The Fads and Obsessions of 1976

12/11/2016 at 12:04 pm (Author Updates, It was 1976, Publishing News, Telegraph Ave.)

With the completion of the design files for The Bear Who Broke The World Advance Reading Copy, it’s time for a small celebration! In January, printed copies of the ARCs will be sent to blogs and magazines for possible review, as well as to a handful of people who I hope to get blurbs from so that I can publicize those when the novel is “officially” published and available to the public in Summer 2017.

Here’s the ARC cover, which makes me insanely happy every time I see it. Hoping people are as taken with the book inside as they are intrigued by the cover.

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Because 1976 was such a memorable year for me, the fads and obsessions of childhood lost on the generations that followed, I wanted to revisit some things very particular to that specific time. A few of these get shout-outs in the novel, and others are fondly remembered from my own time as a kid. Enjoy this step back into my old memories of a Berkeley past.

 

CHUNKY BAR

So much great candy growing up – KitKat, the $100,000 Bar, Lemonheads – with most of them surviving the 70’s. Sadly, this one did not. (There is a Nestle “new” version of this, but it’s divided in sections, instead of the big block o’ chocolate that was the original.)

 

WACKY PACKS

What kid couldn’t resist this precursor to the Garbage Pail Kids stickers? As a MAD Magazine freak, I loved being able to stick these all over my school notebooks and on my dresser drawers.

 

 

COMICS & COMIX

The place to buy all the new releases and back-issues of Uncanny X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Superman, and all the rest. My personal faves in 1976 – Marvel Two-in-One and The Incredible Hulk.

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BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS

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If you remember the days when there were only 3 networks (ABC, CBS & NBC), then maybe you remember this show. Pitting the “stars” of TV against each other in Olympic-type events, this was one of my favorite shows. Howard Cosell, Lynda Carter, Gabe Kaplan, Farrah Fawcett, Ron Howard … they were all there. Most memorable from the series: Robert Conrad (of “Wild Wild West“ and “Black Sheep Squadron” fame) always trying to prove he was the best on the field, and unbeatable in every event.

 

This was fun! I’d like to make this little trip down ’76 Lane a regular feature here on the blog. Look for more memories soon.

 

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Trout Fishing in America writes a blog

12/05/2016 at 10:11 am (Book Reviews, Rose and Ken's Bookshelf)

From the Bookshelves of Rose and Ken:

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In the late 60’s and early 70’s, what self-identifying stalwart of the hippie lifestyle didn’t own a copy of this series of observations for the counterculture generation? Published in 1967, Brautigan generated simple musings in his own style, while borrowing heavily from Anderson, Hemingway, Heller, Kesey and Vonnegut. Delivering short chapters with the unifying thread of trout fishing, the author explores the outrageous with the commonplace, the placid with the disturbed.

A first-person account of life on the road, a postmodern take on Kerouac’s tale of the Beats, Trout dips in and out of small towns where Americana litter the streets and homes of a changing country. With chapter titles like “A Waldon Pond for Winos” and “Trout Fishing With the FBI,” the book plays with ideas of nature and freedom, addiction and authority with a kind of whimsy that underlies the gravity of idealism lost. In the narrator’s travels, he finds that nothing is quite as it was, while the present has yet to fully form into something coherent that serves as a replacement of what came before.

Name-checking Teddy Roosevelt, Nelson Algren, John Dillinger, Hemingway, and the blues song C.C. Rider in the chapter titles, Brautigan traces the familiar and the influential figures of the past with a reverence that carries a bit of nostalgia, as well. America is changing so quickly, he seems to be saying, that it’s crucial to remember the importance of the early part of the twentieth century. When he writes, “Along with World War II and the Andrews sisters, the Zoot suit had been very popular in the early 40’s,” Brautigan is singing the virtues of a lost era, one that defined an earlier generation and was as much about fighting for freedom and singing for joy as it was about racial identity and the inequality and violence that surrounded it. When he decides that, “I guess they were all passing fads,” it is a lamentation, the realization that everything substantial and once-profound becomes simply what was. These parts of history are meant to be pushed aside, in order to make room for the next transgression or life-changing event in a century filled with them.

Filled with characters that come and go and then appear again, slightly changed, the slim book attempts to make sense of the old and the new, written with equal parts humanity and satire. There is a curiosity at work here, a wonderment that is characteristically American and entrenched in values that must have seemed antiquated in a world where Vietnam and the assassinations of MLK & RFK, along with the corruption of Watergate, made rose-colored reflection something unworthy and frivolous. Where there is definitely a rejection of the racist, stubborn, afraid-of-change belief system that permeates these small towns that Brautigan’s narrator discovers, there is also an embrace of nature and its singular purity. As long as trout can still be caught in the lakes and rivers of America—a simple pleasure that is not attached to politics or economics or human strife–then perhaps the evolving world, with all its social and cultural turmoil, can be found to be bearable. Maybe what Brautigan is trying to express in his book is that the consequential “fads” of the present will always give way to the next historic moment or state of mind, but those rivers full of trout will continue to run, a small, indelible fact of life that will remain constant and unchanged for this and future generations to come.

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What Flies Faster than a Peregrine Falcon?

11/27/2016 at 8:57 pm (Author Updates, Publishing News)

Turns out my “vacation” from this site became a whole three months. Wow! Time knows how to fly faster than a Peregrine Falcon.

Updates are certainly in order:

  • I recently had a short story published – you can read it here: The East Bay Review
  • The Bear Who Broke The World is in the final stages of Design and will hopefully be ready by the end of December. An Advance Reader’s Copy for Bear will be ready in January – with a Summer 2017 wide release.
  • Now that Bear is finally edited, polished and almost-but-not-quite-ready for publication, I can focus more energy on extra fun content for this blog. I want to finally deliver on my promise for those book reviews – (2) separate lists of books: Those that fall under “Rose and Ken’s Bookshelf,” which are counterculture books that would have been read in the Berkeley house; and those that share sensibilities or the time-frame that Bear takes place in, but are more contemporary and recent releases.

Thanks for sticking with the site, and here’s to Monday posts from here on out.

Definitely more to come …

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Why Do Writers Need a Vacation?!

08/26/2016 at 4:19 pm (Author Updates)

A common conception is that writers spend most of their time in their heads, conversing with people who don’t actually exist and frolicking around in locations that they’ve never actually visited. I can only speak for myself, but I do enjoy wandering the terrain of my own head more than I like taking vacations to actual places and faraway locales. Imagining a trip to the Alaskan wilderness seems, quite frankly, more fun than actually freezing my butt off there.

But in order to craft deeper, more genuine, fiction, I think that a writer does need to invest a good amount of their time and energy, and (in certain circumstances) surrender to the discomfort and unpredictability of visiting a place a greater distance from their own home than the local supermarket. If a writer has an honest, all-sensory experience in an unfamiliar surrounding I do believe it will only help when it comes to their describing a vast array of (real and fictional) locations or exploits in a work of fiction.

So I did it. I abandoned my comfy chair, the perfectly set temperature of my home, and the allure of my fingers tapping onto my computer keyboard in order to venture out to an undiscovered (by me) land. I hopped on a plane and landed in Costa Rica, in the province of Guanacaste, ripe with rainforests and stunning views of … well, everything.

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There I set my imaginary life aside and gave myself over to a real adventure. I witnessed howler monkeys swinging from vine to vine, ziplined above canyons in the middle of a torrential downpour, dipped my feet into the gorgeous Pacific Ocean, read a book of pure pleasure fodder, and swam under a waterfall. Mostly, I enjoyed myself and lived completely in the moment.

Will this trip I took help make my future writing more vivid, descriptive or authentic? Maybe yes, maybe no. Will it add more significant meaning, balance and richness to the life I currently live? Emphatically yes.

Every writer needs a vacation. A vacation from the writing, from the routine, and from ourselves.

 

So, where should I go next?!

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photos by Justin McFarr

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The Howl of the Faraway Father

06/08/2016 at 6:04 pm (Book Reviews, Novel Excerpts, Rose and Ken's Bookshelf)

This is the first (of many) book reviews of counter-culture classics that the adult characters in Bear would have read prior to the time when the action of the novel takes place: summer of 1976.

I chose Allen Ginsburg‘s epic poem Howl as one of the books Thomas O’Neill — the absent father of the story who left Berkeley for NY when Stephen was six, and Demian was barely two — would have most definitely read, dog-eared, carried around with him, and tried to emulate with his own poetry.

“He packed a U.S. Army duffel bag with a few belongings (ironically, he had dodged the draft and his duty to country, but used the military’s supplies to flee his family), borrowed some money from relatives in Omaha and headed out of our lives, never to return.”

And now, my review:

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While Allen Ginsberg’s three-part, long poem “Howl” is borne of a particular moment in American history — the Joseph McCarthy congressional witch hunts; the cold war with Russia (which includes, to a degree, the Korean War); social and racial unrest — it is still possible to read and appreciate the work without the context of the time. The staccato beats of the stanzas, the raw and potent language, as well as the cross-country travels in the poem are all worth exploring in detail outside of the realm of Ginsberg’s cultural experience. With powerful imagery, specific American locales, and references to John Milton, William Blake, Neal Cassady and The Bible, the 1956 poem ushered in not only the age of Beat poetry, but a lasting piece of fury, compassion and madness.

The opening line, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” sets in motion a seemingly endless list of unnamed, but mostly male, people whom the narrator apparently knew who lost their sanity in the streets, subways, back alleys and bars of America. Written as a single, run-on sentence, the rhythm scheme is structured as mini-tales, each passage of a new, mind-blowing experience beginning simply with “who,” connecting back to that first line of the poem. The sense of dislocation within familiar terrain is the theme repeated throughout, with places in the heartland like Laredo, Texas and Arkansas as sinister and terrifying as Chicago and New York City. The people of the narrator’s generation come from and travel to all points on the U.S. map, but share the common states of sorrow and confusion, unable to feel grounded within landscapes that no longer hold the same security and dependency that they once did. When the “angelheaded hipsters […] / […] bare their brains to Heaven under the El” and “[drink] turpentine in Paradise Alley,” while others “whore through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars,” the America that once made sense is transformed into a jumble of seedy and depressed places where screaming at God, poisoning oneself, and having meaningless sex for an almighty, capitalistic dollar is the current norm.

Time, space, eternity, the universe and Plato are invoked throughout the narrator’s journey across America, allowing Ginsberg to delve into the big questions asked by man, albeit without attempting to directly answer any of them. He is ambitious in his reachings, detailing the concerns and experiences of an entire generation, his only judgments coming in the form of labeling the various acts performed as the actions of an insane group of people. He then follows the list of his generation’s misdeeds with a section devoted to Moloch, invoking the biblical Canaanite who also shows himself in poems by Coleridge and Milton.

The third and final section addresses Carl Solomon, a real-life friend to Ginsberg, to whom the poem is dedicated. It continues the societal course of madness to its logical conclusion, with Solomon in a Rockland, N.Y. mental hospital receiving treatment for the destruction of his, the best, mind.

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You Can Take the Boy Out of Berkeley…

05/30/2016 at 11:25 pm (Author Updates)

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photo by Robert Eliason

Here’s the author on the Cal campus, away from his L.A. home but ecstatic to be back in his hometown.

This week was all about proofing, formatting, and moving forward with the first projects in the Wheeler Street Press pipeline. It’s all really starting to happen, and the more I learn about publishing, the more I find I have to learn.

Next week I’ll be back with a book review of a counter-culture classic.

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Excising the Words

05/22/2016 at 9:17 pm (Author Updates, Novel Excerpts, Telegraph Ave.)

This past week I’ve spent most of my creative-life time finishing a final edit of Bear before I send it out to a professional editor for copy/line editing and proofreading. I have a list of strong editors, and I am in the process of winnowing them down to one I’d like to send a sample five pages to in the next month or so. At this stage, and given the fact that I will not have the guidance of a big publisher’s editor prior to the book being released out into the world, I think it’s vitally important that I get a professional set of eyes on my current draft before I consider it my “final” draft. This will be my only “first published novel” and it’s up to me – and only me – to make sure it’s the very best it can possibly be; I don’t want to skip any steps that I might later regret.

As I do my best to post Bear-related topics each and every week until the release of the novel, I will be sharing reviews of books from the 60’s and early 70’s that my main character Stephen’s mother Rose and her boyfriend Ken would most likely have read prior to 1976. Look for my short reviews from Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan, Charles Bukowski‘s Post Office, The Merry Christian by Terry Southern, and other counter-culture underground classics, as well as various odds and ends (including books that inspired me during the many years of writing my own book). There will also be more small character studies; edited scenes or snippets that won’t appear in the finished version; photos of Berkeley and Oakland; bits of history about the Bay Area; and details of historic events that occurred during the summer of Bear.

This week, in the spirit of all the editing and excising I’ve been doing, I’d like to share a short scene that I cut a few drafts ago. It’s part of a larger scene, where Stephen travels up to Telegraph with his buddy Trevor and Trevor’s teenage brother Art. There, they experience a very “Berkeley” moment.

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At the corner of Telegraph at Dwight Way, cars traveled fast up the one-way street, so we waited for the green light to cross. A guy in flowy pants and a t-shirt that exposed his belly swept through behind us and into the crosswalk. As he slowed his gait, the cars suddenly slowed and braked to avoid crashing right into him. Halfway through the street, the light still bright red and unwavering, he slowed his pace even more.

“Defiant asshole,” Art said, “gonna get nailed out there.”

While the other cars had stopped for the jaywalking guy with the head full of unkempt blond curls, a gray van approached him and the crosswalk with nothing but speed. Oblivious, he continued walking at his inchworm pace, still a good five feet from the sidewalk in front of him. The van’s driver blew his horn, but didn’t ease up on his speed, and I was both horrified and mesmerized at what was going to happen next.

The van barrelled through, and the guy disappeared. My body stiffened in the same way it did when I was getting a shot at the doctor’s office. I didn’t hear a sickly crunch like I thought I would, and my hands unclenched. When the back of the van passed through the crosswalk, the guy had reached the curb and was yelling up the street.

“I’m walking here,” he shouted through cupped hands. “I’ve got the right of way.”

The light finally turned green for the three of us, and we crossed together.

“Guy’s seen Midnight Cowboy ten too many times,” Art laughed, speaking loud enough for the guy in front of us to hear him. I hadn’t seen it, but I thought maybe the movie had something to do with a person who jaywalks a lot.

photo by Justin McFarr

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A New Beginning

05/15/2016 at 10:22 pm (Author Updates, Publishing News)

The big announcement here is this: The Bear Who Broke The World will be published in 2017 by Wheeler Street Press!

Now, to the particulars leading up to that decision:

It’s been almost three years since my last post here, which admittedly is a long time to stay away. A whole lot of life… and waiting… has taken place in those years, with the evolution of this book many times at a standstill.

Since July 2013, after my amazing time at Squaw Valley, I have written numerous drafts, persuaded writers and readers I respect to read those drafts in their entirety, and done my damnedest to get an agent interested enough in the novel to offer representation. All of this has taken time, with the work itself demanding many, many hours of my vigorous attention to the rewriting, editing, and eventual polishing of this story about two brothers trying to navigate their world in 1976 Berkeley. Beyond the work, there has been my following agents on Twitter, researching websites about the publishing business and the gatekeepers who guard it so rapaciously, networking with my fellow MPW classmates and asking favors of my fellow teachers. Gina Nahai, in particular, has been an unflagging supporter of me and my novel, reading the entire manuscript and brainstorming with me on the best ways to get an agent to say “yes” – she has offered more to this project than I ever imagined or hoped she would.

The good news is that the majority of people who have read the manuscript drafts liked what they read – there have been exceptions here and there, but if everyone gave me nothing but positive feedback, I would be both suspicious of their critiques and question the fact that this many people were in accord over a piece of writing. I know from my own experience as a reader that some books I fall in love with are books that others hate with a passion, just as books I cannot stomach are some of my friends’ favorite reading experiences. So, I recognize how huge the subjective opinion reigns in matters of creative works. It doesn’t necessarily make it any less painful to get lukewarm feedback about an endeavor I put a whole lot of years, my blood, sweat and brain matter into… but I totally get it.

Which brings me to the agent search. This is where a lot of the waiting has rested, with a search that has been ongoing for more months than I would like to be reminded of, and which failed to garner a single offer of representation. I learned a lot from a different book I queried agents and publishers with back in 2014, which resulted in a lot of polite passes and even an offer of publication (which, for reasons still unknown to me, was rescinded before I even saw a contract). So, my approach to querying Bear came with past experience and a predisposition to overall rejection, and I knew what Janet Fitch told me was true: “It’s a numbers game.” Aware of all the pitfalls of sending my baby out into the cold, insular New York literary agent world, I was still surprised by how little actual response I got from my emails. My polished query and the recommendations I had from a few true literary powerhouses were answered with silence; referrals from published authors failed to attract any kind of response from agents. I expected, and actually looked forward to, a deluge of standard, form-letter rejections. What I wasn’t prepared for were all the no-responses, the total lack of interest to even dash off a quick “doesn’t work for our agency, but keep writing!” email. Again, I went into this agent search with my eyes wide open, not expecting anything (knowing full well that just because I would have liked to hear back from them, they really had no obligation to reply to my emails), but hopeful for a modicum of interest.

Once the writing on the wall became unremovable ink that I was unable to interpret as anything other than the harsh truth that no one cared nearly as much about my novel as I did, that’s when my entire outlook on Bear, and its future publication, shifted. That’s when I decided that if I really wanted this book — which I loved and wanted to share with whomever might care enough to read it — to become an actual novel that lived and breathed in the world, then I would have to publish it myself.

Wheeler Street Press was born, and a plan — or series of plans — was hatched. The creation of a publishing company, with the sole purpose of putting in print and in e-book form all of the finished, polished prose I have labored over all these years, was the most promising step forward I had experienced since I can’t remember when.

As I move forward with this blog, and publication through Wheeler Street Press becomes a reality, more details of this process will emerge. In 2017, The Bear Who Broke The World will see publication as both a trade paperback and and e-book. Until then, I will be here, continuing to document the evolution of my novel.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. I’ll do my best to make sure your visits here are worth the trip.

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photo by Justin McFarr

 

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The Return

07/17/2013 at 4:27 pm (Author Updates, Squaw Valley, Welcome)

 

It’s been two years and four months since my last post here, so my return to it after so long is less of a homecoming and more of a new beginning. Quite a bit has happened to me in that stretch of time; less has happened with the novel itself. I suppose a recap of time is in order, but I’ll try to be brief so that we can move forward and closer to the completion of this novel that I alternately love, admire, misunderstand and fear.

I just returned from a very inspiring, mind-clearing trip to the Squaw Valley Writers Conference, also known as the Community of Writers. squaw-valley-logo

It was utterly fantastic, and helped me to realize that a good year of revision on this novel — which I feel is midway through a fairly strong third draft rewrite — is both a reasonable and realistic goal for getting it in shape to send out in hopes of representation and eventual publication. With that decision, I feel I have some breathing room, time to allow the novel to fully declare itself, and to open myself up to different approaches toward finishing it.

Which is where this blog comes in. When I first started it, in February of 2010, I was in the second semester of my graduate program at USC and was deep into the first draft of Bear. I had already completed the best class I have ever — before or since — taken on writing, a master course taught by the unbelievably brilliant Janet Fitch about everything a craft-loving boy like me needs in order to elevate the work a level or two higher. Gina Nahai had also shown a surprising amount of enthusiasm for the first few chapters of the novel, which I had workshopped in her tremendously helpful and supportive classroom. That encouragement from her and my fellow MPWers fueled my desire to not only keep these characters on their fictional path, but to get them to their initial destination soon, well in advance of the last two semesters of the program, when I would work with a thesis advisor to usher me toward graduation and a world outside the rarefied creative air of graduate school.

So I wrote, and I wrote, and I spent time on the exercises here on this blog, and I wrote, and eventually I became so overwhelmed with the very focused work on the manuscript, in order to get it ready for “the final stretch,” that I abandoned this site and all of its potential.

What follows is a brief chronology of what happened when I stopped blogging here, up until the point — today — when I returned:

May, 2011: I finish a first draft of the novel — all 67,450 words or 236 pages of it — and begin my journey toward graduation with my thesis advisor, Rita Williams. She is funny, thoughtful and generous, full of effusive praise and sobering criticism, always asking questions about the characters, the story, what my investment in these boys means to me, constantly challenging the work to become richer, tasking me and my writing to go deeper and emerge more knowing and assured. She is willing to meet me weekly, to read and think deeply about the glut of new material I produce, and I love her for it.

September, 2011: I complete what I dub a “2nd Draft First Pass” for Judith Freeman, my second and last thesis advisor, to read before we begin our twice-monthly meetings. Her overall notes are much different than Rita’s, but instead of creating confusion in me about the novel that could have easily sent me spiraling into despair and inaction, it has the opposite effect: I get excited and even more focused on completing a second draft that is even stronger than the first ever was. Judith keeps me grounded, fosters my voice and trusts my instincts, introduces me to the idea of shaping all my scenes into a structure that “reads” like a novel, and inspires me to finish a final thesis draft that runs 80,800 words, or 279 pages. In late November, I turn it in to Brighde Mullins, the whip-smart, cheerleading director of the program. It is no masterpiece, but it is complete.

January, 2012: I know I need to get a teaching job, now that I have a graduate degree and teaching is to writers what alcohol is to… well, writers. Based on past experience and an English dept. head with a willingness to give a former student a shot, I wind up teaching three composition classes in my very first semester at this O.C. community college.

March, 2012: By this time, I realize that the lesson planning, in-class hours, and paper grading I decide that I don’t have the time or energy that Bear needs from me. Of course, I hold out a small shred of hope that my work load will lessen and I can at least visit Bear from time to time — but that doesn’t happen.

March, 2013: A mere 16 months after I finished the 2nd Draft of Bear, I am ready to pick it up again. I read it in its entirety twice, make so many notes on the crisp, white pages that by the second go-round, the manuscript looks like it’s been infected by red ink. I officially begin a 3rd Draft, intent on finishing it by the end of 2013.

April, 2013: I polish a partial chapter of Bear to submit for the Fiction Workshop at Squaw Valley. Janet Fitch teaches there every other summer, and USC alum I know have attended the conference. I learn that they accept only 1 in 4 submissions, so the odds are not in my favor. It doesn’t matter. The worst they can do is reject it, and rejection is something I’ve made friends with over the past few months, courtesy of the query letters and manuscript pages sent to all the agents for a different book.

May, 2013: I receive the beautiful e-mail stating that it is “their pleasure to invite” me to their “43rd Annual Writers Workshop” in July. I scream, I jump up and down, I can’t wipe the damn grin off my face for a good couple of days. I immediately ramp up my efforts on the latest draft of the novel, the inspiration and the motivation coursing through me. I attempt to finish an entire third draft in less than two months.

July, 2013: The Community of Writers conference in Squaw Valley begins. I have not completed my 3rd draft, but it doesn’t matter. I’m about to breathe the same mountain air as Amy Tan, Richard Ford, Karen Joy Fowler, Gail Tsukiyama, and an amazing array of novelists and short story writers. From the moment I arrive at Reno airport, to the moment I get on the plane back to LAX, I am living the dream. And it is glorious.

Which brings us up to today, the 17th of July, and I am barely home two days from the whirlwind schedule of workshops, panels, readings, dinners, parties and all that swimming in the community pool of creativity and camaraderie. It is time to recommit to the novel, to my writing, and to this blog.

I have a new goal of finishing the novel not by the end of this year, but by next summer. That feels right to me. It feels like a goal I can accomplish, maybe with time to spare. It is not about just getting it done — it never has been, actually — but about completing a novel I can feel so wholly proud of that it doesn’t matter if 2 people or 2 million people read it. I love being a writer. I love writing this book and spending time with these characters, and this blog will allow me to explore the people who inhabit these pages in a way I am unable to do through the manuscript alone. It will give me opportunities to tap into other facets of the novel: its themes, settings, points-of-view and narrative voices that expand the meaning — and my understanding — of The Bear Who Broke The World.

Let’s begin…

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The Avenue

03/10/2011 at 10:48 am (Exercises, Senses, Telegraph Ave.)

As I continue working on the novel, I’m attempting to add physical details that are true to Berkeley and the 1976 setting.  But I’m also concerned with other senses – not only the sights of the time and place, but the sounds, smells, tastes and the tactility of Steve’s surroundings.

This short exercise lists certain scents associated with Telegraph Avenue in the 1970s:

Suds and lemony detergent escaping the laundromat on the corner across from the 7-Eleven, which always smells like Slurpees and beef jerky;

b.o. so strong it makes anyone walking downwind of the aged black homeless man it belongs to gag involuntarily – the smell known notoriously as Bum Scum;

human feces in People’s Park;

poet Julia Vinograd’s musty chapbooks she shoves under the noses of every single passerby who happens to glance her way, only three dollars, plus she’ll sign it for you;

LaVal’s pepperoni pizza — covered with chili flakes — being consumed on the Northside by a study group of bleary-eyed undergrads during finals;

the aromatics of Caffé Med, where the Turkish coffees overpower the Ethiopian blends every time.

 

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photo by Justin McFarr

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