Twelve. Twelve stories since November 9, 2019. Twelve times I have over-hauled, cannibalized or started from scratch. Twelve times I have verbed the nouns until I wrote
I did not craft these alone. Far from it. Besides editor James, who has a hand (sometimes a fist) in almost all of what I produce, I’ve enjoyed a lot of wise help lately. Newfound writer friends, old friends, cousins, heroes, journal editors, my Writing Circle leader and co-members are among these.
What a dimension these voices add! Voices in my head. Danke seea, voices. I see everything in one way. My way. Sure, my vision has changed over the years and I have the benefit of that changing viewpoint, but it’s still my hazy hazel eyes, my half-functioning, and not-tiny nose, my waxy elephantine ears, my salty, shrink-wrapped, suspiciously rosy memory banks. My taste, my tastelessness… my sense of touch and some would say—a Boomer’s loss-of-touch, an old white guy from a small town, a needling, nerjing, argumentative prick who’s more than happy to express an opinion au contraire mon ami.
Anyway, I’m not so much proud of my productivity as I am stunned. (Aside: A master humble-brag, right there, if I do say so myself, and of course—I’d never do that…) What brought on this flurry? Where are the origins of this Alberta Clipper that has sailed into my Manitoba deep freeze?
Was it my faint effort to mirror Winslow Homer’s advice?: “Travel widely, experiment boldly, love deeply.”
Jan and I spent a month with family in Maple Ridge and Victoria. I rode the SkyTrain. I let my beard grow flaxen and breathed deeply of an urban strain of Pacific pollen not available here in the centre of the continent. I spent time with family and not crawling under the cottage to do battle with dragons and sewer lines. I read a story in front of a crowd of dubious strangers. (Most fully awake.) I lived with a beagle.
I marvelled at marvellous grandchildren, cherished children and found a way to pray for one of them in particular—I suppose that’s true, after a fashion and as John Prine might sing, “in spite of myself.” (I am not first-team all-star when it comes to prayer.) Yes, there was a scary thing.
I’ve worked on less familiar tenses. I cut my dependence on ING words, writing as I too often do, with withering, wringing present participles. I’ve come up with my own Victor Frankenstein of a story-shape theory, resurrected from the cadged prose cadavers of Vonnegut and David Jauss. (They go together like beer and bacon. Piss an’ porcelain.)
I’ve heard and read learned comments on inspirational subjects:
“Poets are the unauthorized legislators of the universe.”—Mary Shelley
“It’s necessary to be pushy, but fatal to appear so.”—one of Bertram Russell’s old Profs.
“Root your story in what is particular and original rather than that which is re-hashed.”—Carolyn Gray
“I’m burly and brawny,
not squirrely and scrawny, and if you don’t like me
I shit thunder and lightning,
and everything frightening,
and where I come from
that’s enough.”—Red Lightman
“The writer stands apart and can adjust all aspects of the story in pursuit of specificity.”—George Saunders, via Carolyn Gray
I’ve filled my characters’ pockets with objects in order to get to know them, but I have not shared with the reader what these things are. I know the precise shade of yellow for all of these things: Mustard after the bottle has been thrown and smashed against a reddish mahogany kitchen wall… a melon… a September poplar leaf… a pickerel belly.
I’ve done all of the former plus more: Put on miles and miles on the X-C trails, heard a lot of Canucks games on my tablet (late in the Manitoba night) and also sipped—near Craigflower Road and other salty strasses—on a fresh Phillips First Bjorn, a delightful, light beer with a helluva lotta HOPS! All of this must constitute some kind of writing magic formula. A love potion expressed in diction and syntax, story, plot, character, and a restless soul.
I have killed two hapless MCs in this batch. Neither one saw it coming. Neither deserved it—not even close. But, hell… Shakespeare killed 74. (One of them ate hot coals!) Ms. O’Connor knocked ’em off like shooting cans offen thater split rail fence yonder. Right? I’m just getting my party started!
“Operation Night Bandit” (YA) | 1,067 words—written 11.9.19 | Submitted
“A Man of Reason” | 2,100 words—11.17.19 | Submitted
“Hazel Creek” | 1,500 words—11.20.19 | Submitted
“Regrets De Foie Gras” | 400 words—11.30.19 | Submitted (contest)
“The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon” | 1,850 words—12.20.19 | Accepted by Agnes and True
“Tiptoe” | 500 words—1.5.20 | Submitted
“Encampment” | 435 words—1.10.20 | Accepted by Tiny Seed Literary Journal
“The Three Sisters” | 3,450 words—1.16.20 | Still tusslin’
“Red Lightman” | 2,400 words—1.17.20 | Looking for a prospective home
“Grudge” | 2,800 words—1.23.20 | Still fussin’
“Piece of My Heart” | 289 words—1.26.20 | Still insertin’ stents
“Screwdriver” | 2,200 words—2.3.20 | Just startin’ to winnow and weed