why I bought the book.  OK, that, and I rather enjoyed The Corrections.

But why was my desire to buy the book so strong that I broke my own budget-constraints (and current time-constraints) to purchase the hardcover?  I don't do this.  I don't run to a movie on opening night or stand in line to read a book because I want to be the first to read it.  I don't like crowds, nor do I tend to rush to buy anything when it first comes out.  I like to hang back, let the product's hey day pass, then I'll give the product a go, so that I'm not influenced by the hype (how can a person not be influenced by the hype, even if their motivation is solely to rebel against it?).

Lately, I've been reading old copies of The New Yorker, issues that star some of my favorite writers: Mary Gaitskill, John Updike, Vladimir Nabokov, and I realized quickly how much more powerful these works are, to me, than those I read in (most of) the current issues.  I wonder if my aesthetic is just too old school?  Then I think, no, I just don't like the fiction that's being published right now as much; it truly doesn't speak to me.  It's too safe, too distant, and far, far too similar.  But maybe I go into current works wanting to dislike them... wanting to disagree with whatever is en vogue.  Perhaps those pieces that Gaitskill and Updike wrote twenty years ago would evoke a different response from me if they were just now being published--I wonder.  I'm trying to not let this prejudice (if that is, in fact, what it is) influence my current reading, but I have to be honest--I went into this book not wanting to like it, wanting to agree with some of the women authors who argue that Franzen's spotlight would never fall so brightly on a female author.  To examine my impulsive purchase further, I might even venture to say I bought Freedom for the same reasons censor-happy folks buy what is most offensive to them... I want to read something I won't like, that everyone else thinks is genius, just so that I can then bitch about it.

Suffice it to say, I wouldn't want to be in Franzen's shoes right now.  Sure, it would be nice to sell enough books to pay just one installment of my student loans (they're up there), but the sort of attention a bestselling book garners is something I do not envy.  I think it's far too distracting, and it's not fair to the author as an artist.

The goal of this post is to work out my bias, in fact; but what is it about buying something that you hope not to enjoy that makes it so tempting?  Whatever it is, I hope to be able to put it aside as I read.  And if I can't, I'll be pissed that I paid for the hard cover because I'll probably put the damn thing on a shelf, for a year or more, until the buzz settles down and I can be wholly invested the way I would be if Franzen were with a small publisher, if he didn't have such a backing, if he were self-published.  Removing bias, as a reader, is a respect I don't ever expect to get (especially seeing as how I wrote a memoir), but this is my goal: to give it.

(This was originally going to be a post about Franzen's over-hyped status, and just look at where it went... This is why I write.  Because what matters isn't the hype or initial reviews, but a book's ability to stand the test of time, after all.  So far as my reading has gone... well, I'll wait to say anything.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Bother Writing: A Guest Post by Kenneth Weene

 (author of Widow’s Walk and Memoirs From the Asylum)

Why bother? Isn’t it easier to not write, not get frustrated with all those rejection letters, the people who think you should have changed this character or that outcome? Then there’s the P.R., the endless battle to get your book noticed.
You can obsess about your standing on Amazon, not realizing that just one order may swing your title fifty places on that list. You can contact blogger after blogger: “Please give my book some space.” Wait – I can get a pod-cast. How many listeners? Who knows.
Finally, the big moment – the royalty check for the quarter arrives. Trepidatiously you open it. There it is, barely enough to take your sweetheart out for burgers and fries or maybe hotdogs and chips. You remind yourself that getting rich was never the reason. Of course, deep in your heart you’re damning the gods because you haven’t received a film offer, one you so richly deserve and that would actually put some money in your pocket.
So, I ask again, why bother? Why write? Maybe you should give up. You could find a different obsession, something that would also take up hours of your time. You could learn to play a musical instrument. You could work on your yoga. You could …
Forget it. You have to get back to that new short story, the one about the narrators ex-wife’s second ex-husband’s affair with the girl who turned out to be an agent of the Mossad who is following a Hamas-linked Imam, who it turns out …
Well, maybe you’ll put that plot on hold and find something a bit more believable.
Computer time.
First you do your email. There might be an opportunity to do some more marketing of the book you already have out. Maybe there’ll be an acceptance for those poems you sent out. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Lots of spam. Your nephew wonders how your writing is going. A couple of Facebook friends have posted to your wall. You work through the emails. It’s easier than actually coming up with something, so you even send out a couple of hellos. Then back to Facebook, right? An hour passes reading posts, making comments, watching Youtube clips that have been shared.
More mail has come in. Check it out. Repeat.
Wasted morning. Why do I bother? goes through your mind like a neon sign.
You imagine a kid, a teenager, gawking up at that neon sign. He’s in a big city, obviously new there. Hasn’t got a clue.
Why’s he there? A runaway? No, too trite. Long pause – long enough so the computer screen has gone dark. That doesn’t matter, you’re staring out the window and all you can see is that scene in your imagination.
Suddenly it hits you. This kid, this cornpone, country kid has come to the big city because he’s going to the conservatory. Yeah, he’s a musician, not just a musician, but a gifted … a gifted what, flutist? (Nah, too feminine for a story.) guitarist? (trite) pianist (That would do, but do I know enough about piano? Piano player stories have to be technically correct.) Trumpet, no, no, saxophone.  That’s it he’s a gifted sax player come to the conservatory. He’s got a girl back home, one he really loves, or at least he thinks he does. And, he’s missing her right now. He’s staring at that sign and feeling overwhelmed, confused, lost. He wishes she were here with him.
What’s he looking at? A phone ad. Yeah, he’s missing her and thinking about that phone ad.
Is he already accepted at the conservatory? No. He’s here for the audition. Got his sax right in his hand. So he can screw it up if he …
Yeah, that’s the conflict. How to heighten …? Somebody playing on the street. The downside, right in front of him. Make it a trumpet player.
That’s it, the beginning.
You hit a key. The computer screen comes back. Get out of email. Word. Blank document. Set margins. Set spacing. A moment. Do you want courier or times new roman? Then it begins. You begin. Words start to jet from your fingers onto the screen. You are no longer confused, no longer unsure. You are writing. You are a writer. It is what you do. That is the why, the only one that matters. You bother because it is you.

Kenneth Weene’s second novel, Memoirs From the Asylum(Published by All Things That Matter Press)is now available on Amazon.

His first novel, Widow’s Walk (also from ATTMP) is also available on Amazon

Ken’s short stories and poetry can be found throughout the web and in print. His website

Observations: Dublin Vacation

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