Friday, December 25, 2009

Another Application Completed

Sent in another submission. Add this one to the list:

Roll tide and stuff.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Submissions have Begun

The first two applications are away.


The Michener Center at Texas, my friends, is one of the most selective MFA programs in this good US of A. Few slots, lots of applicants. Texas is attractive for several reasons: you don't have to teach, the professors are quite good, and the stipend is absolutely unbelievable. Plus there is an excellent screenwriting program that I could basically 'minor' in.

The University of Illinois

Illinois is still in the 'up and coming' category as far as I know. They are one of the programs from the 'Big 10' that have cropped up in recent years and instantly made a splash. I feel like I stand a better chance here than Texas, but they are still fairly discriminating.

So that's it for now. Only 12 more programs to submit applications to. Easy as pie.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Max Duncan, Literary Giant

In case you're wondering, the previous post is indeed a story dictated by my story-tellin' son, Maxwell Isaiah Duncan. Getting into the family business already . . .

Max and Dad, Kamen Riders by Max Duncan

Max and Dad wanted to go outside to fish with their own fishing rods. When it was night, they went to bed and went to sleep and when they woke up in the morning they wanted to fish again. When they saw their skin they got so scared of their skin that they tried to get it off but it wouldn’t come off because it was hero skin!

When Max saw himself he looked like a knight from his favorite TV show and his Dad didn’t know what it was. It was called ‘Kamen Rider’ and when Max saw what it was he knew what it was. It was called ‘Strike Knight.’ When Max saw his Dad his Dad looked like ‘Thrust Knight.’ When they saw different cards, Max started to look like his Dad. Then Max started to look like his brother Finn, who was ‘Sting Knight.’ Max’s Dad started to look like his son Leo who was ‘Wing Knight.’

When Leo and Max did ‘Kamen Rider’ training, Max won and Leo hit his back on a wall and erased away. Then guns came drifting down from the sky that go on ‘Torque Knight’s’ shoulders. Max’s Dad decided to keep them.

Something drifted down from the sky. It was ‘Siren Knight’s’ sword, and Max decided to have it. And then something else drifted down from the sky. It was ‘Siren Knight’s’ staff, and Max’s Dad decided to keep it.

The ‘Dragon Knight’ that Clem is, is red. There was another ‘Dragon Knight’ that wanted to fight Clem. This one was called ‘Shadow Dragon Knight.’ They had a surprise. Four of the decks had persons from inside and first came Finn, Mom, Clem and Leo. Then they started attacking Max and Dad. General Zaviax tricked them. General Zaviax made them come back. When they got General Zaviax out of Kamen Rider Ray, they put him back together in his regular Kamen Rider form. And then when they started fighting four of them they tried and tried and Max and Dad won! When they erased away again the older son knew how to bring them back and they all attacked General Zaviax and they put him back in his home.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

MFA Anxiety

Microsoft Office is downloading an update to the ol' computer. So I'm going to flex my writing muscles on the blog this morning. This has been a jam-packed semester, so blogging has been a low priority for the last couple of months. Now, though, I'm going to take advantage of this lull to blog about my anxieties. Hooray!!!

Things are going fairly well for my MFA application process at this point. The GRE is over and done with, I have two out of three people I need to recommend me, and I'm actually staying on top of the process. I have two stories I like and am working on a third. All of these are good.

However . . . I am constantly having to pray about the subjectivity of MFA admissions. You can write an excellent story, but if the wrong people don't like your stuff, you're out of luck. In a recent article in Poets and Writers Benjamin Percy (an excellent writer, in my opinion) mentioned that one of his stories was rejected for publication 39 times. Once it was finally published, Salman Rushdie picked it as an honorable mention for Best American Short Stories. That was a happy ending for Benjamin, but my mind keeps going back to the strong possibility that I won't have a 'Salman Rusdie.'

I suppose it's a good thing that these thoughts move me to pray, but I think it would be better to just not be anxious. "Be anxious for nothing" and all that. I think the anxiety rises from a few sources:

1. I've never been this uncertain about applying for anything. I was quite certain I would get into my undergrad schools and seminary. But for MFAs there are so many applicants and so few slots nationwide that the percentages are against me.

2. I've never wanted something as much as I want this, career-wise. This is the path I want to take, so not getting into the MFA would be a blow.

3. I don't have a good solid idea for what I would do in the immediate aftermath of 14 rejection letters. I reckon it would involve a hasty retreat to West Virginia, but what then? Apply again? Distance programs, maybe? What do I do in the meantime? I can teach, but how many jobs are there available for chaps like me?

All that said, I do have good reasons not to be anxious. I believe God called me in the direction of writing. That doesn't mean that I'm guaranteed an MFA slot, but it does mean that God is taking care of me. God surprises us sometimes (surprise, Paul! You've been bitten by a venomous snake!) but then he surprises again with his deliverance (the venom won't harm you. Surprise again!).

Thanks, God. I feel better.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Marshall vs. WVU

24-7: This is what happens when you fumble twice in the red zone.

Back to the C-USA schedule!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Time Draws Near, The Writer Readies Himself . . . Kinda . . .

MFA application season approaches. I still don't feel like I have a great writing sample, but I've come to the conclusion I never will. I will never feel like I have written well enough until I get an acceptance letter, and even then I'll think, "whew, I snuck one past them." That's the trouble with finding your self-image as a writer in the opinions of others.

Honestly, I do think the stories I've written are good. The fact that not everyone agrees highlights the subjective nature of reading fiction. That's what makes me nervous about MFA applications. I can't be guaranteed a spot by just getting a certain score on the GRE (which I still need to take). I've been recently that I will just stop worrying about others opinions (within reason) and write what I believe God is leading to write.

The good news for today is that I finished the first draft of "Miracles for Americans." It needs a lot of work, but it's good to actually get to the end of a story. It's my longest story so far, coming in at 19 pages and around 7200 words, but I'm hoping to lop a bit of that off. So I'll be editing that and taking another pass at "Come on, Casper" to look over some changes I made a month or two ago. Hopefully I'll be able to communicate the humor I intended in"Miracles." I haven't had a lot of experience at humor writing, so we'll see how that goes. It'll never be a laugh riot, but I think it will have a lighter tone than "Casper."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Still Pluggin' Away

Just another productivity report:

I've been waking up at 5:30 am this week. On purpose. Mary Ann and I have been struggling to find a good time for me to write these days, and I think this is the best solution. I've tried to do the late night thing; it seems the more 'writerly' thing to do, right? Writers are supposed to stay up late to drink and be tortured by their demons. Unfortunately (?), my demons kept standing me up, so Mary Ann and I broke with our 1-2AM tradition and started hitting the sack at 11:00. Since then things hve gone much better in the writing department.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I FINALLY Got Arrested

So I finally gave in. After years of people telling me I should watch Arrested Development, Mary Ann and I rented the first DVD from the first season. The straw that broke the camel's back was the fact that the guys who do The Steelehouse Podcast named it as one of their top ten shows of the decade. You should check out that podcast, by the way. A thoughtful and enjoyable look at pop culture from a Christian perspective.

But back to the show: Typical. Really. I don't mean Arrested Development was typical. What's typical is that it was cancelled after three seasons. Good shows don't make it much longer than that. Mary Ann and I are joining the chorus. Arrested Development was quite hilarious.

For those of you who are slow to take recommendations like me, now is the time. Outside of 30 Rock I doubt there's a show that even approaches Arrested Development's level of hilarity. Quirky characters can get old quickly if poorly written, but the cast of Arrested Development, while quirky, never fail to surprise.

If you watch the show now, you can see how much of the writing and direction has pointed the way for comedies currently on the air. If you promise to watch the show that started the trend, then I promise to stop reviewing shows that have been of the air for six years.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Breakfast Tragedy

I went to open my cereal this morning--a new box. Carefully, I pushed my finger underneath the cardboard tab. I gingerly scooted said finger to the right, in order to preserve the integrity of the cardboard tab. It helps in the resealing process.

But, as you might predict, my efforts were fruitless. My finger tore through that fragile box top as though passing through the air unimpeded. My cereal is compromised.

And THAT, my friends, is how you know that General Mills hates you.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Writerly Frustrations

If I could just write 1000 good words a day, I would be so happy that I would wet not just my pants, but everyone else's too.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Two Gross-Out Haikus

Here are two Gross-Out Haikus stemming from the same incident. I'm thinking of making these a significant part of my writing sample.

Finn's oranges, juice
and pizza revolt, dripping
down in my pocket

My Steeler's T-Shirt
Piled high with half-gnawed foodstuffs
The Superbowl one

Thursday, June 11, 2009

He Thinks as He Types

I'm at the library right now. It's time to write, but I'm having a hard time bringing myself into the 'writerly mindset,' whatever that may be. It's that post-lunch energy dip, I guess. It's annoying because I have these times carved out to write every day, and if I don't do it now then I'll get nothing. But the ol' brain is in sleep mode.

Besides, I'm not sure what I'd write right now. I can always do VFO, but Rex is alerady working something I sent him a few days ago so I feel kinda 'caught up.' It's a dangerous feeling, but I'm going with it. I'd like to do some short story work, but I don't want to do any more editing on "Come On, Casper" until my group of readers give me their feedback (Thanks for yours, by the way, Mary Ann and Rex. You were both quite helpful). I could try and figure out a title, but I don't want to spend two hours on just that. I can brainstorm for titles while I clean at work tonight, or do my security runs.

I have a bunch of story ideas, but I don't want to work on another story where the protagonist is a jerk. I'd like to do something with a pleasant lead character, but I most of my ideas involve bad things happening big jerks. I do have one idea, though, that might fit the bill. But I've started on it before and it didn't feel right. All I have is a fairly bare concept. I guess I could work on plotting that story . . . I don't have to jump right into the first draft of the thing.

I think that's what I'll do. Thanks for helping me figure this stuff out, guys.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Joshua Duncan: Now with Productivity!!

It's only just June and already I feel like I've had a full summer. For one thing, I've been working a lot these days. Relatively speaking, I guess. My hours still don't equal full time employment. Still, it's more than I've worked (outside of class) since I got here. It's taken up a lot of time I would have liked to use for other good things (GRE study, writing, family time). But enough of the whiny stuff!

One great thing about this summer is the amount of time I've had to actually write--and the fact that I've utilized that time to do so. I've written the first couple of installments of the webcomic I'm doing with Rex Queems, and he e-mailed me today to express his excitement with them. That's always a bonus.

Not only that, but I've actually finished a story. An eleven pager, no less! I know of writers who could weave an eleven pager before breakfast, but nearly everything I've written fiction-wise has been fairly short. There were one or two longer pieces, but they got clunky and are in need of a good trim. So eleven pages is a good length for me. It gets me over halfway to a number of the page requirements for MFA applications as well, so that's bonus number two.

It's quite nice. After failing to write anything in the early months of this year I've made serious headway on a couple of long-standing projects. It's really a lovely feeling. I'm seriously reconsidering my love affair with procrastination.

"It's not you, sweetheart. It's me."

I like the sound of that.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Is Something Wrong With Me?

Mary Ann and I just watched the Tonys. Yes, the Tonys. That's the award show for plays and musicals and such. I can count the number of plays I've seen in my life on one hand. Maybe two if you count my elementary school glee club musicals. Why, then, did I watch the Tonys, which featured many people I've never heard of in my life? Dunno.

I liked it, though.

Except for the bit from Hair. I mean, I get it. Hippies were the greatest people ever. Can we move on now?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Wanted: Humidifier for Dry Text

I spent about an hour working on VFO tonight. I'd been doing background work, but today I actually wrote a scene. I've discussed this scene with Rex already, and I think it has potential to be a nice, mysterious beginning. As it stands, though, the passage is about 500 dry-as-dust words. I'll come back to it and try to make it a bit more vibrant.

Still, it's nice to get this thing going after about a million false starts. I think it just needed more time to percolate. I'm not saying it's ready for drinking yet, to continue the metaphor, but we're closer now than we've ever been.

Grand Achievement

I just finished reading through over 10 years worth of PvP strips. It's because of my awesome fortitude and willpower.

Thanks, Scott Kurtz!

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Didn't Even Have to Use My AK . . .

I'd have to say it was a good couple of days.

My goodness, it feels good to sit down at the computer and write. Blogging is fun and all, but I'm not passionate about it like I am about fiction (as evidenced by this being only the fourth post this month). It has been sooo sweet. So sweet, in fact that I'm going to describe it to you.


I got a bit of a late start in the morning. Still working out the kinks in the schedule. Still, I sat down and worked on VFO. I actually sat down and worked on Vintage Furniture and Oddities for the first time in ages. It was all character background and concept development, but it was a lot of fun and it's pushing me in the right direction. I don't want to start a project like this without understanding my characters or having a decent plan as to where I'm going.

As an aside, I think that's been one of the problem's I've had with VFO. It started as a writing excercise I gave myself. I wanted to write 500 words and make up the story as a I went along. That became a problem once Rex Queems and I talked about doing VFO together. It was no longer a thing I could play with whenever I want and with no pressure. But those days are over! Developing the concept in more detail was nigh unto exhilerating.

Then I ate lunch.

After lunch, Day One took a downward turn. I worked for a couple of hours on the stuff I want to use for my MFA writing sample. HORROR. I couldn't write a word. "Come On, Casper" didn't flow at all. I actually tried my hand at a bunch of the stories I have unfinished on my laptop. Nothing. That was a discouraging afternoon.


I decided to do "Come On, Casper" in the morning this time, hoping that my mind would be a bit more fresh. What I didn't realize, though, was that the 'freshness' wasn't the issue. The issue was that I was so worried about theme and structure that I got stymied. I've been reading John Gardner's On Becoming a Novelist, and it really helped remind me that I was primarily doing this to tell stories. After that, a new direction for the story emerged and I worked happily through the morning.

Lunch again!

More VFO in the afternoon, and it just kept getting better. I got a handle on something that will be integral to the storyline; something that will provide direction and (I hope) suspense as the strip continues. Hopefully I'll be able to actually get to some of the writing soon. Anyway, day two was excellent.


Day three was a bit of a problem because I had to do some work this morning. That meant the morning session was out so we could get school and everything in.

And lunch.

The afternoon was truncated as well because I had a work meeting, but once that meeting ended I got right to it. I decided to go with "Come On Casper" rather than VFO because I wanted to keep yesterday's juices flowing. Happily, the story continued very well. I'm not cranking out tons of pages, but the story is moving along and I like the language and the direction (right now at least . . . ask me again tomorrow).

Tomorrow will be DAY FOUR. I'll miss the morning session again, but I'm looking forward to another couple of productive hours tomorrow afternoon. It'll be VFO, I think, so I can keep things moving.

Creating makes me happy. Doing that for a living . . . that would be a beautiful life.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Attention: All of My Devoted Fan

And yes, I left 'fan' singular on purpose. All I do, I do for comedy.

Anyway, I added a new feature to the blog. Anyone who loves me should 'follow' my blog by clicking on the little widget on the right of the screen. After you do so, you will receive your 'Joshua Duncan' decoder ring and t-shirt in 8-10 epochs. Absolute proof of identity is required, so don't use a pseudonym, unless I already know you by said pseudonym.

Again, if you TRULY care for me, follow my blog and forward this message to ten friends.

Absentmindedly yours,

Anonymous, aka 'Josh'

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Rich, the Vivid, and the Beautiful: Priorities in Reading and MFAs

A friend of mine recently made his Facebook status something like, "You know you're a nerd if, once you've finished your semester, your first thought is, 'what books can I read now?" I laughed because that was exactly what thought I when I was walking away from my last final this semester. I have a long list of novels and short story collections that await my attention.

I started getting back into The Best American Short Stories of the Century before the semester actually ended. I'm still dedicated to reading through in order, and I've only just hit the 1940s. I enjoy getting samples of some of the best authors of the 20th Century in such a quick succession. Somehow it satisfies my truncated 21st Century attention span. You'd think the short story would be more popular these days, but I guess no matter how much you shorten a story it's still not a video game.

Another book I've given a second shot is Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping. I bought it last year at the Trinity Arts Conference because I enjoyed Gilead, but for some reason I got bogged down early with Housekeeping. It fell by the wayside and I moved on to other things.

Later, as readers of this blog are well aware, I began sorting through MFA programs. The list has changed repeatedly, but an early entry was the University of Iowa, where Marilynne Robinson teaches. Like Housekeeping, though, Iowa fell by the wayside. I wasn't sure about funding, so I took it off my list.

Recently, however, a couple of factors combined to put Iowa back on my list. First, I reread The Creative Writing MFA Handbook, and the ever-helpful Seth Abramson wrote that at Iowa they do whatever they can to make sure their students have the funding they need. That doesn't guarantee fully paid tuition and a stipend, but it means that there's at least a chance. So the money question was answered.

The other factor was a brief conversation I had with Jerram Barrs about MFA programs after class one day this past semester. It wasn't a momentous thing; he just pointed out that Marilyn Robinson was the head of the program there and that she was a Christian. I realized I that in the quest for funding I had lost sight of something important: A place for connection. I don't reckon Marilynne Robinson is in the PCA or anything, but there is a definite worldview connection there. I felt it when I read Gilead. I happily added Iowa back to my list.

My renewed interest in Iowa and Marilyn Robinson lead me to a renewed interest in Housekeeping (the book, not the activity). I began reading, and I have had a much different experience this time. I think I must have been impatient with it last year. Most of the fiction I enjoy conjures vivid images in my imagination, but Housekeeping does that less often. I am on chapter five and the images of the characters are still developing in my head. That is usually not the case for me, and it would normally drive me away from a book, but the treasure in Robinson's writing does not lie in the vivid image as much as the beautiful sentence. The story is compelling, but the joy of staying with Robinson is the unusually lovely turns of phrase she uses. It's makes for a slow read, but it's worth the time. Why run through the forest when you can stroll, touch the trees, and smell the growing greenness around you?

So thanks to Marilynne Robinson, for reminding me that there's more to an MFA than funding. And thanks for helping me understand that there's more to reading than the vivid image. Thanks from the bottom of my slightly-less-truncated 21st Century attention span.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

This is How the Semester Ends . . .

I took my OT History Books test today. That means that I officially have one more year to go at Covenant Theological Seminary. I'm gearing up for a busy summer, so pray for us!

The To Do List:

1. Get a good writing sample ready
2. Take the GRE
3. Find three people to be references for me
4. Write VFO webcomic with Rex Queems
5. Make some rent money somehow

And finally . . .

6. Actually be there when, y'know, my wife has our fourth child

OK, so six things doesn't sound that big, but most of these aren't 'one-off' type things. I'll keep everyone posted.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

One Last April Post

I'm entering the home stretch. The semester will be over soon, and I will be one year closer to finishing my MDiv. Then comes the summer, in which I will apply to MFA programs and play the most painful waiting game I've ever played . . . g'night.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bonus Post!!!

Just to let you know, according to google my blog contains the only reference to 'airbrushed catkin' on the internet.

Something That Could Probably Stop Now

Any story, strip, article that begins 'In which . . .,' as in 'In which Waldo receives an airbrushed catkin.' It's usually done in sort of a playful, ironic, pseudo-Victorian way, but it's over. It needs to stop. I enjoyed it at first, but it's become a substitute for an actual clever title (as my 'airbrushed catkin' line demonstrates).

Of course, Wondermark is exempted from the 'in which' ban because the cleverness of the strip, but also because the 'in which' bits are not featured prominently.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In the Cool of the Morning

Today we rejoice in the most explosive, unlooked for, eucatostrophic event the universe could have ever longed for.

The stiff-knuckled hand of Death had its bony fingers peeled back; his power melted away while his brother Sin was made bankrupt.

The world was shattered, but the centerpiece of history came into place two thousand years ago--

--when Christ walked the garden in the cool of the morning.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Day of Note

I'm trying to improve my art for my Children's Lit project. This cartoon is not related to the project, but I got the idea this morning so I drew it up. Click the pic for the details.

It's not that great, and the gag has been done, but I enjoyed doing it. I was thinking about taking the colored pencils to it, but I'm not sure if I will. It would help contrast the mountains in the background with the cliff in the foreground, but I'm not sure if I want to take the time. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'll Eat it Up I Love it So!

What movie do I want to see more than Watchmen?

This one.

Click the link, come back, and tell me how many times you watched the trailer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Do You Like Drawrings?

I've got to acknowledge a couple of links my brother has passed along to me. He's turned me on to two comic strips. I suppose I'm a bit late in starting reading these two comics because one has been around for five years and the other for around three, but they're worth reading no matter when you hop on board.

The first comic I read was Wondermark, a strip by Dave Melki that uses old Victorian-era illustrations to great comedic effect. Start in the 'A Good Start' area and then move on to reading the entire archive. You'll find good laughs with regularity. My favorite strips are, of course, the silliest ones.

The second comic is called The Abominable Charles Christopher. I was pretty much made a fan by the title alone, but I found the comic itself was even better than its title. Charles Christopher is a sasquatch who is in the midst of discovering the world. He doesn't quite understand how some things work, and can't quite communicate, but he's learning. The animals who live in the forest provide a healthy dose of humor, while many of Charles Christopher's adventures appear to be leading somewhere more dramatic. Combine that with the absolutely superb art, and you have a comic I'll be coming back to week after week. If you're new to Charles Christopher, start at the first episode and move forward. If you're like me, you'll catch up to this weeks episode much more quickly than you'd like. I could've kept reading for another hour or so.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't point out the link to another wonderful website I've run across. The site just happens to contain the work of Mr. Rex Queems himself, frequent commentor on these pages and excellent cartoonist in his own right. It's only fair that I point out this link, since he was the one who introduced me to both Wondermark and The Abominable Charles Christopher.

Ladies and Gentlemen, follow me to the Illustratorium. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Children's Lit and the Loveliness of Trees

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of the semester, an avalanche of assignments hurtling at you, but you only have the desire to work on one of them? I think this might be the first time I've had that experience, since I usually don't want to work on any of them.

The assignment in question is the one from my Children's Lit class. I'm writing and illustrating a story for my boys and I am thoroughly enjoying working the story out in my head. I don't want to tell the story yet, but it has (of course) given me a million ideas that I could incorporate. I'm going to have trouble keeping the story as small as it should be, I think.

I've done some preliminary drawings for the story as well, and it has revealed some of the deficiencies in my art. In particular, I have trouble with trees. I've always found people more interesting and more fun to draw than anything else: trees, animals, buildings, cars, what have you. This has lead me to attend to the actual trees around campus, and I've found that . . . well . . . they're quite beautiful. I mean, I've always loved springtime its flowers, summer's warm greenness, and the spectacular splashes of color that come with autumn.

But it's winter now. The trees are brown and bare, but they're still quite beautiful.

In the yard by the playground stand two white birch towers, with their branches forked like lightning . . .

Out my living room/office window a shaggy barked tree is lined with narrow branches, jutting out like bony fingers . . .

Near Founders hall are two trees standing like old friends, their tops bent back and branches to the sky in praise of God . . .

I guess I had lived under the illusion that trees are basically the same, but the variety is amazing, even among trees of the same species. What makes the trunk divide in two when it does? Why do the branches bend and twist where they do?

So while anyone can appreciate a tree covered with foliage, I encourage you: don't stop there. Love a leafless tree.

Bare is beautiful.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Visit Maple Mountain

A while back my old friend S.D. Smith asked if I could write a post he could put up on his blog, The Maple Mountain Story Club, when he and his wife had their baby. This was probably in January sometime, but I can't directly recall. I like S.D. and I like writing for other blogs, so I thought I would take him up on his offer.

I immediately realized I was faced with a problem. Most of what I post here amounts to hand-wringing about the future or attempts at humor that die miserably. I was guessing that S.D.'s crowd of readers didn't want to hear my progress toward MFA applications (there hasn't been much, by the way), nor did they want a one line humor post that likely involved the word 'butt.' So I had to come up with something good.

As it turns out, I had a decent idea percolating in my head. I had been thinking about The Band's song "The Weight" a lot, and I wanted to do a post on the concept of sainthood Robbie Robertson has in the song as opposed to a true Christian one. So I did. It worked out well because I knew I was never going to write a substantive post to put up here. It would be too much work. But for a friend, I would do it.

Go to S.D.'s blog and check it out. I read part of the post, but I find it hard to revisit my own writing once it's out there for public consumption. I see too many changes that need to be made. I've gotten a couple of nice comments though.

By the way, be sure to read S.D.'s introduction. It's probably the better piece of writing on the page and it captures me pretty darn well. Except I was a c-section baby, so I never went through the birth canal.

See, now you're curious. You'll have to check it out.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Mini-Meditation on Writing

I should be doing something productive right now, but I'm not. I'm blogging. It's not that I think blogging is a waste of time; it's more like I have a number of things I could be doing. Like school reading. Paper writing. Heck, I could even be watching Princess Mononoke, which I rented today. At least that would get my imagination going.

I'm a big fan of the imagination. I guess that's why I keep wanting to add elements to the story I'm writing for Children's Lit this semester. It began as a straightforward LotR-esque adventure story, but as I've thought more and more about it--and watched a few Miyazaki movies--I've wanted to expand the world. I want to crack open the top of my head (metaphorically) and build a world that amazes. I don't want to populate a fantasy world with elves and dwarves and orcs, though there's nothing wrong with doing that. I want to bend categories. I want to invent critters that hang in the imagination long after you've read their stories. I want to blend the stuff of differing historical eras into one and make it seem as natural as breathing. That, to me, sounds exciting.

I haven't abandoned adult fiction, though. "Come on Casper" is still in the works. It's just not something I'm working on for a class these days. That story is a different kind of challenge. It's more about structure and getting the language just right . . . not giving away too much before the end of the story, etc. Of course, as I typed that, I recognized that children's lit requires all that too. I just don't get to 'play around' as much with "Come on Casper."

Is it less fun then? Yes and no. It's not a blast like inventing monsters and other whimsical doodads, but there's an intense pleasure that comes from actually constructing a story and using structural elements to guide the reader when the subject matter doesn't make reading the story 'fun.' That's what I like about adult lit. Still, though, I plan on incorporating the fantastic into my 'serious' adult fiction later. I just have to figure out how to work it out.

OK. Time to be productive.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's a . . . Blog Post!!

After a rip-snortin' start to my blogging year in January, I fell off the wagon in February. Part of it has to do with classes, but that's not the full reason. Facebook also takes its share of the blame. After all, I hear Facebook is killing little blogs like mine. Meh. I'll keep going.

So that's out of the way. The biggest news in my life is obviously finding out the sex of our baby. Most of you probably already know that the baby is a GIRL. That's right! We're having a girl. So many doubted, but we did the improbable.

Now, if we could just figure out a name . . .

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Writing Update: "Come on, Casper"

I've posted lately about submitting stories, researching MFAs and plain ol' nonsense, so I thought I'd make a post about how my writing is going. Of course, I wouldn't make this post unless there was news, so I wanted to say I'm pleased to announce I've finished the first draft of a story. Not huge news, I know, but news nonetheless.

The story, now titled "Come On, Casper" but due for a name change, weighs in at about 1700 words. Much of what I do seems to fall in that range. That total will go up or down depending on how the editing process goes, but I wouldn't expect much fluctuation.

It seems odd to me that I worked on "Keep Thinking, Keep Moving" for one day and it hit just under 1000 words, while I've worked on "Come On, Casper" on and off for a couple of months and it's 1700. I guess I'll never write a 20 page short story. I'm not sure why that is. I'll have to think about it.

Anyway, I think the story has some potential, but it needs a good hearty tweak or two. The structure is basically there, and the thread of the story as well, but it needs shaping and polishing. That's still a new process to me. I never used to edit the stories I wrote. I suppose that's why I never considered them worth keeping. I want my stories to be worth keeping, though, so editing is a necessity. Thanks for reading, and I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Amazingly True Educational Fact 2

The original title of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was "The Curious Butt of Christopher Cason."

Amazingly true.

From the Journal of Amazingly True Educational Facts

Saturday, January 17, 2009

PCA Churches in MFA Towns

One of the factors we need to consider in choosing an MFA is how we like the location, and a big part of that depends on what kind of churches the community has. We've been in the PCA for a couple of years now, so if I could find a good one in the MFA program's community that would be a big plus. Here's how they stack up.

1. UT-Austin-Austin has five PCA churches: CrossPointe, All Saints, Redeemer, Christ the King, and Choongmanhan. Lots of choice there.
2. Syracuse-No PCA presence. A friend told me that there is an OPC presence, but we probably don't want to move in a more conservative direction.
3. Purdue-Two Cities serves Lafayette and West Lafayette.
4. Indiana-No PCA presence in Bloomington. I may do some research to see if any of the PCA churches are within driving distance.
5. Notre Dame-Michiana Covenant Church is in South Bend
6. Alabama-Trinity and Riverwood serve Tuscaloosa
7. UNC-Greensboro-Friendly Hills, Summer Oaks, Spring Garden.
8. Ohio State-Grace Central Presbyterian Mission is in Columbus.
9. Florida-Gainesville has Faith Presbyterian and Christ Community
10. Penn State-Found nothing in College Park, but again I don't know what towns are within driving distance.
11. Wisconsin-Lake Trails and Madison Sah-Lang
12. Minnesota-No PCA churches in Minneapolis/St. Paul
13. Illinois All Souls in Champaign-Urbana
14. Iowa-One Ancient Hope Mission Church

Of course, even if the town has a PCA church/churches that tells us nothing about the vitality of that/those church(es). That will take a bit more research, and may be best left for a time after I get accepted to one of these programs. If I get accepted.

Monday, January 12, 2009

After I Wake, Before I Shower

Though the title of this post could by itself earn it a number one vote on the "Posts No One Will Ever Read" list, I couldn't think of a better one. The time between when I awake in the morning and when I get in the shower is usually the time I have some of my weirder thoughts. They're usually silly and/or nonsensical, and are often sentence fragments. I want to start recording them, though, so I'm going to do the foolish thing and do so publicly. For today:

"Three things a sitcom needs: Razor sharp wit, sparkling political satire, and a cat with a big butt."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Anderbo? AnderNO.

Well, Anderbo got back to me slightly faster than the one to three months than I expected. They politely declined to use my story. I didn't even have time to get nervous. At this rate I expect journals to start sending me preemptive rejections.

EDIT: And just for the record, I harbor no ill will toward Anderbo. I would submit to them again any day. I was just surprised to receive notice that early.

Submitted for Their Approval

For the first time in my life, I have submitted a story for publication. I sent Keep Thinking, Keep Moving to Evening Street Press and Anderbo. I wanted to send it to a few more places, and probably will, but some of the others I was looking at don't accept on-line submissions.

I'll keep everyone posted.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

AMAZINGLY TRUE Educational Fact

There is a word that rhymes with orange, but its meaning is so filthy that Penn Gillete reflexively yanks the head from his 12-inch, fully articulated Lenny Bruce action figure every time he hears it.

Amazingly true.

-from the Journal of Amazingly True Educational Facts

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I Got the Gift of Music

I got a couple of iTunes gift cards for Christmas. I've kinda sorta fallen in love with cherry-picking favorite songs. They don't have to be great songs, just songs that appeal to me. My number one criterion is they have to be mood-changers. Whatever mood I happen to be in, any one of those songs should be able to take me where it's going emotionally. I had $30 to play with this time, and here's what I've gotten so far:

1. The Weight-The Band
I honestly didn't even know about this song until the last few years, which is surprising considering how much 'oldies' radio my parents listened to as I grew up. As soon as I heard it, though, I knew why it was a classic.

2. The Worst that Could Happen-Brooklyn Bridge
I'm a sucker for songs like this. The guy is mourning his lost love, but glad that she is finding happiness. I'm pretty sure this was Brooklyn Bridge's only hit.

3. Oh Girl-The Chi-Lites
Another 'lost love' song. Nice and melancholy.

4. Fox on the Run (Live)-The Country Gentlemen
This is probably my favorite bluegrass song. If you'll notice, it also has a bit of a melancholy, lost love element. This was taken from a live concert from their tour of Japan.

5. Old Salty Dog Blues-Flatt and Scruggs
I first heard this bluegrass tune at my Aunt Sue's birthday party more than a decade ago. I loved it instantly, but never put forth the effort to track down a copy. The situtation has been rectified.

6. Sweet Child o' Mine-Guns 'N' Roses
Contrary to what Rex Queems might think, this song has one of the best opening riffs in rock music.

7. Don't Pull Your Love-Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds
Another one hit wonder, another 'lost love' song. I also really enjoy the harmony in the chorus. This one is very fun to sing along with.

8. With a Little Help From My Friends-Joe Cocker
There are not many Beatles covers that surpass the original, but Joe Cocker does it easily with this one.

9. The Letter-Joe Cocker
Hear me now: This is the definitive version of this song. Don't get me wrong; I liked The Box Tops' version. It's remembered for a good reason. However, Cocker's cover from Mad Dogs and Englishmen is powerful and dynamic in a way that The Box Tops can't approach.

10. Take Me Home Country Roads-John Denver
I'm from the WV, man! How can I not love this song?! Don't give me that "the song's really about Virginia 'cause the 'blue ridge mountains, shenandoah river' line." Almost Heaven, West Virginia.

11. Ave Verum Corpus-London Festival Orchestra
We did this in my 'Wayne Singers' class back in high school. Great harmony and beautiful in a way I don't have the musical vocabulary to describe

12. Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)-Looking Glass
A pure fun song. Great for singing at the top of your lungs in the car.

13. Mr. Bojangles-Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Probably one of the saddest songs I know. A true, tragic, story about a popular culture icon from the early 20th Century. NOTE: Thos ain't true. See comments

14. Sea of Love-Phil Phillips
I vacillated over whether I'd buy this version or The Honeydrippers' version, but I went with the original. I'm glad I did. Both are good, but I just like Phillips vocals more than Robert Plant's.

15. Handle With Care-The Traveling Wilburys
It was a shame Roy Orbison passed away so soon after The Traveling Wilburys recorded their first album. I would have loved to hear more from this most super of super groups.

16. Buddy Holly-Weezer
A '90s classic. One of the most fun songs Weezer ever recorded, though I can't say that I followed their career. Not a huge fan, but I appreciated what they did.

That leaves me with $14.39 to play with. I'm open to suggestions, but my list is going to be very idiosyncratic. Don't be offended if I don't pick songs you like!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

One Clean Slate with a Heaping Tablespoon of Uncertainty

Clean slate, folks. We have a new year to muck around in. I usually don't make a big deal about the new year (after all, it is technically just another day), but I feel a bit different today. There's something about having a specific goal for the year that changes my perspective. I know I have a lot of work to do for the MFA applications, and I know it has to be good work. I can't work on my writing sample with, say, the same forethought and effort I give to these blog posts. Nor can I let the MFA requirements slip for a month or ten. Procrastination is not an option this year. With the the number of application fees I'll have to pay, I can't afford to wait and do them all at once.

Then there's the GRE. My general impression is that the GRE doesn't matter much for the MFA programs themselves, but the grad schools in general require them. So I'll need to study for that. The GRE has double the pressure, though, because I have to beat my brother's score, and he hasn't left me much wiggle room. Right bro? Seriously, this test is a big deal. There's at least the possibility that my score could be a tie-breaker between me and an equally qualified candidate.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like a high school senior applying to some top colleges. When I applied to college I had no doubt I would get in to my schools of choice. Marshall University and Tri-State Bible College are fairly non-competetive. I was even confident about getting in here at the seminary. Covenant is a good school, but it's not primarily a scholar's seminary. Now, on the other hand, I'm applying to schools that are among the best in the field. That means I'll be up against the best writing students in the nation. If it was just a standardized test, I wouldn't worry about it so much, but writing is more subjective. Add to that the fact that I don't have a good sense of what quality of work I can do consistently, and my consternation increases.

So hopefully in the next few months I can crank out a couple of perfect 10 stories, which will then lead to me getting into every program I apply to. Then I can stroll onto campus as a superstar, and writing success will inevitably follow. That's how it works, right?