Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Butler Did It

I have started reading Lead Like Butler, a pithy but generous tome written by Kent Millard and Judith Cebula, about six principles for leadership as embodied by Butler basketball and Coach Brad Stevens.  Without giving any of the six principles away (it would be easy to mention them here) let me characterize the overtone of the book as warm, fuzzy, and highly-readable.  Whether leaders discover anything new here may be more a matter of basketball than business--but the principles herein can easily be applied to any walk of life or in any leadership scenario.

This book reminds me of some of John Wooden's thoughts:  short, insightful commentary about basic elements that can have a larger impact.  Read the whole thing in a sitting . . . but then go back and study the highlights.  

There are plenty of basketball stories here as well.  Much leather to chew on.  Butler fans can reminisce.  

For those living in the Indianapolis area, you could probably take a copy of this book with you to a game in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Somebody associated with Butler basketball might actually sign it.  Fill the inside cover with autographs.  Suitable for framing.

Most of all, have fun transforming yourself from a bench-warmer to a leader.  Get up off the couch!  Actually do something!  Don't be sitting around writing a blog . . . . like me.  And speaking of that . . . why are you reading this blog instead of Lead Like Butler


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Poet of the People

In the last two days I've had several poems accepted for publication, including a sly and clever piece (if I do say so myself) on the European debt crisis.  I enjoy writing verse about the financial misery of others.  I also enjoy writing about Twinkies and used books (some other poetic themes that will soon be making their way into print).

Not all of my poetry is light verse . . . in fact, most of it is morbid.  I tend to write poems about death, or dying, or backed up septic systems, and some of my poems deal in even darker subject matter:  like automobiles that won't start on cold mornings, gloomy paint colors, or photographs of my grandmother.  I also lean heavily toward verses exploring seepage from lanced boils, or really bad coffee, or poems about editors who keep my writing for a year before rejecting it.

In short, I write about real issues.  I am a poet of the people, much like Walt Whitman (who was the first poet to write about boil seepage using free verse).

I also love to hob-nob with people who appreciate poetry, fans who ask questions like, "Have you ever made love and recited a poem at the same time?" 

Naturally, I have . . . but this is just another example of how authentic I am, how real, how personable, and why my wife knows a sonnet when she hears one.  My wife can also tell the difference between a villanelle and a haiku, and on weekends we explore esoteric themes from Baudelaire.

If you don't understand any of this, don't worry.  That's why I write poetry: to say in touch with the peasants and to insure that poems about dishwashing detergent, oil changes, and decaying rabbit carcasses will still be in vogue two hundred years from now.  I also write poems about grease wrenches, hemorrhoids, and the Marquis de Sade.  Sometimes I explore potato salad in free verse form or write epic couplets about cleaning out the refrigerator crisper.  My parody of Shakespeare's 12th sonnet is well known in the environs of Sullivan county and a lady named Mabel once swooned over my biographical triptych about Sir Walter Raleigh's spittoon.

As you can see, I'm making quite a name for myself as a "humanitarian poet"--one of those down-to-earth writers who understands people: how they think, how they feel, and where they shop for toiletries.  I've also got poems about Kroger and Bed Bath and Beyond.  Dick's seems interested in some of my poems about soccer balls, plastic tent pegs, and billiard chalk. 

Certainly, I can't quit my day job to write poetry or make love all day (though I have tried).  I simply take pleasure in knowing that I am writing poetry that touches the heart and the spleen.  My editors know this.  That's why they don't pay me much . . . they know great poets must suffer like the masses.

Soon I'm going to launch into my series of poems about 40-watt light bulbs, and by next month I should be completing my collection of verses about the demise of onion skin paper.  Watch also for my poems about dull lawnmower blades and other poems about those little water chestnuts that are so popular in Chinese cousine. 

No need to thank me for being in touch.  It's what I do.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Tarkingtons

Photo: Booth Tarkington

In recent weeks I've become semi-infatuated with the Tarkingtons.  Booth and Joseph to be exact.  Booth Tarkington was one of America's premier authors at the turn of the 20th century and an Indianapolis native.  He was best-known for his novels The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams, and is one of only three American authors to win the Pulitzer Prize more than once (the other two being William Faulkner and John Updike . . . a tidbit for you literary rats).

Booth's grandfather, Joseph, was a circuit rider and the founding pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church (then Methodist Episcopal) back in the year 1828--my current parish.  Surprisingly, there is a copious amount of material on Joseph Tarkington who, because he was a Methodist, kept copious "methodical" notes as to his whereabouts and his ministry. 

One of my hopes is to write a history of Calvary for the 200 year anniversary of the church (still a ways off in 2028).  But I've already begun my research into the Tarkington family, who seemed like an enterprising and resourceful bunch.

Joseph Tarkington, I've learned, was one of the first Methodists to cross the Ohio River into Indiana, not long after Bishop McKendree came into the Indiana territory around 1802.  McKendree succeeded Francis Asbury as bishop of the Methodist Church in America and, unlike Asbury, was the first "native-born" Methodist bishop.  But this Tarkington fellow, who appears to be a robust sort of young man and a deeply-committed itinerant preacher, established Calvary in what was then known as "Herrisburg".  Like most circuit-riders of the age, he stayed one year and then moved on to a different appointment, living off the land and the hospitality of the church, wherever he discovered it or established a people.

So . . . this Tarkington fellow is a part of my heritage.  I feel like I'm getting to know the son-of-a-gun.  He did good work.  And his grandson Booth obviously helped to put Indianapolis on the map.  I hope to write more about them both in the years ahead. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Take Three

From Friday night to Saturday afternoon I was a writing machine, turning out three quality science fiction stories back to back to back.  I felt like a short order cook slinging hotcakes, but with caviar topping.  All three of these stories were inside of me aching to get out . . . and once I had them in my mind, it was simply a matter of getting them written.

Total word count surpassed five thousand . . . but here is some personal back-history and synopsis of each (including enough mystery to preserve the endings).

"The Dowser"
     There is a history of "dowsing" in my family . . . and for those who don't know what this is, it is sometimes known as "water witching".  Take a willow fork, walk the earth, find water . . . .  I've been working on this story for years (shaping it in my mind) . . . and I finally managed to get 'er done.
     My story takes us to a colony on the moon, a company of fifty souls who no longer have enough water for survival.  But there is an old man, a "dowser", who claims he can find water in 1/8th gravity . . . .  You can guess what happens. Or can you?

"The Superannuated Man"
     I've been playing with this title for some years now, but finally got around to writing this story about a futuristic retirement party with a twist ending.  If Rod Serling were alive, he'd pick this one up in a heartbeat.  Not your average retirement plan.

     More fantasy than science fiction, I tried to imagine a futuristic (or is it ancient?) society lorded over by a religious dictator (known as the Wonderlord).  But one boy dares to question the faith . . . .
     This story is written in a looping, poetic tone reminiscent of some ancient document.  It was difficult to sustain the language for this one--and I had to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite--but that's half the fun of working in words.  I hope my consistency and attention to detail paid off.

I don't know what will happen with these tales once editors get a look at them, but I enjoyed writing them.  And I've got dozens more on the burner.  But I'll have to let the next batch simmer.  I've got to get back to the books for now . . . .

Friday, January 25, 2013

Dear Toddy

As I kid I recall reading "Dear Abby" and thinking, "I wish I could write a column."  Now that Dear Abby is dead--and we shall miss her--I thought I would pull out some of the letters that have come my way . . . and finally offer my advice.

Dear Toddy,
I like to read . . . but this was before I bought your book.  It made me puke.  What do you think of this?
Signed: Dissatisfied

Dear Dissatisfied,
According to Hints from Heloise, you should use sawdust and carpet cleaner on that puke. 

Dear Toddy,
I hear you have a smokin' hot wife but you preach abstinence.  Is there any connection?
Signed: Confused

Dear Confused,
My wife is the one who preaches abstinence.  And yes, since she's married to me, there is a connection. 

Dear Toddy,
I often steal good books from the library, as I cannot afford to buy them.  However, I have been returning your books without reading them.  Can you help me with my kleptomania?
Signed: Bookworm

Dear Bookworm,
The answer is simple:  buy more of my books.

Dear Toddy,
You seem to be infatuated with your wife even though you've been married for nearly thirty years.  What is the secret to your marital success?
Signed: Sport

Dear Sport,
Have you tried Vicks Vapo-Rub?

Dear Toddy,
I've been told you never sleep.  Is this true?
Signed: Somnambulist

Dear Somnambulist,
News of my sleepwalking has been highly exaggerated.

Dear Toddy,
What is a somnambulist?
Signed: Superannuated

Dear Superannuated,


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Old Poetry

This past week I began sending out litters of poetry to a broad range of journals and magazines.  Poetry is a bit like herding fleas to me . . . when I do want to round up some poems for submission, it helps to do it in bunches so I can see the substance of the thing.

Primarily I looked back over my 2012 "poetic journal" and sifted out the best.  I even found a few poems I had forgotten about . . . like this one entitled "Skin".

I like it. A kind of clever light verse I think.  And I can say that, particularly since I don't recall writing it (though it is dated September 11).


Some wear it thin
And others thick.
Pigs give it when
The kickers kick.

Some are taken in
Or fleeced and then
Flayed like men
Who sin.

But there is deep
And tanned ten
And shorn sheep
In Dad's den.

And now and then
We win by teeth
Of fall asleep
In what lies beneath. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Memories of Ray Bradbury

While reading the introduction to Ray Bradbury's second collection of stories, I was struck by the fact that Bradbury seemed to have a detailed recollection of most of the stories he composed:  where he was at the time, what he was feeling, and some of the circumstances which compelled him to write that particular tale.

I'm afraid I can't relate.  Most of my memories--even recent ones--seem to fly away quickly now, and I can scarcely recall the events surrounding few things that I write.  In fact, I have more solid memories of writing in the distant past than I do in the most recent months, or even weeks.

I can recall, for instance, finishing the final draft of one novel sitting in the parsonage basement in Evansville (circa 1995?), sending the novel off to a literary agent in New York, and receiving an affirming phone call some weeks later.  I can also recall writing another novel (some 150 pages) in less than twenty-four hours--a novel I wrote as a kind of practice exercise more than anything else--just to see what was possible. I wrote this one holed up in a spare bedroom in the Noblesville parsonage (pre-children), and the year must have been 1989.

As for the stories and essays and the vast trove of shorter work that I have produced on hundreds of floppy disks over the past twenty years . . . I have only sketchy memory of some of them, and no memory at all for most.  I am now at a stage of life where my floppy searches yield some amazing discoveries, and in the past year I have actually placed and/or sold writing that I had produced years ago.  

I am always impressed with writers like Bradbury and Asimov and Vonnegut . . . writers who produced so much but whose memories held out and attached to the finest of details.  

I do like the idea of being able to remember.  But maybe that's why I write.  I've got to get the idea down before I forget it.        

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kurt Vonnegut's Letters

Last month I read Kurt Vonnegut: Letters--a massive, edited collection of the author's correspondence.  Epistolary collections may seem boring from the outset, but in fact most are quite interesting, and letters often reveal a side of a writer (or any personality) that one cannot gain from reading other work.

Vonnegut's letters run the gamut--from the intimate and personal to the mundane and business-oriented.  Here we find letters that he wrote to his family as well as letters written to agents, editors and friends in literary circles.  The letters span his lifetime and the final letter was written just days before his death.

Vonnegut (an Indianapolis native) was certainly a galvanizing writer. Following his letter collection, I returned to his opus novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, and read it again . . . the last time being when I was in college. Every time I read Vonnegut, I'm not sure what to make of him or his place in contemporary letters.  He's not necessarily a great writer, as far as writing goes . . . but he is certainly unique in style, a trail-blazer in theme, and his work defies categorization.  Perhaps part of his chutzpa was his tongue-in-cheek humor, sharp wit, and his willingness to take on powers in high places.  Part of his fame may derive from the readership he developed--though I find it fascinating that he found few fans and readers of his work in Indianapolis and was, generally, spurned by Hoosiers until more recent years.  Vonnegut, like many writers before him, did not find the Midwest to be a hospitable place for literature and readers few.

Actually, I can say that I've appreciated Vonnegut's non-fiction more than his fiction (in general) and his collected letters would safely fit into this mix.  It's a fun read . . . especially for other writers who enjoy a bit of banter between writer and editor, or who desire a peek inside the publishing business.  It's not a very flattering world. But it is real.  And Vonnegut was all of that

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Shifting Gears

There are some days that run full bore--and I feel like I am constantly shifting gears, especially when it comes to the writing.  And in case people wonder how much "writing business" a busy guy like me can accomplish in an average day, let me give you the run-down for Tuesday.  Not so typical . . . but not atypical, either.

5 a.m.  Rise and send emails (plus attachments) to one publisher and my agent (love sayin' that, but it's nothing really.  I'm serious, it's nothing.  Really!).

6:00-8:00 a.m.  Complete two book reviews and send these to an editor in Nashville, TN for a February publication deadline. (I love blowing deadlines away like this . . . I'm always early. Ask my wife!)

8:30-8:33 a.m.  Shower, shave, squeeze pimples, brush teeth, dress (repeat)

9:15 a.m.  Drive to office to do a real job

1 p.m.   Check emails and discover publisher received my email/attachment. Agent writes back to clarify questions about a book proposal.

1:30 p.m.  Agent writes back yet again to clarify my questions about the questions.  (I have a sudden urge to smoke a cigarette, but then realize I've never smoked and don't plan to.  I pop an Omega-3 Flax Seed oil pill--one of those big honkers shaped like a hockey puck and, subsequently, feel pretty darn good about myself.  I want to weep I feel so darn good.)

5:00 p.m.   Home by myself (wife will be working late . . . again). I consider writing my wife a romantic poem, but decide to write two others--both about the horrors of contracting intestinal worms.

5:30 p.m.  Chef-Boy-R-Dee was great! (Probably where worms come from.)  No church meetings, so I begin writing for the evening.  First, an essay for a preaching magazine; the second, an essay I intend to title, "Your Pastor, Your Friend . . . and If You're Married to Him, Your Lover".  

9:00 p.m.  Hoping my wife will be home soon so I can attempt romantic advances using some herbal tea and a few poetic lines I have whipped up comparing her eyes to "frisbees" and her lips to "those big wax candies we used to eat when we were kids and living on welfare."

10:00 p.m. Wife is in bed (when did she come in? She always does this!  Slips in unnoticed without so much as a hello or a bag of Snickers. Or did she speak to me when I was engaged in writing that poem about dandruff?)  I have a sudden urge to smoke a cigarette, but realize I don't smoke and don't want to and so I fix myself a healthy hot fudge sundae and get back to writing.  I write to a publisher.  I write to my agent.  I field several email rejection letters, curse these editors under my breath, and send the rejected material back out again.  

11:30 p.m.  Going to bed without a cigarette.  Gather up books for future research.  Glad I don't have worms.

(Rise and Repeat)     

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Glimpse Inside My Office

I've always been fascinated by the look of a writer's office.  Emerson's was plain and well-organized, with plenty of shelf space.  Sandberg's was a whole house--a veritable library filling every nook and crannie, with thousands of books piled high on every available ledge and floorboard.  And Ray Bradbury wrote in a basement office on an old manual typewriter--his library pressing in from all sides, nearly crushing him in his tiny writer's space.

Me?  Well, I, sir, am no John Kennedy.  In fact, I ain't even listed in the white pages.  People can look for me under a rock and they won't find me.  And when it comes to literary light, I can sum up my life in the words of one of my publishers:  "Never heard of you, pal!"  And this guy had actually published one of my books!  Imagine what this publisher might have said to me if I were a complete stranger?

So . . . here's a glimpse into my writing lair.  (PHOTO: Right) One-third of my library. 

(PHOTO: Below) My writing desk with "Old Sparky" . . . my 15-year-old Compaq computer with floppy drive which can (and does) often burst into flame while I am writing.  (I'm not joking . . . and the sucker still works.  Which tells you a lot about the quality of the computers they used to make and the quality of the crap they make today.)

(PHOTO: Below) One of my filing cabinets filled with manuscripts, book contracts, sales reports, and all manner of dipsy-doodle vestiges of the writing life, including thousands of rejections slips and letters from irate readers demanding their money back.

Look closely at these photos.  Do you see the tear stains on the woodwork?


Monday, January 14, 2013

Writer's Clock

A few days ago I read a story about Nicholas Sparks (author of many best-selling books, including The Notebook).  The interview pointed out that Sparks began writing while working another job (a long-hours and demanding job).  The interview also pointed out that, since Sparks has become a best-selling author, owns many homes and can now write as he pleases, he produces 2000 words a day.

2000 words a day from a full-time writer?

Okay, I'm not knocking Sparks.  Have some of his books.  Nice guy.  Successful.  And I suppose Sparks can concentrate more on quality than quantity.  He should.  He deserves his rest.  He has cake to eat.

But any writer (like me) who is a mid-list author and whose days are contoured around other time-consuming and concentrated work knows that writing must be accomplished in the "cracks".  I can't write during the day (not usually).  I can't write when I'm fresh.  I can't dally in the production of a book or article or essay . . . but must produce it whole, and in apple-pie-order, and very QUICKLY.  It has to be good, too . . . no matter how I "feel". 

I'd like to encourage other working writers out there . . . and I use the term "working" to describe the process of creating words on a page.  It's tough.  And if you begin writing long before sunrise, and continue writing long after the sun has set, there will be days when you will meet yourself at the keyboard in a split personality and wish you were Goober Pyle. 

Recently, someone asked me how many words I write each day.  Not sure.  But I can say beyond all certainty that it is more than 2000 words a day.  That I know!  And I've been writing more than 2000 words a day for a long, long time.  For years.  Decades! 

Why, just writing this blog is costing me!  I could be writing an essay about sperm whales, a book review about motorcycle maintenance and where to find the best tattoos, an article for a men's swimwear magazine featuring speedos, or writing my next book proposal to be entitled:  I Blew My Nose and Half My Brains Came Flying Out

Perhaps, some day I'll be able to write all day like Sparks.  When I retire?  And those 2000 words?  A piece of cake.  And I'll be eating a lot more of that, too.  Just like Nick.   

Friday, January 11, 2013


I don't often enter literary contests . . . but when I do, I prefer parody contests, as they keep me thirsty, my friends . . . thirsty for laughs.

Well, but I am entering a literary contest this year:  my first in many a moon.  But, in this case of the parody contest, I think I have a decent chance.  I'm going with my parody of the poetry of Robert Service, "Poet of the Yukon".  And if you've never read Service, or heard some of his poems, he's a most interesting poet--a man's poet.  A hearty poet.  A guy who wrote about real men doing dangerous things in the frozen north while freezing their dingos off and drinking Vodka straight from the jar and trapping beavers in sub-zero temperatures.

Service wrote about tough men doing tough things in foul weather.  And well . . . I can' pass that up, my friends.  I've got more poetry parodying Robert Service than I can shake a swizzle stick at. 

Come Saturday morning I'll be sending out my entry fee and my best three parodies, and then I'll keep my fingers crossed.  One thing's for sure.  Even if I don't win, some unsuspecting editor is going to laugh his hienie off when he gets to mine (LOL).  This magazine wants parody?  They're going to get it.

No, I don't always write parody . . . but when I do, I prefer Robert Service.  Stay thirsty my friends!  Thirsty for laughs.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Christmas Gifts from Ray

This year my Christmas gifts (given and received) were rather memorable.  First, I found a used motorcycle (a Honda Rebel 250) that I gave to Becky.  She was surprised, but now I'm trying to talk her into getting a large tattoo--perhaps two snakes coiled around a human skull, their tails spelling out my name with the word "Love" underneath?

I, on the other hand, received an eclectic blend of items.  No underwear this year from mom, but plenty of socks.  A punching bag from Becky (guess she thinks I need something to hit), pajama bottoms from Becky (guess she thinks I need something to take off) and a book published by Life magazine entitled Farewells . . . profiles of various celebrities who died in 2012.

Andy Griffith is in this book.  George "Goober" Lindsay.  Dick Clark.  The list goes on.

But I lingered a bit longer over the pages/photos attributed to Ray Bradbury--a writer who defied description and whose books and stories have had a profound influence on me.  In fact, I'd have to place Bradbury in my top five living writers . . . now a dead one.  My Bradbury story collections are tattered and coffee stained and still remain atop my pile when I reach for a quick read late at night.

I will miss Mr. Bradbury.  He wrote a bit of everything and was the creative genius behind Epcot Center in Disney.

And, in case you don't know, here's how Bradbury got his start.  In 1932 he attended a carnival. As a boy he was captivated by a performer named "Mr. Electrico".  At the end of his act, Mr. Electrico reached down off the stage, touched the young Ray Bradbury and told him, "Go forth, and live forever."  Bradbury believed he received his calling that day to write.  He began writing that evening, and he never stopped.  He wrote EVERY DAY thence. 

And near the end of his life, as Bradbury reflected on his own happiness among his voluminous library and his 57-year marriage he noted, "I have taken my happiness from the fact that every day of my life I have worked for myself and built a life on writing and creating."

Not a bad way to go.  I think Mr. Electrico would have been proud.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fiction at the Speed of Light

Last night I submitted several science fiction stories to magazines, literally, around the world.  It's amazing what can be accomplished now with the click of a button . . . and at the speed of light.

I sent one story to London, another to Sydney, Australia, yet another to Los Angeles, and a fourth to an unspecified location somewhere over the Alps (maybe).  Who knows, maybe one of these editors will see the light.

Funny thing about my science fiction . . . I'm rapidly closing in on having enough of these in published form to compile a book of collected stories. And I hope I can.  I think I've got some good'ns. 

How's this for descriptive form:

A story about a ranching outpost on a distant planet where one displaced Earth ranch-hand encounters squatters and attempts to displace them in wild-west fashion, but with disastrous consequences.

A tale about a space mission gone awry, only to be saved by a tiny black pill that one crew member swallows per instruction inside the emergency kit.

A futuristic foray into a depleted world where men no longer buy sex, but conversation by the word.

A story about a radiation engineer who must decide whether to sacrifice his life to save a city or return to the woman he loves.

A legal thriller anchored by a nine-hundred year old barrister who specializes in representing indigenous species discovered on other planets, and who accepts uninhabited worlds as payment in kind. 

And these are some of my unpublished tales.  Any editors out there interested?  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


A strange number, that 70,000.  That's the number of all-time "hits" on this blog (and I don't even know what a "hit" is).  I suppose it has something to do with the Mayan calendar, but didn't that come to an end in December? 

When I told my wife about my 70,000 hits, she said, "Well, it's not 70-million.  If that were the case someone would be calling from Hollywood asking you to make a movie."


I appreciate my wife . . . any time I begin to feel smug or secure, she smacks me back down to reality and reminds me that I'm eating ham sandwiches instead of caviar.  She also reminds me that I drive a twelve-year-old car with balding tires and that I am sending most of my paycheck to a southern Indiana university so my son can eat caviar and drive a car that actually starts on winter mornings.  She keeps me humble by insisting that she gets better romance from watching Ricardo Montalban movies (and he's been dead for years).

Well . . . but those 70,000 hits turn me on.  If I could smoke them, I'd be getting high right now.

I'm not sure what I should do with this information.  Should I call my agent and ask her to parlay this 70,000 into 100,000 (dollars).  How long would she laugh?  How many editors can I trick into thinking that I'm actually proficient with the English language?  Should I mention how many times I've been "hit"?

At this rate, if I can keep this blog alive, one day I'll reach THE MILLION mark.  I'll be one week removed from death--an old man with a bald pate who keeps screaming, "Bring me a keyboard!"  The way I see it, I can stay alive just like the Bee Gees until I reach the goal.  I'll have a falsetto voice.  And then I can die in peace.    

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My First Sale of the Season

It's a funny thing, but I often hear from editors on Sunday afternoon.  I suppose most editors are like the rest of us:  always catching up on the week by working weekends.  And as I write this on Sunday afternoon, I am sitting "home alone" because my wife is at school catching up on paperwork and my son is, once again, on his way to college.

But here it is . . . January 6 . . . and I have already made my first literary sale of 2013.  This time from an editor who wants to publish some of my ekphrastic poetry (a term in learned in 2012, by the way).  Ekphrastic poems are those written about works of art . . . .

I've written quite a bit of ekphrastic poetry through the years, but I just thought I was writing poems about paintings, sculptures, and drawings . . . I didn't realize there was a term for this. 

But, at any rate, the contract is in the mail and a check is forthcoming . . . I'm talking actual cash here (which is just as good as money, I hear).  I can buy a ham sandwich. 

And, although it's not in the ekphrastic spirit, I did peek at my poetry journal for 2012 and noted this little four-liner from a year ago.  Don't remember writing it, but then what can I recall from 12 months back?

This poem, written on January 19, 2012 indicates this was the first snowfall of the season . . . one year ago.
First Snow

Now here is a wonder:  a day of first snow
In mid-January winter, mild--
Weeks past the wilt of our mistletoe
As if God has smiled. 


Friday, January 4, 2013

My Favorite Things Part 3

2012 was not a big year as far as writing stories, but I did have a few published.  The truth is, fiction is difficult to place . . . and it's all the more impossible to sell.  My bane (or perhaps my boost) is that I write in so many different genres.  Among the many stories I submitted in 2012 were stories that might be categorized as "mystery", "literary", "western", "pop", "humor" and "science fiction".  Other than the western, I did manage to place at least one story in all of these categories.

My favorite published piece in 2012 was my science fiction story, "The Sea and All That is In it" . . . which was picked up by a British science fiction magazine.  I had worked on this story for some time, polishing it, revising it.  One editor who rejected this story had commented, "Love the title".  And another editor had, at one juncture, invited me to turn this short story into a novella and said she would publish it in full, but I had neither the heart nor energy for the undertaking at that time.

I also published a literary story,"Giraffe", which was picked up by a college press in southern California, and I also appreciated the Loch Raven Review--a small press dedicated to mystery in the vein of Edgar Allen Poe--publishing my crime-mystery story, "The Bill Collector". 

Among my favorite stories yet unpublished (of which I have dozens), is one entitled, "Steiner, the Violinist" . . . and after nearly twenty years of submitting it I can't believe it has been rejected at least a hundred times.  But as I was reminded recently through an Esquire magazine interview with James Lee Burke:  "Never leave a manuscript at home more than thirty-six hours" (his quote).  The key is sending work out again, and again, and again.  A hundred rejections.  So what.  I know "Steiner" is a great story . . . and a Jewish one, to boot.  Probably my best unpublished piece.

Here's to more in 2013.  I've got to get crackin'.      

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Favorite Things Part 2

2012 afforded me the opportunity to write book reviews--more reviews, in fact, than my past 52 years combined.  I discovered that I rather enjoyed this:  receiving shipments of books from publishers, stacking them alongside my writing space (usually the sofa), reading them, and then offering my thoughts.  And if my editor's feedback is accurate, I should write even more of these in 2013.

I also cannot recall a year in which I wrote so many essays for publication.  And what a blend.  Among some of my stronger essays were:  a piece I wrote about the publishing industry's insatiable lust for "fame"; a memoir about my foray into the underworld of competitive bodybuilding; several essays about financial stewardship in the congregation; essays about depression, breast cancer, and smallmouth bass fishing in Indiana waterways; and dozens of essays about youth ministry.

My favorite essay of 2012, however, has to be my piece on the Indiana Beaver population.  Writing this piece took me into the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and required telephone interviews and follow-up questions via the internet. It was not reportage at the highest level, but writing about beavers was exacting and personal to me . . . as the impetus for the article began with my anecdote regarding the beavers that chewed down 40+ trees in our yard along white lick creek.  Busy as a beaver?  I'll say. 

What's next for me?  If 2013 is reminiscent of the past, I'll continue to write about anything that catches my interest.  It could be Swiss cheese or how to use Preparation-H as a wrinkle-remover.  I might write about Jesus or some jerk in Schenectady.  I could write about warts, sex, or how to use binoculars.

Two of my favorite essays that were not published in 2012 (but are still making the rounds) are:  "In Praise of Women" and "Pumping Irony".  I think some editor will pick these up in 2013.

But if not . . . I can always write something else.  Anyone out there need an essay:  "Ten Ways to Rid Yourself of Your College Student Without Feeling Guilty"?

My Favorite Things Part 1

Since Oprah made "My Favorite Things" a household phrase, I thought I would take stock of my personal favorites from 2012 . . . scrolling back through the one million words I produced last year to locate the best of the best.  A closer look at all of my poetry, for example, shows that I wrote over 250 poems last year (but I have no idea how to assess this output . . . I just wrote 'em).

I did have a dozen or so published in various magazines or journals, however . . . and among the works-in-print, my personal favorite was a poem entitled, "Odysseus, Retired", which was picked up by The Lyric.  (Thanks as always, Jean & Nancy.)

I also kept a 2012 "Poetic Journal", where I produced most of my poetry, and where I also attempted to write a poem a day (but did not achieve this).  Reading back through the journal to discover the gems, however, I did find a few that stood out.  Most of these could be categorized as "love" or "romantic" poems, I suppose (though God-knows Becky reads only a smattering of them and most that are read are stuffed into the trash in the interest of ecology).  But I also note that I produced good poems about cancer (with more slated for publication in 2013), as well as some humorous poems (my "Uber-Goober" blog poem being a favorite here), and a few standup sonnets.

Finally, I discovered this flower among the weeds . . . a nice piece of Light Verse that is good enough to be published somewhere.  But I'll offer it as my favorite unpublished poem of 2012.

Old Golfers

They swing in spasm of half-arc
Through firm, arthritic hips,
Peripheral, wide-of-the-mark,
And par by nine iron chips.

Their bags are light as scrotums hang
Through slacks of sansabelt,
And half their drives--a boomerang--
Return to leave a welt.

Deliberate, they pad the grass
Through careful steps of tweed,
Putting on greens rolled smooth as glass
Through breaks they cannot read.

But each is paring out for pride
Though double-bogeys reign,
And every Titleist hooked wide
Induces sudden pain.

But at the clubhouse, rolling in,
They settle up their bets,
Each sucking at their oxygen
And scoring no regrets.