Thursday, May 31, 2012

A List of Lists

Nash at the podium.
(More junk I wrote down at the Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers.)

Leonard Nash talked to us about lists. Specifically, mining material from your life to use in stories. More specifically, for memoirs. He said the difference between a memoir and an autobiography is that the former is how you recall your life and the latter requires considerably more objectivity. (I have put my own ideas in parentheses.)

Leonard: "Our lives are comprised of overlapping short stories, not discreet chapters."

How many days can you remember by specific date. Write them down and why.
Calculate how many days you've been alive.
List every town or city you've lived in.
Every home you've lived in. Draw a floor plan. Note rooms where something happened. Explore closets, drawers, attic, basement, etc. Every house has a different story inside it.
Places of worship you attended. What parts of the building did you explore?
Every pet you recall. Chronicle your life in terms of the pet you had at various times.
Every car you owned. (Every car you drove that wasn't yours.)
Every neighbor you ever had. Why were they significant? Which ones scared you? Why? What jobs did they have? Which worked on hobbies, their yard, etc.?
Every job you've had & ones you failed to get. What you liked/hated about them. (Something you learned there?)
Restaurants you recall. Associate a person/happy memory/sad memory with them? A waitress? Owner? Physical details.
Stores you recall from childhood. Physical details. Scents, design. How they looked, how they changed. (Popcorn and Icee at Kmart?)
Family homes others talked about that you never saw.
Teachers you had. Quirky habits they had. Things they did/said in class/to students. Classroom details.
Every school you attended. Art, cafeteria, smells, gym, etc. Activities you did at school. The smell of Pla-Doh, crayons, the taste of the milk. Times you got in trouble (or should have). What's in your desk each year? What's on the walls?
School field trips. Awards you won. Prizes, payouts.
Recall when you believed in the tooth fairy. Santa. etc. The loss of learning the truth.
List every member of your family, what you recall of them, who passed away when you were young. Members lose to divorce/estrangement.
Work skills. Languages, devices, hobbies, processes you know.
Kinds of businesses your recall that no longer exist. Milkman, diaper service, vacuum salesmen?
Romantic partners you've had, both significant and not so much. Dates. Also, ones you didn't date and why.
States you've visited. Countries. Towns. What stands out. What was odd?
Best days of your life.
Worst days of your life. Does the same day appear on both lists?
Holidays. Family rituals. Tragedy or trouble involved.
Favorite smell? Memorable smell?
Sounds you love/hate.
Politics: who you voted for, changes of position, who influenced you?
Books that influenced you. Which five would you take on a space journey?
Favorite 5 or 10 movies/songs/musicians
Celebrities that hold meaning to you; the ones whose death would (or did) break your heart.
Arts and artists that inspired you and why.
Famous people you've met. Details. Where and how and why. Did it affect you?
You bucket list. Any regrets you have about not achieving these milestones
Your moment(s) in the spotlight/15 minutes of fame
An end-of-life decision you were involved in.
Risks you've taken (physical or emotional)
Near death experiences
Odd/strange/unexplained occurrences
The most embarrassing, troubling truth about yourself (give some thought to it)
What music you listened to at different ages.
Clothing you wore at various ages. Hair cuts.
Items from childhood you still own. Why these things?
Money and your relationship with it. Bitterness? Greed? Need? Who loaned you money?
Parents habits you took for granted. Something they taught you.
Write a list poem.
List years and associated memories.

Recreate dialogue. Fill in the gaps. Go for the spirit of the truth.
Remember 3 dimensions: the light, bird songs, smells, sounds of groundsmen (physical details, not just in your head)
What do you want? Want vs. need at these particular times/circumstances. How did you deal with it? What do you want now? What is keeping you from success?
Write a potential first graph to your memoir. Start with the trouble.

He recommends reading "The Territory of Men" by Joelle Fraser

NEXT: Creating characters and making them move.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Inspiration of Paintings

(More notes from my experiences at the Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers.)

I mentioned in a previous post that JD had us write about myths after reading his story based on the fall of Icarus. He was thinking of a poem based on a particular painting when he began the work. So his short story was three times removed from the myth. He passed out a series of paintings by Edward Hopper for us to look at, asked us to answer a few questions about the one we chose. I chose this one:
"Gas" by Edward Hopper, from the MOMA collection.

Why I chose this painting: Pegasus ascending above the old pumps. Red, winged and fiery, climbing over the trees in the background. We take the gas to go beyond. It fuels the mechanics of our imagination. The man checking the pumps will never fly away.

The mood or emotion suggested by the painting: Isolation vs. escapism. Defeat? The trees wall him in from the larger world. He has his routine, his daily expectations. He doesn't even notice the winged stallion any more. He keeps his shop clean, he records the numbers. He never looks up. There is a suggestion of wild flowers growing alongside the pavement, but his back is turned.

Give him a name and a point of view, a history: Wilson McCall. Brewton, Alabama. 1949. His father was a cotton farmer and he grew up in the dirt. Now he smells of petroleum rather than the earth, and he can never get his hands to smell of Ivory soap. His son, back from France and Germany, went off to college in Birmingham, dreaming of being a playwright or an author; he doesn't care if the numbers add up; he wants to roam. (Are those wild strawberries growing by the road?)

JD says: Fiction writers lead at least two lives. Everything is grist for the act of creation.

LLS: When the well runs dry, she mines her memory, finds seeds to take and turn into stories. Evocative details prove authenticity. To be fresh and unusual, be specific. She suggests drawing a floor plan of the first home you remember living in, then note memories from specific rooms in the house. Go where these memories take you. Apply them to your fictional character.

Next: Leonard Nash teaches us how to make lists to mine material from your life to use in stories/memoirs.

What's in a name?

>>My column for The News Herald this week<<

Friday, May 25, 2012

Creating a dream in the reader's mind

(More notes from the Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers...)

Day 2.
JD says fiction is "creating a dream in the reader's mind." Dreams are not about ideas, they're about images. He suggests not dwelling on or describing in too much detail a character's physical attributes except as such a description is necessary to advancing the action of the short story; "You make a reader see a character by making a character move."

Close your eyes. Hear the word. What is the first image you see when you hear this word:

Write about that.

JD: Fiction is only about trouble. Everything you don't want to have happen to yourself and your family and friends should happen to your characters.

Live in a non-habitual way. Logic doesn't get you there.

TIP: Stuck for inspiration? Go to OED online and use "lost for words" or the Word of the Day. Take that word and use it in the next sentence you write.

(Today's word is pleniloquence, n., meaning loquacity; excessive speaking. "Though I hate American pleniloquence, I cannot easily say No to young men who bid me speak also." — RW Emerson)

I've never been accused of pleniloquence, though I tend to ramble when nervous.

JD gives us a line to start a story and less than five minutes to do something with it. Here's the line: "Most things will never happen. This one will."

I imagine a quiet man speaking to a bound victim. Dexter standing over a table, maybe. I write:

"Most things will never happen. This one will," he says.
"Don't freak out. It won't make this any easier. Take a breath and let it wash over you, the fear. Let it drain.
"Your dreams are not going to come true. You will never finish that novel, or hold your grand child or pay off your mortgage.
"You can scream if it helps. Just once, though, because we have to finish this.

Then I realize the killer was talking to me. How weird is that? Then I wonder if this killer is related to my Lady in the Lake piece. Who was he? Was he watching the lake from his trailer?

JD quotes Coleridge: There can be no great art without a certain strangeness.

Something unfamiliar, odd or perplexing. Our lives are deadened by routine. You break routine when you make things up. Make the normal strange.

(We read a three-paragraph story and analyze it. The use of sounds in the text. The recurring images. The importance of names, vivid details that set the tone. The plot is not on the page, it is suggested by the actions we see. First graf is set-up. Second is build-up. Third is pay-off.)

John gives us a scene prompt: You have a man and a woman in a room in Salinas, Kansas. He wears cufflinks on a white shirt, and a silk tie. She seems preoccupied and holds a glass in her hand. You must use the words "salvation" and "light." One of them is the central character. What do they want? What is stopping them from getting it?

I write:

Too many flowers, she thought. They hang on the walls and stand against the baseboards, scatter out of the chapel into the hallway. The perfume of orchids and lilies and roses and chrysanthemums overpower her. She feels dizzy again and leans against the gunmetal box, her salvation, jostling the cup of water in her right hand.
The Dixie cup spits on her fingers and droplets spatter Jeff's crisp white shirt. She daubs at the drops but they soak in, showing pale skin tone through the shirt. He never wore T-shirts, and she wouldn't bury him in one. Not that he would care; he wasn't in Kansas any more.
The diffuse light from the stained glass windows casts a warm color across the fabric. She strokes his silk tie, straightens cuffs that need no straightening. Her fingers rest on his crossed hands, and they aren't even cool to the touch.
Is it warm in here. she wonders, trembling. Is it growing lighter?
She leans away from the box and looks for someplace to sit, but the room is infested with colors, heavy with pollen, bright with western light. She wonders about that, about the sunset. About the dead in Christ rising first.The minister had said so.
She poured the water into a bouquet of black-eyed Susans and went to look for a stronger drink.

Next: The inspiration of paintings.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Free to a Good Home: Dead Girl

My friend Mark Boss, writer of the Chimp With Pencil blog I follow, has a special deal for you: His urban fantasy novel "Dead Girl" is FREE as an e-book download today through Saturday (that's May 24, 25 and 26) at Amazon. Just hit the links and take advantage.

In his words:
"DEAD GIRL is the story of sixteen-year-old Dahlia Grove, who is trapped in the Shadow Lands, a parallel reality where packs of feral children battle monsters for survival in a haunted city. She has one week to escape. If she fails, she dies. DEAD GIRL."

Says Mark: "If you know someone who enjoys urban fantasy, whether it's Harry Potter or Harry Dresden, I think they'll like this story. ... Writing and editing this book has been a long haul, and I'm excited about finally getting it out to readers."

Mark is good people and an excellent writer and editor. You should read this. Then buy his other books.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More from Day 1: Flash Fiction, Obituary and Myth

(Continuing my notes from the Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers...)

Flash fiction time.
The plot is often off the page, only suggested. In short stories, you begin as close to the trouble as possible. Flash fiction is the trouble. It is the art of suggestion, allowing the reader to finish the piece, to fill in the blanks, to decide what it means. It is the Zen of fiction.

Fiction writers don't need answers. They ask questions.

JD's prompt: Write an obituary for someone you know. (Recognize that sitting in this room you might not know the details of the life; make those up.) Suggest the public and private life of the deceased. (I wrote a made-up obit suggested by the life of my late grandfather, but I prefer not to share that here.)

Smith, left, with student writer.
From Laura Lee Smith's class on short stories:
The shape of the work is character>problem>conflict>resolution, the effect is a punch in the gut.
Another way to see it: Character/Desire/Complication/Struggle/Resolution (Win or Lose?)

She is sometimes asked where she gets her stories or her characters, and she uses a line she learned from John: "At Publix. And if they're out, I try Home Depot."
In fact, she will eat lunch in the local hospital cafeteria sometimes, just so she can eavesdrop. The stories just come walking through.

Think in terms of Want vs. Need. Your character wants a glass of water. His need conflicts with that.
Begin with at least a hint of the trouble. When something bad happens to your character, make it worse. Lead to a moment of truth, understanding, change or character evolution.

TIP: Read John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction."

Fiction is stuff that happens.
Get a phone call. Feel a cold coming on. Run over a squirrel or dog or cat. Throws his back out. Bank calls; account overdrawn. Old girlfriend shows up at the library or in the office. Finds an odd lump. Gets a ticket. Hit by a car. Pipe bursts in laundry room. Sees someone fall at the grocery store. Sets off a fire alarm. Wrongly accused of shoplifting.

Short fiction deals in compressed time. All in one day, all in one car drive. Don't try to develop lots of details to cover long periods of time.

TIP: Read "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver. (contained setting, limited characters, short span of time)
Check out: three minute fiction
TIP: Skip the throat-clearing and set-up. Start close to the trouble. Begin in scene.

HOMEWORK: John asked us to write a myth. Actually, he read his short story about a father and son and a tragic hiking accident, inspired by the myth of Icarus. He asked us to pick a myth or legend and use it for the inspiration for a short story.

I tried three times.

First I wrote: There are stories associated with the network of gravel lakes surrounding Century, the swampy deltas sifted by the Campbell family for their concrete business, leaving white sand beaches and soft bottoms, clear brown tannin water. Kids growing up in the 1950s talked of strange blue lights seen in the lakes...

Then I wrote, simply: The Lady of the Lake. A woman swimming. A group of boys watching. ... 
But that seemed off somehow.

Finally, I dove in:

All the kids on the school bus saw her that afternoon, Nimue in the brown tannin, floating nude, a fleshy crucifix on the surface of the fish pond. The road through these river basins was raised above the marshy earth. It looked down on the plot of grass, the house trailer, the john boat on saw horses, the pond, the woman afloat there, skin pale and pink like the flesh of a catfish, red hair spreading on the water like a stain, like blood snaking from her face, brass on copper.
The driver pulled over, unsure what to do. The children crowded the one side of the bus, jostling for a clear view, and he shouted at them to sit down, to move to the other side of the bus and be quiet while he called the county dispatcher. He would tell the first police officer to arrive that he didn't know what to do. He couldn't leave the kids unattended on the bus, couldn't go check on the woman and leave them here by the road. So he made them move to the far side of the bus and sit on the floor, and he looked away.
Some of the girls were crying. Some of the boys laughed because you could see everything, they said, over and over again. Everything. The holy grail. The golden fleece. Everything. Some. like the driver, just stared at the floor.
The officer directed the driver to pull the bus further down the road, out of view of the pond, and to wait there so he could get a statement later. He climbed the wire fence, boots sinking into the marshy ground on the other side. His steps left brown scars in the earth, sucking noises as he raised his feet. He noticed the woman's feet were clean as he waded out to meet her.
He pulled her to the shore, lifted her into his arms, carried her to the flat-bottomed john boat and set her down, covering her with his uniform shirt. He stood there in his V-neck tee and waited for the ambulance to arrive. He could hear it wailing across the piney woods, and he shivered, as cold at heart as her dead weight had been in his arms.
I watched all this from the house; put some of it together from the talk that circulated in the days that followed, but most of it I saw for myself from where I stood behind the glass of the trailer's bathroom window.

(I wrote a few other notes, questions about who the characters were and how they related to other characters I had made up for an earlier assignment. But that's the gist.)

Next: Day 2 of the conference, word prompts, scene prompts, and more.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Word Prompts at the Writing Class

(Notes from the Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers continue...)

JD's prompt: Think of your foremost fear. Phobia. What are you afraid of? Write an example and attempt to trace it to a childhood incident if you can.

I wrote:

My greatest fear is the death of my children. They're both in their 20s, both intelligent, cautious, capable, imaginative. But I worry. Four years ago, a phone call from the FHP awoke us. My son's best friend was dead in a car wreck. 18 years old. I have not gotten over that and I don't think I ever will.

Phobia? Snakes. We lived by the woods in a rural area with a creek that cut through our front yard when I was a kid. Snakes every summer. Moccasins. Rattlers. Diamondbacks. King Snakes. Corals. We killed snakes by the bootfuls every year. Chopped with a shovel. Shot with a rifle. Our dogs cornered them. Our cat stalked them. Too many times, I ran right up on them at play. Now I have nightmares about infestations of snakes. The only good snake is a dead one. Just yesterday, my wife went out in our yard to water her garden and was about to sit on a little rolling tool box on the lawn — and there was a pit-nosed snake curled under it, just the tip of its tail showing. I split that thing in three pieces with a shovel before tossing it over the fence.

My fear is the lurking danger. The one you don't see coming, that takes your loved one in an instant. That doesn't give you a chance to say goodbye.

JD tells us: "Don't be afraid of failure. All works of art are failures. All we can do is try to fail better next time."

Writing is patience. Diligence. Tenacity. It can be a learned craft; the more difficult skill to learn is storytelling.

As fiction writers, we write about the things we don't understand. And we don't understand ourselves sometimes. Writing can be therapy.

We don't offer answers. We ask questions.

Fiction allows us to shape our troubles, fiction being defined as "to shape."

JD's prompt: Write about the memory suggested by this next word:

I (knowing even then that my first thought was triggered by the previous prompt) wrote:

It's black and white, the color was leeched by a setting on the digital camera. I'm seated on a stool in the kitchen of my home. She's hugging me, caught under the crook of my right arm, her scented hair soft against my jaw, her cheek against my neck. I'm looking directly at the camera. I don't recall who was taking the photo now. All I remember any more is the sense of loss. She was leaving for college soon, moving away in a few days. It was Christmas week and we were making cookies, having a holiday party and goodbye party all in one. Two months later, she would be dead, but I knew everything was changing even then.

  • Notice everything. You cannot twist the fact that you don't know.
  • Invent.
  • Stop before you're finished. If you're working on an ongoing piece, then stop when you know what the next line will be; you'll have a place to begin tomorrow.
Next time: Flash fiction, obituary and myth.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The First Rule of Being a Writer

(Fair warning: Many of my upcoming posts will come from notes I took during the recent Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers. I will try to remember to mark them as such.)

Day One. I arrive early. The first one to the town hall. JD and Cindy circle the cobblestone on bicycles and park. I say hello and immediately excuse myself, carrying my coffee down the hill toward the beach.

There's a man with a gas-powered leaf blower ahead of me on the sidewalk. He shoots air back and forth, oblivious as I close on him, my quiet walk rendered loud and not so alone. He stops walking and I stop behind him, wary of a wayward blast of air, noise and sand. He looks startled when I step into the street and pick up my pace to outdistance him.

Across the green now, standing on the boardwalk that leads to the shore: There's a blond woman with two blond children climbing the stairs, and an older man waiting for them. "Dugger! Dugger!" the kids squeal. He hugs them and they pass me by, headed back toward town.

I am invisible.

The gulf is flat, deep blue and jade.

Back at the Town Hall, JD tells me about his new novel project. Working title, "Regrets, Coyote." The editor doesn't like that one. Maybe, "Melancholy, Florida." Or maybe not. He's about to begin working through the editor's notes, and he hopes to "find the title in the text." The room fills.

We begin with the first rule of being a writer:

Thinking about writing is not writing. Neither is talking about it, or dreaming about it, or doing research, or whatever. To be a writer, one must write. (In one of our later discussions, a student says she has been working on lots of ideas; she has lots of stories, she just hasn't put anything on paper. "You aren't writing," John says. "You're not a writer." He isn't being rude, he's being honest. She may be a storyteller if she relates the stories orally, but if she isn't putting them into text, then she isn't writing.)

Anyway, our morning exercise is to write what we know: Write about ourselves, a memory of childhood from before you went to school. Your earliest memory if you will. Here's what I wrote:

I started school at 5 years old. Kindergarten. So there's a lot to say about the years prior. Some of my earliest memories are of a trip we took to Texas when I was 3. There may be other images or emotions I recall from before, but there's a bit of narrative with this memory.

My parents had bought me a Captain Action doll that I brought on the trip, and I remember standing by the swimming pool at a hotel where we had overnighted, holding my doll and wanting to get in the pool. (There is a photo of this moment in my mother's old albums, so I have questioned whether I recall the photo or the actual event, but in my memory I see the water, the steps down into the shallows, morning sunlight in my eyes.) The pool wasn't open yet and we were getting ready to leave, headed west to visit my aunt and uncle. My early childhood centered on these toys, these adventures and playful desires. (Major Matt Mason had a moonbase under the picnic table in our back yard, which sometimes doubled as the Batcave.)

That is all I have time for.  If you follow for a while, you'll see that many of our beginnings have no endings.

Meanwhile, JD says reconstructing memory is like writing fiction. Especially those early memories, which are not very reliable and where details are often filled in by imagination.

Next: Word prompts, fears, and when to stop.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Noticing the hush of the world

Town Hall courtyard.
Notice everything.
That was one of the first lessons bestowed upon students at last week’s Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers. It’s a tall order, and it’s less about eavesdropping (although that’s part of it) and more about being in the moment. It’s simple enough to practice; even I can do it.

I ducked under an awning in the sprinkling rain one afternoon and found myself talking with a clerk outside Moonpize, a women’s boutique that was marking its fifth birthday. An older gentleman with sunburned feet joined us for shelter and posed questions about the conference. A former newspaper man, he had learned to fly airplanes at age 68. He joined us in class the next day and shared a story about a New York copy boy’s meeting with Ernest Hemingway.

Edward's bar
In the courtyard of Edward’s, a new eatery on South Main, I stood under a wine-colored patio umbrella beside a table as strangers gathered to break the ice in the courtyard. Some of them carried their own umbrellas and made remarks about the comparative size. The rain passed, the sun returned and equality was re-established. We gathered around the fountain and at cafe tables to talk about everything and nothing, as writers will do.

Another afternoon, I slowly savored a tender hamburger at Wild Olives — the first time I’ve been prompted to take a photo of something I’m eating, if that means anything. It was also good to catch up with an acquaintance who works there.

I ate there on recommendation of Hidden Lantern Gallery curator and artist Lauren Carvalho, who led me through her latest exhibit, “Polished Landscapes: Venetian Plaster Reimagined” by James P. Garrett. On display until June 9, the show features intriguing textured canvases; even those seeming flat hold some illusion of depth, and I knew there was a lesson there, too.

Friday evening, as the conference came to an end, I enjoyed coffee and an “itty bar” of chocolate at Amavida Coffee; the barista, Rachel, told me about upcoming open mic events for writers and readers. (Check our calendar in June for details.)

But there was more.

It’s a cliché to describe water as “clear as crystal,” but the private gulf beach area at the foot of South Main was just so. Clear and cool, with a surface as smooth as a pond, it could have been one of Garrett’s works.

Stand-up paddle boards skimmed above pale sandbars. People lounged on redwood chairs under deep green umbrellas, reading paperback novels. Small children played in the calm fringe of the surf. Fishing boats dotted the horizon like irregular staples joining the emerald sea to the cobalt sky.

After a walk ankle deep along the shoreline, I swam for a bit, then floated on my back, closed my eyes and listened to the hush of the world.

Now, for your next writing lesson, close your eyes and write about the first image that pops into your head when I say this word:


(This is my Undercurrents column for The News Herald for May 17.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

More photos from Rosemary Beach

Okay, so I haven't had time to sit down and do a proper post about the conference. It will happen. Before Thursday, when my next column is due to be in print. Expect it then.
Meanwhile, I have a few more photos to share.

First is the wonderful Malayne DeMars, (at right) and a conference goer setting up morning coffee and snacks in the Town Hall. I loved the way the light played against the walls. This is a beautiful space, and the perfect location for writers and storytellers to gather.

Next is the courtyard at Edward's, a new eatery that just recently opened on South Main Street. Several of the group are there, including (foreground, right) Anthony (the other Tony in the classes) speaking with author and Flagler professor Laura Lee Smith; and (background, center) author and FIU prof John Dufresne holding up the column with his wife, the poet Cindy Chinelly talking to author and editor Leonard Nash (eclipsed by the fountain). Seated at the table to the left is poet Rick Campbell.

A closer (if not better) photo of Leonard, Cindy and John. We drank beer and talked about everything and nothing, as writers will do.

Again, a closer photo of Laura and Tony. This was after the rain passed and the sun returned, and just before we had a few author readings in the Town Hall.

A building on Main opposite the Town Hall courtyard, just because I liked the look of it. Sorry, but there are more shots of inanimate objects and landscape yet to follow.

Actually, I'm not sorry.

The participants for the panel discussion on "The Writing Business," which preceded the Edwards reception, Day 1. From left are Rick Campbell, Miles DeMott, Leonard Nash, Lynne Barrett (whose collection "Magpies" recently won a gold medal in the Florida Book Awards), Laura Lee Smith, and John Dufresne.

A fountain. Because it's my blog and I can post pictures of fountains if I want. Also because it drew me out of the hall and into the courtyard, water rippling down the stone and recaptured, as John might say, the very way water enters stone.

Thursday, then. If not before. Impressions and thoughts.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Photo Blog: Rosemary Beach Writers Conference

So I have spent the past three days at the Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers. I plan to share some of the  lessons, prompts, activities and so forth in the coming days and weeks. Tonight, I'm still processing, so I'm just going to share a few photos.

At left: After the last session, I strolled down to Amavida coffee shop and ordered a regular coffee. The fine folks there know me, and they gave me the "locals" discount. I saw the conference poster and asked if I could gank it, since the thing was over now. As you can see, they said okay.

Next is an image of some of my fellow students and teacher Lynne Barrett explaining Twitter hashtags to them. We started using #rosemarybch12 for posts.

Next we have words of wisdom from John Dufresne, at least as misquoted in my notes. Think about that for a minute.

Yes, that's right. Trouble.

Leonard Nash is at the podium, Day 2, and he's about to talk to us about memoirs. "Writing your life," was the topic. We explored lists as prompts for examining all "the days our lives," as Grandma Simmons' favorite soap opera put it.

This is where the magic happened. Town Hall of Rosemary Beach. Through that door walked world builders and trouble makers and story shapers.

And me, too.

And here's the awesome hamburger I had at Wild Olives on Day 1. My cardiologist would not approve, so don't tell him. Bonus: I didn't have to eat for two days afterward.

One of my favorite views in Rosemary Beach is this vantage point from the south end of Main Street by the beach bath houses, looking north across the green.

I have a couple more photos on my camera (these were sent by phone to Foursquare) and I'll add those over the weekend as I return to talk about the lessons. I hope your week has been as filled with creativity and inspiration as mine -- but somehow I doubt it.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day

PANAMA CITY — The best things in life are free. And the proof is Saturday.

On “Free Comic Book Day,” held each year on the first Saturday in May, participating comic book shops across the known galaxy and adjacent alternate dimensions give away comics absolutely FREE (hence, the name) to anyone who comes into their stores. It’s meant to drum up interest in comics, promote art and reading, and basically make the world a better place.

“We use it as an opportunity to give back to the community and say thank you for supporting the store,” said Greg Ray, owner of Comic Emporium. “It’s a chance for first-timers and longtime fans alike to sample titles that they’re not reading.”

Comic Emporium will open early for its regular subscribers, then open to the public at 10 a.m. and continue the giveaways until 2 p.m., giving away comics and other items beyond those specifically provided for the event. Ray said he collects items throughout the year with an eye toward giving them away on Free Comic Book Day.

In addition, comic reviewer Kat Kan will be present to promote a KickStarter project for a comic-style textbook she’s working on. The evening will conclude with a Magic card tournament.

Each store may have different free titles available, as well as different rules for participating and limits to how many you can take (so everyone can go away happy). But each also will have a selection of genres and age-appropriate books provided to the stores at a reduced cost by the publishers.

“There is a larger quantity of products available than Superman, Batman and Spider-Man,” said James Finlayson, owner of Arena Comics & Gaming, where sketch artists and costumed heroes will be on site. “So many good things people lose sight of.”

Among the titles announced for the day are all-ages books (such as “Peanuts,” “Smurfs” “Donald Duck Family” and “Yo Gabba Gabba”), mainstream superheroes (including a “DC New 52” sampler and “Avengers”), sci-fi and horror titles (such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “2000 AD,” “Dinosaurs and Aliens” or a “Star Wars/Serenity” flipbook), and much more. >>You can see previews of the comics here.<<

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., New Force Comics will offer giveaways of “Avengers” movie promotional items and door prizes, as well as special rates on comics, toys, statues, graphic novels and more at random periods throughout the day. Children are encouraged to show up dressed as their favorite costumed heroes.

“Hopefully it will be a little bit of fun for everyone,” said Rick Whitelock, owner of New Force. “It’s an effort to promote the hobby and get more books in people’s hands.”

Whitelock is what Stan Lee used to call a “True Believer” — that is, an unabashed fan. He recalls the first comic he ever owned: “Silver Surfer” No. 1, dated 1968, that his father bought for him at a local flea market in 1973. He still has it. It launched his lifelong love for the hobby that grew into a business.

“I’m sure it had something to do with the fact my Dad bought it for me, but I held onto it,” he said. “I was just learning to read, and how cool is this? Silver Surfer, the power cosmic, gliding through the spaceways? We all love Superman, Batman, the Avengers — but Silver Surfer is the one I identify with the most.”


This was my Undercurrents column for The News Herald today.