Wednesday, August 29, 2012



 There's no accountin' for it, and that's a well-known fact. One man's trash is another man's treasure, one man's pizza is another man's poison, one man's woman is another woman's man, blah blah blah I can never remember stuff like this 'cuz my brain is always so crammed full with worms. What we're on here about is personal taste, particularly in humor. Why am I so enamored with silliness when other's may find it boring or even offensive? Like washing dog's balls. That one's probably beat to death but I just can't resist.

Well, my Mom was silly. She wasn't exactly pratfall silly but she did like to take the silly step, do a little dance, strike the goofy pose, make a funny face. It was ironic because she was quite a beauty. Ultimately anorexic thus skinny as a rail but curvy and buxom too especially in her younger days before two kids and being married to a bipolar golf addict wore her out. But even worn out, even in the days before she crawled into her bed for the last time, even when she really couldn't remember our names but could still respond to a cue, even then - ever the entertainer - she had a few silly moments.

When Dad was on a high (Mom called his moods "the red reds or the blue blues", meaning he was either ready to wring your neck or could do nothing but hang his head) he loved word play. Often what he thought was really funny was lost on my sister and only marginally entertaining to me, like "German Aliens" for Geraniums and "Nasty Russians" for Nasturtiums. Golf, which he proudly claimed as his true vocation vs. practicing law which was just a hobby, was not something he often joked about. But the language of golf was always on the tip of his tongue, for example if a family member passed a little gas he would always say "nice out!", which is a congratulatory phrase for a successful sand shot. Thus farting became sport at our household. Who wouldn't want to have a "nice out"? Especially when you pause to consider the alternative!

Which leads us inevitably to Scatology, a field of study that, while not found in most college course catalogs, is rich in history and tradition and is certainly deserving of academic discourse. Why was William S. Burroughs so preoccupied with pee pee and poo poo (or as number two was known to my sister and I, "boom booms")? Is it just something you think about when you're on the nod after a big dose of China White? Gee no wonder everybody says it's a high that's in a class by itself.

Personally I would rather drop a little ibuprofen and contemplate Boo's balls.

Hey HACK charted on Amazon the other day in the Satire category at #33! Humdiddy baby it's a pennant race!

Monday, August 20, 2012


An assignment: Read Train Dreams by Denis Johnson and write up response. OK! The most beautiful "child-raised-by-wolves" story I've ever read, like C. MacCarthy having a warm fuzzy moment waxing poetic without injuns stuffing testicles into the mouths of some half-wit cowboys or a crazed naked devil breaking necks and sodomizing babies, and I'm soothed by it all. Even by the little wolf-girl, poor thing, even though she is the baby of our hero Robert Grainier who howls at the moon, adopts dogs who may be humping or are being humped by wolves, and is just plain weird, even for a guy living in the Idaho panhandle in the 1920s, which so far as I can tell is completely fantastic for sheepherders, hikers, backpackers,fly fishermen and gentlemen ranchers who fly twin engine puddle jumpers down to Sun Valley. In the twenties it was a wild and rough place, a last vestige of the frontier, where "jigging" cows is "a natural thing". Gentle, loving...moo moo moo, baa baa baa.

Next assignment: Read Jesus' Son by same author Mr. Johnson, and...the writer is on drugs! Lots of drugs, makes HS Thompson in Vegas look like a boy scout outing. No more cute little wolf babies, no more quaint "fellers" playing horse and buggy or visions of Elvis on the bus. This is the hard stuff: drugged up bum thumbing around the interstate gets in horrific car wreck, and the bum with an unscathed infant survey the scene of blood blubbering victims and later, at the hospital, the crazed spine-tingling shrieks of the wife left living...this is drugs summoning the ghost of Burroughs, so far without the sex but I'm sure that will come later.

Jesus' Son is not bedtime reading. Train Dreams...well, it says right there: Dreams! Let 'em in! It's hard to believe these two stories came from the same brain.And I've only read one of the shorties. Steam happens fast!


Reading this stuff while trying to write your own stuff is like trying to play James Taylor with a Coltrane record blaring in the background or vice-verse. I am starting a new work: the story of Howard Brown, a 21st century tribute to Humpty Dumpty, all the horses, all the men, the king, the wall, scrambled or fried. But you can never sit down and start something thinking that you're gonna create something different, or new, or remarkably unique. Shit - even your memoir's been written, or at least lived in some fashion in some parallel universe some place! I feel like it makes my job as the writer a lot easier to know that I am probably paying homage to a half dozen and maybe several thousand writers who have written the same story. Whew. Pressure's off! Let 'er rip!

If you have yet to read the amazing true story of Melanie Mills and the truth is stranger than fiction "agent who lived the plot of my novel story", get thee here to the Huff Post. Every writer of every genre will get a kick out of this true story.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tal Morris - A Musician's Manifesto

The post below is from Tal Morris, one of the truly great and gifted musicians I have had the privilege of working with over the years. Tal's creds are long and impressive - when you read his manifesto you'll see why. Passion - for your art, for your business, for the environment, for a better world - isn't manufactured. It's not turned on and off. It can't be faked, copied, or learned. But it can be found. So read what Tal has to say. Then, if you haven't already, go find yours. 

Its simple, why am I playing with so and so? I love to play and perform. Why am I playing this style over that style? Because I love to play. That's it? That's it. I've stanked up the place with some of the the funkiest lords and divas out there, I've rocked with gods and bluesed with some true lifers, I fused and mused and jazzed it up with virtuosos who bury me in a flash, I have accompanied some of the worlds FINEST singers and relished the opportunity to support them and give energy and space for their vocal, emotional, and performance priorities. Why? BECAUSE I LOVE TO PLAY. Thats IT. Is that it? YES. I cant CHOOSE, its ALL MUSIC! Either you are true in your spirit and want to find that magic place where you are trying to channel the true source on your instrument and you are supremely connected to the vibe, your fellow musicians and your audience or you are lost in your own selfish ideas or are timid and scared to bring the fever. I've been guilty of both and regret any time spent there. I'll play in a coffee shop or an arena I don't give a fuck, every opportunity to connect to the muse is a gift and should be treated with reverence and mad desire. Life is short and I don't want to spend another minute giving in to the idea that an idea is not valid unless it provides income. Public sculpture is a great example, why do it? Its expensive, you can't charge admission, maybe you can photograph it and sell the images but in the end its there to provide vibe and dimension to your community. Music needs to be like that and I want to be in that world. Why? BECAUSE I LOVE TO PLAY!! Anyone have questions now? I just want to play my freaking guitar everyday, have fun, give the vibe and help bring everyone into that wonderful fountain of juice that is real music. You know it when you hear it, you feel it when its right and when you see it live you are transported to another place. Its awesome and I am humbled by all the greats legendary and local, young, and old who understand it, live it, and one day I hope to be in their company on a daily basis. Ok Im off the soap box, my apologies for the rant. I'm in a mood!!

Have a passion for writing? If you're ready to take it to the next level, you may want to consider a low-res MFA program. I just started one and, after the first residency, am very inspired and energized to improve my writing and storytelling. You can learn about the MFA residency experience right here in Limboland!

Have a manifesto, a rant, 350 pages of free verse? Have a look around Limboland and if it feels like it would make a good home for your piece, let's get low!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Last Call for Litpalooza: It's a Wrap

The Summer Residency of the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pacific Lutheran University came to an official close today, and we were workshoppin' our asses 'til the very end, let me tell ya.

(I think I already told you that I missed my second workshop as a result of the large crevasses that have opened up in my brain and have been consuming entire mornings along with untethered pets, small children, trailer parks and the occasional baton twirler.)

Of course that wasn't the last time I fucked up during this wonderful college flashback. You've heard me frequently wonder aloud about what it was that possessed me to go tiptoeing through the academic tulips (trust me it was NOT so I could write this blog) and my consistent gaffes have only served to shine a brighter light on my ill-advised re-entry into this rare and tempered atmosphere.

That's not to say that it hasn't been fun (just to work a powerful double negative in before my writing begins to be scrutinized for such laziness). These last few days in particular have been full of communal silliness and laughter, with everybody, participants and faculty alike, blowing off the collective steam that's built up over the last long week. We've had jam sessions at the bar, from which I've steered clear since even 100% of my most intense concentration has not been enough to keep me from screwing up what I'm here for. There's been skits and other group merriment. There's also been the workshoppin, which lasted until noon today, more lectures and readings, and the selection of and introduction to our mentors, whom we will each be working with over the course of the year to fulfill our MFA responsibilities.  I'm pretty sure I listed those somewhat daunting responsibilities in the first post.

And now, post-haste I must be on my way. Should I chance upon some profound and conclusive summary to the residency experience that will aid in your assessment of whether or not such a program is the right scrip to improve your writing, you can trust I won't keep it a secret. Meanwhile I can only hope that those of you who are writers of fiction, poetry, non-fiction or hopefully some subversive genre-bending creation seek to improve your work by whatever means practical, affordable and eminently enjoyable! A low-res MFA program is certainly one way to go, and we'll be able to tell how well it works right here in Limboland! Where the men are lemurs and the sheep are wildebeests!

 HACK the novel is now available in all formats analog and digital on Amazon and Barnes & No-No.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Litpalooza MFA Diary: And Then Along Came Sam

View from my dorm room on PLU Campus
Sunday August 12, Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA.  

If you've been following along you know that this low-res MFA in Creative Writing program has exhausted my late-fifties ass (and this is my vacation!): craft talks at 8:30, workshop at 10:00, classes from 1:30 to 5:00, readings and more readings - even the kids here (several younger than mine) are getting kinda bleary-eyed. Even if the schedule consisted of nothing but gourmet food, gold-medal sex, a full menu of spa delights and a holodeck, after 5 or 6 days just about anybody would be exhausted.

As I reported a couple of days ago, we had our break, just in time. I spent Friday morning in Olympia Washington where it stills smells a bit beer skunky, hanging with one of my favorite all time people in the known universe, but after she left I was even blacker and bluer than I was before.

Not that today was any less enjoyable and enlightening than any of my other days as a recycled student. I skipped the morning talk, instead catching up and actually writing a few paragraphs that I read later in class, read a beautiful short story adapted from Native American legend entitled The Man Who Swam With The Beavers by Nancy Lord, made a request for next year's mentor (my "manager" in corporate-speak) and just generally got organized for the rest of the residency. In the morning workshop, true to form, I managed to open mouth insert foot early on by attempting to turn an essay on the exploits of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton in a a comic satire, which rather offended the author who honestly is in awe of the accomplishments of the esteemed explorer. I could hypothesize on why I am consistently compelled to open my big fat mouth but we don't want to go there. Not now, probably not ever.

Later we took a class on crafting the critical response paper - I think we're on the hook for 24 or those puppies between now and this time next year. It's different than your standard english lit paper in many ways, but mostly it's different because we are writers responding to the work of other writers - what works, what doesn't and why - rather than English students, critics or book clubbers. That class was followed by a continuation of the discussion we started yesterday around writing from an advocacy position, which, here in the Northwest, was focused primarily around environmental issues. Which reminds me...

If you're considering participating in a low-res MFA program, be mindful of the location of the program, because it's likely that the location will flavor the program to varying degrees. Here there's quite a bit of nature focus - nature poetry, nature non-fiction, nature in fiction etc. It's what you might expect in an area surrounded by volcanoes, the Cascades, the Olympics, the Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier etc. Urban programs may have a different thematic principle, but it's worth checking out to make sure you don't end up some place that doesn't fit.

Okay sorry about the pause for advice- though I guess that would be the type of observation that may be of some limited value versus all the other diary-like bullshit in these MFA posts.

When I started this post I was revved up because I had just come from a hilarious after dinner reading by Sam Ligon, which followed a hair-raising excerpt from an upcoming novel by Adrienne Harun. Both Adrienne and Sam read with frantic energy which for me was a welcome antithesis to the meandering, meditative poetry that has been so foreign to my frame of reference. In the end it was Sam's reading that renewed my confidence in my own madcap goofiness and the Yeung Lap Ming insanity that revs up my invention engine.

 Sam Ligon Sam Ligon:Talk about high energy wacky shit! Everybody in the hall was rolling in the aisles, Sam jabbing us with the funny knife and then twisting it and twisting it until we were all hyperventilating. He read what is becoming known as "short-shorts", an abbreviation of "short short stories". Sam offered up one short short, one "rant", and one "blurb", literally a send-up on the type of thing you might find written on the flap or in the first 10 pages of praise of the book you just bought (an irksome practice but, on the other hand, we will do whatever it takes to sell a book!). Each piece was a ten thousand degree blast; a steaming, screaming tea-kettle of insane images, from the Hunter S. Thompson cold remedy that consisted of bourbon, Robitussin, pound cake and a long list of various mind-altering substances (including Vicodin-laced pies and cobblers) to a rant on Exxon/Mobil (as told in a letter from a 12-year old girl) and The Blurb, which I couldn't possibly paraphrase.

I wish I had a Sam Ligon T-shirt, a bumper sticker, a coffee mug, a cap. It's rare that the general public, outside of the insulated academic cocoon in which the majority of the writers in this program either willingly or unwillingly operate, ever hear of any writer that isn't on the bestseller lists or being marketed by some major publisher.  At this moment Sam is getting an award for his editing contributions to The Georgia Review. How many of you have ever heard of The Georgia Review? (I take what I expect to be a dearth of comments on this post as validation of my suspicions). It's sad, but also likely that you won't be hearing about Sam Ligon, except from me, in your travels, unless of course you stay abreast of the happenings in literary academia.

For my reading nickel, Sam is the man! And also another reason why ye of writerly ambitions (Stan* when will the word "writerly" make it to the dictionary!? For God's sake, man, we can't be outlaws forever!) seriously consider a low-res MFA in creative writing program! Start now, before it's too late!

*Stan Rubin and sidekick Judith Kitchen are the co-directors of the very writerly Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA.

HACK is now available on Barnes & Noble and

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Litpalooza Takes a Break Just in Time (phew!)...

If I could fall asleep for more than an hour or two at a time I would stay asleep for days, maybe weeks, and wake up with a fresh mind and a body that just wouldn't quit, never to tire or grow confused, never to weaken and stumble, never again to moan deep and low with the goddamned motherfucking pain.

Today at around 2:30 PM something caught up with me. After a night where I slept sitting on the edge of the bed, too tired to remember to lie down, I stumbled to the 8:30 craft lecture already with the pain in my feet. I wanted desperately to feel Dinah and Freda's enthusiasm - their rants, raves and reflections against art, which didn't feel so much against art as with it. Looking at paintings and hearing the reactions of great poets read with the strength and humor of two beautiful writers and teachers should have been exhilarating, but I nodded in and out, shuffled through my papers, and tried to get my bearings for the day.

After, I rushed for coffee, all the while thinking that goddamnit I'm the customer here, the client, I am spending good money to participate in this program and I will NOT rush around like a twenty-something college student in fear of being late for class. I got my coffee and felt like dawdling but didn't, and instead got to my workshop - MY workshop - on time.

Getting workshopped was, as I so unwriterly observed when it was over, well worth the price of admission. (Odd how musician's talk about "bread" without compunction, but to the literary academic it feels like mere acknowledgment that there is such a thing as money is rather plebeian. But when it comes to sex...bring it on, baby!) Sitting around a table with writers, all of them infinitely accomplished and talented, and having everyone focus on YOUR work...well it's a privilege that is difficult to equal. I have so many terrific suggestions to improve the chapters we discussed that I don't know where to start and wonder if it would ever end. But, like all art, at some point you put down your instrument, you put down the paintbrush, you send off your final draft...or not, I suppose. You could just keep it a secret!

The workshop high was short-lived. At 12:45 I laid down just to give my eyes fifteen minutes of soothing darkness and 20 minutes later awoke as if someone had stuck chopsticks in both my ears and had vigorously stir fried my brains. I didn't want to go study the uses of time in story writing or my ideas for a composite novel or cycle of linked stories. Didn't wanna do it at all, and that's probably why at 2:30 my feet exploded with a pain like I haven't had in months, so intense that I couldn't even rest them on the floor. So I jacked up my dose and by the middle of the next class I could barely put a sentence together much less talk intelligently about composite novel construction. There I was, just pissin' away my investment in my post-retirement future all because of a little disturbance in the force.

And thus a break. Our next class isn't until 3:00 PM tomorrow afternoon, so I have been holed up in my room at my computer doing the bookselling work that I've had so much fun avoiding since I got here. Not an effective antidote to exhaustion for sure but going out on the town wasn't likely to do it either.

So now this big fat blabbinator is shuttin' down,  and these doggies are gonna curl up in that beddy-bye with the infinite comfort of knowing that there is no alarm in their immediate future and the sun will be high when they walk again.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Palooka in Litpaloozaville: Day 4 Could Rhyme With...

...and of course it does but let's not go mistaking sheer mental exhaustion for boredom!

On thing this program does not allow time for is blogging, though if the program designers were truly on top of it they would cuz it's a good way to kinda solidify the veritable shitload of information that's been shoveled onto your head in a day and sort it out. But after all the classes, lectures, readings, and homework it's not like there's a few hours left to surf, blog, email, and do all those things many of us spend most of our waking lives doing. And it all starts over the next day...

Today it started early. At 5:30 this morning some walleyed wooden-toothed carney fired up some heinous noisemaker like a generator only louder down in the parking lot 8 floors below my cell. My windows were open but not for long. After I buried my head in the limp university dorm-issue pillows I slept til 7.  Before the 8:30 lecture I tired to catch up on all the stuff I was supposed to be prepared for but didn't get too far.

Then it was time for a talk on  "Postulation and Belief: One Writer's Assumption." Way too abstract for 8:30 in the morning, and of course rife with poetry. (I have since taken a vow to forgo all poetry until 3PM in the afternoon on rainy days, 5 on sunny ones.)  Pairing specific assumptions with specific poems that are physical representations of those assumptions, and why developing assumptions might be a very good habit for writer just isn't shit you wanna get involved with first thing in the morning any more than a 3000 decibel generator is a good wake up call.

At 10:00 we "workshop", which is the latest in popular literary program verbs. "Whatchya doin' Snookums?" "I'm workshoppin, can't ya tell?" When we workshop here we work the shop like a ZZ Top song: we read our workshoppers stuff and, rather than attempting to rip the writer a new one, we actually discuss what we like about the piece, and fortunately in a program at this level the writing is all very high quality (excepting mine) so it's not hard to find lots of things to like. We either read a novel excerpt or a short story, and, thanks to the gentle ministrations of our loving guides, we collectively work on helping the writer take the work where they want it to go. Except in my case, where chances are my fellow workshoppers will take the writer right out the door, plop him in a cab to the airport and send him home. (My work has yet to be workshopped - tomorrow is my big day. All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go, standin' here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say goodbye but the dawn is breakin it's early morn taxi's waiting he's blowin his horn so go outside and tell that bastard to shut the up!

After a hard mornin' of some heavy workshoppin' it's time for lunch, which means grab a sandwich and head back to the room and try and cram so you're prepared for the afternoon classes. Today there was a funk band in the quad trying to get people to dance instead of eat, which I hear is a responsible and popular substitute particularly when dancing to the classic 70's disco stuff. Even though it was high noon these guys were singin oh now it's ladie's night and the feelin's right so let's not have a bite go fly a kite. They also played a  Jame Brown medly to bewildered 20 somethings who as far as I could tell did not feel particularly good, nor was there any evidence of a brand new bag.

Ironically one of the afternoon classes was about the use of time in storytelling, which is something James Brown employed extensively especially in his later works like "Get up Offa That Thing" and "Say it Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)". We talked about fixed time, linear time (is it any surprise that this is the most common mode of time used in storytelling? Kinda goes with that hackneyed notion a story should have a beginning, middle and end...), but there is also "time remembered" or in my case "time I done forgot"). Tomorrow, which from a linear perspective is expected to happen at some point after now, we will talk about time again. So stay tuned!

That wasn't all we did today. We also talked about the "composite novel" or a "story cycle", but I just can't  blog it out of me tonight. It's all the poetry, you see. Poh-eh-tree, not good for me.

Oh gee.

Woe is me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Litpalooza in Limboland: Double Whammy Days 2 & 3

Day 3: Call it what you will I honestly don't give a rat's ass. Ultimately it's words, arranged in a particular fashion, with the intent to educate, entertain, enlighten, or otherwise distract us from other cares, or conversely bring those cares into stark focus. Does it matter if it's called fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, historical fiction or non-fiction? Just the label -  non-fiction - is fundamentally inaccurate  I doubt whether it's possible for anything to be written without the author making something up. I, for one, do not care what you call it, any more than I care if a certain type of music is labeled jazz, free jazz, modern jazz, jazz fusion, or Dixieland jazz. I don't care if the music is categorized at all, because it is, like words arranged in a particular fashion, simply notes and rhythms arranged a particular fashion.

(Non-sequinator: know the name of the guy with the missing eye and raging libido before signing up for one of these pow-wows.)

Of course labeling that particular fashion aka genre is necessary to a degree - I won't argue that. Information needs order. But to split hairs over what is non-fiction vs. creative non-fiction vs. fiction is classic mental masturbation. Fortunately at our workshop it is presented, if one listens closely, by an expert who might have had her tongue surgically attached to her cheek at a very young age. We belabor the argument just to illustrate it's ultimate absurdity. At least that's what I took from this morning's discussion. If I hadn't, I might have felt like it was a waste of time.


Our residency is blessed with the presence of the Victoria Williams of literature in the person of the lovely Ann Pancake. Her southern lyricism is as quirky as her name, and tonight she was one of our after dinner readers, very fitting since we had fried chicken and chocolate sundaes. A little girl in her latest novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been , makes a necklace from a mouse skull, which is what she read about, more or less, tonight. Everybody was laughing their brains out. Those Limbolanders that are following along on my MFA residency romp would, I'm positive, enjoy her Strange Weather...


What else today, besides the helpless frustration that accompanies a general internet outage causing the Big Fat Blogger to get a day behind in his reporting.

Well, as the days go, we start with the craft talk - today was the whole genre-bender discussion - followed by "workshop", where we collectively work on a story or piece of a novel from one of the program participants. I will say that the writing that I've seen so far has been consistently professional, and in most cases far more developed than mine. Of course there's always room for improvement, but it's been focused on story, not so much on the writing.

In the afternoon we have classes: today the nature writer Gary Ferguson led a discussion on...nature writing! It was excellent. And Rebecca McLanahan helped us work through "shifts" in story tone and structure, in the interest of keeping readers focused. For example if I launched into a diatribe on Yeung Lap Ming and his nasty biz right now, it would signal a shift...ia shift in my lost and bewildered brain. We heard from a grad on "narrative therapy", had dinner, and capped it with the evening reading. Many of my fellow students are now out drinking beer and eating pizza. Somebody's gotta do it. 

Day 2: Write what you know. Right?


Or at least if you want your writing to take you into the depths of the unexplored, the unknown, the land of inner surprises (aka Limboland?). There's a little voice. A little teeny tiny  baby voice, and it's crying the wilderness, - waaah, waaaah, waaaah, - alone in the vast uncharted expanse of your subconscious mind. And it's trying to tell you something...

It's trying to tell you to brush up on your civil engineering skills because as much as you think you might want to be a writer the universe clearly doesn't need any more of those. But there is a ghastly shortage of civil engineers, and without them the world will fall into chaos and despair before the next Olympics.

Insofar as the writing residency goes, we've decided to shitcan the tree hugging woo woo and focus on math and science. Phew! Look out world, America is back!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Litpalooza in Limboland: First Chimpressions

Man it is one hot puppy on the Puget Sound today, especially here on the 8th floor of the Tinglestad residence hall on the Pacific Lutheran University campus. I'm shirtless at my little desk in the dorm room where, if I crane just a little, I can see Mt. Rainier rising above the baking expanse of evergeens around Tacoma. Shirtless is not good, as the setting loose the flab is never good for the blab, but it beats sweating all over the keyboard. So, curious onlookers of the Rainier Writing Workshop's MFA degree program, here's what I have learned so far:

Men, in general, don't seem to do these types of things: I would guess the ratio is about 1:10 men to women. There may be other MFA programs where male writers congregate, but this is not one of them. As you probably know, this totally works for me.

My guess is that about 70% of my group of about 25 1st year participants (we're not referred to as students here, though I am now the proud owner of a student ID, which I plan to make handy over the next 3 years) are English teachers from across the spectrum.

According to my calculations, in the next 12 months I will read 24 books or articles and write 24 2-3 page critical response papers. That's a book or an article (let's hope my mentor heavies up the articles), and a paper, every two weeks. I'm planning to schedule 2 hours a day minimum. That is, after the IBM work gets done, but probably before the unsavory huckstering of Hack and the more fun event participation. If I can get in a daily walk on the beach (since we'll be living there soon), a couple of square meals, 8 hours of cumulative sleep, and Saturday mornings at The Coffee Roasters playing with the Treble Makers, plus some time with my everlovin' baby and our grown up babies, and Boo the poochster... If I get through that I'll tell you what's supposed to happen in the ensuing years.

I must of had a unreal surge of "I can do anything" energy when I signed up for this!?

About 40% of our group are Washington residents, many of them from the Tacoma area. A wave of concern swept over my furrowed brow when I learned this in our morning meeting today; I thought perhaps the program did not attract applicants from across the country, or at least not as many applicants from across the country. The fact that they accepted ME is also of some concern, for obvious reasons.

Other than that, today is a warmer upper, (accent on warm), get your bearings, get the lay of the land type of day. We had a breakfast for first years where true to form I made a complete ass of myself when I informed the group that I had a novel being birthed. When someone asked about the title I reached into my backpack and produced a paperback of Hack, after which the director of the program made an aside that I was a salesman in addition to being a writer. "Damn straight" I said. "Ain't nobody else out there hockin' these pups!". But I don't think it was too awful heinous but as always I failed to maintain that low, blend-in, unassuming profile that I wanted.

It's hard out here for a chimp! (Even harder for a big fat gasser!)

PS Stick around I promise there will be some value to these posts even if it's only a sharp pain to lower abdomen.

PSS Hey here's a brilliant idea: go order Hack on Amazon or B&N - it should be in all formats soon (, read it and let me know what I need to work on. Then I'll tell my mentor and it will make everybody's job alot easier, plus make for a better novel next time!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Litpalooza in Limboland! Warmin' up the Blabbinator

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull know how much easier that guy in The Shining would have had it with cut and paste? Jeez it pains me to think about it - maybe Nicholsen wouldn't have had to split Scatman Carrother's chest open with an axe if he had been working on a Mac in Word instead of that piece o' shit typewriter. Didn't we have PCs when that movie was made? It was just a few years ago, wasn't it?

Uh huh. Just a few years ago. Yeah. Things were different just a few years ago. Come to think of it, when I started my first novel 12 years ago things were a lot different. I was different. My parents were alive, my Mom's brain seemed to be working though emphysema had slowed her down, my Dad was still on my case, my kids thought I was really funny when I made stupid faces and sang little rhymes. I skiied, jogged, swam, mountain biked, golfed, built stone walls and tree forts, played loud rock and roll into the wee hours and drank a lot of Tequila. The idea of living with a bunch of middle-aged writers and doing nothing but talking about reading and writing literature for 10 days would have been something that sounded good maybe some day down the road.

Well. Here we are. Down the road.

Tomorrow I start to find out if it's still as good as it sounds as I begin a Low-Res (low residency, meaning 10 days of campus life and the rest of it what we used to call a "correspondence course") Masters of Fine Arts program with Rainier Writer's Workshop, an affiliate of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA.

I've done some pre-reading but not all, figuring I can squeeze some in on the plane. Oh wait. That's nap time. Well, maybe between classes when I should be socializing? "Don't talk to me can't you see I'm reading something important?" Actually, I have found that in such cases a good remedy is to simply place the book under your pillow when you go to sleep. Surely you've tried the Osmosis Method? Or is that the Osmand Method, where you sing, dance, and smile a lot with the book in your underpants? Oh well. One can hardly expect the downtrodden advanced middle-aged family man/corporate droid to come prepared, can one? Think of all the blogs and all of the obnoxious irritating book promo spam that wouldn't have been written had I been doing my pre-reading!

Right now, for example, I could be reading a short story entitled The High Road by Joan Silber, who teaches at my daughter's college, Sarah Lawrence, and in a low-res mfa program like mine at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC. The Warren Wilson program is said to be the creme de la creme, and I thought of applying but novels like Hack arent' exactly the highbrow lit a lot of these programs want. Anyway, back to The High Road. The story is written from the point of view of a gay man - a dancer - in NYC, who's true love is a black trumpet-playing men's clothes salesman. It is beautifully written in clear, terse sentences that vary from short to very short. For it to work, the reader has to forget entirely that the author is a white woman, else the story feels like a circus stunt where our primary reaction is "wow, I can't believe a white woman wrote that!"

Okay. I've got 10 days of this academic nonsense stretched out before me and as you can see I'm going to have keep my nose in the air just a tad to keep my head in the game.
Mom always said it's all about posture.

(Stay tuned for Day 1, in which Doris gets her oats!)