Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Tired, Tired and More Tired

March 8, 2010

I’m sitting here working on The Re-Write, or at least trying to work on The Re-Write, line by line, and I just can’t concentrate worth a lick. on top of that my typing is a bit off. Instead of the C, I hit the X. Instead of the D, there’s an F. It wouldn’t be so bad if the letters were in any way interchangeable but they’re not and no matter what word I’m trying to put up on the screen, it comes out entirely wrong.

I’ve went through a few cups of coffee. Tried exercising. Even tried napping.

Doesn’t help. At all. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

And I keep trying to grind out The Re-Write. Keep trying to not only find the mistakes, find the problems, then find the fixes, find the right words to take the place of wrong words, but then get them down. the whole thing pours like molassas from my fried mind through my clumsy fingers.

I’m thinking about trying tea next. this is because I have an ever dwindling supply of coffee filters, though I also have a new coffee I have been waiting to open and try.  Still, i think tea will be the next attempt at forced wakefulness. It is as if I am attempting to force my mind to walk into a state roughly approximating coherence and it is stubbornly refusing to budge, having to be dragged every inch of the way.

Strangely, this blog helps a bit. Sitting down and just writing something without having to first go through the mental hoops of re-reading, criticizing, editing, etc. is liberating in a mental exercise sort of way. this isn’t to say that it will stay with me five minutes beyond finishing this blog but that maybe it will give me a five, ten, okay, thirty minute window into clarity today that I wouldn’t have had else wise. There are some days where you just take what you can get and be happy with it.

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My Own Failing Memory

March 1, 2010

Or: Why I Write These Things

I tend to read quite a bit and I try to reflect on what I read. But ever since leaving school I have found that I have went without a certain stimulation and the memory I have for what I read has begun to slip. Finer points become lost. Meaning becomes less, well, meaningful.

Realizing that a lot of years and a lot of money was quickly becoming lost to me, training falling by the wayside as it were like a carpenter long long out of practice finding that his ability to visually measure a gap or to trim a piece to fit has eroded, I knew something needed to be done to try to keep me going.

Watching a kid, looking for work, and day to day life doesn’t afford me much time (or cash) to get out, though. To try to horn my way in with people in the real world if I knew where people in the real world met to talk about such things.

Having weighed my options and assessed my situation, I came to the realization that my only real outlet was the web. It’s something I can access from home, where I can carve out my own little space and, with some luck and persistance, maybe find my way into my own little niche here.

By and large it has worked. I feel I get more out of my reading now, and that I can recall more from it to find specific reasons why I love/hate whatever piece of work I’m writing about, why it might be significant or insignificant or why I might pick up another book the writer. While reading (and writing) is a solitary act, there is a social aspect to it that has to be engaged in to reap the full rewards of the solitary acts. To closet yourself away, to forego the experience of sharing a book or an idea, is to complete the experience only halfway.

Now is a blog (or any digital interface) as fulfilling as a person-to-person encounter? yes and no. On the digital medium, it does offer up more time for people to deliver a thoughtful response but you also lose the immediacy of a moment. There is a certain kind of energy that comes with talking about a book or a movie with someone who has shared that experience and who is excited by the discussion of it. Also, it’s easier to go out for drinks when the person you’re talking to is next to you. No one wants you to drag your laptop down to the pub and set up shop at the bar.

Apple and Literature: books will be shorter!

January 29, 2010

Alright, there are some things that just astound me. Daniel Akst’s apparent backing of less literacy carried on the back of eliterature is one of them. In an article talking about the future of publishing and how Apple’s Ipad could affect it he has the following quote:

Shorter is always better on screen, and so expect shorter books. Many nonfiction works are too long anyway — think of all those cinder-block-sized biographies — in part because right now there’s no mechanism for bringing to market anything between a magazine article (perhaps 5,000 words) and a short book (perhaps 70,000). Tablets will allow the length of works to be tailored more closely to the need.

More important, an Apple tablet will offer not just text but also sound, images and video — which will all be commonplace in books someday, in a balance we can’t yet foresee. This may undermine the primacy of text, but the text in most books today is far from sacred, and a little multimedia can do a world of good in most genres — in how-to books, for example. Think back to the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages; even when text was sacred, people liked a little multimedia on the side.

Now, it’s entirely fair to point out that Akst is pointedly mentioning nonfiction work but his statement that less text could be viewed as better on a screen is a solid point and could easily be something that bleeds into fiction. But while I disagree that shorter is necessarily better in regards to his “cinder-block-sized biographies” such a move could be a positive thing for what has become a bit of a lost art: the short story.

Anyone who has been in an MFA program for creative writing, or hangs around people in an MFA:Creative Writing program, has likely heard that short stories are not a path to publishing in book form. Collections don’t sell, novels do, despite the fact that many of our most beloved American authors excelled in the form of the short story.

The cliff’s edge that will need to be avoided, however, is where brevity falls into a lack of depth. Hemingway had an economy with words but his works still carried tremendous depth. Toni Morrison often sits in the 250-300 page range and she’s a nobel winner. Nabokov excelled in the form.

This also isn’t to say that a work should have to be shortened to meet an imagined requirement of a form. While many biographies are long, that doesn’t mean their length is not necessary. Personally, I hope that when I die that it most certainly takes more than 500 pages to recount my life and whatever achievements I attain. And for any moderately influential (though not necessarily famous) person, brevity could become an insult to thoroughness. We aren’t talking about the life and times of Nicole Richie but the life and times of presidents, senators, inventors, etc. A recounting  of Nikola Tesla’s life should probably resemble a cinder block.

As for the multimedia aspect, it’s something I’ve pushed myself. but only now am I wondering what the multimedia might entail for the various romance genres.

Ipad – unImpressed

January 28, 2010

I probably shouldn’t have had my expectations set quite as high as they were. Right off, I admit, that I am partly to blame for how let down I am over the recent unveiling of Apple’s Ipad. If you have an Ipod touch, you essentially have the Ipad in miniature. But listing the shortcomings of the Ipad is probably something best left for another site (like this one). Instead, I’ll just mention how it falls short from a writing/reading perspective.

First, it’s funny to see Simon&Schuster ignoring earlier comments about where they see prices for ebooks as Apple pushed for a much lower ($13-15) price point:

Publishers acknowledge that digital content should be priced lower than the print content. “We listened to what consumers have said,” said Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster.

Anyone who wants to go back and look at a previous blog entry, I have a quote from a Simon and Schuster representative saying that they envisioned ebooks costing about the same as a hardcover ($35) because they would chuck some extras onto it, like the bonus features on a DVD.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a big difference between this and a Kindle beyond the Apple having color and, at least, a $300 higher price tag. Considering it’s questionable that the Mac will debut with nearly the size of library Amazon already offers, while also pushing a higher price point, it’s not a great short term outlook. When you add in that the Ipad doesn’t support flash (you know, that technology that makes youtube possible) and its utility as a blog/news reader becomes hindered as nearly any embedded video becomes unwatchable.

On the writing front, it’s primary input seems to be an on-screen keyboard. I’m not a huge fan of laptop keyboards because I find their compact size uncomfortable for long stretches of typing. The onscreen keyboard looks even more crammed together and not built for any sort of writing session. There is a keyboard accessory that comes attached to a re-charging dock. Looking at the pictures and reading specks on Apple’s website, however, and it appears that the keyboard is literally attached to the dock like your head is connected to a neck. I have to assume that it’s on a wire to allow you to sit back in your chair a bit and type but I could just as easily be wrong.

On top of that, it appears the Ipad also doesn’t support the use of a stylus. One of the most substantial positives, for me, when I look at buying a tablet is the ability to flip it around, grab a stylus, and literally jot notes down on it. For attending class, it seems ideal. I can do away with a notebook that tears and wears, that often has several classes intermixed through out it or the need to have several competing notebooks. Instead, I can just open separate document files and keep ALL of my notes in one little place that I can tote with me anywhere. If it has a mic, I can even simply record the lectures/class and maybe convert the audio into text. Not including the ability to use a stylus obviously removes this ability entirely. So instead of being a useful tool for a writer/student, it loses a lot of functionality.

Also, there’s the inability to multitask. Like to listen to music while you write? Well, you better go buy an ipod then. Want to do some research on the web while you work on short story? Better save because you can’t open both.  Want to work on a story you’ve already started on another computer? You’re going to have to buy an adapter because the Ipad doesn’t even have a USB port.

Maybe I was expecting too much simply because it was being made by Apple. While I’m not a huge fan of their OS, I love their basic style and the functionality of their equipment. Having been looking at “convertible” tablets for awhile, as well as conventional tablets, I was hoping Mac would find a way to improve on the basic concept and at a price point that would make it a realistic option for myself. Unfortunately, Apple appears to have made a device with no real purpose. It can be good for viewing movies you download (as long as they aren’t flash) or just reading something (though not both at the same time) but nothing much beyond that. If you’re looking for a device to just read e-literature with, though, I think you’re better off just buying a kindle or one of the similar devices. They are cheaper and the screens are easier on the eyes. If you’re looking for something to write on, and are investing at least $500, I have to suggest going with a more full featured laptop (of whatever configuration you like).  The convertible tablets are bit heavier than the Ipad, but they have far more functionality. And if you’re set on a tablet, you should be able to find one that at least offers the use of a stylus.

edit: just found this article about a third party company offering a stylus compatible with the Ipad. at least someone out there is realizing that a stylus is actually a pretty useful device when all you have to interact with your computer is a touch screen.

What is a short story?

January 19, 2010

I recently started work on something temporarily titled “The 40,000th Day Event.” It’s going to be a short story centering around a visit and old man gets in his nursing home. The idea is just one of those cute little things I occasionally have and decide to run with. Unfortunately, I’m running into a problem that I think I have ran into in the past, and that’s  the boundary between a “short story” and a “prose” piece. This is something that came up in the last writing work shop that I had, where a little piece about an interaction between a man and a woman in a bedroom after sex was well liked by everyone but the professor asked the question: is it a short story or is it a prose?

And I didn’t know. I didn’t really care. And, in all honesty, I’m not sure I care much now beyond the fact that I’d like to submit this stuff and get it published. And I wonder if other readers will have a similar problem with it. Is it a short story or is it prose?

Does it matter?

survivor lit and the mythos of the typewriter

December 11, 2009

short post tonight, just a couple of articles i am plucking from the london times. Neither is very long (they don’t seem all that longer than my own blog posts, really) so I’m not going to quote them – really, just go read them. They’re quick.

The first is Erica Wagner having a McCarthy inspired rift on typewriters and that puts my own McCarthy inspired rift to shame. really, didn’t know Isaac Bashevis Singer was nuts…

the second is a playful slap at Survivor-lit. Admittedly, I rarely venture into the non-fiction section of bookstores any more – isn’t that was libraries are for? – but the cheapening of life stories has been something I’ve noticed in other respects as well.  Other than these stories of “survival” I’ve noticed more and more memoirs and biographies being pushed onto the public documenting the life of some 20-something (or even something-teen). Excuse, but if you can’t remember more than seven presidents, and I mean really remember, not just have some vague recollection of, you haven’t lived long enough to write a biography. Biographies for people younger than that should only be written because that person died before they reached the requisite age.

Rubbertop Review – submissions

December 7, 2009

Rubbertop Review is a journal published by the University of Akron that focuses on contributions from residents of Ohio.  They accept Fiction, Poetry, and creative non-fiction (was there a time where non-fiction was just non-fiction?) and their deadline for submissions is February 1st.

For more information, including addresses to send work to and guidelines for work submitted, check out Rubbertop Review’s website.

The Olivetti – Cormac McCarthy’s Original Laptop

December 1, 2009

i’m part of the last generation that might still remember the typewriter in any form. My mom owned both kinds in my life time, manual and electric, and helped type the majority of my school reports right up through high school on them – I would write them out long hand and then she would type them.  The click/clack of the keys on the manuals and the weird little hum of the electric is something that has a strange fondness for me. And, apparently, for Cormac McCarthy, too.

The NYT has a little story about McCarthy putting his portable Olivetti typewriter up for auction. The author of The Road, Suttree and other novels says the machine has probably seen upwards of five million words fall out of his finger tips and onto the page through the metal levers and letters of the mechanisms of the machine.

Thinking of writers of yesteryear, it seems the implements they used to hone and carry out their craft were as special and singular as their prose. I’m not a great historian of such matters. Other than McCarthy’s use of a portable Olivetti, I know Kerouac used an Underwood and it pretty much stops there for what I remember. But I do know I’ve heard more than a few stories of writers and their pens, their typewriters, their memo pads and everything else. It seems as if once these writers found a method for moving their thoughts from their head to the page that they never or rarely wandered from their ritual (McCarthy only agreed to give up his Olivetti when a friend of his found and bound a matching model in far better condition).

It makes me think of modern writers and our use of the computer. We might stick to a particular word processor program but we probably burn through four, five, six, or more computers over our life times and will probably bounce all over the map with who we buy them from. McCarthy mentions how young people don’t have any idea what a typewriter even is any more as a general comment about how society has moved on in the past ten years or so. But it’s also a sharper comment on the changing face of the author.

Gurgle Gurgle

November 12, 2009

That’s currently the sound filling up the dining/computer room. One of the radiators has managed to, literally, bust a seam in its blow off valve and instead of gradually releasing a bit of steam whenever the system gets backed up and allowing the water to fall back into the system to be re-heated and turned back into steam, it is spewing the water all over the floor and making a hideous loud gurgle gurgle ffffffft noise. Writing has been damn near impossible.

Price War?

November 10, 2009

Well, November is nearing the halfway point and I’m wondering if anyone remembers the Price War of October where retail giants tried slugging it out humanities style. At the time I said it was a blip on the radar-something to take advantage of while you could because it was unlikely to last or even to repeat itself in the near future and, so far, it looks about right.

I haven’t seen any of the major retailers continue to discount preorders to the $9 range. Once the books were released their prices jumped to more normal discount levels for best sellers. And no one is going crazy about how the publishing world is going to be placed on its head and how the 21st century would officially be leveled upon writers and how their work will have to change.

So. Blah. The price war is over and the new publishing world looks damn similar to the old publishing world. Much like the file sharers found with the ongoing fight with the music industry, lumbering giants die hard and, when they fall, they tend to leave everything maimed beyond recognition – not just the horrors of the old regime.

The publishing industry will change. It is inevitable. As music has had to shift gears (while missing second entirely and still trying to make an ugly grinding stab at third), as newspapers have falled from venerable institutions to vulnerable endeavors and as the movies still blame those damn pirates for falling box offices rather than shotty movies, the writers and makers of books will have to find new hotels to occupy, new frontiers to letter over.

And I have no doubt they will. And people will continue to make money off of it. Change will come and money will not be far behind.  Just not today.