The Rich Are Dicks

I recently completed a six-month on-line teaching contract at a chichi Rhode Island school. The pay was not good nor was the collegiality, and I’m sure they would blame Covid for these shortcomings. This had vague validity before they sent the “small gift of appreciation”.

The cookies

Three cafeteria cookies was their idea of a thoughtful gesture. What is this? Mockery? Abuse? They couldn’t send a book? I taught literature, for God’s sake, not baking.

Intellectual Property

Whatever you do, whatever you attempt, if it works, somebody later will try to make it something else and pretend it is their own and profit by that.

It doesn’t matter what is real or what you know, there is always another to say, “No, you are a liar.” It’s only a question of how involved you want to become in that.

Writing Process: Knowing the Story

You think you know something and then you don’t. All stories are only that. He wakes up to some party or hands held out and then he has to do something alone not because he believes in life or strength but because he was lost.

It is as simple as sitting on the fire escape or the corner that he knows and remembering that no one was there for him but paid for her mistakes. She tried. Or she didn’t. But he just has to carry on and become something new from that.

One Down (Anori), Another To Go (Fuck Pedagogy)

I just completed a more-or-less final draft of Anori, the first book of The Cx Trilogy about leaving earth on a generational space ship to another galaxy. There might have been a brief moment of satisfaction – more of relief – but it was emptiness that reigned.

The final line of the book reads: Dee felt almost calm as she looked ahead for the ship, realizing she had no idea what it would be like, how anything would be at all.

Next up is the first draft of my teaching memoir, Fuck Pedagogy, which should be much easier to write. After all this is not an imagined world but a place that I know all too well. The opening lines of this book now read:

“Why do you want to teach?” Phil was my supervisor in teacher’s college, a big friendly guy with a thick beard and glasses. “I want you to draw what that looks like.”

Posterboards were distributed. I drew a prison.

“Hmm.” Phil hovered over my shoulder for a moment. “Why the barbed wire?”

“I didn’t like school.”

“Interesting.” He stayed another moment, nodding to himself, and then carried on to chat with others.

Writing Process: The Thing of It

I have my moments in writing. I can see something and even feel like I know it. And I write that down. The opening of Anori is like that, with Dee looking out over Battery Park as Hurricane Sandy arrives. The cremation of Apollo is real. As is swimming in cold dark water and hiking across the barrens and ice. These moments come clear.

Sketch by Francisco Goya (18th century Spain)

Then there is the in-between, the narrative connecting these scenes. I plod through this, repeating actions and images, forcing the characters to say things not because that’s who they are but because they have to do what I say. I lose their voices and the life of the work then fades into a morass not worth reading. It’s exhausting.

Writing Process: No More “Charlie’s Angels”

I am back to killing my babies. Today I had to delete a pet scene from Anori which recalled my father’s secret passion for Charlie’s Angels:

“My father’s other guilty pleasure, Tommy, along with the crackers and vodka, was Charlie’s Angels.” She turned around and smiled brightly at the others. “He would never admit it, but he loved the titillation, a knife against their throats, lovely breasts on the verge of exposure.”

“Can’t say I was ever against those girls,” Fitz admitted.

“He would fall asleep before the show was over and then wake up and snap, ‘Who put on this poppycock? What is this nonsense?’ He’d switch the channel before the crime was solved.” Lai looked back and forth between them, her eyes small and dark. “I never found out who did what.”

“Or more importantly who this Charlie fella really was,” Fitz added.

“Exactly.”

“Christ, it was that guy from Dallas, the oil guy. Everyone knows that.”

“John Forsythe,” Dee sighed.

“But that ain’t the point, is it now?” Fitz added.

“What’s the point then? The girls running about in their underwear, Farrah Fawcett and her big hair?”

“Dare to dream,” Lai replied. “Molestation will be your return.”

Writing Process: At a Loss. And Then What?

I am coming to the end of Anori, Draft #5, a process that has taken ten months. I have had some satisfying moments – tightening up narrative, deleting unnecessary characters and scenes, building the arc and all of that – but it feels almost pointless in the end.

I will be hiring an editor once again. I will see what advice is there to get this thing published. After all, it has been some eight years since I started. It was called The Ark, and it seemed so remarkable to me at that time. It feels more a cage now, with Dee and the others just screaming to get out.