Thursday reminder to keep going


What does one do with old, unpublished artwork? Dozens upon dozens of illustrations remain hidden. Housed in art portfolio cases and cardboard boxes. These sketches, drawings and illustrations remain artifacts of decades of work.

They resurfaced this summer. Drawings and illustrations created with the purpose of advancing a career as a children’s book writer/illustrator, comic book artist and/or cartoonist. Several four-page comic book stories present an exercise toward a full-length comic book. Inspired by the 1990s indie comic scene, a lot of the stories are slice-of-life scenes and dramas. One collection of illustrations is a story written by a friend. Another set of drawings features character drawings for a writer seeking to pitch a proposal to Image Comics.

There is a portfolio case filled with pages of a first issue and half a second issue of an indie comic. It was created for a writer who contacted me to collaborate on the project. The pages display pen and brush illustrations. Think of the early work of David Collier. If he drew every page with his right hand. (He is left-handed. If I recall correctly.) On second thought, maybe it doesn’t look anything like David Collier’s work. The struggle with this indie project was that I learned that I do not illustrate fast and well at the same time. Back in those pre-iPhone/pre-Twitter days, I worked as a graphic designer during the day and an artist by night. A 30-day deadline to complete 22 pages plus cover art was a difficult task. If I had worked eight hours a day on the project instead of two hours a day, maybe the results would have been better. The indie comic was never published.

Another sketch book has pages of comps for a cartoon strip. The idea was that if I cannot draw detailed panels and pages fast, maybe I can draw cartoons faster. So, I created a cartoon character and comic strip and discovered that drawing a cartoon is just as time intensive as illustrating detailed comic pages. I pivoted toward a cartoon style similar to Jim Davis. In short, a comic strip with near static panels and subtle changes in art between one panel and the next. Sort of a pre-Adam Ellis templated four-panel strip. The comic strip was published regularly in a North Carolina alternative newspaper until the paper took an extended sabbatical.

“I like that one,” my bride commented. Dozens of cartoon pages rest on a desk in our bedroom.

“Maybe I should collect these pages into a book,” I offered.

“What do mean?”

“You know, like an artist’s sketchbook or portfolio book. I’ve got several of those type of books.” I think of books like Michael Wm. Kaluta Sketchbook or C. Vess Sketchbook.

“Yeah, but aren’t those more like retrospectives of an artist’s celebrated career?”

“Hm. Yeah. I guess you’re right,” I answered. But why can’t it be used to promote a career, I think to myself.

“Maybe after you’ve published your magnum opus.”

“Yeah. I guess so.”

The illustration boards still rest on the desk I built from salvaged wood. A reminder to keep going.

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The wreck of his life

Earlier this week, someone in a writers group I attend asked me where do I get the ideas I write about. My answer was a paraphrase of something Hemingway wrote to Fitzgerald. Here’s the exact quote from his letter in 1929:

“The good parts of a book may be only something a writer is lucky enough to overhear or it may be the wreck of his whole damn life–and one is as good as the other.”
–Ernest Hemingway

He also wrote something to the idea that he learned to write by examining the simplest of things.

Why do poets and writers write?

Bookstore Poetry Shelf

This is a question like a sliver that gets under your skin. It is like that wood splinter you received from running your hand along a wooden fence and the painful acceptance of it to the soft spot below your thumb sends you to the medicine cabinet where you try to remove it with tweezers. But it’s too deep and requires a poultice to draw the splinter to the surface for removal. It is that way with answering the question, why do poets and writers write?

In an online discussion[1] of poets and writers and arm-chair philosophers, I offered this to the ongoing conversation: Emerson wrote that “The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty.”[2][3] This rings true as to why writers write. Years ago I heard someone say, “We are God’s poème.”[4] (Poème derives from the Latin word poema meaning poem.) I have often pondered that as an answer for why writers write and wonder if that is what Emerson had in mind when he wrote those lines. We are God’s poem, that is why we say, name, and represent beauty.

What are your thoughts on the matter? What motivates you to write? and why?

NOTE: [1] Renée, “Why write?,” LinkedIn, April 25, 2013 accessed May 6, 2013 http://www.linkedin.com/group.
[2] The quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s book Essays, Second Series from the essay “The Poets.” Here’s a link to an excerpt: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/495734-the-poet-is-the-sayer-the-namer-and-represents-beauty?.
[3] Or you can read the entire essay in this handsome collection: Emerson: Essays and Lectures: Nature: Addresses and Lectures / Essays: First and Second Series / Representative Men / English Traits / The Conduct of Life (Library of America) [Hardcover].
[4] This is a reference to a passage in chapter two of The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians. William D. Mounce writes on the matter of the original Greek text in this article, Are We God’s Poem?.

Two reasons why not to self-publish your book

Confession: I am an advocate of self-publishing. I have been for years. But my views are changing on the matter due to the glut of poorly written self-published books being released each year.  Serendipitously, I found this article in the London Evening Standard that offers two reasons why not to self-publish: 1) publishers and 2) editors.

Authors need publishers more than ever when there are so many voices out there competing for our attention. As Horowitz rightly says, the main raison d’être of a publisher is to provide the author with a skilful editor who can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Editors are the midwives of great literature. T S Eliot’s The Wasteland wouldn’t have been the masterpiece it is if it hadn’t been edited by Ezra Pound and his wife, Vivien.

The death of publishing is greatly exaggerated. We will still need publishers as long as we read books, just as we still need critics to review those books. It is part of the great filtering process of literature and culture. (link: Self-publishing makes us think we can write)

Any questions?

Literary reading series continues at Posana Cafe this weekend

Saturday night, March 17,  6:00 p.m. at Posana Cafe in downtown Asheville, NC. The literary reading features writer Elizabeth Lutyens and poet Tina Barr.

From a press release:

Elizabeth Lutyens teaches the Prose Master Class in the Great Smokies Writing Program of UNC Asheville and is Editor of The Great Smokies Review, its online literary journal. A former journalist, she got her MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College, and since has been at work on a novel set in the mid-19th century in Boston and the Port Royal Islands of South Carolina.

Tina Barr has received Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her awards include the Editor’s Prize for book publication from Tupelo Press. Her poems are published in anthologies and journals like The Harvard Review, The Southern Review and The Paris Review.

Literary Reading at Posana Café

Later this week, a literary reading featuring Catherine Reid and Valerie Neiman. February 18, 2012, at Posana Cafe, at 7:30 p.m.

Catherine Reid is the author of COYOTE: SEEKING THE HUNTER IN OUR MIDST, as well as essays in such journals as GEORGIA REVIEW, MASSACHUSETTS REVIEW, FOURTH GENRE, and BELLEVUE LITERARY REVIEW. Currently, she directs the undergraduate creative writing program at Warren Wilson College, where she also teaches creative nonfiction and environmental writing.

Jane Alison calls  Valerie Nieman‘s third novel, Blood Clay “both a tense, plot-driven story about complicated issues of race and guilt, and a meditation on solitude, history, and ways of living.”

A former newspaper reporter, Nieman is also the author of a collection of short stories, Fidelities, and a poetry collection,Wake Wake Wake. She teaches at the John C. Campbell Folk School and serves as poetry editor of Prime Number magazine.

From an email from Mark Prudowsky and Katherine Soniat