Archive for the ‘Humble efforts’ category

today is 6MAR18

March 6, 2018

As you probably already know, today is the birthday of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate and perhaps the best-known practitioner of magical realism. While there has been some backlash against magical realism in recent years, the achievements that were made by Garcia Marquez are undeniable. I’ve read some of his works, including A Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera (twice) plus some shorter works.

The company where I sell my labor is international, and we were recently acquired by (or merged with — depends on who is talking) another international company, expanding my exposure to the world. I have daily interactions with people in India, for example. And this is why I wrote the date in the headline as I did. My company has asked us to use this international standard for writing dates, and I have no problem with it. Thus not an affectation.

The Magnolia Review, with my story “Fire Sermon,” came out today as well. The issue is not online, nor it is in print. It is only available to subscribers in PDF form, though I was given a copy by email to see my story and feel the warmth of pride and a kind of achievement of my own. The link is only to the cover art and the table of contents. Here is a link to the issue where you can read my story (if you want). This was their fire issue. Not only is my story, “Fire Sermon,” in it, but there are stories titled “Fire Pit,” “Dustoff under Fire,” and “A Fire in the Neighborhood,” as well as the poems “The Burn,” “Night Fire,” “Beautiful Fire,” “The Fire Chief’s Son’s Sensory Memories,” “Fire Chasers,” “Orange Flame,” “The Fire Triangle Fuel,” “The Fire Triangle Heat,” “Chicago Fire,” “October Fire,” “Feeling the Fire Nearby,” “Old Flame Burning Forest,” “Cotton House Fire,” and even “Prometheus.” There is also a piece of art in the issue named “The Fire That Night.”

There is a single sentence missing from my story. I don’t know if the editor cut it deliberately or not, and it doesn’t affect the flow or “meaning” of the story much, so I’m not going to sweat it. I haven’t read all of the contributors yet (I sometimes do that when my story mingles with others like this), but I intend to read the fiction at the very least.

Advertisements

a necessary corollary

January 13, 2018

A necessary corollary to the ambitious sentiments in my earlier post is that now on my weekend mornings, I must actually do the heavy lifting of creative writing. I can no longer “research” during this time but must leave that for the weekdays and reserve this time for entering the semi-mystical mental space of my creative genius.

“Fire Sermon” finds a home

January 11, 2018

My short story “Fire Sermon” has been accepted for publication in The Magnolia Review. (This is the story I’d said in a recent post that I had considered submitting to this very magazine and then found that I already had!) I had answered a call for submissions on the theme of “fire,” which is significant in the story (as you can probably guess from the title), but it was also a publication that wanted all author-identifying information stripped from the submission. That was how I discovered that I’d already submitted there; I happened to have a sanitized version of the story on my desktop and began to wonder why. So I checked my submission log and made the discovery. (I am always nervous when I have to submit something with the identifying information removed. I fear that the link will be lost and my work won’t get published as a result. One of my very early published stories went something like this. The editor had lost the story document itself and wrote me asking that I send it again. He said he was lucky that he was still able to find my original email!)

I’ve written about this story several times in the last year. It has two characters (and one cabin) in it that do appear in the One-Match Fire novel, but the story isn’t part of that collection. Actually, as I’ve also said, I am beginning work on another collection of these stories that would be called Nature Always Wins.

I understand that The Magnolia Review comes out twice a year, online. I’m not sure when the issue with my story appears , but I have to get some documentation back to the editor before the end of this month. I’m unclear whether the edition will be accessible to everyone online or if you must have a subscription. (Past issues are accessible.) I’ll be sure to post the link when the issue comes up if it’s available.

Pretty good start for the new year.

 

the unbearable creativity of distance

November 27, 2017

Depending on when you are reading this, I may be several miles above the planet, winging my way home from Seattle. My visit was circumscribed by the needs (demands?) of a fussy almost two-year-old, so I didn’t do much in the way of sight seeing or touristy stuff. (Nor did I go running, though had I wanted, it happened that the Seattle Marathon took place while I was in town. The day was filled with ominous clouds and frequent rain and plummeting temperatures, but despite such delightful conditions, I could not have done anything respectable with that distance right now.)

I did, however, manage to finish two stories. (I am as amazed as you are!) The first is the story I’d mentioned recently called “Forest Succession.” I’ve already sent it to a trusted reader, and I’m feeling good about it. It is not part of the One-Match Fire novel, but it does deal with many of the characters in there, though much later than the time period the novel covers. (I have a vague notion of writing a sequel to that collection.)

The second is a wholly new story that I’m calling “The Kick” and that is unrelated to anything I’ve written, though it is about running, sort of. I’ve often growled at the word count limit of many publications. A thousand words just doesn’t seem enuf to tell a solid story; the shortest of mine start at more than twice that number. Yet “The Kick” comes in at just over one thousand words, so maybe I finally have a contender. It’s only a first draft, of course, so it is likely to change.

I didn’t have much trouble adjusting to the two-hour time difference in Seattle (though the evenings were tough). Since I am naturally an early riser, I had no trouble with that part of the day; I actually had to sleep in. And since the household was quiet in the early hours, and since I had copious amounts of iced tea (unsweetened, of course), I found myself before my laptop with my ideas in my head, and the words flowed.

So this leaves me with the question, do I need to travel long distances and be in unfamiliar places in order to write? Does it do something to stimulate my creative ferment?

writing is hard work

September 14, 2017

Not hard like farming or construction or breaking rocks or futures trading or writing poetry or countless other truly hard things are, but hard work in its own way.

I’m in New York right now, getting acquainted with my new grandbabies and trying to peck out a few words on my latest One-Match Fire story. (Once I have this one done and consolidated with the others, I’ll consider the novel finished and begin sending it out again.) My daughter’s household rises late in comparison to how I now live, so I was able to rise early on my first day here (despite sleeping in for an hour later than my usual time, though in retrospect, my actual usual time according to my body clock given the time zone change) and sit in the quiet darkness before my laptop, tapping away at the keys to spin gold from dross.

Or at least attempting to. The words come slowly. And I really need to get into the tone of the story I’m working on before the words will come at all, which means I need to re-read it from the beginning. Which in turn means that I need to revise it as I read it, perfecting this or that word choice, chopping or lengthening any given sentence, crafting the perfect metaphor, and on. So by the time I get to where I’d left the story my last writing session, enuf time has passed that the sleepy household begins rousing. Just as the words begin to flow, the solitude begins to end.

As problems go, it’s not so bad. As work goes, it’s not so hard. My visit here is intended to be a help to my daughter: rocking or changing either or both of the twins, playing with their older brother, and generally doing whatever I can to lighten her load. So it’s not like I begrudge the interruption in the writing; that’s not why I’m here.

But if I can get a few words in as well, I’ll be pleased.

(By the way, the story has a couple of flashbacks in it. I know this device is not currently in vogue, but I don’t care!)

wistfulness

June 28, 2017

I had a wistful moment yesterday morning.

I discussed at some length in my last post about the journal that required printed submissions sent via snail mail and how I was going to do that with one of my stories, even though it seems so 20th Century.

Putting the document in order and printing it, and then writing an actual letter, wasn’t nearly as cumbersome as I had imagined it to be. I had the document in hand easily enuf and just had to search through the junk in the basement for an old fashioned manila envelope to complete the process.

So yesterday morning, I detoured on my way to work in the pre-dawn hours to the local Post Office to drop the manila envelope with my story in it in a mailbox, where it would be picked up and eventually delivered to a great southern city where it would be considered for the publication.

And as I drove away from the Post Office I recalled the very first time I submitted a story to a journal, more than thirty years ago. I can still feel the I-don’t-know-what that I felt then. The feeling that I was doing something wholly unique to me, wholly outside of my life experience and expectation. Something for myself, by myself. Something hopeful and ambitious and striving. Embarking on my writing career.

When I posted my submission yesterday, those same feeling returned. It was odd and satisfying. I enjoyed the feeling.

That story I submitted thirty years ago was not accepted. It never found a home, though I think it was a pretty good first effort. (I haven’t read it in years.) Perhaps my submission yesterday will have a better fate, but it’s already provided me with a lot of satisfaction, recalling those early sentiments as it has.

a couple of things

June 12, 2017

I mentioned sometime back on this humble blog that I had snuck the word “enuf” into my One-Match Fire story “where late the sweet birds sang” and so was proud to be doing my part to evolve the language in print, in the Selected Places anthology. And I think I also mentioned that I felt I ought to read all of the stories in the anthology. Thus the other day I took down the anthology from the shelf by my desk to begin reading it. But first I wanted to see that word “enuf” in print. So I went to my story in search of it. And I couldn’t find it.

The editor, apparently, didn’t think it was an appropriate neologism to include in her collection. Then I began to wonder what else she might have excised. I started reading the story side-by-side with the file for it on my laptop. And in nearly every paragraph I found differences, mostly in the cases of verbs that were less “powerful” than the ones I’d written. But there was a whole paragraph of nice descriptive detail (the smell of a forest in November) that was gone.

I acknowledge that an editor can do whatever she wants with a story, but generally if it’s something drastic (such as this) then the writer gets a chance to review the changes and even withdraw the story if it’s too much. I was surprised that I hadn’t been given the chance.

It was only when I came upon the name of the dog that I began to understand what I was seeing. I had originally named the dog Jack (which was a name I was considering for my own dog, Flike), but a subsequent story in the cycle included the dog, Jack, as well as characters named Joe, Jon, and Jerry. A friend who read that story commented on the clumsiness of the names, and my wife tried to figure out what great literary shenanigans I was up to with them. So, Jerry became Lee and Jack (the dog) became Buddy.

But obviously this change had happened after I had submitted the draft of the story to the anthology. And then I realized that all of the discrepancies between my draft and the one in print were likely due to revisions I had made to the story subsequent to its submission. I found the original email when I had sent the story, and attached was the draft of the story at the time. And everything lined up. Mystery resolved. Still, “enuf” didn’t make it into print.

__________

I received an email recently from the editor of If and Only If Journal saying that the publication had suffered an unexpected hiatus but that it was going to begin publication again after all. This journal had accepted my submission of “Travel Light” a long time ago. “Travel Light” first appeared in Penduline Press, but If and Only If was looking for such stories and would accept reprints. Thus my story would find a second home. But I hadn’t heard from the editor and the journal online hadn’t posted any news or updates. I assumed that though it was a valiant effort, it had folded as many lit journals do. But then came the surprising good news, reaching my inbox while I was out at my little cabin for the weekend where I am off the grid. Thus I didn’t learn of the email until I got home.