Ever since I can remember, my dad's been doing woodworking projects. When I was a kid, this meant plywood cabinets and funky co-karts, but now he produces awesome beds and tables, bookshelves and cabinets, all in hard wood and hand-planed to perfection. For his birthday (OK for two birthdays) I helped him start to document his projects. Well, now he's got a website! Check it out - www.davidpbiddle.com.
Lately I've been feeling rather uninspired by staring at a blank computer screen. More than that, I've been feeling unsatisfied by words and craving substance - things that speak with texture and form.
I suppose that's what you call art.
I spoke to an old friend about this - someone I grew up with, produced backyard plays and bubble machines with, and who is now working towards her Masters degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It turned out that she, too, was breaking out of her usual medium, and had written a beautiful piece that explained some of the abstract art she had been creating over the last few semesters.
So when I visited Grace in Chicago we collaborated - she gave me her words and had me write them across her body. Photography was a medium I fell in love with in high school but essentially gave up after after losing access to a darkroom, so I was extremely excited to photograph the result using a top-notch digital camera (and knowing that I had a top-notch digital editor).
Grace DuVal is a lifelong friend and inspiration. If I told you she makes amazing things, you wouldn't begin to understand. So don't try to understand. Go see for yourself.
Despite my love of words, I fear it is impossible to truly capture life at sea. I could explain the sounds: the rumbling engine, the rattling needleguns, the puff of blowholes. I could explain the smells: the turpentine, the sewage, the fresh-cooked dinner. I could explain the sights: the blue horizon, the ominous skies, the sunsets, the stars. I could explain the feel: the vibration of the engine, the rocking of the ship. I could explain the people: the excitement of new crew, the confidence of old-timers.
Hell, I could document every second I’ve spent at sea, but it wouldn’t do any good.
Because to understand life at sea, you have to feel time stop while the world keeps turning. You have to write home and pray for responses. You have to juggle boredom with panic and excitement. You have to call the dock of a foreign port 'home.' You have to gaze at the horizon while you breathe salt air and diesel fumes. You have to become part of the living, breathing organism that sustains you, tortures you and satisfies you, all the while holding you prisoner…
In order to understand life at sea, you have to live it.
Originally posted on Underground Book Reviews.
The Writing Process Blog Hop is an author-run series, in which indie authors share a bit about their writing process, then pass the buck to the next guy. I’m following Katie French, one of my very first writing partners and a co-founder of Underground Book Reviews.
What am I working on?
I just took a class at Grub Street- a Boston-based writing collective that I would highly recommend to anyone in the area. I now have 8 or so short stories to clean up and shop around, and I'm thinking about turning one of them into a full-length novel. I just can't decide between post-apocalyptic zombie dystopian, or a bank robber on the run. Maybe I'll figure out a way to combine them.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I've been told that the dialogue and character development is what makes my writing interesting and unique. I love a perfectly imperfect character, and I never let my characters conform to stereotype. I hate the concept of "good and evil" so when I write a story, the "bad guys" will have redeeming traits and the "good guys" will have flaws. I also have a crazy imagination. As I create characters and twist plots together, my goal is to surprise my readers, to take them outside their comfort zone, and to keep them guessing. My favorite thing to hear about my writing is anything starting with, "I didn't expect..."
Why do I write what I do?
I guess it all comes down to inspiration. Books were a huge part of growing up for me - I didn't have television so I spent my childhood playing in the woods and reading. My love of books was first fueled by Patricia C. Wrede's young adult series, called The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Even today, I love how the main characters defy their storybook stereotypes (starting with a beautiful princess who hates pretty dresses and etiquette). As I got older, I was captivated by more serious books: To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, The Stranger, Lord of the Flies. I love a story that ends on an imperfect note. I am also enamored with Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk and Christopher Moore, and much of my writing is inspired by their ability light, fast writing, and their ability to combine humor with catastrophe.
How does my writing process work?
I write best when I have a beginning and an end in mind. Even when I'm writing a short story, I can't start until I have a vision of the last scene. I don't need much, just a direction to push my characters towards, and something that I know I will be satisfied with. I had a very clear destination with The Atheist's Prayer, and although the book changed drastically from when I first wrote it to when it was published, the overall character arcs stayed the same.
Following me next week on the #mywritingprocess tour are:
Lynne Hinkey, a hilarious author and writer. Her newest novel, Ye Gods: a Tale of Dogs and Demons, is about the mythical Chupacabra.
R. A White, a talented fantasy writer. So far, she has written two books in The Kergulen Series, which follows an escaped slave girl named Rima as she confronts issues of race and culture... while battling dragons.
Unfortunately, us humans have this tendency to forget that other humans are, well, humans, as soon as we have a degree of separation. You wouldn't yell, "Hey, asshole, pay attention!" to your elderly neighbor if he bumped into you on the way to get the mail... but you just might let it slip when some other old man accidentally cuts you off in traffic. If that's what happens when we put some windows and doors between us, you can imagine that it can get pretty ugly when there's a screen and thousands of miles of distance between us.
Over the last few weeks, I have spent an embarrassing amount of time on Amazon browsing reviews. Here's what happens: I go to my Amazon page and check my reviews. Nothing new. Then I wonder how my indie author acquaintances are doing. I check out one of their books. I think, "Wow, I hope I get that many reviews some day." Then I think, "Who the hell gave them a one star review? That book was awesome!" Then I read the one star review. Then my stomach turns and I desperately think of ways to get my book out of cyberspace before anyone decides to do that to me.
I'll admit, as a book reviewer I have written my share of negative reviews. I believe I even wrote an unapologetic, scathing review once. But after corresponding with countless indie authors, I have learned to give a disclaimer stating any personal bias I might carry (we all have a bias), and also to balance my reviews with an honest compliment. And you know what? You can almost always find an honest compliment. It's actually quite easy.
If you can't find an honest compliment, and you feel the need to give a one star review, that's completely acceptable. All I ask is you remember that authors are people too. As a general courtesy, don't put anything in a review that you wouldn't tell them in person. Personal jabs like, "Don't quit your day job" and, "this author is CRAZY!!!" are hurtful and unnecessary.
Now I know why Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven.
(I feel like I should apologize for that tasteless comment.)
Sorry, my point is this: Readers, don't forget that us authors are people too. And authors, when you get those negative reviews, remember that art is subjective and us humans are inconsiderate. Don't take it personally.
As for me, I'm bracing myself for the one-star reviews. I think I'll feel better once it's over. The waiting is the worst part.
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