Open Wounds

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Wormhole WTF

Image result for images marc maron

I listen to Marc Maron’s podcast called WTF two to three times a week. He interviews comedians mostly but also all sorts of creative types including musicians (Keith Richards and James Taylor were two particularly good recent installments), playwrites, writers, actors, visual artists, record producers, magazine editors and screenwriters. Besides his quirky “I’m an asshole” style – which I find fascinating – he talks to people for 60-90 minutes a shot usually in his garage in LA and tends to go deep into family history to see if he can figure out what makes people tick creatively – of course all filtered through his own neurotic lens. He does not do short interviews. Oh yeah he recently interviewed Obama.

His interview with Annie Baker a Pulitzer prize-winning playwriter, on 10/12 was an interesting one. I found her mostly annoying but I also thought she had some thought-provoking things to say about writing that I was mostly able to hear through my own annoyance. She said she couldn’t write about her life or the people she knew because it was too close to home – that she needed distance from them. Maron’s comedy is mainly derived from his family and those he knows with no distance from his version of the truth whatsoever so the contrast was interesting.

It made me think about the old trope, ‘write what you know.’ I believe everyone writes from what they know (how could you not, it has to come from somewhere in you, right?), only some distance themselves from it to some degree and some don’t. As an example, in the book I’m writing now I had the following in mind:

When I was 13 I saw a guy put a hit on a bully in the hall right down from my locker. I believe I was the only witness. The bully’s name was Brad and he stole kids lunches in the hall, tipped their books onto the floor, and burned their lockers – you know, the usual. He stole my lunch once. I can still picture him running down the hall, meat loaf sandwich-stained lunch-bag in tow, his long hair flying in the air behind him as he ran past. He was left-back-one-year big. I didn’t have him in any classes but I knew him. We all did. He set fire to my friend’s locker two or three times a week, every week. He never got caught but we all knew he was the one who did it.

I played football with the guy who ‘hit’ him . His name was Michael. He was big, quiet, and scared people just by walking into a room. We both played linebacker on the football team, me the small blitzing LB, him the hulking plug-up-the-hole LB. We never talked. 

One day I heard someone paid him $20 to  put a ‘hit’ on Brad. The hit consisted of running into Brad and throwing him against the wall, punching him in the face and ribs. I saw it. Michael took him out quickly and efficiently without saying a word, then he left. I left too. As teachers arrived I slipped down the stairs.

I started this book 9 years ago with this scene in my head, and the scene of the protagonist in the principle’s office right after Michael takes Brad out, on paper. The protagonist refuses to tell the principal what he saw happen. The novel starts with this question and one step away from the reality of what occurred. The scene was three pages, maybe 500 words.

So to me everything happens from real life only the characters, as they come to life on the page and in my head, change things. They distance themselves from what happened to some degree, some of the time.

Here’s a few of my recent favorite WTF interviews:

Annie BakerRobert Rodriguez / Jonathan AmesSir Ian McKellen (listen to him speak Shakespeare at the end), Sir Patrick StewartPeaches

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NOLA Beignets and Genitalia

Mardi Gras in New OrleansI’m sitting in New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport with Max and Karen waiting for Jetlbue flight 576 to arrive to head back to New York. It’s a long story and I’ve only got the energy for a short version.

Drug Court conference for the state of Louisiana. I did a plenary for the whole association (some 400 practitioners) on Cultural Competency and LGBT clients – a workshop for about 100 on Young Adult Developmental Issues. I said the words penis and vagina out loud. You had to be there to get the context but it was a moment I’m proud of.

Karen and Max came down here with me. It was their first time here. We did Mardi Gras, and a swamp tour, and Max held a baby alligator, and we ate beignets (Max laughed and made the powdered sugar go all over the place), and we caught beads thrown from parade floats, and walked the French Quarter.

Grant proposals are due. My work as Ex Dir is giving me constant brain freeze. I’m running out of steam.

I haven’t posted since December but I’ve been writing. That’s good.

Half of one book (Cid prequel) and half of another (modern-day). I’ve been marking new pages on a note app and am up to 42 this year on the modern-day newbie. That puts the total for modern-day up to about 135. Writing is good.

Finishing is better.

I’ll work some on the plane ride home. I’ve promised myself that. That and a movie  – perhaps a comedy. We could all use a good laugh. We’re heading into the cold and a coming snowstorm.

I read The Bully Pulpit – by Doris Kearns Goodwin – a massive tome about Taft and Roosevelt. It was a long long tough read but totally worth it – even if Teddy R comes out looking like an ass at the end. Small print and many hours reading later…

Taft was an introvert. Long live the introverts. They are different kinds of leaders and good ones too.

It’s 2014. Two months in. 42 pages. Have to catch up.


Fish Bones and So Long Suckers

I’ve been traveling a lot. Over the last four months I’ve been to Seattle twice, Oklahoma, New Orleans, and DC (where I’m headed now). My day job has been calling and I have had to answer.

I lost 90 pages of my WIP late in the summer – don’t ask how. Okay I’ll tell you. I can’t help myself.

Once, when my son was small, about four years old we had a small fish tank with a few fish in it. One fish disappeared one night. I mean … it disappeared. There had been casualties before (many, many, many casualties) but they always showed up on the surface, belly up. So one little guy, like a master illusionist, one night disappeared. I searched the whole tank, top to bottom, filter to gravel graveyard. I checked the floor for 6 feet in all directions. I looked for bones in hideouts.

I called fish experts.

They scratched their heads.

He was too big to be eaten by the two other fish inside the tank with him. So what happened to him? I don’t know. But sometimes, late at night when I’m just about asleep I swear I can hear him laughing and calling out to me, “So long sucker.”

One night in August I was working on my WIP. I left the document open on the screen, got caught up in watching The Big Bang Theory with my son and wife. I went to bed. In the morning…

So long suckers.

The document was there but 90 pages were gone. I looked everywhere. I looked on my screen, in my dropbox, in my WIP folder, in my other computer, in all my back-up files. I checked the floor for 6 feet in all directions. I looked for bones in hideouts.

Fortunately I had a hard copy. I just had to type it all in again…

I wish I was a faster typist. Mavis Beacon, here I come.

So long suckers.


Macabre Eraser Eating and other Sundries

My son is writing a book – a page a day, he tells me, “If I write a page a day in a year I’ll have written a novel.”

Then a little while later he says, “If I write two pages a day – only two pages a day – I’ll write a novel in… ” I can see him doing the math in his head, “half a year.”

I nod. “It’s cool isn’t it?”

“Yes!”

He shows me his new page(s) every night. He doesn’t usually show me his writing for school so this is a new thing for me. When I’ve ask to see his school work in the past he’s usually said, “No.” I’ve had to search for his stories and essays in his work folders after it’s been handed back to him and placed somewhere in his overstocked and overflowing backpack. Or my wife has had to tell me where it was. She knows. She almost always gets to read his work.

He’s finding real joy in putting his pencil to his page. He sits at the table at night staring out the window with his pencil eraser between his teeth, chewing and thinking. Every once in a while his pencil moves down and across the page leaving text behind. I sit with my back to him at my computer doing my version of the exact same thing with electronic text. I don’t chew on an eraser – though I’m not against it if it helps to think. I usually sip tea.

When he’s finished he wants me to read it, “Right now.”

He stands next to me and places his book in my lap. He points at it. “Now.” He watches while I read it, his hands together in front of him. He cracks his knuckles one after the other rolling from one finger and hand to the next. I laugh out loud when the story is funny. He smiles when I do that.

“Who should I kill off?” he asks, placing his hand on my shoulder.

“Let me finish reading,” I say.

“I’m not going to kill off anyone,” he says. “Maybe just have one of them lose a foot or a hand.”

“Shh,” I say.

“Read it,” he responds.

It reminds me of so many writer’s that I know, including myself. “Tell me what you think?” He asks and I have to tell him now. When I give my work to someone to read I want the same thing, now, only as an adult trying to show that I have impulse control, that I can be patient, that time is of no importance to me – I say instead, “When you get the chance.” Or worse, “There’s no rush.” What that really means is, “Now.” Trust me. it means, “Pick up the manuscript and start reading now. And don’t stop until you’ve finished. Because I want to know what you think – if it’s any good and I want to know now. I’ve been inside my own head for over a year, written 235 pages, and need to know it’s been worth the effort so I can write another 100-200 pages more of my epic – though it’s not really an epic I just think of it that way. And if you make me wait a day or a week or – God help you – a month to get back to me I’ll have to exist in silent scream torture mode as every day I check me email to see if you’ve sent me a note that says, “I’m done.” ”

My son is quiet while I read the rest of the page. He sits on the arm of my work-chair, reading over my shoulder. He asks me, what do I think, with raised eyebrows when I close the book and look up.

Wonderful.


Thoughts on the A-Z

This is the second time I’ve completed the A-Z Challenge (Thank you Matt from the QQQE for putting me on to the possibilities), blogging 26 letters of the alphabet this year on swordplay. It’s hard to believe the month passed so quickly. It’s my son’s 11th birthday tomorrow and I’ve finished just in time to plan his birthday party – an ode to Ratzo part IV. It’s a long story and you could check on my Dad-dito blog for more info but suffice to say I’ve got some work to do. Puzzles to make, dangers to create, some script and storyline to ponder for my son and five of his friends.

What was it like to blog the whole month of April on the A-Z? Exhausting and exhilarating. The word discipline comes to mind also. Hard work. A kick in the ass, also. This year I visited more blogs than last year, though it was much harder to do as the month went on. A good start helped. I pre-wrote the first five posts – that helped me to blog-hop the first week. The whole experience has put a smile on my face.

What’s amazing to me is that I also got some work done on my next novel. Sometimes other writing gets in the way. Other times it acts as a motivator. I’ve read a few good books also that I’ll talk about in May – a bit of non-fiction, a bit of fiction.

I am tired. Some of that is spring and a giant ahhh of exhalation.

It’s time to press on with my WIP.

The offer of help to anyone who needs it on swordplay in their writing is still open. I’m no fencing master, but I’ve learned a thing or two about blades and such over the last 30-years and how to put them into words that paint pictures and tell stories.

Until next week. Fencer with Rapier