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Archive for November, 2007

If a Tree Falls…..

If a blog is posted on the web and nobody reads it, does it matter? I have been mulling this question for awhile. Writing a blog is a bit of a paradox. It satisfies the writing urge, but you never really know…

Blogs provide a temporary therapeutic outlet for writers. If you have the urge to write and a correspondent need to GET IT OUT THERE, hitting the PUBLISH button is immensely, albeit only momentarily, satisfying. There! You think to yourself, I have PUBLISHED my blog post! The operative word in that statement is PUBLISH.

Moby Dick serves as the ultimate writer’s metaphor. Once you make the decision to put stuff down on paper (or into Microsoft Word) you can’t deny you have the urge to publish something, ANYTHING! But, like Ahab in Moby Dick, you ride alone on the vast ocean of the written word, hoping to spear a periodical that will accept the submission you sent six months ago. It isn’t easy, however. They dare you to write enough stories to BE ABLE to publish something. You have to have a stable of stories because, for the most part you can’t send your story to any other periodical because they don’t accept simultaneous submissions.

Let’s say you have written five really good, polished, finished stories. This means you can only send it to five publications. Each publication takes a minimum of three months, usually six to reject you. Can you see where I am going here? You will be 86 before you can make the rounds of a modest list of publications. Your heirs will receive your final rejection notice or if you are really lucky, they will receive 10 complementary copies of the publication and the honor of telling everyone their dead mother’s short story will be published in the next issue.

You begin to develop a criminal mind. Yes, criminal. You say to yourself, “How will they know this is a simultaneous submission? What are the chances of all ten literary magazines accepting this story?” And so, you defy the carefully bolded submission guideline, that looks and sounds sinister “No Simultaneous Submissions….” You begin to dissemble…deceitfulness enters your writing habit.

Blogging is like being a shopaholic. You receive a momentary rush when you boldly PUBLISH what you have written. It feels like buying a new chatzka for the house. It comes perfectly packaged; the bag the shop owner places it in is crisp and new. Once you return home with your darling purchase you take the item out of the bag, which you carefully save as a reminder of the chatzka shop. You flit about the house, placing the chatzka here and there, you step back, you admire it, you feel a rush of contentment and tell yourself it is enough. Like Yahweh on the seventh day, you can rest. You have enough and you don’t need to ever buy another thing.

And then a week goes by and then a month. The rush is gone. Something is missing inside, you need something fun to happen , you are low, maybe you burned your oatmeal that morning or had to pump gas and the nozzle dribbled on your best pair of shoes so you smell like gas all day. What can you do? SHOP!!! Yes! You tell yourself “I’ll just look around, that’s all!” And the whole cycle starts over again.

Blogging is like that. Only instead of shopping, you write something. You bold the parts you want to emphasize, you lean back and make sure it looks fine on the screen, you move bits around with the mouse, you cut and paste. Finally, like Goldilocks, it looks JUUUUUSTTTT RIGGGHHHHTTT and you PUBLISH it. I just love that part, the PUBLISH part….can you tell?

But then, time goes by. You have a bad day. What to do? Write! Yes! Write something, work on that short story that has been rejected, add a creep or a big hearted prostitute! That will get their attention! That will make them want to accept your simultaneous submission, besides, since you added the creep and the prostitute, it isn’t simultaneous anymore! What if you change the first sentence! Make it “pop” as they say.

But you end up doodling around because you just don’t like to write creeps and prostitutes and you decide instead to comment on the immediate present, Maybe you have read something somewhere that makes you feel crazy like some wacky judge who just released a serial sex offender. You type a few hundred lovely words! You turn it into a blog post, you hit the publish button… You feel as if you have accomplished something…

But, if you publish a blog on the web and nobody reads it, does it exist?

Google philosophy! Google has all the answers. It is the giant chatzka emporium to the world. It has an immediate answer for every burning question. You click the best looking link and it makes you feel better because you find a long list of “ISM’s.” You are browsing in the ultimate chatzka store and you end up buying into the ism that puts everything in perspective:

MODEL REALISM -a philosophy propounded by David Lewis, that possible worlds are as real as the actual world.

So the answer is, if you publish a blog on the web and no one reads it, it doesn’t matter because it’s your own little possible world!

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Last night I had the most delicious experience. I listened as someone read to me out loud. Well, to me and a room of 75 other people, but it felt extremely intimate and I was completely bowled over.

I had the privilege of being invited to a book launch. (It is so cool to be able to write that.)

“What did you do last night, Dody?”
“Oh, I just attended Quinn Dalton’s book launch, that’s all…”

But – That’s NOT all. It was more than just a venue for a special author to share her newest collection of stories. It was like discovering the joy of reading all over again. It was like homemade vanilla custard being poured over dessert. It was like chocolate melting in your mouth. It was like inhaling a bunch of freshly cut lilacs. It was smooth and sultry and inviting.

Can you tell I haven’t had any new experiences lately? In this harsh, old, jaded world we live in it is hard to actually experience something new; something from the virginal perspective. But last night felt just like that.

Quinn Dalton is a terrific writer. I have had the pleasure and the honor of taking a writing class with her in the role of instructor, mentor, and guide. She happens to be a terrific teacher. But writing is her passion and her new collection of stories, Stories From the After Life,” is pure Quinn; full of unvarnished characters with big hearts and quirky thoughts and imperceptible Mona Lisa smiles. Quinn’s stories have a rhythm like smooth jazz and last night she lived up to that description.

Reading her story titled “Jimmy the Brain and the Beautiful Aideen,” while the group Dawn Chorus coolly jammed in the background, Quinn showed the room full of admirers just how you fold one art form into another. The four musicians seemed to sense exactly what was necessary to provide a seamless musical backdrop for Quinn’s story about the beautiful yet wise older woman, infatuated young man and the awkward social misfit.

I can’t help thinking how unfortunate it is that more people don’t choose to experience the joys of the short story. There was a time when you could find them in every magazine. Yet, as the numbers of readers in America dwindle; so too are the opportunities for talented short story writers becoming harder to find. Trust me. H-A-R-D.

But last night was a latte kind of night. It left me with just enough froth on my mind to savor the experience hours after I returned home. It invigorated the writer inside of me and gave me hope. It also gave me something new to dream, that maybe someday I can read one of my stories out loud to the strains of perfectly pitched music. Like seeing live theatre, last night showed me just how provocative the art of short stories can be. Thanks Quinn, for an exhilarating experience. http://www.quinndalton.com/

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