ROW80 Check-in 3/7

Buckling down on the Padgett Powell post. Working that test mile again and again. And walking, still walking. Onward and upward with all things.


ROW80 Check-in 3/5

Work is picking up on my protest story. I recently unearthed some notes and an article, from my days as an intrepid college newspaper reporter, on the protest march I attended and I think they'll provide some good material for the fictionalization of that event. I also found some actual newspaper coverage of the protest rally which will give some factual bulk to it as well.

Still walking, though, we haven't, as yet, increased our speed or time, that'll probably come about the warmer it gets.

How are y'all?


ROW80 Check-in 2/26: It's not too late.

I learned some sad news over the weekend, the writer William Gay, of Hohenwald, TN, died Thursday at the age of 68. Here are a couple of articles about him and his recent passing:



I read Gay's collection I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down a few years ago and enjoyed the stories very much especially the title story which was made into a movie filmed around here in East Tennessee. That Evening Sun was also Dixie Carter's last film roll, a film she did with her husband Hal Holbrook.

I admired Gay not just because of how well he told a story but also because of his age when he started publishing, which was 55 in 1998. See, the older I get the more I feel that the "right" age for being a published writer is behind me and growing more distant every year. But when I read about, (and read), writers like Gay and Walker Percy and Helen Dewitt and Daniel Orozco, I see that getting older doesn't mean that my time has passed, in fact I see now that I'm at a much better age to really begin my writing career. I'm more mature, I'm more focused, I think I know better the stories I want to tell. In other words, because of writers like Gay, et al, I know that it's not too late to start. I've got a lot of years ahead of me. So, that's what I've been thinking about lately.

As for what I've been up to since Wednesday: I'm still hitting the test mile when I can and when I don't I don't self-flagellate. I'm still working on my protest story, my library book and am finishing up two posts for the blog. Soon, my walking buddy and I are going to start increasing our speed. How's your week starting out?


ROW80 Check-in 2/22

Writing when I can, often at work on lunch break, not kicking myself when I don't. Working on several different things at different times. Will hopefully finish something. That's big on my to do list. I can start lots of things just not very good at finishing them.

Still walking.


ROW80 Check-in 2/15

Well, I'm keepin' on keepin' on and am writing at least 250 wpd, (today's was just over 400 words). Still haven't figured out how many laps I walk; we're too busy yakking at each other to count. Reading more Padgett Powell. How y'all doin'?


ROW80 Check-in 2/13

I was talking to a writer friend of mine today--and might I add that I'm lucky as hell at counting a few professional writers as friends--and the subjects of priorities and goals came up, namely because I brought them up. I was feeling stuck: I had stalled on my new goal--writing 250 words a day--by not writing 250 words a day and in my mind doubling the number I had to write everyday to make up for it. So, in other words, by today I needed to write 1,250 words in order to make up for the days missed. (This, incidentally, is why NaNoWriMo doesn't work for me. Miss one day and boom! you're in the crapper.) I pile this on me until the weight of it makes it impossible to want to write anything, which causes me to get even further behind, ad infinitum. Thus the stuck.

So my friend tells me not to worry about it. Tells me not to fret over missing a day's writing, just do it tomorrow and not exponentially at that, just write tomorrow what you would have written today or something else entirely, be it 250 or 100 words or even a couple of sentences. The point being not to let missing a day or two throw you and your writing, because, as I quoted earlier: "Life is what happens to you/While you're busy making other plans." This is what makes ROW80 so unique, also, it allows you to adjust for that. I feel lucky that this challenge is around, too.

With all that in mind, I wrote 260 words today during lunch. Which doesn't count this post, either. To quote another lyricist: "I got to say it was a good day."

Best of luck to you all!



ROW80 Check-in 2/8

Reporting from the front lines of the war on literacy, I've finished Padgett Powell's latest and a post will be forth coming. I worked some more on The Book, (half a page of ranting that I hope I can turn into something more useful later on). And I've determined that we walk about two and a half miles daily. As Stan Lee says: Excelsior!

I, personally, prefer bubble wrap.

Oh, and per Kait's posts of 1/2 and today's, I'm setting myself a test mile: 250 words, that's a page by most standards and I can do that...I almost said "easy," but I can do that once a day.

Best of luck to my fellow ROWers!


ROW 80 Check-in 2/6

I'm still plugging away at my reading goals, not as much with my writing ones, unfortunately. Now, one thing I've noticed on a lot of people's blogs, and something that seems inherent in ROW80's function, that of having a life outside of writing, is non-writing goals for this 80 day period. Along with the writing, I've seen weight-loss goals, exercise goals, organizational goals, etc. So, I sorta have one of those, too. Though it did not start with this latest round--'bout a week or so later, in fact--it is something I've been able to stick to during this time. And that would be walking for an hour each morning.

I get up at 6 each day and head down to a nearby track and me and a buddy of mine walk and talk and drink our home-brewed coffee for an hour each day. Save for that one week I was sick, we've been doing it now for almost a month.

This is not something I do. Exercise, that is. I, like many of you out there probably, have a treadmill, (you may have a similar exercise-type device in your home), that makes for a terrific coat rack/catch-all. I've used it sparingly over the past dozen years. What I'm trying to say is, I don't exercise with any regularity.

Why now? Because I have someone to do it with. Someone who counts on me to do it as much as I count on him to be there in the morning when I drive up to his door. As Butters Stotch would say: I have an accountabilabuddy. Much like some of you all have one through ROW80 to help cheer you on with your writing goals.

So, why aren't my wife and I doing this? My wife will exercise her way and I'll exercise mine. She's not much of a morning person and I'm becoming more so the more I do this.

Now, as far as writing goes, I'm almost done with Padgett Powell's latest and I'm going to write about it and him very soon. I'm still in the note-taking/research phase of my Waldropian, (I'll talk more about Mr. Waldrop very soon, too), Will Rogers story and I'm starting a story about me as a 20-year-old protester, sorta. Off to the races!


ROW80 Check-in 1/29

Well, it's been a helluva couple of weeks: the wife and I swapped head colds and I lost two relatives, (uncle and cousin). I'm sincerely tired of sickness and death. I've given some thought to this writing life and art in general and will share those thoughts soon. I've also been reading Padgett Powell's latest and I'll talk more about him later as well. But, for now, I'm ready to get back in the saddle and back on task. Hope things have been going well for my fellow ROWers. Talk to you soon.


ROW80 Check-in 1/20

"Life is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans." 
--John Lennon

"It's been so long now, but it seems now
It was only yesterday
Ain't it funny how time slips away."
--Willie Nelson

See you Sunday.


ROW80 Check-in 1/15

Just posted my list of books read in 2011.

Started reading Will Rogers autobiography.

Still working on the First Line story.

Happy Sunday to everyone!

Books Read in 2011

1.    Ray by Barry Hannah
2.    Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
3.    B is for Beer by Tom Robbins
4.    The Mulching of America by Harry Crews
5.    The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy
6.    Lightning Bug by Donald Harington
7.    The Widow and the Tree by Sonny Brewer
8.    The Heart Never Fits Its Wanting by Lee K. Abbott
9.    Hell at the Breech by Tom Franklin
10.  All We Need of Hell by Harry Crews
11.  Edisto by Padgett Powell
12.  Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
13.  Spooner by Pete Dexter
14.  The Flash: Rebirth by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver
15.  Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson
16.  Twilight by William Gay
17.  Dreams of Distant Lives by Lee K. Abbott
18.  Gringos by Charles Portis
19.  Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
20.  A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
21.  The Knockout Artist by Harry Crews
22.  Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
23.  The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams
24.  How to Write Science Fiction by Paul Di Filippo
25.  The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams
26.  When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger
27.  Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
28.  A Fire in the Sun by George Alec Effinger
29.  All Star Superman Vol.1 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quietly
30.  All Star Superman Vol.2 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quietly
31.  The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
32.  The Exile Kiss by George Alec Effinger
33.  Feet on the Street (abridged) by Roy Blount Jr.
34.  Fuddles by Frans Vischer
35.  When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach
36.  The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
37.  The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
38.  Red by Warren Ellis & Cully Hamner
39.  Budayeen Nights by George Alec Effinger
40.  God, No! by Penn Jillette
41.  The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick
42.  Ubik by Philip K. Dick
43.  The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg
44.  Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
45.  Dirty Work by Larry Brown
46.  Under the Wheat by Rick DeMarinis

These are the books I read in 2011. Just like Buckaroo Banzai, I went in many directions at once: a little non-fiction (essays and memoir), a little fiction (novels and short story collections), some graphic novels (which include trade paperback collections of issues) and a couple of children's books. I listened to some of these on audio which counts as reading in my book.

Of these books I'd have to say my favorites of the year were The Family Fang, Catch-22, Ubik, When Gravity Fails, Lightning Bug, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Ray, Gringos and Dirty Work. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed all of the books I read, if I didn't I wouldn't have finished them--that's not strictly true, now that I think of it, I wasn't too fond of Twilight, but I liked Gay's short story collection I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down. I wanted to like this novel, and perhaps it bears a re-reading, but the ending was wrapped up too neatly for my taste.

I have to confess to knowing the author of The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson. I first met Kevin back in '09 when his short story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, came out. He was giving a reading at the late, lamented Carpe Librum and the collection sounded like my kind of book, quirky, funny and especially weird. Weird is good, let no one kid you about that.

I read that book in a week, which isn’t something I do very often anymore, and went to meet the author. Suffice it to say, we hit it off. Kevin is a really nice guy and one talented writer. I urge everyone to pick up Tunneling and The Family Fang. They’re very good books and worthy of all the praise they’ve been given. And look for him online, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, on the right side of his blog is a list of his recent publications many of which are online. Kevin’s one to watch. I think he just gets better and better.

All right, enough sucking up.

I don't re-read very much anymore, either, for the simple fact that I have waaay too many books. More than I might possibly ever read...nah, I'm gonna live forever, so no worries. But I did manage to re-read one of my favorites a couple of times. That book, Breakfast of Champions, is the Vonnegut book for me. It took my (literary) virginity, it is my longest lasting love and it still does not disappoint after all this time. I had the added pleasure of hearing it read by Stanley Tucci, who gave a stellar performance. 

Well, enough of this blathering, I've got books to read!


ROW 80 Check-in 1/11

So here we are once more.

Still working on my Books Read in 2011 blog post.

Still reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

And something new, I'm working on a story for First Line Journal, deadline for which is Feb. 1. It's a fun exercise.

See you all Sunday!


ROW80 Check-in 1/9

Ah yes, a day late and a...well, you know the rest.

Anyway, I published my first non ROW80 blog post of the year. And that's about all I've done on my goals thus far. Where does the time go?

I'm not going to whinge--I love the British and how they don't let go of their old words, don't you?--about how hard writing is or how hard making time to write is. It is all that and so very much more, but if it weren't then it really wouldn't be worth doing, let alone blogging about or joining a group like ROW80 or getting up in the morning and so on.

So, as Mort Sahl used to say: anyway...onward.

My First 50-Year-Old Book for 2012

As I mentioned in a previous ROW80 blog post, one of my goals this year is to read books that were published 50 years ago this year, in other words books published in 1962. I’m doing this because I inadvertently read a 50-year-old book last year, Catch-22, not realizing that it was, in fact, its fiftieth anniversary. Upon reading many articles and blog posts celebrating this fact, I came across a post that mentioned that not only Catch but Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer turned fifty in 2011. Now, I’m a big fan of ol’ Walker and had never gotten around to Moviegoer, so this was the perfect excuse to rectify that oversight.

Then I got to wondering what other books turned 50 in 2011, this list helped me out a great deal, I couldn’t believe that not only Catch, but Thunderball, Borges’ Ficciones, Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and The Stainless Steel Rat, (a book I adored as a teen), were all turning 50 in 2011. Sadly I soon realized that the year was coming to an end rather quickly and that I’d never get to these other books before it did--I am the Deliberate (read: slow) Reader, after all. So, maybe I could read books published in 1962 during 2012 instead. Another list got me going with some old favorites and some I’ve wanted to read, but never got around to like A Clockwork Orange.

And by happenstance, one of the first books I’ve started for this year is turning 50: Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I’m a big fan of Jackson’s. I’ve always loved “The Lottery” and “One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts” and The Haunting of Hill House, but because I’m a reading magpie I’ve never gotten around to much more. Then I was having a conversation with a friend about books and she mentioned that she’d just finished Castle and made it sound like vintage Jackson, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m halfway through and it’s as good as I hoped it would be, thanks Diana! I’ll discuss it further once I’m done.

Though Castle is the first 50-year-old I’ve started this year, it’s not the first I’ve finished. That honor would belong to Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day.

I’m not averse to reading children’s books. After all, that’s where I began my path to a lifetime, so far, of reading. (I’ll never forget you Barney Beagle!) I was even tempted to read The Phantom Tollbooth last year because of its fiftieth birthday, but “time is fleeting/madness takes its toll,” etc.

So, when I saw this post on Metafilter, I thought I’d look up Snowy Day and give it a try. (Some reading this may not know that I work in a public library and thereby have access to just about everything). It’s a charming picture book about a little boy experiencing the first snow of the year. I was fascinated at the fact of it being one the first picture books to show a non-caricatured black main character...in 1962. That certainly was ground-breaking for its time. This article will tell you more about Keats and Snowy Day, as well.

The Snowy Day is not only the first 50-year-old book I’ve finished this year, but the first book also. My next post, hopefully, will be about the books I read in 2011 with a few of my scattered and smothered thoughts about them.


ROW80 Check-in 1/4

Aw, bloody hell, it's Wednesday already??!! I ain't done nuthin'.

Well, I did add to my goals, but these are more for the year then just this round, though they fall within my Round 1 goals also:

Read more of the books I own and buy less. (I own a lot of books, I mean, a lllllot). I'll post a picture some time.
Read 50-year-old books, i.e., books published in 1962. (This stems from having read Catch-22 and The Moviegoer last year, both their 50th year since publication - a fact I was unaware of when I started Catch, but discovered later about Moviegoer).

There'll be more on Sunday, no, really, there will--with progress, too.


Round 1 Goals

Hello to my fellow ROWers!! Here we go again! This time I'm actually going to start at the beginning.
These are my goals for this round:

  1. Make a new blog post once a week, (not counting the ROW80 check-ins). 
  2. Continue work on my book.
  3. Research my Waldrop story, (Will Rogers and Wiley Post in Shangri-La).
  4. Read and work with DeMarinis' "The Art and Craft of the Short Story."
Wish me luck and good luck to us all!