Friday Feature: Timothy Savage on Going Places

time3When people ask where I’m from, I give my prepared answer. ‘Not really from anywhere. Seems like I’ve lived everywhere.’

And that’s true. Over my half-century of time, I’ve lived in Nebraska, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Kansas (Overland Park and Lawrence), Seattle, back to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Providence, San Luis Obispo, and the city where I currently reside, Fresno, the fifth-largest city in California (behind Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco, in that order) and the largest city in the United States disconnected from the Interstate Highway System.  I like to claim that at this point, I’ve made nearly one lap of the country. Map it out and my path becomes a curious zig-zag that seems to alight nowhere and puts down roots only in memory.

That current spot Fresno isn’t exactly scenic. We’re kind of flat and agricultural, and if it tim5weren’t for triple-digit summer heat, certain sections would be indistinguishable from the desolate wilds of North Dakota. It’s so non-scenic that literature has more or less left it out, too. Need proof? A Goodreads count of books set in California is nearly 600. But books set in Fresno? Three. One by William Saroyan, better remembered here as ‘That Famous Guy Who Used to Ride His Bike Through Fresno’s Tower District.’ The second is ‘The Abortion’ by Brautigan, destined thanks to the area’s politics to be a non-seller. The third is by a guy who teaches journalism at Fresno State.

But despite being a setting apparently unworthy of literature, Fresno does have one advantage: It’s a quick two-hour drive from legendary settings. Yosemite. King’s Canyon. The majestic Giant Sequoias. Beaches along the Pacific, including my favorite, Avila Beach.  If you’re feeling ambitious, you can invest an extra hour in that drive and — traffic willing — be in the Bay Area waiting for the ground to shake, or in Hollywood practicing sidewalk astronomy. So Fresno tends to be one of those places people pass through on their way to places far more interesting.

tim1But I suppose I’m grateful that living here encourages travel, even if it does so in a backhanded, better-off-getting-outta-here sort of way. That urge to hop in a car and see something else, that desire to book a plane ticket and go even farther, is not only great for the soul, it’s great for my writing.

I’ve lived here for more than 12 years, and aside from an occasional drive to Avila for some seclusion in a hot tub, full-time work-at-home Dad Duty kept me from traveling much for those first seven years. I’ve made up for that drought over the last few years, though. First a memorable trip to see the sights in Chicago with my son when he was only eight, where we braved the Willis Tower’s ‘Ledge’ and walked the Magnificent Mile together. Then a three-generation trip to Washington D.C.  — myself, my son, and my father, where we explored the sights of true democracy while plugging our ears to my father’s Faux News talking points. Next, two very memorable trips — one solo — to a place I find more inspiring than any other: the southeast of England, where people very dear to me make me feel more welcome than anywhere else, to the point where I call them ‘my English family’ most sincerely.

Being a shutterbug, my other travel trick is to photograph everything. You know that guy tim2with the DSLR strapped around his neck, taking shots of everything from the loo signs to the historical plaques set across monuments managed by the National Trust? Yep, me. Those photos come in handy during the writing process, too. Need the feeling of ‘being there’ recreated? Go visit the photo album. Need to check a historical detail? Dig out the plaque pics and read the answer. Need to remember exactly what order the Roman gods appeared on a bas-relief at the Adler Planetarium? It’s right there in the photo.

time4As a writer I carry those places with me, and whether I want them to or not, they find their ways into my writing. My Nebraska origins find a home in my writing as Kolej, a small town with a big dark secret in my coming book ‘Lillie Augustine.’ Minnesota and Providence figure prominently in my memoir about full-time fatherhood, titled ‘One Ugly Mother.’ That memorable Chicago trip finds itself in another draft titled ‘Fortunate Consolation,’ where a father leads his special-needs son on a journey to escape the trickster Goddess of Fate. Two very special places — West and East Hills in Hastings, East Sussex — will soon find themselves adapted as different worlds entirely in a collaborative science-fiction epic. That Pacific hamlet of Avila Beach was the setting for my published novel ‘Davey’s Savior,’ an intimate story set next to the pier on a very small stretch of an epic beach. And Fresno? While the city itself may make me want to be elsewhere, its agrarian nature still found its way into a draft my editor promises will be a moneymaker: the saga of ‘Lifeboat.’

You take your rewards where you can get them, right? So, until I have a best seller, it seems my challenges come in recreating places dear to me in words, and rewards through memories made in unforgettable places. With a little luck, I’ll make them equally memorable for my readers. Because after all, what is a good book if not a zig-zag journey that takes root in your readers’ hearts?

 

Timothy Savage – Author of Davey’s Savior

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Thank you, Timothy. I wholeheartedly agree!

noreen

Writer Wednesday: Bored? Good!

boredom2Chatting with my students, I reminded them I didn’t have google nor a cell phone and, if I needed to look up information, I had to walk to the library and figure out the card catalogue. (Of course, I added the obligatory “walk ten miles in the snow up hill both ways”).

One said, “Wow, you must have been so bored.”

I smiled a moment, thinking back. “Actually, I wasn’t.”

While I’m sure there were times I spent an afternoon whining about boredom, we learned to do things to entertain ourselves. And, well, mostly mine was writing.

I don’t think I’d be a writer today if I had a cell phone, a computer, and google. Play At Work. Low Angle Of Dreary Female Freelancer Using PaperI think I would be, like many people today, too distracted to focus on creating other worlds and investigating the motivations of people/characters.

I worry my students are too distracted to become the best people they can be or do the best work they can do.

I’m not a troglodyte by any means; however, will we ever be as productive as we can be if we don’t learn to look too quickly for outside entertainment instead of within ourselves to be creative?

boredomI guess I’m saying, boredom can be good for you. Daydreaming, thinking, and spending an afternoon lounging without distraction can be helpful to a writer. We need to allow our minds wander sometimes, see where they go; keep your mind from distraction, turn off the tele, the cell, the computer, and be inhibited by the lack – your mind will rebel and it will begin to create.

 

Writer Wednesday: Sharing is….?

climbing helping  team work , success conceptIn a writer’s group, I asked a specific person how one would use a certain program. They responded with, “I’d be glad to show you; my rates are very reasonable.”

I was shocked into silence. I asked a simple question, and they wanted to charge me for their answer?

But, then again, they have the right to earn a living by selling their knowledge.

How often have I given my knowledge for free? I could charge, I thought, for all the information and skills I’ve accumulated over the years.

But – wait a minute – writers really don’t make that much money, and we’re all strugglingshare3 in the same boat of trying to get our books, articles, short stories, or other out there to larger audiences.

Think of being on a life-raft and you are the one who has the clean water, or maybe the secret to cleaning the water, would you really sell it to another passenger? Some people would.

There’s a story from a Gladwell book about how post-its came about. (To simplify:) One worker in the paper department bumped into someone from their glue department, they both talked about what they were working on and the problems there were having. If only we could….   and boom – two collaborators came up with an idea worked together to bring that to fruition by sharing their expertise and invented something we all use (and made billions for 3M!).  Companies like 3M, Apple, Google, and others now use that theory to come up with new ideas, products, and solutions for every day problems!

shareWhen we all work together, we all become better humans. I want to share my ideas and experiences and share other writer’s with you, other ideas with everyone who desires to listen.

I have a job; I have many jobs. I’m not about to take advantage of others who are students in life or in writing and try to make a buck from them. I’d rather share my knowledge. I’d rather help my fellow passengers on this journey.

Thanks to all who have shared their knowledge with me. Thank you to those writers who give of themselves and their resources to make a better writing community.

When we work together, we can all benefit.

share1

Friday Feature: Waiting is NOT the hardest part….

I’d hate to disagree with our dearly departed master musician, Tom Petty, but the waiting is not the hardest part – That’s a myth.

waiting2Waiting is the easy part.

If I haven’t lost you yet, let me explain.

Some people spend their lives waiting. They dream of doing more, but they create excuses of why they can’t or why they haven’t yet. They’re waiting for…. fill in the blank…. the right time, the right place, until they finish this, until that happens.  It’s an excuse.

When you’ve moved forward and accomplished something, the waiting becomes the easy part.

 

The hardest part is jumping over every damn hurdle that life puts in front of you.

The hardest part is avoiding those people who want to limit you.

The hardest part is not buying into the self doubt that holds many people back.

The hardest part is doing the work. And then doing more work.

The hardest party is putting yourself out there and face the possible criticism.

The hardest part is never giving up.

Magnifying Glass - Action

 

Rejection is not the hardest part – it’s just part of the whole. The whole world is not going to love everything we do.

Waiting for the results is not the hardest part – that’s part of the whole.

Motivation or inspiration is not the hardest part – not even sure that’s part of the whole, but it helps.

 

Action is what is required to be successful.

Sometimes, action makes others around you uncomfortable. They’ll try to criticize your forward movement as wrong action. I can’t tell you how many times people have harped on something I’ve done as if I’ve ruined my chances at success, when in fact it was a step in the right direction.

I’m unclear if it’s a fear of rejection or the fear of success itself that keeps people stagnated in excuses. If they become successful, their lives will have to change. They’d have to continue to work, to duplicate their success.

waiting5I consider it is not a fear of failure – because, by not trying, aren’t they failures already? Or maybe that’s it – they can claim they never “got their chance,” when, in fact, they never actually took a chance. That’s the true failure.

Success follows action. Action takes work. As long as their is forward movement, there is no failure. As long as one doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up, there is no failure.

Don’t wait. Move forward. Slowly. Consistently. Misstep and get up again. Keep moving forward.

 

Friday Feature: The Overlooked, The Forgotten, The Displaced: Unbridled Inspirations – By Dianna Brown

 

Close your eyes for a few seconds and think of the word ‘inspiration.’ inspirationWhat comes to mind? Are there images of magnificent places you’ve been, impressive people you’ve met, or extravagant stories that stimulates your soul, sparks your imagination and almost brings you to tears? These everyday inspirations lead me to be the best version of myself, however, this is not a source of inspiration for my writing.

What if I told you my writing inspiration is in the overlooked, the forgotten and the displaced? I see potential in the bleakness of a shadow. I take interest in peculiar sights. I notice the unnoticed. My desire to write stems from the stories that are cut short. Not just unrequited love stories, but stories attached to the abandoned—whether objects, people or places. I am intrigued by ghost towns, and the remnants of memories left behind.

Sometimes inspiration comes from one word. I have a fascination and love of words. Maybe it’s a name, a word I overhear in conversation, or one that stands out while I’m reading. To me, words hold weight and are springboards for the fine details of characters, setting and, sometimes, plot. I call these words, triggers. One word triggers a plethora of infinite possibilities. Couple this with an innate curiosity about the little things in life and inspiration calls out from every direction.

Inspiration also comes from pain. Writing is a resiliency of spirit. It provides an avenue to unleash hurt by navigating emotions through an alignment of fictitious stories. I also believe the act of writing is an acute desire to heal. This is true for reading as well, as there is nothing more enjoyable than being whisked away in the transfixation of a book.

I wonder sometimes if writing is a window into the subconscious. Much of what I write is not intentionally thought about, but comes out in a stream of consciousness that can surprise me. In dreams, I hear the music of the most haunting melodies and poetic lyrics. In the middle of the night you can find me scribbling what I remember by the light of my phone, blurry-eyed. Unfortunately, in the morning the indecipherable lines can never match the beauty of my dreams. Words that enter my mind are often ones I’ve never heard of before, and after I’ve written my word count goal, I will look up the definition of the word, to find it fits perfectly with the meaning of the sentence. Although it’s likely words stored in my subconscious, that I’ve encountered somewhere along the way, it shocks me nonetheless.

When I wrote the novel ‘Saltwater Joys’ I had inspirations from childhood memories of oral Newfoundland folktales and ghost stories—ones I still love to hear again and again. I explored these memories and extended the stories into what might have been, had the story taken a different turn. It is like a scavenger hunt in my mind. One idea gives me a clue to where I might go with the story or character next. Other inspirations for this literary fiction novel came from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as many classic tales and poems that made me see the unimaginably intricate, and sometimes horrific, connections in life.

inspiration2I like to explore the darker sides of life, which is interesting to me because I am naturally a good humoured optimistic individual. There are an unbounding instances of inspirational dualities in life, the play between light and dark, life and death, vice and virtue, and I realize as a writer I am one of them.

Dianna Brown’s Website

 

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Thanks, Dianna.

noreen

Writer Wednesday: Life Awry

karmaSometimes, I wish I was the driver of the Karma truck. But, I suppose, being a writer is better. Still have the problem of sitting too long, but we get to exact revenge too. The best kind of revenge – in print.

Many years ago, sharing some big life altering event with a friend, she responded, “I guess these things happen to you because you’re a writer.”

Of course, life awry, I didn’t think this is the best response a friend could give – but, then again, maybe it was. Because it’s true.

What writer hasn’t written the demise of someone who’s wronged them? karma2

We writers have a way of writing life into our fiction. We work out our demons, our personal challenges, and by putting it out there in our fiction (or even in our creative nonfiction), we do one better than reap revenge, we are relieved and we are relatable to others who have gone through similar situations or similar emotional upheavals.

Recently, my life became vexed by a certain set of people and circumstances which caused great stress and loss (how’s that for vague?); and true to form, one of my writer friends said, “sounds like a great book!”

It damn well does.

karma4But, first, I had to roll my eyes and throw back my head. I just wanted some sympathy, some empathy. But she gave me more than that – she gave me purpose, building from ashes, and a way for me to transmit sympathy to another by relating to a scenario which many of us have experienced.  (I know, still too vague.)

However, the tragedy still fresh and the skin still tender, I’ve written on outline and will start on the book when the callous scars over and the sensitivity has dulled.

Friday Feature: Chris Pellizzari and the Unattainable

granada 3.pngI started writing when I was a freshman in high school. My very first writing efforts were poems filled with rhymes and cliches. During my sophomore year of high school I took a creative writing class, the only creative writing class I’ve ever taken. I hated it. I especially hated the teacher. She liked this weird, semi-beatnik/hippie style of writing, poems filled with “crazy” images like “throwing batteries at dead cows” and things that tasted like “copper pastries”. She liked short stories with bizarre characters and situations, things that were weird for the sake of being weird; weird that did not move the story in any direction.

The class was a nightmare and I rebelled against it and her standards of “good writing”. I received a C+ and vowed I would never take another creative writing class again, a promise I kept. But I kept writing in my spare time and was finally rewarded my senior year of high school when a short story I wrote about my grandfather, the one person who encouraged me through my early years as a writer, was a winner in a national writing contest. I won $500, had my story published in a magazine, and was presented a plaque by former president George H W Bush at a ceremony in Chicago. My high school newspaper published an article about it and I found a level of redemption concerning the creative writing teacher from hell.granada 2

Throughout college and journalism grad school, I continued to write fiction but never tried to publish any of it. The only things I published during this time were articles for small local papers like the Elmhurst Press and Villa Park Argus as a stringer, covering board meetings and stories about preserving mansions from the 19th century and such. I also covered high school sports for the Daily Herald. I didn’t start submitting short stories to literary magazines until I was thirty, and even then, I only submitted a handful. It wasn’t until I was 35 that my first short story was accepted for publication. The story was titled “Granada”, a story about Spain that was published in The Awakenings Review. I’ve been writing and submitting short stories and novellas like crazy ever since.

granada coverI studied abroad in Granada, Spain during my junior year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2003. I fell in love with the country and with a young woman in my study abroad group. Today, Spain represents the unattainable in my life. I have since developed an anxiety/claustrophobic disorder and refuse to fly. I can no longer physically travel to Spain. I can only travel to Spain through my mind, through memories. The young woman I fell in love with in Granada was also the first woman I ever truly loved. It was an experience of first-time, authentic love, love for a person and place. I know I can never recapture that kind of intensity in regards to love. One can only feel that kind of love when young. Everything after that is fine, marriage and such, but it will never be as pure or intense. And that’s what Last Night in Granada is about. It is a story about the unattainable.

Chris Pellizzari, author of Last Night In Granada 

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Thanks, Chris. Best of Luck to you!

noreen