Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lessons From My MFA Creative Writing Program

In the moments after I listen to each new episode of the Tim Ferriss Show, I want to redesign my entire life. Especially after The Terminator was a show guest. In other words, I'm easily inspired. After completing my second residency in my master's of fine arts in creative writing program, I felt like I absorbed the one-liners from all of Arnold's movies since Conan.

I can't properly show you how meaningful this Stonecoast experience has been for me, but I can share some of the insights I transcribed. I think many of these are true in writing and storytelling and life.

Author Rick Bass says:

  • So much of writing is physical. You have to be in shape for it.
  • If you have a story focusing on sadness, contrast it with a paragraph about great joy. Always be aware of the opposite.
  • Your answer to any question about writing is "specificity." It overrides everything.
  • If you have to use a big moment to keep your reader engaged then maybe you have bigger problems.
  • Write a great sentence. Your next sentence has to be even better. And the next even better. That's how you keep the reader engaged.
  • Short stories are a time-tested way for humans to relate to each other.
  • The first sentence in a story is the second most important; the last sentence is the most important. Get the reader to commit to the journey.

Rick Bass is a fascinating man and he led me to coin a term: when your writing group is critiquing your story in workshop then you're getting "Rick Bassed." This diagram he scribbled on short story structure only increases my fascination of him.
Author Rick Bass diagram on short story structure

See author Justin Tussing's insights I transcribed after my first residency in January.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I Created This Fictional Character on Instagram

Instagram lends itself to fiction and I just created my second character on the social network. Follow my "quadsteppers" if you want some silliness sprinkled with all the selfies in your Instagram feed.

Quadsteppers in a recycling bin

Sometimes I use crutches, or what I call quadsteppers, but I don't want to carry them once I reach my destination. So I place them behind couches and under seats; prop them against walls; plop them in recycle bins. In what other ridiculous places can I stow my quadsteppers? Find out on Instagram.com/quadstep.

You can also follow Cancerslayer, who is my first fictional character on Instagram.com/benrubenstein. Cancerslayer fights illness by day and bad guys by night. He goes around the world and says lots of stupid shit. Follow him if you want to get dumber.
Cancerslayer scrambling across stones at Frost Point in Odiorne Point State Park

Leia Mais…

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Talk To Me: Me, My Dad, and Foul-Tasting Medicine

When Justin Halpern's hilarious hit book Shit My Dad Says published, I thought, I wish I thought of that first! My dad has been sharing with me his goofball stories, philosophies, and OCD-like behaviors my whole life. I have written about him, of course in my books and also in this blog about his thoughts on exercise and clothing. Now I get to share an interview I conducted with him.

Two months ago The Huffington Post invited me to be part of its new video series called Talk To Me in which children interview their parents. The Huffington Post is sharing many of these interviews online and I hope they share this interview so even more people can enjoy my dad's quirkiness, but if not then I still enjoyed the interview process.

I hope you enjoy this short interview I conducted with my dad in which we speak about his time managing a division in the federal government during the 1995 shutdown, the value of health, and foul-tasting medicine. I asked my 71-year-old dad what one thing he wishes he knew when he was my age.

You can watch our interview on YouTube or directly below if your web browser allows.

I've now appeared in my first short film, for at least three seconds (around 3:30). The non-profit Teen Cancer America traveled around the country interviewing teenage cancer patients and survivors of teenage cancer from every state. I got to represent Virginia. I'm going to change my LinkedIn profile's job title to author/speaker/horrible actor for three seconds.

Leia Mais…

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

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