04.28.08

Short Story Book or Site Recommendations?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:02 pm by Amber

Do you have any recommendations for a short story collection or a short story web site?  I’ve been trying to read a few short stories a week in the hopes of having more than one choice for the next Story of the MonthEvery Day Fiction has been a good resource thus far.

04.27.08

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:16 pm by Amber

A winner has been chosen!  The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award went to Bill Loehfelm for his novel Fresh Kills.  Congratulations, Bill!

04.21.08

Clearing The Cobwebs

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:57 pm by Amber

It’s good to challenge yourself by setting new goals or figuring out how to do something you want.

Sometimes the best thing, though, is to clear the cobwebs by concentrating on something completely different or a change of scenery.  I did both by spending the weekend in New York. 

Instead of concentrating in my own work I gorged myself on other people’s work.  Nearly every waking moment was spent in a museum or art gallery.  It was a mixture of things that got me thinking. 

For instance, I noticed a fireplace piece and a small statue at the old Frick house that prominently featured harpies.  However, they weren’t like the harpies I was used to seeing or reading.  None of them had wings.  So what happened?  Was there a time period where harpies were depicted without their wings?  Or was it an aesthetic choice of the artists? 

Other stops included the New Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Neue Gallerie, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) as well as several others.  Paintings, sculptures, photographs, films, multimedia presentations, books… all art forms that assault various senses can help a writer focus.  Sitting on a park bench and having blossoms fall on me like snowflakes was one way I soaked up spring time in the city.  I think it’s my favorite time of year there.  Some people will actually pick up a paint brush or charcoal to clear the cobwebs and use another part of their brain.  I am not so ambitious as to do that.

The best part of the weekend was sleeping in and not having to turn off my Sammy alarm clock.  No, I don’t name my alarm clocks; he’s the current resident Corgi at the Stults estate.  Unlike our first Corgi, Sammy is an early riser and didn’t come with a snooze alarm.  The weekend away meant no responsibilities whatsoever other than making sure I relaxed.

The results of clearing my cobwebs have been fruitful – I’ve begun working on a new non-fiction piece and a book review.

04.14.08

Reading and Writing

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:44 pm by Amber

I have a book review due before May 1st so I’ve been busy reading the book.  I think I have 200 more pages before I’m done.

This week I decided I’d done the final edits on a short story I’ve been working on (aka revising) for the last two years and sent it off somewhere for publication.  Cross your fingers and wish me luck!

04.12.08

Milos Forman

Posted in Event at 9:03 pm by Amber

I know… I know… as you’re reading this you are probably wondering if I ever go to any author readings or if I’m just on the sidelines when movie directors come to town.  As a matter of fact, I get to do both; I just haven’t been to an author reading in a while. 

Last Friday I saw Milos Forman’s first American movie, Taking Off, at the Wexner Center for the Arts.  He was there to introduce the film and afterwards he participated in a discussion.  I had no idea what to expect from the evening and I must say it was amazing.

Going into the event, I had no familiarity with the movie but I knew the basic plot.  It was a very funny movie.  Early scenes led into later jokes.  It was a bit like life in that respect. 

Milos’ English wasn’t very good yet and after every scene he would look at Buck Henry.  If Buck Henry nodded his head, Milos moved on to the next scene.  If Buck Henry shook his head, then Milos complimented everyone and asked for another take.  When asked if Milos considered himself an independent filmmaker his response was, “I don’t think so… I have a wife and four children!”  After much laughter he continued, “Other than that… yes.” 

Someone from the audience asked him which films or filmmakers influenced him.  Prior to the war, he’d only seen two movies.  The first was Snow White and sadly, he didn’t name the second one.  It was a silent black and white movie of Czechoslovakia’s most famous opera.  The lights went down, the movie played on the screen and everyone around him was singing it.  He thought everyone went to the movies and sang. 

Milos shared why James Cagney agreed to do the part in Ragtime, seeing Hair performed for the first time on stage, and how it’s preferable to have a Communist government ban a film for life (though it was only twenty years in actuality) than to have the studio heads edit and release a film.  It was very much like listening to a beloved uncle or grandfather.  The pictures he puts in your head from his stories are even better than what he puts on film.

04.07.08

Story of the Month – “Nanny”

Posted in Story Of The Month at 6:41 pm by Amber

I’ve decided to do a new feature by the 7th of each new month.  As you can guess, I highlight a short story that makes an impression on me.  The story may not have been published in that particular month or the previous month – the only qualification is that I read the story after the previous Story of the Month.

The first short story I’d like to highlight is “Nanny” by Jane Chirgwin.  It was published in Volume 10 Issue 1 of The First Line.  You can purchase the individual issue for $3.50 or get a year’s subscription for $12.  (Sorry – there doesn’t seem to be any excerpts posted anywhere for you to read it online.)  The thing I love about The First Line is that all of the stories begin the same but they usually go in completely different directions after that.

“Nanny” is about a robot programmed to function as a nanny but who is so much more than that word or function.  The label is limiting but the robot’s programming allows her to be adaptable to her environment.  Nanny’s programming tells her to correct grammar but the status or situation may make her think better of it.

While most of the adults at the mine are busy with their jobs, Nanny and three adults supervise twenty-three children in a playroom.  Activities are age appropriate; for example, older kids learn about science while younger kids learn their colors.  The details Chirgwin provides makes life at the mine seem like it is the near future.

As with many good stories or tales, an outside force sets events in motion that could result in change or growth for the main character.  In imaginative ways Chirgwin takes the ordinary and turns it around.  Ultimately it’s the humanity in Nanny that made the story special to me.

04.05.08

David Gordon Green

Posted in Event at 9:13 am by Amber

Last Friday (a week ago) I attended a screening of Snow Angels where the director, David Gordon Green, introduced the film and then took questions afterwards.  I often recommend his movie, Undertow, to other writers that want to get into a literary frame of mind. 

Snow Angels is based on the novel of the same name written by Stewart O’Nan.  This was the first writing job he’d been brought in to adapt a novel for someone else.  As often happens with the movies, some personnel changes happened (such as the director), and Dave picked it up.  It was only natural since he knew the material so intimately.  Dave’s approach to movies is to use the script as a guideline and allow improvisation.  For instance, Sam Rockwell’s last lines in the movie were improvised by Sam.  Dave got such a chill from the character that could see a light at the end of the tunnel that it stayed in the final edits. 

I thought the film showed a softer side to Kate Beckinsale than we’ve seen in a while.  Most of the knowledge about her part comes from the experience and worries of being a mom.  While Dave, as a single person with no kids, can’t know those experiences and worries, he could create a dialogue with Kate about them.  Apparently, Sam Rockwell liked to listen to music between takes.

Seeing Dave on stage answering questions, speaking with people afterwards, and getting to meet with him long enough to exchange a few sentences was great.  If I wasn’t so conscious of his limited time after the Q&A I would have asked him questions about his literary life such as how many books he reads a year, his favorite authors, did he have a favorite book, and did he ever write any short stories or novels?

It’s obvious he enjoys what he is doing.  He’s lucky he hasn’t been blocked into only directing or writing a certain type of movie.  One thing I noticed about Dave is that he’s an open person.  I don’t mean the heart on his sleeve type of open; I mean open to new experiences and people.  And if you’re not open to the experience with him, then that’s okay too.