21 JAN 2020
My schedule will soon start returning to something approaching normal and I will post more here for the few of you who read these words. I call this a blog, but it’s really a journal—a place for me to blab. GoDaddy, the company that provides me this space (for a nifty sum) offers a blog that I can include on my website, but I get bogged down trying to figure it out. Who has that kind of time? It’s similar to my initial attempts to build a website using WordPress. So time-consuming, when all you really want to do is have a website or a blog. Simplify, simplify, simplify. WordPress always seems to pop up on lists of easy website builders. No sir, it’s not.
My interview with Dick Turner this week, author of the collection New Math, came about because of my interview with Tom DiVenti, which came about because of my interview with Cindy Rosmus, which came about because of my submitting a story to her about five years ago, which she published in her online magazine, Yellow Mama. Cindy’s latest book was published by HeKate Publishing. So was Tom’s. That was the connection there. Then Tom published Dick’s book under his imprint, Apathy Press Poets. I like the tendrils here and I hope to meet more writers in this way.
When Tom introduced me to Dick, the subject line on the email read “The first book offering from Apathy Press Poets.” That is why in my interview with Dick I mentioned that his work was the first publication from Tom’s publishing company. It was not. I also read somewhere in Dick’s biographical info that he left Baltimore when he was six years old. I misread, I should say: he left Baltimore when he was 36. Also, when I was searching for his book online (Tom sent me an electronic copy, so I had it in hand) I could only find the Kindle edition. All of this comes up in the first minute or two of the podcast. Embarrassing, but honest mistakes. I stumble along.
I am in the process of editing my first attempt at book narration. I will create a new page on this website called Reading Itself once this process is complete—once I am approved and my first effort is available. I also recently entered a contest that was brought to my attention by a friend at work. Future of Authoring is the website. They host a writing contest and as part of that contest, they created a narration contest. I entered. It looks like one woman entered, too, and that’s that. This will net me $50 and pride of ownership if I am chosen. Lots of free work, but I need the work if I want to improve.
I posted the audition on Facebook to try to rustle up votes. I regret this. This is the kind of self-promotion that makes me squirm. Am I doing this wrong? Facebook and social media might well have killed me if it had existed when I was a young person. Comments on my post included advice from a broadcaster friend, advice and criticism from my father who was an actor who has done voice-over work, then advice as criticism from my brother. Here you go World, in case you were wondering—here’s how my family communicates. There is a line between criticism and encouragement that I just cannot toe, no matter how hard I try. I grew up with self-doubt compounded by criticism. When compliments came, they came as afterthought. “Nice job, by the way.” To this day, criticism stops me in my tracks, as does a compliment. What transcends is professional attention—a contest win, contact from an agent, etc. I’ll reserve the rest of this thought for my therapist.
5 JAN 2020
A new year, 52 new episodes of Writing Itself coming up… if all goes as planned. The plan is to secure at least an interview a week in 2020. First up is Robert Daylin Brown, a professor of English at San Bernadino Valley College in Southern California who aspires to publish works in as many genres as possible. His nonfiction book Joker to King has done well online.
I am pleased with how my first 17 guests have fallen into place (18 episodes, one was a repeat with my good friend David Chase) but I have to admit a bit of concern about keeping this up for a whole year. I know there are writers out there by the thousands who want (or are at least willing) to talk about their work, but sometimes finding them and locking them down for an interview feels a bit like sales. I hate sales. One week at a time, my friends, one week at a time.
I for one am glad the holidays are behind us. Now I am searching for some semblance of normalcy.
23 DEC 2019
Two years ago on Christmas, my muse bought me a podcast starter kit from Behringer, which included a microphone and a wee mixing board. I subsequently added a sound guard thingy and some windscreens, i.e. microphone condoms. Two years later, I’m actually doing something with said equipment.
Today I posted Episode 16 of Writing Itself with Inga Hansen who is in a huge way responsible for the existence of this podcast. I had the equipment for all that time but had little idea what to do with it.
Two weeks ago I received approval on the first chapter of my first audio book narration, also completed with this equipment. I have a January 31, 2020 deadline to complete that narration and will announce the book’s title and where you can get your copy once I get final approval. It’s a Western. It’s short. It’s fun. I hope this is the beginning of a new career.
Now, it's off to Trader Joe's to put food on the shelves and give the people what they want.
3 DEC 2019
I swapped out the Hemingway quote on my homepage today. I don’t think it was serving any purpose there, really, and I think it’s better that I get some idea into the heads of first-time visitors of what the podcast is really about. Writing Itself is an ongoing conversation with writers.I haven’t found a better way to say it yet. I weighed this: Writing Itself is a virtual writers group. It’s kind of how I see it, but I’m not sure it works. Especially because my take on writers group as opposed to writers’ group is grammatically suspect. I’ve written this elsewhere, but I’ll slap it up here again: I prefer writers group because the group possesses the writers—it’s not the other way around.
Regarding the Hemingway quote. I initially designed this website with three quotes which included the term Writing Itself. By far, my favorite was this from Stephen King: “The act of writing itself is done in secret, like masturbation.” Great stuff, I think, but perhaps not a great calling card.
30 NOV 2019
My muse has been unwell, and I have had a cold.
Since my broadcasting days my wife has been uncomfortable being included in my rants. I mentioned her by name a few times when I hosted my morning show in New Hampshire and she asked that I not. When I started the podcast, she told me—half jokingly—that if I must speak of her that I should refer to her as "my muse."
So, my muse has been unwell. I am in nursemaid mode and will be through the new year.
As for the cold, since I’ve been employed at Trader Joe’s I can’t seem to make it three months without a knockout cold. It’s all this contact with people and product and freezers and refrigerators and cash registers, keyboards, and bags.
There’s that. I haven’t stopped here a lot because of that, and it will be an effort to keep up, but I will make said effort. This is a labor of love and as I once relied on my writers group FUBAR to power my creative drive, Writing Itself is my charging station now.
This morning I interviewed writer Tom DiVenti. Tom is the author of the book The Baltimore Kid, available from Hekate Publishing. His history is rich. He was a member of the punk bank The Moronics. He grew up on the streets of Baltimore. He’s a poet-turned-essayist and he has an interesting way of looking at the world.
But along with my cold came an almost ill interview. I sound like shit, Tom’s on a cellphone traveling from his home in Pennsylvania to his mother’s home in Maryland and his connection is muddy, there’s a tick tick tick throughout, and… I’m posting the interview and hoping with a few tweaks it will sound okay. I will mention this on the podcast itself. If it’s way too sub-par, I’ll take it down and call him again on his landline (yes, he has a landline—I wish you all did) and we’ll give it another go.
18 NOV 2019
I am posting a new episode this morning and have recorded my interview for the last week of November.
This week’s guest is the writer, editor, and anthologist Bill Amatneek, whose collection Heart of a Man – Men’s Stories for Women, is due to be published on Valentine’s Day this coming February. The following Monday I will post my interview with Terri O’Rorke whose first book A Presidential Aberration was published in 2018. A follow-up is due soon, but because of the fluid nature of the ongoing impeachment hearings, an exact date has not yet been announced.
Meanwhile, I have decided to put my microphone to good use by auditioning for audiobooks. I’m wary about the quality of my recording space at the moment, but in listening to much of the available talent on Audible’s audition site, ACX, I think my fears are unfounded. I do need to up my game, and I will as I work on my first assignment, which I secured last Friday! I will share details on this a little later, once I’m confident I can complete the narration to the satisfaction of the author and publisher.
I’m ecstatic about this next phase in my home recording life and wondering once again what took me so damn long.
7 NOV 2019
...Suffice it to say, I kept going to Among the Elms meetings. The second or third time there Ernie shared his novel-writing process with the group, a version of which he shares on Writing Itself, episode 9.
Within six months another member of the group, David Chase (Episode 1) and I decided to start our own, exclusive writers group, which included ourselves, Ernie, Ken Schalhoub (Episode 4), Norman Klein, and Jack Hitchner. Eventually that group expanded to include women including Avye Andonellis (Episode 5), and several others who helped soften our edges and widen our focus. I look forward to introducing you to more Fubarians in future episodes of this podcast.
I believed then as I believe now that Ernie’s take on novel writing includes some of the soundest, most useful advice I have ever received as a writer. No matter how many times I hear it, I glean something new every time. This is incredibly valuable information and I felt privileged then as I do now to be able to receive it for free. I hope you feel the same way.
And while I’m at it, I hope you feel the same way about every interview on Writing Itself. No matter where your fellow writers are along the journey of artistic discovery there is always something new to contemplate, something that will remind you that you are not alone. This was the way I felt every time I attended a meeting of Among the Elms and FUBAR and it is the way I feel now as I record and share these conversations.
How do you improve as a writer? Number one, write. Write, write, write, write, write. Number two, study. Read books on writing, find resources online. (Today I printed out PIXAR’s 22 Rules of Storytelling.) And number three, get together with fellow scribes. If you can’t find a writers group that suits your needs, I hope Writing Itself can fill that void for you. It’s a huge part of the reason I’m here. Among the Elms and FUBAR were like a religion to me. First Wednesday, FUBAR; second Wednesday, Among the Elms; third, FUBAR; fourth, Among the Elms. For those months with fifth Wednesdays, I felt like a fish out of water.
Finally, an aside: my word processor wants me to correct Writers group to Writers’ group. I like it better without the possessive. The group possesses the writers. It’s not the other way around. So, I stubbornly ignore this blue underline. Thpppt!
5 NOV 2019
I moved from Los Angeles to Winchester, New Hampshire in September 2001. It was a shock to the system—a culture shock. I had been hired as the new morning host and operations manager at a country music radio station that broadcasts to the Keene, NH/Brattleboro, VT/Greenfield, MA radio market. The station was in a plaza with a supermarket where I ran into many people who were, to put it gently, rough around the edges. I won’t belabor the point. I try not to judge books by their covers, but these were ragged books with dirty, dated covers, and I was a little freaked out and at times a little scared. What had I gotten myself into? As my world changed, the greater world changed too, dramatically. My second day on the air at Hot Country 104.9 was September 11.
Later that month, at a library book sale (which is one of my favorite places to be anywhere, anytime), I came across a paperback copy of Ernest Hebert’s first novel, Dogs of March. The book changed my life. From its opening lines, to its rich, poetic descriptions of the inner workings of Howard Ellman’s mind; from its wonderfully accurate take on the different types of people one encounters in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, to its hysterical and historically accurate take on town meeting, the book opened my eyes to the depth that lurked below the rough surfaces of the people around me. This was a great novel and its writer understood the world around him—the new world around me.
A few years later as I searched the area for a writers group, I emailed Mr. Hebert on a whim. He was a local, a Keene native, and he was then teaching at Dartmouth. Pretty intimidating resume, but what the heck. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I emailed him at his Dartmouth address, thanked him for Dogs of March, and asked if he knew of any writers groups in the Keene area. He emailed back, cordially, and signed off as Ernie, which tickled me. (I mention this in the podcast.) He knew some writers in the Keene area he said, but because he was then living in the Hanover area near Dartmouth he didn’t know of any writers groups. I was quite happy just getting the response. Ecstatic in fact.
Fast forward about six years, I finally found a local writers group and decided to attend. It was a group called Among the Elms that met every other Wednesday at the Toadstool Bookshop in Keene. I saw a sign at the Colony Mill Marketplace where the store was then located and decided I would go. I think I let one meeting pass, perhaps two, before I finally bundled up and headed out.
There is a saying that goes When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. This is alternately attributed to Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni and the Theosophists. (Had to Google that. You don’t pull that kind of thing out of your ass. I first came across it in Richard Bach’s Illusions, so that’s its origin for me.)
As I wandered into the bookstore and found the group of writers milling around a horseshoe of chairs, I approached two gentlemen who were, if memory serves me, facing a bookshelf discussing, I would imagine, books. They sensed my presence, turned to face me, and there he was, Ernest Hebert—my email buddy, Ernie...
29 OCT 2019
In November, if all goes as planned, I will share interviews with award-winning writer Ernest Hebert, anthologist and editor Bill Amatneek, and writers Terri O’Rorke and Sharon Schuetz Bauske.
Ernest Hebert is the author of Dogs of March, which received a Citation of Excellence for a first novel by the Hemingway Foundation. That book is the first in his seven-novel Darby Series, which also includes Spoonwood, winner of an IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award) as best regional novel in the Northeast for 2005. His book The Old American won an Outstanding Fiction award from the New Hampshire Writers Project, as did Mad Boys. Mr. Hebert taught creative writing at Dartmouth College where he was the first member of faculty to be tenured as a fiction writer.
All that stuffy stuff aside, Ernie was also a member of my writers group, FUBAR, which I believe he named, with great delight (we are all fucked up beyond all recognition). I plan to chat with Ernie more than once here on Writing Itself; in this first interview we will focus specifically on writing on typewriters.
Bill Amatneek of Vineyards Press contacted me via this website. In early 2020 he will release an anthology called Heart of a Man: Men’s Stories for Women. I look forward to talking with Bill about this collection, which he calls his attempt to bring peace and understanding between men and women.
Terri O’Rorke has written a non-fiction account of Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency called A Presidential Aberration and will soon release a follow-up. We’ll talk about her process and motivations.
And I can’t let the month of November pass without some mention of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Sharon Schuetz Bauske is giving it another go this year, her fourth. (I’ve tried twice.) Sharon and I will talk about NaNoWriMo and what compels Sharon to write the other eleven months of the year.
Want to talk? Drop me a line.
28 OCT 2019
I challenge myself today to be a better listener and to work on not being so self-involved. If I want to yap about myself, and apparently I do, I will endeavor to save most of it for here, on this blog that few will read. (Thanks for being one of the few.)
I love interviewing people; I’ve been doing it for years. I enjoy the give-and-take. But in listening back to my interview with Cindy Rosmus it becomes apparent to me that in my nervousness, in my efforts to keep the conversation going, I lean too much on my outline, my notes, my rote questions, and I miss cues. When Cindy first mentioned she used to write porn I wish I had responded with some good questions. How did that happen? How did you feel about that? Was it enjoyable? She gets around to answering some of these unasked questions by the end of the podcast, but I feel I could have done a much better job staying in the conversation. I find I’m concerned about background noise, the condition of my phone connection and my low-end equipment, the next portion of the interview, etc.
I can do a better job and I will work to improve. For the handful of you who have taken the time to read this portion of this wordy blog, consider this an apology, a self-admonishment, a pledge. I want the writers on this podcast to walk away feeling like they’ve had the opportunity to really shine, to let their fellow writers in on what drives them to create.
As an interviewer, in my radio days, I encouraged people to put away their notes. The worst interviews are those that feature a business owner reading about their promotions. It sounds canned, cheesy, desperate, and tense. So although my leaning on my notes is not that bad—the outline does serve a purpose—it is holding me back. Why do I have the notes? My fear is that I will drop the ball, so to speak, the conversation will die, and I will suddenly go mute and run out of things to say. And I like to have go-to questions. Still… enough for now.
Cindy Rosmus is a wonderful conversationalist, an excellent writer, and a thoughtful online publisher. I hope this comes through in the episode I am about to post. Send your stories to Yellow Mama. (But please, read the guidelines first.)
27 OCT 2019
In February 2015 my short story “My Mother’s Nymphomaniac” appeared in Cindy Rosmus’s e-zine Yellow Mama. Its publication was a great experience. Cindy helped me improve the story before she published it, one of her artists worked up a sketch to go with it, and I was happy to have another piece of my work available online. For me it’s the idea of being able to point it out to friends and family, to be able to say Here, this one’s pretty good, at least the publisher of this periodical thinks so. But this publication proved to be much more valuable to me. Within a week of its posting, Cindy emailed to tell me the agent Nat Sobel read my work and wanted to know if I had anything longer. Sure, I emailed back, I’m working on two things.
I was ecstatic. Mostly because when I investigated Nat Sobel and the Sobel-Weber Agency I learned that he represented Richard Russo, one of my favorite authors. And he was old school. He did things like read literary mags and contact authors he thought had promise. He “discovered” FX Toole, the author of Million Dollar Baby, when he was in his 70s this way. Surely this fifty-something guy deserved a shot too.
Nat requested the first 50 pages of my work and a one-page synopsis. I had at the time put aside a longer project I had been working on called We Want Cake or, alternately, The Remembrancer. I also thought about sending one of the openings of The History of Strange, a project I am working on again now, which I had put aside years earlier. Anyway, I dragged We Want Cake out, worked on the first fifty pages—I was only about 200 pages into the book at the time—and the synopsis. The synopsis was particularly difficult because that’s the nature of the beast, and also because I hadn’t finished the book. I knew enough about longer projects to know things would change as I wrote, I knew that my outline was only a framework, and a flawed one at that.
I shared the synopsis and first 50 with my writers group. I got good feedback, but I am aware now I wasn’t receptive at the time to negative feedback. I wanted to get the work out, I wanted to get my words in front of Nat Sobel before he forgot about me, and I wanted to get to work with a big New York agent. Who wouldn’t?
Within the month I sent it off and eight days later I got a rejection. It was a wonderfully detailed rejection, quite complimentary, but spot-on and honest. Nat’s assistant wrote “Though you are a fine writer, I’m sorry to report that I did not find myself engaged enough by these pages to want to request the balance of the manuscript.” Being the insecure beast that I am I can’t help but think the “you are a fine writer,” is boiler plate. But otherwise, the response was helpful, if not ultimately deflating.
I put away that book and started work, about a year later, on another. When I finished that book this past summer, I contacted Nat again and asked permission to send it on. I did this before I got feedback from friends and family. I did this before I got feedback from the members of my old writers group. I did this before I had time to hone my synopsis. I did this before I was ready.
This time, Nat send “sure, send it on,” so I sent the whole novel. The same assistant read my manuscript. “You’ve found a sympathetic central character in Ian, who has a thoughtful and honest voice. Unfortunately, despite this strength, I stopped reading THE APOCRYPHAL LIFE OF IAN GAFNEY, after the first one hundred pages due to concerns with the narrative,” she wrote. Later, when I weighed the mixed feedback I got from friends, I realized she was being nice.
So that’s that. Both times I got anxious. Will there be a third time? The short answer is yes. I’ll knock on Nat’s door again and request that the same reader give me another shot, but I hope to have a better project to put in front of her. After that, if I fail again at creating a project she finds intriguing enough to dig a little deeper into, I’ll move on. And here’s this: I am not confident enough to attempt to shop any of my work elsewhere as currently constituted. It’s a lot of work, it really is.
Episode 8 of Writing Itself is my interview with the marvelous Cindy Rosmus. It was the first time I have ever spoken with her. I learned a lot; I hope you do, too.
21 OCT 2019
Alexa! Play the Writing Itself podcast, episode one! It works! It works! Spent the weekend with friends who have an Amazon Echo. This makes me very happyl
My business cards arrived last week. It’s good to have a calling card. I cheaped out and didn’t include a backside on the cards and now I kind of regret it. If I hand it to someone who doesn’t know what the podcast is about, the card does nothing to fill them in. When I designed a backside, it said ‘Writers talk about writing. Join the conversation.” And I added the website again. If I go through 500 cards, then I’ll go with the fuller design in the future.
Posted my interview with Matt Savarese today. I hope it’s worth your while and Matt’s.
So far the feedback I’ve received has been positive and unpredictable. Listening to other people talk about something you like to do forces you to engage in surprising ways. That’s what it’s all about.
14 OCT 2019
Way back in the early nineties I had an idea. I was working at the time for a company called World Library. We put books on CD-ROM and published a product called The Library of the Future. One of the books the founder of the company bought the rights to—the majority of what we published was in the public domain—was Engines of Creation by K. Eric Drexler. I was tasked with editing the book for electronic publication, i.e. formatting and proofreading the text.
One of the things Drexler touches on in his marvelous book is cryonics, the practice of freezing bodies in the hope that scientific advances will allow them to be revived in the future. Drexler wrote briefly about religious objections to the practice. I am not a religious man, but I found myself wondering about the soul. If the soul exists, I wondered, where does it go when you die while your body is held in stasis, dead but ready to shoulder life again?
And then one day—this was the early nineties I remind you—when I shut down my computer for the night and zipped up all the files I’d been working on using PKZIP file compression, I had a eureka moment. What if when we die our lives get compressed, zipped up? And what if when we reincarnate we open a new file, but all the other files from our previous lives remain resident? What if we carry all that information with us, compressed and unrecognizable?
I had the kernel of an idea there and developed it like this: A man dies, is frozen, then returns to life decades later, but he finds he has memories that aren’t his. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, a young girl begins to have memories that aren’t hers—rich, adult memories of another life, memories that overtake her own. The same soul was alive in two bodies simultaneously.
I still love the idea, but it was just that, an idea. A big idea. I started the screenplay and shoehorned in characters. I wrote and wrote and wrote and carried my first ninety or so pages to a writers conference at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California. It was there I had the experience I describe briefly at the end of Episode 6 of Writing Itself. I thought I had gold, but I had crap.
From there, I learned how to write a screenplay. I did well enough over the next few years to finally piece together a finished script that was a quarter-finalist in one screenwriting contest, a step above the bottom in another, and the winner of the first-ever Scriptapalooza Screenwriting Competition.
Scriptapalooza marketed my work for a year. Managers, agents, and producers read the script. I spoke with a few, met with one, did re-writes with an agent’s assistant, and at the end of a year, no one bit and nothing came of the script. But wow, what an experience.
Dave Congalton was more persistent than I was, and in exactly the right way. He not only kept plugging, but he changed what he was writing about. Rather than high-concept screenplays, he began to write about things closer to home and he became a produced screenwriter. Listen to his take on the story in Episode 6, which I will be posting on Tuesday morning, October 15, 2019.
11 OCT 2019
I recorded the intro, built the show, and posted Episode 5 today. Episode 6 will follow on Tuesday, then Tuesday afternoon I will be a guest on Dave Congalton’s radio show on KVEC 920 AM in San Luis Obispo at 3:30 that afternoon. Dave Congalton Hometown Radio on News/Talk 920 AM, 96.5 FM…
After all my years in broadcasting you’d think I’d know how to identify a radio station. From 2001 to 2017 I worked at WYRY-FM in the Keene, NH/Brattleboro, VT/Greenfield, MA radio market where we went by Hot Country 104.9 for most of my tenure there. It used to drive me batty when listeners called and said things like “I love Hot 1-0-4-9” or “WYRY Country.” It was as if they never listened. But now, now that I’m out of radio, I realize—I am reminded—that even the best listeners are casual listeners. I listen mostly to NPR. I tune in to 89.7 and 90.1 on my FM dial. Could I tell you their call letters? Do I know how they identify themselves? Can I tell you the names of the hosts of the shows I listen to, other than Terry Gross and Peter Sagal? Nope.
I have been on Dave’s show three times since I returned to California in the summer of 2017. The first time, a few short weeks after I moved here, we talked about the East Coast/West Coast thing, looking for work, and coming home to California. The second time, we discussed my time as the host of the Psychic Friends Radio Network in Los Angeles. The third time we discussed my experiences while serving on a jury in a sexual assault trial at the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse. This time I get to promote Writing Itself. This makes me happy. And I get to play with a real microphone.
I am having fun with all of this.
10 OCT 2019
My friends at work have begun to listen to my podcast. This is cool. I’m appreciative of anyone who finds value here. Early to work today, then tomorrow I must record my Episode 5 preamble and post the show because I must be true to my word.
I’m trying to make inroads on Twitter. I’ve never been comfortable there but Writing Itself gives me reason to figure it out. Again, I want this all to race along, but I understand and accept that it won’t. Still, in less than a month I’ve had over a thousand hits here and my podcast listens are out of the dozens now and into the hundreds, which isn’t earth-shattering, but isn’t bad considering this idea didn’t even exist in August.
I’ve ordered business cards.
7 OCT 2019
Today I’m uploading Episode 4, my conversation with Ken Schalhoub. Tomorrow I am scheduled to interview Avye Andonellis. Finally, a woman on Writing Itself! I will post Avye’s interview—Episode 5—later this week.
I’m running a little ahead of schedule because I plan to post Episode 6 next Tuesday morning, October 15, 2019—my interview with the screenwriter Dave Congalton. Dave wrote a script called Scribble, which eventually made its way to the big screen as the movie Authors Anonymous. Next Tuesday afternoon I will be a guest on Dave’s radio show, Dave Congalton Hometown Radio on 920 AM KVEC in San Luis Obispo, CA. Dave’s story is fun and inspiring.
6 OCT 2019
I’m up on Apple Podcasts! Searchable. Persistence now. Writing Itself is one in hundreds of thousands. I hope to create something worthwhile here.
Tomorrow morning I will be interviewing Dave Congalton, the host of Dave Congalton Hometown Radio on AM 920 KVEC in San Luis Obispo. More importantly, in connection with this podcast, Dave is the author of the movie Authors Anonymous. We’ll talk about his success there and the process of getting a screenplay produced. Look for Dave on Episode 5 or 6 or 7. Mars Needs Women, i.e. Writers Itself needs women so I will prioritize accordingly.
In the can is another episode I recorded last week with Matt Savarese. Matt is a twenty-four-year-old creative type who lives in Arroyo Grande, CA. That interview will also enter into the mix.
3 OCT 2019
Today I pieced together Episode 3. I will post it tomorrow. I am editing very little audio. I learned through my years in radio that cleaning “ums”and “ahs” and awkward pauses just isn’t worth the time. And I can’t edit out my own tendency to cut people off, so yeah, that must stay.
I also reached out to two more potential guests this morning: one is an English professor of creative writing here in California; the other is the author of one of my favorite all-time books on writing. I will name neither of these people here now in case there are refusals or delays, but I will point out that they are women. I need women’s voices.
2 OCT 2019
My pugs are beginning to hate me.
Spent time on the website today, created a new page for my guests. Put up some photos. Added links. It all takes time.
I added another post on Facebook and am afraid somehow I’m not reaching but a fraction of the people I want to reach. I’m in danger of over-posting though and pissing off my friends, so there’s that. I will be patient with this thing, but… it ain’t easy.
Episode 2 is now online; I'll add Episode 3 on Friday.
1 OCT 2019
Doubleheader today. Learning, learning, learning. I interviewed Jack Coey early this morning, then Ken Schalloub about an hour later. It was too early, my allergies were messing with my head, and, yeah, so it goes. Otherwise the interviews went well… and now I’m rolling! I am mostly enjoying talking to old friends these days. Down the road I’ll branch out and there will be more discovery for me and for you.
The first episode is up here on this website and I’ve submitted it to all the major players in the podcast directory world. Of those, the only one that’s live right now is Spotify. So just a quick base-touching here as I focus my attention now on creating a social media post that will, hopefully, get me some listeners.
That’s done. I could be more spectacular out there, but what else could I say but “IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!” A few will listen today.
Boy do I tend to talk over people. I do this in person, but it’s especially bad on the phone. I’ll work on this.
My audio quality isn’t very good. Anyone have any cheap suggestions on how to get cleaner phone connections? I’m also having trouble with levels while recording. Of course, I’m doing everything on the cheap, cheap, cheap now.
One thing that came up in my interview with Jack was our shared experience with publications and mistakes. I can't recall a time when something that I've been involved with in print, be it a short story, or an article about a play, or town meeting in New Hampshire, or whatever, was without error. It's inevitable. Without editors here I will make my share of mistakes. Probably more than my share. It's inevitable, but I will work to keep them minimal.
30 SEP 2019
Adding an interview today. My guest this morning will be Billy Hudson, a singer/songwriter, fiction writer, and poet. Billy also happens to be my co-worker at Trader Joe’s on California’s Central Coast. I learned conversationally that Billy writes; I probably discovered this within the first month of my working with him.
I moved back to California in June, 2017, after nearly sixteen years in New Hampshire. Among the things I left behind was my writers group, the aforementioned FUBAR. (I’ll talk a LOT about FUBAR here and on the podcast as it was a sort of religion to me, that communion with other writers). Shortly after I moved here, I looked online for writers groups. I found one that meets in the library near me, once a month. It sounds like they have guest speakers on a regular basis; it appears to be a nice social group. I opted not to go then because one of the negative things I learned about writers groups and me is that if I’m working on a long project that project begins to die a soon as I share it. In order to resist the temptation to share, I pulled back. I’ll look into that group again now not only because socializing with folks who work with words is good for me and I should be able to resist the urge to share my work-in-progress, but also because I may be able to shake up some interviews for this podcast.
Why do I mention all this here when I’m talking about my next guest? Writers groups, even those like FUBAR that purport to be mostly workshops are essentially social groups, gatherings of like-minded people who work alone. We find each other and in a structured environment we pick each other’s brains. And writers, even without the benefit of a group, find each other. As I found Billy.
We ask each other about our writing at least every few weeks. And our responses vary from the short, clipped “good,” and “I haven’t been writing much,” variety to “…so I was into chapter seven and I realized I was contradicting everything I wrote in chapter three, and shit, this thing is getting away from me.” I haven’t read much of Billy’s fiction; he’s read one of my short stories. But we know the language, if you know what I mean. We found each other as like-minded people do.
I hope our conversation is interesting to you. We’ll see where it goes. I think my main purpose here is to open a window into the writers’ world. Writing Itself will define itself as time goes by and I talk with more and more writers. It will, I hope, write itself.
Oh, listening back.... the song I referenced in there is "Anyway," performed and co-written by Martina McBride. Her co-writers were Brad Warren and Brett Warren.
27 SEP 2019
I am excited to report that I have pieced together my first episode and I like it. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like it—that remains to be seen—but therein lies good advice for any writer: write what you like. Episode One runs about half an hour, which is longer than optimum, I think, but I’m not going to try to conform to some pre-determined time limitation, especially early on. I would like Writing Itself to be as organic as possible.
My conversation with David Chase went well, I think, despite my tendency (even after 25 years in broadcasting) to talk over people. It’s a flaw, but it’s mine: I own it. Conversation to me has always meant a fluid sharing of ideas, and I can’t help myself. I hope this doesn’t turn you off.
My conversation with Ken Schalloub this morning did not go so well. Our connection was garbled, so I’ve rescheduled for next week. I’ll chat with Ken and Jack Coey next Tuesday, build podcasts around each of those conversations, then upload these three podcasts.
I’m sticking by my plan to post three episodes, week one, then one a week thereafter. Even though the kid in me would love to post the first one RIGHT NOW!
26 SEP 2019
First calls scheduled…
It is Thursday morning, September 26, 2019, and I’m gearing up for my first interview on Writing Itself. I may be talking today with my friend, David Chase, the author of Grants Ferry; a novel; Elms Corner; a collection of short fiction; and A Peasant of West Brattleboro, a collection of newspaper columns. The two fiction works include cover artwork by the author; the collection of columns features a cover photograph of Mr. Chase. David also wrote a play called As Fair As You Were which was produced in Vermont in 2009 and is available through New Theater Publications, the cover of which, I assume features neither Mr. Chase’s artwork nor his likeness. You’ll find the other books on Amazon.
(This David Chase is not to be confused with the David Chase who produced The Sopranos, so if after hearing my interview with David you are interested in reading his work, search Chase Grants Ferry on Amazon. That’ll get you there. Or click here for David's Amazon page. So there.)
David and I met at a writers group called Among The Elms. That marvelous, inclusive group still meets every other Wednesday, to the best of my knowledge, at Toadstool Books in downtown Keene, NH. If you live in the area and you write, they would have you, and you would be better for it. Among the Elms literally changed my life. I’ll get into that in later podcasts and blog posts focused on writers groups in general.
But, being an inclusive group means you get fiction writers, memoirists, and poets (mostly poets) of all kinds. Because David and I wanted feedback on the fiction we were writing at the time, we decided to start our own, exclusive. i.e. invitation-only writers group. We culled our members from Among the Elms and struck out on our own. Our membership those first few months included myself, David, Ken Schalhoub, Jack Hitchner, Norman Klein, and the esteemed Ernest Hebert. We somehow came to call ourselves FUBAR, i.e. Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. (I think it was Ernie’s idea.) We eventually added a number of women to our group (Lord knows we needed the balance) and grew to as many as a dozen members at a time. I will be speaking with many of the members of that group in early episodes because these are the writers I know and love.
Meanwhile, I’ll be talking tomorrow morning with Ken Schalloub, author of the novel Plexor and the short story collection Smothered: A Story Collection. Ken lives in Denver, Colorado. Click here to access Ken's work.
I find a lot of things fascinating about Mr. Schalhoub and I hope you will, too. He started writing fiction later in life—he wasn’t old enough to retire yet but pretty darn close—in 2008. An engineer and scientist by trade, Ken hired an editor, attended writers conferences, and self-published a science fiction novel within two years. That first novel was published under a slightly different name and is still available on Amazon, but I’ll talk to Ken before I publicize it. He has admitted to me that he believes it wasn't very good. Among the many things I admire about Ken is his ability to turn an objective eye on his own work and his determination to improve. Ken is one of those people who does things instead of talking about them. (Well, he talks about them or else I wouldn’t ask him to be on this podcast, but you know what I mean.)
And next Tuesday, I will record an interview with my friend, Jack Coey who’s short stories “Rubber Daisies" and "What?” are featured in the September issue of “New Reader” magazine, a slick publication that also includes an interview with Jack, and full-page photo. That interview is the erudite type that comes in print publications. I hope my interview with Jack will be as insightful, but I expect more “ums” and “ahs." You'll find that interview and story here.
Mr. Coey’s published works include the novel The Death of Dr. Dean, a fictionalized account of the death of William Dean in the early twentieth century in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, and Exit Stage Left, a collection of short fiction related to the theater. Jack spent some time in New York as an actor before turning his creative attention to writing. Click here to access Jack's Amazon page.
Jack is a persistent submitter and his online resume is growing. Jack joined my writers group FUBAR within the first six months of its existence, left, came back, then left again for good. I missed his voice when he was gone. He talks with passion about things he loves.
26 SEP 19. David Chase, Ken Schalhoub, Jack Coey, and “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men..."
27 SEP 19. "....Gang aft a-gley.” Early success; early failure.
30 SEP 19. Billy Hudson, co-worker, fellow writer.
1 OCT 19. A morning doubleheader and my first 'live" podcast. Yay!
2 OCT 19. My pugs are beginning to hate me.
3 OCT 19. Writing Itself needs women.
6 OCT 19. One radio guy to another.
7 OCT 19. Speeding along now...
10 OCT 19. I've ordered business cards.
11 OCT 19. Let's pause for station identification.
14 OCT 19. My movie business.
21 OCT 19. Alexa! Play Writing Itself!
27 OCT 2019. Getting noticed.
28 OCT 2019. An apology and pledge.
29 OCT 2019. Coming in November.
5 NOV 2019. The importance of meeting Ernie.
7 NOV 2019. The group possesses the writers.
18 NOV 2019. Writing Itself; Reading Itself.
30 NOV 2019. My muse is unwell.
3 DEC 2019. Like masturbation.
23 DEC 2019. Happy Holidays!
6 JAN 2020. If all goes as planned.
21 JAN 2020. Writing Itself International.