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?