Archive for December, 2008

Garrison Keillor, Pearl Jam Videos, and Procrastination

Dear Reader,


While promoting his book Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegon, humorist Garrison Keillor told an interviewer, “The Internet and e-mail are the greatest gifts to us procrastinators and probably they help to prevent [writing] a million dreadful books a year. People get an urge to write, say, a memoir of their early years in the real estate business and then they Google ‘real estate’ and that leads them to ‘reality’ and then to Wittgenstein and pretty soon it’s time for dinner. I am all in favor of this.”


I think Keillor must be a pusher for Internet addicts, specifically YouTube addicts, like me, because in effect he said to me, “Faye, forget about rewriting your website (which is about as bad as writing a novel); it’s going to be dreadful anyway. Instead, go on the Internet, type in Pearl Jam and bring up a video. One time won’t hurt you.” And I shouldn’t have listened to him. Why? Because it’s seven weeks later, and I’ve watched not one but hundreds of Pearl Jam videos, which took up not one but hundreds of hours! And now all I think about is “scoring” my next video.


But I’m not saying all procrastination is bad. I may have started out putting off rewriting my website, but once I got into watching Pearl Jam, I realized I was doing more than avoiding; I was taking in the band’s raw, youthful, and urgent need to express itself, and so I began ramping up my writing, using my long neglected youthful exuberance and raw creativity. I wouldn’t have experienced this if I’d “gotten right to work.”


I say, thank heavens for Garrison Keillor, Pearl Jam, and procrastination!

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More On “Ode To The Pacifiers”

Dear Reader,

 

On November 26th I posted the first third of Michael J. Henry’s poem “Ode to the Pacifiers.” I was taken by Henry’s humorous descriptions of his daughters’ pacifiers. Today, I was moved by his poem’s bittersweet conclusion, the expression of a father’s fierce, protective love for his daughters, a love my daughters receive from their father. A love every daughter deserves to receive.

 

And now, the poem in it’s entirety.  

 

ODE TO THE PACIFIERS

 

Let those scorn you who never

Starved in your dearth

    ―Robert Pinsky

  

Comfort elixir, sleep-dozer, quiet-plug,

O how you have saved me,

O how you have buttoned and plugged

those grumpy weary O mouths,

O how you have waved sadnesses

away and made darkness for dreams.

Mam, Nuk, The First Years―3317,

molded in Austria, Germany, Taiwan, Philippines,

you are the juicy bait from which I catch

my babyfishes, pull them out of their ocean

of cry and fuss, gently drop them

into the hold in the hull of our house,

where they drift, the new cells

which I have half-made.

Your swallow-guard, hip cradles

under nose, your end a knob

that turns off the volume,

sometimes with a handle

like a purse-strap, your business end

a tan flexible light bulb, fake nipple,

idea bubble, bald man’s mini-head, dirigible,

future tooth crookener they sometimes say―

but really? I do love you so,

I’ve worshipped you, genuflected to you

even though you weave dust and fibers

and momma-hair around

your saliva-slick end,

even though you always disappear,

falling and scattering like a mouse

under counters, car tires, beds,

into heating vents, garbage disposals,

et cetera, et cetera.

Though I have never French-kisssed

you clean, I will never accuse you

of badness. But I do

worry, some nights went I can’t sleep,

nights they are with you: who will someday

coddle them, what will they suckle

if they end up on dark streets

with cruisers, sharks, and other bad

men, my girls gazing into locked storefronts,

their shoelaces untied,

fingernails dirty and uncut, their bodies―

skin and bone that I have so

carefully wrought―grimy and cold?

 

Reprinted with permission from Michael J. Henry.

Found in No Stranger Than My Own.

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An Editor’s Shameless “Else” Promotion

Dear Reader,

Sometimes we editors are sent a “client from heaven.” John Davis was one such client. He was intelligent, thoughtful, curious, probing, trusting, and, most important, willing to rework his manuscript so he could produce the ultimate book that would pay tribute to his deceased partner Jack Orler and offer hope to people who, like him, are mourning a loved one. John succeeded in writing the best book he could, Finding My Banana Bread Man: A Journey Through Mourning. (See my post entitled Finding My Banana Bread Man.)

John also was, and still is, a grateful and gracious client, so much so that I want to share with you his lovely 12-4-08 gracious email message about our working relationship. His words confirm that I, too, was blessed with the presense of Jack Orler, even if only through words.

Hello all my friends and family,

Seems like I can go months with out writing to each of you – and then – BAM – there is more news to share with you all.

Last time I wrote I had told you about the review of my book that appeared in the local ECHO magazine here in Phoenix. Well, that book reviewer posted the review on Amazon.com (for books). Then the individual who had proofread my book (Karen Reddick) posted a review on Amazon as well. Then my editor (Faye Q. Heimerl) posted ALL that information on her blog along with an introduction to these two reviews. Faye is such a professional – and a visit to her blog site will show you not only the expertise she used to helped craft “Finding My Banana Bread Man,” but also many other fine books she has helped mold and to find just the right way to convey the writers meaning to the reading public.

Near the very end of my book in the Acknowledgement Section, which closes the book, I spoke of a number of individuals who had made the writing of my legacy to Jack possible. Faye was certainly one of those people. The combination of her brilliant editing abilities and the emotions that flowed from me following Jack’s death was a winning combination. She is much more than “My Editor” – she is “My Dear Friend.” In the Acknowledge Section of the book, I wrote the following about Faye – and the words still ring true today:

“The content editing of this book was completed by Faye Quam Heimerl, who, in the course of this venture, became my very good friend. Upon reading the original manuscript, she asked me numerous probing questions, which allowed me to expand immensely on the depth and meaning of the message provided. She was able to twist and shape the contents of what you have just read and provide seamless movement from words to poetry throughout the story. I treasure my connection to this gifted professional.”

I truly believe that she is one of the major reasons why no one who starts to read my book can put it down. The book is kind of like Jack – “you just could not get enough of him once you knew him.” How fitting that this would be the nature of the book written in his honor.

Thank you, Faye, for making the book so real – so compelling – to its readers.

If you ever need and editor – she is superb!

Love you all – lots lots,

John

Thank you, John!

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FINDING MY BANANA BREAD MAN

Dear Reader, 41qx-zy1ell__bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_7

Today I received great news from John R. Davis, my editing client who recently published Finding My Banana Bread Man. He’d received two new 5-star Amazon reviews. Hooray for John! Hooray for his book! And because I’m a proud parent who, along with John, nurtured and trained this book, then sent it into the world with the advice “Do me proud,” I beam as I share these reviews with you.

The first review is by Bob Lind, book reviewer for Echo Magazine, which brings GLBT news to the Phoenix area.

Outstanding, heartfelt story of two lives torn apart by illness. (October 6, 2008)

For 27 wonderful years, the author and his life partner Jack Orler (aka “Jackie O”) had a storybook romance. In their late 20’s, they met at a Halloween party, and each knew immediately they had found their “soul mate,” their muse, the person with whom the ultimate happiness could be achieved. Jack was the mischievous “Lucy” to John’s pragmatic “Ethel,” and they brought out the best in each other and all of those around. They relocated from their native rural Michigan town to Scottsdale, Arizona, where Jack opened a successful hairstyling salon, while John had a good job with the state. Jack’s son from his marriage, Tom, whom John had helped raise since they met, joined their move to Arizona some years later, eventually marrying one of John’s former co-workers, and provided “Papa John” and “Papa Jack” with their first grandchild.

Unfortunately, this “storybook” had an unexpected and devastating development in the chapter that began in 2004, when Jack went to a doctor because of headaches he had suffered for a few weeks. It was diagnosed as a brain tumor, not just cancer but the most aggressive form of malignancy affecting the brain. With the alternative of a life expectancy measured in weeks, Jack and John decided that Jack would have the suggested surgery, which was considered successful if it got “most” of the fast-spreading cancer, with an optimistic prognosis of another year together. But that was the start of a downward spiral in Jack’s previously perfect health, increasing disabilities making him unable to fend for himself, which drafted John into the role of full-time caregiver. Jack’s subsequent operations, treatments, illness-related delusions and behavior problems were all problems they faced together, but actually fell more on John’s shoulders, who strained to keep Jack’s life as full and loving as possible. The eventual death of Jack resulted in a near-breakdown by John, who had been carrying the physical and emotional weight of keeping Jack alive for the past 10 months, and now faced – all at once – his multitude of feelings about the loss of the person who made his life worth living.

Writing this book – which also includes original poems written for and about Jack, as well as their path together – was the way in which John was finally able to verbalize his feelings and regrets, with the hope that their story can help others dealing with catastrophic illnesses and mourning. The book’s sizable epilogue contains valuable advice for caregivers, helpers, friends and medical professionals dealing with similar situations, as well as a personal photo journal of Jack and John together. This intelligent and heartfelt book is well written, and unique in its dealing with this situation for unmarried gay couples. Five stars out of five.

The next review is by Karen Reddick, editor, and author of Grammar Done Right!

Poignant, beautiful and charming (Nov. 08)

I was honored to have a part in the proofreading process of this honestly written, heartfelt book, about true love and devastating loss. The author writes from the depths of his soul after learning the news of his beloved Jack’s brain tumor, through his very detailed illness, and finally his journey through mourning. A poignant, lovely story.

And my 5-stars go to the book, of course, but also to the BEST EVER BANANA BREAD RECIPE in history, the actual recipe John’s banana bread man used. It’s included in the book.

Note: Finding My Banana Bread Man is available for purchase through Wheatmark Publishing or Amazon.com.

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Use Music to Incite the Creative Beast

Dear Reader,

When “The X Files” writer Chris Carter would sit down to create episodes for this TV series, he’d often crank up the volume on the sinister-sounding song “Red Right Hand” (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds) and listen to it over and over again. When the John Cage character in “Ally McBeal” (I know, I know, this example is dated) wanted to envision himself as a love machine rather than the date dolt he was, he stood in front of a bathroom mirror and sang “I Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” a la Barry White. They both used music to incite a creative part of themselves, the beast.

How do I use music to incite my creative beast? When I work on my screenplay about a woman stranded in a desert, I churn up her dread and tension by listening to the soundtrack for Jim Jarmusch’s movie “Dead Man.” And when I require playfulness after too many hours of seriousness, I sing along to “The Sound of Music,” specifically “Do-Re-Mi.” Once I switched on Keith Jarrett’s “Köln Concert” CD, background music to help me focus on a writing project. But Jarrett’s music insisted I write a poem in response to it and drop the writing project. And I did. I suspect this is not unusual.

dead mansound of musicthe koln concert

Dear reader, what music incites your creativity?

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Origin of Great Books

Dear Reader,

The greatest books crawl out of wonderfully unpleasant environments: fetid sewers, mucky swamps, decaying teeth. They’re ill-bred rascals with putrid breath that exhale into your nose. They’re indigestion, gangrene, sulfuric emotions. They’re vivisections, frostbite, vomit. They’re cunning and “thick,” and they want you.

There’s no hiding from them, not in dreams, not in work, not in love. There’s no outrunning them, either. They’re artfully fast, eternally in the way.

Great books nag and nip, poke and pick, until you’re worn down, until you’ve no resistance left and your only means for survival is saying, “Yes.” Then, you can begin to slop up your shoes; grass stain your clothes; cuss, burp and snort; make love sans restraint; wash down éclairs with port wine; sleep; sing; spit.

It’ll be distressing at first, this wanton abandoning of profundity and order for decadence and grit. But before long you’ll get an inkling of the “you” that once fried mudburgers on the sidewalk, the you that baked poison-berry cakes, the you that squeezed rotten tomatoes between your fingers then flung them at your brothers. You’ll find that you will shed all that squeaks of tidiness to wallow in the slime and guts of the story you must tell.

You’ll be tempted to terminate your struggle and may even stop writing—for a while. But the greatest books thrive on torturing you. You’ll try to hold out, but sooner or later you’ll break, “talk,” and—hopefully—get very, very dirty.

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