Courtney’s first published work is very fittingly “Blood, Ink, and Soul” in Quail Bell Magazine, a lovely essay on why she writes. I love it and I’m so proud of her. Courtney and I have been friends since we were five and six respectively, and she is one of the most creative people I know. One of the reasons I’m writing a novel is because she wrote her novel a few years before I started my MFA and encouraged me so much that I just had to believe her. Keep an eye out for her in the future– she’s in the editing phase right now and it’s a very cool dark fantasy tale set in Romania. She’s also a gorgeous and unique visual artist and just started an internship as a substance abuse counselor. This girl doesn’t mess around.
“I write to learn the language of lost galleons, to understand the blueblack sadness of girls made of wood.”
I’m lucky enough to be at Florida State University with Jonathan and I can assure you that he’s as wonderful a person as he is a writer. Keep an eye out for his novel-in-progress.
Now get. in. this. car. because there are some seriously wonderful writers in this gorgeous new literary journal, including Olivia Wolfgang-Smith with “Driving Directions to the Illegal Owl Prowl”, Lauren Fusilier with A selection from Stay: a novel, Steve Lapinsky with “Potholes” and many others! Read it http://issuu.com/blacktoppassages/docs/blacktop_passages_issue_one digitally and/or order the hard copy. Either way, it’s a good thing.
Image from http://www.blacktoppassages.com/
Founded in early 2013, Blacktop Passages is a literary review dedicated to the open road. Whether by interstate or local road, by car or by foot, we seeks to publish the finest work about kickin’ the dust up and hittin’ the trail.
Blacktop Passages wants to serve as a home for stories inspired by that feeling of speeding down a long stretch of highway, powerful poemsbrought on by the hum of tires on pavement, and lucid meditations on everything from the U.S. Interstate System to that one little truck stop off I-10. We’re a safe-haven for the stories of transition that are often overshadowed by the destination. We’re a journal of the road, for the road–a magazine for every lonely traveler who’s ever needed a break from the reality of one mile after another, for all the quiet passengers looking for an escape from the journey, or a celebration of it.
As long as it’s a great piece and it’s about the road, Blacktop Passages is happy to have your work in our pages. All we want is thoughtful writing, full of the feeling, conflict, and desire that radiates from the being on the road.
Check out http://www.blacktoppassages.com/ for more about the journal, editors, and the submission guidelines (because you should submit).
Whatever kind of writer you are, learning about writing from “the white hot center” and considering “yearning” will give you food for thought. Robert Olen Butler talks with Professor Jarvis Slacks of Montgomery College about his writing process.
Here’s an over-simplified working method for writing a la Butler:
First, kill your ego.
Second, be patient because you’ll write a lot of terrible things at first. That’s cool.
Third, meditate, trance, dreamstorm yourself out of your brain.
Fourth, write every day straight into the white hot center (where yearning lives).
Bob Butler is my adviser at Florida State University where I’m working on my MFA and my first novel, tentatively titled Zenith, and holy hell, thank goodness for that because I have no idea what I’m doing. He has helped me tremendously in workshops and as a thesis chair. His book, edited by Janet Burroway, From Where you Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction explores these approaches in detail.
“To be an artist means never to avert your eyes.” –Akira Kurosawa
Sometimes research is practical: where is my train? how do I find myself on the map of Montparnasse? How do I say, do you sell comfort shoe-inserts for my 16-year-old combat boots? in French? These things I learned, except the last one. Instead I discovered how many pharmacies are in a 2 km radius from the hotel (Answer: 6).
It’s been nice to map things out for a change: I’m not nearly as organized
as most put-together tweens as I’d like to be. Len and I fell in love circling each other for a few weeks, then circling Italy, then Croatia, too giddy to concentrate on maps, too polite to make an actual suggestion. Circling is fun, let’s not kid ourselves. Who hasn’t gone an extra time around a roundabout at least once? Metaphorically or otherwise. Yet now, seven years later, I’m learning the joys of having a plan. Maybe it’s because I (finally) made myself full outline my novel during the Cambridge Writers Workshop writing and yoga retreat in Verderonne, France for the past two weeks. Such relief! Such clarity! Circling the novel became exhausting and much less inspiring, but saying what, when, where, and how was so powerful, like architecture and alchemy together. And sure, Len and I circled and it was whimsical and romantic, but then I locked that down with paperwork and wedding rings in a Roanoke, VA courthouse. So, plans are nice, too. Balance, right?
For instance, to research Romani culture in France between 1920 and circa 1952, I will go here:
Centre des études Tsiganes
Médiathèque Fnasat-Gens du voyage-Etudes Tsiganes
59 rue de l’Ourcq
01 40 35 12 17
and I will be very happy. I am already.This novel takes up about 70% of my brain. Sometimes that’s agonizing (I will admit this), but lately, especially when I’m in a community of writers like my MFA program, or the Writing and Yoga retreat that I just adored and finished, the novel-brain phenomenon is delightful and fulfilling .
So, some sample plans: to learn more about jazz, I could to go Le Petite Journal, and for Romani/Manouche jazz I could check out these gems compiled by Jane Parry of Paris Voice. I will go to catacombs and odd museums, cafes and gardens, I will try to catch some burlesque culture, I will go to Spoken Word Paris to met the wonderful expat writers and listen to their wonderful word-magics, and maybe read something myself. I will probably deviate from my raw-vegan lifestyle and eat a crepe. For research. The point is, I have about 6 maps of Paris, I understand the metro system, I found my comfy inserts, and I’ve had these combat boots since I was 11. I’ve got a plan.