What a sad week for those of us who grew up with Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson. I’m feeling really old, right now.
The passing of McMahon and Fawcett were a given; both had been ill for a long time. And although familiar with and fond (in a cultural way) of both, it’s the passing of Michael Jackson that’s really thrown me.
We were born in the same year, you see. I remember at age nine or so, dancing in the living room of Shelly Marchitello to the music of the Jackson 5. We swooned over little Michael, who was just our age, and perfected our Stupid White Girl Moves to “ABC” and “I Want You Back”.
It wasn’t an easy time in my life, and I waited breathlessly to watch their act on The Smother’s Brothers Show or American Bandstand.
When Michael busted out with “Thriller”, I remember that video totally transforming the face of music videos for all time. There is not one bad cut on that album. Not one.
It was with great sadness that I watched this superstar of the planet deteriorate among allegations of … well, you know. Everyone knows. He was never convicted, but I think he still paid a heavy price.
I did a lot of reading about Jackson over the years, and how he was physically abused and psychologically raped by his own father from the age of five. As successful as he was, he was broken from the beginning, and I guess his early death is really no surprise.
Did he make his own decisions? Yes. Is he responsible for his own actions? Of course. But it’s not my place to judge Michael Jackson for his personal life — I’ll leave that to a higher power. I’ll just hope that this tortured soul has found the peace and love that so obviously eluded him in this life, in spite of the many accolades and the millions of records sold.
With that, I’ll send my everlasting gratitude to a musical prodigy who gave me years and years of enjoyment and pleasure.
I will always, always picture Michael Jackson as that cute, chubby-faced boy of nine, singing with the voice of an angel and dancing with a precision that’s never been seen since. I’ll always wonder at what price he paid for that precision, and wonder if it was worth it.
Rest in peace, Michael. And thank you for teaching two little girls how to get in touch with their inner funk.
Will You Be There
Everyone’s taking control of me
Seems that the world’s
Got a role for me
I’m so confused
Will you show to me
You’ll be there for me
And care enough to bear me
Oh father, please have mercy ’cause I just can’t take it
Stop pressurin’ me
Just stop pressurin’ me
Stop pressurin’ me
Make me wanna scream
Stop pressurin’ me
Just stop pressurin’ me
Stop fuckin’ with me
Make me wanna scream
Have you seen my Childhood?
I’m searching for the world that I
‘Cause I’ve been looking around
In the lost and found of my heart…
No one understands me
They view it as such strange eccentricities…
‘Cause I keep kidding around
Like a child, but pardon me…
People say I’m not okay
‘Cause I love such elementary things…
It’s been my fate to compensate, for the
I’ve never known…
Before you try killing a chicken at home, because it really is a messy proposition, maybe you should try a few other things instead to polish up your writing.
I know you’ve heard it a million times, but for the love of all that’s good and holy, get yourself a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. However, just possessing a copy doesn’t mean squat. Sure, it looks good on your bookshelf when friends and family come to visit, imparting a certain validation of you as a writer, but if you don’t take it off the shelf and actually read it, implementing the valuable advice that is contained within, it is nothing more than window dressing. And, what’s it doing on your bookshelf, anyway? It should be on your desk, within easy reach.
Not every writer follows every rule. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that there isn’t a writer who does. Still, you need to know the rules in order to break them, so familiarize yourself with the basics. Please. The most common complaint I hear from other editors is failure of the writer to follow even the most fundamental grammar rules, and from what I’ve seen, I concur.
Look, the point of writing is to convey your ideas or message via the written word. There are principles that must be followed, so your reader can understand clearly what it is you are trying to say. Bend the rules if you can; break them if you must, but know what you’re doing, otherwise your message gets lost in the tangle of dangling participles, warring tenses, and garbled clauses.
I see you’re grabbing for the knife to sacrifice the chicken. Hold up, bub. There’s more, and it might be easier than cleaning up chicken blood from the carpet.
Are you practicing? You might be a copy writer (meaning, web copy, sales copy, etc.) or you might be a fiction writer working on your next novel or short story. That’s your work – what are you practicing on? Take time out to cruise the interwebz for exercises to do when you just can’t write one more word for your chapter, blog, or article. Something fun. Take a blank page and write for ten minutes (set a timer) on the flotsam and jetsam that are rattling around in your brain. It clears the pipes, so-to-speak, and you may even get a few ideas or some useful material out of it. Step outside the genre in which you’re immersed on a daily basis, and take a break. If you write fiction, try a non-fiction article on a subject that appeals to you. Maybe you love Chihuahuas – write an article on their history or how they were bred. Not only will you learn something, but it stretches your writing muscles.
If you’re a non-fiction writer, loosen up! Write a fictional story of how a girl and boy met on a train, or what happened when a woman met a pixie on her way to work. Shake it up! The truth of the matter is, if you use only one side of your brain, it gets bigger than the other side and not only does your head look weird, you’re not utilizing all of your skills. You’re leaving half of your assets hidden away, and it will show in your writing.
Another way to improve your writing is to get out there and live life. Writing can be a lonely profession. After all, where the bullet hits the bone it’s just you and the blank page. Although having the internet accessible with writer’s groups and social networking helps, there’s nothing like being out in the wide world and actually experiencing the life around you. You can’t write about the human experience, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, without living, feeling, and participating in this merry-go-round we’re all on. Get out there! Do something! Don’t just sit in your chair in front of the screen and pump out words. They have to come from somewhere, and that “where” is outside your front door.
One more word before you get out the knife and pins for the sacrifice – what’s the last book you’ve read? I thought so. I know it’s hard making a living, okay? Every minute is precious, and time is money. Think of reading as an investment in your personal writing bank. Pick up books based upon other’s recommendations; Good Reads is great for that. Choose a book you may remember reading in high school and give it another chance. Read authors you admire, and read authors you’ve never heard of. Dive into the Greatness that is Indie Publishing, or find a good online serial being written. There are plenty of fabulously talented people both on and off the bestseller list.
Lay down a strong foundation; switch out the curtains and the paint colors; bring new experiences to the table; familiarize yourself with other viewpoints. This is the best advice I have for improving your work. And write! The more you do, the better you get, and that, my friends, is an immutable Law of the Universe.
If you do all that and still see no improvement, it’s time for the chicken. I suggest you check with your local laws and regulations, although if you get arrested, you can chalk that up to a life experience. Of course I don’t speak from personal knowledge – what gives you that idea?
What are you hanging around here for? You either have a chicken to kill or exercises to do. Get with it. Come on back and let me know how you’re doing, and what time I should be there for dinner. 😉
Note: No chicken was harmed in the writing of this post. Honest.
My apologies, because I meant to have this up on my usual “Fiction Friday”. However, I’ve spent the week sick as a dog, and fell a little behind. Sorry about that. However, things are better now, and I’m very pleased to introduce you to a very intriguing and interesting species — the ezine editor. The species is not endangered, but they are notoriously misunderstood. Ezine editors are a strong, unique breed all their own. That’s a good thing!
Women Like You appeared in the April 2006 edition of Skive Magazine, and that’s how I met editor Matthew Ward. He was great to work with; no nonsense, knew exactly what he wanted and how he wanted it. No coddling, no bullshit.
As of 2000, Skive Magazine is one of the ten largest literary magazines in Australia, publishing over 400 authors. A great accomplishment, and I wanted to know more about the mysterious, crazy Aussie behind the pages. Dynamic, interesting, and driven, Matt Ward also has a little bit of the romantic in him, as evidenced by the last question and answer. He also clears up the mystery of the vegamite sandwich.
A big thanks to Matt for his participation. Well done, mate!
How did you get started as editor with Skive Magazine, and what made you take on this kind of endeavor?
Skive was hatched at the beginning of 2003. It was originally going to be an online zine run by myself and my buddy from Newcastle University (Australia), Brian Birkefeld, renowned local muso, playwright and steam aficionado. Brian and I had run an all-male printed fiction magazine called Heist! (originally called Lord – 1998-2002) that was an answer to an all-female uni literary magazine called Lunacy. Newcastle University’s Student Association funded Lunacy. We paid for Heist! ourselves. Heist! was put together using photocopiers, staplers & guillotines. Funny that when I went to shut Heist! down in about 2000, it was female readers who asked me to keep it going. Heist! was modeled on the boys own adventure mags of the 1930s-’50s that lads of our fathers’ generation would have read (think: African safaris, hunting whales in longboats, westerns, bank robberies).
Brian was employed at the university and work became too much that he couldn’t make time to lay out Heist! anymore so we stopped doing it in 2002.
My next plan was an online zine that would take minimal work to maintain. We would accept only electronic submissions. I would create a webpage. It would be a ‘randomly’ as Heist! was (i.e. some years a quarterly, other years, 2 copies or 5 or more). Well, Brian’s workload meant I took over the new ezine as my project. I chose a dozen cool words as maybe titles for the ezine, and the consensus was Skive (pronounced ‘Sk-eye-v’, and meaning ‘getting out of work’ in Australian & British slang), and the new publication was born.
Stepping back to 1998. I created an online ezine called insomAniac (1998-1999), named after a line in the Marx Brothers’ film, At The Circus. insomAniac featured short stories & poetry. That publication lasted two years and it was ceased because I had too much design work on at the time.
Going back two more years to 1996. I created Mockfrog Design. Mockfrog (named after a Monty Python sketch – I was president of a university Python society called Dead Parrot’s Society in the mid-’90s) was created to lay out poetry books for talented poets with no design sense.
In 2003 I harvested writers from Heist! and insomAniac, and spread the word through newsgroups and the university to get submissions for Skive.
Why did I take on this endeavour? Well, I had survived an Arts degree in Classics / Film studies (minors in English & Philosophy), but my love of design came about through the promotion of several socities I was involved with at university. There was the aforementioned Dead Parrot’s Society, The Irish Society (plenty of whiskey and Guinness), Classics, The Republican Society (not Republican as in the American, conservative sense, but as in Australia possibly shaking off the British constitutional monarchy and becoming a nation with a president. I did promotional posters for the above societies and became drunk with desire for design, rather than for university essays that by 3rd year were not inspiring me at all.
I taught myself MS Word, then Pagemaker (had a brief course in it and had the occasional hints from more experienced designer friends), then QuarkXpress. In the middle of this, I taught myself Photoshop.
I finished university in 1996 and then scored a job with the local city council designing a promotional brochure for the region. But the day I got that job I was accepted to do a brief business course in how to run a business, in my case to edit, lay out and publish poetry books. I took the course, and designed a poetry book for a friend that year.
In 1997 I took on a basic knowledge of website design and became the university students association magazine Opus website designer, when websites were in their infancy compared to today. So by then I was getting paid to create books and also websites. By the end of 2002, I had designed many advertisements for Heist! and a few other small mags, so I was confident enough to take on the then new Skive Magazine ezine.
You have accomplished quite a lot in your five years as editor. What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years with Skive Magazine and Skive Magazine Press?
In 5 years Skive has changed. From website ezine (late 2003 – early 2006) to ebook (early 2006) to printed monthly (March – June 2006) to printed quarterly (September 2006 – the present). I’ve published 450 authors, and approx. 750 stories. That’s a lot of reading and proofing mostly on my own. Many late nights.
Where will Skive be in 5 years? Jesus, I’ll be 48! I am hoping I’ll be a famous writer by then and I’d have sold Skive for a lot of money. Who knows… It’s a year to year thing. Skive Press & my other press, Mary Celeste, have been running for a while now and I have published some poets and have novelists and novella-ists in the wings. I like doing both Skive & the presses but I’d love to be able to have other trusted people on tap as well. Would make it a lot easier I think.
Skive in its current incarnation has short stories, also articles & poetry, and photographs. It’s more or less 2003 Skive but printed instead of online. It’s been well received and if I may say it is I believe one of the better produced independent literary magazines in the world in the way of story/poem/article quality and design. My policy with design is: Easy To Read & classic but not dull.
You’re also a writer, you crazy Aussie-man. What projects of your own are you currently working?
I love writing more than anything and spend too much time doing other things that bind my main work (design). I have had 3 books published: a novella (Australia, 2004), short story collection (USA, 2006), poetry collection (USA, 2008). I am currently writing short stories that I submit to magazines, both printed and online. Some are successful, others not. Don’t really care about rejection; I know the process and that some people have to be rejected.
Also, I am working on a more mechanised way of determining characters and plot. In the ’90s I wrote stories with a couple of ideas and then just went with it. Then, a few years ago, after seeing a story on The Dice Man, a guy who went through the US determining direction on a throw of a die; and memories of Stephen King’s book Tommyknockers (the self-writing typewriter); and also, Critters Bar founder and writer Bob Jacobs’ short story Shakespeare (story writing software); plus a photo of writer Henry Miller’s character wall (page after page of character breakdown); I decided to write stories more meticulously and ‘brush away the footsteps’ of the structure of the story instead.
Part I. was taking books from the university shelves, picking random words, then writing a story using these words to inspire me. I now use a dictionary to do the same thing, but also iTunes in its Shuffle mode to choose character aspects / plot.
I have tested this with short stories and it works a treat. Now, when I get brave enough I will write a novel.
Also, I am writing an off-off Broadway play for a NYC buddy. I have never written a play, so this could be a bomb but you never know.
As an editor, what do you look for in a story when considering material for publishing, either for the magazine or the press?
I’ll start with the magazine.
This depends on many factors. Interested writers, take note.
1. If I know the writer and I have published them before they have a better chance. This is not to say I will publish them but I already have a rating in my head. (Ditto if they are a bad writer, that their ranking will already be… well, rank.)
2. If a writer sends me more than one story, I will read the shorter one first. Takes less time. If that story sucks, I go to the next story. If I like a story, I don’t read any more of the stories sent in from that writer. This is just wasted time in my opinion.
3. Bad spelling / grammar irks me. Not the occasional typo, that’s understandable. This includes incorrect linking of sentences with dialogue.
“Dialogue,” Jack said, “more dialogue.”
“Dialogue”, Jack said, “More dialogue.”
Overuse of ellipses. The … that follows a sentence and is supposed to create suspense… You know what I mean… Yes, that’s right… But it doesn’t. There are better ways. (Ditto with hyphens.)
4. Go over the word limit by more than 20 words, rejected.
5. Send in after the deadline date, rejected.
6. Pornography, rejected. I’m no prude, and erotica is fine if it is part of the story, but not the WHOLE story. Bump and grind is boring with all it’s oo-ing and ahh-ing and accompanying hot fluids is Sleepsville. Sex is for doing, not writing about. Hinting is sexier than obvious.
7. Mindless violence, same thing, dull, rejected. (Rape stories rarely get through.)
8. I read the first page of every submission. I can tell if the story will be great, pretty good, okay, or awful. The awfuls get rejected right there. I then read the greats, pretty goods and see if I have enough for an issue. If I need extra stories, I’ll go to the okays.
Poetry gets accepted or rejected – poems that need editing get rejected as poets don’t budge and I used to write poetry so know how important each word is.
So, on judging submissions, I take a leaf from the old Heist! / insomAniac days. I read the first sentence and last sentence. That should grab me! I should also be enthused by 1/3 of the first page.
There should be balance. The story should be broken up into 3 parts. Intro / Middle / End.
Intro should introduce characters and situation.
Middle should have a crisis / problem.
End should solve or fail at solving that problem. This is a very old way of telling stories (read about Aristotle’s theory on writing literature) and it still works.
Stories written in the First Person (I am going down a corridor) narrative are put under Third Person (Jane is going down a corridor). Real daring people who send me Second Person (You are going down a corridor) go to the top of the list. Reason I don’t like Third Person? It’s often autobiographical, and that is nearly always dull. Also, writers are loath to remove anything from the story for fear of ‘betraying’ themselves and their loved ones / friends.
If a writer pulls a story at the last moment after I have accepted them, that’s really bad form and I take note of that person and never give them another chance. I also tell my publisher friends and they do the same. There’s a list, you see. If your story is accepted by someone else, that’s cool, just tell me before it gets accepted somewhere else.
Rude / pretentious writers, rejected, also, put in the above file (Whispers: “They’re usually the worst writers”).
I want writers who can work with me. If I say: this story should be written in 3rd person, rewrite it please, and they won’t I say sayonara dude.
I am never rude when I reject writers as I am a writer and know how fragile the ego is. I will say, on this occasion I must decline the opportunity … but encourage them to keep trying, and they usually get through after a few attempts.
With the presses, I want books that are ready to go, or almost ready to go. Add to this most of the above. They have to be realistic, too. I can’t afford to pay huge advances and supply them with a box of books. Small presses sell online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, not bookshops.
Publishing in general seems to be changing on an almost daily basis. Where do you think the future of publishing lies, and what do you think the industry has to do as a whole to keep up?
Unlike other publishers, I don’t think this ebook revolution is gonna clean up the printed book. This includes Kindle and other ebook readers. Paper books will always be with us until there are no more trees. They are portable, cheap, you can sit on a couch, on the beach, in your car waiting for traffic to move, in class etc… without fearing dropping and breaking / losing your $500 ebook reader, even though you can fit a thousand Pride and Prejudices on it. Print on Demand is still.. in demand. I use Lulu and CreateSpace (part of Amazon) and both send me $ every month when sales are there. We really need a CreateSpace in Australia or something like it. I’ve even sussed out China to get cheap printing done. The big US presses do it so why not me?
When you’re not wrangling the written word, what other activities take up your time?
2 years ago I took up blues harp, then a year ago, acoustic, and then electric guitar. The harp took a bit of practice but I got it eventually. Guitar was harder: calluses, teaching fingers to contort to make chords, remembering chords, starting to pick. Guitar is hard work but wonderful. I recommend it to everyone, especially those of us over the age of 30 (and I’m way over that) to keep senility at bay. Guitar for me is great too because I can play it in the dark, without electricity (the acoustic one anyway) and it is not a computer! When one does websites, books for a living, and writing stories for pleasure, the last thing I want to do is anything with computers, so guitar fits the bill.
Photography. I’ve been taking photos on and off for 22 years. First SLR, developing my own photos. Now digital.
Walking. The best exercise. No fractured ankles like jogging.
Watching DVDs. At the moment, Get Smart Season 1, 1965. Old school, as the kids would say, but really funny stuff. Other recent watchings: Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under. Anything by Woody Allen, Marx Brothers. I still watch a lot of TV (it’s on in the background while I’m on computer)
Can you explain just exactly what is a vegemite sandwich, and have you ever eaten one?
(Ah, the Men At Work reference.) I can and will. Vegemite is owned by a US company Kraft (it was originally owned by an Australian company). It is a food spread and is made of yeast extract, the end result of the beer making process. It is black, has a consistency like axle grease, smells a bit and it spread on sandwiches, crackers, English muffins, crumpets. Americans are afraid of it as they have heard it is awful, and the way they spread it on is indeed awful. They dollop it on like peanut butter and jelly and that’s just wrong. Because it is strong tasting, Vegemite should be spread on thinly. The best way is on white bread toast, while the toast is hot, and real butter, and then the Vegemite so it melts in with the butter. It’s a savoury taste, a bit bitter, but like beer, enjoyable after a few goes. Vegemite Toast, oh American reader, is a great easer of a hangover, believe me. Vegemite is a cousin of the Brit’s Marmite and Promite (both vegetable extracts) and Bonox (beef extract sipped as a soup). Americans get worried about Vegemite, but Aussies get freaked out by Beef Jerky! 🙂
Do you think there are differences between an Australian and American audience when it comes to literature? What are they? Why do you think they’re different?
Good question. Australians are more familiar with Americanisms than Americans are with Australianisms as Americans rule the TV / Movie / Newspaper / Magazine universe. That means we can read American books / watch American TV with no trouble at all. We get the jokes, even the regional references.
On what we read compared with our American cousins, I think it’s the same. Men don’t read novels but rather instructional books and magazines. Women read a lot more than men, and it’s literature, the expected romances but also literary fiction, memoirs are big still. Young guys prefer video games.
Is there one particular story, after all these years, that you still remember and had a special resonance with you? What was it and why?
There is a story, written (title escapes me), by Raymond Carver, that was featured in the film Short Cuts by Robert Altman. The story has a middle aged couple minding an apartment for people across the hall, people they hardly know. They agree, and the result is a fading relationship is ignited again. When I read the story I was in a bus and actually shouted, “No!” when I found out how the tale ended. Carver is perhaps the greatest of short story writers. Then again, maybe Poe, Joyce, Chandler?
One that comes to mind was told to my Year 8 class (grade school, age 14) by our English teacher, John Smythe. John, former Spitfire fighter pilot for Britain, said he’d seen a film when he was young. It was a silent film.
John told us this story to indicate that the passage of time is deceptive and that in that second or so between the lever being pulled and the man dangling at the end of the rope, he created a whole wishful escape scenario. That has stayed with me because it indicates hope and how humans can cope with even the most dire circumstances.
I am very excited to present to you an interview with Jeremy C. Shipp. I first “met” Jeremy (in the internet way) through Twitter, which is one of the reasons I love Twitter so much. His tweets caught my attention — unique, funny, thought-provoking, just like the artist himself. This led me to his website, where I discovered a whole new world of fabulous, twisted fiction. His story, “Scratch”, made me cry. His book, “Vacation”, touched me and made me think, which is a wonderful thing for a book to do.
Come on in. But, you might want to leave a light on. Just in case there’s clowns.
1. “Vacation” is your first published novel. It’s twisted and demented, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not the only one. Why do you think it appeals to people?
First of all, I’m very happy you enjoyed the novel.
And the truth is, I still find myself shocked at how many people connect with Vacation. This is a strange novel, and when it was first published, I didn’t think a large number of readers would appreciate an alternative fiction book like this one. But, over the past couple years, I’ve received positive messages almost daily from myriad readers, and even from writers such as Piers Anthony, Jack Ketchum, Gary Braunbeck, Jeff VanderMeer, John Skipp. The thought makes my head spin. I feel so blessed.
With Vacation, I wanted to write the sort of book I enjoy reading. A book where every sentence matters, where the meaning is complex and layered, where the overall perspective is unique. And perhaps some readers appreciate Vacation for reasons such as these.
Also, the main character experiences a paradigm shift that’s extremely disorienting, difficult, satisfying. It seems many readers who’ve experienced their own shifts can relate to this. 2. The debate rages on regarding education and degrees. Do you think a college education is mandatory for a writer? Why or why not?
Every writer is different, and so some might benefit from a college education, and some might not. Me, I have a degree in creative writing, but I regret the years I spent in that environment. I went for the wrong reasons, and I didn’t quit because I was so used to making negatively motivated choices (such as those based on fear). The system I trapped myself in almost changed me into a writer I’m not, and my authentic self barely hung on by a thread. Of course, others would thrive where I wilted. 3. How long did it take for you to write your first book? Was “Vacation” your first novel?
I started writing novels when I was 13, and I’ve been writing them ever since, one novel a year. So Vacation wasn’t my first novel, by far. However, Vacation was the first book I was satisfied with. For the first time, I felt I accomplished everything I set out to accomplish.
4. What is your writing process like? Give us an idea of how the strange machinations of your mind work.
My tales are usually sparked by a single image or idea that bursts in my mind. If the thought affects me deeply enough, then I’ll brainstorm in a notebook. I never write outlines, just ideas, snippets of dialogue, etc. After that, I write the story, and I usually have some idea where the characters are going to end up, but I have no idea how they’re going to get there. And so, I take the journey with them.
Writing has always been very challenging for me, because I obsess over almost every detail. If I didn’t have so much fun with the process, I’d never write again.
5. Was there a traumatic episode in your childhood that contributed to your fear of clowns? And what’s with the monkeys?
There was that one time when I dressed up as a clown for Halloween and I was sucked into a mirror world where my reflection chased me around in a circus and tried to eat me, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with it.
And I’ve always loved monkeys. Ninja monkeys, coconut monkeys, and the rarest of the rare: spork monkeys.
Coconut monkeys are the natural enemy of yard gnomes, but it’s my hope that one day I’ll be able to bring both species together in peace and harmony. And when that day comes, we’ll put on a Charles in Charge musical. I’ll play Buddy.
6. Do your parents and siblings support your work? Do they read it, and how much does their opinion matter to you?
My parents and my siblings are all very supportive of my work. One of my brothers is the only person in the world who’s read everything I’ve ever written. My dad reads almost everything. And my other brother and my mom don’t enjoy reading dark fiction, but they’re supportive, nonetheless.
I would keep writing even if every being on the planet hated my stories, but I do appreciate all the support I receive from my family, my wife, my friends, my readers.
The opinions of others matter to me, sometimes, but everyone’s opinion is different, so I have to take every opinion with a grain of delicious salt.
7. Who are your heroes or literary influences?
Most of my heroes are people in my life. My wife, my parents, my brothers.
As far as writing goes, some individuals who inspire me are: Arundhati Roy, Lois Lowry, Kurt Vonnegut, Brett Easton Ellis, Amy Hempel, Aimee Bender, George Orwell, Haruki Murakami, Chuck Palahniuk, Anthony Burgess, CS Lewis, Douglas Adams, Francesca Lia Block, Roald Dahl.
8. What is your first clear memory?
My first memory is a nightmare. A monster. My second memory is a bit nicer. I was in the park with my dad and brother. The park maintenance people had emptied the pond, and there were barrels and buckets everywhere. My dad lifted up me and my brother so we could look into every container and see the fish.
9. “Vacation” deals with a lot of societal themes. What do you think is the future for our society, and has your opinion changed since you wrote “Vacation”?
I’m an anarcho-tribalist, and I believe that civilization is a good system for machines, but not for actual living beings. Healthy social systems are those that work to benefit the people, but in civilization, people work to benefit the system. It’s a bizarro world we’re living in, but the system is unsustainable. It’s my hope that humanity will work hard to ease the transition into sustainable social systems.
My overall perspective about our society hasn’t changed, but every day, I’m learning new things about the world and about myself. I’m always changing.
10. Tell us about “Cursed”, which I understand comes out this fall. Is it different from “Vacation”, and how?
Vacation, to me, is a “global” novel, while Cursed is much more familial; domestic. The focus of Cursed is the characters. Their problems, their relationships, their complex thoughts and raw feelings. When writing, I gave these imaginary people each a piece of my heart, and so I feel a deep connection with them.
With Cursed, I set out to write a book about neglect and other forms of abuse that society often ignores or accepts. For instance, the physical and sexual abuse of children is almost always looked down upon, socially. And yet, the emotional abuse and subjugation of children is quite normalized in our society. Another example: people with disabilities are often seen as less than whole—as if they need to be cured in order to have meaningful lives. Many disabled people suffer emotional abuse because of this idea.
In Cursed, the characters band together to try to deal with very strange problems. Problems that society doesn’t recognize.
11. Another debate raging in literary circles is that of the roles of online publishing, indie publishing, and the role of traditional publishing. Where do you see the future of publishing going, and how much of an effect do you think the Kindle and other electronic readers contribute to this?
This is a complex issue, but I think I’ll give a simple answer. In the fight between conventionality and diversity, in the end, diversity always wins.
Get your butt over to Jeremy C. Shipp, Writer Guy for some absolutely stellar short fiction. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of “Vacation”, and be prepared to rock. Look for an upcoming review of “Cursed”, right here on WordWebbing.
A huge thanks to Jeremy for taking the time to speak with me. It was an honor, sir.
Whether you’re a writer of fiction, non-fiction, or both, there will be times when you feel “stuck”. I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I do believe in writer’s constipation. I have found at this point, trying to force it will often cause more problems than it solves, although at times you just have to put your head down and power through it.
There is no “cure” for writer’s constipation – chances are you’ll encounter this uncomfortable state of affairs more than once in your freelancing career, but there are some things you can do that may have the same effect as a bran-loaded muffin. The next time you find yourself stopped up, so to speak, try one of these methods and see if you can’t get yourself moving again in the right direction.
Turn off the time sinks. That’s right. Turn off Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, etc. Oh sure, you can justify it by saying, “I’m networking, and that’s part of the job,” and it’s true. However, if you can’t get your articles, chapters, or other work written because someone just sent you a cool new app on FB, or you’ve gotten a notice of a new follower on Twitter, it’s time to pull the plug. Set aside a specific time for networking every day, and stick to it. Trust me, you won’t miss anything that you can’t catch up on later, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish. In the same vein, close down the chat programs. If your friends don’t understand why you can’t spend an hour chatting, they don’t understand your job. Educate them politely, and schedule free time for a good chat session when you can participate without sacrificing valuable work time.
Turn off outside distractions. Turn off the phone, turn off the television. Turn off the music, even, to give yourself a chance to think without any distraction whatsoever. Hear that? Yeah, that’s called “quiet”, and it’s wonderful. It might be difficult for you to shut the phone down especially if you have children or parents to worry about, but an hour or two a day won’t hurt. If you can’t turn the phone off because of possible emergency calls, at least screen them and only answer if there IS an emergency.
Change your tools and venue. Sometimes, the old ways work best. If you’re used to working on a keyboard, grab a pen and a pad of paper instead – you know, that round thing filled with ink and that stuff made out of trees? Change your location. Instead of working at your desk, try working at the kitchen table, the local coffee shop, the library, from bed. You might be totally surprised at how a simple change can loosen up the thinking process.
Work more than one project at a time. Freelancing is a juggling act in the best and worst of times, and you most likely have more than one project going, anyway. If one has you bugged up, unless you’re up against a hard deadline, put it aside and pull out the next thing. If you don’t have another project to work on, pull out a sheet of paper (or open another document in your word processor program) and free write for ten minutes about anything that comes into your mind. Sometimes, all there is to doing it is to – that’s right – do it.
Take a time out. Walk around the block. Eat lunch anywhere else but at your desk (don’t play; I know you eat lunch at your desk almost every day.) Take a drive; work out for thirty minutes, read a book. Or how about this – take a day off! Freelancers are notorious for working long, crazy hours, and that seems to be a requisite of the job. However, if you don’t take some time off, you’re going to burn out. Guaranteed. So, take a break and don’t feel guilty. You will be pleasantly surprised how a well-timed break, interaction with other people in person, and relaxing away from the job will rejuvenate and energize, making you that much better at your job.
The next time you find yourself constipated, try one of these suggestions. Some of them might be as uncomfortable as eating a bowl of twigs and bran, or they might be as tasty as a fresh-baked muffin. Either way, the goal is to get the words moving, and any or all of these suggestions should do just that.
If you have any suggestions of your own that have worked for you, please share them!
Wow. And the first days of June. Holy shiznola, where did May go?
Let’s take a little stroll, shall we, and fondly remember what did happen in May.
I found a couple of copy gigs that have become small eggs in my basket. Not enough to really earn a whole lot of money, but eggs are eggs and I’ll take them.
I finished Part One of a three-part project and it went really well. I’m very pleased about that. I received another nibble about my editing services, and I’m really happy about that. I love editing. Love. It.
I’ve settled in to the new digs a little bit more and it’s become increasingly homey. I still have a lot to do, but it’s getting there. I especially like the squirrels that run back and forth across the roof. The pitter patter of little rodent feet is so…funny. Heh. I put out crackers and popcorn in the morning for breakfast, and I’ve actually caught one of the little buggers on video munching away.
As long as they eat outside, we’re cool.
Mother’s Day was particularly difficult. The first one since Momma passed. I was dreading it, and I was right to dread it like I did. It knocked me off-kilter for a couple of weeks, actually, if I’m to be completely honest. The next bad spot I see ahead of me is her birthday. Trying to put a positive spin on it is not easy. I miss her every day, with every breath. I keep waiting for it to ease, but it’s not happening. And that’s just something I’m going to have to accept, at least for now.
My friend Peat is doing awesome. I’m so happy for him, I can’t even tell you. Classic case of a good guy making good.
I’ve “discovered” another great writer, and I love it when that happens.
Conversations with the Inner Circle of Netta have prompted me to finally start my own project. (I know, it’s about time, isn’t it?) It’s my second novel, untitled, based on my experiences in the hotel industry — with a Netta-twist. I believe the proper term is “urban fantasy”. I am way excited about this, to the point I’m actually dreaming about it at night. I’ve got a start, but it’s a real juggling act in between the non-fiction. Sometimes it’s difficult to switch between the left brain and right brain, especially when you only have two brain cells to start with. Heh. You either have two on one side and none on the other, or they’re split up and lonely without each other.
So, goodbye to May, and hello, June. Let’s see what you have in store. As long as it involves words and squirrels, I’m sure it will be interesting.