I recently read the essay “One Hundred False Starts” by F. Scott Fitzgerald which was published in The Saturday Evening Post on March 4, 1933. It is an interesting insight to his process. The false starts are snippets he’d written down on pieces of paper that floated around him, on his desk, in his pockets. Bits of paper with bits of a story line written on them. Most of the ideas, he claims, he’ll never run down and make anything out of.
Of course, that had me thinking about my own process. There are big ideas, bull-ish ideas that won’t let go until they are satisfied their story has been properly writ. However, when I need a break from the books, I write short stories. Some ideas come to me quickly, but sometimes I skim through my archive of ideas to find inspiration. And my archive of work, it’s pretty large. I have a whole file on my computer dedicated to documents named “just an idea” “idea22” “Idea on a Sunday evening” “Idea 543”. The file folder is bulging with my random thoughts, my angst, and sometimes it seems just writing for the sake of putting words on paper. I also have note books called “works in progress”, the tactile version of my own one hundred false starts. Bits and pieces of paper with ideas jotted down. Ideas that seemed interesting at the time, that seemed like something worth following through with. Like something worth holding onto. Continue reading
I lived in Colorado for a few years, and while I was there I wrote. A lot. I was finding my voice and trying to figure out my process. I wasn’t doing these things consciously, I was just writing because I had to. Looking back now, of course I see all the lessons on writing I was learning.
During that time I also began submitting short stories. I feared submitting anything to an agent then, that seemed like such a pipe dream.
One of the publications, Mountain Gazette, had a contest every issue, they published a black and white picture and challenged their readers to write a 1000 word story about said photo. I didn’t always like the pictures, but one caught my attention. I wrote a short piece called “Ending Up.”
The Gazette did not publish my story. I pulled it out two years ago and gave it a polish. It has now won me second place in a literary contest and was just published in Flare, a literary magazine.
I just received my copy this past week and I always get a little thrill at these stepping stones in my career. So of course, I had to share this news with my three loyal followers.
Click here to open the short story.
Oh, and you might be wondering if I saved that photo?
Of course I did.
When the holiday’s come around, be it Christmas or Birthdays, I get a little put out. Not that it affects the whole day, well, sometimes it does, but sometimes it just turns my guts a bit. Why? Because I miss my family.
My hippie parents instilled such big wings on their children, myself, my brother and my sister that we took to flight and landed so far from where we were raised. One in Italy, one in Denver, and me in my Northwestern corner of the world.
And it’s good we did that. We had courage and strength enough to do that. And there is an added bonus of always having somewhere to go visit. Only, there are holidays and nephew’s baseball games and dance recitals and camping trips and birthdays I miss my damn family.
I read an article a few days ago that finally seemed to capture what it was I felt for the life I live between two places. It comes down to this idea: Idaho is where I live. California is home.
I was digging in the dirt yesterday. And when I dig in the dirt, I think of my great grandma Annabelle. I wasn’t born and raised in this little corner of the world. I traveled a bit before I got here. But my great-grandmother, she was born and raised in this corner of the world.
January 1940 Annabelle Smith
I didn’t know her very well; I was five when she passed away. But that isn’t the end of someone, is it? Passing away doesn’t erase them from the hearts of their loved ones. Stories continue to be told about her by family and friends. A dinner with family will produce a story of Annabelle’s mischievous ways and how she loved it when someone asked her to pass the butter. She would do so with a twist that sent the receiver’s thumb right into the butter as they tried to take the dish. She’d laugh and laugh at that one.
by Annabelle Smith
She was an instigator of great fun. She was caring and kind. She was hard-working and she loved her garden. So when I finally put down some roots here in Boise and began to show an aptitude for growing things; it was often commented that I had Annabelle’s green thumb.
So when I dig in the dirt, and when my heavy breathing becomes the rhythm in which I shovel, my mind clears and I think about my great grandma digging in this same dirt. Plotting her own garden. Getting excited at the first signs of spring. And there is a connection to the past there. I have a sort of “telephone line through time” (as the Indigo Girls put it so eloquently). Digging in the dirt, I’m lost in a mediation of connection with those that came before me. Continue reading
There are clashes and rumblings. The noise is deafening. The silence is threatening. I feel like I’m trapped on Willy Wonka’s boat, toward the end of the tour. Where violent images flash and scream. When everything the man is crumbles and become shadows of goodness that once might have been. The moment when everything is tilted.
And nothing will ever seem as it was once before.
The disruptive noise taunts; a shadow of arid despair sucks the watery blood from life.
The tornado of vocal destruction swirls and whirls inside my self. Each energy receptive nerve flushes the noise outward. Only to become trapped in a different area of this human’s body. And it builds up. Bubbles up. And I whisper the pondering wonder, are we going mad? Am I going mad?
And the noise grows.
Splashes of paint on canvas, a hurried sculpture or two, some spliced pictures pasted together. A poorly thought out poem. A rushed fictional hand job. The guts of artistic endeavors bleed out. Into the world. Into the void. In an effort to silence the mounting racket.
And I can’t figure out if I’m going mad or if it’s the rest of them or if it’s a little of both and if the madness is part of a symbiotic something and if it matters and if anyone can stop it.
Or should it be split open wide? Should it be ripped open wide? Should containment be wadded up into a ball and thrown in the trash?
We’re are all mad here…worked for the Hatter. A little.
I have been known to bemoan the writing process. Well not all the parts of the process. I love the writing. Sitting in my own space, creating strangeness. Creating characters. Creating extensions of myself. Getting lost in the story. Love it.
Now, the editing. I can deal with that. It’s not always easy. But getting to the editing is the hardest part. Once I begin, I can see the forest a bit more clearly and have a better understanding of what can remain and what most go; all in the name of conflict and story arc and stuff like that.
Outside the scope of sitting down to a pen a paper, a computer…the business side of it…that shit I bemoan.
Hope is an interesting thing these days, isn’t it? I am stuck in a harsh wash cycle of hoping things work out and hoping I can fight the good fight for the long haul and hoping things will just somehow ‘work out’ over the next few years. The waxing, waning mess is akin to a gaggle of teenage hormones. Screaming and crying one minute; happy go lucky with a plan of action for their future the next.
As a writer, I write to make myself feel better. Yes, my fingers have been flying across the keyboard this past week! II love when writing, short stories come out of nowhere and I follow them to their ends. I thought you’d like a little something different today! Continue reading
View of Boise from the Depot
I forget the gem of a state I have here in my little corner of the world. And I’m thankful for my trips this summer that have reminded me why I’ve made this place my home.
Rumi said “It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.
My idol, Madeline L’Engle said “Maybe that’s the best part of going away for a vacation – coming home again.”
And sure that’s what I’m feeling.
I’ve got a new writing gig.
I was hired by Trip101, a travel blog written by travel writers. (As well as the occasional fiction writer.)
If you get a chance, stop by for a gander. I’m trying to write at least 3-4 articles a month, so check back often.