Category Archives: The Writing Life
…an Amazon box that was delivered to your house, never opened, and shoved in the basement when you were cleaning up for a party that you completely forgot about? I found this one a year after it was delivered.
I had to open it to find out what was in it, but I can’t can’t tell you what it was. Turns out it was intended to be a Christmas gift for someone, who will get it this year instead.
One of the toughest things about being a writer is getting rid of clutter. While it’s a given we need our project materials, as well as the things that inspire us (anyone remember that picture of Ray Bradbury’s office?), there’s more: old projects and stacks of drafts.
While it’s gotten much easier since the age of electronic documents (I can keep drafts in a compact form now), there are still times when paper accumulates…and forget about years ago, when everything was done on paper. My most recent project has been to take paper drafts of stories, scan them into PDFs, and store them that way.
Bad Apple took two years to write and revise, then another two years of polish once the novel was sold to Dark Alley Press. What resulted were seven giant drafts peppered with notes and Post-It flags, wine and coffee stains. A few years back I took one of the early drafts, bound it, and gave it to a reader as a gift–but other than that, they were all there.
Scanning these all to PDF, I felt, was going to be a waste of time and energy–am I ever going to look at these again?Who is going to give a crap, anyway? So…I made a deal with myself. I photographed the pile. Just so I’d always have it to remember.
Then off to the shredder it went.
Bad Apple was published by Dark Alley Press in 2012. You can get your copy here: http://a.co/htRbr9v
I often get asked about what influences my work as a writer. Inspired by the amazing website Kindertrauma–which is right up my alley–I’m compiling all of my childhood (and some adult) terrors.
Back in the 1970s, every Easter–usually on Good Friday–one of the major networks (I wanna say CBS, but it could’ve been ABC) would air Chuck Jones’ cartoon special Rikki Tikki Tavi, based on one of Kipling’s Jungle Book tales about a mongoose and his fights to the death.
Despite the fact that I looked forward to this every year–it might have had something to do with the fact that my young mind associated it with the Easter Bunny’s visit–there were things in it that were so terrifying they’d haunt my waking (yes, waking) hours.
- The opening credits show us a violent, terrifying storm deep among the frightening, mysterious remnants of the abandoned temples of a lost civilization. This was like a train wreck I couldn’t stop watching.
- The narration by Orson Welles. His voice was chilling enough, but there is some kind of reverb or something put on it that gave it a slight echo, rendering it almost ghostly. I sounds like a dead person talking from beyond the grave. This really bothered me.
- The first time we meet the cobras, Nag and Nagaina, they are presented as looming shadows speaking in sinister whispers (which are performed by Welles as part of the narration). Heart-stopping.
- There is also another snake the color of sand, so he’s presented against the sandy background as almost spectral. Yipes.
I was not alone in my terror. Kindertrauma (if you’ve not heard of this website, you owe it to yourself to check it out–I have managed to rediscover horrors that had become nameless over the years) has Rikki Tikki Tavi featured here.
Still, there were a couple of positive things I never forgot. I always remembered the line “A full meal makes a slow mongoose,” and I swear to God that’s what’s kept me for never being overstuffed at a meal, even one as big as Thanksgiving. It’s also where I learned all about mongooses and their relationship with snakes, and probably where I got such a fascination for all things overgrown and abandoned (one of the sources for that, anyway–I also know I was fascinated with the abandoned temples in Disney’s animated version of The Jungle Book).
As far as this has influenced my writing, when I was in high school, I wrote a story (two versions of it, actually, a couple of years apart) set in a village in India with the terrible title of “Slithering Serpents” (the stories are probably equally terrible). It was Rikki Tikki Tavi that made me start reading about India, and that’s how I learned about the subject matter that inspired the stories.
God knows why I’m doing this, but you can read both versions of the story by opening the PDF below. Special thanks to my friend Rob Mayette, who found the only existing printed copy of the one that was published in The Piper — our high school literary magazine (which I’d forgotten even existed) in his basement during a move.
If you’d like to cleanse your palette after reading those pieces of crap with Rikki Tikki Tavi, you can get it here.
A decade ago (I can’t believe it’s been THAT long), I was lucky enough to do the teaching practicum required for my Goddard MFA at Gibbs College in Norwalk (thanks to my friend Chris Emmerson-Pace). I taught Comp 101, which required this book which was expensive as hell (as most college textbooks are): Literature Without Borders.
Despite the book’s cost, it was the absolute cheapest thing I’d ever seen. Pages–in sections–started falling out. By Week Four of teaching, I had to use an elastic band just to hold the pages in. By the end of the semester, there wasn’t one page attached to the binding or the cover. It might as well have been a loose stack of manuscript pages.
I’d forgotten about it, but last weekend, I was looking for another book when I discovered it in the bottom of one of my many bins of books. Apparently I was annoyed, because look what I did to it.
Have any of you heard of the SCRIBEdelivery Monthly Subscription? I hadn’t until a very generous coworker gave me a three-month trial membership for Christmas…and if you’re a writer (and/or an office supply geek) then this is for you!
SCRIBEdelivery is a monthly box of themed goodies especially for writers or lovers of notebooks, pens, and the like. Each “box” is carefully curated by people who love the stuff just like we do!
I’ll let Chris and Holly tell their story in their own words…you can find out more, and get your subscription, here: http://www.scribedelivery.com/.
That said, here’s the January Unbox…the theme of which is “Organization.”
It’s often thought that writers love solitude. I can safely say that we do…when it’s appropriate and we need to work. But then there’s this other part of the writing life called socializing–when it’s with other writers especially, it can profoundly inspire.
In Episode 6: Hangin’ with Sasquatch, we surprise writer Andrea Schicke Hirsch with a release party for her YA novel Sasquatch (which you can purchase here!) In Episode 7: Words at a Wedding, the partying leads to some new projects on the horizon.
Check out Episode 6 here: https://youtu.be/B19dlTm_otg
Check out Episode 7 here: https://youtu.be/zbRuiAHR2X8
Quiet time. It’s probably what’s most sought after by writers in terms of creation, next to, of course, inspiration. Sometimes, being at home in the middle of life—even if you’ve got an office or favorite spot to which you can retreat—isn’t going to give you either thing. Read the rest of this entry
Yeah, I know, running behind again…two weeks in Texas, three to catch my breath, then off to Disney just about killed me and I’m still catching up. But at least summer’s here!
This Writing Life Episode 5: Ups and Downs was supposed to be released in May, but it just didn’t happen. That said, here it is now…if you’re not happy with your writing life right now, maybe this’ll give you some hope. Enjoy!
Episode 4 of my sometimes-web series, This Writing Life, is now posted! It’s about creating authentic settings…but I think this might really just be a lot of food porn? Check it out and judge for yourself…watch it here.
I know, it’s been awhile since you’ve heard about This Writing Life. Even though I have a blast doing it, it’s too big a project to do on a weekly basis, so now it’s once a month (or maybe twice — either way that’s great, since I have nine future episodes in the can already and by the time I use those up I should have more).
If you missed any of the prior episodes you can visit here.
Get a feel for what writing in Twain’s library is like in this special episode of my Youtube series THIS WRITING LIFE.
I’ve been more focused on producing work so far this year than ever, and while that’s entailed not doing so many cons, it’s also entailed looking for new, cool places to hang out and write.