Pretty Cool! -- MV
“Art, it seems to me, should simplify. That, indeed, is nearly the whole of the higher artistic process; finding what conventions of form and what detail one can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole—so that all one has suppressed and cut away is there to the reader’s consciousness as much as if it were in type on the page. Millet had done a hundred sketches of peasants sewing grain, some of them very complicated and interesting, but when he came to paint the spirit of them all into one picture, “The Sower,” the composition is so simple that it seems inevitable. All the discarded sketches that went before made the picture what it finally became, and the process was all the time one of simplifying and sacrificing many conceptions good in themselves, for one that was better and more universal.”
Pretty Cool! -- MV
Once upon a time Noah asked God to create a website and facebook page in order to market GOD. And God was like, “Market myself? Forget it, man. I AM.”
Here I am, human, infinitely more limited than an omnipotent being, and still paralyzed by the thought of trying to define myself for an on-line audience. Instead of getting to work, I do what I always do when faced with tasks that are foreign or mildly distasteful to me: I begin over-thinking. (Can you hear the existential crisis speeding round the corner?)
But who am I? Am I just one me? And if I am, as I have always suspected, a crazy collection of manifestations, no one of which fits comfortablyfor more than an hour at time, then which “I” do I put forth as the definitive edition? Which I do I want the world to think I am? And am I then stuck with the I that I create? Is the I that I create, and the I that I am, really the same person after all? And who is that?
But then I think to myself, hold on, self! Wait just a minute! Who I am isn’t really the question, is it? The real question is, am I cool, smart, attractive, experienced, witty enough to represent the book I’ve written. I’d buy and read my book. But would I buy my book from me? Or not from me, me, but from the me I find on my blog, twitter account, facebook page, website? Because let me tell you that that confident, mildly attractive, carefully benign individual is not me. No really.
Yes, I know. Just write. Of course I know because that’s what I tell my students to do. Don’t worry about it! Just write and rewrite and the universe will unfold as it should. Hypocrite! I know. But that too is a part of who I am.
I’m not a violent person, but given the chance I’d hang the men who invented the Internet and the leaf blower. Subtract these two things from my life and my days would be a marvel of efficient, peaceful productivity.
Instead the World Wide Web sounds its siren call the moment my mind butts up against a sticking point. One little click and I’m caressed by endlessly seductive distractions. No need to toil Odysseus. Join us. Stay a while. Stay longer.
By the time I stop clicking through Yahoo’s top ten destinations for a mid-winter get-away, ten years have passed and I’m still staring at the same paragraph I clicked away from, staring so hard and so long that after another ten years the words might order themselves like hard working ants back into whole thoughts.
But wouldn’t you know it. The moment thoughts start to form the leaf blower man flicks his switch. Goodbye ants. Goodbye thought.
Seriously, how is the leaf blower an improvement over the rake? I get the Internet. It has its uses. But even the leaf blower man must prefer a rake to that roaring contraption strapped to his back. There aren’t leaves enough to justify that sound. What harm are those leaves doing anyway? If they are such a nuisance, then, (forgive me mom….you know I don’t really mean it!), but cut down the tree: a crash, bang, one-shot-job with a chainsaw. Imagine how much fuel we’d save in the long run, and any depletion in ozone would be surely be balanced by considerable loss of noise pollution.
Then, you see, then I could get back to work. Then I would be able finish this paragraph, line, scene, story...
*Cartoon Above: Copyright © 2009 BECK*Cartoons | All rights reserved
I was lucky enough to interview with Helga Sitkin of KCLA FM radio in LA a few weeks ago. We talked about my novel, Crown of Dust, but Helga alone is reason enough to listen in. She is 90 years old, has a fantastic radio voice and a mind that has sharpened with each passing decade. In her 20's, during WWII, she was a pioneer in broadcast radio. I'll post a longer profile about Helga soon. For now, here's the podcast of the interview.
Check out this article about one of my writing mentors, Rosemary Graham, and I. Rosemary you rock! I'm so lucky to have found you. If I had one wish for that genie in the magic lamp, it would be that teachers everywhere would be honored for the work they do for students, rather than blamed for failures that are too often the result of difficult social and financial circumstances.
The Craft of Mentorship-By Ben Peterson
Washington Nugget: Huge piece of gold up for bid--SF Gate
Yes, there’s still gold in them hills, still speculators and miners, still a few who get rich quick on the strength of luck, or divine intervention. One hundred and sixty-three years ago, another gold strike created a migratory frenzy that opened the west and laid bare a wagon and then a railroad track across the continent. It was the hope of instant riches that first drove the mostly young men and a few women to California. They would come, find their fortunes, return to New York, to France, to China with new futures defined by their effort instead of by the social standing of their fathers. A great many never returned. Some died in route; others, only momentarily disillusioned by their failure to find that lucky strike, that motherlode, settled into the satisfying work of cultivation, and up grew the farms and ranches of the San Joaquin valley. Long after alluvial, or river gold, had been snatched, people kept coming to California, lured by the audacious optimism that still, even in these horrid economic circumstances seems to rise from the very earth.
I'll be reading at Books Inc. in Berkeley this Sunday! The reading begins at 6:00pm, but I hope you join us for refreshment and stimulating conversation at 5:30pm.
1760 4th Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
When I was twenty-two, I left home to escape the things I knew and to make myself into a writer. I moved to Aberystywth, Wales, a seaside town centuries older than my own country. I woke each day to a view of the gray Irish Sea through an ancient lead-glass window, walked to work past standing stones, ate lunch in the castle ruins. I traveled London, Dublin, and Paris, stayed in hostels, collected stories and histories wherever I went. The longer I traveled, though, the more space my own home took up inside of me. It was a surprise to discover that the first story I had to tell was rooted in the history I’d left behind.
When I wasn’t traveling or working, I began to spend long afternoons in the National Library of Wales, reading about the Gold Rush, and found myself connecting with the landscape and the history I had left as I never had before. The Gold Rush was no longer a rusted Pelton wheel in my town square, or “a time in American history when…” The Gold Rush was young, hopeful, sunburned, broken-soled men and women, living far from home in tinderbox shacks with canvas walls. I recognized myself, not in their circumstances, but in their desire for adventure and reinvention, and in their grudging homesickness. I recognized the resilience and the cost of the get-rich-quick mentality I had taken for granted in California. I recognized how cycles of hope, opportunism, and failure, shape communities all over the world. History, at least recorded history, is built on wins and losses, booms and busts.
Then, one day in a reading room the size of a high school gymnasium, I discovered a photograph of an androgynous young man, or a woman dressed as a boy, glaring from the pages of Susan Lee Johnson’s Roaring Camp. An oversized panama hat shaded haunted eyes; a stained flannel draped from narrow shoulders; the gun cinched to her waist with a belt looked more like a prop than a threat. As I looked at that photograph, my obsession with the history became a story.
What if, I wondered. What if a stranger came to town… What if a young woman dressed as a boy on the run from the law…
Then I needed a town for my stranger, for Alex, and a rag-tag supporting cast of men with constitutions sturdy enough and personalities large enough to survive the labors their dreams demanded of them. Soon Emaline and the Victoria Inn emerged as the center of the town, a reason, beyond survival, luck and riches, for a community, for a story, and for a writer to grow.
Funny to think I left California to become a writer. The first story I had to tell brought me back again.