- This will be my last rambling, bloggy post about “writing activity.” Two years ago I wrote a lengthy piece about stagnation in my writing, and since then I’ve thoroughly unstagnated. From regular productivity to setting goals to having projects lined up for at least the next six months, it would appear that writerly ennui is a luxury I can happily no longer afford, at least at such length.
- I have fiction forthcoming in multiple venues, one of which is the reborn Weirdbook. When I first got serious about writing many years ago, I would blog, or later Facebook, every bit of writing news (“I got a rejection with feedback!” “My story is being held for consideration!” etc.). This seems like a reasonable time to stop doing so much of that, not least to improve the signal:noise ratio.
- I have essays and critical non-fiction about horror or the Weird either forthcoming or with proposals accepted in multiple venues. One will be in a new non-fiction journal, Thinking Horror, and others will, all things going as planned, appear in 2017 publications. I also have various conference papers lined up for 2016, so we’ll see how that goes.
- The tide of readers and critics of the Weird, literary/cosmic horror, etc. is rising. I’ll have more to say about that elsewhere at some point, I expect, but I come across roughly one interesting new (to me or otherwise) blogger, essay, review, etc. in this vein per week. This week I’ve encountered two: Celluloid Wicker Man and ClaireQuip Books.
- The short story collection manuscript is one, or perhaps two, stories away from complete in rough. It’s lengthened and shortened a couple times now, but at this point it really does feel something like closing in on “done.” Various bits of polishing and editing remain, but my goal of finishing and submitting the ms before year’s end seems reasonable, if the rest of life cooperates.
- One of the unanticipated side-effects of creating the list of weird fiction publishers is that not a few publishers have been offering or sending me free fiction, journals, etc. As a slow reader, I’ve been eyeing my TBR pile, thinking about ethics in reviewing, etc. The answer will probably be a generic disclaimer somewhere on this site to the effect that I’m a bastion of unbiased something or other.
- Last weekend was Necronomicon 2015 in Providence, and not attending was one of the dark spots of the year, but I’ve been fortunate enough to attend various literary conferences and conventions of late, learning a great deal in the process. I’ve come to realize that the people who attend the event make the event, but that most of us live in a world that doesn’t allow for infinite travel, and that many things make a literary community.
- Finally, I’ve been enjoying horror shorts lately. As with shorts generally, they vary in quality, but the length allows for a broad range of tasting. He Took His Skin Off For Me is a grotesque that I enjoyed very much, describing it elsewhere as maybe, kind of, what you’d get if Raymond Carver and Kelly Link had collaborated to write Hellraiser:
In the mood for some Throwback Thursday action? Below are links to the top five posts I’ve written here…
“On the Existence of the Female Tentacle” — 312 views — All about women who write Lovecraftian fiction.
“Release the Leeches!” — 175 views — Release day and my writeup, lo those several months ago, for The Children of Old Leech.
“Mary Chiaramonte / Land of Strangers / Eric Schindler Gallery” — 134 views — Review of Mary Chiaramonte’s 2012 show.
“All the Colors of the Night” — 134 views — Review of Thomas Van Auken’s 2012 show at Eric Schindler Gallery.
“Writing Year 2013: Statistics, Lies, Stagnation, and the Human Heart” — 115 views — An analysis with charts and statistics of my writing activities over a seven-year period.
This weekend I have the pleasure of moderating a panel at the James River Writers conference here in Richmond. The panel I’ll be moderating is entitled “Writing What You Research,” and it’s all about research for writers. If you’re able to make the conference, this panel will be on Sunday, October 19th, from 10:15 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. We’ll be talking about everything from the “aha” moment in research to what happens when your research takes a surprising turn. You’re going to get to hear from panelists writing in very different genres, with different (or are they similar?) research needs…
Born in Brooklyn and raised in west Texas, Tarfia Faizullah is the author of Seam (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), winner of the 2012 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her poems appear in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, Massachusetts Review, Ninth Letter,New England Review, Washington Square, and anthologized in Poems of Devotion, Excuse This Poem, The Book of Scented Things, and Best New Poets 2014. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Project Award, a Ploughshares Cohen Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, a Copper Nickel Poetry Prize, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Sewanee Writers’ Conference, fellowships from the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop and Vermont Studio Center, and other honors. Tarfia is a poetry reader for New England Review and is a contributing editor for Four Way Review, Failbetter, and Asian American Literary Review. She lives in Detroit, where she is a writer-in-residence for InsideOut Literary Arts and co-edits the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press & Video Series with Jamaal May. In Fall 2014, she will join the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program as the Nicholas Delbanco Visiting Professor of Creative Writing in Poetry.
Hugh Howey: “Born in 1975, I spent the first eighteen years of my life getting through the gauntlet of primary education. While there, I dabbled in soccer, chess, and tried to write my first novel (several times).
Out of school, I became fascinated with computers, repaired them for a brief stint, then moved to Charleston, SC and attended college. To save money, I purchased a small sailboat to live on, and nearly got myself killed bringing it down from Baltimore with a friend.
After my junior year of college, possibly out of fear of the real world, I left my safe little harbor and sailed South. I hopped around the islands for a while, went through two hurricanes, and spent the last of my cruising funds re-stepping my mast. It was time to head back to the States, where I began a career as a yacht captain.
This began an exciting phase of my life, traveling all over the East coast and Caribbean, from Barbados to Chicago. I worked on boats in New York, the Bahamas, even Canada. One of these adventures brought me together with my wife, who was able to lure me away from my vagabond ways, dropping anchor and buying a house.
Physically settled, my mind continued to roam, concocting adventures and whisking me off to fantastic places. Some of these tales seemed worth sharing, so I tapped into my love of books and decided to write them down. My first stories detail the life of a character that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time. Her name is Molly Fyde, and she draws inspiration from the awesome women in my life.
My Wool series became a sudden success in the Fall of 2011. Originally just a novelette, the demand from Amazon reviewers sent me scurrying to write more tales in this subterranean world. The resulting Omnibus has spent considerable time in the Amazon top 100, has been a #1 Bestseller in Science Fiction on Amazon, and was optioned by Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian for a potential feature film. The story of its success has been mentioned in Entertainment Weekly, Variety, and Deadline Hollywood among many others. Random House is publishing the hardback version in the UK in January of 2013.
When I’m not writing, I like to go for hikes with my family, take a stroll on the beach, and keep up with my reading. I currently live in Jupiter, Florida with my wife Amber and our dog Bella.”
New York Times bestselling biographer Brian Jay Jones spent nearly two decades as a public policy analyst and speechwriter, before turning to biography full-time in 2007. He presently serves as president ofBiographers International Organization.
Brian’s most recent book, Jim Henson: The Biography (Ballantine, 2013) was a New York Timesbestseller, and chosen as the Best Biography of 2013 by Goodreads, as well as one of the year’s Top Ten books by CNN viewers. The first full-length biography of the iconic creator of the Muppets, Jim Henson: The Biography was hailed as “illuminating” (The Atlantic), “insightful” (Parade), “masterful” (Kirkus) and “compulsively readable” (The AV Club).
Brian’s first book, Washington Irving (Arcade, 2008), was praised as the definitive biography of American literature’s first popular author and pop culture icon. The Associated Press deemed it “authoritative,” the Washington Post called it, “engaging, clearly written, and well researched,” while the New York Times summed it up simply as “charming.” Which pretty much made his year.
In 2010, Brian was awarded the St. Nicholas Society of New York’s Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence, joining David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Christopher Buckley, and William Zinsser on the list of medal recipients.
Born in Kansas and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Brian has a degree in English literature from the University of New Mexico, which he immediately parlayed into a brief career as a manager of a comic book store before getting into politics and writing.
For nearly ten years, he worked as a policy advisor in the United States Senate, serving in the office of U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici, and then on the U.S. Senate HELP Committee for Chairman James M. Jeffords. He has also served as an associate state superintendent of education for the state of Arizona, and a policy analyst for a county councilmember, officially giving him the government service hat trick.
Brian now lives in Maryland with his wife and a very excitable dog. His daughter is presently away at college, majoring in physics–or, as Brian calls it, “foreign language.” He is presently at work on a biography of filmmaker George Lucas for Little, Brown, to be published in 2016.
Today’s Monday, and what does that mean? The aforementioned posts in the My Writing Process blog tour from two of my writerly friends.
S.J. Chambers writes about cutting up manuscripts, theming wine, womanhood, and the poverty of marketing labels when discussing writing.
“I don’t like fetishizing or explaining things away–I like for there to be poetry”
Mark Meier writes about word play, German literature, and making the world a better place.
“…I don’t want readers to escape this existence so much as to study and reconsider it, especially in their relationship to other beings.”
When Shawna Christos approached me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour (see her post here), I hesitated to accept. I have no ironclad process, nor do I feel it’s a good idea to imitate others’ practices (he said, having tried to do it himself). That said, I grow as a writer by reading, writing, thinking about writing, etc., so I hope the below is of interest.
1) What am I working on?
Currently I’m drafting a novel set in Richmond, Virginia, somewhere in the land between magical realism and literary fantasy. I’ve jokingly described it as an “anti-bildungsroman,” because it’s the tale of a painter grappling with life while steadily abandoning her adult responsibilities. Her inner strife manifests in various weird ways, one of which winds up becoming the source of the novel’s primary conflict.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This particular novel is set in Richmond, for starters, which isn’t the world’s most common literary setting. I have an affinity for place, and so many of the stories on the border between realism and fantasy happen in quasi-semi-sort-of-fable land. That’s rarely for me, and definitely not with this book.
I’ve also written many stories set in Seattle, or elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, because it’s my home place and always will be. I’ve lived a substantial portion of my life away from there, though, which leads to a kind of distance that I like to think gives me greater powers of observation. Writing about Richmond while living here presents certain challenges, but que sera.
Artists show up often enough in literary, historical, or genre fiction, but I rarely seem to encounter them in literary fantasy. This makes sense, given the delicate layer of unreality that makes most of that particular stripe of fiction tick, and creatives are an easy out when it comes to writing about things fantastic. That’s going to make this tough to pull off without veering down well-trodden paths, but the book seems to want out, so we’re off to the races.
3) Why do I write what I do?
My primary idiom is the fantastic because it’s how I view the world. That’s not to say I expect a dragon to come flying out of the sky when I’m walking down Cary Street, but I think we have a bunch of traits as a species that turn us, more or less subtly, to focus on the day-to-day. By externalizing inner metaphors, I find it easier to talk about the world, and to do so in ways that make sense to me.
4) How does my writing process work?
It changes from year to year and month to month, and sometimes I don’t get the memo from my subconscious about what’s next. That can mean a lot of fooling around with pens, computers, typewriters, journals, index cards, voice recorders, dictation software, etc. until I get it right. At some point the words come out, and then I’m writing.
Revision is a somewhat different process. It involves a pretty standard range of tricks to defamiliarize my story, draft by draft. The steps are some combination of:
- print draft out, edit by hand, enter edits on computer
- edit on screen
- print draft out, edit by hand, rewrite by hand, enter in computer
- record myself reading the draft aloud, make notes on what I stumble over, then edit
- play a recording of myself reading the draft, make notes on the parts that sound frail, then edit
- change font and/or fonts size
- change text color or background color
…and so on.
Caffeine is usually involved in a.m. writing, alcohol often in p.m. writing.
The other constant to my process is one that Kristi Tuck Austin commented on: “This is shit.” If I say that at any point during the production of a story, damn sure it means I’ve got a winner on my hands. Why? It’s repeatedly proven to be true in terms of publication, quality, or both. My assumption is that it means I’m invested enough in the story to be disgusted when it doesn’t work right, so I go off in a rage/huff. Later, if I persist, I return to find that, yes, this thing I care about is fixable.
Next Monday, you’ll want to check out what Mark Meier has to say. He was born in Brazil and grew up in the United States. He taught in urban public schools before graduate school and now teaches at the university level. After considering a career in national intelligence, he instead worked as a consultant doing work for the UN and US EPA. He continues to enjoy learning, having acquired a few languages (including math) and various belts in isshinryu karate, haidong gumdo, and aikido. He has raced as a cyclist and continues to appreciate the outdoors. He belongs to the Authors Guild and other writing and community organizations. He has traveled, lived, or worked in Germany, South Korea, India, Switzerland, and elsewhere, and donates a portion of the profits from his first novel Wisecrack to organizations that support international peace and the rights of women and children.
Recently I was approached by Shawna Christos, one of the first members of James River Writers I ever met (2009? 2010?), about participating in the Writing Process Blog Tour, and I agreed to participate. It’s not the kind of blog tour where an author guest posts all over the place about their new book, but rather, a blend of meme and progressive dinner. Tune in next Monday for my answers to the following questions:
1) What am I working on?
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
3) Why do I write what I do?
4) How does my writing process work?
Some of my fellow JRW-ites have participated and posted already…
Shawna Christos on self-preservation and sanity as motivations for writing.
Josh Cane on Devotchka and Sarasa gel pens.
Kristi Tuck Austin on Faulkner, Narnia, and surveillance.