Monthly Archives: July 2011

Self-Doubt

After a successful first round (of my classmates’ work, not mine) in my writing workshop through Gotham Writers Workshop, trepidation, fear, and apprehension forced my stomach into knots. I thought, “My writing officially sucks. I’m never going to be published. I’ll never complete anything. No one will ever get a chance to read my work. Do I really have what it takes to be a writer? Am I really a writer? Do I matter? Does my work matter? Maybe I should throw in the towel and realize I don’t have talent like they do…” and the thoughts went further.

I was so impressed with the writing styles and imagination my colleagues/classmates possessed, my writing became subpar to me.

As I put the finishing touches on my story to be workshopped, I wasn’t nervous, I was in the zone. I revised and edited as much as I could; at 2 am on Friday night, I sent out my piece.

The Tuesday before class, as I re-read and commented on my classmates’ stories, the anxiety and doubt set in once again. “Who am I really kidding here? I should just give up this hobby for good. It’s not real.” Self-loathing and swirling in my own pit of self-pity, I gave myself some credit. “Okay, let’s read the piece and see if it’s really as awful as I think it is.” I exhaled. Slowly, I scanned the typed words on the white computer sheets and read the story from page one to page fifteen. The story had holes and there were places that could be expanded but it wasn’t an awful story.

My faith in my writing was restored. The shift was so extreme I wonder if hormonal changes during that time of the month were churning here. I wrote out all my worries and misgivings about this “hobby” of mine and felt much better soon after.

The next day, my story was workshopped. Not only was I able to identify my writing weaknesses, but my strengths were highlighted and showcased to me in my classmates’ comments. I was redeemed once again. I wasn’t a failure in my writing community, I was actually a success!

My classmates’ comments filled me with joy, inspiration, and energy to improve the story I wrote and motivated me to make sure I took the same care with their work as they did with mine.

My writing world was no longer in disarray; everything was exactly where it was supposed to be.

Letters to a Young Artist

Edited by: Peter Nesbett, Sarah Andress, and Shelly Bancroft

Published by: Darte Publishing LLC (2006)

A young artist asked a group of established artists “Is it possible to maintain one’s integrity and freedom of thought and still participate in the art world?” and this pocket sized books contains written responses from these writers. The book contains letters from Jo Baer, John Bladessari, Cai Guo-Qiang, Yoko Ono, Yvonne Rainer, Adrian Piper, William Pope. L and many more.

Not being familiar with 85% of these artists, I couldn’t gauge the level of their popularity. Their messages about art were consistent across the board – as an artist, just Do. At least this is the message that I culled from the small book.

As a writer, I was able to relate to the advice and support these artists provided to the “young artist.” At the end of the day, all artists must create, love what they do, put aside the monetary success, and express themselves the only way they know how to in their medium. I think every artist should own this and read it as their own support group. In the vein that Writing Down the Bones and Bird by Bird are compassionate to the budding and accomplished writer, Letters to a Young Artist provide the same sentiment to aspiring and accomplished artists everywhere. To have an idea of what some of the letters are like, read Yoko Ono’s letter here.

In short, an inspiring nugget that reassures every artist why they are doing the work in the first place; they hear it from those who have been there and know what to expect in their future.

Joseph Gridgely says it best: “It’s the stuff that has nothing to do with art that has everything to do with art.”

Player Piano

imageAuthor: Kurt Vonnegut

Publisher: Dell Publishing (1952)

From Wikipedia:

“The novel follows Doctor Paul Proteus, an engineer at the Ilium Works. The novel takes place in an America of the future where machines run everything and do everything, making people almost afterthoughts. Specialization is the norm, and all of the wealthy upper-class people have doctorate level degrees, with eight years of schooling for everyone; consequently it creates a society of well-educated thinkers and not doers. Paul seems to be on his way up the ladder of success in this techno-utopia – a perfect wife, a fast-track position at Ilium Works and a shot at a major promotion. But he is plagued with doubts about what modern life has become. Through a strange series of events, Dr. Proteus joins a revolutionary organization called the Ghost Shirt Society and even becomes its leader, at least in name. These Ghost Shirts, their name taken from the Native American Ghost Dance, succeed in destroying much of Ilium’s mechanized infrastructure. Yet, they realize the lack of hope in their mission, and at the end it becomes clear that their goal was to give man hope instead of revolutionize society.” Continue reading

A Life in the Movies

I stumbled upon Andy’s blog post on Fandango Groovers Movie Blog that invites fellow bloggers to choose their favorite movie for all the years they have been alive on the planet. Without further adieu, I will include my 29 favorite pictures (with a few runner ups mentioned). Continue reading

Going Bovine

Author: Libba Bray

Published by: Delacorte Press (2009)

“The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World” – first lines from the satirical and hysterical tale of Cameron Smith, the boy who contracts mad cow disease at his employment, Buddha Burger (or so we think). After contracting this disease, he’s admitted to the hospital in where he meets an angel decked out with combat boots and hot pink hair named, Dulcie. She enrolls him to go on a quest to find Dr. X, the man who will help cure him. On this quest, Cameron is accompanied by his schoolmate, Gonzo, the Mexican dwarf, meets a gnome named Balder, and travels all around the country to find Dr. X. The end result provides Cameron with a new meaning for his life.

At a whopping 480 pages (hardcover edition), this book never appeared long or tedious. Libba Bray has a magnificent grasp on the youthful voice with a nostalgic twist. There are sections that recall the nineties MTV Spring Break reality TV shows which made this reader laugh with recognition. Apart from appealing to adults, the ability to make apathetic Cameron likable was incredible. Bray’s talent was showcased straight up and down in this novel. What worked particularly well, was the banter between Gonzo and Cameron; one could hear the dialogue clearly which never sounded stilted or forced. Teenagers all across the country are speaking, thinking, acting, and feeling like this. As an adult, I was able to empathize with Cameron through his journey. This was a delightful, fun, amusing, and playful novel on all fronts. I haven’t laughed this much while reading a book since S.G. Browne’s Breathers (see my review here). Do pick this book up when possible because you will not be disappointed.

One more thing, as a reader, one will have a sense of Libba Bray’s silliness with her acknowledgements section (located at the beginning of the book) which had me chuckling out loud. It was like reading Scott Pilgrim vs. The World in my head! It was bright, colorful, witty, and very memorable as well as having heart.

I’ll end this review with a few of the last lines (no spoilers, I promise) which is how I responded upon completion of the book.

“And there’s nothing to say but wow. Wow. The same word backward and forward. And I can see why.”

The Beatles: The Biography

image Author: Bob Spitz

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (2005)

This book chronicles the inception of the most memorable band in rock and roll history right down to its demise. The author culled information from interviews, newspaper articles, other Beatles biographies, and the 1995 Beatles Anthology, to make this story fascinating, sad, and brilliant about the four boys from Liverpool who vowed to be the “toppermost of the poppermost.” The legacy of John, Paul, George, and Ringo as The Beatles in this incarnation (details and nuances are different in other biographies) will forever immortalized as the best rock and roll band around.

I received this book as a birthday gift in April after I made my love affair with The Beatles public to friends. Never having read a biography about them before, this account revealed to me why this band influenced the many recording artists today. Completely enthralled from the first page, the biographer did a phenomenal job of keeping his readers invested in The Beatles’ tale while also making minute details interesting that would be considered otherwise. A fantastic ride into the 1960s while having the soundtrack in real time, I had a blast reading and listening to the Beatles.

This particular biography spends less time referencing the music but focuses on their personal lives beginning and ending with John. The reader weaves through the trials and tribulations of the teenagers who started in The Quarrymen to the young twenty something men in The Beatles.

For the new Beatles fan, this book will not disappoint. As for the Beatlemaniac, this addition to the collection of written biographies about the band will be old news or fill in holes to the knowledge about them.

“As the Beatles, they had been to the toppermost of the poppermost. They had encountered crowds, heard the screams, felt the love. Saw the light. In a brief and shining interval, they had lived a dream that no Liverpool lad could imagine – a magical, fabulous dream, like out of a fairy tale. An unforgettable dream.”

When they woke up, they left behind a gift to music lovers everywhere – their music.