They say we'll one day overpopulate the earth and then our planet will have no choice but to quit on us and self-destruct. We'll end up floating in infinite blackness with exploded bits of tree and earth core and plastic. To keep warm we'll date and make love. We'll claim barren space rock and build ourselves attics. Time will pass. Eventually we'll clutter every hidden corner of the unyielding universe, forced to stand shoulder to shoulder with just enough room to blink and wiggle our fingers, waiting on some cataclysmic event to take place and set us all free again.
Charles Lennox's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Pequin, Sir!, and Right Hand Pointing. He lives in California but does all his writing in the Artic with the help of polar bears. They provide excellent feedback. He occasionally blogs useless material at http://otherbeasts.blogspot.com
Great mathematicians peering down from the roof might be able to compute in their heads how many steps it'd take me to cross the street while bleeding, and if they cared and weren't constantly being accosted by counterfeit pleas from near hysterics, they'd be as surprised as I am that my beard is coming in gray and add a few more zeroes, for I was told – no, assured – the sutures would dissolve, the heart eventually grow back, only to arrive early this morning to an unwashed blackboard, empty desks, a note blown on the floor, the ink still damp.
He went to the naked place to get a woman off of him. The hot springs would boil and sterilize him.
He drove two hours, too fast around the ascending curves in the two- lane road. He couldn't see what was coming but guessed, correctly. Impatience made him reckless.
In the communal dressing room, he could not undo his belt. His skin insisted that it stay covered. He tried not to hear. It had been costly to get there.
Lauren Becker lives in Oakland, California. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Word Riot, DOGZPLOT, Six Sentences, Mud Luscious and Wigleaf.
The following interview with Jacquelyn Mitchard was conducted by Tuesday Shorts editor Kristen Tsetsi and was originally published in TS on April 23, 2007.
Jacquelyn Mitchard, who began her writing career as a journalist, is the author of seven adult fiction novels (to include the famed Oprah's Book Club-starter The Deep End of the Ocean, which was later made into a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Treat Williams) and three works of children's fiction.
Her latest, the YA novel Now You See Her, was released in February of this year.
Tuesday Shorts: Reporting or fiction writing?
Jacquelyn Mitchard: I would choose fiction, much as I love journalism, because fiction permits me to create my own universes.
TS: What was the best part and the worst part of having The Deep End of the Ocean turned into a movie? Were you given final approval over the script?
JM: There was no worst part, except that it was a 'family' movie and didn't stay long in theaters. I loved all parts of it; and I think that when authors permit their books to be made into movies, they relinquish the right to whine about the scriptwriter's vision. I had my chance to tell the story. And someone else told it another way.
TS: If you were to choose another of your books to be made into a movie, which would you want it to be?
JM: I would choose 'The Most Wanted' or the as-yet unpublished 'Still Summer.' They rock with adventure as well as (I hope) having some insight into why no one really is a hero or a villain.
TS: In what room of your house do you spend most of your time when you're not writing? What are you doing in there?
JM: You assume there is a time I'm not writing! I spend most of my time when I'm not writing in my bedroom, which is a place that is opulent and soothing and has my two favorite paintings on the walls.
TS: You said in one of your interviews, "I, myself, sometimes think I have the soul of a rebellious teenage boy." How does the rebelliousness manifest itself, and why does it strike you as a boy's?
JM: I have five sons. For four years, I raised them alone. I learned a bit about the way boys and men think. I have only one sibling, a brother; and we are very close. I don't seem to enjoy all the things women enjoy (maybe because I'm a klutz) such as crafts and baking and dressing up in pretty things. I'm more of an adventurer. I like to fish and SCUBA dive and ride horses that buck me off. I'm the primary wage earner; and I think my dreams were always male-type dreams: I never imagined being cared for but of being the one responsible.
When I was single, I was told I "dated" in the way a guy dates -- whatever that means. I think it means that I didn't get all misty-eyed over every nice guy I met, nor did I encourage ideas of permanence. I just wanted to have fun. Mainly, I think that the way men show their feelings is entirely different from the common wisdom: I think they're like that old toy: The Visible Man. You can see right through them. I want to howl like a beagle when I get a great review that says "Mitchard isn't as gifted at creating male characters,' when my characters Vincent Cappadora in 'The Deep End of the Ocean' and Gabe Steiner in 'The Breakdown Lane' were seen by writers who are praised for their understanding of male sensibility -- such as Stephen King -- as wonderful examples of realism.
At the end of the day, I have no idea why I said that, except I think I "get" the young man's psyche better than almost anything else.
TS: In another interview, you mentioned that your least favorite work (and I won't ask you what it was) turned out to be a "klinker" because the editor who ended up with it (after the original editor, who liked it, went to work for a new publisher) wanted you to rewrite the whole thing. The end result was, as you put it, like "banana-fana-fofana," and "it spoiled the broth of what was probably a halfway decent idea at one point." You said you wanted to run off to
JM: No. I have no greater control -- less, if possible, since there are fewer editors; they're busier; there are more authors and less time for each of us. I'm not Nicholas Sparks, which is okay, or Toni Morrison. I don't have the power of the $600-million-dollar author to insist that my deathless prose be unedited by anyone.
That novel to which you refer, which really did have a halfway decent premise, was affected by the fact that two editors had entirely different sensibilities. People see a book through the filter of their own experiences; and even if they know better, they believe their own sensibilities are the only ones that are valid. For instance, I once was told by an editor, "Oh, no one in
TS: If you were to impart any one piece of advice [not confined to writing], one piece of overall wisdom that you've come to believe in the course of your life, what would it be?
JM: You don't have to tell everything you know.
TS: What were you like as a teen?
JM:I had many great acquaintances and a few good friends -- although I was a very private person and held my thoughts very close to the vest. I thought I would be a biologist. Some days, I wish I was. I would love to have been a doctor, not a doctor of people but a researcher. A character in an upcoming novel is a biologist who studies bats. I love bats. If I had to be something else now, I would be a radio talk-show host.
TS: Everybody has one thing they don't particularly enjoy about their job - maybe it's the hours, or having to punch out to use the restroom, or how far away parking is. My husband, for example, loves flying and can't wait to start doing it full time, but I'm sure he'll complain about not getting enough hours at some point, or - if we end up moving to the midwest - having to do a preflight in -20 weather. What's the thing you're most likely to complain about when it comes to writing for a living?
JM:Well, there's the anguish and the every-single-dayness of it. Because I do it alone, no one has any idea how much time it takes. If it burned calories, I'd weigh as much as Kate Moss. Because I do it alone, I never know if I'm doing it well or badly. Because I do it alone, I don't have as much time for friends; and I have lost friends this way -- simply because I didn't have enough time in my life. Travel? When I GET THERE, I love being with readers. I love the places, the accents, the sights. When I leave to go on the road, I want to cry my brains out because I have to leave my family. Although I do like working at home, in my sweat pants and t-shirt, I do also miss having job security. I have none at all. Any book I write could be the last book I write. Any book I write could end up unpublished.
TS: You said (in yet another interview), "I have a passion to have my books be like life. In real life, you can't tell all the time who the good guys and bad guys are, and a lot of times people are a mixture of both things. Either they are very flawed people who have moments of extraordinary grace, or they're very good people who have moments of self-centered or self-destructive behavior." Has there been a character you've written who you truly love for his or her redeeming qualities, but who your readers just don't like?
JM: Beth Cappadora in 'The Deep End of the Ocean' was truly despised by many readers for her heartless selfishness in seeming to reject her other children after her son, Ben, was kidnapped. People told me that they just knew that if they lost a child, they'd draw closer to the others. In fact, a person who's clinically depressed finds it difficult to draw close to anyone. Also, Beth didn't feel she deserved her other children. She felt that her guilt over "losing" Ben made her an unfit mother -- and she knew that her husband felt that too. And people were annoyed that it took her so long to "get over it."
I had just been widowed when I began to write this book. And you never get over it. You have a limp that no one can see, forever. You may be happy. You may feel joy. But you will never be unmarked by this loss. I absolutely loved Beth. In the end, she alone was the one who had the courage to do what was right for her son. I knew that, if I were she, I'd have reacted in the same way, despite my best effort to be brave and cheerful. I don't think many people have been through what she experienced; so -- you know -- it's easy for people to explain exactly what they would do.
Bonus question: What's your favorite meal to make for dinner?
If you're looking for good home cooking, your best bet be is to find another home...That said, I make my own pasta with my kids; and it's fun. And I make an exceptionally thick, rich spaghetti sauce that my Sicilian godmother taught me to make. In August, I make up to twenty-five quarts, to taste summer all year long.
For more information on Jackie Mitchard, whose 100-word short appeared as Tuesday Shorts' first contribution, please visit her website.
Today, I am proud to post this interview with Gregory Maguire, of Wicked fame. He had an intimate Q&A/reading session at the Muse and Marketplace conference in May, and I became even more enamored, thoroughly impressed and awed by his intelligence, wit and great reading style.
Gregory Maguire's adult novels
Kristen Tsetsi, founder of Tuesday Shorts, had already been in contact with him briefly last year (and we're still hoping maybe someday he'll send us a short-short), so I asked after the session if I could have a few minutes. He had a prior engagement, but he generously allowed me to e-mail him some burning questions.
So here we go....
SRR: First, let me say it was an honor and privilege to hear you speak at the Grubstreet Muse and Marketplace. I was already a fan, and your eloquence and "stage presence," if you will, are remarkable. I must say, I also think you're quite humble given your success and obviously much smarter than you claim!
During your Q&A, you mentioned something that I think will strike the hearts of all writers. You spoke of the devastation of your first review of Wicked by the New York Times and subsequent jump back up after the Los Angeles review was published, an underdog comeback of sorts. Could you talk a bit about that?
GM: All writers need a little humbling. Put another way, all writers need to be reminded that their work is not for everyone. No one's work is. I have been rather lucky with decent reviews and a popular following. However it comes at some cost: the packaging of my books disguises, I think, the more intellectual aspects of my prose efforts at the expense of the common-ground appeal of fairy tales. I joke around the house that I am not likely to get a long article considering my contributions anytime soon in the New York Review of Books.
So there are plusses and minuses to every stroke of luck. The New York Times reviewer didn't "get" WICKED, I felt; it's also possible she got it just fine but didn't like it. Fair enough. I've had other compensations.
Ultimately, one doesn't write for reviewers. One also tends to respect reviewers who point out flaws one has not seen; one tends to dismiss reviewers who point out flaws that are not actually pertinent to the novel at hand--that is to say, flaws in the book that the reviewer believes she has read, or believes the author should have written, rather than the book in hand. Reviewers (and I am one, so I know) can read incredibly quickly and sloppily.
SRR: You read a little from your novel in progress, DEPOSITION OF AN ORACLE, the final installment of the Wicked series (oops. Third of four). Initially, did you know that this would be a series? How did the inspiration evolve?
GM: DEPOSITION will be the third of four books. I didn't know the books would be a series until my readers wrote at the end of SON OF A WITCH that they would take out a contract on my life unless I began to wrap up some loose ends. Since fiction is meant to simulate real life--even life in a fantastic land like Oz--loose ends don't bother me at all. But I now see, too, that I don't want to be writing about Oz for the rest of my life, so I will provide some narrative closure by the end of book four (tentatively called THE WATERMARK) for my sake as well as for my readers (and my poor, punished characters).SRR: When you talked about your process of writing, you used a piano analogy, that writing was something like practicing scales. You are so talented in your readings, it makes me wonder. Are you also a musician? Do you have an acting background as well?
Nice of you to ask! I play piano and guitar and I do sing (used to lead a church choir.) I do not have a background in acting--but do in teaching, which is much the same thing.
SRR: While developing your novels, you mentioned occasionally using notecards to keep track of your scenes. How often does it occur that you find the story jumping into totally different or alternate paths?
Very often--if not always. But it is akin, I think, to driving across country--that famous (and useful) metaphor. If I start out for San Francisco, I usually get there--don't change my mind and decide to terminate the trip in Topeka or veer up to Anchorage. However the discoveries along the way --sometimes just to keep one's self invigorated-- mean interesting diversions. San Francisco may be the destination, and I do reach it: but perhaps it looks and means something other than I expected when I started out.
SRR: As well, you use a journal method and write by hand; I believe you said it allows you to moves slowly and carefully in the development process – pushing the "whole cart." Could you expand on that notion?
Like all fourth-grade kids, I find it painful to write by hand. It goes slowly and the wrist aches. One has to stop and rest from time to time, which allows the mind to sort out words a lot more efficiently, to sift not only for clarity but beauty. I am a fairly glib writer as I am a speaker, but my prose style is improved by slowing myself down.SRR: I found your words on writing for children quite moving. You said that children demand the best we have to offer and thrill to learn how to live. In your session, you described for us your move to adult novels. Could you tell the readers briefly about that decision?
In the mid 1990's, with the school book market ever more intimidated by the rist of Christian fundamentalizm (especially in Texas), children's book publishers were becoming cowed as to both subject and style. If a big segment of the book-buying market took against a book, there was little hope for it. (We see the same thing in the attention paid to the opinions of the buyers of Borders and Barnes and Noble.) I think that children's book editors began to play a little too scared just at the time that I was beginning to want to open up my subject area to more and more morally complex material. In the end, I was for a time crowded out of the children's book market because my work didn't suit the market needs at the time. I have come back, gladly--in my new novel for children, out on September 11 this fall, called WHAT-THE-DICKENS. The great success of HARRY POTTER helped publlishers of children's books to see that the wildly imaginative and morally complex could not be fully suppressed by twitchy school boards in one part of the country.
SRR: When I first started reading Wicked, I was not only drawn to the mysterious world these characters inhabit, but also the political and social metaphor. At the end of your session, we unfortunately ran out of time, and I had just asked my burning question. The writing immediately suggested a parallel in my mind to George Orwell. Has that comparison ever been made and did you "feel" his work as an influence?
Most of the books I have loved the best have had a moral question at their center--a question about the individual's relationship to society. So Orwell's ANIMAL FARM, though I only ever read it once, in high school, stayed central in my thinking. So too the work of Grahame Greene and, in a lesser sense (on this score), E. M. Forster. I have usefully reread 1984, come to think of it, too.
SRR: One of your last statements [in the Muse and Marketplace session] was that one of the writers tasks is to "Keep ourselves awake." I love that sentiment but also think it can be broadly interpreted. What does it truly mean for you?
All those wonderful metaphors--and I forget who said which one-- Kafka, was it, an axe chopping up the frozen sea within-- Emily Dickinson, "If I feel the top of my head is being taken off, I know it is poetry." None of that verbatim. If a writer can respond that way to other writing, a writer must also respond that way to the world--when and if it is possible. The axe should always be swinging, the head always exploding with revelation. Clearly one can't schedule this or self-medicate in the interest of encouraging revelation: but one can encourage in one's self a habit of study of each day as it comes, each moment of feeling, each perceived conundrum, quirk, or contradicton of human experience. They come at us hourly, moment by moment; reading poetry regularly hones the skill of seeing the world anew. At least it does for me. And I hope that translates into making me a better writer than I might otherwise be.
I want to thank Gregory Maguire. His thoughts have greatly enlightened me personally, and if you haven't yet, read WICKED. It is a thoughtful and entertaining journey through the land of OZ and the exploration of good and evil. I can't wait to read SON OF A WITCH (the second of the series) now.
The old-time carnies know about those fuchsia nights when the red and blue lights ignite and fill the inside of the Big Top and dazzle the gillies' eyes so they'll pay a little extra during the come-in for elephant rides and cheap trinkets. The kids' eyes are bright with excitement when the Grand Entrance starts. It gets you, and right then, you know you just have to join the circus. If not, you get left behind when the fuchsia nights end and the show moves on, and you wonder why you didn't take the chance when you had it.
C.C. Petersen is a science writer by trade and specializes in astronomy and space science and blogs at: http://www.thespacewriter.com/wp
What if I told you that Cornelia wasn’t a virgin waiting for you to work up your nerve? You silly toad. Would you smash all the streetlamps and eat your own chickens? Excuse me if my slipshod truth is showing. Stop rehearsing your lines and forget what your nasty mama said. Tonight the streetwalkers dance like angels in a rain. Of toads.
Kyle Hemmings wishes he could play surf guitar like Dick Dale and sing like Brian Wilson. Then, he would call himself Dale Wilson. He lives and daydreams in New Jersey.
It still seems commonly held that God created man in his own image. Well, more likely we created him in ours.
Either way we lost touch, just grew apart. We both had such busy lives. We had different friends, didn't go to the same parties.
I still remember him though from when I was a kid. I hadn’t actually thought about him in just ages, but at Christmas his name came up.
Would we even recognize each other? I wonder if he ever thinks of me? Maybe next year I’ll be more organized and try to send a card.
Doug Mathewson continues his love/hate relationship with reality from his home in eastern Connecticut. He favors hats, and rarely turns down desert. His work most recently has appeared in The Boston Literary Magazine, Cezzane’s Carrot, Gloom Cupboard, Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k), Tuesday Shorts, and 55 Words. Sporadically he is grasped by fits and starts of inspiration, equally he can be swept away into infinite worlds of busy-signals, radio static, and elevator-music. To read more, comment, or just poke-around, please visit his current project, True Stories From Imaginary Lives, at www.little2say.org.