Hi, all you GRAND Magazine subscribers who followed the magazine link to my blog site! I share this blog with my writing friends. So, to read my Qs and As about my Granddad fables, please scroll down to the March 24th blog entry below. Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed my fables. Post a comment! I’d love to hear from you. – David.
I am happy to announce that my book review of Circling the Sun by Paula McClain is on page 7 and my article on rhino poaching appears on pages 19 and 20.
I just attended the monthly meeting of the California Writer’s Club, Mount Diablo Branch. Tamim Ansary spoke about why we write. I’ve been writing ever since I learned how. Short autobiographies from 3rd grade, papers for school (I returned to college in my 20’s and again in my 40’s just so I could write), letters, reports, stories, articles. I even wrote a book.
Thinking while writing is a lubricant for the mind. And the best part is the “limitless-ness” of writing. It provides a perfect route for self-expression, whether that’s opinion, imagination, historical, etc. It’s free and it can be done any time of the day or night. All it takes is a little time. Tamim writes six hours per day. That’s a high bar for me. I’m happy if I write for an hour or two.
Now that I’ve finished a book, I find I haven’t finished it at all. The initial creation is done, but now I’m in the editing phase. Then there’s the rewrite and re-edit. That’s the reality of writing…for those who want to write for money. I write for the love of it. Even when I write in my journal, it makes me feel like I accomplished something. I also enjoy the company of other writers, and have become close comrades with my Writers on the Journey.
I write because it enriches my life in a quiet way. For me, that’s the reality of writing.
Bloggers Note: Heather Mackey will be speaking on the topic of Where Ideas Come From at the May 14th 2016 meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club. The meeting will be at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. Cost is $25 members and $30 for guests. Paypal and credit card requires additional fees. Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm. Reservations required. RSVP to Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from Dreamwood?
Dreamwood is the story of Lucy, a young girl who ventures into a haunted forest to save her father—an expert in the supernatural who’s gone missing. Along the way Lucy has to solve puzzles, question her own beliefs, and learn to work together with people she might otherwise discount. I filled it with things I love: ghosts, spooky landscapes, American history and folk tales, odd and forgotten scientific theories, and stubborn, brave children who make terrible mistakes but still somehow manage to set things right. I set it in the Pacific Northwest, because I was inspired by the old-growth redwood forests of Northern California. But it’s a Pacific Northwest of a strange, alternate past.
- Tell us about your muse, Bell.
When I get stuck (which is often), I do all kinds of rather goofy visualization exercises to get unstuck. A while back, I was having trouble figuring out a plot element. I knew the answer was in my subconscious, but no matter how hard I thought about it, I couldn’t get it. I wished I had a mental agent who could go into that subconscious muck and pull out what I needed. So I imagined my own personal muse. The name Bell came to me, along with her appearance (kind of a steampunk superhero). I made her as real as I possibly could, and I have complete confidence that when I ask her to solve something for me, she’ll go do it. Right now, I’m working on my new book. Whenever I doubt myself, I picture Bell in some fantastical setting, and I imagine her sitting down and reading this book I’m writing. I see her pick it up, look at the cover, and turn the pages where the story is already written. So I know I can write this. And if there’s something about the story I don’t know, I ask her to find it for me. Maybe it sounds a bit woo-woo, but I have to say, having her around removes a lot of the stress and anxiety that can get in the way of writing.
3. List five of your all time favorite books.
It’s really hard for me to pick a list of just five books. But here are five that I’ve loved fiercely and find myself returning to again and again.
- The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust
- The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler
- The Golden Compass (Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman
- Regeneration, by Pat Barker
4. Describe your path to publication.
How far back should I start? I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I worked for a while as a journalist, I went to graduate school to get an M.F.A. in creative writing, and at various points I’ve tried my hand at short stories, essay writing, screenwriting, and so on. I started writing Dreamwood without consciously thinking of publication. Then a friend told me about SCBWI—the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I went to one of their conferences and submitted the first ten pages of my manuscript for a critique. The editor who read it was interested in seeing the whole thing and then made an offer. After this seemingly overnight success I worked for nearly seven years to revise the manuscript. It was in rough shape when I sold it, and I didn’t really know how to write for children. So I rewrote it laboriously while holding down a job and being a mom. Halfway through the process my editor got laid off . Luckily, my publishing house gave me a fabulous new editor. But she zeroed in on weaknesses in the manuscript that I’d been avoiding, and she forced me to work on the story in a way I hadn’t before. Three more years passed until it finally came out in 2014. It’s been quite a long journey, but I learned a tremendous amount along the way.
5. What is your best advice for an aspiring novelist? If different, what would your advice be for a teen or pre-teen writer?
There are so many things I wish I’d know when I first started writing. But I think the piece of advice that would have made the biggest difference is about rejection. At some point, when you try to write for publication, you’re going to get rejected. I took rejection really hard, and let it get to me. What I realize now after years and years of writing is that everyone suffers through some form of rejection. You can experience rejection from external gatekeepers (agents, editors, and publishers) or you can reject yourself when you write a draft and get upset when it doesn’t come out the way you thought of it in your head. Either way, you can’t give up. Just keep writing, keep submitting your work, and keep getting feedback. The people I know who are published writers are the people who have kept going. Really, we should call it “training” instead of rejection.
6. Why did you select fantasy as your genre?
I loved fantasy as a kid, and I gobbled up books like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. As a parent, I see how my children have loved fantasy series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Fantasy is often called escapist, but I think it’s very useful in illuminating aspects of the real world that can be difficult to tackle head-on in fiction. The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim famously argued in his book The Uses of Enchantment that fairy tales provide an invaluable way for children to come to terms with difficult emotions and navigate their inner lives. Of course, it’s also fun to think of cool things and invent stuff—that part of writing fantasy is pure pleasure!
- What is a free-range reader?
I call myself a free-range reader because I roam far afield in my reading habits. I’ll read adult literary fiction, mysteries, fantasy, nonfiction, history, natural history, biography, and, of course, middle grade and young adult because those are the genres I’m writing in. I consciously try to read books that get me out of my usual reading habits and I try to support diversity in publishing by buying and reading books from authors with diverse backgrounds. In late 2013, a study came out showing that reading literature increased empathy—I can think of no better reason to read widely.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Heather Mackey. To learn more visit her website: heathermackey.com, her books can be found on IndieBound, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. She is also on Twitter at @heathermackey.
- Can you give us some highlights from the stories that you’ve written about grandparenting?
I’ve written 14 stories or chapters now of my Modern Day Fables about the Natural World, with a working title of “Granddad’s Place”. The first chapter, entitled “The Acorn” was published recently by GRAND online magazine in their March/April edition which was released on March 9th: http://www.grandmagazine.com/. This is special for me because GRAND magazine reaches out to over 200,000 subscribers, most of whom are grandparents like me.
My hope is that a large proportion of subscribers read my stories to their grandchildren if they are of what I call the “peri-reading” age, or between the ages of 3 and 6. And in turn, I hope their grandchildren read the stories back to their grandparents when they are able. Each story is set in a framework of an interaction or adventure between a granddad and his new grandson exploring the natural world. The fable hides somewhere in the middle of the story and is intended to teach the grandson a lesson about how the natural world works.
So, you see that the stories are not really about “grandparenting”, but rather about the special relationship one granddad has with his grandson, and also about the laws of nature and man’s role in protecting the natural world.
- What is the one experience in the natural world that you think every child should experience?
Well, my favorite is for kids – in a fascinating and controlled environment – to experience the miracle of birth and the renewal of generations of life. As a kid, I was impressed by our family dog giving birth to four fabulous, healthy puppies, and unfortunately one that was not strong enough to make it. I learned a lot from that experience as a 10-year old about the cycle of life.
These miracle-of-birth (and death) experiences are often removed from the sanitized childhood of modern children. The birth and rapid growth of a litter of kittens or the hatching of a chick from an egg. Birth and death and regeneration go on all about us and kids these days just don’t get a chance to experience firsthand this miracle of life.
3. What is the one thing that you hope your grandson will remember about you.
My grandson recently visited. One morning, he threw his arms around my neck and said, “I love you, Granddad. You’re the best granddad in the world.” I still don’t know what I did to deserve that. But the pure unconditional love of an 8-year old is precious and it makes my life feel complete.
Twice each year, near my grandson’s birthday and near Christmas, I present and read to him a new story. These stories use his (and his family’s) real names. Afterward, I revise them into a new chapter for my anthology of modern day fables. The stories are essentially chronicling my grandson’s childhood, not all of it of course, but some of the parts of which I am involved. The times I hope he remembers when he grows up are these tender and special moments when he and his family, his “Oma”, and me gather together to listen to me read him a new story. And the hugs that follow. He won’t be a little boy much longer and so you need to cherish those moments.
4. Describe a perfect playdate.
Well, the perfect play date must occur at Granddad’s Place, our home in the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay hills. We are surrounded by nature here, and there is plenty to explore.
A vivid recollection is when we went on a hunt for beneficial snakes – I have never found a dangerous one around here. I thought I had found a gopher snake rustling around in some brush, as they are very common here. It turned out to be just a fence lizard. But my grandson got very excited anyway, and ran around saying, “Snofer nakes, Snofer nakes!” He was just 4-years old at the time and his mispronunciation was charming. I laughed, and the experience ended up as one of my stories. I’d say that day had all the elements for a good adventure: mystery, excitement, discovery, a bit of drama, and pure kid fun.
5. What is the best piece of advice you have for maintaining a long distance relationship with a grandchild?
Take advantage of the long distance communication technologies available today to bring your grandkids into your own living room no matter where they live. Its free and it works! A Skype or Apple Facetime session is a great way to stay in visual as well as audio touch across the miles. My daughter recently let us know that she has accepted a position that requires my grandson’s family to move to Atlanta from their current home in Austin, Texas. But Atlanta is just as close via Skype as Austin is to us. So, the miles really don’t matter as much anymore as they once did. Then, make the most of the few days a year that you are physically together with your grandkids. Everyone benefits.
6. Describe your grandparenting experience in one word?
I CAN’T describe the grandparentling experience in one word! Who can? There are so many facets that we both enjoy. The unconditional love, the little adventures exploring nature, watching an infant grow into a toddler, an inquisitive 5-year old, a chatty and charming 8-year old, an intense teenager, and finally a well-rounded adult. I was fortunate to experience those stages with my kids, and at every turn I see similarities in my grandkid. It truly is a circle-of-life experience to be a grandparent.
7. If you could be any superhero in your grandson’s eyes, what would it be?
My grandson is really into skeletons and zombies right now, but those are NOT what I would want to be seen as! My kids were into Dexter’s Laboratory and Inspector Gadget, and my grandson sees himself as an entrepreneur and engineer when he grows up. So, I guess I would have to choose Tony Stark and his Iron Man invention, although he is a bit dark and conflicted for my taste!
8. What do you think your generation can do better to make the earth a better place for their grandchildren?
Oh, that’s easy! Step up to be an advocate for nature and nature’s creatures. It’s their home, too. But they don’t have a voice of their own, can’t represent themselves in a court of law, or argue their case in front of a board of directors. We and the organizations that we support can.
The 21st century will be a turning point – one way or the other – toward a sustainable coexistence between our grandchildren and nature, or toward a world devastated by the impact of centuries of man’s heavy-handed plundering of nature’s wealth. The goals of sustainability are achievable, but they require much work and dedication from all of us to ensure that the world our grandchildren’s grandchildren inherit is a world that is sustainable and still full of natural wonder.
I hope you’ve about David George. To learn more visit his Facebook Page at: facebook.com/david.george.3958914. David is the current statewide President of the California Writers Club.
Bloggers Note: Come hear Roy speak on Word Selection for Writers.Sign-in starts at 11:15am. Luncheon 12 – 12:45 pm. Speaker 1- 2 pm at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant: 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. $25 members, $30 guests Reservation required – deadline: noon, Wednesday, Feb. 10th. To reserve, contact Robin at email@example.com, leave a message at 925-933-9670, or sign up via PayPal: click “buy now” on the Mt. Diablo website, http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/next-program/. Add $2 transaction fee.
1). In one paragraph, can you give us an overview of Buyer’s Remorse?
Buyer’s Remorse is a celebration of the small, the overlooked, the underrated. Doggedly anti-lofty, reveling in the This-Worldly, the poems deal with the themes of the body, of mathematics and rationality, adolescence and middle-age, love and fear and death. The tone ranges from the irreverent to the wistful—the spritz of seltzer in the face of the Creature from the Black Lagoon to the lover standing in one sock. Drawing on sources from The Three Stooges to Archimedes, Lavoisier to Tweety Bird, the book represents a nail in the tire of post-modernity, a pea shooter smuggled into the High Church of Poetry. Be ready to duck.
Here’s an assortment of lines and the poems they come from:
- I wanted to be 1932 (“The Untouchables”)
- Sometimes I envy my bed (“Desire for Retirement”)
- Come, spritz of seltzer in the face (“Love of Slapstick”)
- I pity women / with their purses / like canyons (“Wallet”)
- Its raison d’etre is being a slob (“The Blob”)
- Dear Marcel, (“Letter to My Penis”)
- babushka babussshka ba-busssssh-ka (“The Plagiarizer of Words”)
2). Describe your most memorable moment as a poet.
I’m always suspicious of superlatives, but certainly one of my more pleasurable memories is of the
the book launch for Buyer’s Remorse at Book Passage in Corte Madera. I had sent out “Save-the-Dates” six months prior to the launch, and later covered the waterfront with e-vites. The turnout was spectacular, 90 or 100 people, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years. Some close friends joined in, reading poems of mine they’d chosen. It was one of those evenings when everything clicks, topped by a standing O and clamor for an encore. Definitely a peak (if narcissistic) moment.
3). What authors have most influenced your writing?
Pablo Neruda, especially his Odas Fundamentales (Odes to Simple Things), made a big impression early on. It gave me permission to explore subjects that are decidedly un-profound, that undermine the quasi-religious tone that pervades so much poetry, and that causes readers and audiences to tighten their shoulders and hold their breaths, as though in the presence of the holy. In my work this comes out in poems such as “Pinkie,” “Glasses,” and “Wallet”—not to mention “Letter to My Penis.”
Other writers who have affected, or rather infected, my work include Ted Kooser, Stephen Dunn, Billy Collins, Linda Pastan, Lisel Mueller, Steve Kowit, and Cole Porter. The list is far from exhaustive. What they have in common (for me) is a certain unpretentiousness combined with language play.
4). What tools do you use when you are wordsmithing?
I start every journal reserving a few pages for words. It is a kind of jam jar where I keep words I pick up like pebbles on a seashore. When I’m reading, or even listening to people talk, I’ll sometimes fixate on a word, and save it for my collection. Often the words are idiosyncratic, but they can also be ordinary. Here are some examples culled from my current journal: wrestle, Cyrillic, guidepost, guff, amputated, compliant, stipend, hock, connive, negligee, scaffold, muggy, pumpernickel. I go to my word pages when I’m stuck on a poem, or sometimes as a way of starting a new poem. Just mixing the words often sparks ideas by mere juxtaposition
Another tool is what I call “word-riffing”. Starting with an arbitrary multisyllabic word, I spurt out as quickly as I can, words that have similar sounds, not worrying about order or length, or anything really. Here’s an example from my current journal that riffs on “astonishment”:
stone stem shant shin meant mesh mash gush shun shimmy massage punishment garnish tarnish Amish luscious eyelash nightmarish mansion extradition friction trash mustached goulash scripture
Then I go back over the list and see if anything tickles my interest. For instance, in the above list, just now I’m enjoying the phrase “luscious eyelash,” the feel of the sh sounds like liquid in the mouth, the slightly oxymoronic quality of an eyelash and its associated quality of delicateness as contrasted with the Rubenesque connotations of “luscious”.
5). Who is your idol?
Jimmy Carter. Not for his poetry, but his life.
6). What is the most off-the-wall metaphor you have ever composed?
Again, I shy away from superlatives, but here’s a candidate from my love poem to gangsterism, “The Untouchables”:
- I wanted to be the filed-off serial number,
- the East River,
- Winchell’s voiceover—staccato,
- like a typewriter got caught in his throat.
Strictly speaking, the typewriter line is a simile rather than a metaphor, but the image continues to tickle me. I’m not generally a fan of “frivolous surrealism” of the a-winter-wonderland-of-green-hellos type, but I love surrealism that is tethered to the world in such a way that it manages to be both wacky and accurate.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Roy Mash. To learn more visit his website: www.roymash.com, or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Buyer’s Remorse directly from his website, or order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powells.