website, blog and vanity nexus of writer R F Brown

Posts tagged ‘writing’

draft 1st chapter: OneDerful World

I would like to announce a personal creative milestone. I finished the draft of Book 2 in my novel, OneDerful World just at the end of the year. There will be three parts, my goal is a finished manuscript by the end of ’22. So the project I have been working on for a month is another pass at Book 1. One of the things you learn about in writing a fiction project that takes place over years is that your voice and your mission are constantly changing. Inspirations and influences of things you read sneak in and change the direction of your book. The result is that the place you thought you were going a long time ago is quite different then where you ended up. There have been a lot of scenes to rewrite in Book 1, a lot of characters to reshape. But I think I’d like to give you RFanatix a taste of what this novel I have been hammering at since 2015 is going to be like. Attached below is a draft copy of the first chapter of OneDerful World…

———-

Volume: 61/1

Respondent: G., Jakob

Re: 25 November 1948 CE

I consent with magnanimous joy to recount the story of Juanita [principally the human entity]. Annuit coeptis!

To my historian [imputed], I issued the following caveat: I have absolute and final editorial control over all content. This writ includes my choice of individual words.

To my consanguineous student readers, I gave two imperatives: 1.) I am not bequeathing a biography of Juanita. Despite whatever attempted commercialization accompanies my storytelling, and whatever people of limited imagination, intellectual depth, bravado, or faith say it is, on whatever sort of wrapper, this is my being’s conceptualization of another being’s being. Each of us is subject to the infinite storytelling of all the others among our college of thought. While I consent with magnanimous joy to tell Juanita’s story, I implore students to try understanding that none of us are what it says on our wrapper. 2.) Be certain to not slide incautiously over a word in this history you do not understand. The only limit of any person’s ability to comprehend a concept is based on one’s proclivity to stroll by a word confounded, determine the concept before them confusing, and then accept misunderstanding as inevitable. Be assured, students, I have selected each word before you with painstaking interest in regard to definition and nuance, and this care includes my placement of every adposition, diacritic, and punctuative. Ignore my guidance at your peril!

Quis erat Juanita? A mere introduction to learning about her contribution to our universe would required I write a factual recount of at least the last sixty trillion years. For the sake of specificity, I select to share from our underlying research, significantly condensed, the most germane components viz. Juanita as teenage coloratura soprano, Hollywood movie queen, extrasensory faith healer, and religious prelate (Her life as whatever evolved personality, phylum, or reincarnation called The Good Friend is beyond my field of interest and I will not discuss it in this history.).

Juanita De Mingo-Gudsang (posterus Good) was born astronomical year 1934 CE near Rancho De Mingo, California, Earth. Of course, born is a relative term. Species of mammalia may gestate between two weeks and two years, magma can crystalize to a pluton of rock in about ninety thousand chronozone (± 40 KA), and a typical grass seedling will emerge from planting in seven calendar days. Human beings (and other creatures of consciousness and universal awareness) are not truly born until the day they initiate self-realization, on this my panel of seven experts in Esoteric Ontologics unanimously agree. Ergo, this history begins with that critical day of Juanita’s human life, in medias res.

Juanita’s parents had observed signs of special abilities throughout her childhood, but until she was fourteen years old they had not yet witnessed her as extraordinary. The day in reference was the morning of the Thanksgiving holiday, 1948, inside Seventh Church of Christ Scientists, a recent construction in the then new and affluent Jefferson Park neighborhood, Los Angeles, California.

Order of Service that morning called for a special vocal performance by the Gudsang Trio, twins monozygotic Zoraida and Pedrosa and elder sister Juanita. The trio had been prepared in rehearsal by their father, Gun Gudsang, to perform Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy’s, “MY SOUL FOR HARVEST”and the Catholic hymn “BEHOLD, THE SOWER WENT FORTH SOWING.” The children’s mother, Consuelo De Mingo-Gudsang, was the service organist. Suelo, fond of sacred music, a vestige from her Catholic upbringing, had also requested Gun have the children perform “RÍU RÍU CHÍU”, a Spanish Christmas carol. This was entirely appropriate for a Christian Scientist service as the words, even in Spanish, articulated the errorless message of Christ without roaming into Romanist idolatry. Within Christian Scientist teachings of The Leader, Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy, the religious import of Thanksgiving eclipsed even the meaning of Christmas. The theme of gratitude acknowledged God’s existing blessings, rather than what Suelo characterized as “oraciones for more greedy favors.”

Perhaps because of busy Thanksgiving Day activities, Gun did not have opportunity to run through “RÍU RÍU CHÍU” with his children earlier back home at Rancho De Mingo. Fortunately, Gun and Suelo’s daughters were quick at musical study. Indeed, Juanita could produce unrehearsed the seven diatonic notes of the second soprano part all in perfect pitch. According to eyewitnesses of the day, many of whom were Hollywood notables, one of the church ushers had been beset in an automobile altercation, rendering the regular weekly contingent of eight men to seven. An oral reader completed the Golden Text from Revelations VII which signaled the church ushers to pass only seven brass offering plates among rows, which, in turn, cued Gun to cue The Gudsang Trio (N.B. the series of both purposeful and extrinsic sevens, or, as reiterated in Haftology, hierophanious zeta phenomena).

The Gudsang children had been positioned on the seven altar steps so that Zoraida and Pedrosa were one graduation below Juanita. Their mother, petitioning an overdue favor from Hollywood costumer Karine, had the two younger sisters wardrobed in round, autumn-hued skirts. Juanita’s dress was cinched at her young-miss hips and the print of falling poplar leaves was designed to pattern her cascading golden curls. I believe what was powerful and beckoning about Juanita as a performer was the contrast between the appearance of her immature adolescent body and the sound of her preternaturally mature soprano, i.e. she was a little girl with the big voice of a woman. Seventh Church’s membership was in love with the voice, and Hollywood community chatter attracted the attendance of many, including part time and non-believers. Juanita was always a reliable performer which is why certainly the shock intensified when during the second stanza of “RÍU RÍU CHÍU” she appeared to fall into a fit of psychodynamic glossolalia, and her singing of improvised and unholy words resounded across the audience, up to the church’s radially-split pine roofbeams.

A brief description of Seventh Church’s holy erection is necessary. The building’s exterior did not exhibit the stucco and tile roof of Spanish Mission revival, popular of church constructions in the first half of twentieth century California. Instead Gun Gudsang (transl. God’s Song), principal architect from the Norwegian-American firm Gudsang & Ødegård Arkitekter, had designed a long, rectangular structure, storied on a curved hull. The sides were built with lapstraked long planks from imported old-growth oak, fastened together with copper rivets and roves, then sealed and weatherproofed with tar. Along these long sides there were many small circular windows resembling ancient oar holes. On top the architect had elected the expressions of a tall oak mast and square flags rigged like sails, one with the print of a lantern, the other with a needle, symbolizing respectively the word of The Master and the promise of salvation. Wide mahogany entrance doors, detailed with iron strapwork, opened outwards like hatches, and above them a carved swooping dragon head recalled ornamentation once found on the prow of a Norse langskip. In effect, Gun Gudsang had built a church that on the exterior quite resembled a landlocked Viking warship. 

The interior auditorium of Seventh Church was a long room lit by the many circular clerestory windows and pewed to seat as many as twelve hundred Christian Scientists. Gun Gudsang, being in a sense his own architectural client, seized the opportunity to build an acoustically infallible house for the performance of choral music, which he and his wife revered. Gudsang & Ødegård Arkitekter was an enterprise of international distinction building opera houses and theaters magnificent in their beauty, but by the mid-twentieth century they became most renowned in the United States for modern scientific acoustical engineering in new cosmopolitan concert odea, assembly halls, and restored cathedrals, largely due to the expertise of the firm’s scion. In previous demonstrations of his genius in interior acoustics, it was Gun Gudsang who inserted a wide, sound reflecting marble floor between the audience and orchestra at the Pasadena Philharmonia Hall. It was he who designed the legendary pyramid-shaped band shell at the La Jolla Amphitheater, acoustically far ahead of its time and brought down quickly due to its appearance being too avant-garde for conventionalist in San Diego County.

Expanding the achievements of these remarkable previous projects into the construction of Seventh Church of Los Angeles, Gun used Sabine’s mathematical principle formulas to predict sound reverberation time and the coefficients of sound absorption in his building materials. He logged experiments using organ pipes, tuning forks and the singing voices of his three daughters as sound sources originating from all areas inside. Gun’s original blueprints [archive lot #16] diagramed for sub-contractors his call for a flat planked ceiling, braced with pine beams, to avoid the echoes of concave church domes and vaults, and for sound absorbing carpets, draperies, and thick upholstered pew cushions to reduce distortion and echo. He had the pew rows placed on a raked floor rising at the bottom to form an isacoustic curve, as first proposed by Russell’s study of soliton waves, and the church walls lined with thin plywood paneling which furred out from the masonry on battens to provide a resonating air cavity behind the timber surface. Lightweight bamboo wood on the floor created vibration and stretched long bands of spring steel wire along the ceiling crossbeams absorbed the sound energy being produced below, amplifying it as in the body a wooden-backed string instrument. In effect, the church, resembling a Viking warship on the exterior, was in the interior a vast and Christian-filled violin. 

Was this attempt at turning a building into a musical instrument pure acoustical quackery? My special commission of acousticians concluded Gudsang’s Seventh Church project to have been somewhat naïve in regard to vibrational physics, but concurred that low cubic volume relative to the audience size, and consequent short reverberation time inside the church, would result in clear acoustics allowing ornamentations of human voices to be heard in exceptional effect.

Although Gun may have built the perfect church edifice, it might be said that as an individual he lacked the framework of a complex exterior personality. It was Suelo, his much more gregarious wife, who possessed the exceptional talents to accomplish both the campaign to finance construction of the church and to populate it with the correct people. In the first year of Seventh Church, 1948, on Thanksgiving, she personally invited many wealthy families, politicians and Hollywood luminaries to services. The foyer visitors registration book from that day [archive lot #34] includes signatures of such noted individuals as: Doris Day, Ginger Rogers, King Vidor, Theodore Dreiser, and Baseball Hall of Fame athlete George Sisler.

As with every service in Seventh Church, the Gudsangs directed the musical program. Gun conducted the choir and special vocal performance by the three daughters Gudsang, and Suelo arranged and played all music for the pipe organ. Suelo’s organ was located in the rear loft of the church, a level above the congregation, with Gun’s choir organized around it in pyramidal seating. The audio sensory effect of this orientation being that tonal voice colors of choir and anthemic organ timbres channeled together from rear to front and downward in an evenly flared profile toward their especially-invited congregation. The musical program presented that Thanksgiving morning reproduced the unisonous vocalizations and cantus firmi of Christian liturgies established long before Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy.

Students might be tempted to surmise, as did many members of Seventh Church congregation, that Juanita’s trance-like fit of disequilibrium on the Thanksgiving Day described was the result the adolescent’s bliss-like travel into the pleasantry of her own Christmas-colored performance. Others present in the church that morning expressed conflicting theories that perhaps under-rehearsal, over-rehearsal, or even nonchalance toward the ubiquitous Christmas message could have caused Juanita to wander mentally from the printed vocal score. I have stated conclusively that Juanita did not “lose her place” in the song. My hierological-musicologists believed that the repetitive Spanish villancico choral form encouraged Juanita’s seeming state of trance and produced a primal religious experience during the interpreted incoming contact from the spirit world, much in the way some Afro-Brazilian religions use percussive music to summon their deity Orixás. The particular rhythm and meter of “RÍU RÍU CHÍU”, when phonated in Juanita’s vocal vibrations, may have exacerbated a physical singularity, i.e. a fissure in time. The moment following this divide was that in which she began to sing out the names of persons in attendance followed by their current medical condition in English, Spanish, and Norwegian.

According to certified witnesses, Juanita beautifully vocalized at least some of the following in an improvised melody:

Mr. Arthur Fosbury. Small cell lung carcinoma! Lunge kreft!

Mrs. Ada Bea Gage. Gota! Gout! Gikt!

Mrs. Lilian Galarneau-Graham. Androgenic alopecia! Calvo! Balding! Calvo!

and

Miss Rose Greener. Embarazada! Gravid! Pregnant! A boy on May 25th!

Prior to investigation, Juanita’s exclamations were misunderstood utterances rebounding from the corners of the auditorium. Gun Gudsang, perhaps as alarmed by his eldest daughter’s bizarre behavior as by the failure of his perfect acoustical design to contain an echo, was heard to utter the word, “Uffda.” He motioned a rehearsed hand signal to Suelo at the organ who, in a hasteful manner, and an apparent preemption of the reader’s benediction referenced in the Order of Service, played down the recessional hymn, Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy’s “FEED MY SHEEP.”

Later that Thanksgiving Day in the choir rehearsal room of Seventh Church, Juanita, looking perplexed, sat at the middle of a carpet-topped table while the parents came at her from both ends.

Gun said to Juanita, per transcription of interviews with the Gudsang family, “Hoppeføll [Norwegian nickname], people of the church are quite cross. Miss Greener, and your mother too.” Gun was described as a man who frequently wore short suit jacket sleeves, revealing forearms of white-blond hair. Despite being of downy body, when Gun conducted music from the rail up in the choir gallery, his Norwegian-born paleness made him appear to congregants like a lanky baby in a man’s suit. However, paraphrasing one testimonial, Gun was more dedicated to impressing people with the successes of his architectural and musical projects than with his personal appearance. Although he had come late in life to fatherhood, he was also dedicated to the crafting of his three children.

“It’s an infamante on our family, Mija,” Suelo said. According to photographs in my archive, Suelo was below average female height and an endomorphic body type, but she also appeared to have been gifted with unusually large hands. A discovered audio recording, made a decade after the era of this study, provided evidence that Suelo’s long fingers could improvise a twelfth-span piano hand position like a postulant Rachmaninoff.

The parents had Juanita in tears. “Gosh, I didn’t mean to say all those goofy things, Far,” she explained to her father. “It was in the middle of singing that hymn, Ríu Ríu Chíu? That’s when I saw the blue light. It came through the ceiling, bright as a giant blue glow worm.”

“Light? You mean, the high windows.”

“No, Far. It was a queer light that came through the ceiling above the choir in back. Then it sort of floated like a cloud towards us kids singing in front, and it lingered just over the heads of the congregation. Oh, didn’t you see it? How beautiful and bright it was? I felt like I was being lifted up from the floor, like I was light as a feather.”

What Juanita described, scholars of Hindu worship may recognize as similar to a vision of Darśana, also called auspicious light.

“There was no such light, Mija,” Suelo instructed her daughter.

Gun poured himself a dram of aquavit from a personal flask and Suelo sighed disapproval on behalf of Christian Science, which considered pleasures from alcohol a deadly illusion. Then there was a knock on the doors of the rehearsal room and Suelo stood up from the table. She rolled open the sliding door and ushered into the room a weary-looking female valet [identity unverified] plus noted film-musical actress Rose Greener, one of the people whose name Juanita had sung out along with the word “pregnant.”

Despite a validated measure of mild weather conditions that November afternoon in Southern California, Rose Greener was said to have dressed herself for church in a large coat of golden dyed nutria pelts with ankle-length panels that obscured her iconic willowy figure.

“Is it alright to smoke in here, Suelo, dear?” Rose Greener asked, while in the motion of lighting a cigarette. “I mean, the Lord only bums around the big room, right?”

“The Lord and I prefer you quit smoking, Rose. Por favor.”

“I quit smoking these damn snipes last night, dearie, but I’m a bundle of nerves since this morning in church, no thanks to your little crooning fink.”

“You shouldn’t call her that,” Gun defended his daughter. “She’s only a teenage girl, and she’s just as confused as we all are.”

“What I wanna know is the name of the snitch who told her I’m incubating. Was it one of the two-faced reporters who follow me into Ciro’s? Was it any of those jealous doughnuts from the studio publicity department? I mean, I got a lot of uncles. Not even the real Zagnut knows about his baby yet. So, how did this myna bird find out?”

“Hoppeføll, you have to be honest and tell Miss Greener. Someone must have told you about a baby. Who?”

“Gosh, it wasn’t a thing someone walked up on Melrose Avenue and just told me, Far.” Juanita tried her most earnest to explain. “There was the blue light, and in the middle was a tiny purple egg. It looked just like the embryos I saw in a microscope at school. Then the embryo used the blue light to speak through me.”

“The egg spoke through you?” Rose Greener said. She sat down next to Juanita. “Are you saying it was some kind of ventriloquist bullarky?”

“I swear it was the embryo who said the words…those secret things about you Miss Greener, and all the other church members. The words popped out of my mouth like bubbles in the funny papers, while I was singing. I couldn’t stop it. That’s The Master’s honest truth, you know? You all heard my singing voice, but it was the voice of the man I heard.”

Gun looked back across the table to his wife. “A man?” he asked.

Suelo clarified, “She means, just a fantasma…a stranger…I think.”

“No, the embryo had a man’s voice, Mamá.”

“Alright, I’ll play along with the gag,” Rose Greener said. “Did this man sound like an old fellow or younger?”

Young, I guess,” Lydia said. “Maybe an older boy.”

“Do you think he was wearing little square shaped eyeglasses by chance?” Rose Greener badgered Juanita. “Did he sound like a scrawny itch who always wears plaid bowtie?”

“No, he just sounded like something I can’t describe. Something else. And the else said he came–or is coming, maybe–in answer to my prayer.”

“Uh, huh. Now which kind of prayer is that, dearie?” Rose Greener asked.

“Well, every morning I pray for help. I ask The Master to heal anybody I’ve heard is sick or suffering, and for all sick people in the world I don’t know yet. That’s what The Jesus preached in scripture. ‘He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also.’ The else voice told me, ‘Remain faithful. Be true to yourself, Juanita, and I will lead you to what you want most, to help all the afflicted.’”

“Oh, Jiminy Cricket,” Miss Rose Greener said. “Ain’t she sweet. I tell you I don’t get the joke.”

“There’s another thing, Mamá. I could feel Jameigh in the light, my invisible friend from when I was little.”

Suelo aimed an oath across to her husband, “Santo cielo! The spirit of the twin has returned.”

Gun Gudsang swallowed again from his steal flask and an idea struck him. “Ríu Ríu Chíu.” Play it again, Suelo, with all the girls singing.”

Suelo opened the double doors to the rehearsal room wide to the narthex where the twins Zoraida and Pedrosa had been sitting since the end of the Thanksgiving service with their elderly niñera, Señora Antigua. Suelo brought the children into the choir room and arranged Juanita and her sisters next to the practice piano into their replicate trio positions. Once postured again at the piano bench, Suelo played the hymn material to the family’s concern. Juanita’s singing was reported to be beautiful, if somewhat behind the rhythm and lacking enthusiasm. The sustain pedal on the practice piano apparently squeaked as well. Suelo looked annoyed but nothing unusual happened. Gun, sat at the carpet-topped table and stared at Juanita.

“Do you hear the stranger’s voice, Hoppeføll?” Gun asked her. Juanita shook her head negative and appeared to feel responsible for disappointing her father. Gun asked Rose Greener’s valet to step out to the narthex and bring in Señora Antigua. “Nobody else move from where you are right now,” he said.

A moment later the valet walked back into the choral room with the old woman at her arm. Señora Antigua, had lived at Rancho de Mingo for decades, employed in the assistive upbringing of Suelo and all six of her older sisters, and then Suelo’s own children. On Sundays one of the rancheros from the family house would drive her to Catholic mass, but this Thanksgiving Thursday Suelo had invited her to ride with the family in the Rolls Royce Silver Wraith convertible down to Los Angeles to hear the Gudsang girls sing. Señora Antigua wore an old silk mantilla over her head, a gift once from the belated Don Mingo, Seulo’s father, and likely her most valuable possession. As the valet escorted the woman in through the choir room doors, Gun shouted for the benefit of Señora’s weak hearing, “We thought you would enjoy hearing the entire performance of the girls!”

“Mi propia ópera!” Señora Antigua shouted back at Gun.

Gun stepped in to assist Señora to a large Morris chair in the corner of the chorus room.

The girls still in their staged trio arrangement watched for Suelo’s cue as she played “RÍU RÍU CHÍU” again on the piano. At approximately the sixteenth bar, Juanita began to fall into a state of semi-consciousness. Her eyes rolled up and instead of singing the second soprano part she commenced singing random words in full resonance.

“Pocosordos!” Juanita sung out.

Gun frantically dug into his shirtfront withdrawing a pocket-sized, spiraled sketch pad and an architect’s drafting pencil.

“Catarata!” Juanita sang fortissimo and Gun jotted down the word.

At the end of “RÍU RÍU CHÍU”, Señora Antigua clapped for the girls and Gun directed the twins to escort their niñera back to the narthex [Referencing Gun’s recovered sketchpad, archive lot #7036, his note: Señ Antigua walked w/livelihood. more than she displayed coming into room.]. Then he ushered Juanita to lie on a sofa and she began to rouse to consciousness from her trance.

Gun sat next to Suelo on the piano bench and sounded out loud his own phonetic Spanish scribblings. “Po co sore dose?” Gun asked Suelo.

“Slightly deaf in the ear,” Suelo replied, her long fingers making a pinching gesture near her ear. Gun wrote that down in English next to his notation.

“How about, cat…arada?”

“It means…,” Suelo tried to think of an English word and pointed at her eye, “her eyes are cloudy.”

“Oh…cataracts!” Gun wrote that down in the notebook and seemed to be having an odd fun with the translations. Suelo pointed at the next item on Gun’s list. “Oh, svak ryggrad,” he read. “Now that is Norwegian. Degenerative…spine pain. But I do not know ‘infer may vegee da?’”

            “Spanish again, Far,” Juanita said from the sofa. “Enfermedad vegiga.”

Suelo pointed at Gun’s notations with her pencil-like fingers. “The old vieja’s bladder is falling.”

            Gun’s bushy, pipe-cleaner eyebrows popped up. “No joking?” he asked the notes. “Is falling bladder common? Will Señora Antigua die? ”

            Suelo slapped Gun lightly on his cheek. “That poor old pájaro has been dying of everything for centum years. The important thing is why our Juanita knows all these mysteries about Señora, just like she knew the illnesses of people in church, just like she knew that Rose is…full.”

“Yeah, but how does she know?” Rose Greener asked the Gudsangs. They all turned to Juanita.

Juanita shrugged. “It was the embryo in the blue light talking,” she said.

Gun wagged a finger in the air. “The secrets came to her from The Master during the Christmas song. She went into a trance, and God told her what’s going on inside a person. That is what I figured when she sung out that Miss Greener is…full.”

“Say,” Rose Greener offered, “that’s a pretty neat trick. Maybe your little swami really is patched straight through to Heaven.”

Gun believed he had identified a God-given gift in Juanita, an ability–in a state of mental trance–to empathically perceive another person’s bodily conditions and/or illnesses. My students learned that Gudsang was mistaken in part, that the data declaimed in Juanita’s hypnogogic hallucination was not excogitated from the presence of subjects bodily among their ministry at all. Juanita was, in fact, experiencing anamnestic-inversion, a fore-channeling of medical history information about the subjects residing in the reservoir of records held currently by my Haftological Institute. The questions of with whom was she communicating?, what entity was represented by the purple embryo?, what was the primary source of information? become matters of continuous scholarship. My students know these cosmological quandaries well from their studies in Haftology and the nature of Series Current.

At fourteen years old Juanita had her first encounter with the light representing her leadership of mankind to the theoretical center of origin. Exactly how mankind should prepare and come together was, to this point in the chronicle, unknown, however articulating the way became her life’s mission. I must also stress, adapting from the Zen Buddhist concept of understanding one’s own enlightenment, that Juanita’s true consciousness as a facet of whole consciousness was reborn on the Thanksgiving Day previously discussed, the day she began self-realizing the primary source of her perceptions.

 [end section]

WRITE’N TIME (or: yes, your business card looks very professional, but your novel sucks)

soundomusicLast week I paid $40 for a ninety minute class called Marketing For Writers. I’ve paid more and less for similar courses before. Despite my contention that the industry of squeezing money from poor writers is bigger than the companion industry of writing and selling actual books, I did come out of class with some “take aways”, as was phrased by the paid facilitator.[1] Here are a few take aways I’ll spoil you with for free:

The world isn’t going to come to you, Unknown Writer. You have to go to them.

You are the best advocate for your work. You understand your work and care more about it than anybody else ever will.

Make a list of what you’re skilled at besides writing, e.g. my inventory – pubic speaking, writing book reviews/op-eds/social commentary, interviewing people, knowledge of theater and music, schmoozing, people organization and event planning.

Now, where are opportunities in my section of the universe to exercise my skills and introduce myself/my name to potential readers. Are there skills in which I require more training or exposure? 

Start small. Identify local opportunities to support your local writer/reader community, e.g. schools, libraries, colleges, book clubs, churches, podcasts, conferences, association. Small efforts add up and payoff over time.

Become confident talking about yourself and your writing. Write a 30 second elevator pitch and memorize it. 

Design your author specific resume and hand out with your business cards, or bookmarks, or pens what whatever collateral.[2] Don’t be afraid to pitch your ideas to local power brokers. 9 times out of 10 the answer will be no, 10 out of 10 if you never ask.

 

Have many irons in the fire. You never know what opportunity will be the one to propel your writing career.

I want to reflect for a moment on this “have many irons in the fire” guidance. It invokes a condition of anxiety I’ve continually struggled with before and after becoming a fulltime writer. For those who don’t know me personally – I am one lucky sonofabitch. Five years ago when my career in green investments dried up, my gay husband, who is a well-paid physician asked me if I wanted to quit earning money and write. At his insistence? Okay. I could advise you, Fellow Writer, to just marry well and don’t get pregnant. The fact is even I wrestle daily with the clock. I have no job, yet I find all the hours I need each day to beat myself severely for time-mismanagement, distractions, procrastination, and undocumented acts of sloth.

If you’re a writer with a regular job, kids, a house to keep together and you still find time to produce without implementing every insidious method of procrastination, share with me your magic formula. I could never get serious about writing when I was working fulltime on trying to stay afloat in different professional ocean. The marketing class guy said he has three kids and he writes every morning from 4 to 6am. Maybe that’s commitment to craft, but fuck that write? Still, how else are you going to make the time to get anything individually creative done? If we want what writing we can pull off to be read by anybody, according to Teach, we’re going to have to find the time to hand our writer’s resume off to every local Rabbi or Rotary Club secretary.

This guy teaching the class had a lot of super advice for building your personal brand and your author platform, but you can’t even pay somebody to give you 26 hours in a day. Here’s my advice, Dear Writer, for you to take away from this blog post: sit your ass in a chair and write.

Work on your novel, your play, your poetry with the conviction of mind that the only person who’s ever going to be lucky enough to read your bullshit is you. Write for writing sake, then revise, revise, revise. Dedicate what time you have to creating perfection without any concern for who will read you. Is anybody reading this fucking blog post, for example? No. But, I am writing something, anything today, and I believe it will come back to me in some positive way I can’t imagine. Once you’ve written something good, you may make a bubble-tea date with your alderman or neighborhood book yenta. Have many irons in the fire, but make sure your work is always in the hottest spot all day long.

-RFBrown

[1] I once took a class with a professional writing coach who called such of paid-for revelations revealed as Ah, hah moments. “Any AH, HAH’s?” she would ask the class at the end of a session.

[2] The instructor said c.v. I’ve titled my writer resume “Scriptor Vitae.”

REBLOG: SUCKER LITERARY MAG: Which Sucks Worse? My Story or Your Feedback?

On Giving Feedback

link: http://suckerliterarymagazine.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/on-giving-feedback/

We writers are very sensitive about…well, everything : ) But mostly, we are sensitive about our work.  And that’s why when we give one another feedback, we need to choose the kindest approach.

I prefer a certain approach when giving feedback. This approach was further reinforced by Meg Kearney to me when I was a student at Solstice: When faced with having to criticize another writer’s work, choose kindness over harsh criticism. What this really boils down to is tone, use a kind tone when responding to a writer’s work.

I  think that sometimes when we read a piece and are asked for feedback, our own mood is really the determining factor in our tone and approach. My advice is this: if you find yourself irritated with the writer’s work, take a breath and walk away before you compose your feedback; you might choose harshness as oppose to kindness.

Helpful Versus Hurtful

Recently I read a feedback sheet from one of the Sucker Staff Readers (don’t worry, I’m not naming names). Anyway, this feedback sheet was very useful, and I agreed with all of the commentary, including that, ultimately, we have to reject the piece. What I made me pause while reading was the tone of some of the criticism.

For me, there is a helpful way to tell someone their piece isn’t very good, and then there’s a way that will just result in a writer getting defensive, which means they won’t “hear” the feedback.

It’s About The Delivery

While I think it’s helpful to tell a writer that their piece, well, bored me, I don’t think it’s helpful to add insult to injury in the form of an added metaphor or hyperbole: “Your story bored me out of my mind…The story was so long winded, I prayed for the end to come soon.” Or, “this story is SO pointless” and “the characters were SO poorly developed, that I actually hated them”.  Other cringe-worthy comments I’ve seen are: “The writing in this story is VERY corny and VERY lazy.”

There’s nothing wrong with any of the above criticism…except the tone is kind of mean. The very’s and so’s in all caps could be interpreted as yelling, so this writer might feel reprimanded rather than constructively criticized. The use of the phrases “your story bored me out of my mind” and “I prayed for the end to come soon” are borderline cruel. : ( A better way to say the same thing is: “I didn’t find myself turning the pages quickly while reading. Some of the paragraphs of description seemed too long, and I wanted to get to the action faster.”

Doesn’t that sound nicer? Isn’t that more helpful?

Antidote: BE SPECIFIC (and, yes, I’m yelling : )

Being specific in your feedback actually can change the tone from harsh to helpful because you are providing the writer with concrete evidence to support your opinion. If you just say that the piece was “filled with corny language and lazy writing”, the writer will probably take that to mean the whole thing plain sucks.  If you tell the writer what parts were corny or even just provide an example of the corny writing, than they might just feel empowered to fix the problem:  “The dialogue was corny because it used words like “golly” and “gee whiz”. Likewise, if you say the writing is lazy, point out exactly what parts were lazy, and, furthermore, explain what lazy means: Do you mean there’s an over use of certain words? That the writer chooses to “tell” rather than “show”? Does the writing have too much clichéd language or need more careful and exact word choice?

Bottom line, when you give feedback, be specific and point to the writing to support your comments, that way your commentary comes across as based on evidence in the writing and not a more subjective place…like your mood.

Encourage Rather Than Discourage

Ultimately when you read someone’s work and provide criticism, you want to encourage rather than discourage. Tone is what really makes the difference with this; constructive tone rather than destructive tone is crucial.

Our staff of readers are doing the very best they can to be kind and encouraging to our submitters, but sometimes I think we all forget or don’t notice our tone…Tone is subtle but super important in any form of communication and especially in writing. We don’t have inflection of voice or facial expressions to assist us in conveying our intended tone, so you have to choose your words very, VERY carefully.  : )

REBLOG: CARL PLUMER ON THE THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND CLICHE

link: Cliches: Why We Love to Hate Them – Carl Plumer

CLICHES: WHY WE LOVE TO HATE THEM

I love cliches! Creative Commons License: http://www.flickr.com/photos/astama/3534657697/in/photostream/

As writers, we are told to avoid cliches like the plague. Cliches, we are told, have no place in our poetry or prose. We should strive to forever forge new metaphors in the fire of our imagination. Cliches don’t work, they’re tired, they elicit no response from the user.

Poppycock

Well, to that I say, Poppycock. Cliches are our language. We have hundreds of years of cliches, idioms, bromides, local sayings. They fill up volumes1. Studies have been done on them. The do have value because they define us as a people, regardless of the culture we’re in. Cliches are comfortable, they help us recognize each other. New cliches are created every day, with each new expression that comes out of the business world, sports, and especially the hip-hop culture. Today’s cutting edge paradigm is tomorrow’s jiggy cliche. Yes, I know the previous sentence was not an illustration of cliches. I wanted to simply illustrate that words, regardless of their origin,  are original at some point, regardless of how we treat them over time. Groovy? Groovy.

What’s old is new again

But cliches do belong in our writing, our latest stories. I know a 100,000 writers just gasped out loud, 10,000 writing teachers are aghast or fainting, and 1,000 agents just noted in their file, “note: don’t touch Plumer’s queries with a ten foot pole.” But I know this is true: cliches help us define our characters and situations. It’s how we speak. If a character exclaims, “Holy crap, what a surprise!” we know them differently than if they had said, “Well, you can knock me over with a feather.”

What’s past is prologue

Mark Twain was a brilliant writer who originated new terms, new expression, and was ahead of his time by at least a hundred years. But even the great one used cliches, the sayings of his time. (In Tom Sawyer, Aunt Polly says, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Fits her, fits the story.)  So too with Shakespeare, who invented so many of the words and expressions we use today. In fact, every time we write or say common cliches such as, “a fool’s paradise,” “dead as a doornail,” or “too much of a good thing,” we are quoting Shakespeare!2

I don’t believe cliches make our writing bad any more than brilliant new metaphors make our writing good. It’s only in their use and application. Does the cliche work, does it serve a purpose? Then use it. Does your shiny new metaphor detract from the story?  Will every reader stop and think, “My, that’s a clever turn of phrase”? Then don’t. Lazy writing is lazy writing. Write with purpose, cliches and all.

What do you think, am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?3 Comment below!

REBLOG:Paris Review – Letter from T. S. Eliot, the “Prince of Bores”, to Virginia Woolf

I love this self-effacing letter from T.S. Eliot to V. Woolf. BTW, anybody know to what MSS refers?

link: Paris Review – Document: T. S. Eliot to Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot.

Document: T. S. Eliot to Virginia Woolf

Printed with the permission of the T. S. Eliot Estate.

38 Burleigh Mansions, St Martins Lane, London W.C.2.
27 August 1924

My dear Virginia,
Forgive the unconscionable delay in answering your charming letter and invitation. I have been boiled in a hell-broth, and on Saturday journeyed to Liverpool to place my mother in her transatlantic, with the confusion and scurry usual on such occasions, and the usual narrow escape from being carried off to America (or at least to Cobh) myself. In the tumult on the dock an impetuous lady of middle age, ‘seeing off’ a relative going to make his fortune in the New World, by way of the Steerage) stuck her umbrella in my eye, which is Black. I should love to visit you, seriously: the Prince of Bores to refresh his reputation: but the only pleasure that I can now permit myself is, that should I come to Eastbourne (which is doubtful) we might visit you by dromedary for tea: if I leave London at all I am most unlikely to get done all the things that I ought to do (such as my 1923 Income Tax Return) and certainly not any of the things that you want me to do. I have done absolutely nothing for six weeks. One thing is certain: I MUST stay in London, where Vivien will be, after this week, is uncertain. But
When do you want to publish my defective compositions?
When do you want the MSS?
I should like at least to provide a short preface, which might take two or three nights’ work, and make a few alterations in the text to remove the more patent evidences of periodical publication. These three essays are not very good (the one on Dryden is the best) but I cannot offer you my ‘Reactionary’s Encheiridion’ or my ‘By Sleeping-Car to Rome: A Note on Church Reunion’ because they will not be ready in time. But you shall see for yourself, as soon as you wish, whether you think these three papers good enough to reprint.
But what about a FRAGMENT of an Unpublished Novel from you to me? One exists most of the time in morose discontent with the sort of work that one does oneself, and wastes vain envy on all others: the worst of it is that nobody will believe one. But no one regrets more that these moods should occur to Mrs. Woolf (of all people) than
Yr. devoted servt.
Thos. Eliot

Document from The Letters of T. S. Eliot, Volumes One and Two, edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton, published by Yale University Press in September 2011. Reproduced by permission.

The letter is a part of the T. S. Eliot collection of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

REBLOG: LETTERS OF NOTE.com John Steinbeck on the Secret Formula For Writing Great Short Stories

Letters of Note: It has never got easier.

It has never got easier

In March of 1962, acclaimed author John Steinbeck wrote the following letter to Edith Mirrielees — a lady who, as his professor of creative writing at Stanford 40 years previous, had been an enormous influence on his development as a writer and, he later claimed, one of the few things he respected about the university.His fantastic, insightful letter later featured in the paperback edition of Mirrielees’s book, Story Writing.(Source: Story Writing; Image: John Steinbeck, via.)

March 8, 1962

Dear Edith Mirrielees:

I am delighted that your volume Story Writing is going into a paperback edition. It will reach a far larger audience, and that is a good thing. It may not teach the reader how to write a good story, but it will surely help him to recognize one when he reads it.

Although it must be a thousand years ago that I sat in your class in story writing at Stanford, I remember the experience very clearly. I was bright-eyed and bushy-brained and prepared to absorb from you the secret formula for writing good short stories, even great short stories.

You canceled this illusion very quickly. The only way to write a good short story, you said, was to write a good short story. Only after it is written can it be taken apart to see how it was done. It is a most difficult form, you told us, and the proof lies in how very few great short stories there are in the world.

The basic rule you gave us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from writer to reader and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, you said, there were no rules. A story could be about anything and could use any means and technique at all—so long as it was effective.

As a subhead to this rule, you maintained that it seemed to be necessary for the writer to know what he wanted to say, in short, what he was talking about. As an exercise we were to try reducing the meat of a story to one sentence, for only then could we know it well enough to enlarge it to three or six or ten thousand words.

So there went the magic formula, the secret ingredient. With no more than that you set us on the desolate lonely path of the writer. And we must have turned in some abysmally bad stories. If I had expected to be discovered in a full bloom of excellence, the grades you gave my efforts quickly disillusioned me. And if I felt unjustly criticized, the judgments of editors for many years afterwards upheld your side, not mine.

It seemed unfair. I could read a fine story and could even know how it was done, thanks to your training. Why could I not do it myself? Well, I couldn’t, and maybe it’s because no two stories dare be alike. Over the years I have written a great many stories and I still don’t know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances.

If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced that there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes but by no means always find the way to do it.

It is not so very hard to judge a story after it is written, but after many years, to start a story still scares me to death. I will go so far as to say that the writer who is not scared is happily unaware of the remote and tantalizing majesty of the medium.

I wonder whether you will remember one last piece of advice you gave me. It was during the exuberance of the rich and frantic twenties and I was going out into that world to try to be a writer.

You said, “It’s going to take a long time, and you haven’t any money. Maybe it would be better if you could go to Europe.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because in Europe poverty is a misfortune, but in America it is shameful. I wonder whether or not you can stand the shame of being poor.”

It wasn’t too long afterwards that the depression came down. Then everyone was poor and it was no shame any more. And so I will never know whether or not I could have stood it. But surely you were right about one thing, Edith. It took a long time—a very long time. And it is still going on and it has never got easier. You told me it wouldn’t.

John Steinbeck

Reblog: StevenPressfield. Henry Miller’s Eleven Personal Commandments

Writing Wednesdays: Henry Miller’s Eleven Commandments.

Henry Miller’s Eleven Commandments

By STEVEN PRESSFIELD | PublishedMAY 2, 2012

With gratitude to Maria Popova, from whose February 22 article on Brain Pickings I pilfered the following (and to George Spencer, who turned me on to the wonderful Brain Pickings), here is some priceless wisdom from one of my literary heroes, Henry Miller.

Tropic

(What I love about these notes is that they’re aimed by Miller only for himself—without a glimmer of self-consciousness, nor even for a moment intended for public dissemination. Here is a writer lashing himself to the mast, though not too tightly, as he bears down on what would become his first published novel, Tropic of Cancer.)

COMMANDMENTS

1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.

2. Start no more new books, add no new material to Black Spring.

3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!

5. When you can’t create you can work.

6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.

7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.

9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it the next day.Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.

10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

If you weren’t so miserable in high school, where would you be today? For writers, angst is everything. Here’s a reblog:reblog by Hannah Goodman on turning high school’s funny and/or humiliating moments in literary gold.

Sucker Literary

Dear High School, Thanks for being so sucky. Love, H

View original post 872 more words

5 Ways Novelists Can Benefit from Watching Movies and TV Shows | The Passive Voice

Sometimes writers have snobbish attitude toward the writing we witness in movies and television shows. Snobby to the point of not watching. I think if we plan our television or movie time well and think of it as research, there’s a lot to learned from other kinds of media. What’s surprised me most as I’ve become an editor of writing, is how much editing of tv shows I do in my head as I’m watching.

5 Ways Novelists Can Benefit from Watching Movies and TV Shows | The Passive Voice.

Aside from the immediate benefit of getting yourself away from the computer screen and the blackhole of the Internet, studying movies and TV shows is a great way to enhance your storytelling skills. No, writing a script is not the same as writing a novel. But if you look beyond the differences in written format you’ll find some amazing similarities.

. . . .

We all have film characters we love, hate, or even love to hate. Have you ever stopped to think of why? Is it their viewpoint? Dialogue? Mannerisms? Something you never really noticed until asked this question? The most accurate answer is “all of the above.” Character = the sum of its traits.

If you’re having trouble making your characters individually unique, or the main players don’t seem to have that It Factor, select one of your favorite film characters and study everything he does in the story. What makes him stand out? How does he react and interact with the other characters? What does he do when faced with a tough decision? How do you know what that character is feeling without being “inside his head”?

To sharpen your character viewpoint skills, try this exercise:

Watch one scene of a movie (that you’re familiar with) that involves two or more characters. Now write that scene from each of the different characters’ eyes, as you would in a novel–include setting description, thoughts, sensory details, emotion, whatever is relevant. Different characters have different views of the same situation. This should show in your writing.

. . . .

Select five movies you’ve never seen before. Watch each movie and note whether you were engaged from beginning to end. If you weren’t, note what point you lost interest. If a movie isn’t doing it for me, that point is often within the first 20 minutes. Then ask yourself, Did I lose interest because my expectation for that movie wasn’t met? Or, Did I lose interest because, no matter what my expectation, the movie was just plain boring?

Bad pacing bores the audience. But a good pace doesn’t necessarily mean fast and action-packed. Good pacing means constant forward momentum of the story. This is why good literary fiction can be thrilling, and bad science fiction can put you to sleep.

Anything that doesn’t move the story forward must be cut. Analyze individual scenes in movies. They begin in media res, and end as soon as the point of the scene has been made. The same should be said of your novels. No room for boring fluff, no matter how beautiful the prose. We live in a busy world. Even prolific readers don’t have time to read everything. More often than not, they will choose the book that feels like it’s moving toward something over one that feels like it’s going nowhere.

The Undercover Soundtrack – Laura Pauling

I also write with a soundtrack. My novel, Merrily He Rolls Along, theatrical musical comedy with fiction. In my iTunes I’ve even created a special playlist for each chapter. Sometimes I imagine the voice I want to convey through whatever lyrics. But mostly, as this blogger writes, it about how the music makes me feel as I write.

My Memories of a Future Life

It’s all about capturing the emotion’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to tap into a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by YA author Laura Pauling @laurapauling

Soundtrack by Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Colbie Caillat, Natasha Bedingfield, Christina Perri, Adele

To quote Randy Jackson from American Idol: ‘The transference of emotion is what the audience wants.’

Readers more than anything want to feel what we’re feeling when we put our hearts into a story. Whether it’s heartbreak, humour, revenge, sorrow…etc. And sometimes listening to the right kind of music, a certain song that pushes my heart to its limit, can transfer over to my writing.

Stories at your fingertips

So when I was writing A Spy Like Me, I…

View original post 602 more words

Find the BIG Meaning of Your Novel

This is great advice to writers on thinking about the scope of your work. I know the little truths come easily for me. The big Truths always look line a moving target.

link: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/25K6lO/justinemusk.com/2012/02/17/meaning-truth-novel-how-to-blog/

JUSTINE MUSK

how to find the Big Meaning of your novel (+ blog) that will make your readers fall wildly in love with you

1

So I realized I was coming at my novel from the outside in.

I’d created a complex storyworld with a cast of characters and tangled backstory shaping the frontstory. It was like I had the map, but couldn’t find the interstate freeway leading to my destination. I was going down some dark country roads, and it was only a matter of time before I’d end up in a town of cannibals or something.

(Cue the sound of a chainsaw.

…On second thought, DON’T.)

As Roz Morris suggests in her book NAIL YOUR NOVEL, one way to help yourself get unstuck is to remind yourself why you wanted to write the damn thing in the first place.

For me, for this book, it was the idea of repetition compulsion: how we recreate relationships and situations from the past in an ongoing effort to resolve them. I’m using reincarnation as a metaphor for that.

But what is the point of the book? If art is the creative demonstration of a truth, what is the truth I am trying to prove? I needed to get at the novel from the inside out.

Back to basics: a story is about a character who wants something and must overcome obstacles to get it.

But in order to do that, she’s forced to change in some way.

It’s in the overcoming of those obstacles that she finds what she lacks, and acquires what she needs, to achieve her goal (or not). The meaning of the story – the thematic significance – is in that character growth. That shift in consciousness that makes a new life possible.

In her book THE PLOT WHISPERER, Martha Alderson advises you to look to your own life, for your own truths, that you can then bring to bear on your novel. What are the big truths of your life?

I’m talking what Jim Signorelli refers to as big-t Truths, those metaphysical truths that we can’t measure or quantify but recognize, somehow, as right. We vibe with them.

In contrast, little-t truths are the facts and figures we find in the history books, for example. So-called objective information. (It’s not like history is, you know, written by the victors or anything.)

Little-t truths can be manipulated.

Big-t Truths cannot: they are what they are, and they remain the same from Homer to Shakespeare to Spielberg to Joyce Carol Oates. They are the abstract truths that live behind, and in between, and beneath the other kind. Little-t truths inform us; big-T truths live inside us, and a writer doesn’t teach or preach so much as stir them to life. We feel that shiver of recognition, that sense of deepening alignment with the values of the novel, as we live vicariously through the characters and arrive at a sense of what it all means.

2

Big-t truths live in your platform as well, your blog – that is, if you want to create something powerful enough to attract and engage new readers and deepen your connections with your fans.

It comes back to the question: What do you stand for? What is your purpose? What is your defining value or ideal?

The nature of blogging (and online writing in general) is to provide information that solves problems, that illuminates or improves your reader’s life in some way. Think of that information as the bait on the hook that draws your readers to you (you just want to make sure that it’s the right bait for the right kind of audience).

But to turn those readers into fans, you need to deepen that engagement, because information on its own isn’t enough.

The gurus will say that you need to connect with readers emotionally, and that’s true. But more than that, you need them to resonate with you. And that happens when they can sense the big-t Truth living behind that information, shaping the delivery of that information, and they recognize it as their Truth as well.

Community develops around shared values.

To find yours, Signorelli suggests what he calls the “laddering interview”, or what is elsewhere known as “the five whys”. You explore the motivation behind your motivation behind your motivation until you get to its root cause. That’s where you find your Truth.

For example:

Why blog about creativity?

Because I think it’s important to a well-lived life, a healthy society.

Why?

Because it deepens your connection to yourself and the world.

Why?

Because it helps you explore and develop your identity, your voice, your vision, and project that into the world.

Why?

So you can interact with the world as your full-bodied, amplified, authentic self, which allows you to stand in your power and connect with like-minded souls.

Why?

So you can work together to create a movement, raise awareness, find innovative solutions, that change the world. And sell your work and make some money as a side benefit.

You try it.

3

Getting back to my novel, this is the thematic statement I came up with:

The hunger for love leads to distortions of love, but only real love can heal and transcend the cycle of exploitative relationships.

So my character has to grow toward genuine love and intimacy in a way that helps her save herself (and others). I have to create the events, characters and situations – the objective information, the little-t truths, the ‘plot’ — forcing her to do that.

Wish me luck.

What are the Truths that you’re working with?