Me vs. Ending of My Novel

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Rewrites & Editing Angst…

Yep — this is basically life right now as I prepare to tackle the upcoming Second Reader comments on my novel. Fortunately, they’ll be the last round of comments before the big jump into a world of agents and publishers (whether I like it or not!).

Here’s to hoping I win!

(GIF Source: http://giphy.com/gifs/editingandlayout-CYhsRVlRRPFao)

8 Comics for Literature Lovers by Drawn & Quarterly

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

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This month — a special one for lovers of comics, cartoons and graphic novels — marks the release of Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels. To celebrate the book and Drawn & Quarterly’s 25th anniversary, we’ve asked creative director Tom Devlin to provide a “random list of his favorite comics” for our literary readers.

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Summer Reads!

cropped-Issue-10-coming-header

It’s that glorious time of year again when Cleaver Magazine comes out with its latest issue! My last post on Cleaver focused on Issue No. 9, but I’m pleased to say that Issue No. 10 is every bit as interesting, beautiful, challenging, and entertaining.

For those of you who don’t know — full disclosure — I am an Editor-at-Large with Cleaver, and am incredibly proud to be so given its talented staff, dedication to including emerging writers/artists in each issue, and its combination of traditional and nontraditional forms of storytelling.

And while I’d recommend giving all the new pieces a read, here are just a few of my personal favorites:

BLACK WINGS FLAPPING
by Shmu’el Bashevis Ben’yamin

(short story; an emerging writer)

I had the ingredients of becoming a perfect milksop, but it didn’t happen. Every day I carried to school an orange ball bigger than my head, and at lunch watched long-legged teenagers with patchy facial hair and funny white boots borrow the ball to put it through a bent rim. The ball was named after my uncle Wilson. I had found it buried under the yellow flowers of a California pepper tree….


BUT INSTEAD HAS GONE INTO WOODS
by Lyn Lifshin

(poem)

A girl goes into the woods…


CREAM FLAVORED & CHERRY SCENTED
by Chelsea M. Harris

(flash story; an emerging writer)

She told you she was driving to the bridal store to shop for dresses with the girls she used to babysit before you were born since she knew she’d never see you all wrapped up in a marshmallow mess surrounded by floor-length mirrors…


THUNDERBIRD
by Nick Greer

(creative nonfiction)

The Ojibwa call it Animikii. The Tlingit call it Shangukeidí. The Kwakwaka’wakw call it Kwankwanxwalige’, for the way it makes thunder (kʷənxʷa) lightweight (kʷəs) by pounding (ləka). No matter the tribe, its description is the same: a bird so large it creates thunder when it beats its wings….


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On the Art of Adaptation, Part I

For a good while now, I’ve worked with Bancroft Press, a Baltimore indie publisher, to adapt some of their titles into screen, stage, and teleplays. This isn’t a line of work I ever imagined I’d end up in. Adaptation? But I’m an editor! I’m a writer of original fiction! —Of course, I now know just what a boon this kind of work can be to editors and writers, the kinds of skills and instincts it can help you develop, as well as the respect it can instill in you for other artists and art forms.

What’s most fascinating about novel-to-screenplay adaptation, at least to my mind, is that you get to take something special, a work of art that someone spent months or even years creating, and begin to entirely re-imagine it. This doesn’t mean rip it to pieces and tear out its heart till the only thing left of the original story is the title—this means reconsidering the execution of the story, not the story itself. This means realizing that every story—no matter how it’s told—has some unchanging, constant core.

As an editor and author, I’ve always believed that Execution is King. Everyone can have great or weird or even transcendent ideas, but the drive and ability to translate those ideas into art is where the actual art comes into play. For this reason, I always try to remain mindful during my adaptation process that the author chose the written word as the most perfect medium for their story. This means that, by its very nature, any non-written version of a novel or short story will mean creating a new story in some respect. (Hence why, I think, screenwriters still get to put their names on adaptations with just a Based On for the original author—it’s not just about the hours and hours put into the 110 page screenplay; it’s about acknowledging that this is a new version of an older tale.)

It’s always dangerous to pick favorites, but in what is perhaps my favorite book, Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ Women Who Run With the Wolves, she discusses just this phenomenon within the context of folklore, myths, and fairy tales—how “classic” stories become “classics” by being passed down from storyteller to storyteller, their delicate surface-level clay altered each time by new fingerprints and palms, yet their hard inner-layers remaining unchanged and constant. And it’s this sort of reverence for the author’s original vision that I attempt to carry with me into each and every adapted screenplay, teleplay, and stage play that I write. These aren’t just contracts with a publisher; these are pieces of something LARGE, something that I’m now lucky enough to get to be a part of.

This may sound like a lot of romanticization, and perhaps it is. I’m not saying, after all, that I’ve loved (or even liked) every book I’ve ever adapted. But when I stop to really meditate on what it is I’m doing—which I try to remind myself to do as often as I can—I’m always struck by the deep power that lies in storytelling and in the work of passing stories along from one set of hands to another, as if the story itself is searching out its Ideal Reader (thank you for that term, Mr. Stephen King; I love it and think about it all the time), its Ideal Listener, the person it was always meant to be told to.

But apart from the romance of being involved in passing along a story from one hand to the next, like a baton in some endless, thrilling race, I love how the work of adaptation has and continues to help me become a better editor and writer of original fiction. There’s nothing like breaking a story down to its component parts, playing with its blood and guts and love and pain, to really remind yourself of just how exactly it is that a good story works, how its parts all then fit back together, how its blood flows and what kinds of things its guts can and can’t chew up on their own.

The art of adaptation then, at least as I understand it today, might be boiled down to a few simple points: respect the author, respect the work, respect your own work, and always, always be open to what each new story has to teach you.

Writing to Process Unrest

From Erica L. Green of The Baltimore Sun, check out this article about Baltimore city students using writing to help them reflect on and process the unrest of the past few days (weeks, months, and years). Here’s a taste of the article to get you started:

It was just five months ago that Afiya Ervin sat down at a gathering of young writers feeling out of place. Writing out her feelings was as foreign to her as the unrest that she saw in Ferguson, Mo., after a young black man was shot by a white police officer. So she called her poem “I’ve finally started writing.”

But on Sunday, as she sat down at a write-in to work through her feelings about the events that have rocked her hometown over the last week, the 16-year-old Baltimore City College High School student filled two pages in no time.

–Eric L. Green, The Baltimore Sun, City students turn to writing to process unrest

Activists Write: Writing for a Reason

Right now, Baltimore is all over the news. Pains and fears that it’s been struggling with for decades are now finally being discussed at the national level. This is in part due to the many protests (peaceful and otherwise) that are currently taking place here, but also because of the many brilliant, activist voices speaking out today.

Inspired by this, I’d like to share here a few of my favorite pieces of modern activist writing:

Nonviolence as Compliance,” Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview. …


In Defense of Looting,” Willie Osterwell, The New Inquiry

For most of America’s history, one of the most righteous anti-white supremacist tactics available was looting.

As protests in Ferguson continued unabated one week after the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., zones of Twitter and the left media predominantly sympathetic to the protesters began angrily criticizing looters. Some claimed that white protesters were the ones doing all of the looting and property destruction, while others worried about the stereotypical and damaging media representation that would emerge. …


$pread: The Best of the Magazine that Illuminated the Sex Industry and Started a Media Revolution

Edited by Audacia Ray, Eliyanna Kaiser, and Rachel Aimee

9781558618725

Like any movement for social change, the sex worker rights movement has gone through many phases and been challenged both internally and externally by people, ideas, and events beyond its control. It has experienced wins and losses, and it has reimagined its goals and values with each successive generation of leaders and activists who have taken up its banner. …


“Defending Darwin,” James Krupa (painting by Alexis Rockman), Orion Magazine

I’m often asked what I do for a living. My answer, that I am a professor at the University of Kentucky, inevitably prompts a second question: “What do you teach?” Responding to such a question should be easy and invite polite conversation, but I usually brace for a negative reaction. At least half the time the person flinches with disapproval when I answer “evolution,” and often the conversation simply terminates once the “e-word” has been spoken. Occasionally, someone will retort: “But there is no evidence for evolution.” Or insist: “It’s just a theory, so why teach it?” …


“On Climate Change: To Save the Future, Live in the Present,” Wendell Berry, Yes! Magazine

So far as I am concerned, the future has no narrative. The future does not exist until it has become the past. To a very limited extent, prediction has worked. The sun, so far, has set and risen as we have expected it to do. And the world, I suppose, will predictably end, but all of its predicted deadlines, so far, have been wrong. …


“The Case for Reparations,” Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

I. “So That’s Just One Of My Losses”

Clyde Ross was born in 1923, the seventh of 13 children, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of the blues. Ross’s parents owned and farmed a 40-acre tract of land, flush with cows, hogs, and mules. Ross’s mother would drive to Clarksdale to do her shopping in a horse and buggy, in which she invested all the pride one might place in a Cadillac. The family owned another horse, with a red coat, which they gave to Clyde. The Ross family wanted for little, save that which all black families in the Deep South then desperately desired—the protection of the law. …


“Rewriting the Future: Using Science Fiction to Re-envision Justice,” Walidah Imarisha, bitch

When I tell people I am a prison abolitionist and that I believe in ending all prisons, they often look at me like I rode in on a unicorn sliding down a rainbow. Even people engaged in social movements, people who concede that the current prison system is flawed, voice their critiques but always seem to add, “But it’s all we have.”

For all of our ability to analyze and critique, the left has become rooted in what is. We often forget to envision what could be. We forget to mine the past for solutions that show us how we can exist in other forms in the future.  …


“Nobody Passes: Attached to Machines,” Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, make/shift

Jessica says the worst part is the preparation. The drugs they give you. Diarrhea all day long, and then you get the chills so you’re lying in bed but you never know when you’re going to need to rush to the bathroom–eventually there’s nothing but clear liquid coming out, and that’s when they say you’re ready for the colonoscopy. So you wake up super early the next day, totally wrecked because …

(This is one of my favorite, favorites!)


For Baltimore: A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis

Katherine C. Mead-Brewer:

I normally wouldn’t post anything to do with my personal religious beliefs to this blog–which is not about religion or news–but, as a Baltimorean, I felt powerfully like I wanted/needed to share this post from St. Paul’s Episcopal of Downtown Baltimore.

Originally posted on Living Our Faith: St. Paul's Episcopal Church :

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

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A strange journey through the worlds of writing and publishing

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