Is this funny? I don’t think it’s funny.

A long time ago, in a land far away, a girl composed a poem about worms.  i can’t really remember much of it, except that it was hilarious.  SO, for my WriMo, I set out to create a similar funny (if not hilarious) poem, to be added into my tale.  Of course, feeling not so inspired for most of the time I was writing, I left the poem for the end, for the last of my creative juices.  The result is less than pleasing:

Digging, delving, ever pinker

Rolling juicy earthworms pant.

Singing gaily of their prowess

Who can tell what makes them dance?

Dancing come they, willy-nilly.

Dancing come they, to a feasting.

Festive garbage, festive eating.

How to move, then, with no feet?


Jiggle-juggle go the earthworms

Jiggle juggle dancing sweetly

Keeping time with rings of gristle

Keeping jiggles as they creep.

In there tunnels none will mark them.

Eating refuse, breathing deep.

So, now I need to make this funny.  Or, if you already think it’s funny (you weirdo, you).  I need to make it funn-ier.  Please help.

The Poetry of the Soul

Why is it that certain circumstances bring out the artist in us?  I’m not talking about the inspiration of comparison, the excitement we get at seeing another’s creative work and wanting to do something just as good ourselves, which has half-prompted my recent attempts at song writing and video making (none of them finished yet).  I’m speaking instead of something more nebulous, perhaps the touch of a good Muse, overflowing us with creative juices.

I slept later today than I have in some time, until 1:30 pm, probably catching up on some much-needed rest.  I dreamt for the first time in as long as I can remember, something about a very angry shortish man, possibly Asian, maybe an irritable Genghis Khan, who I had to placate and attend to.  Now I can’t sleep, unable to relax and distracted by a host of wayward thoughts, some of them with no relevance to my waking life.  These nighttime distractions scurry around in my head, chasing each other with new permutations and wordings.  Eventually, I have an entire complete poem (though I’m not sure it’s any good, my perception being hazily on the edge of sleep) running around in my head.  What can I do but get up from my comfortable bed, turn the light on again, and search out the supplies to write the whole thing down?  If my mind is flowing with milk and honeyed words like the promised Canaan, what can I do but spit them all out in a tasteful kind of word-vomit?  Would anything else be a denial of my ‘gift’?  Or will such midnight writing prove to be a black mark against my reputation as a writer in the morning light?

I cannot at the moment judge.  If I should die before waking, as some midnight paranoias have whispered in my head, some other hand will have to seek out my night’s frantic scribbles and decide for themselves.  All I can do for now is spit forth what I have bundled and packaged, and hope that these dribbles my soul has chosen to leak out now have some eventual worth.  Perhaps the writing will at least allow me to sleep, quieted in the comfort at having done something at the end of the day.

Next time, Jared Diamond, NEXT TIME!!!

Some of you may be familiar with the book Guns, Germs, and Steel. It has been recommended to me by several people who I trust and who have decent judgment. It is a monster of a work, in a style that the specialists of modern day can’t really match. It’s meant to be a broad analysis of general historical trends, chronicling some ideas of why modern society developed in the place and manner that it did. And I’m sure it accomplishes this well and was interesting and informative for many highly intelligent people. But I couldn’t read it.

I am not typically a non-fiction reader.  I like the flexibility of fiction.  I feel like it allows language to be used more fully.  I feel like it’s more of an art.  But of course, that’s not always the case.  And some fiction pays no attention to language or craft.  Ultimately however, I tend to like it better for its hint of truth.  Fiction can be truer than fact.  It can also be a starting point for factual exploration.  How many times have I been reading some historical novel and wondered if an event or situation actually took place?  The interaction between creative expression and factual dates, times, and places intrigues me.  In addition, fiction avoids the perils of being proven wrong.

So, was it just the non-fiction structure of this particular book, in addition to its length, that put me off reading the whole thing?  Not exactly.  I mean, the small part of it that I did read was well-written.  However, amidst the sweeping generalizations of the early introductory materials, I found the bane of a non-fiction books – a fallacy.  While I can understand discrepancies regarding the movement of people into North America considering new information that is constantly being revealed and tested, other small details I could not ignore.  Where was steel first invented?  And if the author is wrong about one such detail, how can I trust the other assertions that are outside his specialty?

I eventually gave up on reading the book – it would take too long to check every point he made. however, the book again caught my eye on the train today when I saw a picture of the Phaistos disc inside it.  I saw the picture first – recognizing one of the most interesting and rare undeciphered scripts in existence, I was intrigued enough to lean over the poor girl reading it and look at the book title.  For those of you who are not familiar with this disc, it is the only example of what we think is a writing system (or at least some record-keeping system using characters for a discrete meaning).  We don’t know what language it may record, or what culture it is associated with, though there have been multiple guesses.  Since the disc was found in a Minoan palace, many think it originated there, but we have no evidence that it was not made elsewhere.  What could such an enigmatic relic of past civilization have to tell us about the advancement of current people through guns, germs, and steel?  Not much.  And the sensational nature of such a mysterious object included in what’s supposed to be a highly logical argument of a book does little to placate my questions about the authorial intent or accuracy of the book.  However, since I did not actually read the text associated with the disc, I cannot say that it does not add another layer of meaning to teh author’s argument.  I will have to be resigned to my unanswered questions and doubts.

The stories we want

Looking online for sparks of coolness, I was pleased to discover this little article documenting some of the ways the bigwigs are now approaching storytelling.  Basically the article gives outlines of how a variety of disciplines are trying to make thier storytelling more vibrant with today’s community.  How can you make things more welcoming for content sharers and those who ‘remix’ content without getting your copyright tromped on?  What constitutes a “legal” remix, and what threatens the copyright with a variety of content mooches?

As a blogger, I understand the annoyance even cold, hard companies might have with content mooching.  I get annoyed when spammers try to steal entire posts and use them to boost ad revenues on their own sites.   I mean, I put this stuff out there just to think ‘out loud’ and give vent to things – what about people who actually have gone through the process of legally protecting their work?  How do they feel about content mooching?  Not grand, I’m sure.

But still, a part of being in the culture of the time has to do with putting your work up for comment by the public.  Where, after all, did spoofs come from?  And this kind of revisionist use of existing material ultimately gives the original work renewed vigor.  Would I have the same admiration for the shadow play of Errol Flynn if I’d never seen Robin Hood: Men in Tights?  Probably not.

In the end, imitation is supposedly the highest form of flattery.   And if television is already capitalizing revenues through websites and memorabilia, if films are making the majority of their money from products related to the film (but not from theater revenues only), there needs to be some big adaptations taking place.  My advice – limited releases.  Make certain screen shots or film clips available, specifically for editing.  Release more than the usual film trailers – give us games, online interviews, outtakes, anything that might spark related interest in the film.  I first found out about the Baudelaire orphans from an online game, before I’d even heard of the books and long before there was even rumor of a movie.  I could even deal with ad content on various websites, along with interest-building content.  Just give me more.  Give me options.  Above all, give me creativity.

Speaking of creativity, this website about the conference itself is great.  I recommend the Web Awards section.

The point’s the thing (or, the end justifies the means)

 I am reading a fiction book I found in the bargain bin at my local bookstore – to protect the innocent, I will not mention its title here.  And there’s nothing wrong with being in the bargain bin – the classics are often there.  I recently picked up a hardcover Eco book there for a dollar.  It was The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, so arguably not one of his best works, but still.  And if I can get that for a dollar, anything I’m getting for $3.65 has some kind of worth.

It is more of an enjoyable quick read, but I still appreciate that type of fiction.  The thing that I don’t value about it is the way it portrays writers.  You see, it’s a frame story in places.  One of the characters is a writer who we see writing within the tale.  We even get to read some of her story.  The point of contention with me is that the writer of the frame story (who happens to be male) has the female writer in his work write the perfect story a chapter at a time with no revision.  None.

Now, the female writer inside the story is writing a children’s book, it’s true.  And while this does mean less  actual words to edit, and perhaps a different standard of writing, to believe this woman just writes and then sets aside her ‘perfect manuscript’ threatens my credulity.  Does the male author expect us to believe anyone can just slop it down for children’s fiction?  Did he, in writing the frame as well as the innards, do that children’s book section in one easy sitting?  I certainly hope not.

Perhaps I’m being to harsh.  Perhaps this particular work of fiction is driven to one specific message, and the details of realism occasionally slip aside.   Perhaps the superb rough-draft of this female writer is a firmer implication of the idea that she was ‘meant’ to write that story.  Perhaps it’s simply a case of the main point, the main end of the tale, overshadowing the smaller details.  However, at the end of the day, I would not consider Cesare Borgia in my friendship circle.  And I doubly don’t trust Machiavelli.  For that reason, I am hesitant to embrace their particular credo, even if skewed to fit a very different time and a very different set of circumstances.

A Story

So Mike gave me a story idea, and then I was thinking about interactivity and such, and treasure hunts. So I’m going to ‘have a go’ at linking them all together. I’ll bold the story parts below so you know what is story and what is instructions to the next part of the story.

I was born in the space between a white picket fence and a giant weedy tangle of evergreen bushes. After being run off by some angry suburbanites, my mother had really no where to go. Wherever she went, she was treated as a leper, as a thief, as something unclean. She was alone, and near to giving birth to me and my 3 siblings.

I don’t remember opening my eyes at first. I don’t remember the brightness of that first day. I don’t even remember the sense of loss I must have felt at being separated from my sister, my brothers, my mother. Perhaps the shock is lost somewhere in my memory, occasionally brought forward as nostalgia or melancholy, brought on by a familiar sound or smell.

My early life was hard – scavenging, moving all the time, living off the leavings of others. It wasn’t that bad though. I didn’t have time to be envious, to watch the twinkle and gleam of inside lives. I had my family. We kept each other warm, looked out for each other. But it was always a little different after the first time I heard my mom get really angry.

It was an odd sort of situation. My brothers, Cerne and Cassis, were trash diving at a local park for some useful odds and ends and maybe some food. The whole family was there. My mother and sister Cassy were washing up a bit after their own ‘dives’, and I was playing lookout. The park was mostly deserted at this time of day – late afternoon – except for a few bums lounging.

A woman trotted towards us with her dog. Seeing us, the dog went crazy – barking, tugging at the leash, and generally furious. I called to my brothers, and they quickly turned to face the danger. But still the woman approached. She tried to contain her dog, but he was a big dog. Despite our family outnumbering him, we were all small. And afraid.

But we were quick. Cassy darted around the dog and away, and Cassis quickly followed. Cerne jumped up on top of a garbage can and made to go up into the trees, but the branches were too small. One splintered beneath him, knocking him back onto the ground. The dog moved in to wring him by the neck, but my mother stopped him. She deliberately put herself in front of my brother and snarled.

I’ve never heard such an ugly sound. I couldn’t believe it, coming from my own mother. The hairs stood up all along my body. Even the big dog was a little afraid. He stepped back, and looked around for his master. She tried to quiet him, but I knew that his courage was coming back. While his attention was distracted, it was now or never.

The story continues with perspectives from a variety of sources on the events.

To complete this story as if the narrator runs away and escapes, click here.

To complete this story as if the narrator stays to help his family, click here.

To complete this story on your own or give opinion on the process thus far, please  comment below.

Blogging and freedom.

It’s rare that I consider the privileges of my lifestyle.  Sure, I appreciate my boss, despite my job.  And I appreciate th epeople in my life fairly regularly.  But there are always things I don’t consider, things that may come into my awareness only with special reflection, perhaps sparked by the season of Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter.  So perhaps it is appropriate that this news item about blogging elsewhere came to my attention in this season.

I rarely consider the internet as a place of freedom for myself.  Sure, it allows for some expression and some sharing of opinions. For the most part though, my sharing is very lighthearted and because of this, I tend to perceive the environment as lighthearted.  Sure, when I was in China I was much more aware of restrictions that could be made, but still it was more of a game.  I looked up different opinions about Tibet and amused myself with their monks-as-oppressors, Communism-as-the-liberator articles.  I didn’t get offended or hurt, perhaps because I knew my lack of access was only temporary.

What does it mean that a blogger – not even someone with the authority of print – would be arrested and held for the opinions that he posts?   What does it mean to consider your blog – this light, hopeful and happy thing that often contains subtle prods – as something of complete and ultimate seriousness?  How does it affect your writing?  How does it affect your life, to know that what you post on a simple blog – something most like a public forum for the world – could change your life forever?  Could get you killed?  Could put your family in danger?

My new favorite friend: Wergle Flomp

I get an online publication about small markets (meaning little magazines and small circulation and small pay places that want to publish your stuff).  It helps keep me abreast of what’s out there in the writing world, and gives me ideas for places I might want to submit stuff.  They also compile info on various competitions, as well as small markets, and usually it’s pretty reasonable stuff.  I read the new one today and was tickled by the name of the first contest:  WERGLE FLOMP HUMOR POETRY CONTEST.  I decided to check it out on the basis of name alone.  It had to be funny, right?

And it was!  Basically, it’s a contest aimed at making fun of the vanity press contests many of us participated in as school-age children.  You make a really bad, but funny-in-a-parody-way poem.  Then submit it to a vanity press contest that will accept  anything so that they can sell more books.  Then, submit it here.  Finally, have a good chuckle at other’s expense.  Ahh, silly vanity presses!  I now love this contest.  I am thinking of submitting something….

The Perils of a REAL JOB

For those of you who don’t know, my job is mostly boring.  I spend the majority of my days online, interspersed with answering the phone when it rings, opening the mail, and maybe running a few copies if necessary.  There are occasional projects for my boss, some of which I actually enjoy, but really there’s not that much for me to do.  Which is a little annoying, considering everyone around me at the office is so busy and pressured.  But that changes for a period of about 2 weeks every quarter with our Board meetings.

I get to be in charge of editing and compiling the reports on everything we’ve done for the past quarter.  This includes all the financials as well as the written documentation explaining our decision-making process in depth.  I love this part of my job.  I get to do a little bit of editing, and a little bit of layout and design to make things pretty.  And these are all things I’m good at.  Sure, it can be a little grueling to shift gears from extreme down-time to super work overdrive.  And my writing certainly suffers during this period because my free time at work is gone.  But it does really break up the monotony, and I enjoy that.

So today is the beginning of the end.  It marks the first part of my two-week disconnect from my usual lackadaisical work attitude.  Probably my blogging will go down, as will my Scrabulous scores.  Still, without a little actual work once and awhile, I probably would be someplace else now.

Submissions

I have just begun a new writing endeavour – I am now entering the world of flash fiction.   What is this lovely new genre?  you may ask.  Well, I shall tell you.

Flash fiction is short fiction.  It’s almost always under 1,000 words, and sometimes under even 100.  but really the whole point is the ‘flash’.  It’s a twist story, one with a sudden ending or unexpected revelation or plot twist.  I like to think of it as the pun of short story writing.  Usually it leaves the reader with one line or sentence that turns everything preceding on its head.  And, growing up with my father, I have plenty of corny puns on hand.  They’ve been beaten into my psyche.

While I haven’t done much of it yet, it seems to go as quickly as writing this blog does.  Today I’ve managed to churn out three stories of the ‘speculative’ variety (sci-fi/fantasy), which would probably be the easiest for me to handle.  ben from my writer’s group was doing some in the spy genre, and Jeff has done some that’s much more literary, but if we’re talking quantity, I feel like speculative fiction gives the most freedom.  With all the imaginative (or fake) stuff that goes into it, it’s just easier to churn out.  At least in my opinion.  But then, I have read more of that type of fiction when looking for a fast read, so maybe I’m just accustomed to it.

I had been doing a bit of research about places that were looking for shorter stuff, and came up with the FFW which, in turn, led me to a few different sites.  I am going to send off the first batch tonight, and with the speed at which I can crank these out and a three day weekend ahead of me, I have high hopes for creating more and submitting more as well.  And maybe even doing a little novel editing, too.  Yay!

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