Tag Archives: authors

Writing schedules

I have been terrible at keeping a writing schedule.

This is a bit of a confessional, because I feel guilty at my lack of discipline of committing words to paper (or screen). My excuses for not following through (and completing what are currently best described as writing dreams) are legion. You’ve heard them all before; you may have used them all yourself; my, let’s call them, reasons are not new.

But I need all this to stop. Of course, the only way that I will stop them myself is by following Patrick Rothfuss’ writing advice. (He’s not the only one with great advice, but he’s so succinct).

So now it’s time to put fingers to keys and throw some pixels in the form of words onto the screen. My treat will be a solid editing session in the afternoon!

Thanks for the encouragement! I hope you complete whatever you need done as well!

On storytelling

Our placeOne of the most nerve-wracking moments for me as a writer occurs when I hand a story to a friend for them to read. Sending it out for random editors carries its own stress, but in those instances, the connection routes through my professional side which moves criticism to a non-personal place.

I have yet to reach that level of maturity with my friends. Which adds the necessary barbs to each comment in order to pierce my being. And if the friend who snuck into the story more than I had anticipated reads it, I’d rather visit another universe for those moments.

My discomfort doesn’t stem from fear of/for  the story, or lack of confidence in my writing. It reaches much deeper.

Continue reading On storytelling

Creative People

I was thinking today about how I occasionally trust people based on their creative works. I have a lot of friends that are very creative, and I am finding that if I see their work as honest, I trust them more. This happens even when I am just getting to know the person and we’re becoming friends. This is a very funny observation particularly since I tend not to trust the speakers of stories. So even though I don’t necessarily trust the characters speaking in a work, I trust the author as my friend. And I am finding that some of this friendship trust comes from what I can see of them in their works.

I guess I’m just a bundle of contradictions… I’m not that surprised.


This will probably be a recurring title as I work on finishing my MA. I love authors. My favorite authors also tend to be literary critics.eliot
LikeT.S. Eliot. I love him. Yeah he was kind of a jerk (or really, whatever), but not only was he a great poet, he was an excellent theorist. Decades before Barthes, Eliot advocated for authors to be disregarded while reading a work.

I don’t do this.

It’s not because I don’t like Eliot (see above), it’s just that I can’t! I love to learn things, anything, and when it comes to authors I really enjoy learning about them and their time. It opens up so much for me when I read their work.

But I don’t get bound by them either. I think only red-herrings are more annoying to me than an author trying to control how I understand the work they’ve created. I don’t completely discount them, but authors aren’t God (sorry authors). As much as some of you would like to think you’re omniscient, especially concerning your works, you aren’t. I think it would be impossible. Even in this post, a relatively non-creative work, I will see ideas, insights, flashes of stories, brief reflections of brilliance, and so much more that I am not intending in this moment as I write.

Why don’t I know everything if I’m the author? Well, partly because I’m not smart enough to keep track of all of my thoughts and influences consciously, but also partly because language is dynamic. These words might not mean the same thing to me tomorrow that they do now. Don’t believe me? What did September 11 mean in 2000? What did it mean in 2002? What does it mean today? What will it mean in 3001? Language, even seemingly static language stuck on a page, changes.
So while I don’t disregard the author completely, neither do I worship the author. I simply add all of that information that informs the text to my reading of the text this time around and then let it blend together in the sieve of my mind. And as I add more information and readings and life, I run it all through the sieve again.
Maybe I feel most comfortable discussing literature from this platform because I like to read and edit and analyze and enjoy literature. I think the editing is particularly helpful for this.

See, when I edit I have to keep track of the story. This may sound simple, but it’s really not. I have to keep in mind the scope of the story as a whole, something complete and finished even as it is in progress. But I also have to keep track of the tiny details. And to use my time effectively I have to keep all this in my head on top of my own reactions as a reader and thinking as a more generalized reader, while I read the story once.

As if this wasn’t hard enough, I also have to keep in mind the voice and tone of the work when I offer suggestions and try to prevent my own voice from dominating. I can never take myself out of a work, but I can do my best to minimize my presence so that it can fade into the background and emphasize the brilliance of the author.

But does that make me a co-author?

This was the question I found myself asking today while I was reading through another draft of my friend’s story. The question probably would have wander back and forth like a ten year-old trying to attract parental attention before wandering away, except that this version was ensconced in an email that mentioned each draft of the story had been completely re-worked based on my comments.

At first I was taken aback by the comment simply because I don’t think of myself as offering insight that powerful. I honestly felt a little bad, as though somehow I had destroyed another’s creation through mis-guided attempts at help. But then I realized

this is what editors often do for authors.

And in a way it was kind of freeing.

Because I know that I have not forced or coerced these changes in the story (for the most part), I can rest assured that this story still belongs to the author and that I haven’t destroyed anything.

But that doesn’t make my relationship with the text any less complicated.
There is only one part of one line that I created in the story so far, and I offered it amongst several options for a phrase that didn’t seem to fit. Other than that, the story has changed and shifted because I provided my questions/thoughts/reactions/associations/opinions/ for the author to consider. Any changes steming from that are completely authorized.

And yet, they still reflect me. Certainly they reflect more my immiatation of the author, but they still reflect me. And the story exists in the form I read through today in part because I read it, and also because I shared my thoughts.

And when I read this story I see the author almost distilled and reflected in it, which I expect without acknowledgement. But I also see today, with all our hopes/fears/pains/loves/concerns/joys/lives also distilled and reflected in this story. There are phrases that if I weren’t living today I would never read as allusions. I see the political environment, our economic environment, our world precariously balanced as it is in this story. And the hope for a better tomorrow also shines in this story. But they are so slight as to be overlooked should this story be read in 30 years.

And I will, more likely than, not never be known in association with this story, so my reflections will go unnoticed and understood differently. Which leads me to another question – would I still be an author in that time when my fingerprints are smudged?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. They are ones I think about often, not only because I enjoy editing, but because I am an English academic with an emphasis in textual criticism and authorship theory. The questions don’t get any easier when applied to dead authors. But the complexity is fun. I will probably be thinking of answers to these questions, especially as I move into fields where my livelihood depends on having a definite answer to what role I’ve played in producing a work, for the rest of my life.

And I’m quite content with that.

The Graveyard Book

So I’ve just finished Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and it’s fantastic. And by finished I mean that I just finished watching it here. He’s put video of himself reading his book on his book tour last week on his website (so many ‘his’ in that sentence). So when I found out that this book (that I’ve been excited about since I read a small bit somewhere on the web) was out, I had to listen to it immediately.


And it was like I was reading it.


Though slightly frustrating because he didn’t read quicker through the tense parts to get to the resolution of that action like I do. But as I listen to Gaiman read his story, I still felt as though I walked along side Bod through the course of his adventures.


Really though, I love Gaiman’s use of language and the way he blends these beautiful images and characters with the inanity and insanity of the life that I see everyday (which I find particularly astounding since he’s a middle-aged man born in England living in Minnesota). His characters talk in a way that I wish I could, and yet it sounds real. They talk in a very literal style and respond with acceptance of whatever circumstances the conversation presents. It’s a book for younger readers, that does not shy away from difficult topics, and the speech patterns seem to reflect that audience.


I can’t wait to pick it up and get to read it for my own self, and this is after listening to Gaiman read it completely. I love Bod and the way that he interacts with all of the characters, as well as the way the characters are and aren’t what I expected. I read a lot of fantasy and have a rather macabre view of life, and this story surprised me in several places and made me smile in others. Gaiman usually makes me laugh out loud at least several times while I’m reading, and The Graveyard Book definitely fell into that quite a lot. I also decided that I really need to read The Jungle Book because this apparently riffs on that story, just in a cemetery. I was describing this work to a friend as a mix between Tim Burton, Monty Python, and Douglas Adams, and I mean that as the best possible view since I love them all.


So there’s my nerdy share for the day. Enjoy this beautiful cemetery!

Rock and Water (part 1)

So I’m totally enjoying this time. I’ve started writing another story. I have no real idea where this is going. I’m still writing it. Maybe it’ll be long. Maybe it’ll just be long for me. In any event, the first part is done enough for the moment. I’m sure it’ll be revised several times. It’s kinda a fun game.

Leau couldn’t believe that she’d followed Felsen up here. It was true that there was nothing she liked better than water and rocks, but this was more than a little crazy. The water was crashing over the rock, and he wanted her to walk on top of it all? What kind of crazy person had she let lead her here? There was every possibility that they could get washed off. That was all well and good, but you never knew what could happen. What if they got swept off the rock and into some other world? Who knew what kind of crazy things would happen to their lives while they were away. Unless they ended up in a world that ran on a different time from theirs, then it wouldn’t be as bad because they would only be gone for a bit. That could be fun – traveling to different world. What if it was all underwater? That might be a bit difficult to manage, but the great thing about traveling to other worlds was that if they were significantly different from your own something in the traveling process made it so that you could survive. That’s how it always worked in the stories she’d read.
“I wonder what would happen if a wave washed us off… What would we find under the rocks?”
“I dunno. We’d probably get bashed into them and drown. The waves aren’t that big though, so there’s no need to worry about it.”

That was Felsen – practically pessimistic. As they reached the top of the rock and looked over the edge, Leau was beginning to hope (for one of the first times in her life) that nothing fantastic would happen. She’d forgotten that Felsen had never really read fantasy books, and while he’d watched some anime and science fiction, his favorites were always the rational ones and not so much the fantastic. He would have no idea how to fight a dragon, or what to do in the event of a goblin attack, or where the best places to find help would be. If they did get washed off the rock Leau would have to take charge because Felsen would immediately entrap them in the wizard’s plan to take over the kingdom, or the queen’s plot to overthrow the ruling powers. They would be dead in about two seconds if she didn’t take over. And while she didn’t mind taking charge, she didn’t want to have to explain all the conventions of the story they were in the midst of trying to save their lives. It’d just be easier if Felsen already understood how whatever world they found themselves in worked.

But those were all simply stories that Leau had played out in her head, and there was no real way that they would get washed off the rocks and into one of them. She wasn’t calling on the Goblin King, so there wouldn’t be an owl or anything; it would just be like all the other times they’d climbed on the rocks and played along the tidepools.

As the sun set over the ocean, the golden light gleamed off the water’s surface and made Leau squint. The sun was getting ever closer to the golden moment when everything would look like something out of the King Midas myth and even people like Felsen could feel the magic that bubbled under the surface of the world. And as Leau squinted into the sunset, she saw, for the briefest of moments, what she thought was a building. She looked harder and convinced herself that it was a new oil tower and not anything to be worried about. But as Leau looked again, she was unconsciously inching closer to Felsen. If they were about to be transported to another world, she wasn’t going to be too far to reach his hand. If there was one thing that she knew was imperative to their survival in whatever might happen in the next few moments it was that they had to end up in the same place together. Since he wasn’t interested in her, Felsen would never be close enough for Leau to grab his hand to ensure that wherever they went next, they would go there together. And at the moment that a wave she never saw coming swept up high onto the rock, the building resolved and she reached for his hand.
Felsen, however, didn’t have a clue as to what was happening, and so he didn’t reach out for her. He hadn’t been watching the sunset and the liquid gold flow over the surface of the earth. Oblivious to the glorious wonder he was missing, Felsen had been staring down in a tidepool and watching the progress of one of the numerous hermit crabs through its daily gauntlet for food. He’d heard the wave coming and quickly stood up. Felsen had just enough time to see that Leau was captivated by something out in the water and peer out into the sun. He hadn’t noticed Leau’s move closer to him, and didn’t reach out for her because he had no idea that her movement was necessary for them to end up in the next place together. But as Leau felt her body slipping off the rock and into the water that would conduct them to the unknown, she reached out farther and just managed to grab his hand. Once she was certain that they were now going to end up in the same place, Leau began to relax ever so slightly. Even if she’d have to teach him the ways of fantasy, at least she was with someone reliable and smart. He’d learn fast enough and then would be tremendously more fun to travel with.   

Cellophane flowers

So here is (probably the first) part of a story that I’ve written. And while I’m the author, it should be noted that I operate under the view that authors can write pretty much anything and not have it be completely autobiographical, nor something that they completely believe. I also do not work within the framework that authors completely determine the meaning of texts. That said, here is a story that I have written, take it for what you will…

“Cellophane flowers of yellow and green, Towering over your head. Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes, And she’s gone. Lucy…” His mind began to wander away from the words in the radio. It’d been like that for awhile now – jumping from one thing to the next. Whether this jump was out of self-preservation or just the same ADD he’d been suffering from was still up for debate. The song always had reminded him of everything he was drinking to erase, but with the self-destructive bent he’d been on recently, self-preservation didn’t seem like the most likely option. Brains were funny things though so he was left with the glimmer of uncertainty.

And really he’d nearly drunk enough to go through into the lab to begin the erasing process so he could’ve simply left Lucy in the sky to prep himself for this next phase. Memory erasure was still pretty new and he wasn’t entirely convinced he wouldn’t end up in a vegetative state from this brilliant idea. It was rather convenient that part of the process was to get drunk. He tended to feel much braver after a few drinks.Downing the last of his beer, he got up and walked to the back door. The attendant scanned him and, after verifying his blood alcohol level, moved aside so he could enter the lab. After one final bracing breath and quick review of why he couldn’t not do this, Led stepped over the threshold and walked with resolve to the next attendant. And while he was prepped, that same stuttering entered his consciousness. He ignored it, and, as the process began, he surrendered to the inevitable release and embraced the life that waited.

Led wasn’t actually running from anything more specific than a less than noticable life. He’d opted for the premium treatment to have the life he’d known erased and a better one uploaded. It was an easy decision as soon as he’d heard about it. There wasn’t much anything in Led’s life that he couldn’t let go of. There was no family, no friends that would really care if he suddenly didn’t exist, he wasn’t even irreplaceable at work. He was just another mediocrity taking up space in the world. He’d originally thought that suicide would be the best use of his life so that there could be more resources for someone the world would actually give a damn about, but he wasn’t that level of discontent yet. So he figured he’d push the restart button and try life again. If it failed this time, he’d left himself a note in his safe deposit box so that he’d avoid being stuck always trying again and again and be able to end his sad excuse for a life.

When Led had given his two week notice, his manager looked slightly surprised, but didn’t ask any questions. He hadn’t bothered to tell any of the other people he knew; what the point was in explaining his actions to an audience who didn’t care? The company had asked their routine questions to prevent people from dodging the law through the erasure, but once they were satisfied that he was legit, they too stopped caring. Even Led hadn’t really bothered to push himself to answer why he’d decided that the life he’d had wasn’t worth his, or anyone else’s, time.

If pressed, Led might have mumbled something about not doing much with his life and about how, as just another drone, the best thing he could do to advance society was give up his place so that someone with ideas (or a backbone) could thrive and make life better for everyone.  

Very altruistic sounding.

The reality of the situation was not as self-sacrificing (it never is).

What Led was unwilling to face, even for himself and with no one ever knowing, was that Led was tired of being alone.

For as long as Led had been alive, he’d been alone. For reasons he didn’t fully understand, he’d never found anyone to be paired with. He’d seen the few friends he’d had get married, or thought of them in conjunction with other friends, but he’d never experienced that. Even at work he’d never been put on a project with the same person consistently. There would occasionally be groups that he’d work with, but not one person who got to know him better than anyone else. If he’d taken the time to reflect on his life, Led might have thought through why it was that no one was paired with him, and why he’d never invited anyone’s curiosity.

But that was not something that occupied Led’s mind. And so Led had led a life that left him unsatisfied to the point of restarting it through the new erasure process. That was pretty much all there was to Led – a life alone full of non-self-reflection. But as he opened his eyes, rubbed his hand through his sandy-brown hair, and took stock of the room he found himself in, all that had made up his life before was gone. He no longer even had the option of taking stock of why people hadn’t ever felt the need to get to know him because that Led was gone. Sure the safe deposit key was there, along with a very few other personal affects, but the man who had created and cared for them no longer existed. Led was on the brink of a whole new world.