Monday, December 13, 2010

Anthologies and Me

If you've received money during the winter holiday of your choice, or if you've saved money by frugality and comparison-shopping, you may now feel the need to treat yourself with a new book or two.

Far be it from me to dissuade you from this impulse.

In fact, I have a few ideas that include my work among that of many other people, some far better known.

First up is The Expeditioner's Guide: Intrepid Tales of Awesomeness from the Open Road. This project by the editors of online travel magazine The Expeditioner includes, in addition to my poems "Andante" and "Travelogue," work on destinations including Copenhagen, Delhi, Kenya, Kosovo, Rome and Rwanda, among others.

Second is a project I should have mentioned about this time last year. Still, a thing of beauty is a joy forever, so I can recommend Chicago photographer Adeline Sides' book The Silver Series, an album of classically composed nudes accompanied by poems from a variety of Chicago-based and farther-flung authors.

Third, I would be remiss if I didn't again mention Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology, edited by Jessie Lendenni and published by Salmon Poetry of Ireland. Proceeds will be donated to dog rescue and welfare organizations in Ireland and Thailand.

Finally, I would suggest two anthologies that came into being well before I started this blog in 2008. The first is Northern Music: Poems about and Inspired by Glenn Gould, which I edited and which includes one poem of my own, as well as work by Philip Dacey and Leslie Monsour. The second is In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare. My two poems in the book are a retelling of the Seven Ages of Man and a sonnet that combines elements of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 and the script of Goodfellas. Seriously. Also appearing among the collection's ninety poets are R.S. Gwynn, Diane Lockward and Leon Stokesbury.

Further updates on anthologies and more will be coming to this space soon.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Late Fall Harvest: Dowsing and Science

As noted in a previous post, the harvest is coming in.

There will be a list of other items later this week, but for now I am pleased to report that my first essay collection, Dowsing and Science, appears on page 49 of the Spring/Summer Catalog of the Texas A&M University Press Consortium.

Published by consortium member Texas Review Press, whose authors include Richard Burgin, George Williams and Eric Miles Williamson, Dowsing and Science consists of essays appearing in publications such as Boulevard, Chelsea, and Pleiades. The topics range from the title essay to a discussion of Romanian history as symbolic condition and the survival value of esthetics. A few personal accounts appear in the collection as well, discussing my first experiences with salt water (a rude shock for a Midwesterner) and how in some circles I came to be known as a king. The bulk of the collection, though, is made up of what could be called the "Impersonal Essay" in a tradition practiced by Montesquieu, eighteenth-century English writers such as Addison, Johnson and Steele, and nineteenth-century American writers like Emerson and Thoreau.

I have been going over page proofs in the last several days and plan to make this collection the best possible experience for a wide range of readers.

Watch this space for a few more announcements in the days ahead.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Skin in the Game

As noted in my previous post, director Joshua Caldwell is using creative project funding platform Kickstarter to support the film adaptation of my one-act play "Dig", which was produced by CurvingRoad at London's Old Red Lion Theatre in June of 2010.

I realized, though, that the appeal could become more credible by having skin in the game. With that in mind, I am now one of the film's backers and not just someone passing the hat. It would be indiscreet to mention the exact amount, but it is safely above the $1 minimum pledge.

I will name others backers in this space only if I have their permission first, but I can say that those I know include two UK-based writers and a friend I have known since high school.

If you want to know more about what is going on, I invite you to take a look at the Dig Short Film website, which went online in the last couple of days and is being frequently updated. You may also want to check out this post on Joshua's blog Hollywood Bound and Down.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dig: The Film

As noted in this space a while back, director Joshua Caldwell has renewed his option to make a film based on my one-act play "Dig," which was produced in June at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London. Preserving the central conflict of the original, Joshua has clothed the narrative with a new set of details in the screenplay, and he will be making the film as a new work of art in its own right, as described on his blog Hollywood Bound and Down.

At this point Joshua has nailed down locations in Southern California and has finished casting. The leads will be Mark Margolis, who has appeared in numerous films, among them The Wrestler, and Aaron Himelstein, whose credits feature appearances on television series such as House M.D. and films including Fast Food Nation and High Fidelity.

The adaptation of "Dig" is what Joshua has called a "passion project" that will be shown largely on the film festival circuit. As such, it won't be making anyone rich, and as a matter of fact he is continuing to seek backers for post-production expenses.

Through the magic of Kickstarter, anyone can become such a backer by pledging $1 or more to the short film adaptation of "Dig". In the last two days $796 has been pledged to the total of $6,000 needed by 4:09 p.m. EST on November 24, the day before Thanksgiving. Pledges of various sizes entitle backers to premiums that range from acknowledgments in the credits to a private screening with the cast and crew to the opportunity to appear as a featured extra. Larger backers can even be listed as Associate Producer or Executive Producer. So far the project has 19 backers, including author Duane Swierczynski, whose book The Wheelman I have read and can wholeheartedly recommend.

I invite you to make a pledge to the short film adaptation of "Dig" if you are at all able, and please pass this information along if you aren't. Joshua works like a dog, and he has been a consummate professional in his dealings with me. Backing this project will mean being involved in an early stage of what promises to be a remarkable career.

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Poem in Zócalo Public Square

I am pleased to note that my previously unpublished poem "Debt" appears on Zócalo Public Square, a Los Angeles-based but wide-ranging web site that serves as a platform for both online and in-person discussions of public and social affairs, including a series of upcoming events with prominent speakers in their respective fields.

My poem briefly questions the use of the expression "The wolf is at the door" to talk about debt. In short, wolves shouldn't be talked about that way. Accompanying the poem is a magnificent wolf photograph taken by Doug Brown.

I am by no means the only person in the arts to have an interest in wolves. Perhaps the most prominent advocate of wolves among artists is French pianist Hélène Grimaud, who co-founded the Wolf Conservation Center and continues to spend time there.

Watch this space for further news in the near future. I soon hope to make announcements on a couple of fronts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Poems in "Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology"

Virtually anyone who knows me is aware that my non-literary enthusiasms include dogs. In fact, it would be fair to say that many of my favorite people go about on four feet. I have also grown increasingly interested in dog and other animal welfare issues.

Sometimes, though, enthusiasms cross paths, and I have ended up writing poems about dogs. Some of those poems have succeeded.

I am thus greatly pleased to note that two of those poems, "Aubade" and "Policy", will appear in Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology, forthcoming in November from Ireland-based and internationally known press Salmon Poetry.

I first met Jessie Lendennie, Salmon's publisher and the editor of this anthology, in early 2004. I was wandering through the Book Fair at the Chicago AWP Conference and stopped at the Salmon table, where we ended up talking about, well, dogs.

To mix animal metaphors for a moment, I am a very small fish in this anthology's pond. Far better-known writers in Dogs Singing include but are not limited to Kelly Cherry, Stephen Dobyns, Jane Hirshfield, Maxine Kumin, Les Murray, Alicia Ostriker, Richard Peabody and C.K. Williams.

The poets included are not being compensated for their work. Instead, proceeds will be donated to canine welfare organizations in Ireland.

With the holidays not all that far away, Dogs Singing would make a wonderful present for the dog and/or poetry lover in your life, and maybe for yourself.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Settling for Beauty and Lessons of Publishing

Timing may not be everything, but it counts for a lot, especially in promoting books.

I learned this the hard way with my first two collections of poetry. The first, The Hypothetical Landscape, was published as part of the Quarterly Review of Literature Poetry Series in 1999 and is presently out of print. (I may see what I can do to change that.) At the time the book came out, though, I was working two part-time jobs with no benefits and was in no position to attempt a book tour or any other major promotional efforts. Nor did it help that I wasn't hooked into the academic networks that lead to of readings and events.

I did not make the same mistakes when my second collection, Settling for Beauty, was published in 2005. I can't even say that I made new and different mistakes. But I did learn one valuable lesson: if you are publishing a book and planning a wedding from a distance, and doing all that while working full-time, something has to give.

For me, like the vast majority of people, not working was not an option. Even less of an option was changing wedding plans. So fully promoting Settling for Beauty gave way at the time, and I have no regrets about that, per Edith Piaf, especially now that I am about to celebrate my fifth anniversary with the wonderful Paula Van Lare.

There won't be quite as much on my plate when it's time to promote my forthcoming book of essays; there will be more to come on that. Things should also be similarly tranquil when my third and fourth collections of poetry come out. In a moment of guarded optimism I say "when" rather than "if" because one of the two manuscripts, a collection of formal verse, has been a finalist in two contests.

But for now I hope to give at least a little attention to Settling for Beauty. If you follow the link you can see a few sample poems. Another poem in the collection appeared on Verse Daily.

Virtually any writer is going to look back on older work and think of how it could be better. I am no exception. Still, new poems (and essays and fiction, among other things) need to be written, and time is short.

In any event, I am still very fond of that book, and I think the linked samples will give you an idea of why you might become fond of it as well. You are welcome to let me know what you think.

The title of that book, in case you don't feel like scrolling up, is Settling for Beauty.

Monday, October 4, 2010

New Poem in Verse Wisconsin

Having recently interviewed in this space a couple of authors I am also grateful to call my friends, I will use today's post to mention the publication of a new poem of my own.

Based on actual events of several decades ago, my poem "First Memory, Wisconsin Dells" appears in the current issue of Verse Wisconsin, edited by Sarah Busse and Wendy Vardaman.

I don't write or publish much directly autobiographical poetry these days, because whatever strengths I have lie largely elsewhere, but now and then opportunities present themselves.

I will be saying more about my publishing history and future in the days ahead. Please check back if you are curious.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interview with Breakout Suspense Novelist Henry Perez

In the wake of last week's interview with novelist Sue Guiney, which garnered pageviews from around the world, it is now my privilege to post another interview, this time with Henry Perez (pictured), author of the critically acclaimed thrillers Killing Red and Mourn the Living, a number one Amazon Kindle bestseller about which Publishers Weekly said, "Keeps the adrenaline pumping right through to the ending." I've read both books and can vouch for that.

I've known Henry since we were both high school students and aspiring writers in Aurora, Illinois, a past alluded to in one of his responses below. Now we are both published authors, and we took a break from our long, strange trip to have the discussion below by email.

Over to Henry Perez, who knows that as far as online layout goes, I'm a pretty good writer.

JDS: Tell us a bit about your new novel, Mourn the Living.

HP: Mourn the Living is the second novel in a series featuring Alex Chapa, a skilled and determined Chicago area newspaper man. The book begins five days after the end of Killing Red, my first thriller. In Mourn the Living, Chapa takes over another writer's beat after he dies under unusual circumstances. Initially, Chapa buys into the official story that his colleague's death was an accident. But the more digging he does, the more Chapa begins to believe it was murder. Soon, Chapa becomes the target of some very dangerous people.

I wanted to explore the question of how far a political or business matrix would go to protect a killer who serves its purposes. We all know that governments and politicians, whether local, state, or national sometimes cover for unsavory and even dangerous people who can help them get what they want. In Mourn the Living, Chapa finds himself fighting against a system that is determined to shield one of its own at any cost.

Chapa's personal story—his struggles as a father, the threats to his career, and the challenge of trying to maintain a relationship with the woman he loves—forms a thread that runs through both books.

JDS: How would you compare Mourn the Living to your first novel, Killing Red?

Killing Red was written as a stand-alone. It was only later, after I landed a book deal and sensed the interest in and possibilities of a series that I began thinking in those terms.

Killing Red is meant to be like a thrill ride for readers—fast, a little scary, and with a lot of twists and turns. It begins with Chapa conducting a death row interview with Kenny Lee Grubb. Fifteen years earlier, Chapa had made a name for himself when he broke the story of Grubb's capture after a would-be victim escaped and led police back to the killer's house. But instead of the usual claims of innocence or religious conversion that define most death row interviews, Grubb tells Chapa that a copycat killer is retracing his steps, and that the last victim will be Annie Sykes, the woman who got away fifteen years earlier. That sets Chapa off on a desperate search for Annie, a woman who does not want to be found.

The entire book takes place over a six-day period, and it's very tight story. Both are thrillers, but Mourn the Living has strong mystery elements as well.

JDS: What are the similarities and differences between Alex Chapa and Henry Perez?

HP: Most of the similarities are superficial—we both worked for newspapers, we're both Cuban-Americans, but beyond that, there isn't much.

That's not to say that my own experiences haven't informed the character of Alex Chapa. Of course they have. But not necessarily in the direct ways some readers might imagine.

The character of Alex Chapa emerged from my fascination with people who are brilliant at their jobs, but incapable of managing the rest of their lives. We’ve all heard about politicians, athletes, CEOs who succeed in ways that few others ever could, but who struggle with the everyday challenges that are second nature to most of us. Chapa is a great reporter. His job is his refuge from the rest of his life, which is something of a train wreck.

Both books include chapters written from the killer's point of view. What kind of research did you do to make those chapters plausible, and how did it feel to write them?

Those are often some of the most difficult chapters to write, and also among the most important. There are only a couple chapters from the killer's POV in Killing Red, but one of them, a flashback to when he was a child, was very difficult to write. It's a rough chapter, but also one of the best things I've written. There's a chapter in Mourn the Living, a flashback to a Halloween night, that was also quite difficult for me, but I’m very pleased with the way it turned out. I've received a great deal of email about it.

I have done quite a bit of research. Some of it before starting each book, more during the revision process.

JDS: Every writer seems to have different work habits. How do you make your particular magic?

HP: I don't claim to write every day. But I do work at writing every day, be it on the business end, doing research, jotting down new ideas, or trying to flesh out some old ones.

I tend to write in the afternoon and late at night. It takes me four to six months to finish a first draft. Revision takes another two to three months, and by then I'm working on the next book.

Unless it's absolutely necessary to the writing process, I don't stop while I'm writing to double-check a trivial fact or to research a more significant point. I'm a big believer in the potential dangers of paralysis by analysis, so I keep a notebook next to me on the desk and as I go along I write down every detail that needs checking. By the time the first draft is finished, that notebook is pretty full. It's then that I go back through and verify everything, and investigate any details that I’m unsure of.

JDS: Do you outline?

HP: Not in the traditional sense of plotting out the entire or most of the book beforehand, no. I work off a rough outline that I'm constantly revising. I start by knowing the beginning, end, and several pivotal scenes in between.

JDS: Have you ever experienced writer’s block, and if so how have you dealt with it?

HP: I’ve never had that issue. I'm not personally familiar with the concept of writer's block, have no idea how it's supposed to feel. I think my experience as a newspaper reporter may have a lot to do with that. When you’re on a deadline, writer’s block becomes a luxury that you cannot afford. I have had days when I knew my writing was sub par, but you just have to get past that, write through it. You can fix it later, that's what the revision process is for.

JDS: What path did you take to get from being an aspiring writer to being a published author who is now selling a lot of books?

HP: I learned all that I could about the publishing business before I jumped in. Looking back now, that played a vital role in my initial success. Of course you still have to write a book that an agent wants to represent and an editor is willing to buy, but I was able to avoid a number of common mistakes by knowing what they were ahead of time.

JDS: You've also had some very interesting experiences with e-book publication. Tell us a little about those.

HP: Until recently my e-book experience was limited to a novella I wrote with J.A. Konrath called Floaters. We launched it as an Amazon Kindle exclusive just before the release of Killing Red. Floaters was a steady seller right from the start, and even cracked the bestseller lists in some sub-genre categories. Though I have long believed that e-books will continue to grow in popularity and could eventually overtake print, I wasn’t certain to what extent they could help my career at this point.

A lot of things changed after my publisher ran a promotion though Amazon Kindle, and Mourn the Living jumped to the top of the e-book bestsellers list. It remained at number one for several days, and in the top 10 for just over a week. During that time, the e-book version of Killing Red cracked the top 50. Its previous high had been around 1,200.

JDS: What sort of impact has that had on you and on your career?

HP: This sudden success has changed my perspective on not just e-books, but also my future path as a writer. I now have a large base of e-book readers, and I’m looking into various possibilities for writing directly for that market. Establishing and maintaining an e-book presence, beyond our print titles, is not just a good idea anymore, it’s a necessity for every author.

JDS: How have audiences responded at your readings and signings?

Audiences have been great. There has been a difference between my appearances for Killing Red and the more recent ones in support of Mourn the Living. I spent a lot of time last year introducing myself to readers who had no idea who I was. That's still the case to some extent, but now I'm also meeting people who read Killing Red and liked it. That's more than cool.

There are also people at my appearances now whom I met at signings or conferences last year. In the past, the only familiar faces belonged to people with whom I shared a last name or a sordid history.

JDS: What are the most memorable or surprising experiences you've had so far in promoting your books?

HP: There have been a number of them. Last month I did an appearance at The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles, a great store that I’d been to several times over the years, though never as an author. As I was getting ready to go, Bobby McCue and Linda Brown, two very cool booksellers, brought out a huge prison ledger from the 30s or 40s. Mystery authors have been signing their names in that book for many years, and they asked me to sign it. I spent the next twenty minutes flipping through it and looking at all the signatures before adding mine. That was quite an experience.

I did an appearance at Jake’s Bagels, a longtime Aurora, Illinois restaurant that I used as a setting in Mourn the Living. It’s a great place, and the reception I got was incredible.

There have been many others, and each has been memorable in their own way.

JDS: Which writers would you recommend--in any genre--and what are you currently reading?

HP: I read a lot of crime novels, which is fine because this is a terrific period for the genre. In no particular order: Marcus Sakey, Victor Gischler, Elmore Leonard, J.A. Konrath, Carl Hiaasen, Blake Crouch, David Morrell, David Ellis, Ross Thomas. That’s ten, and I could easily list another two dozen or more.

I read more than one book at a time. It’s a habit I picked up back in high school. So I’ll give you the last three books I read–all are recommended–The Deputy by Victor Gischler, Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell, and Severance Package by Duane Swierczynski. I’ve also read several very good manuscripts in the past couple of months, some for critique, others for blurbs, but I’m not at liberty to discuss those.

JDS: What are you working on now?

HP: Right now I’m writing two books, the next Alex Chapa thriller and a stand alone. Joe Konrath and I are working on a follow-up to Floaters, titled Burners. It should be launched as an Amazon Kindle original later this year. There are also a couple of other projects in the works right now, so I’m definitely staying busy.

JDS: What's next for Henry Perez?

HP: More author appearances and lots of writing. I’ll be in San Francisco next month for Bouchercon, the biggest crime fiction conference of the year. Then, in November, I’ll be in Wisconsin for Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, and in Miami for their huge book fest. In between I’ll be making a few more appearances at bookstores and libraries in the Chicago area.

JDS: Thank you very much, Henry. I'm looking forward to following your progress.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Interview with Novelist, Poet and Playwright Sue Guiney

As noted in my last post, this blog is adding a couple of features. The first is occasional author interviews, and guest posts, beginning with today's interview,

conducted by email, with the fabulous Sue Guiney, whose new novel A Clash of Innocents launched yesterday in London as the first title from UK press Ward Wood Publishing. Her previous books include the play in verse Dreams of May and her first novel, Tangled Roots.

(The second interview, with breakout suspense novelist Henry Perez, is scheduled for Tuesday, September 28.)

I met Sue during my stay at Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat in County Cork, Ireland, made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and we have remained in touch since then. Sue's UK and US charity CurvingRoad produced my one-act play "Dig" in June of 2010, and I will soon be discussing that amazing experience in this space.

Now on to the questions.

JDS: How does a Londoner originally from New York end up writing a novel set in Cambodia?

SG: I’ve always had terrible wanderlust. If there’s a chance to go someplace new, I go. Several years ago, our family had the opportunity to go to Cambodia on a service trip to help build houses for the poor through the charity Tabitha, and to work in a children’s home. I had never been to Asia before and had no idea my experience there would lead to a novel. If anything, my head was still full of my first novel, Tangled Roots. But the place got hold of me, and a few years later I found that I had a story about it that needed to be written.

JDS: How would you describe A Clash of Innocents? Who are the characters, and what situations do they face?

SG: Deborah, a 60-year-old American expat, is on her way back to the “Khmer Home for Blessed Children” which she has run for ten years. A young woman in her twenties is waiting for her. Another American, but with flip flops and a backpack, she asks, “Are you Deborah Young? I’m here to help.”

So begins a story of hidden identities and questioned motives. Who is this young woman? Who is Deborah? Who are any of the displaced Westerners who find themselves raising the leftover children of Cambodia’s violent past? Against her better judgment and building suspicions, Deborah allows the young woman, Amanda, to stay, but when a sick infant is left on their doorstep, the horror of the young woman’s past catches up with her and infiltrates the orderly workings of Deborah’s home. The precarious well being of Deborah’s “family” of forty forgotten Khmer children is jeopardized, as is her own emotional life. I should also add that a wonderful, larger-than-life Australian called Kyle comes to the rescue, in a variety of ways.

JDS: Since Cambodia is a place relatively few Westerners visit, what do you think we should know about the country?

SG: Most everyone knows about the Vietnam War. And most people also know about the horrible atrocities Cambodia’s own government at that time, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, committed against its own people. What most people don’t know, though, is that many of the Khmer Rouge officials are still in power and the government, though not as violent, is still very corrupt. The UN has finally, after nearly 50 years, been successful in holding a Tribunal to bring these murderers of the past to justice, but the Tribunal itself is fraught with its own obstacles. Cambodia is a very small country caught between larger, wealthier ones and so is easily forgotten. There is unbelievable poverty and neglect. We in the West who care about the welfare of other, less fortunate countries, often forget about Cambodia and think it’s “all better now.” It’s not, and that was shocking for me to see.

JDS: How would you compare the process of writing this novel to the process of writing your first novel, Tangled Roots?

S.G. Very different! Tangled Roots took me nearly 9 years to write! A Clash of Innocents took me about two. I knew a bit better what I was doing and I trusted myself much more. But the biggest difference is that I outlined the plot and structure before I started. I am now convinced that plot and story line do matter! This made the writing more even and coherent from the start. Although I was flexible to change course throughout the process, from the beginning I knew where I was starting and where I was going, and I knew my characters.

JDS: For you, how does writing a novel differ from writing poetry or drama?

S.G: That’s a hard one. I love them all, but they all come from different places within me and take different mindsets. In some ways, writing a novel is a combination of all genres. There are passages in my novels where I allow myself to write as if I was writing a poem (although I do believe all prose needs the attention to language and rhythm that poetry demands). And I seem to set up scenes in my novels and visualize them the same way I do with plays. Maybe that means plays and poems can be seen as subsets of novel writing. They can stand on their own, but a novel needs everything. And for me, who seems to get bored easily and refuses to choose one form over another, that seems to work!

JDS: What would you like to say about your publisher? I know there's an interesting back story.

SG: That sound you hear is me taking a deep inhale of breath… publisher, Ward Wood, is for me proof of that old Buddhist adage “the universe will provide.” I had a good but also very difficult experience with my first publisher, bluechrome, who went bankrupt (not my fault – really). One of the principals of Ward Wood, Adele Ward, had also been published by bluechrome, so we knew each other. We both were at a book launch of a friend’s poetry collection and she started asking me “what if” sorts of questions about an idea for a new publisher. I was intrigued and excited. I’ve decided that the publishing world is in such upheaval now that new approaches are mandatory. I also know that my work isn’t the sort of mass media stuff that big name publishers are mostly putting out now. So when Adele asked if Ward Wood could publish my novel as their first book – sort of a double launch – I was thrilled and jumped at the chance. It’s been nothing but joy since. It just goes to show, you really do have to get away from your writing desk and out into the world. Meet people, talk to strangers. You never know what will come of it.

JDS: What are you working on now?

SG: I now understand that it takes a year to publicize a new book, and so I have set this year of 2010/2011 aside to do just that and not try to do much creative writing. But I took the summer to start researching and outlining my next novel. All I’ll say is that it deals with music and medicine and will be partly set in rural West Cork, Ireland. JD – you know that area well, as I do, and I’ll be returning to the writing retreat, Anam Cara, to do some more research and thinking in early December. But I can’t fall too much in love with those new characters. My heart must stay in Cambodia for a while.

JDS: What's next?

SG: More writing of all sorts, more publishing (I hope), more traveling. And of course, my theatrical adventures through my charity CurvingRoad ( Producing your play was such fun and so exciting, I hope to keep doing that for other artists working in the theatre.

Thanks so much for giving me this chance to navel gaze and ramble on. Hi to all your blog friends out there. It’s been great fun!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Harvest Begins, and Things to Come

Labor Day is behind us, the days are a little cooler, and the harvest is starting to come in, both literally and metaphorically.

My yield includes a few poems recently published online.

The first is "Along the Potomac," which appears in the current issue of Able Muse. I would like to take this opportunity to thank editor Alex Pepple for including me among much better-known poets.

The second and third are two poems, "Nocturne" and "Elegy", which appear in the current issue of Innisfree Poetry Journal, graciously edited by Greg McBride.

Finally, The Poetry Section of New York blog The Awl, edited by poet Mark Bibbins, features my poem "The Vikings". No football team is explicitly cited.

In other news, this blog will be introducing a couple of changes. The first will involve interviews and guest blog posts. Later this month, first up will be Henry Perez, author of the thrillers Killing Red and Mourn the Living. My second guest will be Sue Guiney, author of the novel Tangled Roots and the soon-to-be-released novel A Clash of Innocents.

The second change will be my occasional commentary on literary topics other than my own publications and events.

Before long I also plan to provide a small report on what I did during my summer vacation.

You may want to keep checking in.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back In the Saddle

This blog has been quiet for a while, but now I am back in the saddle again, with quite a bit to report.

First, I am pleased to note that my poem "Carpe, Carpe" was selected for the Goodreads June newsletter, which is sent to more than a million subscribers. I am very grateful for the comments I have received.

Also in June, my short story "Fighting Words" appeared in CellStories, which can only be accessed by mobile phone. This fiction-only wireless journal is the creation of Daniel Sinker, formerly of Punk Planet.

More recently, my poem "Washington Memoir" appears in the 2010 issue of Bumbershoot, the humor wing of Kate Bernadette Benedict's journal Umbrella.

In other new releases, my one and only vampire story, "Exit Interview" (sampled in the preceding link) appears in the current issue of Australia's Skive Magazine.

Finally, I am pleased to say that director Joshua Caldwell has renewed his option to adapt my one-act play "Dig" to film, and he is presently working on a new draft of the screenplay.

There will be more about the stage version of "Dig" shortly, as well as other summer doings, with a few more announcements after that.

The late summer and much of the fall promise to be harvest time indeed.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April Wrap-Up

April ends with a couple of interesting developments.

First, I have finally gotten an answer to the question, "National Poetry Month is here again, so where's my cut?" That answer came on April 20, when Portland writer and lit blogger Dave Jarecki selected for that day's poem my very own "Questions on Recruitment". This answer was punctuated by learning that my book-length manuscript The Killing Tree was a finalist for the New Criterion Poetry Prize, which was awarded to Ashley Anna McHugh.

Second, I am getting more and more of a Velveteen Rabbit feeling of being real as a playwright. I have sent in my final round of major revisions on my play "Dig," which is now listed on the "Coming Soon" page of London's Old Red Lion Theatre. Actors have been cast, lighting and design decisions are underway, and rehearsals begin on May 17. I won't be able to absorb the full magnitude of events, though, until my wife Paula Van Lare and I go to London during the week of June 21 and actually see a couple of performances for ourselves. I can't expect the audience to shout "Author! Author!" following the performance, but if it happens I won't be stopping anyone.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Poem in the Los Angeles Review

I have returned from the jamboree and madness of this year's conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) in Denver with new contributor's copies of several journals.

One of these is the Spring 2010 issue of the Los Angeles Review, published by Red Hen Press.

After years of revisions, including those based on very helpful suggestions from colleagues at the Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat during a 2008 visit, I was finally able to get this poem into a publishable form. And a form that met with the approval of a prestigious journal.

I am delighted and grateful to be found in the same issue as authors including (but not limited to) Rick Bass, Tess Gallagher, Barry Lopez, Alison Luterman and Barry Lopez.

My thanks go out to Editor Kate Gale and to Poetry Editor Laurie Junkins for taking an interest in my work.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Essay in Boulevard

I am delighted and still a bit amazed to say that the current and 25th anniversary issue of the now-legendary journal Boulevard includes my essay "Mere Esthetics," which argues for beauty as a matter of necessity rather than luxury and discusses what happens when we disregard that need.

This issue also includes far, far better-known contributors such as Albert Goldbarth, Billy Collins, David Kirby, Carl Phillips, David Lehman, Alice Hoffman, Stephen Dixon, Floyd Skloot,
Madison Smartt Bell and Marvin Bell.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank editor Richard Burgin and his colleagues for their interest in my work and for including me among such distinguished company.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dig: The Fundraiser

We are getting closer and closer to putting on a show.

On Thursday, March 4, CurvingRoad (a registered nonprofit in both the United States and the United Kingdom) held its fundraiser for the theatrical event entitled "The Next Curve: Two One-Act Plays" which will run from Tuesday, June 8 until Saturday, June 25 at The Old Red Lion Theatre in London (that London, yes). My play "Dig" and I will have the privilege of sharing the bill with Scottish playwright Michael Hart's "No More, Salvator."

According to CurvingRoad co-director Sue Guiney, the well-attended fundraiser was "fantastic," with drinks and nibbles. There were new supporters and, in her words, "People stayed late and there was a theatrical buzz."

And funds were indeed raised, as the reception brought in about £3,000. So far, so good.

But as Sue explains here, there is a long way to go. The total expenses of the production are estimated at some £20,000, which in U.S. dollars is, well, a lot.

With this in mind, I would urge the financially able to make a tax-deductible donation to CurvingRoad here by way of PayPal or credit card. To quote Sue again, "You’d be amazed at how those $25 gifts add up."

I would be willing to be amazed.

If I haven't yet persuaded you, I will leave you with my message of gratitude to those in attendance at the 1901 Arts Club, which was read on my behalf by playwright and actor Leo Richardson:

I want to begin by saying that I truly and deeply regret not being able to join you this evening. My reasons are in part purely selfish. As this event is taking place, I am at my day job in Washington, DC, editing texts of uncertain quality and interest. I also trust that your food, drink and entertainment will be far superior to anything that I experience in the course of a day’s work.

More importantly, I regret not being to thank you in person for your support. Altruism, especially in the form of generosity to a stranger, represents one of the happier mysteries of existence, and those of us who are beneficiaries of such generosity can virtually never expect or demand it, let alone feel entitled to it. This is particularly true in the arts, where so many individuals, projects and programs ask for support. I am therefore amazed as well as grateful that you are willing to offer your support and join us in this adventure, with all its risks as well as its rewards.

Working with the directors and affiliates of CurvingRoad, I hope to honor your gifts of time and resources by doing everything in my power to ensure that the development of my play “Dig” culminates in a high-quality production that will contribute to a memorable evening of theater. I should also note that my experience with CurvingRoad has given me the confidence to revisit other projects that I have left aside for far too long.

At this point I do not wish to take much more of your time. You have already been generous in a variety of ways. I hope you are having a lovely time, and with luck I will meet some of you in June at the Old Red Lion.

Again, thank you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Dig" Has Found a Home

The truth can now be told.

As noted here, "Dig" will be presented as half of a CurvingRoad program entitled "The Next Curve: Two One-Act Plays" from June 8 to June 23 at The Old Red Lion Theatre in London, which is well known and highly regarded as both a performance venue and a place to raise a pint. In fact, productions at The Old Red Lion Theatre are reviewed in publications such as Time Out London and The Guardian.

As noted in the post immediately below, there will be a fundraiser for the event on Thursday, March 4 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the 1901 Arts Club. Scottish playwright Michael Hart and I will be preparing statements to read at the fundraiser.

If you don't happen to find yourself in London on that point (or even if you do and can't attend), you can also make a tax-deductible donation through the very convenient PayPal button found on this page. Any amount is welcome in these trying times.

Fundraising is something at which I don't have a great deal of experience, but CurvingRoad co-director Sue Guiney tells me that this is something done by everyone in theater who is any kind of player, and now I apparently am one.

I'm always the last to know.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dig: Workshop and Fundraiser

The development of my one-act play "Dig" continues. I have completed one round of revisions that have clearly improved the script. It's always a treat when people ask you to add rather than take away.

On Thursday, February 10 CurvingRoad director Ellie Joseph will put the new version through its paces at a workshop reading to see what further changes are needed. Bit by bit the play will reach its final form. Since I have never taken a class in dramatic writing, I am getting a valuable education in how theater is done.

In case you find yourself in or near London shortly, I should also note that CurvingRoad will have a fundraiser for "Dig" and "No More, Salvator" by Scottish playwright Michael Hart on Thursday, March 4 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the 1901 Arts Club, located at 7 Exton Street, London SE1 8UE. Directions, including Tube and bus route information, can be found here.

I don't anticipate being able to make the event myself, but I may prepare a statement or place a trans-Atlantic call during the event.

The reality is setting in.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Interview at Spanglish Baby

The world of publishing and publicity has begun to stir from its holiday slumber, and I am in my own way involved

Roxana Soto, co-founder and co-editor of the blog Spanglish Baby, interviews me here and reviews The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo. I am delighted to be a small part of this vibrant and increasingly well-known site.

Two things might help persuade you to read the article. First, one copy of the bilingual edition will be given away to one commenter or other reader who expresses interest by 12 midnight Eastern Standard Time on January 17. Second, as promised long ago in the first post of this blog, I finally get around to explaining how a guy named Smith ends up writing about mariachis. I come by the topic honestly, in my own way.