A writer I truly admire and one who I’ve been social media pals with for quite some time, Evan Kingston, invited me to take part in the #mywritingprocess long-form hashtag war in the blogosphere.
I actually finally got to meet Evan and poet, scholar, Versus Literary Journal founder, and TMNT aficionado Jenny McDougal. Evan and Jenny were recently married and they make a fine, intelligent, and hilarious couple. What a joy it was. I met them after the publication reading of Oppegaard’s AND THE HILLS OPENED UP, and I was a little amped up after the reading. I was in the middle of coordinating about five disparate groups that joined us at Grumpy’s, but when I sat, I sat with them and was immediately at ease. We dorked out for–heck, it was a coupla hours–about the things you think you only care about, and you would think this would be about writing, but it was about everything but writing. Which made it better.
Like minds. They’re everywhere.
For folks unfamiliar with Evan’s current project:
Over the past year he’s been releasing a metafictional erotic thriller / comedic murder mystery / romantic slasher called SLASH. It’s friggin’ where it’s at. It’s being released serially. The first five episodes are up on Amazon, but I demand you buy the hand-crafted version through the Etsy site. If you appreciate craftsmanship and care, get the zine. It’s well worth it. There are a lot more details at the Slash site.
1. What am I working on?
Right now, I got a couple of irons in the fire. On the publishing side, I’m line-editing T. A. Wardrope’s ARCADIAN GATES. And this is how you know you’re onto something truly special: When you’ve read it once and enjoyed the H out of it, and then you read it again, and you enjoy it more. I’m at that stage. This book is going to knock people’s socks off. Wardrope is an obsessive world-builder and he’s constructed one of the most trippy yet believable dystopian futures I’ve read in a long, long time. There are mind-altering drugs, zombie-like addicts, double-crossing politicos, downtrodden heroes. The scope of the work is just amazing. We’re hoping to get it out this summer.
On my writing side, I’m revising a few short stories. I’ve had this baseball piece that won’t go away and one I want to submit to a few of the places that have special baseball issues, like the Earl Weaver Baseball Writing Prize over at Cobalt, but I’m not real keen on paying prize fees, so once it’s shored up I’m shooting for next year’s baseball issue over at Hobart. That’d be the real goal. I got another story that’s rural 1880s or so, set by the Mississippi. Coupla of criminals on the bad end of the law. I want to revisit that and hopefully get it somewhere pulpy and druggy and westerny. Another piece that won’t leave me alone is the last Sad Boy in the Country story I wrote. I’ve never submitted it, but I’ve been reworking it for about three years.
I also, maybe–I dunno–started a longer story. It’s either going to be a novel or it’s going to be tens of thousands of words I throw in a dumpster. Right now I like the characters, I got a loose plot outline, and I’m letting the two main protagonists run the show. Feels good and free, so we’ll see. It’s a dark crime work set in modern-day Seoul, South Korea, where I lived for nearly three years. A couple of Wayguks (foreigners) work for a Hogwan (English academy) that’s a front for some petty criminal activity. The entire operation gets in too deep and very bad things start to happen Old Boy-style. I credit the works of Anthony Neil Smith, Jedidiah Ayres, Jason Stuart, Heath Lowarance, David James Keaton and basically the entire catalogue of Broken River to push me in this direction. I hope it works out. Tough to say right now.
Actually Jed’s work FIERCE BITCHES has been super inspiring. I encourage you all to get it. If you crack it open on a Saturday morning, you won’t even need to make a pot of coffee. The thing’s a mule kick to the jaw.
Finally, I’m still trying to figure a way to get my novel MokuMan out in the world. Blastgun may put it out this year, but it is under consideration at a few places who have been putting out works I really respect, so it’d be cool to get in with another band of writers who’ve been doing similar things with Kaiju fiction.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I honestly have no idea. I haven’t really been sticking with a genre. I usually start from character and if the character is in a world that could use some genre tropes, then I take those into consideration and let the story play out. Sometimes the characters hit the trope, sometimes they subvert it. It all depends.
3. Why do I write what I write?
Man, this again. The honest answer is that I have no idea. Sometimes I don’t want to write and I do. Sometimes I really want to write, but I can’t. I’ve got no control over this thing yet, but I’m not sure control is what we should shoot for. The art side is not something to be shackled by craft. On the other hand craft is needed to make sense of the art. I err to the loosey goosey side of this business because I find that more exciting.
4. How does your writing process work?
Again, I’m not sure it works at all, to be honest. And it’s different for every project. When I’m not working on something, I hate it and I’m irritable and the world looks a little off. When I am writing, I feel like I got things sorted for a little while. What I do to sit in the chair to actually write is something I haven’t really pinned down. I don’t have a specific chair. I don’t listen to music. I don’t have a certain time of day. I sometimes email myself passages. I sometimes write them on that notes thing on my iPhone. Usually, though, I’m on my laptop. I’ve stopped going to coffee shops. A lot of times I’m in an uncomfortable chair and thinking that I should probably be in bed or I shouldn’t’ve spent so much time playing video games because I’m approaching it all too unsettled. I used to write through my lunch hour. I sometimes get to work early to write. I sometimes stay late. Google docs and the Internet, believe it or not, have been these great aids to my process because I don’t have to carry my story around with me. It’s in the cloud. I like that. When I revise, I revise on paper and then I carry it with me. I revise a lot.
It’s always been a surprise when I get a project done. I hardly remember how it happened or where I was when a particular passage was created. I’ve stopped giving myself bullshit deadlines. That has helped. A piece will be done when it’s done. None of this is a race.
Now to continue the long-form hashtag war:
The first writer I picked was Shannon Schenck. She was also present for the publication launch reading of HILLS and she, once again, braved the evening with a number of overly-excited man-children as we talked the night away about Transformers, GI Joes, and Ninja Turtles. Shannon has been part of the Hamline writer community as long as I can remember and she is simply one of the most delightful people to hang out with. Always quick with a laugh and rolling right along with everybody. She is the Martin Zellar of short stories, having written a collection about an ice arena. Read her work, listen to the Zamboni song, get acquainted with a sub-culture of a Northern sub-culture, which will show that through specificity universal truths come known. Her blog is Nodding & Smiling: http://shannonschenck.tumblr.com/.
Bio: Shannon Schenck received her MFA from Hamline University in 2006, where she wrote mostly fiction and poetry. Her master’s thesis was a collection of short stories and a novella which all take place in ice arenas, which is why she is sometimes referred to as “the one who writes about Zambonis.” Since graduation, she has participated in a number of literary readings around the Twin Cities and also completed her MA in Adlerian Psychotherapy and Counseling in December of 2013 from Adler Graduate School.
And the other writer I picked is one who really needs no introduction to this site as he’s been referenced already in a number of posts (including this one) and featured in another. T.A. Wardrope agreed to let us into his world of dystopia and horror to see what kind of twisted mind dreams it all up. Of course, if you were to meet Todd, you’d find he’s one of the nicest, most patient, and softest-spoken writers ever, with that quiet sort of intelligence. When he speaks, we all listen. His blog is the Tulgey Maze: http://toddwardrope.blogspot.com.
Bio: T.A. Wardrope is the author of “Arcadian Gates”, a science-fiction novel which is the debut release from Blastgun Books. He thinks of himself as a “weird” or slipstream writer, as his work often bends reality toward the dark, but also tries to remain tethered, with a healthy distance, to the mothership. When he is not writing fiction of the long and short varieties, he considers film, music and books for such sites as Hellnotes, TC Daily Planet, Disinfo, L’Etoile and his own blog The Tulgey Maze.
His lizard named Anguirus has started laying eggs, so if you need any of those, he can hook you up.