Writing Camp: Day Four at Kenyon College

I did a reading last evening, which was this: There weren’t any hours. They didn’t exist. Dee thought about that too much, every day she had been on this ship, every day if days had existed. But they didn’t. Those things, those ticks, didn’t exist, not anymore. And she didn’t understand what the point was of pretending they did. There were no months, no years, no millennia, no seconds. There was none of that. They didn’t have a sun, no weather, no storm coming, no frost, nothing like that, nothing that was real, nothing. They were relative to nothing. Absolutely nothing. She hated thinking about that, thinking it again and again. In spite of all of their schedules and notifications, their habits, despite what everyone said, none of that existed. They just didn’t have time anymore. There was no planet, no star, no system. They were relative to nothing. It was that simple. They no longer rotated. They no longer revolved around anything, and nothing revolved around them. There was no longer a gravitational field, nothing to hold them, to give them weight. They had removed themselves, purposely dropped themselves into the abyss. They had left. They were relative to nothing. And nothing was relative to them. They were separate, moving, independent, away, further, closer, something else, deeper, whatever the word would be, whatever they would concoct in the days, the not-days, the not-months, the not-years to come, that word that defined their current state, their collective morass, their disappearing, connected to nothingness, broken free, going too fast – .91 light speed? Really that speed? Really that?

Writing Camp: Day Three at Kenyon College

Notes from the morning session:

Readers read through their body, making them move. If there is something to hold, they want to feel that.

An implicature: “It’s cold in here.” (Meaning close the window.)

A bad echo is an alliteration that isn’t effective.

Novel is the work of accumulation, not selection.

Writing Camp: Day Two at Kenyon College

Focus is everything. Despite a tepid reaction to my first assignment – and being told that my character (me?) is an unlikable jerk, perhaps racist – I found myself getting on track. The details are the thing. And today’s work at Kenyon College on a variety of ways to implement dialogue is a good way to move things forward:

Dee reached in for the last of the pups, already half out of the incubator, not wanting to be alone. “I was six months old. You don’t remember anything at that age.”

“You can remember some things,” Calli replied. “I can remember lots of smells, like that blue blanket. I turn back into a baby when I remember it.”

Ashe laughed. “No way.”

“I think about your aunt as a little girl – she was barely three – trying to get our mother to wake up and not understanding why she wouldn’t.” The images coursed through Dee, almost like Calli had described, the smells of the kitchen, the sun across the floor and then the dark, her own stink rising with her mother’s. “I was crying too. Don’t forget that. She had to feed me cereal and bread, handfuls and handfuls of it. And still I wouldn’t stop.”

Ashe had her face pressed close to the pup’s. “How long were you there with her?”

“Three days,” Calli answered. “She’s told us like a million times.”

Writing Camp: Day One at Kenyon College

I’ve arrived in Ohio for a writing conference or, as my niece calls it, ‘camp’. This is actually – her favorite word – a more accurate description given not so much the bucolic atmosphere as the bleak accommodations. It’s the sort of place – despite the well-placed trees and 200-year history – that does not inspire as much as subdue. My best work from the day: The fucking earnestness of discussing the horrors of the world when they are so far away – that deeper feeling of humanity, the western mind – is what is wrong with this fucking world, pretending to care, to love, to be willing to die for, when the truth is, the time will come – it’s called 5pm – when they don’t care because the children have come home and a favorite show is on. And that is all.

Being at a writing nadir, more interested in my video poker than figuring out what I should be writing next, I need more than new writers who think they might be interested in writing but aren’t quite sure.I know I am being judgmental, but I really have to get out of my sci-fi quagmire!

Ice Friday: Stephens’ “Charwoman’s Daughter”

In the evening of that day Mary and the young man who lodged with their neighbor went for the walk which had been customary with them. The young man had been fed with an amplitude which he had never known before, so that not even the remotest slim thread, shred, hint, echo or memory of hunger remained within him. He tried but could not make a dint in himself anywhere and, consequently, he was as sad as only a well-fed person can be. Now that his hunger was gone, he deemed that all else was gone also. His hunger, his sweetheart, his hopes, his good looks, all were gone, gone, gone.

Overlooked New York: Knickerbocker Post Office

New York native Washington Iriving coined the name Knickerbocker in his 19th Century writing to exemplify the New York character – graceless, indomitable freethinkers – and soon enough the name dotted the city. The Knickerbocker name is ingrained, especially in the older corners, such as the Knickerbocker Post Office, an old brick building on East Broadway in Chinatown. The Google reviews on are less than positive: “Lack of Customer Service! wasted my morning!” “Very negative experience with staff” “The package was either lost or stolen in this USPS location.” Knickerbockers one and all.

Porter Airlines Deserves to Be Expediaed

There are those who talk of Porter Airlines as a quaint raccoonish airline with prop planes, retro uniforms and free beer, forgetting their essential problem of flights perpetually delayed and cancelled. Returning home to New York, we had yet another cancellation and decided to make the nine-hour drive instead – a prescient choice given that the re-booked flight was also cancelled the next day. The only problem was that we booked on Expedia, who lulled us into believing that they would refund us automatically. Nine days later, no refund posted, I was subjected to the limbo of hold and repeat until, almost an hour later, they released me from their specific hell. And so I propose that Porter merge with the Expedia so they might be grounded together.