Archives for category: Writing

I’m excited to share that I have piece up at the Kenyon Review online (and my face on the homepage!)

I am unspeakably honored to be included.

Kenyon

 

Give it a read if you have a few minutes.

 

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My wife left for a meditation retreat yesterday. I thought this would be a great chance for to me to really focus. No sweet face distracting me from the task at hand. No temptation to conjole her into a happy hour with me. Time to buckle down! Or not… I miss her and writing is hard.

Thus far then most productive things done include: watching three episodes of The Americans, cleaning the outside of our windows (which is, by the way, the most satisfying thing to do on a sunny afternoon when writing is impossible) and purchasing crossfit shoes.

I’m sitting down now to try again. This kind of counts right? A little blog to get the juices flowing. I’m putting words together to form a sentence. Maybe not for the sake of my project but still it’s a start.

Even the poodle knows I’m full of shit:

poodle-sticking out

I’ve taken three weeks off work (unpaid) thanks to a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant. One of the best and most unexpected things about Minnesota is how supportive it can be of artists. Who knew? I just came here to get an MFA and find a wife. The grant is just icing on the cake.

Anyways, like a said, trying to write a book. I thought it might be good for me to have a little accountability. Thus, I’m going to try to write a little blurb here – if you’ll be kind enough to indulge me – every day or every other day, most days let’s say. Ok deal, most days I’ll check in. Since this is day two I’ll catch you up.

Day One :

I managed to make word inaccessible in on my computer. Yeah. Seriously. I don’t know. Let’s call it self-sabotage. Let’s call it idiocy. Thank goodness for the folks at Best Buy who promised to fix it overnight.

In the meantime, the poodle and I read in the sun:

poodle_summer15

Day Two:

Computer is back. Great. Now I have to write. FUCK. Ok, that’s ok. I have a degree in this. It’s what I supposedly like to do. Writing is fun. Writing can be fun. Writing isn’t so bad. Oh I should mention I’m also trying to get to my new crossfit gym five days a week during this three week period. Is it avoidance or does it add structure to the day. I’m not sure yet.

We can talk about that tomorrow. Thanks, as always, for listening, sweet blog-friends.

A piece of mine was accepted by The Iowa Review. THE Iowa Review.

bettercover

We arrived home today – after week long Midwest holiday-adventure of 1400 miles and two extended families – to a pile of bills and circular adds and holiday cards and two beautiful contributor copies of the Winter 13/14 issue of The Iowa Review. I felt humbled. And energized.

Give my little essay a read. Buy the issue. Pick it up in a bookstore. Steal your teacher’s copy. Whatever.

This weekend I’m attending the Pat Tillman Foundation’s Leadership Summit. If you haven’t heard of this group look it up it’s kind of amazing.

The panel I attended this morning was titled “Creative Journey: Telling Your Story After War”. While I was stoked to hear these writers and journalists speak, I couldn’t help but wonder what the rest of the room thought. These kids are studying medicine and law and business. What do they care about writing?

Yet they seem to care or at least they pretend quite well:

image

And I hope they do. Seriously. This is a good place to start. More though, I am reminded that I need to keep writing (or start again). I know I can do better than platitudes. I know that I love nonfiction and particularly beautiful nonfiction that doesn’t rely on action to sustain narrative. And I want to sustain that idea – defend nonfiction’s honor, as it were.  I think I forgot that for a bit.

All I have to do now is figure out how to get back on the wagon.

I am reading The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin.

the-orchardist_custom-656a15382b33928787a0fbf6185955492b13845f-s6-c10

The book has received a fair amount of critical and popular praise. Thus far, I like it. Some history, some love, some violence, some beauty, some isolation. All good things made better by combination. I’ll let you know the final verdict when I’m done reading.

I’m struggling now with trying to read without the MFA voice chattering in my year. Maybe you know that voice. The one that says, “That comma doesn’t belong. I don’t trust that narrator. That character is pretty flat.” Yeah she’s annoying, I know. Mostly I can ignore her, but not always.

Early in The Orchardist two new characters are introduced– Jane and Della. An introduction of new characters often throws that omniscient narrator’s voice into question. Here, let me show you a paragraph:

Sentence #1
“Jane disapproved of the communication between Della and the man, though she said nothing to Della about her behavior.”

Ok, I’ve found my footing. The narrator is close, in the character’s head. Even though Jane didn’t say anything we know of her disapproval. Cool, got it.

Sentence #2:
“ Perhaps Jane didn’t know about it, but that seemed unlikely, since she knew everything.”

WTF?! What do you mean she might not have known. You just said she disapproved. Not she might have disapproved if she’d known. Not that Della expected her to disapprove. What is going on here?! How am I supposed to understand the world if dear narrator doesn’t. Oh the horror!

Yeah, I told you, she’s annoying.

I’m still reading though. That seems like a good sign for the book and a better sign for overcoming the MFA. Excessive analysis cannot ruin my love for reading. Maybe it did for a bit but that voice won’t win every time.

I have a bit of a writing assignment at hand so I spent the morning cleaning. One simply cannot write amid such disorder. I tell myself that if I can just organize my desk and do the dishes and change that light bulb that went out last week then I’ll be able to write. Then I will write brilliance.

The poodle knows I’m full of shit and she does NOT trust the vacuum.

sceptical-poodle

 

The statistics tab is one of my favorite functions on wordpress. It’s like overhearing a fraction of a conversation. I can’t help my curiosity. Who are these people? What brings them to my little blog? Where do they live? Are they having a good day? How do they find me?

The more I’ve written, the less focused these statistics seem. For example, when I saw Will Ferrell’s movie The Campaign this summer I mentioned a few awkward moments. In particular, a brief nip slip, as the kids call it. That wasn’t the focus of the post but that has become the most common search term on my blog. Seriously, here are the stats from this morning:

Yeah, that’s right, some people out in the world associate my name with the phrase nip-slip. Not the Midwest. Not book reviews or writing. Not poodle love. Not the Army. Not even my obsession with the oddness of my neighborhood. Nope, just nip-slip.

Why are people searching for this so often? Ya know what? I don’t actually want to know.

A part of me wants to be annoyed. I’m more than one offhand comment about a single nipple. I am more than a brief review of a not too popular Will Ferrell movie. Really though, I’m happier than I should be that people are finding me somehow.

God, it’s true, I’m nerd.

When I sat down to write about my time in the Army I thought I understood memoirs and I knew I needed to read more books about war. I think/hope the best works about Iraq and Afganistan are yet to be written but Sebastian Junger’s War and David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers have set a high bar. I learned a lot from them but that’s another post.

Turns out I didn’t know as much about memoirs as I thought.

I know even less about the AK-47.

First of all, writing a book is hard. They are long and keeping track of characters is more complicated than you’d think. Second, and perhaps most obvious, straight chronology can be boring as shit. Today I had the kind of epiphany you can only have when you drink an iced Americano after not having caffeine for a week. Here it is: I have to start my story from the middle – a hook, if you will. Genius, right?! No, I know, but sometimes these ideas have to arise organically in order for me to understand them. Maybe that’s just me.

I’ve convinced the girlfriend to come over to WordPress.

You should visit her blog: http://andreauptmor.wordpress.com/

She’s smarter, funnier, kinder and prettier than me. She writes fiction (which you can find on her site) as well as her lovely little blog, it’s fucking brilliant. For reals.

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