Posted tagged ‘Icarus’

bits and pieces

April 12, 2019

When I stepped out of my house yesterday morning at 4:30 to let the dogs out, it was 74 degrees. By the end of the day the temperature had plummeted thirty degrees, with an overnight low forecasted at 33 degrees.

I could say “Don’t ever change, Kansas City!” Or I could say “Don’t ever change Kansas City!” Knowing the difference could save your life.*

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I received a rejection for my submitted story “Icarus” yesterday. I must confess that I was actually not disappointed by this. The publication was one I’d never heard of, and I suppose I was responding to a specific, themed call. But I’ve been thinking lately that I should maybe start aiming for more noted publications. Is this presumptuous? Arrogant? I’m not really sure what those publications are, though several of my writer friends list their credentials on their blogs, and they include some seemingly lofty bylines.

I also suspect that such “lofty” publications don’t need to resort to calls for submissions to attract quality work. In fact, I read a bit about the acceptance ethos at The Paris Review (quite legitimately lofty) and apparently they pretty much only take pieces that they have solicited. According to the article, they’d only accepted one over-the-transom submission in ten years! So far, that hasn’t happened to me. Still, just as with training for a marathon, you have to build a base.

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Here’s a random photo selection from my huge collection:

That’s my current truck, named The Prolechariot by my clever son. When I bought it, more than a decade ago, I had a contest (on my old blog, Roundrock Journal) and the winner would get a package of powdered sugar donuts. There were some good suggestions, but Prolechariot seemed to resonate best with me. The beast is now eleven years old, and I have yet to break 100,000 miles on it even though it takes me to and from Roundrock frequently.

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If you’re a follower of my Facebook page, you’ll know that I’ve been posting photos of various beers I have been drinking lately. One of those writer friends I mentioned has written a book called Stuff Every Beer Snob Should Know, which I’ve read cover to cover. I grew up in St. Louis and came of age in the days when you could cross the river to Illinois and buy beer at a fresh and foolish 19 years old. Thus I was raised on Anheuser-Busch products, or Big Bru as it and its kind are often called. Her book is beginning to wean me from this, and my nearly daily posts on Facebook are my attempts to show that I am making an effort.

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I’m a bachelor this weekend. My wife has taken a four-day trip to St. Louis to stay with our son and daughter-in-law (but no grands, yet). They’ll be doing a 5K at the botanical garden there. My own wild debauchery will likely include haunting the aisles of several used bookstores and maybe buying myself some shirts. Also, yard work. Such hedonism will likely exhaust me. And, of course, there are the dogs I must tend to.

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*Or this blog might.

whence good ideas?

December 10, 2018

In a past life I wrote a lot of copy for a woman who was publishing a magazine that focused on a lucrative but hitherto underserved market* of big spenders in my town. Her magazine was slick and successful, but her pockets were not deep enuf, and she had to walk away from the venture after two issues. (It was subsequently taken up by other publishers in town, including the local fish wrapper, and continues in various forms to this day.)

I had sustained my writing relationship with her for a while after when she took a job with a propane company, producing newsletters. (This was back in the days of print.) She and I developed a professional friendship that included a few business lunches and chatty phone calls. And one bit of wisdom I gleaned from this was her offhand comment once that the good ideas always come back. Her point was that if an idea keeps presenting itself to you, then it must be good in some way you don’t yet recognize and it is probably worth your pursuit.

And thus is the case with the latest story I’m working on: “Icarus.” A little sleuthing showed me that I had begun this story nearly four years ago, and while I continued to keep notes in the ensuing years and even made an ill-fortuned attempt at writing it (making it a running story, which didn’t have legs), I never achieved the critical mass to really get it underway. (Yeah, I just split an infinitive! Fight me!)

I guess for me, critical mass can be achieved in different ways. Sometimes just the accumulation of notes can be enuf to get me going. In the case of one story, “When We Were Young and Life Was Full in Us,” I had the story in mind but didn’t have some controlling feature I needed. It turned out that what I needed was the correct tone, and once I settled on that (playful innocence), the story flowed. More recently I spoke of my story “MTWTF” (still not found a home, alas) and how once I found the structure for telling the story — the passage of a work week — the story came forth easily.

So it seems with “Icarus.” It’s based on a colleague I knew back in my (dark, dismal) teaching days and a misstep he made. The story is as old as time, or at least as old as men and women have been pursuing relationships, and I saw early enuf how the tale of Icarus flying too close to the sun was apt as a metaphor for the man’s foible. But there was something missing that was keeping me from telling the tale.

Once again, tone to the rescue. I am now trying to tell this man’s (fictionalized, Greek-tragic) story from the point of view of a bemused best friend who tries to help his buddy understand the doom he is pursuing. I’ve made them teachers in an English department so I can toss in some clever words. I think it’s going to work this time.

Of course, half the tale is in the telling.** I know the plot; I can see the end (flames). But getting there is what I have to do. I am lucky to know that kind of tone I’m reaching for, and I think that will guide my word choices, my syntax, the birth of the metaphors, the flow of sentences, the congealing of paragraphs, and all of that.

So, I’m flying forward on what I hope are reliable wings with this story. (And I’m boasting perhaps too confidently, having only amassed a few hundred words so far.)

 

*Weddings

**A saying that I think I came up with on my own (though I am willing to concede that I read it somewhere and don’t recall)

Icarus

January 12, 2015

On the advice of several of you kind folk, I have stepped away from the Fathers and Sons stories for a while and begun my epic struggle with the unrelated story “Icarus” that I’ve mentioned here once or twice.

I’m not abandoning the Fathers and Sons stories. Over the weekend I tinkered with the two latest, shoring up this and that, finding stronger words, making ideas more clear. I think they’re in pretty good shape, and now I will let the collection simmer for a while. This seems to be an effective means of development for me. Thoughts will continue to come to me about them, thoughts that will sharpen and focus them. And I’ll probably drop in a few times just to put down whatever my latest brilliant thought is. If enuf critical mass develops, I may even start work on a totally new F&S story. (There are at least four more I must write.) If that happens, it will be a good thing; if it doesn’t, that won’t be bad either.

As for “Icarus” I feel as though I have made a good start on it. I worked on it for two hours on Saturday and wrote a whopping thirty-four words! I’m not being sarcastic. I think that was good.

I’d been making notes for this story on Google Docs (I think they call it Drive now.) I even wrote perhaps a thousand words of the story there. But it is evidently the wrong context for me. I look at the screen and the layout and all of that, and it isn’t conducive. I need Word (which I’m sure Microsoft is pleased about). I had intended to use Google Docs because I could access the story file from any online computer (read: at work) and be productive as inspiration struck. But I’ve found that I need the silence and solitude of my early morning sessions in my cozy writing room at home. That is the context I’ve created for my creativity. (I hope that doesn’t sound precious and self-indulgent; self knowledge is supposed to be a good thing.)

So I re-began “Icarus” over the weekend, in Word, not consulting the file of notes I have on Google Docs. I think (hope, wish, intend) I need a fresh start to the story. I think I started down the wrong road the first time, and I fear that if I go back even to peek at it, my thoughts will get stuck on that road. There are certainly parts I’ve already written that I’ll use in my new effort, but I’ll do so with a clean perspective.

Regardless, “Icarus” is going to be a tough story to write. (Hence the adjective “epic” above.) I’ll probably have to step away from it a few times as well.

Confounding all of my need to focus is this little matter:

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Little Ken is now at home with his Mom and Dad (and dog, Crusher) in their tiny apartment in Brooklyn. I’ve been subsisting on the photos my daughter posts online, marathon texting sessions, and a few wonderful Facetime meetings. My wife and I will be going to New York in early February so we can meet the little guy in person. (I may also run a half marathon while I’m there depending on the weather.) I don’t think Little Ken will be talking or crawling by then, but I’m certain he is about as clever as they come, and I won’t be surprised by anything.