Friday, March 18, 2011

A Writing Practice Soundtrack

I'm always curious about how other people do it. How they write, that is. How consistent they are, how many journals they go through, how they find inspiration and the atmosphere they crave. I'm not saying I want to find a formula for the best writing conditions, but I am curious as to whether there's a correlation between tone in writing and the way we write.

For this reason, I'll be spending all of my writing time (this is free-writing, not revision time) with a soundtrack. I've asked for recommendations, and here's what I have so far:

Anya Marina
Bill Evans
Bon Jovi
Black Veil Brides
Cut Copy
Decemberists(Recommended by a few people)
Dexter Gordon
Goodie Mob
Ingrid Michaelson
Iron and Wine
J.J. Johnson
Josh Ritter
Kings of Convenience
Lady Gaga
Miles Davis
Motley Crue
My Chemical Romance 
Steve Reich
The Clash
The Cure
The Smiths
Twelve Girls Band
Two Steps from Hell

Eclectic mix, no? 

I'm going to try all instrumental, then rock, jazzy stuff, rap and so on. I hope to write a new story each go-round, and to add to my vague experiment, I'll keep my pieces separatate, just to see if any discernible pattern emerges. I think I'll keep my novel to silence, unless I become enamored by a certain tune--the way it mixes with the process of writing. 

I'm sure this is a highly subjective thing, but I feel that writing and me... well, we've been going out for some time now, and we need to mix things up. 

Let me know what you listen to... I'm curious.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Can't Resist/Review #1

I've expressed my desire to relax a little when it comes to promoting my work. Not so much because I think there is anything wrong with self-promotion. After all, who is going to read a writer's work if she doesn't tell anyone about it? But, I have my priorities in place right now. Between teaching and writing, I am finding it very difficult to find much extra time to promote. Further, when I get too wrapped up in reviews and responses to my work, I'm not going to lie--I get rather obsessed, in an unhealthy way.

A writer needs time to write. And, I'm writing. This is my priority as I think it should be everyone's, who takes craft seriously. Yes, even those of us who are not represented by agents and publicists who can do all the nifty advertising for us. If we keep plugging away, these people will come. (Here's to hoping anyway.)

As a result of this re-prioritization--this desire to teach, write, and then, only if I have time, tell others about my publications--I have chosen to limit the posts I will add here about my work, unless something remarkable happens, I thought I'd keep this blog promotion free, aside from my side bar ->.

But, I have to admit, I received my first official review for To Begin Again, and it's remarkable enough that I feel compelled to share it.

I mean, how beautiful is this?

"This collection of short stories and essays made my fingers tingle and my feet fidget. I always have a physical reaction to excellent prose; it is something to which I have never been able to become desensitized. But Knox's stories were different: they actually made me want to take out my pen and start writing..." 

Read the rest of the review by Jennifer O. (judging from the way she puts words together, a reviewer who is no doubt going to be posting about her own reviews one day soon) here: LITERARY ENDEAVORS

OK, so my horn is tooted. I'm off to write...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Organization, Interpretively

This is half of the pile.
These two images paint the portrait of my writing life, as of now. And, this is relatively tame. I wish I could say that each of these notebooks was designated a different story or a different genre even, but no, this is not the case at all. All piles of paper here contain bits and pieces of the same two works. There is no segregating projects here. I might have pages one through three of my current short story (I'm always working on one lately) in the Moleskine and pages four through six in the spiral, next to an outline of the painstaking novel I've been working on for the last six months.

I'm posting this because I'm not sure, entirely, that this is normal. It seems far more efficient to carry one decent-sized notebook and contribute to it daily, and then, when ready, type up the best sentences and begin the real work: revision. But, my idea mill happens chaotically. I get an idea, write in whatever is nearest, then have to search for it later. Not to compare myself to the organized, but I can't help but to wonder if I'd be getting far more done if I were to streamline. 

Note how I made sure to include
two images, so as not to show the
depth of my problem
So, how does a scattered writer streamline?  It's not as simple as just doing it because I've tried. Again and again. Is there such a thing as a writer's tool belt? A contraption just big enough that there is space for a pencil, pen, mid-size Moleskine and laptop?  And if there were such a thing, would I have the discipline to use it?  

I have begun to realize that the amount of time I take to find all the bits of writing I've recorded and piece it together like a puzzle is extensive. But, maybe it's adding something to the process... What about you? Do you write in the same notebook each time, or only on the computer? Or do you find yourself constantly looking for little pieces of scrap paper or receipts where you jotted that last outline?

Today, over the next few hours, I will consolidate. We'll see how it goes... 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Online Identity and Education

It is possible that some hacker somewhere will one day manipulate the internet to his will and because he will be only twelve years old, he'll think it's funny to erase personal/contact/banking information at random. This twelve year old will open the floodgates of our society's online vulnerability and set into motion a series of internet hacker terrorist attacks, and once he realizes his power, he will leverage it to destroy our society by threatening to steal terabytes of information from highly secure sites while we sleep, thereby dissolving our existence as it is determined financially and socially, before we are able to catch him.

I am being over-the-top, of course. But, this extreme idea brings me to the subject of online identity, and its value. Is it as valuable as our in-person identity, or is there no difference? I'm curious because I do note the very distinct differences in those I meet on a daily basis and their online personalities, especially as a professor. In fact, many of them are polar opposite. The shy girl in class is the one that will go on for paragraphs upon paragraphs about the injustice of  my pop quiz. A fellow professor will leave curt messages on his Facebook page, but in person he is charming, gregarious and even outspoken at times.

Of course, writers know better than anyone the value of an alter-ego. But, I'm thinking about my students in particular because they are of the generation that, for the most part, doesn't know the world without internet dominance. I can't help but wonder for some of my online students, for instance, if what I offer is the same experience as an old-fashioned face-to-face workshop that meets around one of those big wooden tables. What do we miss, really, other than a bunch of shy writers who are loud on paper, averting eyes as they offer feedback and receive it, tentatively; then, less tentatively, until they feel comfortable enough with each other to try and one-up each other? Perhaps it's my imagination, but it feels like something is missing online, no matter how hard I try to make-up for the lack of in-person instruction.

I teach two online courses, and I have also taught many online workshops (I am offering some this summer). All of these courses have gone extremely well so far, better than I could have imagined years ago, yet I often find myself wishing I could point to a manuscript and look in a student's eyes to see if s/he's really paying attention, rather than trade emails as a sort of halted back and forth exchange, sometimes resulting in multiple-hour delays. Sure, there are telephones, but due to the nature of an online course, even telephone calls need to be scheduled, as do Skype meetings or other video conferences. I suppose when it comes to feedback, this can be good because it gives the reader time to digest comments, but are the comments taken as seriously? Are they read as closely? Are questions answered as thoroughly?

In the grand scheme of things, I wonder if the student feels s/he is getting the same education? If no, why not, and could something be changed? Please, if you've taken online courses, share your thoughts because they might help me to better construct my future online courses/workshops. What could make them more personal, so that if my twelve year-old surfaces my students will feel comfortable enough with an online professor to give her a call or stop by her office. And again, if the twelve year old surfaces, people will still like and comment on the on-goings of each other's lives and writings. I think that barring paranoia, we should all consider what our lives would be like without technology. Just how lost would we be? Or, would it be a good thing?

Observations: Dublin Vacation

Dublin seemed the obvious destination. We would be close to various restaurants and tourist attractions. It would be easy to call a cab or...