Wednesday, January 31, 2018

She appeared like an apparition

Continuing my play with Wonhundred Word Wednesdays I present:


I told her it was him or me. 
She hesitated, silent. Speechless.
“You have nothing to say?” said I.
“Not to you.”
“I’ll drive you to him.”
She nodded.
And in she went. Walking up the sidewalk, firm and upright. To the door, into his house.
I sat and stared.
Nothing to do. 
Unable to go.
Nowhere to go.
Swings open the door and out she marches, an apparition. Smiling to see me there, waiting for her. Certain and secure.
"You,” she said. "True, you waited."


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Ars Gratia Artis

There are few Latin phrases that are part of American culture that aren’t scary and legalese. Ars Gratia Artis is one of them and it’s a good one.

For decades we’ve seen it over the iconic roaring lion on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) production trailer trademark. It’s a motto. What’s a motto? I dunno, what’s a motto with you?

Ars gratia artis means: “art for art’s sake.” It is a fantastic motto and served as mission statement before everyone had mission statements. For a business it was bold, but for the writer, (or any artist) it should be the heartbeat of their lives.

I’m teaching creative writing at the University of Utah this semester. Lots of it. I have packed rooms of people wanting to write. They are amateurs, meaning they are there for the love of it. The thought of making a career out of lines on paper may be an unspoken dream, but for now they just want to know how to write. How to think of story, how to communicate and create. There’s a purity there that goes to the heart of Ars Gratia Artis. Though doubtless they have motives, personal and profession, for now, we can limit it to spiritual. And that’s how, really, it should be.

I am a huge believer that art is a thing unto itself. A worthy endeavor regardless of its transience, endurance or commercial viability. As strange as it sounds I think if someone writes a story and then puts it into a drawer never to be seen again, or burns it on a fire in their backyard, the universe is still a better place for it. This is not a value judgment. Many critics would say that burning a bad story is a public service, but I say the very act of writing, of creating anything, is holy and powerful. The act will change the author and the cosmos. The experience has its own reward and the making of something from “nothing” — expression and manifestation — are at the heart of the soul.

Though not every stories can be published, all should be written.

Ars Gratia Artis

EDIT: Sorry for the typos in the early version, and any that remain. Thus is my life.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

League of Utah Writers Spring Conference

It's that time of year again. Spring is in the air (it helps that we haven't actually had a winter yet.) Spring means writing (well, everything means writing when you're a writer... ) But I digress.

The 2018 League of Utah Spring Writing Conference is coming up!

Mark your calendars April 14th, 2018 at the Redwood Road, Taylorsville campus of Salt Lake Community College. 

This day long workshop will offer classes on all aspects of writing. It's a celebration of the League, a family reunion, and a chance to sharpen your writing tools and pick up a few more.

It's a cheap date, $35 for members, $50 for non-members. All day event. Snacks too. 

Also, there are opportunities to volunteer and present. 

Yes, we're looking for presenters. I'm a big believer that everyone needs to give back so we're opened a presentation portal for those writers who have something to share. We're open to all ideas from writers of all levels because we all have something to share.

If you're interested in presenting, click here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Writing Advice—Finish What You Start

I have a rule that has served me well when writing: I finish what I start. It’s a handy little rubric that turns out completed projects at a tolerable rate.

It’s a simple idea, sounds obvious and easy, but in practice it’s neither.

When churning through a project, writing long novels, there invariably come a few moments when one’s interest in it wanes and it’s like pulling teeth to turn the corner and start another page. This is usually accompanied by the birth of a new idea, a better story, more interesting plot, more exciting quest.

It’s diabolic. To quote Tony Flaner, there’s a pull and a push to a new thing.

But beware noble squire, thus are desk drawers filled with half finished manuscripts and the airs reek of failure.

I’ve written fifteen novels by forcing myself to keep going, at least to the final chapter. One story fought me so hard that I ended at “the end” and never looked at it again, but at least it was done: beginning, middle, and end. 107,000 words, A book.

It had to be done. I had to finish it. It was practice and wordcrafting, time spent on my art, but I had other projects lurking that could sell, that would be lighter, more fun. Songs of the sirens. I stuck to it because if I stopped one story, I could stop them all.

The trick is to turn the hatred of the project into action, bite the bit and gallop to the end. It’s surprising what that kind of motivation can do. It’s like a deadline (which in and of itself is as magical a device for writing as a dictaphone with transcribing house elves).

There’re value judgements that need to be put aside. “The book sucks, I should just stop here and start again. I can do better.” But that’s not the thing. A corollary of the rule answers that concern: you can fix anything but a blank page. Also, completion has a quality all its own.

It’s discipline, but’s also illusionary. I write on “spec,”—speculation. No one is paying me to write. I pen a book and then try to sell it. It’s not the best situation, but at my level it’s the only game in town. With no boss, no real penalty, there’s only my own delusion that tells me that I have to finish and can’t just take the treat I’m holding out any time I want.

You have to be a little insane to be a writer, or any kind of artist really. This is just a symptom of that. It’s a pretend rule, and as an artist, I am well aware that rules are there to be broken. One day I will break it. I’ve bent it. I’ve stopped to write a short story in the middle of a novel and there’re always new edits on old stuff that have to be done, but as for big projects, book length, I’ve never a new one without finishing the old. I’ve never faltered.

It is a made up rule, a pretend law, but it has served me well.

I recommend it to everyone.

Better to have a mediocre finished book than a great fragment, or dozens or them.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Peace 2018

It’s a cliche, I know, to make resolutions at New Year’s but it’s also a tradition. This year, I’m acknowledging that tradition. Traditions, unlike cliches are good things. They’re full of… well, tradition. History is good and having a day on the calendar to remind one to do something is usually helpful. Like Thursday baths and garbage nights.

I once gave up Diet Coke for Lent and it changed my life. So this year, I’m trying something more radical. First, I’m going to try to break a more sinister addiction. I’m going to try to lessen my stimuli addiction represented by countless hours spent surfing the internet. I’m a news junky and last year was all about bad news getting worse. Like many, I’ve been in shock and beyond sucking my time, it’s sucking my soul. I’m going to pull back a bit (I won’t lie and say I’m going to give it up) and see if that improves my wellbeing.

But what shall I do with all the time I’ll get from a digital diet? Funny you should ask. With the increased concentration and focus I hope to experience, I’m going to read. I’m going to read lots. With all the distraction and my own writing, I’ve fallen woefully behind on my reading. I have a stack waiting and I’m excited to plow through them. So far, since Christmas, I’ve read four. Feels good.

It’s about time.


I got into the writing thing because I felt my own mortality. Bright computer lights, TV computer, phone, movies and such distracted me from that, but it didn’t go away. I work best under a deadline and let’s be honest, there’s a big one coming and I’d be a fool to ignore it or not to use it as the motivator it is.

So, along with reading, and focusing, I will continue to write. Two novels is my goal.

All that for the prize. Peace. My own personal peace and wellbeing.

Peace to you too.

Happy New Year!