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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nostalgia trip

Recently I picked up On Writing by Stephen King, expecting it to help me with a larger project I’m working on.  It more than met that expectation.  The book—part memoir and part how-to—imparts practice points that will lead to substantial improvement if I’m disciplined enough to implement them.  

I also hoped it would inspire a new piece or two.  The clumps of ideas that skulk around the edges of my brain need a bit of motivation to get out on the floor and dance sometimes.  On the inspiration front, unfortunately, On Writing let me and my mental wallflowers down pretty hard.

The problem(s)?  The memoir is dauntingly well-written.  King proves that his storytelling skills aren’t genre-specific as he chronicles the journey from elementary school scrivener to best-selling author.  Even more humbling is the fact that he piled up rejection slips like paper snowdrifts for years before getting an agent’s attention.  If Stephen King struggled that hard, the prospects for amateurs like me seems grim. 

On Writing did, however, prompt me to reflect on my evolution as a writer.  I haven’t spent whole life trying to get something published, but I did get an early taste of rejection when my elementary school literary magazine, The Orange Hunt Owlet Gazette, declined to feature my work.  

I’m able to pinpoint this moment because I happened to find the Gazette in a box today.  I read through the whole thing.  It made me sad not to see my name in print, and to know that my sixth grade prose couldn’t cut the mustard but the following piece did:

The Clumsy Man
A man fell down with a THUMP!
The door went KNOCK, KNOCK!
The man slipped on his sock!
POW! He fell back on his rump!

Looking past the author’s glaring klutz sexism, this sounds like an average day in my house, not to mention a Batman strip.  You don't often see SMASH, BAM, BOOM, BANG, BUMP! in the works of T.S. Eliot.  

To my credit, I didn’t give up when the Owlet Gazette said “thanks, but no thanks.”  I took my lumps and set about honing my craft (by adding exclamation marks and onomatopoeia, one assumes).  

A couple years after that first rejection, I submitted a poem to the county-wide literary magazine.  Go large or go home, I figured.  Not only did they publish it, they even held a ceremony to honor Fairfax County’s pimpled poet laureates. 

I’m trying to find my poem and I’ll post it here as soon as I do.  “The Garbage Disposal” attained heights of literary sophistication "The Clumsy Man" only dreamed about. 


  1. "The Garbage Disposal" HAS to be better poetry than "The Clumsy Man." Let me guess...was there a prompt that involved noise words?

    1. Well, I don't mean to toot my own horn here but "The Garbage Disposal" is known as a classic in certain circles. (The circle consists of my parents, which I suppose makes it more like a dot, but still.) Two other kids wrote poems about sound, so you're right: the theme choice was calculated. Those other two kids showed some real writing promise, judging from the absence of exclamation marks and their skillful use of lower case letters.

  2. I can't wait to read it. I enjoyed your assessment of On Writing. Another blogger wrote a review of it as well and loved everything about it. He took a lot from it. I'm going to head down to your next post.

    1. On Writing is terrific! Once I got past the fact that I will never be as prolific as Stephen King (thousands of words per day, a couple of hours per day, demands more dedication to the craft than I can give, even though I should give it), I couldn't read it fast enough. I can't believe it took me this long to read it. Enjoy!

  3. You're in my row! I'm so glad to be reading your words again. I think the Clumsy Man can SMASH, BAM, BOOM, BANG, BUMP!


    Excited to read your piece.

    1. Thanks, Shannon! I should tell you that I enjoy your writing so much that you survived every row shift. It's such good stuff! Oh, and thank you for the feedback about the spam thing. I didn't know that, so I'll try to fix it. You robot, you.

    2. Aw! So nice of you to say. I'm reading you too, even though you didn't survive my refresh. I DON'T LIKE THESE NEW FANCY WAYS. Let's be rowmies forever, k?

    3. Great idea. I'm obviously in the market for a long-term relationship. That'll do!

  4. MY-
    This was a GREAT blog today! Had you only had the poem, it would have closed the deal and put you in the top 10 American blogs of the day ( forget Fairfax County ).

    And there are lots of people already reading your blog, so you're on your way to writing success! Keep up the good work. I'll miss your blog when you go back to one a week or so.....

    1. Mom, is that you? :) Thank you for such positive feedback! I really must find the poem --I'm pretty confident it won't disappoint. When NaBloPoMo ends I'm going to do my best to keep up the frequency, and I'll be rolling out a new look (for the blog, not me, though one can argue that both are needed).