Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pre-Semester Post: Spring 2013

Thought I'd mention my classes, readings, and what I expect to learn for the semester.

Novel Workshop

I really wanted to make sure to do at least one novel workshop. I'm allotted five in the MFA program. So far, I've taken: fiction, translation, poetry, and now the novel workshop. I guess I like to dabble. Each class that I took showed me invaluable things about writing and language and communication. Too many things to enumerate. No doubt, I will learn a lot.

I'll be reading two student submissions per week while writing a two-page analysis of each. I'll be working on my short novel currently called Jonah the Notorious, which I began not very long ago. This will be my master's thesis, so it should be done by the end of the year or so.


When I registered, despite doing so early, most lit classes were already taken. I had to take this or no class for the semester. I chose to take the class to graduate sooner. I'm already reading Moby-Dick, which is an awesome work considering the time period and country. Still, I find the language a bit pompous or overly romantic at times - a lot. (I get that Melville is romanticizing sea voyaging, but I think some of it hits you on the head.)

As you might of guessed I'll be reading a lot of Melville's works. Not crazy about it, but I wasn't thrilled with my Thomas Hardy class at Fordham and it turned out to be a great learning experience.

American Studies

Focus: the "American Century." Some of the readings: Sun Also Rises; Great Gatsby; Woman Warrior; Crying of Lot 49; poetry by Elliot, Hughes, etc. Modern American lit is probably my favorite lit to study, so it makes up a little for the Melville.

I'll post again midsemester to show what I've learned and/or reflect on the semester so far.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Generating Ideas

I thought I'd make a list of where I get my ideas for what I write (fiction and poetry).

Believe it or not, many, maybe most, of my ideas come from dreams. Dreams are atmospheric and affective: we are experiencing a reality (which happens to be not the one we agree is the real one) that hides meaning like creative writing. I write down a summary, at least a few notes, of the dream (what made it memorable or affective) as soon as I can to not forget. I have a Word file with all the ideas. Alas, there are too many for one life time. In a way, this is good because I have to choose my stories and poems carefully, making sure to write the most important or relevant things first - a strategy I think most, if not all, writers should employ.

I also get ideas from what I read. Good fiction is fodder. It stimulates; you see good writing in action, the dialogue, the characters, the plot, the structure; and learn. Sometimes, the atmosphere or mood of the piece gets you writing. Sometimes, you read something and feel like you can take the plot in a different direction or write a similar, but different, story. I was recently inspired by an old newspaper story of a recluse who hid his mother's corpse. I wrote a story trying to figure out his motives and feelings leading up to the incident.

Also, from movies and TV shows. This is what good films and good TV do. For me, Lost and BSG are great for this purpose. (I also liked the short-lived Stargate Universe, which had a lot of promise.) It's important when inspired in such a way that you do not mimic the source - there is a difference between inspiration and imitation, marked by a thin line. I tried to write a novel (but failed) about a motley crew of people (and a robot) on a stolen spaceship (somewhat like Farscape). In the end, it was too formulaic, generic, imitative, and not true to me.

Sometimes, I'd get ideas from conversations. This has happened a few times. I'm talking to someone, say, about free will, and I'll get an idea for a blog post or two. Or someone will bring up an interesting question that I want to write a short story to explore. Or sometimes I pay attention to conversations around me, say, on the train or bus. For one thing, it teaches you a bit about dialogue. But it is interesting what people talk about and sometimes this leads to a great story idea, giving the conversation a context, a plot.

Other times, I just free-write about what I feel or want. I wrote a few poems reflecting on my mood at home alone. I'm writing a very creative (if I do say so myself) flash fiction piece inspired by a simple experience of hearing the wind howl while looking out onto the quiet night. I wasn't sure if it would become a story or not, but I believed in the practice of writing exercises. I'll do another post about different such exercises.

These are my ways of generating ideas. Maybe I've left something out. The important thing is to get the ideas down as soon as they come to you. Modern technology is good for this, but paper and pen will do. Keep track of them and return to them whenever you're deciding on what to work on next, which is what I do. You may not like an idea for several years, then one day you see its brilliance. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Family of Aaron Swartz: Government officials partly to blame for his death - U.S. News

Family of Aaron Swartz: Government officials partly to blame for his death - U.S. News

Very sad death. It's a shame that it's always the brave, transparency- and justice-seeking ones . . .
He [a close friend to Swartz] concluded his piece: “We need to get beyond the ‘I’m right so I’m right to nuke you’ ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

How Does Google Know Where You Live? - LockerGnome

How Does Google Know Where You Live? - LockerGnome
"If you have an Android device running 4.1 Jelly Bean or later, then you should know that having Google Now active on your phone gives Google all the data it needs to determine where you live whether you submit your address through the Google Play Store or not. Where you spend most of your time, log in to Google on your PC, and do the majority of your surfing is home. You might work somewhere 8-10 hours per day, and have an active night life, but there is a place your phone goes to charge and you go to sleep at the end of the day. After a few days’ worth of data, Google has a pretty good idea where home is."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year: 2013

2012 was a year of lots of writing. And learning. I expect to do even more this year. Onto the predictions and resolutions for 2013.

Let me start by reviewing my predictions from last year. Again, this is in the spirit of skepticism - I don't actually believe I'm psychic. I made two general and seemingly random predictions about newsworthy events for the year, one realistic, the other taking a chance. There was a 7.1 Earthquake on a Pacific island nation (Vanuatu) according to Wikipedia. However, no one was killed - so I was wrong. I'm quite glad. The latter prediction, again luckily, did not occur, no other nuclear meltdown in the Far East. In terms of celebrity death, I was wrong on both counts. Jerry Seinfeld and LiLo are still alive and mostly well. The whole LiLo morgue mishap last year seemed like a metaphor that she just wouldn't go this year - i.e., she'd be late.

This year's predictions:


  • Realistic - Most destructive hurricane to date, in terms of property damage. Substantial death toll. (Sorry, but global warming is not a political issue; it's a fact that, well, won't be ignored.)
  • Taking a Chance - Some direct military altercation between the US and Iran, taking place in the latter, possibly involving actual troops or people being shot.

Celebrity Death

  • Realistic - Clint Eastwood
  • Taking a Chance - Seth Green (nothing against the guy, sorry)

Now a review of last year's writerly resolutions. I wrote several stories. Guess I can say I finished three.  I did well beyond two poems, maybe a baker's dozen. Still working on quite a few. I did not write two novellas, though. I finished the draft of one but will expand it. I started another and will likely have a good draft if not finish it this year. I read well beyond three novels, maybe a baker's dozen. Definitely more stories than that. And many more poems.

This year's writerly resolutions (minimum here shown):

  • Write
    • Finish a novella I started (will be my master's thesis) called Jonah the Notorious
    • Finish two flash fiction pieces that began as freewrites
    • Finish a short story started in a fiction workshop that needs to be rewritten
    • Do a new, restructured draft of a novella I'm calling (at the moment) Will
    • Finish five poems
  • Read
    • 10 novels (some: Norwegian Wood, Great Gatsby, 1Q84)
    • 10 shorts (some: Call of the Cthulhu, Snows of Kilimanjaro, Pura Principle)
    • Lots of poetry