Category Archives: personal
In the past few months, I have culled “buzzwords” from the national conversation, if the discourse can be influenced by media, “buzzwords” I have contemplated. When writing blogs, sometimes we search for “hot topics” to talk about, to share about, but lately I have abstained from throwing in my two cents for gun control, marriage equality, or the construction of an American Death Star. My silence should not suggest I have no opinions on the matter (Build the Death Star immediately) but that I feel the arguments I could make have been made sufficiently by other people and also that posting op-ed articles on “Word Salad” might not be the best way to convey a message.
Sure, a couple hundred people read this blog a day, but it might take a mighty fine piece of persuasive writing to haul anyone from one side of any controversial canyon to another. Instead, I have focused the past three months on what I do best: writing fiction. Most notably, I have been working on a novel that is now finished. I am currently querying.
Because novels take so long to write and apparently much longer to publish, I felt it might be strange to not include on “Word Salad” samples of my fiction. Maybe you’ll like it so much, you’ll buy the novel when it comes out. Maybe? Probably.
Therefore, from now on, though I may still write plenty of op-ed articles about politics or Twinkies, I will try to post a short story (or at least part of a short story) on the blog. These stories may have several parts, but if there is nowhere to publish some of the weirder, more experimental tripe I write, I might as well post it on the internet for the world to see.
As I draw closer to publication, I might post sample chapters for “Lickskillet,” but until then, here’s a rough preview of short pieces I am currently working on and will likely post in the coming weeks.
- A yuppie journalist breaks down in the midst of a Hillbilly Hell as he seeks to uncover the true purpose of a newly-minted dam. Mutant catfish and missing teeth abound.
- Nikola Tesla manages, before he dies, to perfect his most secretive project: a time machine. When he takes a ride to the future, however, he lands in the kitchen of three aimless stoners who don’t know who he is.
- His father a literary scholar, his mother a bestselling crime novelist, and his sister a “Confession Poet,” the youngest Snyder child has a lot to live up to, but also much to worry about as his older brother attempts to write a memoir of their defunct family life.
There will hopefully be more stories than these, but these are the ones I have come up with so far. Check back in before the end of the week, and perhaps I will have the first story (or part of the story) posted.
Four weeks later, the “Happy Birthday” Mylar balloon survives, defying gravity as it levitates beside his bed. When he wakes, he usually startles, peering into the darkness and waiting for IT to attack in his clownish terror. But the boy does not lay in his bed, but instead hunches over the desk writing on index cards, his arms, the walls, and his mind– any sort of memorization trick he can think of.
Periodically, he reaches for his laptop, opens up Facebook, wastes fifteen minutes reading a bland twitter feed. When he looks up to see the books and papers and notebooks stacked around him like a fortress, he closes the laptop and returns to work.
The boy is me, naturally, too lazy to use first person because after studying this much, can you even be sure that you inhabit your own body anymore? You’re a robot, a clone, that strange alien double agent sent into a high school to infect the student body as well as the teacher, but there are a few resistant students who team up and fight against you. Either that, or everyone’s losing their minds.
Studying might not be the right word, though. More like boarding up a house in Florida before hurricane season or gathering your army for war. Washington, I have crossed the Delaware. I have faced the enemy, and he is no Fuhrer or vaguely-racist-depiction of Communism, but final exams.
As much as I would like to say that these exams are why I haven’t blogged in so long, I can’t say that. After all, the Mylar balloon has been there the whole time, egging me. Write, write write, and no doubt, I have been writing. Perhaps a little more than a week from now, when the waiting and preparing ends, I can write more. Also, I will be putting up videos of poetry performances in the next few days, so look out for those.
I read a poem today in which two boys played in the backyard, a deceptively simple poem. The more I pondered the two stanzas, the more concretely I realized how little the poem was about—childhood innocence, friendship, etc. Should poetry be so hushed, so calm, so unobtrusive?
Having grown used to brass, dramatic poetry, this caught me unawares. Why be so calm and cool and collected? Two boys running and throwing balls and pushing toy trucks around in the grass, all things I’ve rarely seen. Because childhood is rarely as innocent as we assume.
Why not write about two boys playing video games (we often played videogames), about how they shout at each other as each wins? Write about throwing the controllers at each others’ faces, knocking out teeth, bloodying their noses. Childhood is rarely flowers and sunshine and playtime before supper. It’s a constant war.
Children, in fact, are sufficient evidence that we as the human race descended from savages. They are cruel, selfish, and conniving.
And no one is as guilty as a child is. When a child steals, they spend the next few hours fretting over their sin, their black crime. When they lie, they burst with the need to say the truth. Adults do not share this tendency: we do not feel guilty about much past infidelity or murder.
I closed the book of poetry and put it away, thinking about times I might have played in the grass. Surely not as many times as I argued with friends over Pokémon cards or whether or not a certain Mario Kart race victory was considered fair. Do poems need to shout, to demand change, to radicalize, or can they fall light as clouds on your brain, invoking nothing serious, only the fabled innocence of children.
We arrived to eat breakfast, though it was nearly time for lunch. I ordered a black coffee and she a chocolate waffle. For a long time, I sat uninspired with a notebook in front of me, too tired to transcribe what I was seeing. Instead, I contemplated the synthetic webs, filled with plastic spiders, decorating the establishment for Halloween.
Behind me, two couples sat facing each other, enjoying a post-church lunch in sweater vests and Easter dresses.
One woman refilled her coffee cup and sat down, frowning toward the waitress.
“Want some sugar, honey?” asked her husband, pursing his lips and leaning forward.
“No thank you,” she said. “Maybe just some Splenda.”
November has finally arrived, quite possibly my favorite month out of the whole year, not in the least influenced by the fact that in a mere two weeks is my nineteenth birthday. Obviously, nineteen is the grand turning point, the entrance to adulthood only shallowly offered at eighteen. At nineteen, I will transform into someone so amazingly mature, I may grow a mustache begin to wear glasses, and spend my Saturdays sitting in a lawn chair among whorling leaves completing difficult Sudoku puzzles.
But November brings with it also frigid winds that whip between the Charleston streets as if in chariot races. And costumes at parties worn by people who mistake Halloween for a week-long affair. And bushy beards grown in remembrance of testicular cancer. And wispy dirt ‘staches grown in remembrance of testicular cancer.
November brings Thanksgiving, at which I’ve hardly eaten turkey and so perhaps don’t understand the fascination of turkey. I prefer pasta.
Next Tuesday comes Election Day, when pundits from both sides have re-imagined Doomsday’s date and time to coincide with the election of either candidate. This all accentuated with “If you vote for him, the world will end” Madness which is only slightly worse than “The world will end” Madness.
November also hosts NaNoWriMo: yes, every year it comes and every year I’ll complain about all the opportunities it offers for budding fiction authors to explore their talents and produce work with the aid of other authors. How deplorable that this organization (you can find them at http://www.nanowrimo.org/) should encourage productivity and creativity throughout the month of November. Bummer, right?
But seriously, I competed roughly three years ago with the organization, and it proved a lot of fun. If you’re serious about your writing, just want to see what happens, or foresee a multi-million dollar book deal in your future, try your hand. You’ve got 30 days to write 50,000 words (what they call a novel, because typing 100,000 words in 30 days would be too much).
Whatever you decide to do with your November, whether that be grow a beard, write a novel, or craft personal birthday presents for me, I hope you have a great one. I will continue to work on “In Lickskillet” as well as my newest project (which I may talk about in future posts). Also, over the past months, my posting habits have decreased. I have grown invariably lazy and so, this month, perhaps I can turn all of that around. Attack “Word Salad” with a pen and a notebook and produce amazing, shocking, humorous, enlightening content for those people who choose to read it.
This month, you will see more of the “Poetic Life” series as well as more narrative posts! Exciting, yes?
Happy belated Halloween!
They say, young people do not understand love. They do no comprehend the rigors and the trials love brings. But never have I seen teenage summer romancers blossoming into bitter divorcees, battling each New Year’s Eve with projectile glassware.
Instead, they hold a perpetual romanticism about these forgotten loves, the ones that weren’t real or serious or hard. No deep resentment hides within them, only the residue of a humid hope that died in August. Never hate, though– never loathing. Of course, I am young and do no understand love. Perhaps sleeping in different beds is part of what all that adult-known mystery entails.
Should probably shave, I thought, grazing the hair on my face that never resembled a beard, but instead some bedraggled cat holding on for dear life. No, the hairs on my face rarely sculpt me into a sexy, rather hipster-ish Ryan Gosling look-a-like, but instead an unshaven bum.
So I retreated to the bathroom with my Neutrogena shaving kit and disposable razor pack (CVS; $4.99). The sink encrusted with spittle-mixed-tooth-paste, the mirrors streaked with the same concoction in patterns reminiscent of some Jackson Pollock painting.
Shaving is men’s equivalent to dyeing his hair. We arise fresh, awoken, somehow new. Certainly, we look different, sometimes more childish, sometimes more handsome. Either way, we come out of the experience different and cleansed. The feeling fades just as does that familiar Sunday Morning vibe that fizzles out once we smack into Monday and decide, well, why not try meth?
I finished and put down the razor, inspecting myself. Sometimes, when you look in a mirror, it’s strange—you don’t recognize your own face because you hardly ever see it. So that’s it? That’s how people see me? Ah, well, it does look better shaven. Maybe I’ll feel a little different, a little new.
Life, I have found, makes more sense with a pen in my hand. Words, not so much the infinite gestures, expressions, and human niceties, I understand. I am the idiot savant of a less poetic age, a philosopher barbarian writing words as if in code, trying to make sense of a senseless society who long ago gave up the ghost of reality.
Stories, they make sense to me. In fact, I’ve devoted much of the past week to reworking, rewriting, revising one such story—the novel I wrote. Maybe in the vain hope that when all is finished, you will like it. You will hold the pages to the sky and say, “My, this beauty overwhelms.”
Until then, I’ll keep getting pelted with the slings and arrows of life, as Hamlet would say—more of less, calculus. Ah, math, you tricky slave to logic and consistency. Just being in the presence of numbers, equations, those foreign mysteries—I feel as fresh as a smoker’s lung.
Tuesday, we received back our exams. I passed, and the fear is over, but before an exam, a fear creeps up. On the cusp of that exam, I felt as if I faced a tragic, untimely death. What will happen? I had to begin, put the pencil to paper. Though I felt as if my very act of taking this exam would kill me. A shotgun poised at my chest.
While words—even German—have a beauty that enlighten and inspire, math has become a high level foreign language class in which I don’t belong, having missed out on the essential vocabulary. This is not merely due to the fact my instructor is Russian, botching every other word with wonky vowels. Instead, math itself has transformed from something simple and concrete into the intense codification of some alien race.
More or less, I would rather play Peek-a-boo with a guillotine than take a math exam ever again. But the weekend begins tomorrow, and I can return to words and only words, quite a solace they be.
The book-mobile came to our elementary school every Thursday afternoon, beginning my love affair with books– especially the free variety from libraries. We waited, my brothers and I, until 3 when it rolled into the parking lot, and we climbed on books, scouring the few shelves that the bus held. This, I believed– this rolling-meth-lab-turned-book-van– constituted the entire library. Many years would pass before I realized the library had more than four shelves, stocked with copies of Goosebumps and the Magic Tree House Series.
My mother perhaps did not fully understand the concept of libraries or checking out books from them. I really do not know why she continued for months to check out fifteen books at a time, returning maybe only two of that number. She collected fines like most people collect state quarters or Beanie Babies or the teeth from their enemies (if they happen to be ancient war lords). She continued until the library rejected her when next she tried to check out the latest offering from James Patterson.
She resorted to creating library cards for her three sons and using those instead to continue this open theft of library books. I am sure there is a copy of Dinosaurs Before Dark with a library sticker crammed into my bookcase; despite our accessory to this large-scale heist, she was the mastermind. At one point, I believe the librarians posted a wanted poster with her image, demanding several hundreds of dollars in fines lest she be caught on the premises.
The true Wild West character of the County Library. She still avoids the library, as far as I know. Years later, I re-applied for a new card so I could check out books uninhibited by her dark reputation. And it’s not that she amassed fines in malice, like a rebel against the library system. She simply loved books so much, she needed to keep them.
Perhaps she believed stories were permanent, and if she relinquished a book, the characters and tales would somehow dissipate. She kept the books as if to check that the words never faded. I too, at times, feel the need to hold onto stories, hoping their contents never fade from my mind or from existence.
We tell stories to explain who we are, just as I tell this one to better make sense of my mother’s book-related criminality. My mother probably never nurtured such absurd notions about books, that they were semi-permanent. And she never really stole the books, but she did take an awfully long time to return them. But in a story, it helps to link actions to causes. We need reasons for doing things. We tell stories to make points, whether they be true or not.
We need stories to make some sort of sense because people rarely do.
For the past few days, I carried a book of poetry with me wherever I went. On Wednesday, it arrived in the mail, and I carried it, reading it whenever I had time, catching glimpses of words that bloomed out of themselves. Now it is already battered, a hundred years old, dripping with sage colors. I’ve been reading it in parks, on street corners, in cafeterias, on the loo– in hopes I can grasp life as she does. I clutch to inspirations’ coattails, praying I can breathe when it hits me.
What is so strange about poetry is that it seems to capture in mystery what we cannot express clearly. If it could be explained more clearly, it would be, after all, prose. And I’ve been thinking about my theory that everything is made not of molecules, but stories. Like instead of a soul, each of us have a red-pen-marked manuscript hidden deep inside our chests. Or maybe the entire story is just one paper, folded up a million times, planted deep inside the brain.
I have also been thinking a lot about this blog and my work, my fiction and poetry. I wonder how it may evolve, how I might make it better. With the flood of schoolwork I’ve encountered, I have not blogged since last Sunday. For the past four weeks, posting has been erratic, each short and strange. Like me obsessing over strings or telling stories. But I’ve decided that might be what I want to do. After all, I tell fictional stories. Why shouldn’t I use my blog as a format to spread my work, tell more stories? Not so much the fiction I’m working on as narratives of life. Things we see every day, these can become stories.
In my last post, 7 Reasons to Do Something for the First Time, I told 7 short stories about times when I did something for the first time. Future posts may appear very similar to that as opposed to the articles I sometimes write on the state of the book industry, the varied opinions toward drugs, or rants on education. Instead, blogs may be structured in a much stranger way than they ever have before, half-poem, half-prose, exactly how I usually write.
So I’ve been carrying this poetry book with me everywhere I go, trying to be inspired. For what, I’m not sure. Should I bleed out my poems onto paper, trying to say something significant? I’m beginning to realize that significant things happen to me every day. I see people on the street, and their stories erupt from their heads like fireworks. Why look so hard for the significance of something when we can simply tell stories? Like parables, they may teach us something we cannot outright say.
Here’s to inspiration, to hoping stories will find me. And when I hear them, when I experience them, here will be where I might relate them.