Let's Speak The Same Language

Monday, April 25, 2016


The odds have just increased "against" achieving my oft stated goal to get someone other than myself to publish a novel of mine before I kick the bucket. At age 78, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Early into his 80th year, it killed him. As he told me, sad regret in his voice, "I guess I got the aggressive kind." I'm 78 myself and on Monday April 18th, 2016, my primary doc felt a prostate nodule. Today, Monday April 25th, a urologist confirmed the lump on my prostate. He said, "I can always be wrong, but if I was a betting man, I'd say it's cancerous." After a stool sample is checked, I'm to go in for a biopsy. Going to be a lot of probing and sticking of things up my butt.

I don't understand all my emotions, but, driving away from the clinic, I was in some way energized by the thought of facing my own death. Don't know if inspiration will continue, but I've begun a book of poetry, called "Up Your Ass".  Here's the first poem in the series.


Your doctor feels something,
Then you feel something.
After that, you and the grim reaper
Exchange cell phone numbers.
While your insurance company
Stands by for consultation, you
Hear your digital Timex ticking.

I can't help wondering how much more interested an agent and book publisher might be if I tell them they're racing against time to get me into print and the fact that more than 250 people—maybe more once the news gets out—are following my anticipated death? Will they race against my prostate cancer to see who wins? Will I have the balls to include this new fact in all my query letters to agents? After my publication and death, will all my fellow writers mourn, "Damn, I wish I had prostate cancer."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Time as they say, whoever they are, flies, but I've never seen it fly nor, for that matter, have I seen a doggone dog. Still working away on my short fiction piece "The Acceptance of Jane". New things are happening to Jane and her friend during the rewrite, specially when he shoves Jane's wheelchair across the street while a drunken driver is.... 

Currently I'm alternating between the short stories of Henry James and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Library of America editions. The Fitzgerald volume is much more care worm than the volume of James's stories. You can imagine what an exercise in contrast those stories are in my imagination. I've never felt better about my writing than I have in the past month. I don't know how I got here, finally, at age 78, but my new attitude is "this is the way I write and how I see the world. If others don't like it, that's okay with me." I'm doing it my way.  

Made big mistake tonight. I sent off a query and sample of a novel to an agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. only to discover I'd already sent a query to another of their agents a month and a half ago. Sent immediate retraction of query. Ah, well ... shucks.

Friday, April 8, 2016


Currently rewriting  a short story I first put on paper—yes, lined paper and pen—sometime during Fall of 1964 through February 1966 while floundering as a teaching assistant on the campus of Southern Illinois University—The Acceptance of Jane. The first version is very simplistic, almost childish, written in an emotional burst of high energy, and I more or less set it aside for 50 years. Now I'm trying to give it some depth. It's original impetus was okay, but I tried to make an image carry the story and the narrator lacks sufficient depth. Of course, the narrator is an older man, looking back on a moment in his high school life. Such a narrative offers technical difficulties. How much does any adult narrator truly know about his past life, eh?

On a good note, I received an immediate rejection of a story I sent off last week, BUT the editor said the story was well done but too long for her magazine. Could I send a shorty piece of writing, she asked. You bet I could, and the turn around time was less than 24 hours. The magazine is located in Philadelphia, and I forgot to say, "Go Philanova". Basketball fans will recognize the reference. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I've got this 13000 word long story, Lit. Noir, in a style reminiscent of early Woody Allen. I like it, but the rewrite, the third rewrite this time thru, felt like a slog. Do all rewrites at my age feel this way, I wonder? I've never felt this way before. Rewrites were just part of the overall fun. Thirteen hundred words? Who'll publish anything that long anyhow? Serialized in 3 issues maybe?

Photo is inside the new Torque location. Lovely place to write, looking out at the river thru the long window on the left. 

My list of publications will soon increase by a single poem. First published in 1985 at Bellowing Ark, the poem "Willingness of Seeds" will be reprinted in the Perfume River Poetry Review from Tourane Poetry Press. Editor Vuong Quoc Vu got hold of the poem during a moment when I nearly was involved in a chain letter exchange of poetry with other poets, but after I sent one poem out to Vuong, I withdrew from the process. It's the same old story. To take time off for anything but writing, rewriting and, now, submitting my work, plus finding time to read every night [what about my wife besides], it was hard for me to select and pitch in 20 names of friends required to keep the process going. I did not know who Vuong was, but Vuong liked the poem a good deal, and I felt immediately humbled and appreciative of his comments. If you look on his websites, you'll find some powerful poetry about his mother and himself in Vietnam when the bullets were flying. Besides that event, several of my poems have been at Cutbank for a long while now. I'm imagining/hoping they're being looked at with some interest. Wouldn't that be nice? One of the poems is entitled, "With Hugo In Montana ".

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Find photo here!
Whazzup? Whazzup here is more of same. Rewriting short stories, sending a few of them out as I go along. I'm getting the idea that when a literary magazine editor says he or she wants something "different", I don't know what they mean because I can't read minds. Do they want something different from what is the current trend in MFA programs and literary magazines? Or are they receiving the sort of fiction writing that was around 30 or 40 years ago that was coming out of MFA programs, and they're tired of it? Unless I have that data, I have no idea what "different" means. Sometimes I'll send out something so different that I've never seen the style in any literary magazines. Nil acceptances of those, thank you. Literary styles can come and go and come back again. My current goal is to write something so entertaining that a lot of people enjoy reading it and lots of sales follow. I sure think my novel Ghoul World has entertainment value, even movie appeal. So far. No takers. Whadda they want?

Well, that "anonymous" novel I was reading and not responding to? I've grown to like it so I'll tell you it's Netherland by Joe O'Neill. It teaches lots about plotting. My wife, who reads more than I do probably won't like it. I told her the novel includes tons of information about the game of cricket, for example, even details about how to care for a cricket field to make the grass come out okay. Detail oriented novels leave her cold. She wants "raw gut" emotion. That's why she fell in love with me, she tells me. We talk about our raw gut emotions with one another. Goodness sakes, I'm happy!

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Not much to say, here. Today I finished one more rewrite of another short story, then did a complete rewrite of another very short story and came up with a better finish for a third story I'd already finished the rewrite on several days ago. 
See Hemingway influence here? Died age 55. Alcoholism.

What I wanted to say in this entry is something about an impression I have about a couple of published writers. I just finished Whistle by James Jones. Now I'm reading a book written by a writer whose name will not be mentioned. The second book won a Pen/Faulkner Award sometime within the last 15 years. That's a prestigious award offered by the top people in the world of MFA programs for one group. The award winning book is all you "expect" it to be. It's well researched and offers snapshots of many people in many fields of work and play, all of whom talk and act as if the writer knows about or has researched those fields. Phillip Roth, anyone? It's glib and polished and well constructed compared to Jones's novel. You can see that Jones put his poor damn passion in his book for better or worse while the award winning book reveals an easy handling of memorized tactics for writing an award winning book. And talk about a pile on of praise offered by magazines and newspapers? In short, the novel so far bores me. It's got no pizazz. No passion in it. Cooly intellectual, I'd say, and that's all I'm saying here. Detachment? Is that the modern mood? Of course, I haven't finished it yet. Who knows how I'll feel after I finish it? Just before Whistle, I  read Asleep by Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto [in translation] and it took me 2/3 of the book before I was dragged into an interest in it. I guess I sort of feel saddened by the fact that the passions of my youth for the men who fought WWII is no longer in style. We've all died and gone to heaven.

Monday, March 14, 2016


The 8th issue of FOURBYTWO is out from the hands of Klipschutz and Gaulke. If my scan of its contents seems askew, that's in honor of the skewedness of the layout of this particular issue and also of the "poems as in process" of  some the poems by James Schuyler (Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for The Morning of the Poem) included herein, plus the variety of the  typefaces for the various poems by Klipschutz, Rene Ricard (also, like Schuyler, deceased) and Schuyler. Of the three, only Klipschutz (latest, A Visit To The Ranch) is not deceased. The poetry as always is interesting and entertaining. Who could ask more of poetry than that?

As for myself, recently long lost in novel and short story and screenplay writing, poetry has fallen by the wayside, it's little vowels scattered and broken by the winds of fiction. All I have to report is that I'm plugging away at the short fictions I hope to imprison together into a book probably by the end of the year. Other stories are drifting into my imagination to be written for the first time. BUT, will I? At 78, I almost think I hear a gallop of creativity thundering over the far horizon, coming my way. Or, maybe, it's only the sound of my horse drawn hearse.