Friday, March 21, 2008

P&W Pieces

The current Poets & Writers has been much more impactful for me than the last few, getting me thinking about my writing, my opinions on writing, and my opinions on other things as well. Just a few bits:

On "Googling" one's self (page 14): Yes, it can be vain, and yes it does answer the question "Does the world love us", but it more importantly can alert us to things incorrectly attributed to us and/or misappropriation of our work. If you have a not-uncommon surname, you may also find names very like yours that are not you. One particular search string might lead you to, instead of me, a world-class chess player or a B&B owner with names close enough to be confusable with mine.

The Importance of Place (page 27) brought forcefully home for me the point that my recent writing slump has corresponded directly to a period of unavialability of my home office. In my process, this downtime eliminated the "sift and save" element of transcribing my drafts, leaving me with an hour of unedited audio and half a notebook over the last year, but no poems that are worth much. Didn't realize how important this little desk is to my productivity.

Mark Doty's comments on memoir (page 33) is insightful, and I hesitate to criticize someone whose poems populate so much of my own bookshelf... but one thing rang really hollow for me. Quoting: "But it's a childish version of ethics simply to declare that it's wrong to make things up, and it seems like far too easy a position to claim that what makes a memoir ethical is that it's factually accurate." Sorry, but this is just wrong. If we repurposed this sentence to accept honest misremembering (which, by the way, defines his examples of "fiction" in his own memoirs), I'd be OK with it. But to accept "making things up" in a form that purports itself as factual is misrepresentation, pure and simple. The label carries an implication; deliberately failing to meet it seems to be the very definition of unethical. But the rest of the essay is quite interesting.

Loved, loved, LOVED Dan Barden's "Rant Against Creative Writing Classes". I couldn't possibly represent it well enough here so I'll just give a favorite line: "... the workshop promotes the idea to young writers that their writing is required reading, that an audience is guaranteed. When really, postworkshop, no one will ever be forced to look at their work again." As someone who has screened a lot of applications for features in a reading series and hosted a lot of open mics, I love this point, and his other central thesis that learning is not a democratic process. By definition, instructors are expected to know more than students. And students can't maintain opposite opinions and learn effectively. Period. This has applications way broader than creative writing.

Much other good stuff in this issue. Maybe I'll get back to it after a few days catching up on my own stuff.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bits, Pieces, and Six Words

I haven't forgotten Diane's challenge to write a 6-word autobiography. I think I need help with a word; if you can figure out which one, feel free to offer suggestions:

Calculated legacy: preferring potential and possibilities.

I'll post the rules with my refinement of this attempt or my admission that it's not going to get better.

I don't know who to tag (everyone on my blogroll who might play is already tagged), so consider yourselves tagged, oh my six loyal readers.



Wil Wheaton has a great story posted to memorialize Gary Gygax, dead this week at 69. There are just so many ways that Dungeons and Dragons and all its descendants have impacted the lives of geeks of my generation. D&D was certainly my first outlet for embodying characters. I'd performed on stage, and written a little before my introduction in the 9th grade, but it was always as me. What ability I have to travel in my writing acting started when I wrote "12" next to the "S" to start creating a character I'd inhabit dozens of times in the next 8 years. Tony, you up for a game?


The '08-'09 season of the Spoken Word Series is coming together. I've got to keep the deal under wraps until we announce, but it's safe to say my fears of running out of steam going into year 7(?!) have not materialized. Can't take all the credit of course: Two important pillars of our success are
Symposia Bookstore, who rescued the series from the Physics Building lecture hall after our first sub-cozy half season, and Siobhan Barry-Bratcher of Fair Mile Books, who took on the mantle of cohosting just as it was becoming a bit too much for me.


In hopes of lining up a grammar school workshop or two this April, I've been reading
Seeing the Blue, Advice for Young Poets, which has letters from and example poems by a quite diverse set of writers intent on making the process accessible and the product fun for aspiring writers. It's really a nice book, and I derived a new exercise from it.... which I'll share here after I've had a chance to try it out!


If you've been thinking to yourself how few publishing opportunities are coming your way, you're obviously not signed up to the
Creative Writers Opportunities List. Listings very greatly (in "level", prestige, competitiveness, genre, etc.) but there is plenty to choose from for an advanced amateur such as myself.


I see now that my January posting pace was unsustainable, but my February pace was unacceptable. Any questions for the engineer-poet to prompt a March reply and help me regain my momentum?