Posts tagged writing
Posts tagged writing
This past week, I was pleased to announce that an essay I’d written appeared on one of my favorite sites, The Bygone Bureau. All they do there is publish really smart, enjoyable nonfiction, so the fact that they thought my piece was BB material, had me thrilled. Since you can check the piece out at the site, I just thought I’d take this space to add two quick notes that might help flesh out what you see in the final product.
1. While my essay is about the strange power Arrested Development had in my wife’s and my lives, I think most couples have — or should have — something like that, a talisman that serves as a gentle us-against-the-world reminder. For some, that role is most likely filled by children. For us, at that point in our lives, it was a TV show.
2. I come to realize one of the reasons why BB publishes such great writing is they’re very good editors. I was working with Kevin Nguyen, who gave my piece a thorough going-over. One of the main points he raised was that the framing device I’d used to start and finish the piece wasn’t working. Fortunately, he was able to see the merits of the piece despite the shaky intro, which is something not a lot of editors would be able to do. So a big thanks to Kevin for helping make the piece a lot better than it was when it started out.
Anyway, if you haven’t yet read it, I hope you’ll check it out. I’m quite proud of it and pleased to see it’s found such a good home at The Bygone Bureau.
Not much to say here, other than Things Fall Apart is one of those rare books that sticks with me years (decades?!) after I first read it. In honor of the passing of a great writer, I pass along here my favorite quote from TFA, the words of which are terrifying, mysterious and true all at once:
“I am Evil Forest. I kill a man on the day that his life is sweetest to him.”
It’s indulgent and unseemly for writers to talk about rejection — perhaps even bad luck in some circles. Listening to someone prattle on about it is like watching someone give a wedding toast where they only talk about themselves. And the fact is, 99.9% of the time, rejection is totally boring.
But every once in a while, a rejection letter comes along that’s noteworthy. Here’s one I got last month (with identifying information redacted):
Thanks for letting me read W******. Lately, I’ve been submitting a lot of work myself and have found that personalized and flattering rejection notes tend to be paradoxically more discouraging and invite the sort of neurotic over-analysis that is generally not in any way healthy or productive, and so I hope you’ll accept this 100% neutral and non-encouraging (but also non-discouraging!) note as an indication that we will not be running your submission in B*****, but this choice of mine doesn’t reflect negatively on you as a person or as a writer, and is instead the result of a totally fucked up and subjective system which we all, for some reason, agree to perpetuate. Thanks for thinking of us.
I just got word that the audio short story I recorded for WordPlaySound has been accepted for publication next month. Actually, I’m not sure if publication is the proper term for a recording… Maybe I should say my audio short story drops next month. Anyway, the upshot is that people will be subjected my superfluously enunciated podcast diction and my nascent audio mixing skills. Should make for an interesting listen.
A while ago a friend who runs the audio literary journal WordPlaySound asked me to try recording a story of mine and last week I finally had the time to sit down and give it a shot. Here are a few of the takeaways from the experience:
1. Garageband, which is the program I used to mix the audio, is incredibly complex but once you get a feel for it, it’s also maddeningly addictive. The more I toyed with using different tracks and inserting sample loops and varying the volume on the individual tracks, the deeper down the rabbit hole I fell. Then, once I’d learn some other new trick or doo-dad, I’d want to go back and add it to all the previous stuff I’d recorded. The final mix ended up being kind of a Frankenstein’s monster, which likely got better sounding as it went along.
2. It’s super disorienting to record your voice. As a kid, I always thought my voice sounded strange when I’d hear it played back. Such instances were usually limited to home movies of birthdays and Christmas mornings, so at least they were a natural representation of my voice. It’s a different ballgame when you’re recording yourself for the purpose of being played back. I found myself weirdly over-enunciating certain syllables to a point where I sounded like I was talking in this absurdly affected British accent.
3. If you want to improve your writing, read it out loud. This is something I say to my composition students all the time and one of the tricks I use when I’m tutoring developmental writing students in the writing lab at school, but it applies just as equally to advanced fiction and nonfiction writers. Something about hearing yourself read your own writing helps cut right through the most wooden-sounding dialogue and spotlights the weakest turns of phrase. I can’t recommend it enough.