I'm back...

…Sorta. I’ve spent the last couple of months grappling with back problems, I-suck-as-a-writer syndrome (could the two possibly be related?), and finally – the pièce de résistance, the flu.

Glory be, boy-howdy, and hallelujah! Who woulda thunk that four days and nights lying in bed in a fever-induced hallucinatory stupor could be so wonderful?

First, my back spasms hit the road, at least for a while. Good riddance. Then, the six-foot tall chickens clucking around my fevered brain decided they belonged in my WIP. Once I was back on my feet, I had to agree with them.

So: I’m writing. I’m not in agony. Life is good.

I’m gonna take advantage of this lovely state of affairs and concentrate on my WIP rather than my blog for a while.

But before I go:

A couple of weeks pre-flu I went to hear Mark Richard speak at my local university. My bad, but I’d never heard of him before, even though he’s written several award-winning short story collections, a cult-favorite novel, and has just published his memoir, which is getting a fair amount of buzz.

He read from his memoir, House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer’s Journey Home, written in the second person. He used lots of repetition that initially I found pretty annoying. The repetition ultimately became mesmerizing, though, and I’d like to know how he did that. The segment he read involved his lying in a full-body cast in a Southern charity hospital somewhere as a child. Now, I’ve spent time lying in a full-body cast as well, but in a world-renowned Harvard-affiliated hospital and I can attest that it ain’t no picnic even under more ideal circumstances – as in, I wasn’t even on the look-out for roaches crawling into my cast.

You’ve been warned in case you decide to pick up his book. I get the feeling there’s a heavy dose of Southern grit running throughout both his memoir and his fiction.

During the Q&A, someone asked him about the genesis of one of his award-winning stories, which apparently was also filled with lots of repetition.

He said that he had an assignment (the story) due the next day and he had no idea what to write. It was 1 AM and he was panicked. He knew that if he sat down at the keyboard and just typed the same word over and over again, eventually something, anything would kick in and he’d have a phrase, a sentence, something – and then he’d be able to go on.

He was feeling lazy, so his word was “in”. So he just kept typing “in” until something else took over and his story, which went on to win some award, was born. Apocryphal? Who knows. It’s a good story, though.

Oh. He’s a writer.

Despite Richard’s relative critical success as a writer, he supports his wife and family by writing scripts for TV crime shows that he didn’t recommend that anyone in the audience waste their time watching. He mentioned – twice – the income and decent health insurance associated with these endeavors. One more anecdote to put in your don’t-quit-your-day-job-yet file.


Okay, me and the chickens have got us some work to do. I hope to have something worth sharing before too long. And you’ll see it here first.


14 comments to I’m back…

  • Oh boy, six-foot tall chickens top my hallucinatory dreams. I’m wondering now if your WIP is comedy or horror. 🙂

  • DS

    May the words be with you, or IN you, or coming out of you, or however you wish for that to go.

    I’ve only heard of Mark Richard through you, but if he writes with southern grit he sounds like a fit for my reading taste. Thanks for the tip.

    Chickens, eh?

    • Natasha

      Google his name and find some stuff to read online. You might like him.

      I dunno. He thinks Tom Waits is brilliant and so do I, if that means anything.

    • Still pondering six foot chickens…and wondering if they’re doing a line dance at the county fair…or will they appear in another story?
      Glad you are over the grunge and starting to write again.

      And DS – I miss you! Hope you are doing well. Visit me sometime!

      • Natasha

        This is a different story – or series of stories – that I started several years ago. It doesn’t really fit into any specific format – long story? maybe. novella? I don’t think so. novelette? Is there such a thing? I think it will be my first foray into using Smashwords, though, so stay tuned.

        (For some reason, I had to ‘approve’ your comment before it would post.)

  • I’m so glad life is good for you again. You had way more than your share of suffering lately.

    Best wishes to you as you tend to your WIP. I’ll be here whenever you decide to post to your blog.

  • As a big fan of stream of consciousness and “fast writing” techniques, I’m intrigued by Richard’s comments on the process for getting to his story under a deadline! Thanks for blogging about that.

    I’m glad you’re feeling better, it sounds like you really got slammed on the health front (including the “syndrome”). Those chickens sound terrifying, I’ll look forward to reading about how they manifest in fiction.

    • Natasha

      I know, I thought it was intriguing as well. I’ll try that repetition technique sometime when I’m stuck to see what happens.

      And as for the giant chickens, probably not so terrifying. More like Pinkwater’s Hoboken Chicken Emergency than Metamorphosis Revisited.

  • Chickens? I can’t wait to read that story.
    If I ever again in my life get another moment to myself I will google Mark Richard. At this point I’m hoping I get that moment before 2012.

    • Natasha

      What, working full-time, managing a passle of teen-agers, and trying to work on your own writing and you don’t have any time to yourself?? Sheesh. I hope you find a minute or two before 2012 as well…

      I think everyone is building the chickens into far more than they’re worth. Let’s see if I can beef – uh, I mean fowl, I guess – them up.

  • Glad you are back and feeling better. I just finished reading The Finkler Question a Booker Prize winner. I highly recommend it. Today I am off to a three hour yoga class. Oh, yes. I ordered an IPAD 2. Can’t wait to play with it.

    • Natasha

      Well, you’ll just have to come back down and bring your iPad and we can compare 1 and 2. The travel sites you gave us were really helpful on our last road trip.

      I’ll put Finkler on my ever-growing TBR list.

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