Always working on something. Diagrammed a story for students. Wrote some teaching stuff, wrote on the novel. Was the subject of a student tweet. Got a box of books for the Texas Book Festival. And, for some damn reason—my racing mind jumped ahead and I began outlining the next book, and here I haven’t finished the one I’m working on….
The new edition of Professed is lovely--as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside.
Read it! And once you've read it (of if you've already read it) go over to Amazon or Goodreads and say something (good, bad, whatever) about it....
So I am finished. Twelve full revisions, and many partials.
I am declaring it done.
The West Virginia book.
See—I printed it out and everything.
Took long enough. But it's really good!
Now: to get it published....
Also now: start on the next book....
My first book, Long Time Ago Good, came out in 2009, about the time that Kindle/ebooks were really taking off. My beloved publisher, Slough Press, had never done an ebook edition before, and so Long Time Ago Good missed the revolution.
So--one of my projects this summer has been the Kindlefication of Long Time Ago Good, and yesterday the Kindle edition went live. Better late to the revolution than to miss it completely!
That's the new cover there to the left....
You can--and should!--buy it here.
Readers will notice that I dropped the subtitle. I don't know. Seems that plain "Stories" is more direct and, in an odd way, more evocative of the past than the somewhat ornate "Sunset Dreams...."
You can also see that I went for the violent cover--in the first edition, I cropped out the hand holding the poor armadillo. I left it in this time because after thinking about it for five years, it seems like the violence of this image fits the book. (I've written about the LTAG cover before, here...).
Sometime in the fall you can all look forward to a complete new edition of the paperback, with, perhaps, a critical afterword of some sort....
Putting it together....
Look at me being all hard-working and diligent, getting my new book ready to send off to the publisher and taking blurry photographs to document my process....
The title of he new book is Professed, and it's a comic novel set at a large university in Austin. It will be published by Slough Press, and come out sometime or other--probably in the fall....
In the meantime, check out my other books. I've got an oeuvre going on.
In my Craft of Fiction class last week we were discussing the prescriptivism of textbooks in general, and of our textbook in particular, and what the implications of prescriptivism are for us as learners and writers. And I thought back to Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
What you’re supposed to do in most freshman-rhetoric courses is to read a little essay or short story, discuss how the writer has done certain little things to achieve certain little effects, and then have the students write an imitative little essay or short story to see if they can do the same little things. He tried this over and over again but it never jelled. The students seldom achieved anything, as a result of this calculated mimicry, that was remotely close to the model he’d given them. More often their writing got worse. It seemed as if every rule he honestly tried to discover with them was so full of exceptions and contradictions and qualifications and confusions that he wished he’d never come across the rule in the first place…A student would always ask how the rule would apply in a certain special circumstance. Phaedrus would then have the choice of trying to fake through a made-up explanation of how it worked, or follow the selfless route and say what he really thought. And what he really thought was that the rule was pasted on to work the writing was all done. It was post hoc, after the fact, instead of prior to the fact. And he became convinced that all the writers the students were supposed to mimic wrote without rules, putting down whatever sounded right, then going back to see if it sounded right, and changing it if it didn’t. There were some who apparently wrote with calculation, because that the way their product looked. But that seemed to him to be a very poor way to look. It had certain syrup, as Gertrude Stein once said, but it didn’t pour. But how’re you supposed to teach something that’s not premeditated? It was a seemingly impossible requirement. He just took the text and commented on it in an unpremeditated way and hoped the students would get something from that. It wasn’t satisfactory (156).
How do you avoid being a “stuck-up Eastern ass” and still be coherent? How do you “teach something that’s not premeditated?” I think we’ll be discussing this more as the course progresses….
From an essay I wrote:
"...even the dullest book I have ever been forced to read, Thomas C. Smith’s Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization: 1750-1920, was, in a distant way, about life."
I've held onto this sad book as an artifact of dullness or whatever, but I'm not holding onto to it any more.
It's not making the move to Kansas....
When, a way long time ago, I put together my dissertation reading list, I focused on the main area of writing that interested me: the relationship between the writer and his or her region. My list was in three parts: Theories of Place, where the relationship was explicitly discussed; Regional Literatures, where the relationship was performed; and 20th Century American Memoir and Travel Narrative, where the relationship is usually performed or discussed. Few of the books are about “Creative Writing” per se, at least as it is often taught and theorized, yet all of them combine to give a picture of what I think is important in writing.
Then, a few weeks ago, a couple of grad students asked me for recommendations on writings about creative writing. My dissertation list wasn't quite what they were looking for. So I had to give it some thought....For me, creative writing breaks down into four rather broad areas:
Where It Comes From: How place influences writing and the writer.
What It Means: a more traditional critical look at writing and the production of writing.
What Produces It: looking at the “creative” part of creative writing.
How It’s Done: Looking at craft, usually from the point of view of the writer
So, here are a few books toward a creative writing reading list:
Where It Comes From
Turchi, Peter. Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer
Taun, Yu-Fi. Space and Place
Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space
Lippard, Lucy. The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society.
Jackson, John Brinckerhoff. Discovering the Vernacular Landscape
Clay, Grady. Real Places
What It Means
Booth, Wayne. The Rhetoric of Fiction
Forster, E. M. Aspects of the Novel
Weing, Siegfried. The German Novella: Two Centuries of Criticism
McGurl, Mark. The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing
Lucaks, Georg. The Theory of the Novel and The Historical Novel
Wood, James. How Fiction Works
What Produces It
Pirsig, Robert. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Madsen, Patricia Ryan. Improv Wisdom
Richardson, Robert. First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process
Flaherty, Alice. The Midnight Disease
Pinker, Steven. The Stuff of Thought
Andreasen, Nancy. The Creative Brain: The Science of Genius
How it’s Done
Butler, Robert Olen. From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction
Addonizio, Kim. Ordinary Genius
O’Connor, Flannery. Mystery and Manners
Shelnut, Eve. The Writing Room
Hills, Rust. Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
Of course, this is just a list. Many, many other fine, interesting books could be on it. You could really read forever--and maybe you should.
Photo: "The End of the Road: 1964," from the Shorpy Photo Archives. http://www.shorpy.com/node/1003?size=_original