I’ve done all of this and I’m not ashamed to say it

I might add kitty petting, a couple dozen games of Free Cell (to get your brain working), checking texts (to see who you are not paying attention to), switching mouse hands (from playing too much Free Cell), procrastibaking, keyboard cleaning, etc. etc. etc.

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I’m so ready to Fall

I didn’t have the most exciting summer. Didn’t really go anywhere or do anything exciting. Mostly I just worked–teaching, and on my current work-in-progress which is just about ready to be launched off my desk. So mostly, I existed in air conditioning, just plugging away with not even a chance to get to the beach. So, bye-bye to summer, but welcome to what’s actually my favorite season of the year. For one thing the temps will be a whole hell of a lot more bearable, at least what’s been passing as “weather” in my part of Jersey. I’m so over these 90 degree days. But to give a bit of a better insight what I’m talking about, look at these reasons I am so much more about Autumn than I was about Summer (at least this year):

1. Apples – Gala, Cortland, Mac, Granny – sure you can get them at the supermarket all year ’round, but this time of year, you can pluck them right off the tree. And here in the Northeast, there’s no shortage of apple farms. Matter of fact, this time of year there’s no shortage of Apple Festivals, with their accompanying Hard Apple Cider samples. And this abundance of apples leads to the inevitable apple cakes, apple muffins, apple sauce, fried apples, apple fritters, apple dumplings, apple doughnuts, applesauce, apple lasagna…

2. Cooler Nights – Seriously, I have nothing intrinsically against summer, but I also like to get a good night’s sleep. And I don’t care what you say about air conditioning – the only difference it makes to my downtime is I get a bit of Sinus Inflamed Fitful Sleep instead of wallowing the night away in a pool of sweat-soaked sheets. Big difference from leaving the window opened a tad and tucking the covers under your chin. Plus you can snuggle up with the person next to you and not have your skin go phwhuck! from the contact. So much pleasanter. And quieter!

3. Better Movies – With the summer blockbuster season behind us, the studios finally roll out their “serious” films, as we get closer to Oscar time. Goodbye car chases, blue screens and dick flicks, I can finally revel in some meaningful dialogue and decent acting. Now if I could only find a theater that’s actually showing  one I would be happy.

4. Boots – Ah yes, for awhile at least, I can toss the sandals and forget about painting my toenails. And I can where shorter skirts with tights as boots look so great with them, and I don’t have to angst about those terrible knees. Boots are just great period.
 

5. Scarves Are Back – Love them. LOVE THEM. They make you look artsy and dramatic, and keep your neck warm at the same time. What other article of clothing can you buy at Target that says so much for so little? Plus they keep the collar of that wool jacket you look tres chic in from itching so bad you’d like to rip your skin off. Ah, the price of fashion…

Let the leaves fall!

 

Tips from the MFA Pit, Part 7 – Author or Writer?

Welcome to the Fall Semester! A little bit late, but excuse me, I’ve been a bit preoccupied teaching actual students! For this edition, we look at one of my students who is studying classic sci-fi and fantasy novels. One of their readings is a Jules Verne, and they had noticed that much of the writing is a bit cliched and dog-earred. Perhaps, but crossing two centuries into 2019, we’re still reading him. That led me to thinking what made this author so popular? Why does his writing still resonate? My observations on that were thus…

We tend to forget, in our sophisticated world of writing and reading, that all writing and reading had to start somewhere. What seemed dated and clichéd was at one time innovative. Jules Verne, when he wrote his tales of (then) high-tech and science was prescient for the times. His stories were forward-thinking as well as fantastic to readers, and the Victorians ate them up. The times were also rife with innovation—think about the technology that emanated from the period. Railroads, telegraph, telephones, automobiles, sanitary medicine, vaccines—and the novel, which was considered the scourge of the masses at the time. But the era that spawned Jules Verne also gave us Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Mark Twain—all masterly writers whose wit and wisdom and style are still the standard for excellence in prose. So where does that put Verne? Well, think about it. There are writers and there are authors. 

What’s the difference? Think about the books that top the bestseller list. Many are non-fiction, celebrity bios, people caught up in historic events or scandals, chefs pushing their recipes, diet books, exercise books, or the latest self-help craze. Fiction follows many trends like the ever-popular YA dystopian saga or the once-popular chick lit, or the reliably formulaic genres of mystery, romance, sci-fi, or horror. (Okay, I hear the screaming, but I’m NOT slamming on genre fiction. There’s good, there’s bad, and there’s memorable and there’s horrible. I should know. I’ve written them and I’ve loved them like an old sweater. They’re meatloaf-and-mashed-potatoes-cozy, and the reading world would be a dim place indeed without them). There’s the latest fiction craze that everyone’s following, there’s serials and sequels and authors we can’t get enough of. But just because someone manages to squeeze out a bestseller on a hot selling topic or storyline, it doesn’t make them a writer. It just makes them the originator—the author—of that particular piece of information we all want to hear about.
Writers—real ones that stand the test of time—touch a core of use that goes deeper than topic or storyline. They paint pictures with words, invoke emotional reactions, create memorable characters that we can identify with, empathize with, love, cherish, loathe. The settings of their stories invoke another world, they inspire us, leave feelings that linger within in us long after we read the last word. We become invested in the milieus they create, we pass on their books to friends. We study these writers, learn from them, their words and wisdom last longer than they do. So was Jules Verne, with his sometimes “pedestrian” prose, his formulaic writing, a writer or an author? Hmm…well over a century removed we’re still reading him. That’s got to mean something. We writers should all be so lucky!

Embrace your inner author

One week to the Author-Preneur workshop in Red Bank, New Jersey! Agents! Editors! Writing! Craft! Critique! Food, Blessing Bag stuffing, agents panel, and an attendee mixer afterwards. This is my third year in a row, and I’ve yet to be disappointed.  Go to the Corvisiero Agency for more info!

Remember the day that few can forget

(Getty Images)

Here in the Northeast and little over an hour away from New York City, it’s a bright clear, late-summer day, much like the kind of day it was eighteen years ago.  The memorials came and went this morning, and increasingly, as I meet with my students, there are less who actually remember, even more who not more than infants, if they were even born yet. But I remember. I remember the sign flashed on Route One and the Turnpike that said All roads to New York City are closed. I remember frantically trying to get in touch with my sister who lived there in those pre-cell phone days, the message on my landline …all circuits to New York City are busy. Try again later. I remember the jets flying overhead from the Air Force base three miles from my home, their deafening sound filling the air for hours. I remember seeing the buildings fall. I remember the shock and then the silence. And then just numb.

But I also remember the resilience. The camaraderie. The sense of pride. The flags everywhere because there was no Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. There was just Americans. And from all that wreckage, we as one people, were never prouder to be one. It didn’t last, of course. The finger-pointing and the ugly reactions to anyone who looked too different came all to quickly. But for a while there, a terrible tragedy brought us all together. Then, as now, I sincerely hope we wouldn’t need another to accomplish the same thing.

You know you’ve really arrived when–oh wait…

I’ve been an American Express cardholder for years, so when I saw this “Invitation” envelope arrive today well…I thought I really arrived myself. I mean seriously, a Black Card! For a pedestrian writer and lowly academic? Me? Wow! I’m so not worthy! Who am I to think? The only explanation I could think of was they must have me confused with some other more affluent and jet-setting Jones. That was until this English teacher took the time to actually read the invite that boasts their metal card weighs an intimidating and wallet-busting 22g.

Not AMEX. Mastercard. It’s not the same. No matter if their website address is luxurycard.com. It’s still a Mastercard, it has no mystery qualifying criteria, it’s not for millionaires, it’s still welcome at Walmart. So no, I don’t feel special, I feel like I’ve been catfished, and no matter how much they tried to woo me with their 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge, 1.5% Cash Back, or $100 Annual Airline Credit, its invitation is still going in the trash.

I shall try to recover from the glance from the rich and famous.

Don’t bother me

Sure, that’s me amid all that mess. It’s summer, and I’ve just finished my last summer class, and I’m just about finished with my work-in-progress–just about. So I’m needed these next few days to finish up then park myself in a spot of sand, by a lake, or under a tree and take a breather. So if you’re looking for me, you’ll find me there with a cool drink in my hand, chillin.

See you in September!

Don’t ever say I haven’t suffered for my art

An edit is a cruel, cruel thing to the mind, but especially to the body. It’s not enough you’re forced to rethink all those trite plot twists, kill some of your favorite characters, remove 97 out of a 100 times you used your favorite word (yes, my moral failing, I just can’t get enough of the word just), as well as barrel higgley-piggley to an ending you’ve changed a dozen times and still can’t get right. No, all that upheaval isn’t enough. No, you must suffer more. And suffering doesn’t come any crueler than when your body starts breaking down.

Look at that hand above. It’s in a “Futuro” brace. (I just love the name. It reminds me of the robot in this scene from the 1927 movie Metropolis. I don’t remember what the robot’s name was, but I think “Futuro” would’ve been just dandy.) What you’re seeing there is a textbook case of carpal tunnel , brought on by an excessive use of just about anything that involves a keyboard. Particularly highlighting to cut and paste, which I find extremely hard to do with my left hand, which I am now forced to use if I want to continue Life As I Know It. Today’s Wednesday, and pain has been shooting up my middle finger since Sunday, when I picked up a fork–I suppose–the wrong way (how does one do that wrongly enough to injure themselves??) The pain’s easing, but it’s still not gone. And it’s a prime pain-in-the-ass to someone who makes their living by spending three-quarters of their work time using a keyboard.

So am I quitting? Hell no. I’m a writer, and I need to get this book done. Why would you even ask me that? Sheesh. But I sure wish there was someplace to apply for hazardous duty pay.

 

The Importance of Being Workshopped

Faculty of Agents and Editors during the Red Bank, October 2018 Workshop. (Corvisiero Literary Agency)

I think I’ve said this before and excuse me for being redundant, but writing can be a lonely business. True, there are writers’ events where you can all write together at a coffee shop or a winery or at the shore, but at the end of the day it’s just you, your keyboard, and the little imaginary friends in your head. So it helps now and then to get among your fellow writers to commiserate, focus on craft and publishing, and realize you’re not the only writer in the world that has issues with head-hopping, comma splices. or rejection letters.

That’s why writers conferences are so important, like Thrillerfest last week, Romance Writers of America’s going on now, or Writers Digest’s huge conference next month. For me, it’s not only the craft sessions, and workshops, the readings and the pitch sessions, it’s the realization that writing isn’t just an occupation or creative endeavor or even a business. It’s a way of life, a big, beautiful, noisy, extravagant, vibrant, lush, existence, that’s exciting and inspiring and humbling all at the same time. It can be as exhilarating as it is devastating, it can be cruel, it can be disappointing. But just like the perfect word that makes your prose sprint across the page, a writers conference can be like a B-12 shot to your flagging writers ego. It can recharge your creativity just being around other people that get you. I mean really, wouldn’t it be so refreshing not to have to explain why you’ve been locking yourself in that room for eight hours at a stretch?

So here’s another writers conference for you. The Authorpreneur Workshop in Red Bank, NJ, coming this September 27-28. Writing and Craft and Publishing Professionals by the beautiful Navesink River. Time to get out of your head and get a glimpse of what the writing life can be. And if you’re already there, come and share your expertise with the rest of us. If I’m going, then you know it must be worth it!

Seriously Snark

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