Five Things I am Into Right Now, February 2017

Snoopy Attempting The DreamEver since the election in November writing feels… trite.

It feels silly and, dare I say, hollow to worry about my next book or blog or even think about fiction. I can’t even name the last piece of fiction I read (maybe Neil Gaiman back in October?).

“Look at what is happening to reality!?!” A part of my mind keeps screaming.

Writing fiction is like being Nero with the fiddle while Rome (the real world) burns. And when you consider climate change, “burn” is not a bad word to use in that context.

But now it has been some time since the inauguration (even though it feels like freaking years), and if I don’t do something I will go stir crazy. I need to figure out my next step with my latest novel (Agent? Publisher? Furnace?), what I am going to create next, and, more vital, finding what feels important.

That’s the trick right there- “important.”

Of course, the irony of this is as I look over my latest five things I see a few time fillers there. I guess I would argue that for the last few months I just wanted to turn my brain off. Now I am ready to turn it back on and see what it can do. Today we need all of us to be active. We can’t simply wait for the next election.

No more fiddles. Continue reading

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“Any Love (Cassandra Et Lune)” by Ken Stringfellow

Wow, I can’t believe I am already up to eight in my series “With Music.”   In each post I write about a time in my life, using a song that impacted me or reminds me of a moment.  The earlier seven entries included Ben Folds Five, Sheryl Crow, Beth Orton, Dean Martin, The Verve, Barenaked Ladies, and Tori Amos. This time I write about finding inspiration in Los Angeles.
Books

I am haunted by a song.

I sometimes hear it in my dreams, it is the one I might start humming when I am running an errand or absentmindedly finishing a chore. I’ve even been known to sing it to my children as they fall asleep.

This song has followed me for almost a decade and I believe it will be with me until I let one special book go.

I was sick of being a number.

There were a lot of students in the master’s program in writing at the University of Southern California and I felt like I always had to prove myself. Every class was the same, an introduction to the others in the room and then a slow stomp up the literary stairs to the top of the class. Maybe I would have had an easier time being in competitive classrooms like these if I went to a bigger college for my undergrad. Then I was a big fish in a small pond. I was the writer of the entire class of English majors. It may sound egotistic to say I ruled the school, but it felt like that as I went from writing workshop to workshop then.

But at USC it was different. It also didn’t help that I started the program in the middle of the year. Everything was settled by the students on their own personal rankings by then. You would see in the classrooms which students were worth listening to and which created the most eye rolling (and there were a lot of eye rolling). I was the odd man out, the question mark in the class, and I could sense it.

Those writing classes could also be stressful and aggressive. Students would argue about each others’ works, some teachers would spur it on (maybe even weirdly enjoying it) while others did their best to try and keep some control over their classrooms. I wish I could say I played it smart in the early months, biding my time and getting the lay of the land.

That would be a lie though if I said that. Continue reading

Music and My Writing Brain

I first learned the power of music in my writing while I was an undergrad in college. At that time, I was working on a story and for some unexplained reason I had to listen to The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky (This happens, now and then I get taken over by a certain “sound”). Anyway, so there I was in a writing class (it might have been a writing table, I don’t remember which) and I started to read the story… And I began to notice that the meter in my words mirrored Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies.

Yes, without realizing it, my character’s speech was actually set to music. I had to fight to control my giggles, now imagining my character on toes as he was speaking. I’m sure my reading began to seem ridiculous to the other writers there, but at that moment I knew I had a problem… and, of course, I knew I was going to have to rewrite the entire speech.

Well, since then I have figured out the potential impact music can have on my writing. While I have not let the cadence of a song take over a story again, certain artists and music became part of the creation process for me around different works.  Sometimes I use them to influence a mood I am hoping to create, sometimes they are just simply the soundtrack for the “world” I am “living” in. Here are five examples: Continue reading