Archive for the ‘life’ Category

October 31st, 2008 by Will Entrekin

On the occasion of the Samhain

When I was younger and first breaking from Catholicism, I became very interested in Wicca and paganism. Something about the more natural ways of thought and worship appealed a great deal to me: I am by ethnicity, like, Scotch-Welsh-Dutch (or something); I grew up as a Boy Scout and so was often camping or hiking, which was why I liked the idea of nature as the truest and most accurate expression of the divine (I don’t know about God or Jesus either way, but show me a new day and I know where I stand); and I liked the idea of not having to go to Church or receive Eucharist or pray to know the way of God.

By the time I got to college, that had begun again to change. Studying theology with Robert Kennedy, roshi, S.J. remains one of the most formative experiences of my life, with consequences and repercussions I am even still parsing. Back then, in the way of the arrogance and pretension that became my characteristic for several years, I declared myself a “Zen Christian Wiccan,” because I thought I had discovered over the years that there is, inherently, either no difference whatsoever between prayer, spells, and meditation, or that the differences we perceive between them, like the differences we perceive between Coca Cola and Pepsi, more a result of brilliant advertising campaigns and the placebo effect than anything else.

Nowadays, I know better how little I know.

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October 12th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Dreams of inundation

Last night, I dreamt we fell into the ocean.

Last month, I did an interview over at the Lulu Book Review with its proprietor, awesome author Shannon Yarbrough. In it, Shannon asked me about the dreams I mentioned in my essay about what I saw on September 11th, 2001; for a long while before that day, I’d had dreams of Manhattan falling in some way or other.

Now, I seem to be dreaming of water, and of cities falling into it. The ground beneath my feet has given way at least three times in the past . . . well, I don’t really know how long; it took dreaming about it last night to remember I’d dreamt of it before. And the title of this post is a bit misleading; it’s not inundation like a wave or a tsunami. It’s just giving way.

I don’t know where I am in the dreams. Part of me thinks Los Angeles if only because Los Angeles is the only city I associate with falling into the ocean. There was an amusement park-type setting last night, and maybe a Ferris wheel, which may or may not have been Santa Monica pier . . .

I wonder if it’s because I feel I’ve become unbalanced lately. In many ways. I’ve been teaching and grading and studying so hard I haven’t had nearly as much time to write as I would like. I feel like I’ve gone a bit overboard on politics, here in the blog, in the past couple of weeks, but then again I think that’s because so many of my feelings about the upcoming election are tied to my feelings about September 11th. I know that in many ways (and especially in recent weeks) Obama is just politics as usual (mainly, I think, because he’s playing to undecided voters), and I know many disagree that he is a good candidate, but something about him hits me in the same place watching WTC 7 crumble down hit me. Something about him gives me hope in those places that day deflated.

And yes, I realize that’s more an emotional response than anything, but then again, McCain makes me anxious in the same way those apocalyptic dreams always have.

And again: I didn’t mean to talk about politics here. I meant to talk about dreams and disbalance, because I know we’re all a little exhausted by the whole process by now.

I found out, last week, my grandmother passed away. I don’t know if that has anything to do with these feelings and dreams. She was actually a grandmother-in-law, through marriage (my uncle’s mother), but she was still often present in my childhood, whether as the first house on our annual Halloween trick-or-treating adventures or at my cousins’ birthday parties (three cousins, three parties per year). But I don’t actually remember the last time I saw her; I know it was at the local supermarket, but I’ve returned home less and less these past few years, and Jersey feels farther away than ever. I couldn’t go to her viewing/funeral, but I think what bothers me most about that is that I couldn’t hug my aunt and shake my uncle’s hand. She had a full life 88 years long, children and even grandchildren she watched grow up, and my mother told me it’s a blessing for reasons of recent health, but still, mum mum Kit is no longer around, and I’m a little sad about that. I don’t remember mum mum Kit with hair any other color besides white, pulled so taut back it became an old-fashioned facelift, voice full of old cigarettes and bourbon forgotten years before.

Anyway, I’m going to try to move back from politics. I’m going to also be trying to do some more writing. My real writing, that is, not blogs. That’s not to say I’m taking a break; this doesn’t feel like I’ve felt when I’ve realized I need to walk away from the blog for a while . . . it’s different, somehow. I’d meant to talk about Lulu, but I may be saving that for a couple of weeks just yet, as I’m still trying to figure out the best thing to do with my book.

Hope you’re doing well.

October 9th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Is the economy even worth saving?

I wish I could talk about the economy with more knowledge, but I admit up front I cannot. I’m actually looking forward to the next week or two, when my business class transitions from marketing to economics; I’m not sure it’s the sort of economics the country is having trouble with (I sense not so much), but even still I figure there will be connections I can make between the two.

I once read a magazine article about the stock market. I can’t remember which magazine published it, but Rolling Stone is my first guess. The article was about a coming market related to either bulls or bears, whichever is worse, and it parsed the market itself as a sort of nebulous popularity contest. It vaguely connected being a popular stock like Apple or Google or Microsoft (though this was in the days before Google, I believe) to being the popular kid in school, and made the analogy that such popularity was a sort of currency, which was why people traded and bartered it. Why people believed that something so ethereal as a small stake in a zero and a one could be worth actual cash money.

I remember enjoying the article immensely even if I didn’t really understand it. Like I’ve never understood economics, and like I certainly don’t understand what’s going on right now. I guess maybe I really am Joe Sixpack even though my drink of choice is a Smirnoff mixer or a nice glass of wine. But when I open up Yahoo! and its finance page tells me every damned time that the Dow has dropped another twenty points since the last time it piddled itself, and I know that’s bad. I know, vaguely, what it means that it dropped in points, but in real world terms?

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September 30th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

In observance of

My “About Me” page notes that I am, currently, an educator based in the Denver area, and I think I’ve mentioned I currently teach composition at a local community college. Previous to this year, I taught composition for a year at the University of Southern California, a name I don’t so much drop as note with gratitude; it was my great pleasure to serve my students there, as it continues to be to serve my students at my current institution. When I started blogging on MySpace, the idea of teaching hadn’t so much crossed my mind, and neither had the ideas of either Denver or Hollywood.

And I look around today, and I think: yowza. This, this is special. I’m extraordinarily lucky (and discover every day that the amount of luck I experience is directly proportional to the amount of effort I put into the work I do).

I mention this because I have now been teaching, at the college/university level, for more than a year, but today was the first day I was ever observed. I found out about the observation a few days ago, and just the idea made me nervous: ZOMG authority! What if they realize I’m a sham? What if they realize I’m, well, me, because no matter how many novels I write and how many people love my work and how many classes I teach, it’s still difficult to think of myself any differently. I’m just me, and I still feel like I’m goofy and silly and really lucky to be anywhere at all. Maybe that’s a self-esteem issue, or maybe it’s the truth. I don’t know. I just know that even though USC recognized me as an expert in writing, and even though I taught my students well enough that I went so far as to inspire them, in a few notable cases, it’s still difficult to realize that.

But today, the totally rad woman who is the composition coordinator of our department sat in my class to observe me.

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September 27th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

A cooler man (there may never be)

Through most of my life, at various times, various people have remarked I look like others. Just a few weeks ago, during an orientation, one of my colleagues decided I reminded her of the lost Baldwin brother. Back when I used to be a substitute teacher, I’d often hear, amid a flurry of giggles, that I looked just like the guy from N’Sync. I’ve reminded people of Jack from Will & Grace and Tom Cruise, Dean Cain back when he was Superman, and even Superman himself.

My favorite, though, has always been and will always be when someone tells me I remind them of a young Paul Newman.

Because, seriously, is there, and has there ever been, and will there ever be, a cooler man?

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September 11th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

How I Cope

Every year, I think it’s going to be different. Every year, I write a little more about it, talk a little more about it, and every year I think it’s going to make some difference. Every year I believe I’ve processed it a little better, a little differently, learned to cope with it a little more.

Every year, I’m wrong again.

Every year, I think I might sleep a little later, and every year my body shocks me awake at almost exactly 8:45 am Eastern standard time. Every year I think I might just make it to my alarm, and every year I don’t. Every year I wake up confused and bewildered for a just a moment during which I don’t remember what day it is. And every year, I do, all over again. Every year, I get quiet and reticent.

Every year, I watch two videos. They are as traditional to me at this time of year as Twas the Night Before Christmas is traditional to December.

The first one is of Jon Stewart introducing The Daily Show on the day it returned to broadcast on September 20th, 2001.

The other is the video for Ryan Adams’ song “New York, New York.”

Unfortunately, WordPress, Comedy Central, and MTV don’t seem to play nice, so you’ll have to follow those links, but trust me, they’re worth it.

I just wanted to share them, because they are cathartic on a day on which I otherwise shut completely down. I tend to solidify like concrete, mute and rigid and immobile, and each of those videos seems to serve as tiny, persistent chisels, busting away all the defense mechanisms I’ve thrown up since the day I smelled that dust (some days I fear there are too many). And I figured, since I truly believe there is catharsis for all of us in sharing the memory of that day, I feel too that there is similar relief in sharing how we cope with it.

This year, I’ve had an epiphany, prompted by Making Light, a blog maintained by Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Making Light is intertwined with my memories of that day; there was a check-in post there, that day, and I remember I either posted there or to the well. Today, Making Light pretty much defiantly rejected commemoration of the terrorist attacks in favor of other anniversaries/memories:

I am sure that there will be many places to remember the dead, and to debate the lessons they can teach the living. I’m confident that the Making Light commentariat will have a lot to say on the subject.

This thread is not for that. This thread is for defiant normality. If the aim of terrorism is to produce terror, grief and anger, then let us laugh, and rejoice, and love.

And I both understand and acknowledge the value of such a sentiment.

Moreso, I say, I’m sorry, but grief, for me, is normality today. Today, I laughed at my students, and rejoiced in the fact that people read what I’ve written, but both come in utter defiance. That doesn’t necessarily mean that both are tainted, but still, I look around at where I am and what I’m doing and remember where I was and what I was doing. This year, I acknowledge it hurt, and I accept that it’s okay. In the past, I’ve felt at times like I don’t have a right to feel this way, because hey, I survived and that leaves me so much better off than so many other people, but this year I note:

I’m sorry. I’m not okay. I’m not even a little okay. I miss Manhattan more than I can express. I miss my friends and my crummy little apartment and riding the subway to work. I miss all the terrific people I worked with and all the wonderful friends I made. I miss the neon and the way the sidewalk sparkled under my feet. I miss blowing half my paycheck on bad CDs at HMV, and watching movies alone at Virgin.

But most of all, even though I may not be okay, I am grateful.

To you.

I don’t think I’ve said it lately, but thank you. Because a reader is not solely the single best thing any writer can have, but also, arguably, what makes a writer in the first place. In “Your Name on a Grain of Rice,” Roger Clyne wonders:

What good is my love song if you ain’t around to hear it?

I’m forever grateful I don’t ask that question.

September 8th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Dear Author

Late at night, I wonder if she ever really had feelings for me. That’s what’s been most difficult: not her leaving, but rather wondering if she was honest.

What’s most difficult is . . . did she really look at me, try to get to know me? Was she open to it? Does she really not have time, or did she look at me and realize, nah, not this one (and then there’s the nagging, well, if I’d handled my feelings better, would it have changed anything, but no, that way lay madness)?

That’s what counts, mostly.

I’d say that she was the first girl in a while I felt anything for, that she was the first girl since my ex- that I really wanted, but that’d be a lie. There were three years between my ex- and her, and those years weren’t filled with girls, no, but they were filled with misplaced emotions.

Misplaced emotions. Not like I lost anything. Just kinda stopped thinkin’ about where I was puttin’ shit.

I fell for her. Girls will only play the games you let them, will only hurt you as hard as you let them, and she crushed me and hollowed me out because I let her. I let her get inside me, and why?

Because one day I saw her smile, and one day she kissed me back, and one day I let her in.

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September 7th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

“Show a little faith there’s magic in the night” (Inspiration Point)

The town spreads out below us, looks up to us, admires,
Wishing that it could be where we are for a moment.
We’re on top of the world, blessed in our youth;
We’d better enjoy our positions while we can.
The stars look down on us without our condescension;
They all wonder what happened to God.
They see what we have done and are doing
But never realize that we can change.

The moon shines down on us its scornful eye;
We are uncomfortable though others are less moral.
It is only half there, but where the rest is I cannot say.
Perhaps it is with God, waning philosophic.
The wind moans against wood and our flesh,
The same sweet nothings we whispered earlier.
And when it howls like fury through the darkness,
It almost seems like it knows how we feel.

Moisture like morning dew beads blades of grass;
Tiny, clear jewels of dripping condensation.
The whole world smells primal and visceral,
And it glistens in what little light there is here.
There are sounds all around us, some loud and some not,
From furtive, unknown sources in the darkness.
They seem to be everywhere at once and yet nowhere at all,
And isn’t that exactly how we are sometimes?

There is night all around us, overhead, up above,
Silk and satin and dark to the touch.
It is almost oppressive but somehow refrains;
It shows more restraint than we did, earlier.
And so we stare down at the town with a smirk on our lips,
And look up at the stars and feel less than we are.
We throw an ‘up yours’ in a scream at the moon,
And whisper nothing in reply to the wind.
We let the moisture bead and then drip off our skin,
And the sounds gradually become unnerving.
But we live this night, my lady, on Inspiration Point,
Despite darkness’ trying to steal the only one we’ve got.

***

Yesterday, Lisa said:

That poem reminds me of countless nights I looked up at the stars with Chad. Times when we wanted so badly some recognition for our efforts, times when we both felt like it was an endless cycle of repetative days. Times I wanted to shout and scream at the moon, because I felt so damn tired. We both were looking for inspiration.

Which, I think, is pretty awesome.

It’s kind of amazing how you can try for one thing but achieve something else entirely.

To wit: I wrote “Inspiration Point” when I was a sophomore in college (which probably shows through in ways, I think), and its inspiration was “Thunder Road,” by Bruce Springsteen. My then roommate was a huge fan of the Boss, and he played “Thunder Road” one night, and, while I liked the song, my more visceral reaction was closer to, “Man, I want to do that.”

And so I tried (ain’t sayin’ I succeeded, mind you, just I tried. Then again: man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?).

Here’s some Bruce, because come on, nobody does it better:

It’s a bit crappy, video-wise, but I love the story (“This is the land of peace, love, justice, and no mercy.”). Also, hey, another Jersey boy doin’ it right (also, we see where I get my predilection for tank tops, though, admittedly, the Boss pulls it off better than I do). Unfortunately, I got no guitar, but sometimes I get my pen goin’.

And again: the poem is from my collection, the proceeds from which benefit the United Way NYC in honor of those we lost on September 11th, 2001, and in the days following. If you took advantage of the free download, now’s a good chance to help make a difference, and let’s not forget, it would make a great Christmas gift for the booklover you love.

September 6th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Eventually the you

I write to
And about
Will be someone.
Eventually, my lady, you
Will have a
Name,
A personality,
A face.
Eventually I will know
Just who you are,
You, about whom I have
Wondered for years.
Eventually I will not
Have to settle for a
Good time.
Eventually I will
Find you,
Know you when I
See you,
Hear you,
When your soft, light
Footsteps
Finally echo from my
Dreams to my floor.
Thank God I’m
Patient.

***

One of six poems in the collection, and one of the earliest overall. I wrote it during college, which is also true of “Inspiration Point,” “This Ain’t Wonderland,” and “A New Drink.” This was, of course, at a time when I thought every line of a poem should be capitalized (I’m no longer sure, and I’d concede this one might look better without the capped lines). These and my other college poems were the ones that came closest to not making it into the collection, in fact, because I thought so much else seemed so much stronger, but one of the good things about doing it in the first place was recording those times.

I think every writer has early work that makes them cringe a little. I know I have a novel on the top shelf of the closet in my parents basement, which will, as far as I’m concerned, remain there forever (or at least until they move), a big, thick, hunk of a novel I thought it took nearly a ream of paper to tell. I’m pretty sure it’s up near 500 single-spaced pages.

Better I offer you the poems than that, I think. The poems, it’s fun to see how I’ve grown.

The novel you might just bludgeon me with were I to try to sell it to you.

As well you should.

It’s nice to know, as well as a little ironic, that a couple of you cited this and other poetry as your favorite. We are so rarely good at judging what of our work will appeal to others.

***

Like this? Remember to buy the book; it’s only available for a limited time, and all proceeds go to the United Way NYC as tribute to those we lost on September 11th, 2001.

September 2nd, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Good morning, September

Back when I lived in Manhattan, I worked as a freelance production assistant at Young & Rubicam New York, which I believe was then the third-largest ad agency in the world. I basically fell into the position, I remember: I registered with the temp agency, and I worked, one Thursday morning, at the New Yorker office in the Conde Nast building just off Times Square, organizing some guy’s rolodex. No, really; I spent that day stapling business cards to little rolodex-y cards and filing those in the little turn-y thingy.

I think it’s safe to say I was overqualified for the job, though not by a whole hell of a lot.

I received a call from my temp agency that Sunday (I worked for Force One Entertainment, and if they still exist, consider this a plug; they are one of the main reasons my experience in Manhattan was what it was, and for that I am forever grateful. An amazing staff, with great connections), and they offered me one of two positions: one in human resources, and the other in broadcast production.

Obviously, no contest.

So I started working with commercial producers. For huge clients: Sony, Dr Pepper, Jaguar. This was one of the spots we worked on:

So was this:

At Young & Rubicam, each assistant generally worked with no fewer than 7 or 8 producers. During my time there, I rotated to different desks, and I think I basically ended up working with the entire department in one way or another. Mostly I did the sort of grunt work one would associate with an entry-level freelance administrative position, but sometimes I got lucky. Once, I helped put together a video for the United Nations Millennium Summit. Sometimes I got to watch casting, or even directors’ reels. Never anything major, but certainly a lot of fun.

It was my first experience with production. Budgeting. Finding out how people made the images the rest of the world watched. For a while I had thought I might want to get into filmmaking, but I discovered there I didn’t, really. When I sit down to watch The Matrix, I want to see the Matrix, not the greenscreen and the wires. I like to watch magic more than I like to know how it works, and probably more than I’d like to perform it, unless, of course, it’s the real stuff.

(writing, to me, is the real stuff)

One of the producers for whom I worked was named September Reynolds. I don’t think that’s her name anymore; she got married not long after I left, I believe. September looked like a less skeletal version of Elizabeth Hurley, which meant she was a special kind of beautiful, and she was also one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with. Gracious and charming and cheerful.

It was because of her, and others like her, that I never felt like a temp when I worked there. I felt like part of the gang.

I think about all that every year around this time. It rarely gets any easier. I had always loved fall, and still do for all the reasons it’s wonderful, but the end of summer and the beginning of autumn always remind me of what was a difficult time in my life. Every year around this time I start thinking more and more about September 11th. I start wondering how my life would have, could have, been different. I start to consider how it’s not, and I remember to be grateful it’s still mine to do with as I so please.

I’m not sure I remembered that for a while. I think, for a while, the relief of survival made me selfish, in a way. In fact, not just for a while: for several years. For a few years there, I tried to play safe, tried to build security, perhaps because for a moment there, I was no longer certain I’d ever have either again.

In our commercial and consumerist culture, October 31st is now, popularly, a day of pint-sized ghouls and ghosts and too much candy rushing through bloodstreams rush from door to door to beg for more. Being by heritage Scotch/Welsh, however, it is, for me, an end; October 31st is not Halloween but the Samhain, basically the equivalent of New Year’s Eve. This time of year always makes me reflective about what has come before, and, moreso, it reminds me of those years, and specifically that one. In some ways I feel like I might have survived that day, but in a very real way, a life ended. By that Halloween, I had moved back in with my family.

Five years passed before I left once again.

I doubt I’ll ever separate the extraordinarily mixed feelings I have regarding both that day and that time in my life. Because they were extraordinary years, full of hope and pride but also some anxiety about being young and trying to make my way. I remember the mornings on the PATH and the midnights in the bars. I remember Paisley, who worked on Nickelodeon and was a complete sweetheart, and who had an anthrax scare in the month following the attacks. I remember Marybeth, who always called me dude (so I always called her dudette), who lost several members of her family during the rescue efforts at Ground Zero. I remember Madeline, the music producer, who was a germophobe but gave me a hug, anyway, the day I left, and who once told me, in reference to my writing, “You’ve got it,” and with whom I watched the World Trade Center 7 fall from the center bench on the Hoboken ferry.

And I remember September, the greeting of whom inspired me to write a poem the year before, which was cliched and trite, and which I have since lost to time and moving. September, whose wedding song was “The Girl from Ipanema”–

The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes goes – ah
. . .
but I watch her so sadly
How can I tell her I love her?
Yes, I would give my heart gladly,
But each day, when she walks to the sea,
She looks straight ahead, not at me.
. . .
And when she passes, I smile – but she doesn’t see (doesn’t see)
(she just doesn’t see, she never sees me…)

So good morning, September. Another year come and gone, but every time you come around I realize how much I missed you and wonder what we could have had if only I’d stuck around. I know you’ll be gone again before I know it, but in the meantime, well, it’s gonna be magic, just like always.

August 15th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Rainy day weekend

Denver is cold and rainy today and supposed to remain that way all weekend. I can hear the patter of raindrops and the flow of rainstreams through my window, and the sky beyond is grey.

School starts Tuesday, but I plan to drive over on Monday to fully familiarize myself with the campus. Plus: make some copies, set anything else up, all the good administrative stuff.

In the meantime, I’m planning my syllabus. Somewhat difficult: never built one mainly from scratch before. I know what goes in one, of course, but otherwise? (any teachers/instructors: if you have advice for me, leave it in the comments. I could totally use some. Or generally: if you were taking a college class, what would you expect from your instructor and his syllabus?)

Besides that, I’m planning to clean up iTunes and finish a short story.

Have a good weekend.

August 5th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

On being full of one’s self

Earlier today, I got an e-mail from Cheryl Anne Gardner of POD People. I queried their site a while ago in the hope that they might review Entrekin. I figured they were just so backed up with books and reviews that they hadn’t had the chance to respond, which I understood; authors, self-published or otherwise, always hope for reviews of their books and so always query reviewers to do so, and I’d wager a book reviewers pile of books to read is similar in size, scope, range, and even quality, to editors’ and agents’ slushpiles. But the good news is that Gardner wrote me to let me know that she was going to review it probably shortly.

Which I’m just thrilled by.

So look for that soon.

I bring it up, though, because part of the reason Cheryl wrote was what occurred on the occassion of my first ever review. It was at the PODler (you can find a link in the archives here. Sorry, but I’d rather not link there myself; it only just fell from number 1 Google result, and I’d rather not put it back up there), and it was the sort of excellent for which a word like “glowing” is an understatement (“This is the writing of bestsellers.” So rad), and it was a thrillingly and overwhelmingly positive experience until a handful of anonymous commenters showed up to attack me.

Not my writing. Not my book. Me.

The most prevalent was the one I mentioned yesterday: “I won’t argue that Entrekin is a great writer,” which then went on to comment that I was “full of” myself.

I mentioned it yesterday and that I was happy it no longer came up as the first Google hit because can you just imagine an agent being intrigued by my query enough to hit Google only to find that as the first hit? I’d wager their first thought would be that I’m some prima donna author who thinks I’m the heir apparent to Stephen King and Jo Rowling and will become resentful when others don’t bow before my literary genius.

To which I say, in my best Wayne impression, shyaah!, not to mention: not!

Because seriously. I mean, what do you say to that? “Quite frankly, I resent the implication that I am full of myself. In fact, I am half-empty of myself, because I am a pessimist, and to fill the rest I seek meaningless sex, excessive alcohol, and the adoration of a whole bunch of people whom I will probably never meet except via the Internet (unless they come to an author signing).”

It’s kind of like being called defensive; if you defend yourself . . .

It’s probably silly to worry about, but I’ll admit it: I’m now past thirty and still worry about what other people think of me. I keep hoping that I’ll outgrow it someday, but someday continues to elude me so far.

But here’s the thing about one being full of one’s self:

I once heard that the difference between Eastern philosophy and Western religion is that the Western mode seeks external validation: from God, from the church, salvation through Christ, etc., whereas Eastern philosophy looks, instead, inward–toward the self. Toward the soul.

And that appeals to me. Which leads me to wonder if, according to Eastern philosophies, being full of one’s self isn’t a good thing? Or, at least, a goal to pursue?

I don’t know either way, but I’ll be personal for a moment, in a way I’m not usually, to tell you a story.

I went to a Jesuit college where I studied, among other subjects, theology (that my professor was a Jesuit priest trained as a Zen roshi might be why Eastern philosophy appeals so much to me). During that time, I became comfortable in my role on campus, in my role as a student, and then again in my role in commercial production. I won’t say I thought I had things pretty well figured out, and I read now the words I wrote then and I inwardly cringe, but, in a way, I felt somewhat full, I think. I was, largely, satisfied with my life.

And then September 11th. Which, I think, both emptied me out and made the vessel with which I was working larger (which, in turn, made it more difficult to fill). Suddenly, what had made sense before no longer did, and four years passed before I could really claim happiness again. Four years passed before I can really claim I felt full again. Satisfied.

And I remember the moment it changed again, when I realized I wanted to go to graduate school. It didn’t empty again, just made my vessel grow again, and so I drove across the country to Los Angeles, and I studied writing, and I began, again, to fill it. My vessel hadn’t grown so much as to require much fill, and then I published my book, and that helped it grow yet again.

And so I feel like the past few years have been a constant challenge of a growing vessel which I seek again and again to fill with my self. Each time my vessel grows, I seek new experiences, or new ways of seeing old ones, so that I can grow and fill it again.

It’s a challenge I have to admit I enjoy.

Full of myself? Sometimes, maybe. Perhaps. But when I’m really lucky there’s a little more room in the vessel yet to be filled, and the challenge of looking inward to do so is simultaneously one of the most difficult and most rewarding.

“I awake from a long, deep sleep
In a leaky little boat on a wide blue sea
I spy no islane, rock or shore
And the sea, she’s a-comin’ to me through a hole in the floor

And the tide come in and the tide go out
And the waves they came toss my little boat about
And the sky turn black and the sky turn blue
I got no pail, no sail, no anchor, too
Just a leaky little boat

And as I wake I look around
I have no notion where I’m bound
So many different colored boats I see
Are all leaky, lonely, and driftin’
Just like me

And the tide come in and the tide go out…

I spy no island rock or shore
And the sea keeps a-comin’ to me through a hole in the floor
Of my leaky little boat

Alone, adrift together are we
Slowly sinkin’ in a deep blue sea
But we smile and we wave
And we say, “I’m afraid…and I love you…and here we go…”
-Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, “Leaky Little Boat”

(update: edited to paraphrase the anonymous quote in question, for Google-rific reasons)

July 17th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

I just don’t know what to do with myself

I went to an information session today at Regis University, a Jesuit institution in northern Denver. I think it’s best I didn’t manage to get into the University of Denver’s PhD program, but I still want to continue schooling somewhere. Thing is, there are two options now, both with Regis.

The first is another MBA, this time in religious studies. I’m fascinated by religion in all ways, but more important, I sense something right now. See, I’m thinking specifically of guys like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, both of whom wrote mega-bestselling books concerning the fact that religion is, at its heart, a bad idea.

But I think there’s a foundation for all religious thought and pursuit, really. Personally, I don’t believe there’s any difference between a spell, a prayer, and a meditation session; all are, at their bases, pretty much mainly modes of positive thinking. Same thing with that The Secret book from last year or so.

The problem, I think, is that Harris and Hitchens lack a scientific background, and are approaching religion from a mainly philosophical/ethical point of view.

Which is fine, of course.

But I think it misses some very huge things. I honestly think that the fact that most people believe in something of a divine nature has some substantive argument to it. But most of all, I think the more one examines biology and quantum electromechanics and physics, the more one starts to not just believe but realize that there’s something greater going on.

Einstein himself said that religion without science is lame, but science without religion is blind.

And I think there’s something there.

So I could, in theory, design a degree in something like scientific deology (they’re not allowed to use the word “theology,” apparently, for some Arch-Diocesan reason [okay, so there's a spot where Hitchens and Harris have a point]), and ultimately produce a book I’m planning, called Godology, on the application of the scientific method to areas including God and the afterlife.

Or, I could go for an MBA. Which would really sort of be the first practical degree I could actually use I’d be earning.

And the thing is, it’s not a question of passion or love or whathaveyou, because just the existence of this blog and all I’ve done related to writing is evidence of how I’m fascinated by marketing and branding. I’m aiming for “Entrekin” to become a brand every bit as much as Crichton and King and Gaiman are. I’m not solely concerned with the airy-fairy artsy-fartsy aspect of writing, which is the most major reason I chose USC to study writing; it was about professional writing. About the craft of it yes, but also about selling it.

Because I’ll be honest; I’m not solely trying to write the best books I can. I’m also trying to get them to as many readers as I possibly can.

And part of that is marketing. Part of that is both about analyzing target audience and then reaching it.

So this weekend, I’ve got some figuring out to do. I think, ultimately, the MBA is probably more practical, and I’ll certainly write Godology anyway.

July 14th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

It’s official

I finished my novel, The Prodigal Hour, earlier. At final count, I had trimmed nearly 15,000 words from the previous draft–the final clocks in at a brisk, crisp 90,000 words.

All of which, I probably don’t need to tell you, are awesome.

(well. That’s the hope, anyway. Ultimately, it’s for you to decide. And heck, you even show up in the book. Because you’re just that rad)

Given that, I’ve begun to submit it for representation. Just a couple of queries so far to a couple of agents I think would be a really good fit for it.

Actually, really, to a couple of agents I think would fall in love with it.

And can I just ask: in this day and age, what’s with any agent who doesn’t accept e-queries (or any editor/publisher, for that matter)?

Come on: it’s 2008.

(wow. 2008. Yaysh)

Anyway, a few queries out. First round.

Wish me luck!

July 13th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

That interview I mentioned?

For some reason (probably that I hit the wrong button), this didn’t publish the other day. It was meant to post on Wednesday.

So I walked into my interview today hyped up, totally in the zone, and smiling.

And I walked out with a job.

I think that’s pretty cool.

Three courses in the fall. Which is two more than I’ve ever taught simultaneously, but I’m both up to and looking forward to the challenge.

Now I’m just wondering if I should open with “My students called me sensei.”

Ha!

July 7th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Nesting (or, wish me luck)

News:

Got an interview. For a sah-weeeet! job I’d really like, as an instructor at a community college. So wish me luck there. Gotta dig out my transcripts

(my transcripts are awesome. My undergrad transcript? Like, 150 credits over four years, 3.6 GPA with a 3.975 in my major

[that single 3.5 in my major came from a "Contemporary American Fiction" class that completely ignored all the great writers like, say, Bradbury, King, Chandler, and early-to-mid-era Koontz in favor of, like, DeLillo and Moody. And just their stories

{partly why contemporary American fiction blows

/I got a 3.5 because I wrote my major paper on some random story about this girl in an all-girls' school who befriended the nun headmaster. It wasn't a very good story, but I distinctly remember a very sexual undertone running throughout it. My teacher didn't like when I pointed it out. He said I was "wrong."

-like a reader can ever be wrong-\}]).

July 3rd, 2008 by Will Entrekin

On the delay of certain freedom

I’m not quite sure why you actually have to be aware of this story to be able to find it, but it seems to be the case. I was told of it the other day by someone browsing the BBC news site, but on perusing it myself, I can’t find it. I checked all my major news sites, too: the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post and MSNBC.com. Heck, you’d hope one would find it through the New York Times, but no luck there, either. Just to confirm, I ran a search on it yesterday, and this is all I found:

I had to go all the way to Google, in fact, and when I did, I found an Associated Press story the associated press seems to have summarily completely ignored: apparently, whoever owns the World Trade Center proposed completely scrapping plans and deadlines for the construction of the new Freedom Tower because “nearly every project is delayed and over budget and that previous estimates are unrealistic.”

Sad, that. The first project scheduled to be completed–in time for the tenth anniversary of the attacks–was the memorial. Freedom Tower itself, along with the other buildings, weren’t expected to open themselves until 2013.

Shame, this.

Larry Silverstein is in charge of building three of the five towers (seems he’s the owner). He’s also the person to whom will be made payments of $300,000 per day for every day the construction of the towers goes beyond deadline. In fairness to him, though the article is not clearly worded, I think he’s also the one proposing scrapping the deadlines in the first place.

It puts me in mind of a paragraph from “What I Saw That Day (September 11th, 2001),” my essay (in my collection) concerning that day those years ago, and how I feel about it now:

I can’t seem to shake this feeling that it’s a bad dream. I can’t help looking at the plans and design for the new Freedom Tower and wonder why we can’t just build the World Trade Center back. Why we can’t recreate those buildings so that, one day, when we talk to our children and tell them about that day, they can look up at us and say, “What’re you talking about, Daddy? You mean those buildings? Right there? They falled down?”

There are days I miss New York, especially lately, but sometimes I wonder if I don’t miss Manhattan during the summer of 2000. It’s different when I go back, and then again, so am I.

(if you want to read my September 11th essay and haven’t yet, you can find it here.)

June 23rd, 2008 by Will Entrekin

On girls from Vineland and maps of Jersey

This map, over at Strange Maps, is awesome. Basically, it highlights penitentiaries and the state in the 50s. The blurbs are worth the price of admission (which is, of course, free).

My favorite: “Here Vineland, famous for its contributions to our knowledge of the feebleminded.” And who knew Vineland is where the word “moron” was coined? You’d think I would have, being that I use the word often enough (and am from Jersey). I dated a girl from Vineland once. No, really: once. I found out she had a psychotic episode and was taking Zyprexa. She told me she wanted to run away with me and then promptly never called me again.

For anyone curious, I’m from halfway between Pennsgrove and Camden, right there near the Delaware.

June 21st, 2008 by Will Entrekin

So much for that

Our time is rich in inventive minds, the inventions of which could facilitate our lives considerably. We are crossing the seas by power and utilize power also in order to relieve humanity from all tiring muscular work. We have learned to fly and we are able to send messages and news without any difficulty over the entire world through electric waves.

However, the production and distribution of commodities is entirely unorganized so that everybody must live in fear of being eliminated from the economic cycle, in this way suffering for the want of everything. Furthermore, people living in different countries kill each other at irregular time intervals, so that also for this reason any one who thinks about the future must live in fear and terror. This is due to the fact that the intelligence and the character of the masses are incomparably lower than the intelligence and character of the few who produce something valuable for the community.

I trust that posterity will read these statements with a feeling of proud and justified superiority.

-Albert Einstein, “Message for Posterity,” 1938

June 14th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

What Ray Bradbury said about my book

When I got to USC’s writing program, I was lucky that I had already completed at least a draft of a novel; truth is, I’d finished several drafts by then, and I was about half-finished the then-current draft. I actually completed it a few weeks after I took my first class, and then I set it aside to write it as a screenplay before I picked it up to start it all over again.

I mention this because it had some effect on how I approached the program; besides the thesis/final project, there was also an opportunity to take a semester of guided research with the faculty mentor nearly of one’s choice. Given that I already had a draft, I bypassed that semester in favor of other classes and workshops.

When it came time to take my guided research, I chose a man named Sid Stebel as my advisor. Sid is a great, puckish guy with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and we got along like gangbusters. He can be very opinionated, but also allows he could be wrong. I guess what I liked was that he wasn’t afraid to make suggestions. That, and that the man knew stories. He knew them well (his book, Double Your Creative Power!, is built around his idea of secret story, which I’d actually like to study further), and a lot of times, you could just tell. Some of his suggestions for the way characters might interact in the context of the story’s structure . . .

Yeah, I learned a lot from Sid. I like to think there are ways we’re alike, and not just considering we’re both fair writers.

I mention Sid, however, because one thing Sid likes to talk about is Ray Bradbury; he and Ray go back many years, and they’ve shared a friendship through the years. When I found out, I kinda flipped a little.

I like Ray Bradbury for a somewhat obscure reason. Back when I was a sophomore in college, my history professor assigned Fahrenheit 451. I read and enjoyed it immensely, but what really caught my attention was a ‘Coda’ my buddy, captain doctor Brian, pointed out to me in his edition. In this Coda, Bradbury talked about critics and reviewers, and he said, and I’ll never forget this:

“Get off our fields and let us play.”

I loved that. Immensely. My father taught me early on about criticism, that there were always going to be people who had something negative to say, but they’re not the one’s down there, wrestling the lions–he used to allude to a quote by either Hemingway or JFK, I can’t remember which (though I think it was the latter). It’s something I continue to struggle with, in fact, the just-playing part, because I’ll admit I sometimes pay too close attention to how my writing is received. I know I shouldn’t, but old habits etc.

I’ve always liked allusions, and there are many in my novel: to Bradbury, yes, but also to Fitzgerald, Eliot, Williams, and Whitman, among others. They’re quick enough you’ll miss most of them if you blink, but they’re there. I mean, you write a time travel novel, you ought to pause time when there’s an explosion, and when it’s raining, and if it’s gonna be raining, it oughta be a storm, and if there’s a storm, you can bet there’s going to be a sound of thunder (all that’s part of story theory, by the way. That there are certain elements that just make sense given a story’s framework, and how it functions). My protagonist, in fact, happens to live on Bradbury Lane.

So when I found out Stebel was friends with Ray, I had to ask if he could get my novel to Ray.

Sid didn’t think that was the best idea, given Bradbury’s current health, which isn’t bad, exactly, don’t think that, but certainly Ray reads way less books than he used to. But, he said, perhaps an excerpt, a few pages where the story kicked, where there was something that really pulled out all the stops . . .

Well, lemme tell you, I’ve got plenty of pages like that. There aren’t any stops in my novel, because I pulled every last one of them out.

And if I sent him that, Sid could send the pages along to Ray. Maybe, he said, we could even get a quote from Ray for my book.

At this point, I’ll tell you, I’m struggling not to get too excited. Not so much about a possibly Bradbury quote to put on the cover of my novel, though, yes, of course, how fucking awesome would that be? But Ray Bradbury! Reading something I wrote!

Two weeks ago, I sent Sid a few pages from the climax of my novel. I was pushing hard by the time I wrote them, trying to fire on all cylinders at once, really nailing down the theme while never forgetting, hey, there are characters to care about here, and what’re they doing? I do some experimenting with both typography and formatting at certain points in my book, but I cut them from the climax, solely wanting an honest, sincere moment, making the effort to rely solely on the strength of my words to make readers feel something and trying to avoid clever at all costs.

Sid sent it along immediately.

So for two weeks I’ve been on pins and needles, here. Trying not to hyperventilate, and trying not to get too excited.

Turns out I probably shouldn’t have worried.

I got an e-mail from Sid last night; Ray called him late Wednesday evening to comment on what he’d read. He was, apparently, extraordinarily encouraging (Sid paraphrased), and he said to just sit down and write write write like he did with The Martian Chronicles.

Ray Bradbury. The Martian Chronicles. Write write write.

I’m smiling.

A quote, something to put on the cover of my book, even a single word like “Splendid!” probably would have been enough to start a career on. But then again, I realize, I already started it, and while a blurb from Ray Bradbury probably would have helped me sell it, that, up there, is the real part of it. The real part of it is not the selling it; it’s the sitting down to write write write every day, and maybe I needed that reminder. Sure, I’ll admit, I really would have liked to have a Bradbury quote, but maybe I’ve got to learn that I don’t need it, that what I really need is to work harder, to sit down and keep at it, and to be honest about it. Because it reminds me that a few words on either cover won’t have any effect on the words between them, and those are the ones that count. And those are really the only part I have any control over.

If I don’t remember that, no matter how many books I sell, no matter how many stories I tell, no matter how many pages I write, it arguably won’t be much of a career, anyway, much less a devotion.

June 12th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Gentlemanly

One of the things I like about WordPress is that it records statistics pretty closely over several categories; clicks, who referred whom, where people went after they came here, what posts they read . . . stuff like that. Also, what people entered into search engines to find this page. Anyway, I just caught this in the stats after that last post:

I’m left wondering why, precisely. Was someone wondering if I had one, or hoping for a date, or what?

For the record, there are certain things I’m just not comfortable blogging about. I’ve mentioned previous relationships at certain points in the past, but never current ones, because doing so feels, in a way, ungentlemanly.

So I won’t be.

And besides, seriously, who cares?

June 12th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Scouts over FEMA any day

There’s an old maxim that news is not dog bites man but rather man bites dog, because the former is usual, the latter not. Given that, I question the newsworthiness of this story at Yahoo!, concerning a troop of boy scouts who helped each other and others after a tornado blew threw their area, solely because, well, yeah, they’re boy scouts.

That’s what we do.

Newsworthy or not, it’s a great story and makes me proud to be one. Well done, guys. Well done indeed.

Heck, if only the boy scouts had responded to Katrina, and not FEMA, New Orleans might not be the mess it is right now.

(actually, they probably did. I’ll wager there were scouts volunteering there, somewhere. I can’t imagine there wouldn’t have been)

June 10th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

On livin’ large

Will Shetterly is a writer who often concerns his blog toward social issues; lately, he’s been writing about consumption. What he and his wife eat, which brings his writing close to home, I think, but also in a more general sense, with links to energy consumption, smaller houses, and social justice. It’s worth poking around just for the ways he can make you think, but his post yesterday (in combination with another) really got me thinking. It concerns a ‘subversive fairy tale,’ as well as discussion of an article concerning American consumption versus French consumption.

I found myself smiling knowingly at this article. One of my favorite restaurants in Hollywood was the Maggiano’s at the Grove, where I used to eat dinner with a friend on a monthly or so basis. I always noticed that at Maggiano’s; their portions are huge. No, bigger than that. Seriously, keep going. We’d always go home with leftovers.

I’d often think it silly, until I remember we tried a different Italian restaurant whose portions were more normal-sized. And you know what? I looked at my plate of gnocchi and thought “That’s it?”

It wasn’t because I wanted there to be more, actually. It was because the latter place was more expensive than Maggiano’s, and I felt like I was getting ripped off. Because, of course, I could get twice the amount of food for about the same price elsewhere. Nevermind that I didn’t need all that food in the first place.

Back when I was in college, I was a big fan of Edward Burns, and I read a magazine article about him right around the time Saving Private Ryan came out. Burns had just gotten a first-look deal with Dreamworks with his scripts, and he was producing, directing, writing, and starring in basically his own movies (like The Brothers McMullen and She’s the One). He mentioned, in the article, that he’d begun to worry about the new pressure and that his career could go, really, anywhere, and when the future is that wide open and filled with that much possibility, it’s a little scary to consider also all the ways it could go wrong. But he spoke to Tom Hanks about the issue on the set of Ryan, and Hanks gave him some pithy advice:

“You know, Eddy, a man can only eat so well.”

(of course, this is The Da Vinci Code Tom Hanks. Who probably eats really, really well)

And finally, I was also reading Jonathan Carroll’s site the other day. Carroll is one of my favorite writers, and in his blog, he made the following observation:

Isn’t it interesting how many of us will spend a lot of money on clothes (or for that matter, other valued possessions) we rarely use– that beautiful cocktail dress or sharp looking shirt. But in our every day, we much prefer to wear clothes that are years old, beat up, and probably cost little when we bought them. Yes, the comfort factor plays heavily into this, but recently when I came home wearing a very nice suit and tie and couldn’t WAIT to tear them off and change into some old jeans and a ten year old sweatshirt, I suddenly thought something’s odd about this. An expensive suit, or a fountain pen you only use to write your name occasionally, a new car you’re often worried about driving because someone might scratch it, the crazy-expensive shoes you never wear in bad weather, the fabulously delicate silk lingerie you haven’t worn since buying it six months ago… the list is surprisingly long. In other words for many, we continue to pay lots of money for things that make us uncomfortable, worried, wary or worse.

I guess I’ve just been thinking about this a lot in the past month; packing up all your worldly possessions to move a thousand miles away forces you to confront just how many worldly possessions you’ve actually got, and makes me consider how many I actually frickin’ need. I have no less than 11 boxes of books at this point, most of them shoved up against the wall and none of them really unpacked; books are great and all, certainly, but do I really need eleven boxes of them? I’ve got both a suitcase and a laundry bag full of clothing, and that’s not even to mention the blazers on the hangars.

But on the other hand, I use my stuff. Many of those books I bought for research, or to support the writers who wrote them (there are books by both Shetterly and Carroll in those boxes). Many again are signed (my copy of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods was the first one signed on the American Gods tour, which I think is pretty rad). And my clothes . . . I don’t suffer from Carroll’s affliction; I often look forward to occasions when I can wear my suit, or dress up a bit.

In the next few weeks, however, my goal is to cull down a little bit, at least. Separate out at least two boxes of books I can sell, and set aside some clothes for a GoodWill or something.

It’d be nice to come to a point where I could fit everything I need into my car, but then I realize, it’s not so much about how much shit I’ve got but rather how I think about that shit, and the word need. I’m one of those people who believes we need books and art and music in our lives, but there is a difference between sustenance and consumption, and I’d like to find some balance between the two.

By the way, here’s an Amazon search for Jonathan Carroll, and here’s one for Will Shetterly, as well as Shetterly’s Lulu store.

June 2nd, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Settling in (but never down)

I realize I’ve been a bit quiet; I’m acclimating to another new city (my third home in as many years), and I’m still processing the differences. I’m still learning a new state, and trying to commit to Denver in a way I never committed to Los Angeles. It used to take me 45 minutes to drive to USC from my apartment–now, 45 minutes takes me through, like, seven towns, and let me tell you what, they’re all purdy. There’s something about being able to look down certain streets and see, in the distance, white-capped mountains that’s pretty spectacular. I’d say “Of course, I used to be able to see the Hollywood Hills, too,” but honestly, often not so much, what with the air quality.

The air here is different, too: crisp, and clean, even if thin. I had a scare the other week when I went running in the park literally behind my apartment and had my first-ever asthma attack. Felt like my lungs had ossified. Not so much fun. It didn’t bump over into anything full blown, but it’s made me realize: hey, take’er easy, right?

I’ve been taking lots of pictures. I know I’ve been a little lax posting to either Imagery or et cetera, but I only just unpacked my harddrive, like, two days ago. Some of my stuff is even still in my car (and yes, I’ve been here, what, two weeks by now? Very nearly, at least). What can I say? More pressing matters lately.

So far, I’ve already been playing phone tag with a local personal training facility. I’m hoping to go in for an interview this week. It seems to pay pretty decently, and then again, I don’t need much right now, anyway (I’m set for the next several months, luckily. I earned a bit of a cushion [though I'd love to not have to use it]). So wish me luck on that; the only reason I left the fitness industry all those years ago (has it really been six? My, how the years go. As my roommate once wrote, “The days drag on/but the years fly by,” and sometimes I think there are fewer more apt descriptions of time available) was that I thoroughly disliked the “prospecting”/sales aspect the position requires at Bally Total Fitness. I loved the gig itself.

Looking back, I probably should have just changed gyms. But had I, I might never have taught, never have edited, never have gone to grad school, never have gone to Los Angeles.

Who knows?

Certainly not me, and that’s part of the fun.

Anyway, I’ve got a really cool post coming; just a few days ago, I stayed at the Stanley Hotel, in Estes Park, which is the historic site where Stephen King first started writing The Shining.

And I swear to God, I heard a bump in the night.

It was awesome.

May 27th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Stroke of insight leads to nirvana (or does it?)

Over the weekend, I caught an article at The New York Times.com concerning Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard neuroscientist who claims to have experienced nirvana when she had a stroke. She’s written a memoir called My Stroke of Insight, which was just published by Viking, about the experience.

Basically, according to the article, which means, I assume, according to Taylor, after a blood vessel in her brain burst, her left hemisphere began to fail her. Doctors who operated found a golf-ball sized clot in her head and removed it. After surgery and eight years of recovery, apparently, Taylor is basically fully recovered, continues to study neuoroanatomy at Harvard, and wrote her book.

She had been a neuroscientist prior to her stroke, her work concentrating on the different functions the left and the right brain perform. Scientists attribute logic, ego, and perception of time to the left brain (or, at least, Taylor does), with the right brain taking care of creativity and empathy. Taylor believes that cutting her off from her left brain forced her to accept the consciousness of her right brain, which created that heightened sense of empathy, cultivated a sense of blissful nirvana, and, even, allowed her to:

see that the atoms and molecules making up her body blended with the space around her; the whole world and the creatures in it were all part of the same magnificent field of shimmering energy.

Which is fascinating. I’ve always been fascinated by it, anyway. A friend of mine, Richard Cox, even wrote a novel called The God Particle, which includes a sort of shimmering energy field as a plot point (it’s a good novel, too, although I’ve always liked his first, Rift, better.

I’m a little . . . well, confused isn’t quite the word for the science mentioned in the article, but I think I understood the brain and how it worked differently. For example, I knew the left brain and the right brain generally control different functions, but I thought scientists had proven that people don’t use one or the other but rather both in tandem years ago. It reminds me of what I had thought was an old wives’ tale about how we human beings only use 10% of our brains; while it may be technically accurate at any one time, the 10% we use changes according to the activities we are performing. I’ve always though I suck at math mainly because I write so much; I can feel that doing math requires thinking differently than I’m used to.

Then again, I tend to be a mostly happy person, and I wonder if that’s because I spend more time thinking using the areas of the brain that contribute to this “nirvana” Bolte Taylor is writing about. Who says:

Today, she says, she is a new person, one who “can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere” on command and be “one with all that is.”

And she certainly looks happy.

But something else in the article caught my attention, first in the way it was treated and second in what it means for Bolte Taylor; Bolte Taylor’s brother was diagnosed with brain disorder schizophrenia (according to her Amazon.com page; I’ll link at the end of this post). According to the article’s second page:

Originally, Dr. Taylor became a brain scientist — she has a Ph.D. in life sciences with a specialty in neuroanatomy — because she has a mentally ill brother who suffers from delusions that he is in direct contact with Jesus. And for her old research lab at Harvard, she continues to speak on behalf of the mentally ill.

So, apparently, if a blood vessel bursts in your brain, causing a golf ball-sized clot that cuts you off from your left hemisphere, you get to experience nirvana and the unity of the universe, as well as perceive the shimmering energy field that includes all the atoms and molecules in your body, before you sell a book about the experience to Viking, go on speaking tours, and receive fan mail from all the people who believe in what you’re saying, but if you’re in direct contact with Jesus, you have delusional, brain disorder-based schizophrenia and are mentally ill.

There’s a huge disconnect there, I think.

Now provided, I don’t know about Bolte Taylor’s brother one way or the other. I don’t know what direct contact with Jesus means, nor what Jesus is telling him through said direct contact.

But I will note that, from my three years working as an editor of a clinical psychiatric nursing journal, I could swear I’ve read theories that mental illness can be genetic and run in families.

I know I’m backhandedly implying Bolte Taylor has a mental illness here, but really I’m being disengenuous, for a very specific reason: I tend to believe there might be something to her experience and her perceptions, and what bothers me is the disconnect between the way the media (and perhaps the scientific community) and certainly that article treats her experience versus her brother’s. The article is full of careful explanation and detail describing both her symptomatology and the physiological, neurological, and psychological effects thereof, but when it comes to her brother, he is “mentally ill” and “suffers from delusions.” I get that further mention of his illness or its symptoms are probably both beyond the point and scope of the article, or perhaps even that Bolte Taylor didn’t want to talk too much about it, but you’d think it would have been at least a little more sensitive.

Really, though, it reminds me of this comic by Lore Sjoberg:
Photobucket

(you can find others by clicking on the comic, and find more by Sjoberg here)

Here’s that link to Bolte Taylor’s book I promised. It certainly looks interesting.

What do you think? Of Bolte Taylor’s experience, the science behind it, or the article? I’m really curious to know what other people think of questions regarding science and faith. Is contact with Jesus really less believable than nirvana via a burst brain vessel?

May 25th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

School, Imagery, and et cetera

As you may or may not have noticed (if you read this on any regular basis), I became a little too busy in the past few weeks to keep up with Imagery and et cetera. But that’s okay; I got lots of pictures and even some videos from the road that I’ll be posting to the former on a more regular basis, and let’s face it, the publishing industry moves at a glacial enough pace that missing out on a couple of weeks of news doesn’t make much difference (NEWS: books were published! People read them! Some even liked some of them!).

But anyway, here’s a new picture at Imagery; it’s of my final image of USC.

And in et cetera, a couple of publishing manifestos from people contemplating the future of books, as well as the Los Angeles Times’ evisceration of James Frey’s new A Bright Shiny Morning, which sounds like it’s every bit as bad as A Million Little Pieces, only just not pretending to be true.

But finally, one of the reasons I think I’m going to be able to keep up better again; everything at USC is done, handed in, graded, and finalized. I got my final semester grades; I pulled a 3.8. Back when I was an undergraduate, that would have meant I graduated summa cum laude; I’m not sure if that’s the case in graduate school, but still, I’m happy with my performance. Two B+s on my transcript, but one came from Irvin Kerschner and the other came from Janet Fitch, and hell, that’s cool by me.

Now, on the other end of things, I have somewhat mixed feelings about most MFA writing programs, but I can honestly say that going to Los Angeles was one of the single greatest decisions I ever made in my life, and, I think, helped determine the future course of it. I’m in a ludicrous amount of debt and now have to figure out what I’m going to do with a degree in writing, of all things, but still, baby, while it lasted, it was one for the books.

May 19th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Denver Day Three

Taking it easy for now. I figure, you know, I just finished a master’s, finished a novel, and drove for three days straight. Time to chill a bit. I’ve been working on a novel(la) I’ve been kicking around with for a while (and by a while, I mean: several years), but other than that, not much besides a couple episodes of House, M.D., some good tunes, sandwiches, pizza, and some beer I picked up at the Moab brewery.

I think I’m going to run today. I’ve never been much of a runner, but shit this city’s beautiful, and I’m right next to some park or other, with a big, inviting running path, and so I figure, well, hell, might as well use it.

May 16th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

The far side of a lot of things

Denver.

Colorado is awesome. The Glenwood Springs area may well surpass Montreal for my single favorite place on Earth. It’s simply completely breathtaking.

Well. No, wait. In fact, it’s not. Because Colorado air feels a little lighter, probably because I’m a little higher (mile high and risin’, baby!), and good, deep breaths feel awesome. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been able to take a good, deep breath I didn’t in the next instant hack onto the pavement.

The roadtrip was spectacular. I bypassed the Grand Canyon, figuring it’s pretty much a giant hole in the ground, in favor of driving up through Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods. Straight through Moab, which makes Utah, I think, nearly my thirtieth state I’ve been through, so that’s kinda cool. Moab was gorgeous. So was Williams, AZ, especially at 9 in the morning.

Lots of pictures. Even a video.

Colorado is my fourth state since Wednesday.

My lower back is totally killing me right now. I think I strained something moving out on Wednesday. It’s actually an aggravation of an old injury I gave myself, ironically, on the occasion of my leaving Manhattan/Jersey City for the very last time. I don’t think it’s a slipped disk (I’m pretty sure I’d be in far greater pain); I think I just knotted up a muscle just above my coccyx.

Yeah, I just wanted to write coccyx and have it be medically accurate (no, wait. Actually it’s not. It’s above my pelvis. So that’d probaby be lumbar, now I think of it).

As you can probably tell, I’m not doing much thinking at the moment. I’m just sitting here typing, listening to Better Than Ezra. Looking to see if I can find a Denver restaurant from which I can order some venison to go (because that’d be rad), and looking forward to an evening of ibuprofen, good beer, food, and House, M.D..

Because, apparently, what you do when you turn thirty is leave Los Angeles, throw your back out, drive a thousand miles, and arrive there precisely two years to the day after you arrived in Los Angeles.

Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that. I turned thirty last weekend.

Which is why I’m on the far side of a lot of things. The far side of thirty. The far side of my roadtrip.

Of course, from my perspective, right now, this is really the near side. Because the sun just keeps rising in front of me and setting behind me, and forward is the only direction in life worth going, if you ask me.

Not that you did.

But hey, I’m a little heady and a little introspective and a little in love with a lot of things.

Maybe it’s the extra oxygen from these deep breaths (oxygen makes you high, as anyone who’s ever watched Fight Club knows).

Then again: nah.

May 6th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

Sporadic

Nothing like being braindead after a full day of grading. Renders me more incoherent than drinking.

Just got to hand in one last set of grades tomorrow, and then days full of packing and driving. So now you know why I’m blogging so sporadically right now, and why I’ll continue to do so for the next, oh, week or so.

Denver ETA: the 15th, or so. Which is kinda cool, because it makes it two years to the day from one I arrived in LA.

April 30th, 2008 by Will Entrekin

How I spent my Hollywood vacation

In which the best-laid plans of guy and sister completely go aglee.

I mean, we had great intentions. I got tickets to the Getty Villa for Friday. And the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was over at UCLA.

But what seems a good idea in theory…

My sister arrived Thursday night. We ordered pizza, put on Eddie Izzard, and then she crashed around 10 or so, which was really 1-ish for her.

Friday, we trekked up the PCH to the Getty Villa, which is a museum devoted to Greco-Roman art. It’s mostly statues, with some jewelry/metalwork. I’d thought it sounded like the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters in Manhattan, which not only houses the largest collection of medieval art in the world but is also a recreation incorporating elements from five different French monasteries.

The Cloisters is awesome. Simply jaw-dropping. I’ve gone four or five times, and each time, I love it even more than the time previous. Not so much because I notice something new, but just because it’s better than I remember it. I think “It can’t possibly be as good as I thought,” and each time it’s better.

I’d thought the Getty Villa was similar; it sounded like a collection of Greco-Roman art housed in a building that was itself a recreation of a Greco-Roman structure. And it might have been close, but it wasn’t, not exactly. The best way I can describe it is, you go to the Cloisters and you can believe you’re back in the Middle Ages, but going to the Getty Villa does not approximate the feeling of Greco-Roman times. Never once could I have imagined turning a corner to bump into Homer.

We were home by three. At which point, we ordered food and watched some more movies.

On Saturday, we went to the beach. It was the single requirement my sister had. We figured we’d spend the afternoon, but we laid out for about an hour before we got annoyed by the sand and packed it in. We intended to check out the aforemention Festival of Books on Sunday, and we woke up early specifically to do so, and then we looked at each other and pretty much defaulted to “Fuck it. Let’s stick around and watch House.”

Which is pretty much precisely all we did.

After reading Tod Goldberg’s summing up his experience, I can’t say it sounds like we missed all that much.

I think the weekend was just what I needed, though; the past two years were a bit of a whirlwind of a ride, and I bookended my Los Angeles experience with my sister–I drove out here with her to arrive, and then spent the weekend before I left with her, too. Which gives it a nice symmetry. Now, tomorrow, I get my students’ final papers, which means I’ll spend the weekend grading, and then Monday is the killer normalizing grading session where I go to a classroom and spend the entire day reading paper after paper after paper.

But hey, then I’m done.

It’s been a wild, grand ride, but I can’t say I’m sad to see it end.

Now I get to figure how I’ll spend my summer vacation.