Archives for posts with tag: 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

This novel has the slow steady pace of country life:

Drury

A few big events puncture the narrative but mostly you get more than three hundred pages of small-town life. The sheriff and his deputies. Some townie lowlifes. A few good people trying to make a respectable living. It’s a good book. Maybe you’ve heard of it and passed it over. Maybe this is the first. Don’t pass it up. It’s a nice summer read.

I happened to read half of this book in the north-eastern corner of Iowa where this book seems to be set. Maybe that’s one reason I felt such comfort settling into this weighty novel. Tom Drury never explicitly places a pin in a map but he leaves some strong clues. The nearby Minnesota border. The long stretches of corn and gravel between towns.

This part of the country is beautiful. Perhaps most beautiful to those raised here. Even those of us who grew up in town and never lived the hard-working farm life, feel the pull of those fields and that horizon line. The comfort and awe of seeing weather work its way across the land. A thunderhead building and bubbling up lightening.

The wife and the poodle watch a summer storm churn towards us:

summer15

Writing is built on reading. I better get back to it.

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.

Two nights ago, I shoveled the driveway in a hoodie. The dog bounded through the snow like a giddy-Minnesotan-antelope. The wife grilled pork chops. We were full of hope. The combination of our deep snow pack, the warm air, and the poodle’s need for a haircut led to this situation:

snowpoodle

Worth it.

This morning, we woke to more than ten inches of fresh snow. Heavy snow. Snow that knocked out power to thousands of Minneapolis homes. Our hearts broke. The weather man’s advice for the coming weeks?

“Abandon all hope.” Seriously, he said that:

weather

I blame this weather, this lack of hope, for my inability to write. The bleakness of each day has sucked away my focus, my ability to string words together. Yes, that’s it. I’ll blame the weather. If you’ve noticed that this blog is suffering, blame the weather.

I do.

Daily Prompt.

Minneapolis is full of hipsters. Uptown in particular. Tattoos and skinny jeans abound. Boys with beards ride bikes on our major roads even in the depths of winter. There is a smell that follows behind some of them. Less cigarette smoke, more unwashed hat.

Since we bought a house outside of Uptown, since we grew up a little, I forgot how it felt to be among these people. One sunny afternoon back, I felt uncool in all the ways. Hipster girls with bouffant dues looked at me like the fat kid in middle school. Suburb boys glazed over us like suburb boys do. Maybe I over read it all. After a beer and a half, it didn’t matter.

pats

I watched a man older than my father but younger than my grandfather walk to the bathroom. The man was short but sturdy. The kind of man who may have been a farmer. Or maybe his father was a farmer or his father’s father, just like the rest of us. The bathrooms beside the vintage skee-ball machines were labeled “Anna” and “Otto”. He looked at Otto at walked to Anna. Looking back and forth he paused. He chose Anna.

Atta, boy, I thought.

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.

One extra joy of being married to a fiction writer is you inherit their bookshelf. That’s how I came upon this gem:

that night

The novel, as the title suggests, is grounded in one summer night . One fight between teenage boys and middle-aged fathers. It’s the story of a neighborhood, of young love and youth, of childhood, of summer. It’s really beautiful, as simple as that. From the sentences to the larger structure, I swooned.

As I sit back and think about this, I’m struggling with how to describe this book without the use of hand gestures. I want to tell you how the narrative wraps around this center, swooping from days before the event to years later but always remaining grounded. You don’t often see a novel’s structure so artfully crafted. Such large swings made with such a deft hand. It’s really a joy to encounter.

Let’s try this – bear with me now. The narrative reminds me of the Army’s tents in Kuwait:

tent2

See how the tie-down straps leave circles and arches on the canvas? When a sandstorm rolls in the ties flail in the wind and beat themselves against the canvas. That isn’t just a line in the dust. Those arcs are forever etched into canvas. The ties have left their mark. That’s exactly how I felt the narrative worked. Give it a read and you’ll see what I mean.

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.

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