Posts Tagged ‘Clarion West’

Snoopy thanks for not sending 1

The biggest challenge for me when returning to my regular life following a vacation that includes my family is food. I just spent a week ingesting 22,000 calories per day, including anything that swims and whatever comes out of an ice cream scoop. Basically, someone stepped on my foot, I opened my mouth, they shoveled food in. But today I ate streamlined meals that included a number of vegetables. What’s up with that?

I rallied despite these hardships. I impressed everyone at a job interview, including me; helped put our household back together; and spent another hour in the Write-a-thon, working my way through everything I scribbled last week. I remember this now. This is the easy part: Typing up my notes, editing as I go along, making changes in previous chapters that occurred to me on the plane. It’s as if someone else did all that work and all I have to do now is supervise. But I’ll finish with the last page of hand-written work in a day or two. Then it’s back to the blank page on the screen and just my imagination, which, hopefully, will run away with me.

Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice. (Octavia Butler)

Random Pick of the Day
The Who, The Who Sings My Generation (1965)
They certainly sang “My Generation” as well as “A Legal Matter,” but those might not be the best songs on their raucous debut – “The Good’s Gone” and “The Ox” are still rock at its finest (and messiest).

Random Pan of the Day
The Who, Live At Leeds (1970)
I love this album! If Led Zeppelin had tried this they would’ve gotten a concussion. But what I love is the original six-song release. Here’s what I’m panning: The 14-song version of 1995 (“The Big One”), the 33-song version of 2001 (“The Deluxe”), and the four-CD, 55-song version of 2010 (“The 40th Anniversary Collectors’ Edition That Makes The Big One Look Like a Weenie”), which includes 32 songs from a concert in Hull. No offense to anyone living in Hull, but as I understand it, that’s not Leeds.

The expanded editions give you about three days’ worth of new music, but also what feels like years of stage banter that’s almost indecipherable and adds nothing to the experience even when you can decipher it. Pete is out of breath from all that windmilling? Roger thinks something is funny? Was that Keith who just hacked up a hairball? Would you please just fucking play?

The producers picked out the best songs 40 years ago: “Young Man Blues,” “Substitute,” “Summertime Blues,” “Shakin’ All Over” (my favorite), “My Generation,” and “Magic Bus.” I don’t know about you, but they are all that I need.

Parnassus 072013

This is the Cape Cod bookstore where I discovered Lord of the Rings in 1970. I was 15 and all I was trying to do was go for a walk to escape the chaos in our vacation cabin. You never know when or where books are going to strike.


Finally found a boat I could afford
Finally found a boat I can afford!

I’m back from Cape Cod with plans to build either a lighthouse or a windmill in the backyard. We had a wonderful, though emotional, trip, with many indelible moments; for example, the store on the New Bedford waterfront that advertised the four basic food groups of Massachusetts: SNACKS TOBACCO LOTTERY COFFEE. (It was closed.)

How can we not cherish the memories of the bored teenager, the adoring grade-schooler, the parents who can only talk about their cat, and the three hours it took us to drive the 50 miles the hell off Cape Cod? Bliss! Will we ever forget the T-shirt that proclaimed “What happens at the Eastham Turnip Festival stays at the Eastham Turnip Festival” or the bumper sticker at the approach to the Sagamore bridge that said “Never forget Chicken Man”? Sure we will.

Favorite meal of the week: The Reuben Flounder at the Yardarm in Orleans.

Favorite ice cream experience: Poit’s Lighthouse Mini Golf. The ice cream was OK. It was the experience of eating it on a hot, humid night in front of a mini golf course where vacationers have been dodging the mini lighthouses for 60 years that wins the prize.

I could rhapsodize further. But first, my novel.

In our last, very exciting episode, I had discovered that continuing the Write-a-thon while also coping with my family was impossible. I had to fight to hold on to every brain cell. The only writing I did was three hours on the plane to Boston and three hours on the plane back to Portland, but those were six productive hours. Today was our first full day back in the non-vacation world, and when I wasn’t emptying sand out of suitcases and restocking the fridge, I plowed into the pages of dialog, stage directions, character studies, and miscellaneous notes I brought back.

Plus I finished Chapter 6. That last one easily counterbalances the 300-motorcycle parade that stopped us cold in Barnstable on Saturday while we were still trying to escape Cape Cod. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

In life the firmest friend/The first to welcome, foremost to defend
We returned to an empty house. This was the first time since 1992 that we weren’t greeted at the door by happy barking. The silence was louder than the loudest bark. I kept going by keeping going, ticking off chores one after the other.

A dog. Got to get one.

Box score
– I’ve written 23 days out of 29
– 29.5 total hours
– Word count: Got lost in all this unpacking. Next week.
– This was my first post on the Write-a-thon

My sponsors (all hail):
– Karen G. Anderson
– Laurel Sercombe
– Mitch Katz (he and Liz celebrated their 16th anniversary yesterday)

Thanks for waiting for me!

Random Pick of the Day
Peter Rauhofer, Club 69 Future Mix: The Collected Remixes of Peter Rauhofer (1998)
Herr Rauhofer, who died in May, grew up in Vienna and became a pioneering New York dj. Club 69 Future Mix pulls together many of the remixes he did for new wave and R&B acts of the ’80s and ’90s. At this distance, the only names that still resonate are Depeche Mode (“It’s No Good”) and Falco (“Der Kommissar”). The CD falters in the final tracks, but if you like house, try this one. I especially like it because I found it for a quarter at a yard sale this morning.

Random Pan of the Day
Traffic, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (1971)
In the early ’70s the title track seemed like the essence of cool. Now I’ve heard it surpassed many times by jazz players. Also, now I understand that it’s a rant against their record company, like The Clash’s “Complete Control” and The Sex Pistols’ “E.M.I.” If I’m going to listen to someone complain, that someone is going to be me. OK, this 11-minute slo-mo monster still has power, particularly when played at 2am, but the rest of this disc doesn’t. The prog-rock is dull. “Rainmaker” sounds like Yes needs a nap. The only Traffic song I still seek out is the title track from their debut, Mr. Fantasy (1967).

I may have underestimated the emotional and physical impact of being with my aging parents and the newest Bielers, the niece (14), the nephew (11), and the cat (1). I wrote nothing yesterday, Day 21, though we did put on a birthday party for the cat.

Thus ends the first half of the Write-a-thon. The second half began today. Despite a family that never stops talking when everyone else is talking, or asking the same question 17 times, or the work in keeping my wife sane, and a semi-rural countryside where every street, widow’s walk, and stone wall remind me of something from when I was a kid and spent my off-hours throwing stones at the Redcoats, and the humidity that’s so thick it’s like wearing another person — despite all of that, I wrote four paragraphs.

This is going to be tougher than I thought.

Miscellaneous notes:
Best Western drapes a sash over the foot of every bed. It looks exactly like something a Vulcan would wear to a Star Fleet awards banquet.

A decommissioned aircraft carrier docked in Newport, the USS Saratoga, is waiting to be scrapped. In the meantime, it’s been colonized by peregrine falcons, barn owls, and great horned owls. These predators enjoy killing pigeons, ducks, and each other. The Providence Journal (“ProJo”) ran an awesome photo today of a peregrine falcon winging its way toward the carrier’s flight deck.

We packed everyone into two cars and drove to the art gallery in New Bedford where my Dad’s rope had been used in a sculpture honoring the New Bedford waterfront. I had seen it online, and it was impressive there, but in person it was a real knockout. The artists had posted a photo of Dad and an excerpt from my blog. We both felt honored.

In 1979 my Dad gave a box of tools each to my brother and me. My brother never claimed his. I’ve been using mine all these years. We wanted to give these tools to my nephew, so today I hauled my brother’s toolbox out of the basement and into the back yard where we could air out the dead-walrus stench from decades of mold. We had to throw away all the packaging and some of the more porous tools. When we spread the survivors out on the picnic table, I felt as if I’d traveled back to 1979. There was my hammer without a single scratch or dent. I’d forgotten that it had a black stripe on the head. There were my screwdrivers with no paint flecks on the handles or corrosion on the blades. The nephew was ecstatic, my sister less so. Sorry, sis, I’m the fun uncle. Logistics are your problem!

Today as I wrote I used a word I’ve never used before: runnel (“A narrow channel or course, as for water”). I was inspired by the humidity.

Somerset Creamery still has some of the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten!

Hit those keys 1

Greetings, literature fans. Tomorrow I embark on my annual tour of the Great Cities of the East (Providence through Provincetown). My challenge will be finding an hour to write amid a daily whirlwind of Bielers. Tomorrow will be easy – I’ll be stuck on a plane.

I’m throwing myself a curve, though. I’m going to do all my writing with a pen on real paper. Why am I kicking it old skool? Have I listened to so much Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young lately that I feel compelled to get back to the land and set my soul free? Hell no, that’s not why I go:

1) I want to see if I still remember how to do this.
2) With a computer, I can keep returning to previous chapters and tinker with them. Revision is instant and effortless. I’m hoping that paper will force me to move forward. (I’m glad Steve Jobs is not around to read that last sentence.)
3) I just bought some great notebooks* and colored pens at this place and I’m itching to use them. (Hat tip to Loyal Reader Tilda who motivated me to get over there.)
4) I love my laptop, but it’s a senior laptop now. It’s put on weight and the battery doesn’t recharge.

I’ll have a computer in the lobby in our first motel but not in our second. I’ll try to post while I can. Expect nothing from Tuesday through Saturday. You’ll just have to take my word for it that I kept the Write-a-thon going. (Another hour today.) Thanks, everyone, for following along and for all your comments. You’ve kept my morale sky-high!

* Special D when I brought them home: “What good are notebooks?”


Anna Glassman 1 Key West 1960
Anna Bieler Glassman on her honeymoon in Key West, Florida, 1960

My Aunt Anna died today. She was born in 1919, the first of eight children, including my Dad. I think of Dad and his siblings as the Pioneer Generation – the first Bielers born in the United States.

Anna was a few weeks short of 95. She’d lived most of her life in Manhattan and loved every minute of it.

Anna was probably my biggest fan. Her late husband, Jerry, had been a playwright, and she was thrilled that I was a writer, too. Twice when I was in high school I spent a summer week with them in their book-packed apartment near Columbia University. Anna took me to bookstores, museums, and to the top of the Empire State Building. Jerry, who had been wrestling with writer’s block for years, talked to me about writers and writing. It was heady stuff for a kid from a nowhere town in rural Massachusetts.

For years, Anna asked me if I was writing and told me how she hoped to see my name on a book someday. When I went to New York in 2006 to give the toast at my cousin Philip’s wedding, she asked me again. I told her I had an idea for a novel and that this time it didn’t seem like the kind of idea that rides back into the ocean on the next tide. She said, “I want to live long enough to read it.” She didn’t, for which I am sorry.

The best I can do now is finish what I’ve started and write something good. “What I want is for a work of art to move me on as many levels as possible – I want it to split my sides, blow my mind, and break my heart.” (James Hannaham)

I had 16 aunts and uncles in 1967 when the last of them married, and I’m happy to say I knew them all. Here it is almost half a century later and I still have nine. How lucky is that?

Kind of a mixed up writing day here in the Write-a-thon, but as mixed up as it was it still added up to an hour.

Diet cookbook 1

When I was in junior high, I started reading The Writer, which surely must stand as one of the worst-designed magazines of its day. It was filled with advice on writing, mostly, as I recall, from second-string novelists and science fiction and mystery writers. There were even a number of writers who made some kind of living from writing Westerns, which were still kicking around. Point of view was a big topic. So was first person vs. third person. These topics will never go out of style.

For a while the pages were very thick. I used some of them for backing or shims when I built models out of balsa.

The editor, A.S. Burack, was nearing the end of 40 years at the top of this heap. He began editing The Writer during the Depression and finished in the disco era. He wasn’t the first Writer editor to span generations – co-founder William H. Hills started out with the Robber Barons and finished in the Jazz Age.

The Writer is still being published, and in this century has become attractive and even innovative. I look at it sometimes online. But I miss Lesley Conger.

Lesley Conger (real name Shirley Suttles) wrote the “Off the Cuff” column from 1965 to 1980. In her charming, everyday, no-nonsense, and yet off-kilter style she spent 15 years telling us what the life of a working writer was like. Her columns were collected in To Writers, With Love, a hopelessly outdated book about postage, her passion for good typing bond, and miniscule pay rates. OK, that last part isn’t outdated.

My favorite episode in To Writers, With Love was the time Conger and her husband, a professor, tried to turn their bedroom into an office and ended up hauling in there almost every stick of furniture they owned. Though I also remember how, at the height of Bobby Fischer mania, she used his book Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess as an example of why writing can’t be taught but how she wished it could be.

I love this book, though I’m positive that nostalgia helps. Conger, according to her 2010 obituary, published stories in magazines “from Cosmopolitan to Good Housekeeping to Playboy.” Her book will not help you do the same. It won’t teach you how to write. A lot of it is complaints! But reading her columns when I was 13 gave me an idea of what went on in a writer’s head. I couldn’t get that anywhere else. In skimming To Writers, With Love this evening, I was struck by all the useless information, and yet it still fired my imagination. Maybe it’s the equivalent of meatloaf and mashed potatoes – comfort reading.

The one quote Lesley Conger is known for is her advice to beginning writers: “You don’t need to know very much to start with, if you know the way to the public library.” Outdated, sure. But loving.

Wrote today for the 16th day!


On Company Time 1

I wrote 700 words this week. That is, I kept 700 words. I wrote many more than that. “Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer,” Colette said. “But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

Good call, Colette, but I have to pick up the pace or I’ll be working on this book on my deathbed. It’s time to embrace the advice of William Stafford: “Lower your standards and keep on writing.” I’m going to try that this week, as I have something coming up that I will reveal either late Friday night or early Saturday morning. Let’s see if I can work myself into a sprint, or at least a forthright trot.

“Be bold, thrust forward, and have the courage to fail. After all, it’s only writing. Nobody is going to die for our mistakes or even lose their teeth.” (Garrison Keillor)

Sunday Bargain Basement Sunday
Today I stepped out of the sunshine to attend the worst estate sale since the invention of capitalism. It was held in what I guess was a former fraternity house, a three-level shitbox that was a mouse’s maze filled with mattresses, mattress boxes, and wooden bureaus. It looked like an alternate-universe version of Sleep Country USA where Spock wears a beard, Uhura wears a knife, and the furniture is covered with generations of condensation rings from red plastic party cups.

Cool jazz all week
No more music reviews for a while. I gotta concentrate, and not on Queens of the Stone Age, who didn’t do much for me today. I will say that I also listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Four Way Street. Some of those songs ascend to a higher plane. But there’s something to be said for Crosby, Stills & Nash, which was recorded before they knew they were superstars.

I wonder why only Neil Young was able to change with the times and remain in the forefront of rock? David, Stephen, and Graham, as talented as they are, haven’t moved a millimeter past 1971. Though maybe that’s why they remain beloved while Neil seems unpredictable and not embraceable.

Consumer alert: There’s a string quartet and a bluegrass tribute to Four Way Street.

Box score
– I’ve written 15 days out of 15
– 19.5 total hours
– Current word total: 20,300
– Here’s the Clarion West Write-a-thon
– Here’s my first post on the Write-a-thon
My video has stalled at 148 views. Going viral is harder than it looks!

My sponsors (all hail):
– Karen G. Anderson
– Mitch Katz
– Laurel Sercombe

As always, thanks for following along, even though you won’t win a 20-volume set of the Encyclopedia International, a case of Turtle Wax, or a year’s supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat. You don’t even get a lousy copy of our home game!