Update of an Artist in November

Sticking it to 'em.

I suppose this post will also cover some of October to fill in all those gaps between cookie baking, Kathy Griffin, and Miley Cyrus.  I know your lives feel empty without knowing the scoop.

This photo here was taken on my pre-birthday road trip to Gebhard Woods State Park and the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail in and around Morris, IL.  I had a window of good October weather and time off work.  ‘Twas a lovely quiet day of hiking and talking to myself and the voices in my head.  Lots of writerly conversation. 🙂  While only an hour away or so, it fulfilled my wanderlust in the tradition of past October trips to Vermont, Oregon, and Europe.  Took many photos, most but not all of which have been uploaded into my Flickr.  This was one of my favorite finds! All the naturey stuff was cool, but this find made my day.  As I say in the photo’s Flickr description, it’s not 100% accurate and fair to say that All Mormons Hate Us, but they sure as heck have been making a name for themselves lately. I’m feeling the pain of Maine (& etc.)  I definitely felt a kinship with the trail walker who came before me.  So, yay to whoever you are….

My birthday on the 25th was a good one.  Mellow, but wonderful.  Brunch, then later dinner and drinks with Ernie and friends.  Some time to myself in between.  I made a trip to the Art Institute. It had been a while, a few years.  I always love their photography gallery.  They’re currently showing a collection of Victorian photo collage works.  SO cool.  I also hadn’t been to the new Modern Art Wing.  Breath taking.  I dig all that stuff.  Had a moment with Picasso–it was his birthday too! I also enjoyed the student/journalist/etc. interviewing the gallery worker in the section with the clown abuse film, light installations, and other very contemporary work (sorry for the general terms here).  I wanted to hang out and listen more, but that would’ve been creepy. Like the clown.

NewTown Writers goings on are winding down for the year.  Our October NewPlay Readings event was a success.  I know the authors, actors, and audiences had a good experience.  I put my producer brain in overdrive, which was good for me, though I’ll tweak some things for next year.  I attended the final workshops of the year (and met a couple new writerly friends), my 2009 Artistic Director report has been written and sent out, and we have a Board meeting this weekend to talk 2010–the group’s 30th Anniversary.  Oh, and you can become a fan on Facebook, too. 🙂

I’ve attended a couple writerly events in the City in the past couple weeks.  As always, the amazingly fun 2nd Story had an event on the 8th at their home base, Webster’s Wine Bar.  My Solo Homo pals, Byron and Sara, read and directed respectively.  Last night, Essay Fiesta, a brand new series held its inaugural event at the Book CellarEssay Fiesta features personal essays and comedy.  It’s a free event, but with the opportunity to buy raffle tickets to benefit the Howard Brown Health Center.  They had an awesome turn out last night.  You should go to the next one in December.  It’s right around the Holidays, but if you’re around and inclined and want to hang out in the way cute Lincoln Square neighborhood, do it.  I’m looking to hopefully be involved in future editions.  And of course, 2nd Story’s December deadline approaches….

I’ve recently gotten in the habit of tracking my writerly activities on my private/Friends Only blog.  I call these entries “Writerlogged.” I jot down every day-ish what I’m doing, working on, attending, etc.  They’re keeping me in check.  And they’re things that don’t necessarily need to be posted in a public forum like this–jottings of works in progress, process, hopes and dreams I don’t want to jinx by announcing them to the world.  Etc.  When I feel like my life is being taken over by laundry and my restaurant job, I can be like Hey, this is what I did and this is what I need to focus on and stuff.    The posts also apply to reading and watching which feed the writerly stuff.  It’s good.

So I have been working on various things.  I’ve been giving some love to a handful of short stories that are in various stages of life.  Also working on a CNF/Essay/Solo piece.  I like going back and forth with this.  Sometimes I really don’t want to deal with myself and my own life.  So I write about others.  Beyond this, there are always photo, media, etc. projects that want love too….

Organized my reading list.  I wish I could read all the books and all the lit mags and all the blogs, but you know, I can’t.  Listed are things we have in house, things I need to acquire, things to finish.  In the middle of the Best American Short Stories 2008.  Realize the new one just came out.  Oh well.  Also, my Walt Whitman collection.  The latest issue of MAKE Magazine.  All in due time.  Recently finished Band of Brothers, the Ambrose book, that I borrowed from my brother.  Having my base of knowledge from the film was helpful, and I was able to fill in any gaps and experience the source material. Waiting in the wings is my copy of With the Old Breed, E.B. Sledge’s memoir which was used in HBO’s The Pacific, which can’t come soon enough.  Recently finished Richard Peck’s Past Perfect, Present Tense Young Adult story collection.  Cool to have a perspective from that genre.  I also received Kathy Griffin’s Official Book Club Selection for my birthday.  Started that because Kathy’s awesome.  I need to acquire and start the new John Irving soon, too.  I won’t bore you with the rest of the list, but know I’m reading stuff. 🙂

And writing too.  I’m not a speed writer, though this time of year many are.  While I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this time around, I am with all my NaNo friends and others in spirit as I work to accomplish something writerly every day. Whether it’s updating my writerly site, or swooping the editing comb through a story, attending an event, or just walking through UnAbridged Bookstore to be surrounded by tried and true printed real books.  Etc. 🙂

With that, I’ll end this, but hope to post other bits soonly.  Happy Creating, Everyone.

Cheers.

Update of an Artist in August

It’s almost the middle of August, and summer is definitely trucking along.  We had a delightfully cool July but are definitely feeling some dog days this month.  A hot summer makes the relief of Autumn even more special.  For those who know me, Autumn is high holy season around here.  It’s my first back in the city.  I’ll definitely miss Indiana for it’s Autumness, but will seek out the city’s delights–but that’s a nerdy post for later.

To follow up on my Band of Brothers Revisited post, shortly after I posted it, a fellow WordPresser lead me to Alan Sepinwall’s blog, What’s Alan Watching?  He’s the TV critic for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.  This summer, he did an amazing series on Band of Brothers. I recently finished going through his posts and many of the comments.  Had I known about it (we were watching it at the same time!), I would’ve definitely joined in the conversation.  Alas, he wrote his last post about the same time I wrote my own BoB post.  I still want to comment on his final entry.  The whole thing is a wonderful in depth conversation for BoB nerds everywhere!

I’ve spent part of the last month haunting neighborhood used book stores (plus my indie bookstore down the street) looking for Malarkey’s and other related books. I think I want to read at least Malarkey’s before I borrow my brother’s copy of the BoB book, which I still haven’t read.  I want to despite the gnawing voices of the Ambrose haters on Amazon (which does have everything I want…).  I should stop reading things like that.  Just upsets me. 😛  I’m also interested in reading E.B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed, which is one of the sources for the upcoming The Pacific film.  How exciting that Sidney Philips will be a character in the new project!

I’ll save my WWII reading for the Fall, as I’m trying to focus on other reading this summer. My “To Read” list is growing with older and newer books (like, I still need to get to Sarah Vowell’s latest!), recent acquisitions, and books on Ernie’s shelf.  I’ve taken a couple times to sit outside–even go to the lake–and read my Walt Whitman collection. Perfect for summer on a blanket on the grass with the lake’s breeze.  Definitely won’t finish it this summer, but it’s good to have at my side when I’m inspired.  I also have the Best American Short Stories 2008 collection at my side when a dose of short fiction is in order.  I finally finished the 3rd (with six more to go!) Sookie Stackhouse book, Club Dead, and totally loving the new season of True Blood!  My current non-fiction reading is Michael Davis’ Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. What a joy!  And it had me in tears in the first paragraph of the prologue for real.  I’m three chapters in, which is a fascinating account of the history of children’s television in general.  The Captain Kangaroo stuff is cool.  I’m trying to make more time to read actual books.  Less sitting in front of this computer and more reading, yo!  But the computer is good too.

On the writerly front, I’ve been focusing on two short stories this past month or so.  I’ve also been working to organize all my works in progress.  I’ll always be adding ideas, but I’m trying to focus on further developing my most developed work so I can start taking it to the next level.  One story is inspired by my neighborhood in South Bend.  I really love this piece (which I started in November for my short story edition of NaNoWriMo) and am getting more and more into it.  It’s also been good to harness my Indiana experience creatively–something I want to continue.  Another story is more fantastical and quirky and inspired by an Indiana friend of mine.  That’s all I’ll say for now. 🙂  These stories are written in 1st and 3rd person respectively, and if I’m going to flip flop between strories, I like that variety.  On the CNF front, I made it through the first draft of a story about Truman’s bar in Indiana.  I’ve also rebounded from Playing Guns rejection and am preparing it for another submission–to a place that’s perhaps a better fit.

I’ve also typed out my grandfather’s journal like I said I wanted to.  Very cool.  With that, I’ve registered another WordPress site which will be more family oriented.  Not sure how public it will be, but it will definitely be a cool place for family and friends hopefully.

With all this Indiana talk, I did take the time to reflect on my time there.  Here’s an excerpt from my Friends Only blog:

It was this random, amazing, frustrating, weird, beautiful, creative, inspiring, annoying experience in our lives. While we can definitely tell our “Indiana stories” boiled down to some laughable cocktail party tales, I get a little Stockard Channing at the end of Six Degrees of Separation where she seeks to make sure her experience truly becomes a meaningful part of her life. I know I will continue to do this myself in my work–whether in short stories, solo pieces, journal entries, or what have you. Just like I try to do with everything else. I can’t deny the new perspective our time there offered.

All the wonderful people I met along the way–those I’m still in touch with and those I’m not–will not be forgotten. 🙂

Finally, in NewTown Writers news, after a successful Solo Homo 7, the Fall 2009 event is in the works.  We wanted to do some sort of short plays event, and it looks to be gearing toward a Reading event with some brand new works.  I’m currently working with a number of members on developing their pieces–and looking to include a few more.  I’m wearing my producer & director hats on this one so I can focus my writerly energies on other things.  We’re looking to go up mid-October.  Will post more later!  I’ve also started attending the bi-weekly literary meetings.  I’d never done that before, mostly because of my old work schedule and not living in the city for a few years.  It’s been fun–I’ve been able to workshop one of my current stories as well as hear some of the work in progress for the fall.  And now that meetings are looking to be at the Center on Halsted, that’s a bonus since I can walk there.  Awesome!

Upcoming fun things are in the works. Looking forward to them and to getting more work done.  Will tell  you all about it….

Onward—->

Band of Brothers Revisited

band_of_brothers_still02

This afternoon, I finished watching the special features in the Band of Brothers DVD set.  Thus completing my 2nd full viewing of the film. I’d been keeping an eye out for a discounted copy since last time I watched it, I borrowed my brother’s set.  While back in South Bend for a day trip to teach class, we ventured over to the Best Buy, and there, on the shelf in the HBO section were new copies at 50% off for a limited time.  So for only about $30, each episode plus extras was mine.  Score!  AND with cheaper Indiana sales tax to boot.  Once upon a time, Ernie had expressed interest in watching it with me–mostly I think because of Ron Livingston and his Sex & The City connection.  When I brought it up with this purchase, he’d forgotten about his initial interest.  So I was on my own.  While Ernie was down in Kansas City this past month working down at the Coterie Theatre, I had plenty of time.  Watching it solo means I can rewind parts and get as obsessive as I want.

I’ve written about the film and its connection to my writing & family projects–and general WWII interest before.  So I guess this is a follow up to previous posts: Workshopping “Guns” and  The War. I’m not completely sure if this follow up will have a conclusive point, but we’ll see.

I’ll report that I’ve recently revisited my piece, Playing Guns. This past May had me working two deadlines.  I had my Solo Homo piece to work as well as my 2nd Story submission.  I wrestled with starting from scratch for this submission, but given the state of Life and Art I had to make some executive creative decisions.  I ultimately didn’t get a slot for the next round, but I feel good about my work on the piece.  I received some solid feedback and totally agreed with the things to work on as far as fitting the piece into the 2nd Story aesthetic.  I’ve also chatted with my new 2nd story pals and don’t feel discouraged at all. I love what the group does and hope to be more a part of it down the road.  This latest revision process found me restructuring and slicing and dicing (for both time and focus) and really had me looking at things with a magnifying glass.  I feel part of my problem, though, was that I was in a way trying to cram a non-2nd Story into a 2nd Story mold.  Some of it fit–and some of it didn’t.  Next time I can work on the piece with new found focus, but without any restraints (and I’ll have a better idea of what I’m doing for my next submission!)  Getting the piece readier and readier for Battles with Boys. It’s coming….

Back to the film.  I mention it indirectly in the piece.  War films and images play an important role in the story.  My interest and into obsession are a part of the story.  It’s so damn good.  I know it has its detractors and people who get their panties in a bunch over various things (various inaccuracies & poetic licenses, the anti-Stephen Ambrose camp, etc.), but I don’t get into that, and don’t let it bother me.  I appreciate and celebrate it for what it is (and before I forget, I can’t wait for the follow up, next year’s The Pacific!)  I love the story.  I love learning the stories behind the stories.  I love learning about the real guys behind the “characters.”  I love learning more about the actors (especially the lesser known ones.)  It’s EASY (pun intended) to become just a little obsessed. My “BoB” bookmarks are filled with things like THIS and THIS and THIS.  Though I do have my limits.  There are those who know which weapons came out when and who had what and noticed how they changed in the film and all that (even I, a huge Cure fan can’t rattle off remix titles like they were my own children as some fans can.)  But each to their passion, I say.  I haven’t read ALL the books.  The new one looks interesting.  I am interested in reading Tech Sgt. Don Malarkey’s (adorably played by Scott Grimes in the film), though.  I’m happy to have this film in my collection and will revisit it when inspired to–and continue to let it (and its gorgeous score) inspire me in Life and Art.

This all keeps me thinking about family and history and our own stories.  I caught Diane Rhem’s show this morning (not on Chicago Public Radio, but on Michiana Public Radio–yay internet!).  She featured Vincent Cannato, author of American Passage about the history of Ellis Island.  The subject of immigration to Canada also came up–which is what my Grandpa V’s parents did back in the day (making me part Canadian, ya know!)  I have his handwritten story about his growing up there and his move to Detroit.  One of my projects for the near future (I thought maybe today, but we’ll see…) is to start transcribing it into a Word file.  If for nothing else but to preserve and share it.  But there’s also some tidbits of inspiration in there for other projects.  It’s good stuff.

All this is connected. Other people’s old photographs and stories; MY old photographs and stories. Maybe getting a feel from their lives can add to an understanding of my own history.  I still have access to some things, but unfortunately not to everything.

Right now, I feel like I’m at the borderline of public musings and private journaling and things that will become other things.  So I’ll end here and wish you all much love.

“In Praise of Joe”

Joe

Just heard this on The Writer’s Almanac. I guess I don’t have to write my own coffee poem, because this pretty much sums it up. Though I have and will continue to write about coffee. I love this! This poem added to my coffee definitely inspires. 🙂

In Praise of Joe

by Marge Piercy

I love you hot
I love you iced and in a pinch
I will even consume you tepid.

Dark brown as wet bark of an apple tree,
dark as the waters flowing out of a spooky swamp
rich with tannin and smelling of thick life—

but you have your own scent that even
rising as steam kicks my brain into gear.
I drink you rancid out of vending machines,

I drink you at coffee bars for $6 a hit,
I drink you dribbling down my chin from a thermos
in cars, in stadiums, on the moonwashed beach.

Mornings you go off in my mouth like an electric
siren, radiating to my fingertips and toes.
You rattle my spine and buzz in my brain.

Whether latte, cappuccino, black or Greek
you keep me cooking, you keep me on line.
Without you, I would never get out of bed

but spend my life pressing the snooze
button. I would creep through wan days
in the form of a large shiny slug.

You waken in me the gift of speech when I
am dumb as a rock buried in damp earth.
It is you who make me human every dawn.
All my books are written with your ink.

“In Praise of Joe” by Marge Piercy from The Crooked Inheritance. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.