Monthly Archives: May 2009

Press 1 in the Hotel. Ace.

Got me some apology prose poems and something about The Bottle at Press 1. I am under poetry in there. Enjoy.

Now go write your own apology poem.

Or don’t. Who am I to tell you what to write.

I’m sorry.


I aced this weekend in disc golf. A hole in one. If you play D golf, you probably think, “Well, good for you.” If you don’t play, you are thinking, “Whatever.” Or you might be thinking, “Shut-up and evaporate like ants.”

ace sean

Here is a disc blog about the round. If you don’t care, don’t touch that link, fool!

I also injured my knee. It might be bad, can’t tell yet. I have decided the remainder of my athletic life will be a series of injuries, from nicks to sprains to fractures to lingering dull aches to the ultimate and ultimately insulting injury, my death. I don’t have a huge problem with this, but just getting my head around perpetual pain. I am adjusting, I mean to say.


I bought a big-ass grill and grilled today, Memorial Day. The best way to deal with a cliche is to own it.


Here is a beer so light you can use it to dilute orange juice to create your own sports drink. It is like clarified butter, in a squirt bottle. Blake Butler would drink this beer. I use it for D golf, hot days when I need to hydrate, but with a slight tingling in my legs. It works. Just a tip I thought I would pass on. However, if you are drinking this as an actual beer, it takes 3 to equal 1, OK?



wigleaf Top 50 Shellie Zacharia…Herzog Being Shot.

In my dance through the cacti thorns and crocodiles and onions (floured, fried, sizzling) and silk black triangles and albino woodsmen of Wigleaf Top 50 we now meet Shellie Zacharia.

And her flash/prose poem thingy-thing: Scarlet.

It made me this happy to read, though the tone of this photo below is all wrong. Zacharia’s work here is not sunny or diving board (ok, a little plummeting) or amputated manikins in the background.


(happy happy mr. sean!)

OK, her flash does have a bit of amputated manikin in the background, but to that later. Aren’t we all–like the sports injury phrase “day to day”–basically amputated manikins?

So I keep reading online/offline flash and I keep seeing the words Shellie Zacharia and I keep pausing and re-reading and thinking, “Who is this author?”

(This last happened in my office at BSU. I FINALLY had a down moment and grabbed Keyhole‘s handwritten issue. Wow to the entire issue, BTW. I paused many times, and, yes, once again on Zacharia.)

(Others have probably known all along about Zacharia. I get that. Sometimes I am slow. Example, Chicago AWP, someone [I think it was Dave Clapper] asks me, “Have you read Mary Miller?” I say, “No.” Within days I would read ALL Mary Miller, have her book/chapbook, wish for more, and more, and bow down to her evil goddess-ness of bourbon and beer bottle glass and broken condom and ash.)

[I review Mary Miller here. Please read her book. PLEASE.]

So I feel about Zacharia that way. I can feel she’ll have a collection out soon, I can feel it. Or maybe she already does?  Couldn’t find it. Again, I’m slow. Anyway, I will read all Zacharia I can find.

And she seems to be a flash advocate, without remorse. As she says in Smokelong Q interview, “ desire is to write flash and short stories…”


Can we get an authentic amen and tell the novel it is no doubt a great form, but, you know, the big-ass T Bone steak is a great cut of meat (I guess), and could a man get a light yet succulent tray of nachos. Or a shot of tequila. A whack analogy? I’m saying the tequila shot is a flash fiction, and just as valuable/verve-able, serotonin shiver-able as…oh hell never mind.

Let’s watch Werner Herzog get shot during an interview.

Ok, check that off the Life List. Moving on.

Scarlet is a great title. A certain hue of red: blood, entitled southern belle, Letter. But I digress. Strong title. ‘Nuff said. Let’s, as I said, move on.

I like my flash fiction like a suburban lawn, a-la David Lynch. Appearance vs. reality. Grass green, but what is beneath? Facade of house (one of three floor plans in the whole fucking neighborhood), but what lies behind those walls, the hairline crumbling facade?

And when do you not see the truth? Purposely, or naively?

Or–more interestingly–when do you see the truth and say Fuck it. I’ll go for the doomed ride.

Or maybe you see the truth of deception (not as large an oxymoron as you might think), see it again, see it again, and just embrace it. Some call this maturation. Or resignation. Some call it acceptance, or life. Some call it cynical, or you should parachute out of this sad day, my friend. Some search out the chaos. It’s called “going out” for the night. I like that term, Going Out. Leaving the self. Some don’t even know what I am saying right now.


“I want a boy with a red truck…” our story begins. So Dorothy Parker, so perfect rose. The Georgian moment, the idyll, the prelapsarian moment in the garden, before the fall.

Fall…Things         fall            apart.

red truck, black dog, flip flops…ahhh. A day in the wonderful life. But wait a moment, what’s that the “boy” (no boy at all) keeps on the front porch? Red wine on the table. Alcohol. Did I mention the suburbs earlier? Did I mention the ways we accept? The wine seems innocuous here, a crafty (as in use of craft) move by the author.

The boy smells like soap. And fire.

The boy has an old quilt in the car. Has a blanket. In the car. The boy drives the narrator to an overlook and keeps a blanket in his car. Sometimes repetition is used for emphasis. Blanket, he keeps one.

The idyll collapses. And the characters know any serious examination, serious conversation will bring the Rockwell painting tumbling off the wall. So they say nothing, or nothing really, as the narrator tells the “boy” she likes his truck, his dog, his___________.

A last line makes, or un-makes, or does not make a quality flash fiction.

Here, the last line the narrator says the truth. Let’s end on truth. Truth.

“It’s too late for that.”

Things do fall apart, and that must be revealed. One role of literature? Obviously. To unearth. To resist the sweeping away, the hidden. To show. I thank thee, Shellie Zacharia.



Crystal Gavel Magazine Writing Retreat!! Wow!

I went to a writing retreat this weekend sponsored by the Crystal Gavel Magazine. It only costs me 12 grand and a lobe of either lung (I even choose which!) for three days of expert writing feedback, and so I am like sweeeeettt.

The keynote speaker was Jewel, but she got ill on some bad gravy in Tennessee, so they invited Ander Monson.

(I interviewed Jewel last year here. Great writer and human being, IMO.)

Battery Park City

Well. There was some grumbling about the cancellation and two writers (a nun and a blind bartender from Austin) left for home, but after a small refund (9%) of our application fee, most attendees seemed to settle in for Ander.

Here he is giving the opening address to the conference attendees.

Ander 1

Ander had many interesting things to say, though he was a bit of a Code Talker. Or possibly it was the agave. Either way, this is what I remember he mentioned about writing well:

1.) First, Ander went on a long rant about Octavio Paz.

Ander clearly loves Paz. He was all “Paz’s words actually silence scorpions and silverfishes. Paz has a trick where he eats three steaks. Paz set the sun and halved the moon, then added a good-natured gold bangle of a dance move to boot. The dance move is called ‘The Dramatic Paz.’ Paz invented rotel dip and the ligament strain (before was only sprained, torn, or ruptured) and the confusing first day at school. Paz once…”

On and on.

At one point, Ander took out a stack of corn tortillas, flung them like Frisbees right into our foreheads and shouted, “Food is batteries for the brain, for the hand, for the paper. What happens when you forget your batteries?”

“You plug in the device that needs a charge,” a young woman with a body like a blunderbuss answered.

“No,” Ander said. “Because I am about to lead you onto a Vision Quest, and no respectable Vision Quest has power outlets along the way. So no, no, no. What you do is eat whatever Octavio Paz ate, and what did he eat?”

So we spent three long days doing this:


Then this:


Then this:

DSC0mex 30683

It was a rough time I tell you. But writing takes commitment.

2.) The second day Ander told us we need to, “Putt in the pool! Putt in the pool.” Again and again. Huh?

3.) The third day Ander led us on a Vision Quest, right into the Santa Catalina Mountains, Mount Lemmon.


Hmm. Wonder what we are looking for here, at over 9000 feet?

sean find

Never mind. Found it.

The rest of the time I spent in the usual writing retreat way: historical homes overlooking the river (dive bar with white briefs hanging from ceiling), fun safe and quiet writing lofts (Ander took me to a house where roosters crowed all day and some psycho kept playing circus music over and over), helping writers become published authors (once I yelled out to Ander’s friends, “Let’s shoot some tequila!” and they all readily agreed to the plan), a panel of agents (it was fucking 103 degrees out there! Shit. I felt like the sun was beating me down with a withered root), a banquet at the…(my toe was infected and the doc gave me lorcet and I was flying), a stimulating learning vacation (I might have pulled a Houdini one night), one-to-one facetime with (I noticed many Tucson yards are brown, brown dust and maybe a dented sign or dog), intensive seminars (Also Tucson people fucking love walls. Everything is walled.), charming village of yellow….(a nasty cactus stabbed Ander while he helped look for my lost disc. Sorry about that Ander.), coffee house readings (Megan made an awesome key lime pie but I wasn’t hungry), touch your heart and make you laugh (We saw rabbits, quail, dove, lizards, roadrunners, gophers, snakes, but no scorpions. Damn.), receive the attention you deserve…(in airports you can drink at 9 a.m. and no one says a thing.)

Pool putting? Be sure to watch the MAKE after the MISS. And now I’m ready to write, well.


Off to Arizona!


Nachos quest…


wigleaf in the House…Robert Repino

“Doll Eyes” found here, by Robert Repino.

A type of low-down bottle of drink. (The “American Classic”–truer words never slurred.) The kind of thing back when and you scrape together pennies for–crevasse of car seat, in kitchen junk drawer (matches, nails, anhydrous ammonia, ball of twine), somehow/someway, all those miles, a quarter wedged between the antennae of your car and the forehead of the rust-flecked hood.

Drink it. Then you’re drunk.


part of my wigleaf top 50 very short fictions mission. Let’s crack the top on this bottle then fling it. People like us don’t need caps to bottles. Once we open, we’re dun.

Things I didn’t care for:

1.) Only one, really. The ending. A big deal, for Flash, for the reader (or this one) to have concerns with the ending. Then again maybe this flash actually eliminates/overcomes my concerns with all that breathes (and honks and licks?) before the ending. Anyway, I found the last line to perfectly express a writing maxim: You know that line where you Tell everything you just Showed–cut it like bait.

I’d prefer to end on image, on echo, on fade, on the photo itself, not the person alongside me pointing to the photo, explaining, “In this picture we are…”

Things I did care for:

The world of this flash took everything–the pond, the goose, its eyes, the banal repitition/exclamations of social interactions (what we are supposed to say, supposed to react in this/that situation) and displays it all as Tara, narrator’s feeligs for, world of. Tara. Tara. Tara.

To see this same thing done very, very well, I refer you to Thomas Hardy’s Neutral Tones, a devastating poem about lost love, or, hell, about hate. Any questions about the me and the you in this poem, about their relationship? If so, here are the answers: God-curst, starving sod, ominous bird-a-wing. Etc.

In Repino’s work, we see an artist constructing the same image, its echo: one of accumulation.Like an impressionist painting, it’s about brush strokes. Dab, dab, point. Now stand back and take in the whole thing–now you see the picture (or a picture).

But what I respect in “Doll Eyes” is the tonal switch, the way the day begins with “Everyone seemed pleased…” Though we must note the shadows are growing longer. The afternoon ending. Morning as spring, afternoon as leading to night (the end). But we meet geese, a family (aging hipsters even!), children and laughter….

But hipsters (and gods know the “hip” family) act in Bad Faith (and must die). And feeding geese isn’t fun or right. It’s actually wrong. It is the exact type of naive interference with the natural world (feeding deer in your yard, bringing Asian carp to America [where they escape and flourish], transplanting kudzu to control erosion. Etc.) that can only lead to negative results.

(Geese are now offically nuisance animals in the U.S.)

So…Flash, as we know, leans to poetry, to images, to things, because things are metaphorical in their essence.

Not a puzzle to be solved. That’s not my point–not what feeding the geese is as metaphor of a relationship (or even as comment on canned, meaningless, superficial human interaction), but rather what feeding the geese, the goose itself (shard of beak, doll eyes and all) could be.

A metaphor isn’t a puzzle. It is a cloud. It could be this shape, or this one, or maybe it reminds you of _____ or me of ______, doesn’t matter. What matters is that we can discuss these things at all. That’s the power of this as that, sign and signal, of a cloud having shape, narrative, possibilities at all….


Flash Fiction Chronicles asked if I would like to give some tips on flash fiction. Who me? Yes I would.

Excerpt: “Find a story, a sparkle. A boy-crazed ruse. I mean essence. There are many ways. Here’s one of my little tricks (feel free to try this yourself, or use in the classroom): I drink a pint of schnapps (to open the doors of perception) and go people-watching at the world’s largest daycare/rehab center, Wal-Mart. Observe the ill and obese, the trodden and tired and pissed off and screaming and slouchy. Straight out of Bobbie Anne Mason, or maybe Chekhov (a fine flash fiction writer in his day). I stagger along, noting down a story for everyone. Pay attention, and everything hatches open like a chrysalis. This is your job as artist, to capture, to glow and craze.”




wigleaf Top 50 in the House…Jenny Halper.


(image proudly ripped from wigleaf itself)

I have some summer goals. Self improvement ideas. Like I am going to read a textbook on literary editing. Going to read a river. Trying to sleep well. Trying to sleep unwell, in a squalor of dreams. Trying to romance under aspens. Trying to bury myself  in the earth under aspens. Trying to eat nachos regularly. To change the oil at the Mobile station (oxymoron). Mistrusted speech I will find and collapse. Will say and write. One good sentence about clutching cups of beer. Also I plan on peeing in my backyard late at night under the moon (this is one point of having  a backyard). Towels and things on beaches. A disc golf ace. Splitting the time-release. A pinch of salt and tequila with my brother. Part the trees to see the clouds. To see the clouds. To see.

Another goal is to carefully read each very short fiction in the 2009 wigleaf Top 50.

Today I will discuss “The Last Stop” by Jenny Halper. (interview here)

What I admire about flash (of many things) is the way the mood, intent, microcosm of the world, etc. can be transferred by something else completely, by something smaller (say a hydrogen atom) suddenly becoming larger, much larger (say a hydrogen atom, split).

Lovelace verb-tracker: turned, speeding, pulsing, cutting, sitting, pressed, waiting, swaying.

That’s the first two sentences. What more did you need to know?

(I never want to see the word walk again. Instead let’s stroll, lollygag, march, hike, or amble. Etc.)

(No laughing. I hate laughing. Let’s guffaw and cackle!)

I’m not going to call Halper’s text “Coming of Age” but I didn’t I just? All in the verbs. Things are turning in the head. Wheels and cycles and serotonin snap/memories and urges. Now Time speeds along; it is herdsman and huntsman (Dylan Thomas wicked poem alert), where it once just lulled, or did nothing. Days pulsing and cutting–the adult world though the lens of adolescence, things getting clearer, but still murky, blurry, and do you really want to see things how they are at all–view of a “forehead pressed against the glass.” Waiting for what?

Hell, that’s a question for all of us….as we head down our roads. As we sway.


Calvary-Like Disc Golf Course Review of Nor

If you have no disc golf interest, treat this post like a fruit bat during full daylight–avoid.

This is a blog about writing and I rarely diverge (dry cough), but today I must review a new disc course about 30 minutes from my house. Anyway, disc golf is like writing. Difficult and fun and makes you want to throw Roman Polanskis into a bath of light.

Yesterday Mark Neely asked if I have seen this course. I said no. But I will. Soon.

Calvary Disc Golf Course

I am always wary of church courses. Will they be purposely easy (lame) to make everyone feel righteous? Will they only have 9 holes (churches love them some 9 hole D golf). Will they put bible verses on the tee signs? Will someone proselytize as I am trying to Hammer a utility disc up and over and around a tree?

Like here, where they actually link the bible messages to the actual hole you are playing…

(Hole 1: “In the Beginning,” etc.)

So, Calvary, Calvary. Heaven or hell? The New testament (forgiving; we all throw bad shots) or Old Testament (You sin, you die, Wham-O.)

An easy drive, exit the car, and my first thought is groan. It looks like one of those “courses” where people just sow baskets in a field.


I walk to hole one. Hmmm…


Not a great sign. But no bible verses either. And the baskets have been in 2 weeks, so I am in an absolving mood for the course. They are going to install concrete pads and tee signs and all that jazz in the future. (I met the pastor on the course, so I think I should know. He said, “Before the baskets, we just had nets.” Nets? There is nothing like the sound of a disc hitting a net. Whatever.)

Here is their flier announcing the opening of the course, and if that is the typical Calvary member, Mr. Lovelace just might attend a little church.

Wait a minute. Inside this bucket is a map and scorecard.

*Yep, 9 holes, with multiple tees. So 18 that way. Ah, the art of the church course. I am hoping their future course includes 18 actual holes.

* Wait a minute. The map shows a big-ass lake. The map shows tablet after tablet of trees.

Stay tuned for details. You do realize this disc golf course is named after the site of a crucifixion?

Here it is, hole by hill by hole.

Hole 1.) 285 feet out into a field. Ditch on right, with brackish water. One shrub to avoid. Yawn me a song. I drive it, miss a short putt because I suck, and settle for par. You have to cross several skinny-ass planks to get across this ditch.

Immediately it was apparent the actual baskets are Judas. No inner chains. I had one putt betray me, kiss right through the center chains, and you can most likely expect this once a round, I feel.


As you can see, I snatched Aden out of school. Disc golf with dad trumps school all life long, folks. The kid carries a fishing rod pretty much everywhere he goes…

2.) 400, level 5 drive over the sulking little ditch, and suddenly I learn that ol’ Calvary snore-fest might just be a tad bit Ted Haggard–as in a bit off, pharisee-ing, as in hiding something (like Meth?). Actually the course and rural church here are much kinder than cynical Mr. Haggard. I don’t want to press the analogy. What I mean to say here, in disc golf vernacular, is watch out.


Wow! Hole two’s basket is clearly insane, and meant to turn anyone picnicking nearby to a mound of salt. This will later be hole 11 for even more approach angles to maim, thunk, clean, and/or decapitate. I LOVE this hole placement. The first I have seen seemingly planted with intent to disrupt human gatherings. Now this do seem Old Testament to me.

I play a light yet succulent Hyzer over the shed on the right. Par.

3.) 245 feet. Did I mention a lake? Aden said, “Dad, can I fish!?” I said, “Aden, fishing is the most biblical profession. Go ahead.” He fished. I threw. Here you get a first chance to just skim over the lake as you park a Roc. But the lake was in my mind a bit, naggling my synapses, but just wait until later, kind folks. And how do you feel about that Roc, Sean? Hot pink and about 2 weeks old. A disc I have heart for; its allure quivering when I grip it in my hand. You like that Roc don’t you, punk-ass Sean?

Birdie, and Sean is -1 and feeling all Kelly Clarkson.

4.) 205 feet. Wow. A mid-range nothing, right? Uh, wrong. We now bring in the lake seriously, and the trees. This is your Calvary appetizer, one of the minor plagues, those little frogs, the days of hail, straight-line winds, whatever, or having to attend a parent day luncheon, that kind of pain.

I park that thing like a Maserati. Sean is -2 and drinking the red Kool-aid flecked with chiles.


Does that look a tad nasty? Just wait.

5.) 525 feet, over water. Huh? (They call this a par 5 at the church, but I play ALL disc golf holes as par three, the way Ander Monson taught me.)

Did somebody just tell God about a hardening heart? Why must I sacrifice my pink Roc? Why? Don’t question. Don’t. Good bye disc, and my score. Wateriest of graves. (Sean is now, in a flash of lightning, + 1)

Don’t see any sea parting either….

6.) 500 feet. Highway fence on your right, then a busy highway. Lake on your left. A fairway the size of Pharaoh’s staff. Well, whatever this course was, it is now way Old Testament. Fire and those weird ash-sacks people wear and fish swallowing towns and the day the daughters or some angels or something slept with their drunk dad, all that, add salt. (Sean is now +3)

7.) 400 feet out into a field. No big deal except the tee pad is tucked into a forest of arthritic trees. I par.

8.) 325 from center of field to center of field. As boring as a standing cow. I easily par.

9.) 185. OK. Major Deuteronomy. Stone the disobedient children! Once again, Calvary attempts to maim. The ol’ throw the disc over the tractor-tire playground move. Major ace hole, though you would feel a bit sheepish at 185. I’d just like to say how impressed I am with placing the basket just past a child’s play area. Diabolical. Did I design this course in my sleep?


Please don’t throw. That is my child scrambling up those tires. (Throw comes from BEHIND the tires, OVER them, toward the photographer here.)

(Sean parks, takes his birdie. +2)

10.) 590 feet!!! Jesus. Seriously, Jesus? Good look with your par here. The basket is way back into shrubbery, but pretty open (except the lake behind). I take a bogey. (Sean at +3)

11.) This was # 2 basket earlier. Now 175. Ok. I bounce one off a picnic table, almost in. Birdie. Sean is +2.

12.) Out into a field (hole one basket). It is listed at 245 but even the bible is open to interpretation. About 315 to 330, I’d think. Par.

13.) 532 feet. Another field bomb, then into nasty trees. A net of trees, a honeycomb and locusts. I eat a double burger and now at + 4.

14.) 500 feet. Oh the drive? Over water. After the opening 9, I went to my car and grabbed some “water” (code for don’t care about) discs. Goodbye DX Valk. Center shot, deep. Sinking still. How do you like this drive, disc-golfers? The FAR LEFT (not the one on the right) basket is the hole I am playing…


Sean is now physically warm inside. I feel jumpy. And down. Shooting a + 6.

15.) 500 feet. Again, you drive OVER the lake. I cut the corner and took a bogart.

16.) 370. Weird hole. You drive out of a tree-chute. Pretty tech, and I like it. Par.

17.) Damnation! I’ll let the photo talk here. That is lake of sulfur in front, woods in back, basket on a stale wafer of earth.



I play it well and proudly par.

18.) I will vote this hole as the worst finishing hole in the history of disc golf. This is my nominee. Any challenges? I would have taken a photo (should have) but was lulled unconscious while approaching the tee pad. 175 feet of throw your putter straight at the basket.


Uh, I birdied. If you ace this hole, Way To Go. Really. What a spoiled wine way to end a course.

So, Sean runs a + 6 and loses TWO discs. Wow. Beat down like a money-changer in the temple. A truly biblical course, as in odd. I kind of hated it and loved it, too. I am going to return, more than once, just to shoot a good score. And I am going to buy a floating disc.

What is the best floating disc??

Revelation: NEVER throw your best discs on these lake holes. I had wind today, and it was gospel. Without wind, still. So.



(at least Aden stayed happy)


Sean Lovelace in an Interview Ulysses Book Review Rant

First, I’d just like to say going 3rd person in the title of this post felt damn good. I caught a little mermaids singing, the rush of the sock-slide tile veranda. I see why athletes go third person now. You detach and enlarge the Self simultaneously. It’s like nachos, or publishing a book, or mile 31 of an ultra-marathon. It’s  a moment stretched, or something.

I just finished Dan Savage’s Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America. Here is my review:


It makes an OK drink coaster. The end.


Titular Journal asked if I would write a Ulysses type of thing, or something. So I joined Blake Butler and Paul Kavanagh and Mark Baumer and Drew Kalbach (so far). I tried to make Blake into a pusher, but it didn’t work. Blake’s too nice to carry a switchblade.


Shelf Life Magazine asked if I had any writing tips or something. Under articles. I said sure.


Now I will discuss Author Interviews.

I read a lot of them. My students read a lot of them. In fact I have an assignment where they must find two author interviews (one living, one dead) and do various things, answer various questions, eat Ritz crackers, whatever. So I see the value of these interviews, and downfalls. As a professional, the author naturally recognizes the interview as yet another genre to work. So you see patterns. And sometimes disinterest. Other times you really get solid insights, imaginative buzz, practical workings, etc.–always good for a student writer. And…

Things I have noticed:

1.) One sub-genre of the Author Interview is the Non Sequitur answer, or the attempt to be “clever.” This can really only work (if it does at all) if the interview is done over the phone, or live. Being clever over email is never clever, since the response if so premeditated. Either way, there are only about three truly witty people on the planet, so what are the chances of the author being one?

2.) You rarely see combative author interviews. The writers are annoyingly nice. I’d like to see a little Billy Bob being a jerk-nard or maybe the time Gene Simmons told Terry Gross of Fresh Air, “If you want to welcome me with open arms, I’m afraid you’re also going to have to welcome me with open legs.” OK…classy guy, that Gene.

3.) The author interview is a genre, and like the athlete interview, the interviewee often gives cliched, canned answers.

In athletics it’s: Impact player, wake-up call, didn’t bring my A game. You have to take them one at a time, don’t you now?

In writing it’s:

I never write for a certain audience. People didn’t like my stuff in workshop; they thought it was weird. The short collection has to have a cohesion. Rejection is like a Nietzsche quote. My agent…

And then the one I despise/butterfly torn-wing/salt: The ol’ “do anything else if you can” line.

Recently, in a Juked interview of Courtney Eldridge, the author says the best advice she ever received about writing is: If you can do anything else but writing, do that. (I am paraphrasing. I don’t have the copy here, and I am not going into my office on a Saturday. I have yard work and the Kentucky Derby to bet and watch later. It doesn’t really matter. I have heard this line in many, many interviews.)

I want to make clear I respect and enjoy Eldridge’s writing (and her cool site. A five year old reviews her novel) and I think the new print Juked # 6 is rad, so I’ll just hate on the play here, not the player. I’m sure Eldridge is saying what works for her. But I am addressing the larger notion here.


A variation on this idea–again, quoted again and again in interviews–is the “I couldn’t do anything else, so I wrote.” This one rings a bit truer, but still makes me cringe. Let me give my opinion, as clearly as I can:

I think the idea of only writing if you can’t possibly do anything else is a crock of shit. Or: If you can’t NOT write being the only reason to undertake the art. Like writing must be martyrdom, some slog through the soul. It can be, I suppose, and is for some great authors, but writing does not have to be an all-consuming passion in a human’s life. If it is, fine, but why limit the act of writing in that way? Why can’t writing be intellectual play? Yes, play. A challenging activity (thus the key to its pleasure–like golf, chess, crosswords, marathons, etc.–the difficulty of actually increasing the allure). Why can’t writing be one of the many things humans do, to express, to release, to learn, to reflect, to share, to keep to oneself, to breath, to stretch, to think, to do, to feel, to play?

And seriously? If you can do something else well, don’t try writing? Huh? Is that the same with painting? Or music? What about running? If you can do anything else in life, don’t try running? Running fast is like writing very well. Running is lonely. Running is very, very hard. Running takes a lot of time, effort, “training,” with no real way to cheat on your homework. Rejection? The best marathoners in the world might win twice a year. Then their window is quickly done.

Yet people do run, don’t they?

And people write. And then people read their writing. I enjoy a lot of great writing from people who are doing something else.

Ever heard of that dude Anton Chekhov? He was a young writer who wrote young writer stories, light and funny, immature. Then in 1884 he earned a medical degree and began practicing as a doctor, committed to the “country people” (poor and under served) and to the profession. Chekhov was known for adamantly defending the role of the physician and for his empathy for his patients. He also kept writing (God knows why–by this time he could clearly do something else). But something changed. Now, COMBINED WITH his role as  doctor, his writing grew, matured, revealed the vivid reality of the humanity he dealt with daily.

Chekhov writes, “Only a doctor can know what value my knowledge of science has been to me” and “It seems to me that as a doctor I have described the sicknesses of the soul correctly.”

Strange, all these doctors who write, and write well. How dare they! Shame to you William Carlos Williams, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Keats, etc. How can someone pull a paycheck in one thing and then go and do another? Seems the most human thing in the world to me.

BTW, the Nyorker just reviewed a doctor/writer here. Seems he is making pretty good art.

Poets and Writers (never got that title–poets are not writers?) has a recent article here about contemporary doctor/writers. Apparently, even today, you can do something else, and find time and interest to pick up a pen.

The list of writer/lawyers is long and obvious. I believe Bukowksi was a postman and a drunk (a profession to itself). Renowned painter Ernie Barnes was an offensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers. And, yes, he painted while playing. His teammates called him “Big Rembrandt.”


(Note how Ernie Barnes never paints a character with their eyes open. “We don’t see each other’s humanity” he explains.)

I could go on and on  and on. The world teems with humans who do many things well, very well, and also find some time to write. Although I would never compare my own writing to those excellent writers above, I published my first story while working full time as a registered nurse. I now work teaching writing, and I tell people, “I am a teacher who writes, not a writer who teaches.” The other way is fine (A writer who…) but it isn’t the only way. To me, teaching is more fulfilling at the end of the day. But I am still allowed to write! I guess that was the point of this post. Writing can be many things. It can be all-consuming, or not.

I guess that’s what I wanted to say.

I guess.


Now nachos are another story…


Take them seriously. Always.


My Kentucky Derby bet.

I am going to box four horses in the exacta:

#1 West Side Bernie

#14 Atomic Rain

# 15 Dunkirk

# 6 Friesan Fire