Saturday, December 31, 2016

so a dense thick cloud has surrounded our village now for two days. it rains sometimes, and snow sometimes, and sometimes it does both, hard or gentle, but the cloud remains: we can't see much, and the foggy nature of the gray moisture passes through and changes what we do see. we have whole family, four kids, in a cabin, but that's not the problem, although kids get restless, and sometimes it gets a little rowdy. when it's cold and damp i work on the fire. the fire sometimes dies from neglect, or gets a little thin. i try to keep the wood coming in from outside. on a grim and wet day it feels good to keep the heat coming from the big stove. we have propane too, and have come to rely on it quite a bit, but really i'd rather be using wood - all the time.

then there's the puppy. a white, furry little thing, he has coffee colored ears and some little specks of brown on his white shag. and he finds my lap whenever i have one. at first he perches, and sees what he can see, but then he settles in, and pretends to take a nap, in just the position where about all i can do is pet him a lot. he's come to find that lap right away, almost whenever he can. and i don't mind for the most part. sometimes i'm playing online boggle, and it makes it hard for me to use my fingers as fast as i want. but what's more important, getting more points, or petting a puppy? sometimes the cat is his ruthless competitor. when she's in the picture, really it's a matter of who gets there first, and one of them is a little unhappy. in that situation, sometimes i just find something else to do.

my present seat allows me a great view of the big picture window, which is entirely gray - you can't see a thing. not the white sands, not the back side of the village, not the little road below our house - nothing. i like this chair because i have some sense of looking out over the valley, ordinarily. it's a little more upright than the other one, which is deeper, which hauls me in, and makes it impossible to do any serious work. it's break, so i've been allowing myself some free time, but i really want to get going on some writing projects and, even if the cabin is somewhat crowded and busy, i should still be trying to get going on some of this stuff. it's new years' eve now. i'm taking stock, wondering what will happen in the coming year, trying to get my strength together for a new job. but here's what's on the docket:

finish the autobiography: it's written; it has a hundred chapters; for some reason i just haven't polished it off. one reason might be that my life just changed dramatically again. a project in which i kind of casually reflect on the sixty-two years before, has just had the "casually" taken out from under it. if i reflect at all, it will be on the run. while life is changing. while i start the most dramatic commute of any i've ever even imagined.

finish interference the novel: this too is almost written. it tells the story of a sports writer caught up in a much larger drama in st. louis - kind of st. louis from an outsider's perspective. i could be scathing about st. louis itself, but, ironically, i have no strong feelings about st. louis anymore, and am not even sure why i set about writing it. it was more because of my fascination with cahokia, and the fact that st. louis was once called "mound city" for all its tenth-century real estate. the other stuff - the arch, the busch stadium, things like that, i have no strong feeling for, i just throw it in there. and the message? my desire to get any particular message out there has kind of evaporated. for a story, i can muster up a message. for a novel, i have a hard time keeping one going over the course of a long book. i'm still working on it.

another novel, this one ripping universities as places hollow of character, except bad character, and pretty much totally betraying their function, the search for truth and the protection of free expression. my plan here was to put university life side by side with wal-mart - and really look at the ruthless modus operandi of both places. this one is still in the design phase though.

one other novel is really waiting for morty sklar's book on the actualist movement - he's almost done too, but seriously bogged down - and it for me is totally in the design phase. the 70's was an interesting era in iowa city, and i was there. so it's my sincere desire to get it into print the best i can.

now the reason i put these novels first is, basically, my wife says to me one day, all this writing you do, you ought to try to make some money. and it's true, i've written a lot, five books of short stories, at least five of poetry, and haven't made much. it could be that i have absolutely no publicity engine - but it's also because as you can imagine, novels might do better than little books of what my cousin calls "fun stories"...anyway i accepted the challenge, and now the question is: should i make an effort to sell them? turn to novels? apply myself in some way i haven't before? i have some other projects, as you'll see; it's an open question.

short stories - this is what i have been doing - i've written two or three in three days. i now have about fourteen for a set of about twenty - and i'm doing better at this, i think, now having written well over a hundred. it was pointed out to me earlier this year that the walmart ones were the best - and i had to admit that they were inspired - they were also all crime stories - but in the search for another 'theme' - I actually came up with a few (airport, cell phone) - one alternative i came up with was just another walmart one. an extension of the first, but wider - not all crime stories - and a little more strict about never mentioning the name. so another walmart book is on the horizon, if in fact, i choose to go in this direction.

e pluribus haiku - if in fact i want 1000 every year, i have to in fact produce three or four a day. i go through times, like now, when i'm not producing. if i'm not producing, what i often do is print, review, refresh, and i will almost certainly do this soon. i am now about eight months (2/3) through the year, but have only slightly more than half, nowhere near two thirds. i'm very stuck on some states - have to do research, get very close to what certain states are about. it's a challenge. i'm on break, and ignoring it.

quaker plays - of all the things i published this year, this was the one that kind of made a splash. the quaker world is so small, so limited, and so needy for good educational resources, that this book of plays was very well accepted and people were genuinely grateful that anyone would write such a thing. a quaker playwright comes around what, every ten or twenty years. also, there are a few i have in mind that are kind of like grown-up plays. they deal with themes of gay rights, rifts in the quaker world, and possibly a few more - this book would be a kind of quaker-discussion starter. or, performance, for the provocative-minded. this also is in the planning stages.

esl readers' workbook - with this one i take some stories i've already written, and simply write a few more - they are somewhat international. i am thinking of the international ones here, but some of the american ones are pretty good too. but the hook is, you have comprehension questions at the end of them. you don't necessarily make a reading textbook, because you don't go to all the trouble to define or spell out what "reading skills" are. the only skill you concentrate on is getting the right answer. and the book is full of right answers. i made this kind of comprehension exercise for what, thirty years; it's a skill that i developed pretty well. and, one that i could revive fairly easily before my mind turns to mush. i'm kind of leaning toward this one, if only because i realize it's an expanding, ever-important market.

calendars - i made one, this year, of my dad's photos, as usual, but it rekindled in me the desire to make two more, both of them commercial. one - a cloudcroft calendar. a way to visually render my hometown - although the challenge with this is to not make it favor any of the local businessmen. if you were one, you too would have a keen eye for favoritism toward any particular one. the challenge, then, would be to get elk, deer, bear, whatever - trees, roads, cliffs, local landmarks - well, you get the picture. try not to make it about the merchants. the other one would be quaker. a quaker calendar would have "first day," etc., but there would be nothing stopping me from clarifying, for example, "seventh month (july)" or whatever. for this one it might be a challenge to get the photos. it might also be used to generate funds for quaker organizations, i.e. q.v.s. or a.f.s.c.

as you can see, the picture is full of choices. late at night, rather than work on all this cool stuff, i do online boggle instead, because when i feel like i really need rest, that's a good way to get it. i scroll on facebook a lot, and check in on the news regularly, but i don't watch football, i don't do other serious waste-time operations. at the moment, clouds are moving, swirling around the hill, and the sun actually came out for a bit, over the white sands, as i wrote, but i don't take it to mean anything. it's a benefit of sitting in this particular west-facing chair, slightly less comfortable, but looking outside. and my feeling is that if i keep plugging away, something will break. one of the above plans will come to fruition. maybe not all, but it's never hurt to dream.

musically, i've had a sore arm. so i gave myself a break on the fiddle, and haven't pushed myself too hard on the banjo either. it's break. there are some musicians in the area. it's only a matter of time before i find them; that will be soon enough. in the meantime, i'm performing in las cruces tomorrow, and this could be anything - i was asked to bring poetry, but might in fact bring the banjo or the fiddle or both. this kind of shakes up the poetry situation - some become more salient, more prominent, rise up on the horizon. it's a chance to see it in a new light, re-evaluate it. and i look forward to it. las cruces is now one of our spots, a place to go.

more later, and in the meantime, happy new year!


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