Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
How strange is that? Not very, really. Early sci-fi authors drew fantastic worlds that are now our reality. Jules Verne was scooting around in space and underwater before we sent rockets to the moon or pressurized ourselves against the ocean depths.
So if Greg Bear, who was MC at the DHS conference, imagines a City at the End of Time, who are we to pooh-pooh such far-sighted vision? When I interviewed Bear last year for a newspaper article, he said he is like radar for deep structures of science and society. When we put those two together, he said, we have a story.
Rolf Dietrich, DHS deputy director of research, told the Washington Post that the authors help department managers think more broadly about projects, especially about potential reactions and unintended consequences.
And that got me to thinking that reactions and consequences are what good stories in any genre are about. Any thoughts on this?
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Bransford asked a question: Who is your favorite character in a novel? There have been about 500 posts and probably more coming. People chimed in for Sam Gamgee, Hannibal Lecter, Atticus Finch, Lestat, Yossarian, Anne Shirley, Jo March and Mr. Darcy. You can see the range. I went for the obscure because I guess I like characters who are eccentric, mysterious and either tragic or humorous: Fleur Pillager, Sophie Hatter, Ged and Stargirl. Do you know the novels they are from? Care to tell me your favorites?
The agents in Newport -- Chris Richman of Firebrand, Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich, Stephen Barbara of Foundry and Tina Wexler of ICM -- all were marvelous speakers and gracious in their answers to audience questions.
Richman defined his job this way, "I fall in love with books, and it's my job to make other people fall in love with them, too."
Here are tips for writers:
Don't query an agent if you have not completed your novel and polished it. Richman said Firebrand recieves 600 letters a week, so you need to stand out and be prepared. "If I request a full manuscript and you need three months to finish, I won't wait."
Do work on your pitch so it sings. Richman: "The pitch is so important, because no one will pick it up and read it unless they have a reason to. It is important at every stage of the book's life."
Wexler suggests reading book jackets to get ideas on how to write a good pitch.
Bourret is hot on branding. He wants writers to have a recognizable image. "Authors need to think about it, so when people hear your name, they know what that means. The key to this is focus."
Barbara joked that he likes books aimed at precocious children and immature adults. "If I can find something that works for all ages across the board that is my dream." And while he was the only agent to show up in a suit for the conference, he said he loves stories that are off-beat, irreverent and surprising, and so was he. It was a fun, satisfying day.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
He opens with a man, Eric, splattered with blood and holding a bandage on his right eye. Behind him is a scrubby field where McCulloh found feral dogs, a map of Oklahoma, a used condom and smashed shopping carts. Eric, peering through his one good eye, declares the coming housing track will look nice.
As the story progresses, we meet sign guys, the grader, the promo photographer. Each has a nugget of a tale. Frank, a framer had been shot and knifed before turning to rehab and construction. A woman with a tool bag on her hip was one of a few females, mostly divorced, trying to dig themselves out with physical labor. Her job as a baseboard installer paid ten cents per foot.
In the afterword, McCulloh writes that even after the final family moved to the street, which he got to name when he won a charity auction, he kept going back to visit. If you are observant, he says, there is a story everywhere.
If you want to hear a panel discussion about the dream streets that fill our lives, there will be one 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, at the Riverside Art Museum, 3425 Mission Inn Ave. Among the panelists are novelist Susan Straight and author/editor D.J. Waldie. www.riversideartmuseum.org
If you are in SoCal, it's worth a trip to the museum, although you can see photos online, as well. The exhibit is up through Aug. 29 at 3824 Main St. Riverside, http://www.cmp.ucr.edu/
Please take my challenge questions at the post below. Thanks.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Two challenge questions. If you became blind, how would you express yourself creatively? Would you be willing, as a sighted or unsighted artist, to pick random coordinates on a map and go there, even if it's scary dangerous, to expand your creative palette?
Doug McCulloh would have you believe his exhibits and books are a result of simple curiosity, but his work as both photographer and curator, is much more -- innovative, courageous and multi-layered.
"I just chase what I think is worth doing. The rest is aftermath," he says.
In one recent aftermath, more than half-a-million people clicked on Sight Unseen on Time.com in the first day those pictures went online. The gallery of photos is a selection from a show McCulloh curated for UC Riverside California Museum of Photography. On display through Aug. 29.
What will surprise people is the artists can't see. McCulloh, who is sighted, says blind photographers possess the clearest vision on the planet. They are unencumbered by conventional ideas of what makes a photo. So how do they do it? Some have studios and construct images in their minds, then use a variety of lighting techniques on subjects. Others, lacking the ability to compose with eyesight, use other senses -- wind, the feeling of sunshine and sound of traffic -- to set up shots.
Among more than a dozen artists in the show, Alice Wingwall calls her work a political act, a radical choice to go against the convention that it isn't possible. Pete Eckert describes the brain as wired for optical input, creating images even without visual aid.
McCulloh has another show Dream Street at the Riverside Art Museum. It's based on a contest he entered to name a street in a new Ontario housing development. He photographed a transformation from empty field to empty dreams. Day laborers and people turned down for loans could only wish for a home. A book is to be released through heydaybooks.com
His approach to photography is storytelling, and he is frustrated by high-modernist exhibits with minimal text: "Birmingham, 1949."
"I would rage: give me more, tell me something," he says.
So he interviews subjects and shares tantalizing mini-tales, such as one of a tatooed man sitting on a street, which begins "When Chase was eleven, his mother went to the store and never came back."
"Rather than leaving a photo unmoored, I prefer to offer glimpses and clues about some of the sets of meaning embedded in that image," he says.
His former projects include Chance Encounters in which he used random coordinates to travel with his camera, going from sterile gated communities to gritty streets. He is one of six photographers who made the world's largest pinpoint camera and photograph in an F-16 hanger at the decommissioned El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
Challenge reminder: Post a comment about 1: How you would be creative if blind. 2: Would you roll the dice and go anywhere to find your muse?
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
My friend and writing buddy, Donna Kennedy, and I are going to see Peter S. Beagle tomorrow, and we are quite giddy. Here you see Donna wearing her creation for crazy-hat day at our writers critique group. All the little attachments represent a shapeshifting kid in one of her works-in-progress. Alas, she will probably not wear her hat to see Beagle. But plenty of magic is likely to ensue anyway.
If you have never read Beagle, rectify at once! I promise not to shout anymore. But Neil Gaiman calls his stories "jewels." Just about everybody calls "The Last Unicorn" a classic and now an anime version is coming and a sequel, "Two Hearts." My fav is one of the most bizarre takes on werewolves ever written: "Farrell and Lila the Werewolf." Lila's got this problem, you see, she goes into heat in her wolfish form and creates havoc for her boyfriend.I hope to take notes and post them for you. If you are in SoCal, it is at 7 p.m.
Thursday Pfau Library, CalState San Bernardino.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
I'll be in line for the sequel and this one isn't even in the stores yet! Her blog is a delight, too. Check it out -- Alert: On May 25, I removed the link to Sarah's livejournal blog because it had been hacked. She is back, thank goodness, but apparently many comments to her were lost. It is very sad. Her great personality is shining despite it and the blog is again active, sarahtales.livejournal.com.
Two faces of San Clemente. I spend hours watching surfers tear up excellent waves, and I adore these little birds. I believe they are sanderlings, but if anyone disputes that please shout out.
They run around in packs, chasing the water as it washes in and recedes out. I suppose they are finding tiny crabs or something else to snack upon.
Sometimes, like their larger cousins, they have only one leg. I wonder if they lose them in fishing lines or some big fish chomps them off? The one-legged ones hop about gamely, however.
(all rights reserved on my photos, folks. thanks)