“Sweetest Decline” by Beth Orton

Mountain ClimbingThis is the third in my “With Music” series, where I capture moments in my life through a song. The first entry was about a Ben Folds song and a girl with elf ears (you can read it here), the second was about being lost in Europe and Sheryl Crow (here).

It was never supposed to be a hobby. Let’s make that point clear. Since the age of 16, my focus and my aim was on one target, becoming a professional author. I even had an agent when I was a kid (the agent then tried to sell a collection I wrote, but we parted ways when I discovered to my horror they were calling me a new generation Beverly Cleary. I thought I was Ray Bradbury. Yeah, I was a stupid and egotistic teenager… But Beverly Cleary?)

And by the time of this tale (age 24), I had four screenplays, the scripts for a ten-episode radio series, and a mountain of short stories. I knew there were novels in me, but I just wasn’t feeling it yet. I just had too many ideas and the idea of focusing on one like that felt difficult. Whatever the case, my world and identity was engulfed in the idea of me being a writer. Not just any writer, but an important one, for the history books, one of the voices of a generation. Why aim for a lower target when the mountain is freaking right there?

Now this is the rub- I was in the graduate program for English Literature at Michigan State University and I was bored. Bored, bored, bored! The idea of writing and studying more writers (and probably going on for my Ph.D.) sounded so… sigh… dull. Another essay? Another literary criticism? Bored…

The fact is I just wanted to write! My literary cup was full, thank you very much!

So in January, I got this idea and by May it was done. I had dropped out of the graduate program, moved back to Grand Rapids, got a really nice studio apartment (seriously, it had a fireplace, but the flames were blue for some odd reason), and found a normal job. Hello life!

There was a certain amount of logic around this (at least logic that worked for my odd mountain-seeking brain), I would live in this place and create my masterpieces, then when ready I would explode into the world. The problem is that this was all based on the idea that inspiration would be there waiting for me in that apartment.

It wasn’t. Continue reading

My Writing Resolutions 2015

1962720_10203577001564582_780062720_nThis blog actually began as a writing resolution.

It was 2012 and I thought as a writer I had been living in the shadows for too long. Oh, I played the game with publishers and agents and fellow writers, many knew who I was (granted, that doesn’t mean they published me or represented me), but with readers I was a ghost. No, let me correct that. A person can at least sense a ghost. I was a ghost that no one was aware of. A quiet and very lonely shadow watching and waiting.

So it began with this post.

That started a year of almost five posts a week. I did everything from personal essays to thoughts on media and entertainment to the art of writing (which are almost always my most popular posts) to original fiction. There was a good chance, and I knew this when I started, that I would end the experience feeling more depressed than when I began. For is there anything sadder than a blog not read? Probably the blogger that wrote the blog, of course.

Lucky for me (and I do consider myself lucky), my blog grew. I think getting into writing the blog, I never realized how inspiring having it (and you the reader) would be. You might think a little click on the like button or an occasional comment no big deal, but it can make my day, any day. That support over the last two years had led to me creating a novel on this site (Permanent Spring Showers, which will be released in February 2015 by 5 Prince Books) and a book collecting some of my most popular and fun posts (Me Stuff, which you can find on amazon here).

Thank you.

Here are my writing resolutions for 2015.

1. Keep the blog active. This one is not surprising, especially since this is one of the things that keep me sane. You know, I never really know what I will do in an upcoming week. It usually just happens all organic. It is in many ways pure writing freedom. Someday in the future I might step away from time to time from it, but I don’t think I see that happening any time soon. You are stuck with me, I hope that is okay.

2. Find a publisher for Cassandra on the Island. If you have been following my blog for a while you might have heard hints of this book in posts. This novel was my Master’s thesis when I was working towards my MFA from the University of Southern California. I also had the distinct pleasure of having the head of the writing program call me at 10 PM on a weekday night, emotional because of it. He had spend all day reading it and just had to talk to me after completing it. It was an awesome moment for me. This book also got me my last agent, but sadly it stays hidden of all my works. I would love to change that. So I will probably do a new edit of it sometime in the new year and see what happens from there. Fingers crossed. Hopefully, there will be publishers and agents interested.

Permanent Spring Showers3. Support Permanent Spring Showers. My new novel drops in February 2015. This book feels very much like an epic for me, a story that has been around since the mid-1990s when it first began as a screenplay (which was what got me accepted at USC, by the way). I could not be more proud of this novel. This book began as an experiment on this very  site and grew… and grew. I hope you will check it out when it is released and tell everyone! Book clubs, fellow readers, friends, loved ones, casual acquaintances, people sitting next to you on the bus or in a waiting room, etc.

4. Finish that new book! So I got this novel that has changed numerous times over the last few years. It went from a very serious work to a mad comedy. The full gambit of emotions and possibilities has been spilled into this work. Right now I have it fully outlined with about four of the 25 chapters written. I need to make this a reality. I won’t say too much more about it, but it reminds me a lot of my radio comedy series The Dante Experience (which you can listen to free on this page!).

5. Think about my screenplays. My screenplays are my abandoned children. The funny thing is they are what drove me to Los Angeles and USC. I have three screenplays right now that I believe are very strong. Possibly the best things I will ever do. One is a romantic-comedy Christmas movie (yes, I said a Christmas movie); the second is a black-and-white film noir mystery (think a young Humphrey Bogart); and the third is an adaptation of Hamlet. Eclectic stuff? Yup, that is how I roll. But realistically, I’m not in any of the hubs of filmmaking. Of all of the items on this list, this would take the biggest bit of luck. My fingers are forever crossed though.

Okay, there are my five points, and I’ll be pleased as punch if I can pull off at least three. I hope you will stick around in the new year to watch.

Thanks again for reading! Happy New Year!

Pontius Pilate, Dr. Seuss, and Me (Part 2)

Pontius Pilatus / Gemaelde 16.Jh. - Pontius Pilate / Paint./ 16th cent. - Ponce Pilate / Peinture du XVIe siecleThis is part two in a memoir that began in this post here.

I oddly wanted this.

I don’t know when this experience changed for me, but the idea of coming in second or third or fourth to another grad student (or worse an undergrad) in auditions felt beneath me. I was Scott freaking Southard and I wanted to be the super grad student! I wanted to be the one that professors would talk about after graduation. A living benchmark for the program. Yeah, I wanted future conversations in the office around history to be like: “Was that before or after Scott was a student here?”

Preparing for the auditions with that lousy script was the equivalent of eating a meal you hated, but promising yourself you were going to eat every drop and love it. Yeah, you were going to smile through the awful meal. Again and again. And I did. I memorized every bit I could of the audition script, bit my tongue as I acted it out in the mirror.

And when the day of the audition came about, I felt ready. Some of my friends thought I was a little crazy for caring so much and maybe I was. Who knows? My brother was an actor when I was growing up, so maybe a part of me wanted to prove it was no big deal and I could do it too. Yeah, I admit there might have been other issues at play in my head. I honestly admit it.

I thought I did great but when the roles were handed out I was not Ponitus Pilate, I was given the second biggest role, that of Caiaphas. I was told in confidence by the theater professor that he only gave the other student Pilate since he had actual acting experience in his past. I could live with that answer! It’s like I was the secret best (but still the best don’t forget).

And that evening I was almost gleeful as I started to highlight the script… until I realized what I was going to be doing and saying.

“Oy vey.” Continue reading

Pontius Pilate, Dr. Seuss, and Me (Part 1)

Pilate in his big sceneRecently, I happily discovered that a picture of me wearing a fur coat and brown tights was finally off the internet.

The picture was from 1998 and for over 15 years it has dogged me on the worldwide web. With a few scrolls down through my name on any search engine (pass the covers of my books and headshots; you know, the important stuff an author cares about), there it was, always waiting for me.

Me in tights.

“Hello Scott, want to see your legs?”

When I signed up for the graduate-level course in Medieval Literature (at Michigan State University), I was expecting a challenge.

Actually, I was expecting a massive challenge!

I heard rumblings from past students of the class, everything from translating to long writing assignments. While I love diving into classic literature, I have to be in the right mood for the older, more historical entries. I’m not the kind of person to relax with Chaucer on a Sunday morning (even though I do have a pic of him on my wall and I did once mimic his style in a very long short story). At least Chaucer can be a little bawdy and playful, but you have to earn the Chaucer in such classes. And usually that due is paid by Caedom and Margery Kempe.

Medieval literature, the literary equivalent of a hairshirt.

But it was required for my MA, so what could I do? I decided to put my own writing aside for a semester and accept my fate.

However, as we got closer to the start of the semester, my fellow students and I started hearing from the professor. This year we were to do something different, something special. It was obvious the professor was thrilled and he wanted us to feel that way as well. Maybe with another group of students he would have gotten a bigger reaction, but typically bookworms (i.e., graduate students in English Literature) don’t usually like to be thrown on a stage.

Yes, I said “stage.” See, we were not going to be studying Medieval Literature, we were going to be performing it! Watch out Broadway! Continue reading

ME STUFF (my new book) is out today! More info! Enter to win an autographed copy!

Me Stuff, front cover

I’m happy to announce today the release of my new book Me Stuff!

When I began this site three years ago, I never thought I would be releasing a book like this or that even people would be interested in my little blog and ramblings. And yet, here we are and I can’t wait for you to check out this fun collection. I’m really proud of it and it has a little bit of everything, containing 40 popular entries. A little humor, a little romance, a little song and dance.

It is exclusively available via Amazon.com. The print copy is only $9.99 and the eBook version is just $1.99! You can find Me Stuff here.

To help celebrate the release of Me Stuff, two lucky readers on GoodReads.com will win an autographed copy of the book. The sweepstakes is through July 15. You can enter by clicking below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Me Stuff by Scott D. Southard

Me Stuff

by Scott D. Southard

Giveaway ends July 15, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Good luck to all of the entries!

Here is the description of the book from the back cover:

Thieves, psychics, evil poets, mad men, car companies, literary greats, tornadoes, models, vasectomies, bankers, children, Satanists, princesses, truckers, comics, rock stars, strippers, superheroes…

Me Stuff is a collection of some of the most popular blogposts from Scott Southard’s writing site “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard.” Made for both the fan and the newbie, Me Stuff has something for everyone… Well, except for those who don’t like entertaining stories. This book can’t help those people.

If you have enjoyed this site in the past, I hope you will grab a copy of my new book  (here) and maybe even tell a friend. And, as always, thank you for reading. This book wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the support of readers like you. Thank you!

Scoring Garrison Keillor

GarrisonI am an English Major.

I can quote John Keats, I have good chunks of Hamlet memorized, and I once wrote a fictional book about Jane Austen (really I did, check it out). Seriously, they rarely get more English Majorally than me.

I get that there is little a person can do with such a degree. With my added MFA in Creative Writing, I live it. We teach (creating more English Majors and creative writers in the process) or we attempt to write or we edit the work of others, possibly those more successful. That’s pretty much it.  We are part of an ever-growing cycle that doesn’t fit in the business world at large. No one in a financial board room has ever shouted “Quick! Get me an English Major! This report is missing symbolism!”

Yet, each week, Garrison Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion brings forward the “lunacy” of the idea of being an English Major and mocks it. Just listen to the audience laugh each time Garrison steps forward to help someone in a skit or woo by saying he is an “English Major.” Laugh, audience, laugh.

Ever since he has started this running gag, I’ve had to use fake smiles when people bring it up to me (and they do all the time). Everyone is in on this “joke,” and we that love literature and books are the brunt of it. It is at our expense. So this would be my first negative for Garrison.

Why is it wrong or a joke for people to want to study and spend their lives around something that they love (books)? Yes, business major, for example, would have the best potential for success, but that is if you only define success in financial terms. Most of us that go into the arts don’t do that. Is this counter to the American dream of big houses and multiple cars and that is why people laugh at us as if we are foolish? Whatever the case, as a writer and lover of books, Garrison should be on our side. Not on the side of the other majors, presenting us as foolish.

Oh, and this also goes for librarians too. Since he seems to mock that field just as much and plays off of the stereotypes of them. Yeah, I’m going to give him a second negative for that. (So far he is at negative 2.)

Continue reading

My Mad Genius Moment: The Thrill of Writing Something Radically New

Mad!!!On June 11, my new book MAXIMILIAN STANDFORTH AND THE CASE OF THE DANGEROUS DARE will be released via amazon.com in eBook and print. Currently, there is a book giveaway going on for the book on Good Reads which you can enter here (only 7 days left!).

To help prepare for the release of this odd and playful book, I thought it would be entertaining to write on the unique experience I had creating my “monster.”

Every artist has a mad genius moment in their past that they can point to…. And if they can’t, chances are they are still in the midst of it.

My mad genius moment came when I had turned thirty. Let me paint the scene- my wife was in grad school; I was working a lousy evening temp job which made it so I only saw her one to two hours a day, if at all; my literary agent at the time was still uncertain how to represent my books, which I truly loved and thought should have been published yesterday; I was continuously hitting walls when I applied for creative writing positions on the college level; and I was turning thirty, which kept reminding me of how many writers and poets said the best work was created by people in their 20’s…. AHHHHH!!!

For any artist, feeling this level of burden and frustration, how could I not put the white lab coat on, mess up my hair and laugh loudly and evilly? Continue reading

The Happy Anglophile

Union JackIn my next life, I will be British.

I know this is true right down to the fiber of my being.

I will be sophisticated, I will look good in suits, I will enjoy tea and crumpets, I will understand the point of Cricket, and I will have an accent that will add to my wit, not diminish it in the least.

I grew up with a love of the country and when I got married it was only natural that I married a woman whose family is British. Sadly, my wife doesn’t have the accent (she was the only member of the family born in the states), but she still shows hints of it; she perfectly pronounces all of her words and doesn’t have, what I like to think of as the “Michigan slur” that haunts me and many others in my state. (When I was in grad school in Los Angeles you have no idea how many times I was asked to repeat something because of that slur.)

Shirts with the Union Jack, Beatles’ posters on my walls, this adoration for England stems from music to history to, most importantly, books.

Yes, all cultures have great writers to point to, but when you speak of British writers you enter the land of myths and legends for me. These are my Herculeses, my Paul Bunyans.

From Jane Austen’s little villages to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s shadowy moors to Charles Dickens’ cobblestone and dirty London streets, they each had a hand in creating the image that stuck with me of merry ol’ England.  Every major experience I had growing up as a reader involved a British writer, starting with reading Winnie-the-Pooh with my mom (I remember us both laughing hysterically when Piglet was trying to help Pooh capture a Heffalump) through Roald Dahl and then the fantasy realms of Tolkien and Lewis that took my breath away.

And don’t forget, England gave us Shakespeare. Continue reading

My Coke (Zero) Addiction

Ah, sweet nectar of the Gods!

What was life like before Coke Zero, and dare I even try to remember?

With two kids, early mornings, and a life that always feels like it is running and then suddenly asleep, Coke Zero has replaced the blood in my veins and my heartbeat now beats to the tempo of “I would like to teach the world to sing…”

This is my life force.

It wasn’t always like this. No, for a time I was off soda.  Four months of semi-consciousness, bumping into walls, speaking incomplete sentences, losing words, forgetting to—I don’t know—wear socks. But thanks to my baby daughter’s teething, I was brought back into the fold and I am once again collecting My Coke Reward points like nobody’s business. Subscription to Entertainment Weekly? Nah, I’m hoping to earn enough points to take over their editorial staff (I have a strong opinion regarding their obsession around Twilight, reality shows, and Glee). Continue reading