THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
February 27, 2016
Greetings! This week, I’m starting off with an announcement. As I announced a few weeks ago, Black Lamb, the literary magazine to which I’ve contributed monthly essays for more than five years, has ceased publishing a print edition. For (what I consider lamentable but understand all too well) economic reasons, Black Lamb is now an on-line zine. My announcement is that the first edition of the new on-line Black Lamb is up and available for reading (free) at http://www.blacklamb.org.
My first contribution to this new incarnation of Black Lamb is a bunch of 55-word stories. By now, if you’ve been reading this weekly blog, you know my affection for micro-fiction, and these are some of my favorites. These ones have not been published in print, but you may have seen some of them appear on my blog. Others are making their first appearance anywhere. The sampling starts with a dilemma for Frank Sinatra, and contains other celebrities as well: St. Francis, Leonardo da Vinci, and King Arthur. See for yourself: http://www.blacklamb.org/2016/01/01/very-short-stories-2/
Speaking of 55-word stories, I’m using one to introduce this week’s essay. Here goes:
Such a Deal
“God,” I prayed, “let me write for a living.”
Through my garret door strode a dude wearing a red suit and brimstone cologne.
He grinned. “Let’s talk.”
“What? You want my soul?”
He laughed. “A writing career’s not worth that. I’ll accept your sanity.”
Decades later, I’m still in my garret.
He’s still laughing.
WRITING IS A REAL JOB
Whenever Susan and I go on vacation, we find ourselves talking to strangers, often in warm, friendly bars. Inevitably someone asks us the question “What do you do?” We refuse to answer. It’s not that we’re shy, or ashamed of what we do, or especially unfriendly. It’s just that we don’t talk about our work when we’re on vacation. We work side by side, fifty hours a week, fifty weeks a year, and the reason we’re in that bar somewhere in the tropics is to forget about the publishing business.
In recent years, however, I’ve developed the sheer brazen gall to say, “I’m a writer.” That warms up the conversation, shines a big spotlight on me, allows me to brag about my books, and gives me a chance to pretend to be modest, just this guy doing his job. I don’t pass out bookmarks or collect emails for my mailing list. But I do say out loud what for decades I’ve been too shy to say: “I’m a writer.”
Why haven’t I dared to say this all my adult life? Have I only recently earned the right? In fact, I’ve been writing all my adult life, and have always been able to make a few dollars doing it. I’ve led a literary life as a bookseller, a free-lance editor, a small-press publisher, and a teacher of creative writing. Along the way I’ve written a lot of books and a ton of stories, and some of those books and a few dozen stories have appeared in print. Some even brought me some money.
It is true that most of the writing that has earned me a living has been crafting contracts, press releases, catalog copy, back cover copy, and business correspondence. When I’m writing contracts, business letters, and press releases, I’m writing to live. When I’m in the midst of making a novel, on the other hand, I live to write. And by God, I consider that a real job, a respectable job. For practical reasons, I don’t allow myself the addictive pleasure of writing fiction during “business hours,” Monday through Saturday. But I write my fiction all day Sunday, every Sunday, and even a few hours every day on vacation.
I’m a writer. You are too. Say after me: “I am a writer.” We writers are writers because we must write. We made a deal with the devil, I suppose, and the deal was worth it.
Note: If this essay sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve posted it before. In fact it’s a bit out of date. Most people don’t ask me what I “do” anymore. I now usually hear the question “What did you do?” I guess I appear old enough to be retired. Hah.
Calling all authors—
I feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at email@example.com.
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for next month’s 99-word story submissions is March 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for March 12 and the week following.
note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY:
The title of this illustration is “It Hit Me Like a Tornado.” Write a 99-word story inspired by the illustration or the title, but don’t make it about the weather.
And now a word from our sponsor:
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Charlie, the proud hero of this strong and gripping story, is known to his fellow truckers, loggers, and fishermen as Hawk. His father, a full-blooded Hupok, taught him his Indian heritage; his Scots-Irish mother gave him a lifelong love of reading. He feels connected to both roots, but he is most himself when he’s by himself, out in the forest, on the banks or in the flow of his beloved Klamath River. The language in this novel is lush and romantic. Lots of thoughtful philosophy is verbalized in internal thoughts and stream of consciousness. In the mix we are treated to solid information on fly fishing, trucking, logging, the marijuana industry, and most of all the ecology of the forests and rivers of the California far north, a land that still enjoys wildness.
Dee Hubbard worked as a Denver CPA and was also a Director or Trustee for twelve organizations, including the Nature Conservancy in Colorado. He now lives and writes in Steamboat Springs. His other passions include hiking forest trails and climbing high mountains with his wife and muse, artist Bonnie McGee, and fishing with their golden retriever, Skye. His writing has been recognized in local, regional, national and international literary competitions, and his first book, Slim to None: A Journey through the Wasteland of Anorexia Treatment, became a Denver Post best seller and a Colorado Book of the Year nominee.
As always, thanks for visiting. I hope you’ll make a habit of it. Meanwhile, enjoy reading and/or writing stories. They’re a wonderful pastime. But you know that already.
|John at the mouth of the Klamath River|