Being a Writer Is Easy! (If You Have Nothing Else to Do)

In the past week, I have written 12,000 words. 1,000 of those words have been fiction, 0 words poetry, and the rest devoted to various academic projects. With the publication of my first novel fast approaching, I must consider myself more and more a writer, and yet such a title demands attention and effort. A writer, after all, must write. Not just blog posts like this one. Or Tweets, a form of which I am particularly fond. But rather, stories. Novels. Poems. Essays for lofty literary journals. And in the past few months, I have done little of this. Moored to the workload of senior year, I have neglected my holy and dreadful duties as a writer.

So what to do? What is a writer who does not write? Recently, my laptop crashed—kaput! The latest draft of my second novel, on which I’ve been working since my Freshman year at College of Charleston, was lost within a fried hard drive. The loss eliminated any motivation to continue working on the novel, and for the past four months, the story has languished in the purgatory of forgotten manuscripts. Where novels-in-progress go to die. Of course I still have the second draft for reference, and I can jump right back in with a new draft.

After all, my inspiration in writing has been replenished. This year I am taking my first ever fiction-writing course with Professor Brett Lott at the College of Charleston. What I expected to be a course crammed with trite advice and undergraduate pandering has actually been quite helpful. Several of the most basic lessons of fiction have eluded me until now, and I must return with a critical eye to my new material. Like all young writers, I am already terrified of my first novel (I wrote the novel when I was seventeen and eighteen), and yet I still have such pride in it. It is, after all, a fine work, especially for someone as young as I. But nevertheless, I intend to do even better next time, applying the lessons I have learned in the course.

But what of time? How does one grapple with the lack of time one receives in university? Some college students participate in Nanowrimo, and I long for the days I could spend hours in a coffee shop furiously typing. But no, that won’t do. It’s not that I don’t have the energy to write nor the ideas, but rather that other obligations have wrestled me away from the stories. Too often I wish to scribble ideas into a notebook and abandon whatever essay, presentation, or op-ed I am working on. Too often I find myself at the end of the day exhausted by the sheer effort of living, of academic rigor, of the expectations of professors and parents, of the black hole of social media that promises either publication success or ruin. Too often I find myself discussing writing with friends rather than writing. But I am finding my groove. I am writing on the toilet, on planes, in cars, in class, between classes, and in the library while I am supposed to be working on the two essays, three group projects, and poster presentation due in two days (as I am doing now).

So I must work without ceasing. I must work even when not writing. Always, a tiny elf sits in my head, scribbling down experiences, filing away gestures and odd phrases, and composing grand scenes. When I am in class, I am working: who needs to listen to a lecture on Benedictine monks when one has read Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose? When I am exercising (which means here riding my bike aimlessly through the decrepit and ruinous parts of my city), I am working. During sex, I am working. While eating lunch, I am working. While taking a shower, I am working. When I am out drinking with my friends, dancing a wild gig of youthful merriment, I am working. I am cataloging my life for the sake of my art. My mind is alive with stories.

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Me, Working

I have taken a semester to step away from my second novel, hoping to return with renewed vigor during winter break. For now, I am perfecting my storytelling. I have written six short stories so far since August and I intend to write another two before winter crashes into South Carolina and forces me inside. And when it does, I will pour a hot coffee and keep writing.

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Preview: Read Chapter One of THE HEATHENS AND LIARS OF LICKSKILLET COUNTY

Welcome to Lickskillet, South Carolina.

A town of enigmatic and wild people where five teenagers will confront their futures, their friends, and the town’s dark secrets.

I’m releasing sample chapters to my debut novel which appears in bookstores and Amazon in November 2015.

Follow the link to read chapter one: https://derekberry.wordpress.com/in-lickskillet/lickskillet-preview-declin-ostrander/

Read more about the book here: https://derekberry.wordpress.com/in-lickskillet/

Enjoy and share thoughts on the page. Share the chapters and news of the upcoming book release!

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“Kendrick Had a Dream”

fff

“Martin had a dream. Martin had  a dream. Kendrick had a dream.”- Backseat Freestyles/ good kid, m.A.A.d city

  1. Kendrick Lamar floats above cityscape,

his torso

alight with flaming angel wings.

Flying or falling, he cannot tell. He

wakes in a stupor, his eyes bright as forgotten Heavens.

  1. Kendrick Lamar unzips his pants, and

the Eifel Tower springs from between the zippers.

He proceeds to fuck the world for 72 hours.

  1. Kendrick Lamar stands naked in front of his class.

He is in high school chemistry class, and his Eifel

Tower is now just  a normal phallus. Someone

laughs. Someone shouts, “Bitch, don’t kill my vibe!”

  1. A giant eagle with the face of

School Boy Q chases Kendrick Lamar

through the desert, his legs thin as chopsticks.

As he pushes harder, the Eagle draws closer,

his claws familiar as Compton.

  1. Kendrick Lamar misses a flight to Berlin,

for he lies in a box,

a cedar box buried six feet under the ground, his body

contorting with rage and fear. His head banging

against the top of the box

as he wonders whether he might escape.

He will not escape, not until he wakes

in mid-afternoon, his bed wet

with hangover sweat,

his back still dripping as if he just climbed from a pool full of liquor,

as if only just yesterday

he woke for the first time.

Derek Berry Discusses Hip Hop and the Phenomena of THE BEST RAPPER EVER

download (7)Now, I’m by no mean a “hip hop artist,” though my art form shares roots with hip hop, IS the root of hip hop. The reason I don’t say I make hip hop is firstly because I don’t make music or beats to poems, and I also don’t participate in hip hop culture. Understand, I mean positive things when I say “hip hop culture,” as in using art to create solidarity within black communities and spread messages of defiance and love.

But I’ve been open-mic-hopping for years, and what irks me is rappers who take hip hop out of context. They realize they can rhyme “life” and “knife” and suddenly assume they’re “THE BEST RAPPER EVER.” Like, you made a mix-tape with your older brother in the garage, and now you’re “ON TOP?” What does that even mean? On top of what? You’re not even the best performer at the open mic, so I don’t know why you’re accusing me of being a “hater” because I point out you’re an amateur. It’s okay. I’m an amateur, too. We’re all amateurs, and we don’t have to pretend to be anything else.

Offensives include dissing on famous rappers you don’t even know, rapping about how much money you don’t actually have, and objectifying women. These are not actual staples of hip hop, only the version of hip hop that has been force-fed to this generation. Albeit, there are some really great artists out there talking about some real shit, but too often, we are exposed to those who glorify violence, hedonism, and apathy. Apathy isn’t as cool as you think. You’re not going to earn anyone’s respect rapping about how many one-night stands you’ve had, because I frankly don’t care.

For example, though, if you’re trying to argue that Lil Wayne’s a better artist than Notorious B.I.G., get out my face.

Alright, check out this video in which I go ham on some fake hip-hop artists, bam…

Of “Legal” Age: It’s my BIRTHDAY!!!!

I’m not really sure what the phrase “Of Legal Age” means, but I do know that now I am that. Yes, it’s my birthday. And I’m eighteen.

As I leave the realm of childhood behind, I will become an extremely mature young man who makes good decisions. Oh, who am I kidding? I spent last night watching Harry Potter and eating cookie dough. Whatever delusions I have of maturity were pretty much negated then. But honestly, I don’t care. Because at least under the law, I’m legal.

I can maybe get into clubs now, provided the clubs don’t serve alcohol, so basically, I can’t get into any clubs.

And if you’re bordering on the notion of subscribing, you should. You know, cause it’s the birthday! And also because I messed with the Header image so random pictures pop up. Yay! Randomness!

That’s what this post is, all it really is. Just a small collection of thoughts before I go do birthday things. Maybe I’ll come back and edit it a bit. Does that mean you should read it twice? Definitely. I have a sick obsession with tracking blog stats.

What does it mean for me to be eighteen? Well, let us figure that out, shall we?

1.) I can order things from infomercials.

2.) Buy cigarettes

3.) Serve Jury duty

4.) Rent a hotel room (in some states, though elsewhere you must be 21 or 25.)

5.) Go into strip joints

6.) Can’t drink, but CAN serve alcoholic drinks

7.) Can be sued

8.) Can open a bank account solitarily

9.) Can place bets

10.) Pawn things off at a pawn shop

11.) Purchase pornographic materials

12.) Buy a LOTTO TICKET!!

13.) Go to prison…

14.) Buy white out without parental consent

15.) Get a piercing without parental consent

16.) Get a tattoo without parental consent (I’m thinking a snitch on my chest?)

17.) Make a will (If I actually do get a tattoo or go to a strip club, I will need to make one of those)

18.) Change my name! (How does Humphrey McHumpbottom sound?)

19.) Participate on the Price is Right!

20.) Join the ARMY

21.) Buy lighter fluid

22.) Get married! WHAT? That can’t be right…

23.) Buy paint thinner

24.) Drink in the UK

25.) Buy a crossbow

26.) Participate in online surveys NOT targeted for those under 18

27.) Have legal sex

28.) Smoke a cigar and sheesha

29.) Feel awkward in “adult shops”

30.) Go to Dave and Buster’s without an adult

31.) Spray paint!

32.) Oh…. yeah…. and register to vote. But whatever, the important thing to remember here is that I can now legally purchase a crossbow. How cool…

Open Letter to All Magazine/Newspaper Editors

Dear “Whomever it may concern”:

Although I know that “in this current economy,” the printed medium is losing face and money and prominence, I assure you that you need to hire me. No matter what your publication is interested in, I am sure I could be a great fit to your standards. Even if your magazine is about knitting patterns or cats, I’ll write for you, just please, I’d like a writing job.

I know I don’t even have a degree in Journalism or in English, but that fact should just be the first shred of proof that I am capable of making good decisions. My off-the-wall writing and taboo topics could fit perfectly into the centerfold of any family or pornography magazine. It doesn’t matter who you are, as long as I get to put my name on glossy pages.

Here is my resume (complete with original artwork) which might sway you:

Two-time champion narwhal-wrestler

Writes a hilarious blog that makes people laugh

Is a boyscout and can tie knots (which may come in handy)

Can sing reasonably okay if you’re tone deaf in more than one ear

Knows many big words and can use thesaurus if more big words are needed

Can speak German (or at least get by)

Also writes poetry, and poets are just fun to have around

Seriously, I can tie SEVEN different knots

Just give me a chance, knitting/cat/boating/household/dirty magazine. I’ll write you up a windstorm of good stories. Just pay me for it.

Sincerely,

A Writer and Blogger

Mutli-Cultural Reading: Spoken Word Poems

Below is a video of my performance at the multi-cultural open mic. I read two poems called “A Savage Yawp” and “American.”

I hope you enjoyed these poems, seriously. I might post videos of other performances of either separately. The second poem is defintiely one of my favorite.

The open mic was hosted by LadyVee DaPoet, as part of Poetry Matters. Poet Big Bailey videotaped this performance and posted it. Many thanks to him. You can find his channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/BiGBaileysBeats

Thanks for watching and reading.

Would You Read This?

Welcome to the small town of Lickskillet, where the good ole boys kick back with a beer every now again, where the people and friendly, where the local claim to fame is the world’s largest museum devoted solely to garden gnomes, and where a dark conspiracy is brewing. After the prominent ex-mayor is lynched in the affluent gated community Golden Oaks, the people of Lickskillet are demanding justice and quickly revamping their image as the most politically correct town in the Southeast.

The locals are not the only ones in the need of a public image face-lift. A Ku Klux Klan member, Mathew Pepper, being accused of the murder is not helping their quarterly membership ratings, so arrives in town national PR agent for the infamous organization: Roscoe Ostrander. To have a more tolerant image, Roscoe concludes, the Klan need only accept some black members of the community into their ranks.

Roscoe’s son Declin moves around quite a lot, because of the nature of his father’s job. And every place he goes, he’s the new kid, always the outsider. But maybe he can at least be the most interesting person in school for the six months while he stays. If you’re nobody, you can be anybody. Declin has never had a girlfriend and when he lands in Lickskillet, Declin hatches a plot to market himself as a heart-breaking ladies’ man. Girls will surely come his way.

As the trial of Mathew Pepper becomes explosive, Declin learns he may have to stay in town longer than first he believed, and the lies he told to people about his past seem harder and harder to keep telling. He must be the Declin Lickskillet knows, but also keep some shred of himself. But having changed himself every six months for years, Declin is not sure he knows who the REAL him is any longer.

After finishing the first 10,000 words of my next novel, I’m quite proud. At this stage of writing The Savagery of Sebastian Martinelli, the plot was not so complicated. Furthermore, I’m very proud of the character development I’ve already been able to implement, and this is only a bare bones draft. Above is only a basic premise, which I realize is long. I like stories to be fairly complicated and strange, and I imagine the story will only get stranger as I progress to write it.

My question to you is: would you read this?

How To Pick Up Women (According to Edward Cullen)

Last year, when Harry Potter ended for good, I cried. I wanted to throw a party to say good bye.

This year, I’d also like to throw a goodbye book series party for a different reason. Soon ends the reign of Twilight! It signifies a very

Oh, that "stalker face" just SCREAMS sexy.

dark time in our literary history. But I admit, I read the series. I mean, the entire series. When people ask why, I tell them it’s unfair to judge something unless you actually read it. That, however, was only half the story. Here is the real reason that literary snob Derek Berry read the Twilight series over the course of one week during the summer…

It was the summer before high school, and my short-term girlfriend had just broken up with me. In true middle-grade fashion, I was crushed and cruxed. The reason she cited was that I “was nothing like Edward Cullen” and she “wanted a boy more like Edward Cullen.” So, I sat thinking, who the hell is this Edward Cullen guy? And what does he have that I don’t.

A quick Google search later… This joker had an entire fan base who worshiped him. At this time, if you asked any 13 year old girl who they wanted to marry, it was Edward Cullen. Mind you, this was before girls became obsessed with Jacob Black. Girls wanted a vampire boyfriend:  pale hairy guys were in vogue. Maybe, I figured, I stood a chance.

So I began researching this sketchy Cullen character starting with the books. Eventually, I could not read anymore, so I just rented the audio books from the library. Stilted prose and awkward syntax put me to sleep every night for a week. I swear, it works.

Now, if I had known that this ex merely meant that she “wanted a guy with abs,” I would not have bothered to continue to read the sequel. But I had to. Because the Cullen kid in the first book was too creepy for any guy to like. “Really?” I asked myself. Girls want THAT?

I finished reading the series, even the last book where there’s something about a monster baby and then the worst anti-climax ever. Seriously, I had read all of these horrible books and then they were going to have this awesome vampire fight. Awesome, right? No, it actually didn’t even happen. They “talked it over” instead. Yeah, I know I should have expected lameness, but Meyers shot herself in the foot with THAT series finale. Honestly, it was worse even than the series finale of LOST.

So, I read every one of these horrid novels and then thought, “Okay, this is simple. This is how I get girls.”

Getting girls is easy, I discovered.

Simply sneak into their house to watch them while they sleep.

Constantly put the girl in danger so you can save her.

Run ice all over your skin; girls are turned on by cold-to-the-touch skin.

Creepily stare at your crush: ALL. THE. TIME.

Tell her you try so hard not to kill her. Dude, girls eat this stuff UP.

If all else fails, turn her into a vampire. Just make sure your crush is super boring and needs to be constantly saved. Her favorite pastime should just be cooking or cleaning or reading, all those things women are supposed to do.

I want to make a larger point that confessing that I read the Twilight series. I mean, even small books that are honestly… well, not good- they can have a huge impact on your life. I didn’t have a date for months as a consequence to this botched reading experience.

Every story makes a difference.

Yeah, I Blogged about You

Just for the record, this isn’t about anyone. This blog is not based on a true story. Any events resembling real life or real persons are purely coincidental. It’s especially not about you, Zooey Deschanel

Slut.

Sometimes, I’m afraid that if someone reads my novel, they might see themselves in a character. Especially one who might happen to be a prostitute in said novel. But it’s not like we writers plan to base some characters on real people. It’s just that some people we know lend a lot of interesting idiosyncrasies that we can use in a character. Just because one character collects cat plates, that doesn’t mean I based her off my great aunt. Just because one character has a nylon fetish… well, you get the picture.

What’s really lame, though, is blogging derogatorily about people, because a blog is far more personal. For example, if your girlfriend breaks your heart, maybe it might annoy her if you post poems about your broken heart every day for the next six months. Or maybe go the Zuckerburg route and write an angry rant post about her while programming drunk.  Blogging makes sure that those letters we never mean to send instead get posted to a public blog for everyone to see.

Blogs are supposed to be personal, though, but where does one cross the line of too-personal? Sometimes, something that might give readers a bit of insight into the blogger’s life, but sometimes readers lack the interest for full insight. Just because sometimes people like my poems, I don’t find it necessary to reveal any dark secrets. To catalog my spending habits. To post pictures of my pencil sharpener collection. (I do not have a pencil sharpener collection, because I can’t keep from losing just one sharpener.)

Novels and blogs work quite the same way. Friends of Hemingway feared being too interesting, because their exploits and secrets might end up under a pseudonym in his next story.  Maybe ever writer sets off to write a memoir, but changes his or her mind halfway through. What would my parents think? My friends, whom I painted in such a horrible way? Well, I can just go right ahead and change the names, just call it fiction. No one will know.

Mind you, most writers do the opposite of what James Frey did. We do not fictionalize something and pretend it’s real. We hide very real bits of our lives in our writing.

So, I’m not saying that this blog is about anyone particular, whom I might know or not know. Especially not you.

Not you, Zooey. Actually, I hope you have a good life. And then go to Hell.