Publication of “Mortal Coil”

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Left of the Lake published “Mortal Coil” in the August issue. It is a short story I wrote. A really short story. And now it is almost September.

A prepublication notice was posted. Then I forgot to mention where you can get a copy of the magazine to read the story.

The publisher mailed a copy. I shared it with friends in writers group.

“This is so neat. Congratulations, Matt,” said one of the writers of the Village Ink Writers Group. After looking through the printed copy she pointed at the author bio photo and asked, “Is that you?”
“Yeah,” I said. “That photo was taken a couple years ago… before I moved.”
“You’ve lost weight.”
I laughed. “Poverty has its benefits.”

I failed to consider that friends and fans — who I do not get see me face-to-face every week — may like to read “Mortal Coil.” I will do my best to remedy that.

In the mean time, I continue to collect rejection letters from other publishers regarding other submitted work. Cheers!

I have not weeded, I have not written

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Two authors provided me with food for thought during the last week or so. “Courting the Gargoyle”1 by Sheryl Monks explores the dichotomy many writers experience.

“I’ve taken to describing myself as part cheerleader, part gargoyle. The cheerleader, . . .  is a powerful avatar, . . . . hopeful, peace-broker . . . .  She sees the world democratically; it’s flawed, . . . but it’s not without beauty. . . . the gargoyle is fragile. The gargoyle sets the bar too high, and as a result, the world and the people in it disappoint.”

While you digest that idea, Ann E. Michael confesses that she is too busy to write. Unlike many writers who become jaded and obsessed with lack of discipline and failure, she is hopeful.

“I have not been weeding, as I have not been writing. Other priorities are claiming the be-here-now of my life; but I’m happy to find that the garden, and my writing life, can be sustained through other things and returned to at better times.”2

I confess, I have not weeded the garden either. Yet, providentially, the tomatoes, beans and chard have grown in abundance. I am part gargoyle. The part that never sees the light of social media. I have not written consistently (or as consistently as I planned. . . the gargoyle again.) Midimike commented that there will be time “to write about all those days when you were too busy to write!”3 I am part cheerleader. The brief smile that flickers across the light of social media.

NOTES:
[1] “Courting the Gargoyle” by Sheryl Monks, August 10, 2015. http://changesevenmag.com/portfolio/courting-the-gargoyle/
[2] “Too busy to write (sigh)” by Ann E. Michael, August 13, 2015. https://annemichael.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/too-busy-to-write-sigh/
[3] https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2015/07/22/the-purpose-of-drawing/#comment-4566

From the office in the oak grove

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Two full moons ago, I shared a glimpse at my outdoor office. Yesterday, I asked the boss if I might share few details about the location and the unique job I enjoyed under the shade of red and white oak trees. And he said yes.

The adventure started with a phone call and brisk interview. It was a working interview. The interviewer wore a leather flat cap and showed me wooden shields and signs.

“Can you paint?” he said.

“Yes, I can,” I said. “I brought my own brushes. Should I have brought my own paint?”

He didn’t answer. He was sorting through a stack of shields piled on a wooden table. He explained that some shields required touch up work due to weathering and use while other shields need to be painted — originals, as he put it.

“If I like your work, I can keep you busy all summer,” he said as he produced cans of paint and assigned a place to work. “If I don’t like your work…” Well, suffice it to say he related that my working interview would be concluded and I should not return.

“I’ll be back in a few hours,” he said and assigned two projects for me to complete. Then he got in his truck and drove down a service road to do something somewhere else on the property.

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It took a few moments for me to gauge what to start with. I picked up each shield and sign and weighed where to start. After I opened a couple of paint cans, I searched for a water bucket or anything to keep the brushes clean and for mixing colors. I salvaged a water bottle for a trash bin and began to paint. Long story short, he liked the work I did and told me I should show up the next day. That routine continued for most of the summer.

One, of many, comments he shared with me continues to intrigue me. It involved the idea of hand-painted art versus computer-generated, printed signs.

“There is juju with these things,” he said inspecting one of the shields I painted. “People connect with this stuff, because it was created with human hands. Not some computer.”

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I listened to him. I examined the source material that he shared with me. He sketched bestiary on a wood panel and I watched. He asked for my brush and corrected a shadow and I learned.

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As I drew the typography of a sign for the ring, it became clear to me what he had been telling me and showing me this summer. The clean, manufactured sterility of our culture separates the element of human touch. When I painted the “y” from the word “only” it was similar but not an exact facsimile of the “y” in “beyond” on the line below. Yes. Precision could have improved the exactness of the two letters. My lettering and painting captures my technique as well as foibles. 

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During this summer, I read several books by Ryōkan and Bashō. The historical footnotes and commentary on the calligraphy of the poets were as exciting as the literary work itself. The fact that scholars continue to examine the brushstrokes hundreds of years after the poets passed from this earth testify to the essence of human connectivity. The falter of a stroke — a brush loaded with ink that lacks the energy to complete a long stroke remains a signature of the poet. Was it intentional? Or accidental?

As I examined a finished sign with him one afternoon, I said, “It’s not perfect.”

“Only God is perfect,” he said. “These are magic. When people see these signs, they will know that this is real. This is the real thing. Not a duplicate. This is OS. Original standard. Good stuff. See you tomorrow.”