Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Meet Me: Preview the Book

My book Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis, is in production, and here's a PDF peek at what it will look like inside. I include the whole interview with poet Tess Gallagher, then in St. Louis promoting her books of poems Moon Crossing Bridge and Portable Kisses. That was in 1992, back when publishers actually sent poets on promotional tours. Tess was once my teacher, as I say in the headnote. Enjoy it -- the book has 12 more interviews: Carl Phillips, Ntozake Shange, Harper Barnes, Eddy L. Harris, Eric Pankey, more...Meet Me is now due to be published by Penultimate Press in December. Pardon me for my pride in it! You can pre-order by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Animated Poems by TextFlows

Try poems by Yeats, Dickinson or (maximum fun) "Casey at the Bat" as animated words using Textflows. Cut into bite-size pieces, the poems materialize on your screen at a readable pace that lets the words "sink in." Opinions range from "great for teaching poetry" to "it ruins the integrity of the line," and riposte, "the line is an artificial construct anyway developed by the printing industry. . ." This link comes from poets.org. At Textflows.com you can try reading textflow of Obama's inaugural address, King's "I Have a Dream" speech, or The Bard.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Epi-Graph," as in "Epi-Dermis"

  • "Epi" means "on top of," as in "epidermis."
  • "Graph" means "writing."
  • An epigraph, then, is "on top of the writing."
  • The epigraph follows the title, and, like the title, its job is informational and supportive. ("Newspaper misprint for 'mammoth'.") The epigraph and its source, if it has one, and it usually does:
What do women want? -Sigmund Freud

should be set off in italic type. An epigraph should never be:
  • longer than the poem
  • better than the poem
  • unnecessary
  • unintelligible
In your entire body of work you should not have more than three or or four works topped with epigraphs. Epigraphs include dedications. ("To my student, thrown by a horse.") Epigraphs and dedications are extraneous to the works, and therefore they are weaknesses. If you have something to say, say it in the work, not in the toppings.

An epiGRAM (meaning "on top of the MESSAGE") is a short, highly crafted, pointed statement, a "quotable quote," a summary or generalization about just one topic: "Tis with our judgements as with our watches: None go just alike, yet each believes his own." -Alexander Pope.

Pope's epigram might make a good epigraph. But it's better not to rely on somebody else's work to bolster yours.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Free Software To "Kindle" on Your PC

This just in: Now you don't need "to buy a Kindle" to read e-books. Fire up Kindle on your PC or iPhone with free software. If you have an amazon.com account already it is a breeze. The software took only 5.2 MB of space:

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE, Nov. 10)--Amazon.com, Inc. today announced the availability of "Kindle for PC," a free application that lets readers around the world enjoy Kindle books on their personal computers (PC). Kindle for PC is now available as a free download to readers in over 100 countries at www.amazon.com/KindleforPC.

The U.S. Kindle Store (www.amazon.com/kindlestore) currently offers more than 360,000 books, including New Releases and 101 of 112 New York Times Bestsellers, which are typically $9.99 or less. . .

Source: amazon.com press release as appearing on BusinessWire.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Competing Readings: What to Do?

Tonight, Nov. 11, there are 3 competing literary readings, and it's a difficult choice as personal friends are involved in all of them:
  • Jennifer Kronovet, Stephanie Brown, and Heather Treseler--three acclaimed poets hailing from the East Coast, the West Coast, and the Midwest--will read from their work at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 11, at the Schlafly Bottleworks on 7260 Southwest Ave. in Maplewood. Admission is free.
  • Poetry, Prose and Pints Nov. 11 starting at 7:30: Come one, come all for a pint and a listen to where voice and admission are free! 419 N. Euclid in the CWE at Dressel's Pub in the Gallery Above. Readers: Jon Dressel, David Lloyd, M.K. Stallings, Julia Gordon Bramer, David Lucas, Phil Goumis. Music: Nathan Ponzar.
  • Join the Chesterfield Writers Guild for River Valley Readings the second Wednesday of every month from 7 to 8:30 pm, September through May. Enjoy a chance to mingle with fellow authors and literary enthusiasts in a casual setting. November 11, 7 - 8:30pm: Kathleen Finneran, nonfiction writer, and Shane Seely, poet. Free.
Two weeks ago I attended two readings on one night by seeing the first half of one and second half of the other; unsatisfactory on all counts. Showing up at readings is an act of support for fellow writers: I want to support them all. So organizers must meet and put their heads together. Lots of St. Louisans would love to attend each of these readings -- and should -- but if they're all scheduled on one night...!?!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day of the Droid, 11.6.09

3:45 a.m. wake. It’s 38 degrees. Fill thermos and bundle up. I have never owned a smartphone. Today I take the leap; I’m getting one. The Droid.

5:15 a.m. drive 18 miles to Verizon store.

5:40 a.m. parked in parking lot. I expected a line, but no one else is there, so I sit in the car and write comments on student papers.

6:15 a.m., middle-aged man drives into the lot and parks. He’s wearing shirtsleeves and dress pants. I correctly guess he is the Verizon store manager. I open my car door and say, “Waitin’ on a Droid.” He smiles and says, “We have ‘em.” I say, “Do I have to wait until 8:00?” He says, “Unfortunately.” At least now he knows that I am first in line.

6:30 a.m., two Verizon employees, females, arrive. Then others.

6:45 a.m., van from local AM radio station arrives with a screech, and disk jockey and engineer are allowed into the store to set themselves up. They will report on the rush for Droids.

7:00 a.m., still no one waitin’ on a Droid but me. Sun is up. I get out of car and stand next to the Verizon door. Its banner reads, “Be the first to own it. 8 a.m. 11.06.2009.” I reflect on what it means to be first.

7:20 a.m. About 12 employees and a radio disk jockey are in the store, which now has its lights on and shades raised, but doors locked. I’m still all alone in line.

7:43 a.m. I’m cold and have read through all the student papers.

8:00 a.m. I’m the first customer through the door. Two young men follow, but they head for the demo phones and not the sales desk. The manager gives me a female sales rep who talks to me. He tells her, “Any [cellphone] cover she wants, she gets free, because she was first.”

8:15 a.m. I'm glad I have a Google account because it makes the setup and tests go smoothly.

8:55 a.m., swinging a stylish Verizon bag containing my Droid and accessories, totaling $397 (before $100 mail-in rebate), I’m on my way out when the disk jockey says, “The first Droid out the door!” He asks if I’m excited. I say yes. “We’ll give you some radio love,” he says. “There she goes,” he announces, “the first Droid out the door!”

I hope my Droid will replace or obviate the “need” for an iPod/MP3, GPS, maps, voice recorder, day planner, Kindle, camera, TV, notebook, timer, watch, shopping lists, and the computer. And oh yes -- the land-line telephone.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Down with "Sesame Street"!

Sesame Street is 40 years old; it debuted on this day in 1969. I was too grown-up by then to watch the show, but my students were then being born and Sesame Street, in its supposedly fun and radical way, aimed to teach them to read and think: "edu-tainment," they called it.

I began teaching freshman composition in 1986; most of my students had been born 1968-69. Freshman comp isn't fun for anybody, but students just a few years younger than my first ones appeared to have attention spans accustomed to Sesame Street's rat-a-tat pacing (modeled on network TV's Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In), and their primary concern in the classroom was entertainment. Their ideal instructors would have been singers, guitarists, bongo-players and tap-dancers, and guest stars such as Bill Cosby. Their ideal teacher was most concerned not with communication but with students' personal comfort levels and self-esteem. Over a span of about five years these ideas rose to epidemic levels. The students spoke in quips or in the disingenuous tones of children's public-television programming -- and to this day, dialogue on PBS kids' shows can drive me nuts.

I don't complain because the students in my college classroom couldn't write; most people can't and don't want to write. It worried me more that most couldn't think, except about games and sports teams.

I don't celebrate Sesame Street.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hast Seen the Galleys

Visited my publisher's office Friday. Here's where experience in designing my own self-published books comes in very handy. I saw 12 potential covers for Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis. They all featured charming St. Louis doorways and porches with chairs & wicker, with tile, with ceiling fans, with painted doors, porticos, redbud branches visible...lovely. I asked that the title be changed from script type to sans serif, because script type is famously hard to read; the designer should have known better. The title said "Meet Me" but in script it looked like, "Seet Me," or "Geet Me" -- honest! It has pretty much been decided that the book will have a darkish cover with two comfortable chairs on a porch. The scene seems to say "Meet me," or "We met and talked here."

Then today I saw the interior layout and wished to change everything about it, for my own very good reasons. I'll let you know if I win any of these rounds.