NANOWRIMO comes to an end

Today is the final day of NANOWRIMO, the month-long challenge to pen a novel. While I didn’t participate, I had loads of fun cheering others on and such. Did you meet your goals? Tell me if your did.

If you’d like, tell me what your novel is about. I’d love to help. And now that you’re done, check out my posts of querying… you know, after you revise heavily. Again and again and again and again and did I mention revise?

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Why Is It Important to Read the Masters

I recently looked on Litreactor.com, thinking about enrolling in one of their highly effective creative writing classes which include lectures and critiques from the country’s top authors. Unfortunately, it costs $395, a jaw-dropping amoung for an online class. In my opinion, anyways.

Who needs fancy smancy classes when you have books, though, right?

There’s a reason you spend hours and hours deciphering the writing styles of classics. You can use those same skills to analyze the styles and techniques of other writers you like. And yeah, USE them. Now, that doesn’t mean copy the style of your favorite author. But certain techniques are universal and can only be learned. You learn to write well by reading well.

Read good books. Write good books.

This works just as well any writing class.

If you convince yourself that by reading, you’re actually “working,” you feel less bad about reading all day and night. It has actually vastly increased my reading time. Now I can comfortably read and feel like I’m working on perfecting my craft. Which I, in fact, am.

If you’re a blogger only, read other people’s blogs. Subscribe and comment. And if you’re feeling especially generous, start with mine?

NANOWRIMO: Stop Writing!!!! Just… Stop.

It’s almost that time of year again! When all of your friends say “Hey, I should write a novel!”

Naturall, National Novel Writing Month… or NANOWRIMO: http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Obviously, it’s my favorite time of the year because I lose my superiority of being the “writer” type among my friends. During the month of November, everyone is a writer.

The best thing to do, obviously, is dissuade every young person from writing. Because, honestly, there are too many writers and books, already, right? Why can’t we just take some time off from writing books? There are already too many to read. We can resume in thirty or forty years.

For the next thirty days, I challenge you to discourage your friends to write! No, seriously! Whether they have a blog or are working on a novel or even if they were poets… discourage them from making any literary progress at all. You too should stop writing. Just stop.

No… just stop writing. There are probably so many books already published that yours won’t even matter. It won’t make a dent in anyone’s life. It will sit anonymously, lonely on a shelf in some rundown used book store. It will sell out of print and not be re-printed. Haven’t we exhausted the explanation of the human spirit by now? I mean, really? Haven’t we?

If you are an aspiring writer, I implore you with a full heart to stop trying. Put down your pen, close your laptop, burn your journals, shred your poems, forget your stories.

Why don’t you go do something more productive? Where will writing get you?

You could catch up on Season 15 of South Park instead. You could weave a basket:  aren’t baskets better than books? And believe me, you will have an easier time selling a basket than a book.

Well, there is an off-chance you’ll write something semi-good. And sure, it won’t change the world, but it might change one person. It might speak to just one little human being. What you write about, how you write, they might be affected by that. They might finally be able to verbalize their feelings through your immaculate paragraphs.

But you should probably not even try. It might not get you anywhere. Sure, you CAN change the world, but what’s the point, right?

Failing Math? On the Bright Side…

Like most writers, I am terrible at math. I am so bad at calculus, that I have the makings to be a grand and famous writer. Because any writer worth his merit is terrible at math.

There must be, then, some sort of graphical correlation between math ineptitude and literary excellence. If we created a scatter plot where the X value represented how poorly you marked on your last math test and the Y axis represented the gauge for storytelling skill, would the graph show such a relation?

Probably.

The great thing about being a writer, though, is that you don’t become one because you couldn’t become a doctor. Well, maybe you really could not have. But that’s no reason to be a writer. Why a writer? In fact, a lot of professions begin because people cannot make it as a writer. Like many plumbers and coffee baristas I know.

If ever you feel strange and isolated from normal society, bear in mind you might, like me, possess commonalities with stereotypes often appropriated to writers.

Which, of course, means you will probably write a book some day. Just sit down and type it on out. Get published and become famous. Sort of like Henry Miller, sans the STD’s, opium, and incest.

The next time you fail to find the square root of X, you can tell your professor that the square root of evil is calculus. And

that mathematics solves nothing, really, but things we already know the answer to. I know that, because the answers are always in the back of the book. And the professors of mathematics… well, they’re just an imaginary root squared– their solution is to just make everything negative.

You may also become a brilliant writer if you drink coffee (tea is also acceptable, depending on your proximity from the British Isles).
Also, writers are apparently super anal about grammar. So if you are a member of the Grammar-reich, fear not! Naturally, you’ll be a writing.If you get writer’s block, you become verified as a bond-a-fide writer. You can, therefore, call yourself a writer without ever writing anything. It’s called “chronic writer’s block.” Just be ready to speak abstractly about the great works you’d like to create, but cannot because of your malignant disease.

And according to common stereotypes, if you cannot get a job… you can always just be a writer.

Well, even if you experience any of these bad symptoms, you can probably become a writer!

How I Write

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

— W. Somerset Maugham

As a writer, the way you say something means just as much as what you say. It’s difficult to assess something and determine it was written by a “writer.” Who judges such idiosyncrasies? Do we call someone a writer because they have published books or written readable print? Or do we gauge writer-dom by the complexity of the verbiage and the incomprehensible crux of his interminable, orbicular clause compositions?

I began considering this, having begun writing something entirely new (it’s going to be another novel, *cough, cough*). How do I write? Do I follow any specified rules or do I apply any special formulas? Every writer claims not, but in their writing, every writer implements a system. No matter how simple or complex.

Hemingway, he wants to tell you something simple, but in telling you that, he’ll imply something far more nuanced. Henry Miller wrote all of the horrible, immoral things he thought and then created a book. Dickens meticulously constructed formulaic plots and caricature characters to support his criticisms of society. Kurt Vonnegut wrote several varied paragraphs linked only by a similarly eccentric style, and TADA!

I tote a few strange rules, though not so much rules as stylistic preferences. For example, I strive never to begin a sentence with “however,” “moreover,” or “therefore.” Sometimes, the words must be used, but a sentence can be written less awkwardly by inserting the word after the first clause. While this has nothing to do with grammar, I do it still. Some things simply embed themselves in your stories and style; they stay there.

Sometimes, my style of writing fiction and style of writing nonfiction merge, sometimes to create something great, other times… troublesome. In journalistic writing, there tends to exist rigid rules that prohibit from certain behaviors. Contractions, first person pronouns, and biased statements should never be found in a news story.

I, however, write op-ed pieces more frequently:  I keep up not only this blog, but I also pen a monthly column for our school newspaper. In any pieces like that, I  give my opinion. To learn to write objectively and subjectively, though, improves writing style overall.

I proclaim opinions in the form of anecdotes. I make sense of my beliefs by telling stories. Of course, this isn’t as good as using scientific data or “textual evidence.” But to reaffirm what you already believe, it can at least convey a thought. Even if a story is untrue, if what we mean by it is, then truth doesn’t even matter. Like parables, our memories serve to justify who we are. To explain our identities.

In a fiction story, as well, we use stories as evidence. Why is this person so mean? Could it be that he has a deficiency in his amygdala or because he was abused as a child? Storytellers rely on the social causes before turning to biological ones. But it’s how our minds work. Not so much in the sense of psychology:  we are analyzing humans not on a mental level, but on an almost spiritual one. I prefer to think that the human race is more or less incomprehensible. The best we can do is… sympathize.

The best we can do to explain how we act is to tell stories. About our past or about things that never occurred.

Every writer writes differently, but what makes someone a writer, really a writer, is that through a story they hope to uncover a great

truth. The truth can spawn from the writer himself or perhaps it’s a truth about the reader, which the reader may discover through reading a book. Or maybe both, so that the act of writing is very much like telling prophecies. What you feel now, that indescribable emotion, will be felt by someone in the future when they read about what happened to you. About what you did. Somehow, a person will be touched through what you have written about.

Writers write with different inspirations, with varied “creative processes.” Some can only write in utter silence or in the peace of nature:  that’s me. Some prefer to be in the clash and cacophony of life, sprint-typing in the center of some urban Starbucks. Dan Brown, after each hour of writing, does a quick set of push ups and then of sit ups.

I often write in the nude.

Whether you rely on the night sky or hardcore drugs, every writer is striving to find the same truth.

To answer my question, how do I write… well, style hardly matters. What really matters is the intent of the person; this universal intent  binds us under the single title:

WRITER

Fun With Poetry

Posting blogs sometimes takes time, so instead I’ll share something else. For the record, I have been immersed in schoolwork. If you don’t remember high school, here’s a refresher:  you spend a lot of time with your nose in the spine of a book.

I love Calculus so much, I spent all weekend with her. My face was so close to her pages, we were practically making out. What draws me to her, really, is that she never- no, never “makes love.” What we do implies something more passionate. We stay up all night together and when she’s finished with me, I’m usually sweating and out of breath.

We’re taking a break right now, because honestly, the arguments may splinter our relationship. It’s almost as if we’re spending TOO much time together.

To remedy this, I had some fun. I took a poem (Ode to the Stache: https://derekberry.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/poem-ode-to-the-stache/) and translated it into Italian. Read the original first. I translated it then back into English, because what’s more hilarious than mistranslated poems? This is why I can never quite appreciate Lorca. First, here is the poem in Italian:

Oh, peli glorioso, spuntano dal viso!
Con calore e uno stile rasoio non poteva cancellare,
 I capelli crescono come erbacce, poli labbro robusto,
Quali sono adorati e sono soggetti di canzoni,

Si trova come compagno, un peloso, amico rossetto,
Che si può torcere, lo stile, piroetta, spirale, e piegare,
Tu sei il capitano, e il tuo primo ufficiale,
Con essa si ha un legame a cui nessun altro corpo capelli possono riguardare,

Si potrebbe preferire il Belvedere, o forse il Dali,
Potrebbe essere il vostro sport come Frank Zappa e crescere un pizzetto,
Può essere un manubrio, oppure si può lasciare caduta,
Una fine può essere un pallone da basket, l'altro un cerchio,

Si può guardare come Einstein e guardare come Ringo troppo,
Si potrebbe crescere molto lungo fino a quando è necessario 'shampoo Stache,
Può essere una matita uno, o un Fu Manchu,
Un paio di baffi è un paio di baffi, e nessuno lo farà,

Alcuni guardare piuttosto minaccioso, qualche aspetto di cute,
Alcuni ti fanno sembrare professionale, alcuni come un bruto,
Si può indossare con la barba, pizzetto, o braciole di castrato,
Sembra proprio sul cowboy, Hitler, e perfino poliziotti,

Questa è una piccola ode di una caduta di poco,
Una curva di capelli che possono assorbire tutta la minestra,
Alcuni sono piuttosto scarsi, alcuni vale la pena guardare un sacco di denaro,
Ma non dimenticate mai la potenza e la freschezza del 'Stache,

Now here is the poem in the English-translated-version of Italian.

Oh, glorious hair, sprouting from your face!
With warmth and style razor could not erase,
   The hair grows like weeds, lip sturdy poles,
What are worshiped and are subject of songs,

It is found as a companion, a hairy, man lipstick
What you can twist, style, twirl, spiral, and bend,
You are the captain, and your first officer,
With it you have a bond that no other body hair may concern,

You might prefer the Belvedere, or perhaps the Dali
It could be your sports such as Frank Zappa and grow a goatee,
It can be a dumbbell, or you can let fall,
One end can be a basketball, the other a circle,

It can look like Einstein and look like Ringo too,
You could grow very long until you need the 'Stache shampoos,
It can be a pencil or a Fu Manchu,
A mustache is a mustache, and no one will do,

Some look pretty ominous, some aspect of skin,
Some make you look professional, some as a brute,
It can be worn with beards, goatees, mutton chops, or,
Looks like the Cowboys, Hitler, and even policemen,

This is a small ode to fall slightly,
A curve of hair can absorb all the soup,
Some are rather scarce, some worth looking at a lot of money,
But never forget the power and freshness of the 'Stache,

It made me chuckle quietly under my breath. Just so you dear readers know, I’m doing quite a lot with poetry including making a chapbook. Also, next weekend I’ll begin work on something quite unique: a video of one of my poems. Wait? Derek, you do those ALL the time. Wait, but a poem made into a music-video with an award-winning director from Boston? No, Derek hasn’t done THAT yet.

Not yet. But soon, one of my poems will receive the MTV treatment, and become like a music video. It’s exciting stuff, indeed. Beyond that, I’m working with the same director on a script for a short film. More on that once we’ve worked out more news.

Although I’m currently cheating on writing, having such a rampant love affair with Calculus (Honestly, she’s a frigid woman), I’m very busy with writerly things. You’ll hear from me soon.

Skinny Dipping with Strangers: Hip-Hop Remix

I perform Skinny Dipping with Strangers at Sit-a-Spell Coffeehouse. But THIS time, I include a rap interlude. Booyah!

Although the rap section will be omitted from the poem in my upcoming chapbook, I have written a few sections like that for poems. What I call, “Making poems like what modern music is.” Sometimes, poems have musical interludes, sometimes raps, but it seems like so many songs now feature rappers. Thus, I have done so in this poem.

Without further ado, here is the headlining poem, remixed hip-hop style.

Derek Berry’s Collected Works: Coming Soon

The results are in…

The title of my chapbook is going to be… SKINNY DIPPING WITH STRANGERS.

It will include several of the poems that I’ve posted to this blog and even one short story. I’m not publishing it with any company, instead just by myself. There will be a limited number of printed copies, which right now, I am formatting. Excting? Yes… you can OWN a booklet of my poetry so that when you need something to read in the bathroom, BAM… poetry.

When you need some poems to peruse, pick up my book. I have not decided at price it will sell, but should be from $2-5. There MIGHT also be an e-book version that I will sell from my website (which I’m working with a programmer on designing.)

If you’ve not heard any of my poetry before, you can watch/read some of it here: https://derekberry.wordpress.com/category/poems/

There will, however, be several other poems with topics including rocket ships, Alzheimer’s, Harry Potter, Shakespeare, Americans, parachutes, and skinny dipping.

This will be a very small publication, as the title “chapbook” implies. In the future, I hope to publish a collected works, but for now, you can read  a preview of my work. Thank you for keeping up with this blog and commenting with such nice, thoughtful comments. I hope I’ll receive similar reviews of this first publication.

For more info, subscribe here or like my page on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Derek-Berry/141228932625382

Again, thank you and tell anyone you might know about my blog and work.

Poem: Ode to the ‘Stache

Tonight, I read the first poem I ever wrote in honor of IFC’s new “Whisker Wars.” Check out this poem and check out the open mic night at Cafe Rio Blanca, hosted by the Aiken Guild of Poetic Intent.  Every third Tuesday of the month! Here’s the poem:

 

Oh, glorious hairs, sprouting from face!

With warmth and a style no razor could erase,

 Hairs grow like weeds, sturdy lip prongs,

Which are worshipped and are subjects of songs,

 

It sits as a comrade, a furry, lippy friend,

That you can twist, style, twirl, whorl, and bend,

You are the captain, and it your first mate,

With it you have a bond to which no other bodily hair—can relate,

 

You might prefer the Belvedere, or perhaps the Dali,

You may sport yours like Frank Zappa and grow a goatee,

It can be a handlebar, or you can let it droop,

One end can be a basketball, the other end a hoop,

 

You can look like Einstein and look like Ringo too,

You could grow it very long until you need ‘stache shampoo,

It may be a pencil one, or a Fu Manchu,

A moustache is a moustache, and any one will do,

 

Some look pretty menacing, some look kind of cute,

Some make you look professional, some just like a brute,

You can wear it with a beard, goatee, or mutton chops,

It looks right on cowboys, Hitler, and even cops,

 

This is a little ode about a little droop,

A single curve of hair that can sop up all the soup,

Some are rather sparse; some look worth a lot of cash,

But never forget the power and coolness of the ‘stache