I didn’t kill poetry, but I did give it a whack or two…

I admire people who can make any kind of income from poetry much less live off the proceeds.  As a short story writer I am constantly told that my art is dead; if that is so, then poetry is mummified.  Don’t get me wrong, I like poetry but the markets that still exist for the genre are usually non-paying and getting a book of poetry published might be impossible in today’s world.

This all being said, I have had some poetry published and one time I actually was paid for my efforts.  Once again I was perusing the contest categories of our county fair when I noticed that they wanted entries for funny poetry.  Well I am funny and I am a writer so I thought I would give it whack.  The result was a poem (hey, it rhymes) called False Profits: A Commercial Break for Reverend Bob  which came in first place in he contest so I got a Blue Ribbon and $5.00.  Pretty cool. I will post the poem below so you can judge for yourself if it was worthy.

Anyway, just after my victory, a poetry movement swept through Ventura with many venues setting up open mikes so people could read their works.  Well, I am a real ham and I like getting up in front of a crowd, so I started writing some pieces that I could read in a dramatic way.  If it is poetry, I can’t say but the first one I wrote and read is called A Dissertation On Mr. Dudley: Man In The Mirror and it was warmly received though it has never been independently published.  The next one I wrote was an “answer” to this poem and it is called Mirror Image: Metamorphosis; I would often read them together.  Again, they were warmly received but never published independently.  With these three poems under my belt, I had another idea: Why not write a “poetic play” and so I did.  It is called The Earthling and it is available on Amazon.com.  It is a three part play telling the story of a young man whose father committed suicide at the height of the Flower Power movement while leaving behind a wife and son to deal with life in the aftermath of his death.

I have read most of the pieces of this work aloud at one time or another and the one that has received the most praise, and tears, is one I call A Letter to My Dad that depicts this young man reading a letter to his father who knows is dead.  I would sometimes sit at a table with pen and paper in hand for a dramatic effect.

Our local poetry craze lasted for about a year and then faded away, my poetry career did the same, much to the relief of real poets, I am sure.

Here is the work that started it all.  If you like it, for all of .99 cents you can have the entire play on your Kindle:

FALSE PROFITS: A COMMERCIAL BREAK FOR REVEREND BOB

Do you say you want to spread redemption?
Do you say you want to be financially free?
Well if this is really true, my friends
Then learn how to preach on TV.

Do you say you want to be in good with the Lord?
But then you also want to have a little fun?
Then get a ministry on TV
And let people turn you on!

Yes, let me be the answer to all your prayers.
For I am one great gospel teacher.
Yet I still can sin like the devil
Just because I am a video preacher!

Oh yes, I wear five-hundred dollar suits,
And no sir, I do not drive a Ford,
It seems the Almighty wants me in a Mercedes-Benz
And for that I praise the Lord!

Now you to can do as I do,
You to can cash in on people’s trust
But hurry and get on the band wagon
Before this whole scheme goes bust!

Some people will think you are a fake,
And a few will even think you are funny,
But then you are not trying to be popular,
Since all you want is their money!

So listen to the things I say brother,
Believe me when I tell you this scam works.
And all that’s needed is a smiling face
And about 50,000 jerks!

If you just hand over your cash
I will send you your video preacher kit.
Then you too can find religion
While making a few bucks off of it!

Write down the address you see on the screen,
And send me your check or your cold cash
I will tell you how to raise a one million dollars
By saying that God is threatening something rash.

Oh yes, I have a sexy maid, and
I have a house in Beverly Hills.
So the sooner you get off the couch and write to me
The sooner some one else will be paying your bills!

The Earthling: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AZYX82S

For the benefit of Mr. K

All through my blog posts I have told you of the incidents and people who have inspired me to write.  This post will be no different though I write it with great sadness.

I found out last week that one of my friends died suddenly, the cause of his death is irrelevant at this point so I will not go into it, let me just say that he was much too talented and much too young to be gone now.  Even though I went to his joyous wake yesterday, I am still in shock over his death and I will be for some time to come.

The man’s name is James Kasmir and you can visit his FaceBook page here: https://www.facebook.com/james.kasmir

James was a man with a zest for life.  To me he was always smiling, always upbeat, and always willing to entertain.  He was a comedy writer, an adept magician, one of the BEST harmonica players I have ever heard, and one of the most creative improvisational comedians you’d ever meet.  It was during my two year stint in improv that we became friends.  I could tell you of some hilarious skits we did together but that would take much too long because anything Jim was in was funny; I was irrelevant.

Since we were having a wake and since it was to be held in the Ventura Improv Company Theater and since it was to be attended by an astounding amount of talented people who would be performing in honor of Jim, I wanted to get involved as well but not in an improv setting.  So, I wrote a short poem even though my poetry is lacking.  The name of the work is Jimbo The Magnificent and there is a story behind this title that few people knew until I told it before I read this work.

As I said, Jim was a magician and I am one who has always loved magic.  I have even put on a few shows (one when I was 9 years old) but I never reached Jim’s talent level.  Well one day, in a private conversation, I told him that if he was going to be successful magician, he needed a catchy name.  So I bounced a few suggestions off him and Jimbo The Magnificent is the one he liked the best, though I don’t think he ever used it on stage even though I promised him that I would not charge a royalty fee if he did–at least one that was not too steep, that is.

So, using my favorite name for him, I wrote the following.  It was warmly received despite it’s crudeness because it celebrated all things Jim.  That is something we can all celebrate for the remainder of our lives.

I love you buddy.

Jimbo the Magnificent

With mouth organ blazing, he’d pull a rabbit from a hat

Now how in the world could you not laugh at that!

Up on the boards he’d act like he was Heaven sent,

And maybe he was, he was Jimbo the Magnificent.

He’d been known to sing and he’d been known to prance

And sometimes when silly he’d do a naked chicken dance

Whatever he did, he did for our enjoyment.

Because as we all know, he was Jimbo the Magnificent

Now that he’s gone, the lights have gone out

But we’ll all be happy and we’ll all have no doubt

That he’ll be wearing wings to where ever it is he went

And Angels, those lucky Angels, will be laughing with Jimbo the Magnificent

Never throw anything away–ever! (Part 1)

Somewhere in my house, at the bottom of a drawer, a monster lurks, just waiting to be set free.  That is a fact.  It is also a fact that after some 45 odd years, the monster has no chance of escaping.  Why I have not destroyed it yet, since it is in my power to do so, goes all the way back to a directive I gave myself during my first attempt at creative writing: Never throw anything away–ever!

The monster I speak of above is more precisely, The Monster of Mulville, a book I started writing on a 35 pound typewriter that a friend of mine found in an alley way where it had been discarded.  It was so old that finding a ribbon (remember those?) for it was a challenge but I did find one at a repair center where they also gave the old girl a tune-up.  With a refreshed ribbon and typer, I set off into the unknown.

After a 100 or so pages, my monster was laid to rest but not my passion for writing.  Over the course of the years, many stories have joined the monster and a few have even risen from the grave.  The best example of this is most likely my one and only play.

For a year or so in my hometown a movement of open mic poetry reading swept through the area like a Pacific storm.  Everywhere you looked, small cafes and bakeries were staging these events.  While I never considered myself to be a poet, I do like to get up in front of a crowd and shoot my mouth off–I even performed improv comedy for a few years.  So, I thought I would try my hand at writing poetry and I was every bit as bad as I thought I would be but people like to hear me speak because of my dramatic style of reading so I plugged away at it for a few months before finally sending poetry the way of the monster. Then one day in an acting class I was taking, the teacher told us of a one-act play festival he was planning and invited us all to submit a play if we had one.  I did not, however, I did have a 32 line “poem” that I called Stage Directions.  I had never read it out loud because it was really more of a visual work with actual stage directions written into it.  Essentially, it is an argument between someone labeled MENTOR and someone labeled PROTAGONIST.  MENTOR believes that God is just a drunken hack writer who has nothing better to do then sit around playing God while PROTAGONIST believes in the being in the traditional way.  It goes on from there.

Anyway, for years I had thought about digging this work out of my desk drawer and expand it into a play and now that I had an identified market for it, I decided to go ahead and do it with the only changes being made to the names of the characters; they were now MAN and WOMAN.  I admit, I had a lot of fun doing this because I would write a little and then get up and act out what I had written. Then I would write more and act more.  What I ended up with was a play about 15 minutes long that needed little in the way of stagecraft to put on and even less in the way of costuming.  My teacher hated it.  But then I didn’t like his teaching much either.

So, I was ready to send Stage Directions-The Play to the same place where Stage Directions-The Poem was buried when, instead I decided to list the work in a play directory and offer it free to any school that would like to perform it.  What a surprise I had in store when the first school that contacted me was the Victoria School of Performing Arts in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Think of the movie Fame when you think of this school.

They asked if they could perform it as part of their Playworks Festival which was four days of one-act plays staged, performed, and directed by the students.  Of course, I said yes.  All I asked for in return was a copy of the poster they made for it and a copy of the program (where I was referred to as an “American Playwright”–my apologies to actual American Playwrights).  I was told that my play “won the night” with the Judges which was pretty cool since a David Mamet play was also presented that night.

Since that time my play has been produced many times with the last production being at the Celebwrite! fest which was held in the Soho Theatre in London, England.  I’d like to say that my success has lead me to write more plays but all it has done is shown me that I am not a playwright; I am just a writer who happened to get lucky when he tried his hand at something new.

At one point, Stage Directions was on the verge of becoming a short story as well.  Modern Drunkard Magazine (yes there is such a publication http://drunkard.com/issues/04_05/0405_dry_war.htm ) heard about the story and apparently liked the idea of God being a drunken writer so they asked me to re-write the play into a short-story but try as I might, I just could not make it happen.

However, I may yet do this since I never throw anything away!

(NOTE: More examples of this subject to follow)

 

Why I write like I do…

Unlike some authors,  I do not write in just one genre.  I let the story idea dictate which category it fits into so that way I do not force a hard edge sci-fi story like Life In The Fast Lane into a detective story such as A Notary Public Is Missing!.   

The late author, Michael Chricton, wrote the same way.  For example, would the theme of Jurassic Park fit into the storyline of Exposure?  That would be doubtful.  More than likely he, like me, had ideas about stories and wrote them in the genre that served them best.

Unlike this great author, though, I only write short stories.  I have tried to write novels but no idea will stick in my brain long enough to complete one.  I have to get stories out of my fractured mind before I forget what I am writing about.

One other thing about my writing is that I frequently create my stories and characters out of real-life situations and real people that I know.  I only change their names to protect me from the innocent.

For instance, the latest victim of The Prime Cut Killer in my story Tat is based on a real-life bartender who is every bit as beautiful as described in the story. When I showed her the final work, her only objection to it was that she was dead.  When I told her that she would be the lead supporting actress, and possible co-star, if the story were made into a movie, she dropped her objection.  Hollywood is waiting.

Not only that, the story Tat is based on a real-life incident that occurred in the very same bar where she works.

In this blog, I will be going behind the scenes of my works to reveal what lead me to write a story. I have given talks on this matter and people are often surprised at how little an incident needs to be to get me going.  Sometimes it is just a word or a sporadic action that lights the fire and, believe it or not, I never know in advance what it will be.

I will also be talking about the art of writing.  Not so much how to do it but how and where to find inspiration to do it along with examples from my life.  I will offer advice to new authors as well.