Before I begin today’s blog, I’d like to get some messages/maintenance out of the way. First, I had a flash fiction story accepted by the wonderful folks at Bank-Heavy Press—awesome stuff, go check them out—and second, today is the last day to enter my May Giveaway. I’ll announce the winners tomorrow.
Let’s talk about forgiveness. There are only a handful of people that know a lot about me, most of them from the MySpace days years ago. When I was younger, my father said some very nasty words I’d rather not repeat—forgetting is not my strong suit. I took them to heart and had a lot of trouble with that relationship. Through following blogs and talking to who I will call enlightened people, I began the process of forgiveness.
It is not an easy road, forgiveness. It took me time to process the idea, test it out by forgiving “minor infractions.” Simple things, I would forgive, let go of the emotional anger at people driving—mostly trying to drive over me. Once I tested the forgiveness theory, I felt a burden taken off my shoulders (so to speak) and it was freeing. I forgave more and more, but there was that incident February 13, 2003 that still held on.
While in New Mexico, I would, on occasion, have strained conversation with my dad. We didn’t see eye to eye. I hadn’t forgiven him yet. It took moving home and having a conversation with him for several hours that led to me forgiving him. We don’t see eye to eye still, not on everything, but I forgiving him allowed me to move on, to grow from the fragile youth I was into a stronger person.
This lesson also taught me to forgive my own mistakes: to allow myself to not be “perfect” all the time. As a writer, that was the most valuable lesson I learned. I have freed myself to write whatever will be written with no expecation. No one has to see my writing but me—if I want to share it, I can, and if I want to edit is several times, I can too.
Have you ever had difficulty forgiving someone? Have you had a similar experience as me? Please let me know!
They say that honesty is the best policy. In life, I would have to agree that honesty is the way to go. In fiction, one generally has to lie—or for those that think lying is too strong, “make things up” (it’s all okay!). In an effort to move away from writing-only posts, (though they will still appear) I have decided to write a post that isn’t all about writing!
This idea was meant for my personal blog, but that’s okay. I’m poaching it from myself.
Honesty is about revealing the truth as seen by the individual. I believe that honesty, as much as possible, should be the motivator behind our discourse. Often, it isn’t and that is a shame. I know I am guilty of the Big Lies and the Little Lies. When we tell something other than the truth in our daily lives, for me, it signals my own inability to handle the emotions and reactions of others. I know I can’t change their reaction, though I know I can gauge the reaction before the words come from my mouth—after years of just blurting things out, I’ve finally learned to control the urge to speak, somewhat.
What about omission of the truth? I still do that. I admit it. I do this on occasion to keep family members more or less unaware of the exact nature of the coffee dates I go on. I think this influences how they go, along with other kinds of dates that I have. I always want to tell the truth, but I know that it will hurt someone and I don’t have the heart to do that to anyone (for the most part, I’m a nice guy).
This is a reminder to me to live my life more in the open—to take responsibily for my own actions and words, just as I do as a writer.
Tell me what you think about honesty. Do you think it is a good policy?
I’ve asked John Buckley to be interviewed as he has some fantastic things happening in his life. I met John Buckley through the Valley Poet’s Society that hosts the open mics in Glendora, CA at the Village Book Shop (the last reading was Saturday, May 19, 2012—a fantastic reading! So many people read great pieces!). We bonded a bit through our MFA application processes this last open season. Anyway, without further ado.
K. Andrew: Thank you for taking the time, let’s start. When and why did you begin writing?
John: I used to be a visual artist as a kid, until I discovered Greg Gardella could draw better than I, so I gave up drawing and switched to writing. I wrote to get praise and acceptance from other people. I wrote to make the other boys and some girls laugh, spewing the scatological, pornographic adventures of Captain Camouflage. That was in middle school. I knew the value of transgression at a young age.
The unfortunate side of my being motivated by external factors is that I remained a shitty craftsman. There’s some Hemingway quote about when you find a great line in your story, take it out. It’s drawing attention to itself, not moving the story along. It’s not a load-bearing wall. But I was all about the great single lines, the quips, the isolated jokes. I think that’s why I stopped writing for so many years; I saw the dead end but didn’t know how to avoid it. I needed to grow in other, non-literary directions first. Then I turned into a poet.
K. Andrew: I think growing in other directions is important. It informs writing. Speaking of that, where did you grow up? Has that influenced your writing?
John: I grew up in Sylvan Lake, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit. I suspect it influenced my writing by being a rather sedate place to live; if I wanted excitement, I usually had to manufacture my own. I ended up relying on my imagination quite a bit throughout my childhood. Then again, that’s probably true of most kids, except for the boring ones.
I also went to private school, but as one of the poorer, weirder kids, which led to a certain degree of seething frustration and envy. Actually, shit, there’s a certain degree of seething frustration and envy in the Detroit area in general, due to the poor economy and our collective memory of our past glory days, Mighty Motown. Add that to blue-collar machismo, plus the bravado and humor needed to maintain one’s pride under tough conditions, and maybe that explains why some of my poems’ narrators play the role of snarky underdogs, brash yet ironic.
K. Andrew: Yes, I’ve noticed that, and I think it’s a great voice to the style of poetry you write. What inspired you to write your first poem?
John: I excreted a few crappy poems while my first marriage failed, and I squeezed out a few other wretched nuggets in 2008. But the bug didn’t bite and leave me permanently infested until March 2009. I’d been giving my old college housemate relationship advice in what I guess is a highly allegorical way. She said I should write a self-help book. I tried, but instead of generating heart-wisdom or life lessons or whatnot, I created poems. Lots and lots of poems. One day, I wrote twenty-seven poems. It was crazy at first; I felt like a twelve-year-old who had discovered masturbation and his dad’s abundant porn collection at the same time.
K. Andrew: That is an apt analogy! Moving away from life experience, what authors/poets have most influenced your writing?
John: I’m currently trying to get a lot of local Southern Californian poets’ books before I move back to Michigan. I think the first one of those I bought was Paul Suntup’s Sunset at the Temple of Olives, which still inspires me. Before that? Uh, Billy Collins. Tony Hoagland. Albert Goldbarth. I adore Louise Glück’s “Purple Bathing Suit.” I signed up for the Academy of American Poets’ daily poetry email. That sends a lot of good stuff my way.
K. Andrew: Reading is important for any writer (and any person). Tell us what your current projects are.
John: I’m going to have to get three manuscripts in shape throughout the rest of 2012: my full-length collection Poets’ Guide to America, a collaboration with Martin Ott, a good friend and an amazing writer in all genres; my solo collection Sky Sandwiches, which recently got picked up by Dr. Anna Faktorovich over at Anaphora Literary Press; and my second chapbook, Leading an Aquamarine Shoat by Its Tail, which Leah Angstman of Propaganda Press is editing right now.
I’m also gearing up for the summer submission season. Every three months or so, like maybe September, late December, March, and June, I try to send my stuff to as many places as I can. Right now, I’m waiting for June to start so I can get going again.
K. Andrew: Those months are interesting times to submit. Do you have a reason for those particular months?
John: Yep. I start my submission year in September, before school work gets too hairy. More importantly, it’s when many better-known journals open their gates to submissions. Winter break begins around mid-December, so after the holidays are out of the way, I have plenty of time to submit again. Then I wait for spring break, more or less. After that, I wait for summer break. I also plan on mini-frenzies of submissions in October and August, for certain journals with quirkier reading periods, but September and the three seasonal breaks are the times of the major craziness.
K. Andrew: That sounds like a good system! What is the latest news about your writing?
John: Besides the stuff I just mentioned? Uh…well, I just finished doing the thirty-in-thirty challenge for the first time, writing thirty poems in thirty days throughout April, National Poetry Month. I’m proud of myself for sticking with the whole program all month long. Of course, less than two-thirds of the resulting poems should ever see the light of day.
K. Andrew: That is a lot of poetry to be writing in a month! I’m glad you found several you liked, that can be difficult. Here is a question a lot of writer’s ask: when did you first consider yourself a writer?
John: I’ve always and never considered myself a writer. All the time I was writing to get attention and affirmation from others, I was also resisting defining myself as a writer. I didn’t want to feel predestined. But I knew. Inside, I knew. I tried to drown, starve, choke, and smother that inner voice, but I knew. I’ve since given myself up into the hands of fate. At least I was born to be a writer, not a serial killer or child molester.
K. Andrew: At least, yes! Though some would argue that poetry is… well never mind! Tell me what has been the hardest part about writing for you.
John: Being consistently disciplined. One of the reasons I’m so proud about the thirty-in-thirty endeavor is that I usually just don’t write like that. Usually, about two or three times a year, I get the urge, the itch, the lightning, the diarrhea, whatever, and write two handfuls of poems over the course of a couple of weeks. I’m a creative spazz, not a dedicated workman.
Oh! The other hardest part about writing for me — actually, it’s probably even harder than the discipline issue — is self-evaluation. I have a terrible time gauging the quality of my work, aside from being able to identify the real steaming turds. The great stuff? The good parts of the mediocre stuff? The salvageable parts of the not-so-great stuff? I just don’t know.
K. Andrew: Do you have any writing tips you’d like to share?
Yes. Aim high, to avoid the writing-as-pooping analogy I keep relying on too much.
John: What else? Hmm. Good writers are good readers. How can you know whose brilliant structure and content to steal if you don’t read widely?
K. Andrew: Excellent advice! Now to the good stuff. What was the best moment in your writing career thus far?
John: Let me get this stray thought out of my head first.
K. Andrew: Of course!
John: The second journal ever to agree to publish my poetry, mere weeks after I started submitting for the first time, also gave me a Pushcart nomination. But I was too stupid to appreciate that I’d just gotten lucky. I’ve written better stuff since then, but I haven’t been nominated again.
The best moment in my writing career has really been all of this year. I got into a good MFA program. I found my place in certain circles of the Southern California writers’ community. I’ve got two-and-a-half collections of poetry coming out. Life is pretty sweet lately. Maybe too sweet. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, checking my body for darkening, irregularly shaped moles, waiting for my wife to leave me, listening for my heart to skip a beat, then seize. But I guess I’m doing an okay job at remaining cautiously optimistic.
K. Andrew: Those are moments to be excited about, and it is understandable. Stay strong and write more great poetry! And again, thank you for taking the time.
John: Of course, it was my pleasure.
John F. Buckley lives in Orange County, California with his awesome wife, but will be moving east this fall to attend the University of Michigan’s MFA program in poetry. His work has been published in a number of places, one of which nominated him for a Pushcart Prize in 2009. His chapbook Breach Birth was published on Propaganda Press in March 2011. He has some other books coming out, too. You can find him reading and listening in the poetry circuits of Southern California.
The last few weeks have been particularly hectic as I’ve been working on other jobs than what I’m used to, but one has to make money. Anyway, I’ve had to put writing aside for about two weeks, as I haven’t had any creative energy to write anything. I am drained. That is okay. I know I’ll get through this spell, and produce more. I’ve still be going to critique groups, yet I haven’t input any notes into the manuscript yet.
I’m beginning to feel antsy after not writing so much and not working as much as I was in the past. I have not given up. I will make time this weekend for creative writing, if not tomorrow evening (this blog counts a little bit as creative). I have finished my novel and now I feel like, “What is next?” hasn’t been answered yet, and that is perhaps because the story hasn’t yet come to me. I know it will.
Never give up on your dreams.
Have you ever felt like this? Or stopped writing and not started again? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. I’m working on some interviews/reviews for the blog, along with some new themes here more than just about writing. Stay tuned! Also, if you haven’t entered the May Giveaway, you should!
Some people have asked me why I’ve been updating and changing all my names and handles all over the internet. My answer has been “branding.” It sounds like an uber marketing term, and in a way it is. I’ve been reading We Are Not Alone by Kristen Lamb over the last week. With prompting by my reading and by both Branli Caidryn and LK Gardner-Griffie, I’ve decided to ditch my online handle of snowppl in favor of my name. The basic idea is that all my writings and promotions about writing will take place under my published name, K. Andrew Turner.
So, if you follow me on any platform, don’t be alarmed that “I’ve changed.” I’m still me, but now at least people may recognize me if they see my name in print down the line. I’m working on books, stories, etc still, and I’ll still be tweeting much the same (but perhaps a little more interaction with people) so be on the look out for me appearing for once!
For this blog, I’ll be continuing to talk about writing, and will probably expand into talking about other topics as well. In addition I will begin writing book reviews once a week, 1) to get me to read more, 2) to build up people who want to review my books when they come out and 3) to expose writers to a new audience. I will also be conducting interviews with authors and writers about their work across all three major genres.
I hope you all stick with me through this exciting new time. We will have a good time I think!
This year I attended the entire conference at Mt. San Antonio College (in Walnut, CA) from April 27-29. The event is hosted and run by John Brantingham and Lloyd Aquino, among a cadre of volunteers that work to put on this fantastic event for a year. I had no books to sell, but there is always next year. Maybe I’ll have my novel out by then. Maybe I’ll have a book of poetry too!
If you’d like a list of who was there reading what, see John Buckley’s blog. I feel the entire weekend was amazing. All the participants and presenters were full of creative, positive energy. I will be presenting again next year, so be aware (or beware)! I will list the workshop/presentations that I attended.
Friday, April 27
Poetry Workshop by T. Anders Carson
Editing Your Work Dispassionately by Martin Lastrapes
Plot and Structure by Herschel Greenberg
Flash Fiction by Jennifer Olds
Saturday, April 28
Publishing Workshop by Anna Faktorovich
Fiction Workshop by Mark Haskell Smith
Creative Nonfiction Workshop by Jo Scott-Coe
Publishing Panel of small press and literary magazines by Kevin Lee, Shannon Therese, Ryan Sarenkani, Jack Foster, Ann Brantingham, Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo, and Cory De Silva (and a few others whose names I don’t have, sorry!).
Sunday, April 29
Writing Description That Matters by K. Andrew Turner (that’s me!)
I missed out on Sunday mornings workshops as I got confused about the time, but I scouted out locations for my class during that period.
If you attended the conference, give me thoughts! If you attended my workshop, let me know what you thought about it.
I’ll start this off by saying I’m a huge fan of free things. I love free. Free is good. I know a lot of you like free too! So I decided to do a giveaway during the month of May. On June 1st (or second if I forget, but I’m hoping you all remind me!) I will pick various winners in the contest. Entering is freakin’ easy. You post a comment here and follow the blog to enter. That’s it. Super simple. I would also appreciate it if you follow me on twitter @kandrewturner, fan my author page on facebook, and/or circle me on google+. If there is another social media site you’re on that I’m not (highly doubtful) other than those three, I can give you links to those too. I’d also appreciate it if you could spread the word too. It’d be nice for me, and nice for you.
Enough blabber you say! What’s the prizes? So amazing they will be in bullet point format.
A completely free 2 hour creative mentoring session. If this sounds lame to you, just know I helped Ranee Dillon enough to get her trilogy accepted for publication. Bam. Street cred.
Up to 30 pages of free comprehensive editing (double spaced, 12 point font, 1″ margins—no tricks people). This is about 2 short stories several poems, etc. This is pretty amazing. No really, it is.
For 10 people, I will critique up to 1 page (see above for no shenanigans) start of a story, flash fiction, poetry, etc and offer feedback.
Bonus: For two people, I will offer a $50 discount off my new comprehensive course Craft of Fiction at www.kandrewturner.com/courses (normally $225). If you win and don’t want to use this discount offer, let me know and I’ll award to someone else who might. Since this isn’t free, it’s not quite the coolest, but it is an amazing class.
So go ahead, follow me on twitter, facebook, and/or google+ for updates about my writing, life, publications, courses etc. You can also visit my website, www.snowppl.com for a list as well, along with more information.