Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: writing (page 4 of 4)

I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to post a blog from Leavey Library, here at school. I’ve posted from my office once or twice, but never from here. I come to the library fairly often before class–I like to arrive on campus early by at least an hour. Stop by the Writing 140 program office to pick up my mail, and then swing over here. Usually I read some magazines before class, or finish any last-minute preparation. I was going to read Wired today.

This is my last visit to the library. After I leave and go to class, I’ll probably never return. No reason to, really. No more classes.

In half an hour I’ll begin my final class at USC. Nothing to teach, of course; today is the day for the impromptu essay and students’ evaluations, and there’s nothing left to teach anyway.

It’s hard to teach writing, because often the most important aspect of strong writing is confidence, which you really can’t teach, anyway. Sure, talent is important, and craft, and work, and all the other stuff, but ultimately there’s that moment when you need to believe you’ve got something to say, and that singular self-belief is pretty much impossible to teach. Really, it shouldn’t be taught, anyway; that moment, that realization, has to come from within. It’s often less about inspiration than realization, and frequently, that realization is of the self.

Part of me correlates this idea with faith, which is why, I think, I favor more Eastern/esoteric spiritualities–they teach that true enlightenment comes from within. They don’t look to some barely famous rabbi for their salvation, nor place their entire faith and lives upon a myth. True faith, I think, is the kind of dirty that comes with real work–I think of Joseph Fiennes’ fingers in Shakespeare in Love. It’s certainly not easy.

Anyway, I’m off to say goodbye to my students, one last time. So far as they’re concerned, that’s all they wrote.

Caught this article on the New York Times site this morning. Seems to be a day or so old, and it’s supposed to be about a movie that takes place in academia, but the article seems to be about how strange it is for a fiction writer to work in Hollywood, and what a difficult time of it said fiction writer would have.

I actually get that, at least considering the author in question, one Mark Jude Poirier. I’ve never actually heard of Poirier, but he’s apparently got two short story collections and two novels under his belt, and he studied at both the University of Iowa and Johns Hopkins, both of which have renowned writing programs, though the article doesn’t mention what Poirier studied. It does mention what Poirier writes about, to some degree:

His published writing, which also includes a second story collection, “Unsung Heroes of American Industry” (2001), and a second novel, “Modern Ranch Living” (2004), is distinguished by good, dry jokes, a fine appreciation of messy families (he is one of 11 children), a tremendous affection for teenagers and losers, and a strange fascination with amusement-park rides. Only the last is missing from “Smart People.”

I could see why that might not work in a movie, or at least might become one of those pointless, “character-driven” pieces that inevitably come up for Oscars. Rafferty uses this dichotomy, though, to make some blanket statements:

But mostly nothing happens, except in the sense that novelists and short-story writers understand. For them moving a character from not knowing that he’s unhappy to sort of acknowledging it qualifies as a pretty momentous event.

And that may be why so few writers of fiction manage to succeed, or even to be minimally comfortable, in Hollywood. There was a time when the studios, hankering for prestige, would throw money at well-known literary figures and set them to work on projects to which their actual talents were almost risibly irrelevant: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Nathanael West, William Faulkner, Gore Vidal and Truman Capote, among others, all did their stints and went home, for the most part, baffled. (Playwrights, with their expertise in dramatic construction and ingrained audience-pleasing instincts, usually fared better.)

These days Hollywood — even “independent” Hollywood — doesn’t frequently come calling on novelists of any literary stature. John Sayles, who directs his own screenplays, has had a productive career, and Richard Price and Larry McMurtry get work too, but it’s a short list. Producers care less about prestige than about marketable stories, and what in the world do fiction writers know about stories?

The fact that “not knowing that he’s unhappy to sort of acknowledging it qualifies as a pretty momentous event” for many current writers of short stories and novels is I think, for the most part, why some many current short stories and novels suck worse than a gaping chest wound and are crappier than a sewage treatment facility.

I can’t argue with Rafferty’s list of writers of the golden age, nor with the quality of their output; I’ve often said that the best thing William Faulkner ever wrote was The Big Sleep, and the thing about it was that Ray Chandler had already done all the heavy lifting for him. Most successful novel adaptations weren’t written by their novelists; The Shawshank Redemption was written by Frank Darabont, and Jo Rowling hasn’t touched any of the Harry Potter scripts (well. Except to approve them). There are a few writers I can think of who do both successfully: Alex Garland (The Beach), David Benioff, and Neil Gaiman are, roughly, it, but the thing about them is that each seem to have an understanding that, for stories to work, something must happen and someone must change.

If nothing happens and nobody changes, is it really a story?

Or is it actually just a handful of competently composed sentences, told by idiots full of sound and fury, ultimately signifying nothing?

I’d argue most fiction is the latter, nowadays. Which I suppose makes Rafferty right, in his way, but for all the wrong reasons.

Class day. I’ve been trying to inspire students by empowering them; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. My prompt this time around uses Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking as an example of satire to examine the form’s efficacy in argument, commentary, and persuasion. Mostly, anyway. I mean, that’s the idea, at least. Really, the point of the prompt is the point of the class (and it’s very nearly the point of the movie): any intelligent person should be able to acknowledge every complex issue as beyond issues of ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ and realize that every argument has its counter.

Today, one of my students surprised me. We had a speaker-series evening this week, where a Democrat and a Republican were meant to discuss the mobilization of young voters but which actually became a debate about technology and its efficacy. Which wasn’t bad, exactly, but seemed to be the wrong issue. The Republican called this “Politics for the iPod Generation,” and effused about how great technology is. At one point, he mentioned Live-Aid and how excellent it was that it had increased awareness of how many people in the world were starving.

I wanted to get up and say, well, perhaps, but how many of them are now eating.

Because awareness is all well and good, but should not be confused with action.

One other thing I mentioned was this iPod thing; not everyone has one, certainly. USC is smack between Compton and Watts, in Los Angeles; we get reports from the Department of Public Safety everyday, concerning muggings and etc. And I asked how many people around us actually had iPods, or access to the technology.

And my student raised his hand and said, sure, but one might wonder whether those people vote, anyway.

And it stopped me. Brilliant.

It brings up whole other issues, of course, but that’s beside the point. I was just thrilled to catch them thinking (rather than, you know, sleeping, which has occurred a few times this semester, now).

One thing I’ve noticed is that I think some of these students feel like those people who don’t vote. They seem to continuously seek “the right answer,” while the whole point of the course is that there isn’t one; there’s only their answers. Their papers don’t depend on what they say but how they make their case.

I think they’re getting it.

Here’s hoping.

By the way, new pictures over at Imagery.

Come August, 16 students will begin to study for their PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Denver, out of some 200 who applied.

I will not be one of them, unfortunately. Got the letter yesterday.

Kind of odd, considering the last post. I don’t really believe in precognitive dreams, but I guess some things, you just kinda know.

On the plus side of things, I hand in my thesis today. So that’s okay.

Last night, I think I dreamt of Denver.

I’m not sure it was Denver, as I’ve never been to Denver, but I think it was my mental approximation.

The situation was this:

A coffeeshop/bar/deli. Not sure which, as I didn’t order anything. Could have been all of the above, in fact, for all I knew. And there was a person (I think a woman) at a table outside. And I spoke to her, and then she referred me to a ledger inside the shop itself. The ledger enumerated points of my life, mainly to do with graduate school, with commentary beside each one. Like, for example, the note under “Went to USC” was along the lines of “Dusting off the old diploma to . . .” etc. (the actual details of the dream, are, as is so often the case, lost to the kind of morning that will last all afternoon). But I woke up thinking about that ledger, and feeling judged. Feeling as though I came before a jury and was found wanting.

Which seemed as good a prompt as any to talk about Denver. Shows how much I want to go, I think. For various reasons.

Los Angeles has not agreed with me. I usually take pretty well to new places, and I dug LA for a while; I’m not sure when it lost its luster, but it since has. Which isn’t to say it’s been a terrible experience, and saying that I hate LA would probably overstate the case, but I really can’t wait to get the hell out of here. I was talking to my advisor and his wife about it on Friday night, and I think they got it; his wife mentioned the “hermetically sealed confines of people in their cars compartmentalizing their destinations” (pretty much verbatim), which may be partly it. Some of my friends have called me a city boy, which may be true, but calling Los Angeles a “city” stretches the word across too many miles to really have any meaning anymore. It’s a giant, smoggy sprawl full of vanity and car exhaust, and though I’ve made some wonderful friends, I’ve never considered friendship a function of geography, and more than I’ve thought writing might be.

So, Denver. First, the PhD. I realized I wanted to pursue one, because I definitely want to continue being a professor. I love teaching, and on a college level . . . yes, please. There aren’t many PhD programs; USC, UNLV, a couple places in the midwest, and Chicago, are the ones that stick out. And really; I’m done with LA, don’t want to do either Chicago or Las Vegas for the next five years, and the midwest doesn’t sound all that terrific. Denver has some really cool professors, namely Brian Kitely and Laird Hunt; the former is interested in story and its origin, while the latter has written some experimental noir books.

Story and noir? Um, yes. I want to found a new theory of literary criticism, in fact, and who doesn’t like good noir?

I had the same reaction to their names and concentrations as I had when I read that Marc Norman and Janet Fitch taught at USC. And that was enough for me.

Also, I think Denver will be a good balance between the urban life I love to immerse myself in and the natural life I continually seek. It was one of my favorite things about Jersey; smack between New York and Philadelphia, with millions of acres of the pine barrens in between. Between the tight-pack of Denver’s thriving downtown and its proximity to both the Rockies and Red Rocks, I think it will feel like a different version of home, which is pretty much what I’ve sought all my life; where I’m from, but a little different. As dynamic as New York but smaller, and without the brusk hustle.

Getting into DU, I’ll be a teaching assistant (awesome), which is actually a step down from what I’m doing now, technically, but that’s all right by me. And if I don’t get in; it’s not like I’m not qualified to do just about anything. I’m going to retake my personal training test this summer, maybe get into subbing again, and query some freelance stuff.

And then I’ll just reapply next year.

That’s always been the deciding point for me; is it something I’d want to do even if I didn’t have to? If I’d gotten a book deal two years ago, would I have finished my Master’s? I didn’t decide to go to USC until I realized the answer to that was an emphatic yes. And if I’d sold my novel last week, I would’ve used it to rent a house in Denver without a second thought.

So I’m a bit scared, but it’s nice to know that feeling comes from the fear that I won’t get into DU. That it won’t work out the way I want it to.

One thing I’ve learned so far, though, is that even when it doesn’t, it works out the way you need it to, and that’s all right by me.

Will Shetterly, whom I’ve mentioned before, wrote a novel called Dogland, semi-autobiographical in nature, about growing up at an amusement park. He’s posted the first chapter of a memoir, A Boy in Dogland, here.

You should check it out. It’s good.

I’ll probably write about finishing my thesis a few times, I’ve realized; “finishing” is, apparently, a process. A few weeks ago, I typed the final period, then sent it to my advisor. In the meantime, I started polishing/tightening myself, until I got a couple of notes from the man himself (he called it “brilliant,” for anyone curious. Coming from Sid Stebel, that’s high praise indeed).

He edited in WordPerfect, the comments of which are not compatible with Word, apparently. So I’ve been polishing blind to some degree.

Last night, I “finished” again; polishing and formatting done. Chapter headings where they ought to be, italics where I want them. Lots of scenes tightened or simply eradicated (I’ve no issues with red pens. Nor blue ones, for that matter); darlings not just killed but slaughtered, hacked up, shifted into Hefty bags, and dumped into the ocean (why yes, I have been watching Dexter. Why do you ask? It’s research for a future book).

I was going to use Lulu to upload it/bind it for handing in to my program, but Lulu apparently hates my fonts. Which is sad. So now I have to go to frickin’ Kinko’s or some shit to have it bound, and it’s going to cost an arm and a leg, neither of which I can exactly spare at this juncture.

I might get a couple copies made, too; I think it’s ready for submission.

Wish it luck.

I saw this Michael Bay commercial the other day (I’m sure it’s old, but whatever), and thought it needed to be included in some post at some point:

For a long enough while that I can no longer recall when it began, I’ve been reading lamentations about the current health of the short story, or, more accurately, the complete lack thereof. Seems a lot of people think it’s dying or already has done, that it’s gasping its final breaths and all that’s left is the death rattle. For example, this post on After the MFA (which further links back to a post on Galley Cat), about anonymous e-mailers who wrote to the latter site “asserting that the short story is, in fact, six feet under in their literary world. “Valid career” go the anonymous cries, as in you can’t have one writing short stories.”

I yet wonder about ‘valid careers’. Since when has writing ever been a valid career choice? It’s difficult, long, time-consuming, and quite possibly the least valued of the various media; people seem to think very little of dropping a hundred bucks on a single evening at the cinema (parking, ticket, popcorn, soda, etc.), but few of them seem interested in dropping $30 on a hardcover novel. Heck, even I rarely do (I buy from Amazon marketplace. You’re awesome, Amazon marketplace). Books very rarely sell more than a few thousand copies (with obvious notable exceptions, so put your hands down Messrs. Brown and King. You too, Jo Rowling); most sell substantially less. 15,000 or so is usually considered pretty successful. Meanwhile, the albums that top the Billboard charts often move more than 200 times that in a week.

And then AMFA offers a terrific suggestion for the reason: “Maybe it’s because all of our stories suck?”

Boyhow.

He asks readers when was the last time they read a story that blew their mind. I’m sure some people, like my colleague, the illustrious Mr. John Fox over at BookFox, could probably cite one off the top of his head, but I’m also certain most people wouldn’t be able to. Heck, I know I couldn’t. If I had to think of really recently, I’d probably re-peruse Gaiman’s Fragile Things. Beyond that? Besides Ray Chandler or Stephen King, I draw a blank.

This isn’t to say I haven’t skimmed issues of The New Yorker recently. In fact, one of the assignments in one of my classes with Shelly Lowenkopf required us to edit one of the stories contained therein; I chose one by a woman named Tessa Hadley, “Married Love”, and covered it with marks. I see on searching her name that she’s had three stories published in the magazine since Feb. 2007, and I say, “Really, New Yorker? Really?”

But this is the current way of the short story. This is the sort of fiction/voice students in MFA programs (and their faculties, too, for that matter) strive for. It’s tedious and homogenous at best, and just plain crap at worst.

It’s sad, because short stories are fun. Short stories can provide a venue for the kind of experiment one can’t sustain for the length of a novel. Two of the stories in my collection concern C. Auguste Dupin investigating the death of Edgar Allan Poe; I don’t think such a conceit could sustain a novel’s length (it’s arguably too ‘gimmicky’. Two novels whose titles I can’t recall tried it, in fact, albeit, from the reviews I read, unsuccessfully). Some of the stories were inspired from songs; certainly not a conceit for a novel.

(one reason I chose USC’s Master’s program was that its teachers were known for their novels, and not their short stories)

One other thing I think works against short stories is the way they’re published, i.e., pretty rarely and in obscure places. Because, seriously, who reads literary magazines except writers who are hoping to publish in them, and what sort of market is that? It’s not so much that the form is dead, perhaps more that its medium has changed; when most magazines’ content can be found online anyway, what’s the point of the newsstand? Why buy the newspaper when The New York Times is online, for free. And this isn’t an argument for buying the cow; this is a real question in terms of market and audience. As the aforementioned Mr. Lowenkopf noted in this blog post, “many individuals who like to think of themselves as writers have the singular goal of publication,” which is a bit backwards because publication is one of the slightest aspects of writing, and in the age of the Internet and POD, what’s ‘publication,’ anyway? Who’s the arbitrary arbiter of quality that decided Miranda July’s collection was worth so much attention last year (and whose mind did it blow, really)?

Last month’s issue of Wired featured a story on free (it’s free, here, in fact, which is fun). Short stories are, traditionally, a basically free medium; they have historically been published in magazines, so it’s almost bonus content. $5 pays for the whole magazine, of which the story is merely one feature.

Short stories won’t die, because writers will always write them, but I think the trend will be toward freedom.

When that comes to fruition, however, one thing to keep in mind: we as readers should demand awesome and never again settle for any damned less.

One of the biggest challenges that came with becoming a writing instructor was a rather silly one; figuring out what my students would call me. Technically, professorship is a tenure-track position; my contract will be up in two months, and because I will graduate in May, I’m fairly certain it’s not extendable. Even if I wanted to stick around for another year, I don’t think I’d be allowed.

It’s been a question since at least as far back as I was a substitute teacher for a simple reason: I’m not comfortable with Mr. Entrekin. It just doesn’t fit me as an appellation. My father won’t let anyone call him “Mr. Entrekin”; when someone tries, he informs him that was his father, who has long since passed away–they can call my dad ‘Steve.’ (That’s his name, after all. Calling him Doug would just be off-putting.) It’s not a simple last name, either: ENT-ruh-kin is not obvious on first reading (many go with en-TREK-in, which is just plain wrong).

When I was a sub, I solved the problem by letting the students call me “Mr. E”.

But that didn’t feel right for a college classroom.

Some of my colleagues just let their students call them by their first names. But there’s something– in my head, my students are paying as much for an experience as they are for the information. They are none of them older than 19, which puts me a solid decade ahead on the age scale, but more than that; I feel I’ve earned some degree of distinction, to distinguish myself from them. I don’t feel as though they are my peers; I feel, in fact, as though we are in a relationship very much related to a business transaction, providing a service to them as consumers.

The thing is, though, it rarely comes up. They rarely need to address me. Which is why, last semester, it became a running question, for a few weeks, until a solution presented itself when a student settled on a title.

He called me sensei.

And it just fit.

It was perfect. Because Bob Kennedy taught me as much about writing and thinking as he did about faith, and he did so by forcing me to learn it. My feelings about writing are intricately tied to my beliefs about faith and spirituality and life, as well.

Later during last semester, I received a few emails generated by the college database, which addressed me as ‘Professor Entrekin,’ and so validated that title, in a way; if USC recognized me as a professor, I had earned the right to let students call me one.

But that other title, that student-chosen title, the one that came from one pupil who knew nothing of my background . . . that fit. I am a guide moreso than I am a teacher; I am there less to teach or instruct them than I am to help them learn.

It’s a subtle distinction, perhaps, but I think they sense it.

Conferences today (I’m writing this from my office); USC’s Writing Program requires instructors to do one-on-one conferences with each student once per assignment, of which there are 5. I’m basically, then, the one professor my students really connect with to some real degree.

I like that. It opens it all up to remind everyone that my class isn’t about the room it’s in.

It’s hard, some days, to pinpoint what it’s really about; writing is hard to teach. I’m teaching freshman composition/rhetoric, and it’s exciting and challenging, but I also find it extraordinarily difficult to teach because it’s made me realize I haven’t a clue how I learned in the first place. I know I’m pretty good at it (some days better than others), but the how?

I was a sophomore in college when I took a seminar in theology with Robert Kennedy. We mainly watched videos during lectures, but the real meat of the class was our own thought-time; we began the course in Genesis, and each week we tackled something new (following Biblical chronology). I was, by then, already lapsed in both Christianity and Wicca, and just starting to explore Buddhism, which made Kennedy perhaps a perfect teacher at that point in my life; he’s a Jesuit priest ordained in the White Plum lineage of Zen, and he wrote a book called Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, concerning questions of where the two intersect.

We finished the Bible two weeks into the second semester. We still had four months to go, and so we moved on: Hobbes and Dante and Joyce (oh, my!). Yeah, James Joyce in a theology class.

The real thing I learned most was how connected everything is. We’d watch a lecture, after which I’d go across to the library, max out my library card with five books, read them, and then come up with a compelling argument. He didn’t teach us how to write our papers, how to analyze the texts, how to support our own arguments.

He only listened.

That first semester I pulled a 3.5 after starting with a couple C+s.

The second, I earned a 4. It’s the single college grade of which I’m most proud, because it really did reflect how much I learned.

But how to teach that?

I’m still learning. Some days I struggle with it. I challenge my students to be bold and to really own their own ideas. Some think I’m too harsh a grader, others feel they earned what they get.

The thing is, the writing process is hard to teach. I’ve been writing for fifteen years, and I’m still learning every day. In a goal-oriented society, it’s hard to really convey the idea that some processes won’t end until you’re dead (and then, who the hell knows? There’s probably even more after that fact). Some of my students note that they still have trouble with it, and each time they do so I smile and I say: “Welcome to writing. It doesn’t get easier, but sometimes you do get better.”

I was eleven years old when I read Stephen King’s Needful Things and realized I loved stories and wanted to tell them myself. That King’s work prompted the realization and that my parents were both pretty avid readers while I was growing up were probably the two reasons I actually thought writing was a pretty certainly viable career option, or could be. One of the stories in my collection is called “Deluded,” and part of the point of that story, at least to me (and I’m only one reader of it, so consider this one personal take) is that there is, sometimes, a fine line between faith and delusion. Delusion and certainty. And that’s okay; I grew up with the firm belief that I was going to become a great writer through careful work and a lot of discipline, and could achieve success by way of the sheer force of my will to write better. Not better than anyone else so much as better than I realized I could, every word down.

For many years growing up, however, I also thought I wanted to be a doctor. I studied hard and started college with a major in premedical biology. In my high school yearbook, my life’s goals were: “go to med school, be a doctor, write a book.” I remember telling my parents I would start a practice and then, at some point, when my book became a bestseller, take a few-years sabbatical to concentrate on writing.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think that idea of a sabbatical was key; I think I was subconsciously realizing that I wanted the safety to support the more risky profession.

By the time I was a junior, however, I’d realized I’m not a doctor, and that’s still the way I think of it. Because, you see, I don’t believe that training and education make someone a doctor; one of my best friends is a doctor (and a successful one, at that), and I think he was a doctor when we were undergrads and roommates. He had to learn the anatomy and the surgery and the general stuff, certainly, but I think ‘doctor’ was part of his core to start. Me, I don’t have the confidence, I realized. I don’t have the self-certainty to stick my fingers into someone’s body, nor even to cut it open in the first place. I realized this the month before I was to sign up for my MCATs, but am glad I did.

What that meant was, after college, I floundered a bit. I graduated with (nearly) two degrees (six credits shy of a second in natural science) and honors and etc., but I hadn’t sold my book. So I needed a job. I fell into temping pretty much by accident and lucked into commercial production via a cushy gig on Madison Avenue. But it didn’t suit me as medicine hadn’t; advertising didn’t resonate with me, and I have trouble doing things I don’t believe in or can’t stand behind.

September 11th kicked me in the pants to figure stuff out. I thought I would by moving back home, regrouping, maybe subbing and then becoming a high school teacher, so I could write in my off time. I got set back, however, and fell into a six-month depression from which I emerged with shoddy credit and little in the way of real prospects. I became a personal trainer for a while, and then finally got into subbing, which was fine for what it was, but I’ve never been about fine with what things are. I remember being at a shitty Christmas party thing, though, and I remember thinking how much more fun it would be if the company throwing it had actually produced a book instead (they sold security systems, from what I recall of it).

So I got it in my head to work for a publisher. I considered moving back to Manhattan, but then found a gig five minutes from my parents’ house, where I was living, as an assistant editor for a healthcare publishing company. Felt like a perfect fit.

It wasn’t. I was there nearly three years, but never loved it. I discovered I couldn’t put my heart into it, and my performance suffered.

That was when I settled on graduate school, which opened my life. Moreso: teaching.

I became an instructor via USC’s Writing Program, and the most important thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have to just be a writer anymore. I don’t have to try to rely on it for income; I can be a student, and an instructor, because I love to be both. It’s been a real relief, and oddly, it’s freed me to become a better writer than I realized I could be; this latest draft of my novel finally feels like the one, and I think it feels that way because I stopped worrying so fucking much about selling it or succeeding with it and just concentrated on telling that story as best I could.

Being a writer is probably a good gig, but I’m having much more fun just being someone who writes.

That’s the title of the only course I’m currently taking. It’s all about targeting to audiences, marketing, and branding. We only meet one weekend per month, and we’ve only had two weekends so far. Today begins the third (class all day tomorrow).

I’ve been struggling so far with it, if only because I never really stopped to think about my audience; I’ve just figured that anyone who likes to read or likes stories will dig it, mostly. I knew there were some caveats: there’s a time machine in it, but I don’t think it’s really a science fiction novel. It doesn’t feel that way. I think I once read Patrick Nielsen Hayden talk about genre and say that he mainly thought it was a product of the writer’s mindset as the writer was composing. Being that he’s an editor at Tor, generally knows what he’s talking about, and was a large part of the reason I ended up in a graduate writing program, I’m compelled to listen to him, and my mindset was never that it was science fiction. No more than one might consider Jurassic Park or Timeline science fiction. Really, they’re high concept commercial technothrillers.

Or, simply, you know, fiction.

There’s an old argument that all fiction is fantasy, because it’s made up (though that seems to indicate that all memoirs are fantasies, too, lately). I don’t really agree or disagree, mainly because it’s never something I’ve cared much about. I just like good stories. I’m as likely to enjoy a good love story like Shakespeare in Love or The Time-Traveler’s Wife as a brilliant action flick like Mission: Impossible III.

Anyway, I did as best I could with the marketing plan and trying to determine who my target audience is, besides, simply, everyone. I’m pretty happy with the proposal.

But now I’ve got to go to class.

Video tomorrow, though.

Have a good one. Wish me luck.

I haven’t really mentioned it except to note that I finished the draft and was going to start blogging again. Which was true. The draft is, finally, finished, but still needs some polish. It clocked in at a little more than 109,000 words, but since I posted that I was finished, I went back over the beginning and cut roughly 4,000 of those, and that was only in the first hundred and some pages. There are still at least two hundred to go.

It surprised me it clocked in so long, as I excised a pretty major subplot. But I did so because I upped the limitations for the main characters, and I think that ultimately makes it work better. It was something several readers suggested when they read the first draft of it when I first finished it a little more than a year ago, and they were very much right.

As it stands so far, I’m extraordinarily proud of it, but I realized, as I was tightening, that I shouldn’t yet. Which is what I’m doing now; I’m taking a couple of weeks away from it. This weekend/week, I’ve had to participate in a normalizing grading session, and on Friday I’m supposed to come up with a comprehensive marketing plan for a business class I’m taking (one reason I buckled down to finish is that this is the book I’m using for class example, and I was having trouble marketing without actually having a, you know, product). Coming from a scientific/literary background and being rather deeply analytical in nature, I’m fascinated by branding/marketing but find it difficult to apply some of the concepts. I look at some leading, renowned marketers, like Seth Godin, for example, and I just have to scratch my head, because it feels like it all becomes about attention and curiosity, and very rarely does anyone mention the actual quality of the product. It’s extraordinarily difficult for me to come to terms with the idea that the quality of something has absolutely nothing to do with its ability to find its audience, even though this is evident time and time again (Spiderman 3, for example).

I’m leaning toward a new title, too: The Prodigal Hour. It’s a phrase that came in a flash while I was at work one day, and it’s perhaps the one moment that felt most powerful with the book’s so-far best draft. This is the one that went farther than the others, and I feel like it’s the one where my skill as a writer finally matched up with my talent as a storyteller.

I’m going to try to finish a novel/la (I’m not sure which it is, yet) in the next few weeks, then finish the manuscript and start submitting it.

If you came here from my homepage, you probably noticed the “media” link.

My interests have always ranged pretty much all over the place; being an English lit major with a second major in science was no accident. I chose a Jesuit college not just because they offered me the most money but also because their approach to education seemed so attractive; their liberal arts sounded intensely liberal, and not just in a “versus conservative” sense. My theology class was one of the most formative of my life, and one of the things it taught me was not only to be open to all ideas but also to explore them. I took that philosophy deeply to heart, and my background reflects that; I took a job in commercial production after I graduated, then became a personal trainer and a subsitute teacher, and then an editor for a clinical psychiatric nursing journal.

One of the things people most often note about my collection is that it’s very diverse. I entered Writer’s Digest‘s self-published book of the year contest last year, and one of the judges commented that the collection is basically all over the place (more on that later). He (or she) was right. I’ve never been happy with one genre, or one subject, or one anything, mostly.

And lately, I haven’t been satisfied with one medium to work with.

Which was why, when I created the account for this blog, I also created this one I decided to name Imagery. Because I’ve gotten, lately, into photography, and I think I also want to create short films (I never stopped being a commercial producer, really), not to mention commercials for my books. I did want to keep the two separate (I won’t post photography/videos here, for the most part, or at least not mine), but also concurrent.

So long story short, this will be my main blog, but I plan to post daily to either one or the other (if not both).

I posted the first picture today. You can click that link up above to check it out. It seemed a propos for this week, and resonant with my current mindset.

I’ve been reading John Scalzi’s blog for a while now, though not nearly as long as it has, apparently, existed. I first learned of it last year or so, in, I believe, an issue of Wired. Scalzi is a science fiction writer whose books I’ll admit I’ve not read; I really only know about (and enjoy) his blog.

Today, he posted about his thoughts on blogs and bookselling. Scalzi is a blogger who blogged before ‘blogging’ actually existed as a word (I believe the word dates back to around 2001. Neil Gaiman is another); which, coincidentally, was before Scalzi actually had anything to sell. Nowadays he’s a multiple nominee for multiple awards (and has won several, including one for best new writer), but I loved his last paragraph:

“Personally I think people think about all this crap too hard. The reason to do a blog is because you want to. If you do it for any other reason, people will be able to tell, and it’s probably going to fall on its ass. The reason I think Whatever does well is because I like doing it, and I’ve liked doing it all the time I’ve done it. Simple enough.”

That’s why you’re here, actually. I haven’t talked about it much, but by summer of last year, I’d basically had a MyMeltdown; blogging on MySpace had become akin to my years in corporate America, or perhaps more accurately, my years temping. The site seemed to have become about either bashing or the relentless pursuit of more popularity. When I got the letter accepting me into my lectureship, I realized that I needed to learn how to reconcile my teaching life with my writing life. I realized I’d be standing, soon, before a group of students and attempting to play a very particular role, and I wished not to deviate from it. I didn’t want them to think of me as pretty much anything besides their professor, because I never did until I was well out of college.

The other thing I’ve already alluded to; Rupert Murdoch’s already bulky pockets. For my second assignment last semester, I guided my students through a prompt on journalistic integrity; what does it mean, who has it and how did they earn it, and can blogging fill the same role. Many explored the idea of conglomeration; that having a certain company behind you can help your credibility, but it also creates problems if it’s the wrong company, or if said company is concerned almost solely with ratings, as many seemed to be. Most noted that they didn’t believe anything they saw on Fox News.

That assignment helped prompt my decision to start this up. I learned as much through that assignment as they did. And now, it’s good to be back. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t realized what I had until it was gone so much as I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I came back.

Thans for coming back with me. I missed you.

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