Monday, April 21, 2008


According to the Official Thomas Edison website, the inventor tested over 3,000 filaments before he found the right combination. That’s at least 3,000 failures, and yet he continued to press on. What a testament to the sheer determination and passion toward one goal.

Over the last few weeks, the gremlin of disbelief decided to pitch a tent in my writing backyard. The cause? I shared a short story with a writing friend, who gave it a thorough review and … ripped it apart. There was nothing wrong with his edits; they were spot-on and direct. And that’s what I wanted. If the intent is to submit a piece for publication, it is usually advantageous to make sure the writing doesn’t suck. “That was painful,” I wrote back. “But it was worth it.”

Shortly thereafter, the gremlin drove down his stakes, set up a fire and proceeded to brew a pot of bitter coffee. “You can’t do this,” he said. “You’re too old. You’re too far behind. You’ve got too many other responsibilities to devote the time needed to develop a writing career.” On and on, that little voice haunted my psyche, tormenting me.

But I refused to listen.

My writing has taken a long journey. I’ve read a lot, written much, and learned a ton by working with others. During this whole process, I’ve held fast—at times with white knuckles—to the belief that writing is my dream. Every day is consumed with it. I can’t even watch a movie without trying to envision how a certain scene would have been written on paper, or how the plot would have looked in between a pair of coverboards.

To combat the gremlin, I reminded myself about other writers. John Grisham reportedly spent hours before each day, before hanging the OPEN sign outside of his law office, grinding away on his first book. Stephen King actually threw away his initial work on Carrie, and it took his wife to resurrect it from the trash can. J.A. Konrath wrote nine novels (Nine!) before Whiskey Sour was picked up by Hyperion. There are countless writers, current and deceased, who slogged through some rough years, probably fighting some of the same gremlins. Why should I be any different?

So, what did I do after the review? I accepted it, told myself that it was a fair edit, and I went back to the desk. Since then, I’ve cranked out two short stories, and I’m working on a third (thanks to a challenge from my good friend, Greta). I’ve also continued to work away at the book, though the smaller pieces have admittedly taken some time away from the larger pursuit.

The passion to succeed is too strong to just give up. If Mr. Edison can find success after all of his failures, then so can I.

Friday, April 4, 2008


“Don’t name the emotion. Feel it.” -- Barbara Krasner (from her article, “Sketch your way to CHARACTER EMOTION”, in the March 2008 edition of The Writer)

* * *

Mitchell put the weight of himself behind the sand wedge. The graphite shaft cut through the air with an eerie whiiiip before the carbon steel head found its target with a satisfying thwack. The subtle vibration energized his arms, and he jerked the club loose, drew it back over his head for another blow. He felt a drop of splatter run down his cheek. Chips of bone peppered his shirt and neck, adhered with globs of gray matter.

Again and again, he swung the Callaway X-Tour. The practice sessions in the back yard now over, this time it was for real. Each stroke captured and symbolized every single infraction upon Mitchell and the family. This one is for cheating on mom. Remember the time you beat me until I was left hobbling from my room? The time you cursed me in public after I struck out at the bottom of the ninth. On and on. When he added them all together, the sum of Mitchell’s grievances against his father totaled up to one big DIS- in their dysfunctional family.

His strength spent, his arms feeling like rotted-out tree stumps, Mitchell staggered back, slumped against his parent’s dresser, and took in the full view. Blood splatter arced across the ceiling, sprayed out against the headboard. His dad’s face, once chiseled with sharp lines, now looked like a melon after it had been dropped from a two-story window.

He snickered, his shoulders convulsing up and down. His heart jumped inside his chest, its pulse pounding the inside of his ears.

Mitchell raised his right arm, wiped his forhead. His shirtsleave came away smeared with sweat and the aftermath of his brutality.

So, tell me something, dad, he thought. How about them Yankees?

* * *

Note for my readers: I don’t know where this one came from. It probably surfaced from that dark place in the back of my mind, where the door is fastened shut with a rusted-out padlock.

The point is, as Barbara Krasner explored in her article, writers are wasting their time (and their reader’s) by simplifying emotions into trite little phrases like, "He was angry." That doesn’t cut it. As a writer you need to put the who, what, where, when and why into the emotions for your readers to connect. I hope I did that with the little piece above. Even if it did gross any of you out.

Have a great weekend. :-)