Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Continued Phallic Stage

My first fiction story to publish is about a penile operation.

During my first residency at Stonecoast, everyone talked about "submitting." I knew what that meant—my agent and I had submitted my first book about a hundred times before landing a publisher. I just didn't realize I could submit anything.

I began researching publications. There are so many, for every genre and story length. I created an account on The (Submission) Grinder to track my work. And then I submitted two stories to a total of six publications, and have since received three rejections and one acceptance by the website A Story In 100 Words which publishes stories exactly 100 words long.

Enjoy my first published fiction story titled "Continued Phallic Stage."

Typing a story
As published on A Story In 100 Words

Clifford consulted his companion Coleman before Clifford’s penis-extending surgery.

Clifford: I’ll be courteous to Doctor Coen. A Clip Magazine column confirms kindness cultivates better care.

Coleman: Christ you’re crazy!

Clifford: You conclude I should be cruel? Then Doc Coen might compress it! Conceivably I could court him with chocolates.

Coleman: Chocolates, come again? Keep reading Continued Phallic Stage

Leia Mais…

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Greatest Professional Accomplishment Was a Bureaucratic Miracle

When we achieve our all-time greatest professional accomplishment, we know it right away. Like Dr. Carl June developing a novel way to treat cancer, Mark Sanchez not throwing an interception, and me breaking through bureaucracy in the U.S. federal government to author a column in my organization's 18,000-circulation newsletter.

Last summer, the communications office where I work wanted to create a new feature in our newsletter focusing on a different employee every other week. They asked me to write it. They said, "We want it to be about people's day-to-day lives at work."

I said, "That's boring, how about instead I interview and write about the people who work here, and not write about what they do."

They said, "That would be too long. Not relevant. Nobody would read it."

I wrote one such article anyway, a 1,200-word behemoth. Then I presented it to them and they said the same thing they had said before. I fought harder, asking them to trust me, stating that readers would enjoy it, asking them to give it a chance just one time and see what happens.

I fought and fought for my work until they agreed and it published. And besides messages related to policy, jobs or benefits, it became one of the most read pieces of content ever at my organization.

Now, I write a new article that publishes in our newsletter every other Wednesday. These articles highlight the extraordinary in our seemingly ordinary employees. I've had the privilege to interview and write about an actress, a soldier, a triathlete, a refugee officer, a former refugee, and more.

It's normally inappropriate for me to share these articles on this blog, but during Public Service Recognition Week my organization published four of them publicly. And so I share those four below. Enjoy.

For This Political Refugee, U.S. Was Land of the Free, Home of the Berries
"I don't have a lot of memories from before I was 7 years old. I don’t remember a playground or riding bikes. I don’t remember much about playing except for one event at a refugee camp in the Philippines. Every Friday night someone would set up a play and refugees would watch. I remember that very explicitly being entertaining, maybe just because they made funny noises and made us laugh. I don’t even quite understand what they were talking about." Keep reading For This Political Refugee, U.S. Was Land of the Free, Home of the Berries

Texas Officer: How a Small Gesture Translated Into a New Career
"Growing up, I never knew that life existed outside of the 48-mile radius of Eldorado, Texas," says Maribel (Mary) Gonzalez, an immigration services officer at the Texas Service Center in Dallas. Keep reading Texas Officer: How a Small Gesture Translated Into a New Career

A Refugee Officer's Story: 'Countless Narratives of Suffering and Loss'
For six years, USCIS Refugee Officer Slava Madorsky traveled the world interviewing applicants to determine if they were eligible for refugee status, because of persecution or fear of persecution. For three of those years, until she was able to use a laptop during interviews, she handwrote up to 40 pages of notes each day to record their stories. Once, as she interviewed a man in Baghdad, her pen flew from her hand in a bad case of writer’s cramp. The man – who had been describing torture and being shuttled from prison to prison – laughed. Madorsky apologized. “‘It’s just my hand. I’m not actually throwing a pen at you.’ He was the nicest man in the world. He actually felt bad for me, and I was thinking, ‘Why is this person feeling bad for my stupid hand?’” Keep reading A Refugee Officer's Story: 'Countless Narratives of Suffering and Loss'

How ‘I Will Be Right Behind You’ Means Reuniting 12 Years Later for This Budget Analyst
When Sanh M. was 8 years old, she loosened her fixed grip on her father's hand as he sent her towards a boat that would take her from Vietnam to a refugee camp in Thailand. She says her father told her, "Go…go with your sisters. Your mother, brothers and I will be right behind you." Keep reading How ‘I Will Be Right Behind You’ Means Reuniting 12 Years Later for This Budget Analyst

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On April 23, I modeled in a fashion show supporting the 2016 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man & Woman of the Year campaign. Two years ago I was a candidate in this fundraiser and my team raised over $50,000. I am proud to continue volunteering for LLS as part of the campaign's "leadership team" which is composed of former candidates. You can contribute to the 2016 Man & Woman of the Year campaign which concludes June 4.
modeling in a cancer survivor fashion show supporting Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Leia Mais…

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Fiction-Writing Guide Worthy of Dave Eggers and God

I am afraid to write fiction.

Two months ago I wrote a jokey blog about being in over my head in my writing program despite having authored two memoirs and an essay that got anthologized. But there is truth in comedy. Compared to the personal stories I've been publishing on this blog the last nine years, writing fiction takes me longer, leads to anxiety, and usually lags in quality.

It doesn't make sense. A story is a story, and the same elements that make a story entertaining cross all genres. But telling myself that didn't help, so I imagined myself as the protagonist, which I usually am in my blog stories. That, too, didn't eliminate my fear.

My next step was to write a guide on writing, developed using notes from the craft books I've heavily studied. For the past two weeks that is all I have done. I spent so much time writing this guide that I lost track of days and felt like a hermit. My hope was that the guide would eliminate my fear of writing fiction; lead me to write better and faster; and make writing fiction as fun as I have writing jokey blogs about myself.

the best and curated guide on writing fiction stories

I don't know if the guide will achieve those goals, but I know I completed The Fiction-Writing Guide Worthy of Dave Eggers and God (for now). It is a living document—as I study more craft books I will add to this guide. Ultimately I want a notecard-size list of rules to follow to write a great piece of fiction. Rules, because following rules did well for me against cancer, and following other rules helped me live a more complete life in my twenties.

It seems I will forever thrive on prescriptions, and if this guide achieves its goals then I'll write more guides like this: maybe one on being a more effective person, and definitely one on how to be attractive to women (hint: I think they're one and the same).

But first, I have about 40 pages of fiction to write before May 2. Guide, please guide me.

If you wish to see The Fiction-Writing Guide Worthy of Dave Eggers and God then contact me and I'll share the link to it on Google Docs.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Writing Exercise: Develop Your Craft by Alternating Perspectives

If you want to improve your writing technique then—just like building physical strength and endurance—exercise. One of the books I read for school, The Art of Fiction by John Gardner, offers many writing exercises. One is to take a simple event and describe it using the same characters and setting in five radically different ways (changes of style, tone, sentence structure, voice, psychic distance, etc.).

taking public transportation on bus

The event: A man gets off a bus, trips, looks around in embarrassment, and sees a woman smiling. Below are my five radically different attempts to describe this event. How would you write this scene? Email it to me!

The man, draped in purple velvet—who wears velvet in the summer in Los Angeles?—large enough to play offensive line for the Raiders, and maybe he does play for the Raiders, stood when the bus stopped but the bus didn’t stop completely—it inched closer to the sign in fits and starts—and now the purple man, holding a mobile in one hand and Infinite Jest in the other and no hands on a railing or seat, caught his right foot behind his left and I saw it in slow motion, the world just kind of paused, as he fell forward just tumbling down the bus aisle and I saw him choose—yes, I swear he chose—to drop the mobile and protect the book and not vice versa and he crashed—you’d think it was another earthquake—right on his right shoulder with the novel tucked in his other arm like a football and suddenly I recalled my mother, night after night, reading me fantasy stories before proclaiming the night was over and gently placing the closed book in its proper place on the shelf, never a scratch or mark or scuff. I smiled at the purple man and I believe he felt my mother, too.

In 1987, the National Football League Players Association went on strike and men across the league, like the Raiders’ Jacob Breele, understood the day would come when football would be over, not just for a season but for permanence. So men like Jacob began spending time learning new skills like public speaking and writing. Some men, like Jacob, even visited their first library, checked out their first book, and read their first complete novel. Some men, like Jacob, became so engrossed in their new skills that they forgot that Los Angeles buses were notorious for false stops and Jacob, well known for his false start penalties on the gridiron, fell flat on his face clutching the monster 1,079-page book he adored, smiling at the woman across the aisle thinking that this penalty hurt less than his previous ones.

They thought they owned it all: mansions, bank accounts, sports cars, Sundays, our children’s awe. One word came to mind amid all that greed and gluttony: karma. When the football players lost their jobs to the scrubs, it all came crumbling down on them and commoners could only smile at their supposed suffering. The day star lineman Jacob Breele fell on the city bus, toppling over his own huge body, all Maya could do when their eyes met across the aisle was smile.

Chairs made of brown, faded plastic, stiff as redwoods. Grimy windows locked shut, barred shut, or never able to open to begin with, some so graffitied they lacked all transparency. Air so thick with racism it was equally cloudy. A large, disturbed man covered head to toe in purple velvet falls attempting to exit the bus and all the woman across the aisle can do is laugh at him. Southern California Rapid Transit District, 1987.

Beginning in the womb, our lips stretch, curl upwards at the ends, and we smile. After bruising and tumbling as toddlers, we cry, and then we smile. After heartache in adolescence, we curse the world and the boy or girl who ripped out our insides, and then we smile at the next one we see at lunch. After graduating college, we think, where did those 22 years go?, and then we smile and rejoice with our friends over our accomplishment. After losing our job because our employer thought it could skate by with replacement staff, we wonder where our place is in the world, and we fall over and over, we fall over our savings and our possessions and even the very bus we ride for transportation, and then we smile because we can still pick ourselves back up.

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I'll be signing books at the Spring Jewish Food and Heritage Festival on April 17 at Congregation Sons of Israel, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, from 12:30 - 3 p.m. See the festival's flyer for information on purchasing tickets. Synagogue address: 209 E. King St., Chambersburg, PA.

Leia Mais…