Friday, December 20, 2013

On Writing Repost: The Creativity Equation

I teach creative writing at a large public school, and there's not a day that goes by when I don't hear one student or other whinge about “not being creative” or not knowing “what to write about.” On those occasions I give them my patent-pending Creativity Equation: Character A plus Situation B equals Story, which is greater than the sum of A plus B, or A+B=S>A+B.
This equation falls under the nonlinear algebraic subgroup “magic math,” which most students are not familiar with. So, I dumb it down to an axiom: Creativity is the ability to link two points into a not-yet existent third. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Teaching: A Little Slam Action

I stole these slams from my fourth-block creative-writing class. They did all the work. I just pushed "record."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

On Writing: Why the 'Why Write Project'?

My life has been full of them since my last post. The quiet little role I anticipated at the NewHampshire Writers Project has expanded, as has my work with the Amoskeag Journal. Meantime, I spent the summer revising a novel, plunking away at short stories,  revising my website, and puttering around the house.
Oh, and I now officially collect typewriters and became a biographer of literary rock star Wiley Cash.
The day job got back in full swing come August, which claimed about two-thirds of my time and energy.  Unlocking the door to my classroom (and a tired and bleary cheeseburger break with my wife) was the impetus for my latest brainchild, The Why Write Project. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Blues: Seven Days, Five Books, Some Other Stuff

I closed the door of my classroom approximately 168 hours ago, and it will remain shut (barring trips back for reference material) until August 26. Since the door closed I've hosted one barbecue, attended one wedding, attended one Makers of Manchester meeting, met one Rhodes Scholar for a beer, spent three days in curriculum-development workshops for a new Freshman Writing class, shared one KC’s Rib Shack platter with my wife, slept about fifty hours, started breaking in a new messenger bag, played three hours of (mostly losing) poker, watched three episodes of The X Files, wrote a couple of thousand new words of fiction, plowed through the new Rolling Stone and Poets & Writers, and read five books.
I feel pretty good about the week, but I have a mixed reaction to the books.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On Writing: A Story’s Story

This week I have a story running in Fiction Vortex, a new publication interested in SF and fantasy of a “literary” bent. They’re nice folks, and I like the (twice-weekly) stories they’ve published thus far.
My story is called A Feeble Gleam of Stars, and it’s been around a while. I dug through my flash drive and Google Doc files to try to figure out how long. Note: To avoid the possibility of spoilers, read the story before you continue this post.

Friday, May 24, 2013

What I'm ... (May 24, 2013)

I’ve been on a “dirty realism” kick this month: Charles Bukowski’s Ham on Rye, a bunch of Ray Carver short stories, and The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake. I’ve long been a fan of grit -- as any oyster can tell you it’s the only way to get a pearl – and stories of doggedness.  Life’s default is “not pretty and generally unsatisfying.” Happy endings and happiness itself are fleeting.  We can learn a lot from fiction that refuses to sugarcoat that, while still revealing the pearls -- the shiny bits that make it worth the work.

I picked up Michael Chabon’s The Wonderboys for $1 at the supermarket donation bin the other day. So far, so good.

I also received my contributor copy of Something Wicked Vol. 2. It looks good and, may I say, there’s something mightily satisfying about seeing your name in an other-published book. You can get the ebook (published by Random House Struik) on Amazon  or preorder the paperback via Barnes & Noble. I haven’t read it yet, but I have looked at the pictures. Did I mention every story has an illustration?

I’m still punching and scraping my way through the latest revisions of Leaving Home. I have vowed not to write anything new until I get that together, revise the synopsis, and get the book back into the ring. You can do it, Rock!

Listening to: 
The new Bowie album.
A chum recommended the new Daft Punk, but I gave up on it and listened to Parliament instead.

Batman Beyond … In the future, Batman is still around, but he’s a kid in high school. Great visual style plus crusty, old Bruce Wayne.

HiCu – Magic Hat’s cucumber/hibiscus ale. In a summer variety pack near you. Light and weird.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Blues: To the Promgoers

Friday, May 10, 2013

On Writing: Working in Two Worlds

     I've written here before of my interest in manual typewriters and the changes they make in my writing process. I have four of the things now, three-quarters of that stock picked up from the eternal yard sale set up a block or two from my favorite bar. My babies represent four of the big classic brands: Underwood, Olivetti, Royal, and Olympia.
Olympia Carina 1 (Early 1980s)

The Olivetti Lettera 33 (types in cursive, 1968)
Underwood Universal (1950s)

Royal Quiet Deluxe (1948)

     I love writing on the things. They smell like machine oil, dust, and ink and make quite a racket. The work feels like work, percussive, like I'm pounding the words out rather than politely poking them into my hard drive and Cloud. The downsides are, of course, the inability to save files electronically and a certain inflexibility in the editing room. 

    My heart leapt, then, when I found The fellow there, Jack Zylkin, has rigged a way to use a manual typewriter as a computer keyboard, linking it to your desktop, laptop, or iPad with Ye Olde USB port. Zylkin sells an "easy" conversion kit and a "DIY soldering kit." He also sells full conversions, but I think enough of my skills that I will attempt the process myself ... and then beg for help.

      Here's to the best of both worlds! 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What I'm ... May 2, 2013

Every Last Drop by Charlie Huston. — This is the fourth book in Huston’s hard-boiled vampire series, featuring undead tough guy Joe Pitt. Half-life ain’t getting any easier for Joe, and, early in the book, a cranky old bat chews his eye out.

The Promise of Water by Andrea Crossley Spencer — This is a work-in-progress by a schoolmate about a man with a dark secret and a missing sister. Feels like you’re going to see this one in the bookstore someday.

Fiction Vortex  — A brand new sci-fi e-zine that picked up my short story, A Feeble Gleam of Stars, for mid-June publication.

I’m about 150 pages into the latest revision of Leaving Home. Having a good time ripping, shredding, and rebuilding … but I’m kind of a masochist.

Listening to: 
I don’t even know. Music, possibly static. My brain hurts. But I’m intrigued by the new Snoop Lion disk.

Doctor Who, the back half of Series Seven — I’ve been a fan of the Doctor since high school, and was part of a startup fan club in 1988. The last few episodes … how can I say this gently … kind of bite. The new companion is fine but Matt Smith seems to be thinking about something else. Plus, the scripts suck eggs.

Defiance — Siffy went back to science-fiction, and I kind of like it. There’s a lot of potential here, if they can stop lifting ideas from everything else. Confession: When I first heard the title, I secretly hoped it was a Deep Space Nine spin-off.

A lot of water — My classroom gets north of 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the afternoons. Gotta hydrate.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On Writing: Back to the Whiteboard

Used to be, I’d hear authors talk about how this book took three years to write, this one took four, and I’d wonder what was wrong with them. How could they possibly be going that slowly? Even at a page-a-day pace, any hack can have 365 pages at year’s end.
     Then I wrote a book in earnest, and I’m beginning to understand.  Leaving Home, the manuscript that earned me an MFA and a raise at my day job, started with a short story in the spring of 2010 … and still isn’t finished.