Sunday, August 17, 2014

BOOKS AND WHEELS--MADE IN AMERICA

Hi Everyone!

With all that's been going on, I just wanted to remind everyone to Buy American. I've been doing research about Cars to decide what sort of rig to buy while driving around my new book, The Call of the Small, to Independent Bookstores throughout the country, such as The Strand in New York City, and Northshire Books in Saratoga, and Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts. This is really all that's left in this country in the way of Bookstore Distribution, and so this is mission critical for me. And with a lot of research, I've found that the Best Cars are All American-Made. Here's my list of the best cars:

Chrysler Town and Country Van: Best camper van, book mobile and super hot racing engine around. Amazing gas mileage and pickup. Made in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ford Pickups, the best Transport for Men who Actually Do Work with their Hands. Best in Grey and Metallic Brown. Made in Horse Country, Kentucky, USA.

Jeep/Chrysler, the hottest Boy Cars on the Planet, in Dusty Mare Black and Metal Brown, made in Detriot, Michigan, Auto Town and home of the original Motown recordings by Chuck Berry ("No Particular Place to Go.") BTW--Did you know that Chrysler Bought out American Motors in 1987? I didn't.

And the Big Surprise: The Fabulous Subaru Outback that I've been driving for years, Best Super Lexus in Cheap Clothing, made in Indiana, USA. Did you know that? The Subaru Outback is NOT a foreign car and probably never was.

I think I'm going for the Van this time. I need a lot of space to carry around books, guitars, and to sleep out under the stars, cowboys. And I'll be wearing a Black Hat this time. See you out there. Go Independent Book Production, and Free Speech!

Cheers,

Kim

WRITER ALERT * ALERT * ALERT: "The Spy Who Loved Me"

LATE BREAKING ALERTS FOR WRITERS, ARTISTS, and RETURNING AND NEW STUDENTS OF AMERICAN COLLEGE ARTS PROGRAMS  --byline Jeanine Barnes, guest editor for KCB, The New York Times and The LA Times, writing with the KCB staff from Atlantic City, New Jersey, Fort Drum and Potsdam, New York.

I am pleased to report great news: I have been following the Kim's Craft Blog advice to forego all medications, cancel routine medical visits, and avoid all American hospitals. I was scheduled for a routine mammogram, but had heard about the false cancer diagnoses of recent years. I was also being told I had high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar. So I threw out all of the medications, and have been going for daily 45 minute walks instead of puzzling over dosages and standing in line at the pharmacy.

It has been only a month, and my youth has unexpectedly vaulted out of my formerly puffy face and figure. I suddenly look positively youthful and slim. Seriously, the hottie I was back in college has re-emerged. I'm calling this the "No-Meds Diet" and plan to write a diet book (just kidding--It now costs a hundred thou slipped to an agent to get a book out of Harper Collins or Hachette, or so I hear. I don't want to cut into the grocery money.)

But seriously, folks, I was on Levoxyl, Synthroid, and an asperin a day, as well as various high blood pressure medications, diuretics and other such junk that made me feel stoned and awful, and all I had to do was to throw them out, and I look and feel fabulous. 

Just to review some key KCB advice:

Watch out for metals laced in your food.

Bug spray your back for "chiggers" if you feel them bite. Also give the back of your neck a good spray and a dose of Frontline Plus (German Shepard formulation) to deal with symptoms.  

Use fresh-ground beans for coffee, as other coffees may be tainted with metals and sedatives.

Now, for the really bad news, for those of us in the arts or with kids in college arts programs: 

It just gets worse. I have a proxy server "drain cat" (those Bengals and striped tiger cats that are so athletic). What is a proxy server? It is a kind of computer used domestically to communicate with foreign intelligence abroad. And proxy servers are now apparently implanted in pets, often in so-called Siamese Drain Cats and Portuguese Water Dogs.

If you are an artist, writer or politician, please beware of proxy server cats and dogs. People provided such pets often find themselves carved up for parts and sold on E-Bay, or even killed or "disappeared." 

Kim's Craft Blog has also obtained some top secret intelligence suggesting that there are, in some cases, Proxy Server "Chicks"--Asian or Indian women with chips implanted who may be trying to steal your work, or put you under surveillance. If you detect eye dilation in the mirror, or in these women, immediately spray the back of your neck with bug spray, or drip Frontline in your ears, like ear drops. These foreign spies are using some sort of hive or insect technology to communicate. 

Please note, that if you are over 21, a glass or two of wine also seems effective at thwarting the worst effects of this kind of technology, which is conducted (we think) mainly over AM and cell phone channels tuned to human hearing, and through surveillance bugs. 

Now for the really bad news for college kids: A number of these foreign spies are really young and sexy, and are called "heavy aura" spies, meaning that they are bred to exert an extra-strong magnetic pull upon the opposite sex that is quite irresistible. They may be found in your own dorms or classrooms. 

Sadly, some of these young "bred spies" don't even know that they are being used in the geopolitical and industrial battle to dominate music and book publishing, and that they are perhaps even being used against their own wills. 

Kim herself says that she thinks she knew a couple of early generation ("innocent type") bred spies back at Brown while she was there, though she thinks that they were "Bred Broke"--meaning that they were not actually used by the military, unlike some of the guys at Yale and Princeton. This of course is all speculation, but I actually think I knew some of them, too, at Kenyon and later at Wesleyan. These cute Bill and Tom type guys, who you see everywhere these days, may be the original line-bred dogs, or so we now think. The difference is that, now, they are mostly women and are implanted with microchips.   

If you are dating one of these attractive but overbred people, please make sure to have them scanned for microchips, which can be done with chip scanners at any vet clinic. Also, please check all dental work and ear implants, and stay away from cell towers and radio emitters as much as possible.

And one final very scary note: A Kim's Craft Blog staffer is warning to beware of the hot lunch counter at Whole Foods Markets. A female middle age skull with grey bobbed hair was rumored to be spotted in one of the food items in a stainless steel serving dish in May. We have been unable to confirm this report. Still, if you find yourself under attack, please take it very seriously.

They are actually killing our writers and artists, and our middle aged women who are the mothers and aunties who keep an eye on this sort of thing. Don't be caught unawares. And please do read Kim's lovely book of poetry, Alchemies of Loss, about the medical crucifixion of her own mother, Janet Davis, a wonderful actress whose career and life were cut tragically short. Kim also remembers her agent friend, Kit Ward, and poet friend, June Beisch, also cut down in this bloodbath.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Good News! New Book, The Call of the Small, on Kindle!



Good news, everyone! The new book is finally out!

After much production folderal, my new memoir, The Call of the Small, is finally out and available on the Amazon Kindle and as a Trade Paperback from Createspace. This new book is the story of how a tiny Maltese dog converted me from being a small dog hater to an adoring fan of these tiny brave dogs. 

I still don't know why this particular book has gotten so much pushback, and do not care to speculate, but it is a relief to finally have it up for sale on Amazon. I hope everyone has the chance to read this new book, along with my previous dog memoir (or should we say, "Dog-oir"?), Teaching the Dog to Think.

Cheers! --Kim 

ARTS ALERT--STUDENT ADVISORY FOR ALL COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY ARTS STUDENTS


ALERT * ALERT * ALERT

Keith T. Johnson, writing for Kim’s Craft Blog in conjunction with the KCB Staff, and stringer for The New York Times and The Washington Post, with assistance from KCB staffers in Boston, New York City, and Stowe, Vermont.

ALERT * ALERT * ALERT

KIM’S CRAFT BLOG IS ISSUING A STUDENT ADVISORY TO ALL NEW AND RETURNING COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY ARTS STUDENTS IN PROGRAMS IN WRITING, THEATER, MUSIC AND VISUAL ART.

The staff at KCB is extremely concerned about the Industrial Espionage currently being directed at students of the arts in this country’s College and University Programs, due to the foreign takeover of music and literary publishing and rights, and the switch to digital. Please take note that our college arts programs appear to be hotbeds of industrial espionage by interests such as Bertelsmann and other German Publishers, who have bought up most of American Publishing, and by Bollywood and other similar interests in China, who are seeking to take over movie, publishing and music distribution channels in the USA, still the biggest market in the world.

Sadly, foreign spies and mercenaries have been able to infiltrate our American colleges and universities due to current inadequate hiring practices and the insufficient vetting of faculty, staffing and funding practices. This has left our students vulnerable to the worst global riff-raff imaginable. KCB is issuing a STRONG WARNING to all new, prospective and current college arts students to take an immediate leave from the college arts programs where you are studying. Students of the Arts have literally been killed at Princeton, Pace, NYU, Wesleyan, and other art, music and theater programs over the past two and one-half years (as thoroughly documented by the New York Times and other news outlets). Let’s not have a repeat of that this year, folks.

Particularly at risk are the children of top musicians, writers and actors, and other highly creative people in the USA. If you have a son or daughter at UCLA, Berkeley, USC, Chapman, NYU, Wesleyan, Columbia College Chicago, Suny Purchase or Ithaca College, or University of Miami—Watch Out.  Your child may be targeted, as currently seems to be happening.

Obviously, we don’t want to close down our American University Arts programs indefinitely. We are KCB would recommend (for now) starting with a one semester or one-year leave of absence while the situation is clarified. And please notify your colleges immediately so that they may plan accordingly for the future.

ADVICE FOR ARTS STUDENTS AT AMERICAN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES:

·      Shield your eyes from any flashing lights or lasers you may detect. KCB recommends polarized sunglasses at all times.
·       
·      If you hear AM voices being broadcast at you, please know you are NOT crazy. Immediately stop taking all psychoactive medications and stop therapy. Scan your body for microchips with common scanners in use at Veterinary Clinics.
  • Don’t report for medical procedures or exams, arrest warrants or draft notices until further advisories. Our state and local computers are being hacked by foreign intelligence.
  • Avoid any incarceration in jails, medical clinics, church facilities, military hospitals or schools. Some of these facilities are fraudulent.
  • Turn off all cell phones and other devices when not using them.
  • Limit data collection as much as possible. If you can, use cash.
  • Don’t allow yourself to become isolated from your family and friends.
  • If your license, car registration or insurance is revoked, you could simply get a permit or license from another state, and seek a car or truck in an older model with minimal on board electronics.
  • Turn off all devices while driving.
  • Take breaks while working on computers. Work offline as much as possible.
  • If you hear unexplained roaring noises, bird calls, motion detectors, or projected voices, please know that you are not insane, but rather may have been targeted by these bad actors. It may be time to take a short break, and go camping, or take up a new instrument.
  • If you feel “fear winches” or other unexplained emotions, you may have been subjected to brainwashing techniques by foreign spy agencies. You should try to move to a place where you feel better. If you are targeted, beware fall “gassing” with sleeping agents and with CO. If you feel nauseous or get a headache, open a window, or go for a walk.
  • If you find yourself unable to urinate, or have blood clots, or become jaundiced, you may be suffering Electro-Magnetic Attacks at that hands of these thugs. You should try to move or relocate to a place where you are more shielded, or feel better.     

Monday, July 14, 2014

Memory in Fiction and Memoir--"Peeling the Onion"



Something I see in manuscripts I edit (and in my own writing) is how layered and difficult the issue of memory often is. Unpacking a memory, especially a childhood memory or the recollection of a traumatic event, is a bit like peeling an onion. There is, of course, the original memory you hold in your mind, which can often be spotty and full of holes. And then there are the multiple layers of interpretation that have been stacked upon that original memory over the years. The things that have been forgotten, the various embellishments. 

As writers we need to acknowledge the imperfections in our own memories, because a claim to perfect memory simply isn't going to be credible for the reader. Also, our minds tend naturally to block out difficult or traumatic events. Here's an example of a writer sorting through the layers of a traumatic childhood memory. This is from Mary Karr's memoir, The Liar's Club, where Karr is talking about being farmed out to a neighbor family when her mother "was adjudged more or less permanently Nervous":

I don't remember who we got farmed out to or for how long. I was later told that we'd stayed for a time with a childless couple who bred birds. Some memory endures of a screened-in breezeway with green slatted blinds all around. The light was lemon-colored and dusty, the air filled with blue-and-green parakeets, whose crazy orbits put me in mind of that Alfred Hitchcock movie where birds go nuts and start pecking out people's eyeballs. But the faces of my hosts in that place--no matter how hard I squint--refuse to be conjured.

It is interesting to note how sensual this memory is. It was famously observed by Proust how the senses can bring back to us, unbidden, memories we might otherwise not be able to recall. In Swann's Way, Proust samples tea and a madeleine (sponge cake), and his whole boyhood town of Combray is suddenly recovered by his mind:

As soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of my madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me . . . the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.

As writers, we can look for these sensual "Proustian triggers" in our own work in order to summon the past into the present, such as with familiar smells, foods, places, and so forth. The important thing is to show the process of remembering. 

Once our original, spotty memory is unpacked, though, that is only the beginning, the core of the onion. Next there is the question of How something has been remembered. Often the way things are recalled can be influenced by current motivations, or by family myths and stories. Here's an example of this phenomenon from Vivian Gornick's wonderful memoir, Fierce Attachments. In this example, Gornick's mother is telling the story of how she was fondled by her Uncle Sol, a soldier who had returned from the first World War to live with her family, when she was sixteen. 

He didn't say a word to me. He picked me up in his arms and carried me to his bed. He laid us both down on the bed, and he held me in his arms, and he began to stroke my body. Then he lifted my nightgown and he began to stroke my thigh. Suddenly he pushed me away from him and said, "Go back to your bed." I got up and went back to my bed. He never spoke one word about what happened that night, and I didn't either. (p. 8)

Each time Gornick's mother tells the story to Gornick, "it is both the same and different because each time I'm older, and it occurs to me to ask a question I didn't ask the last time around." Gornick says, "The first time . . . I was twenty-two and I listened silently: rapt and terrified." (p. 7) The second time she heard the story, Gornick says, she was thirty:

She repeated it nearly word for word as we were walking up Lexington Avenue . . . When she came to the end I said to her, "And you didn't say anything to him, throughout the whole time" . . . "It just seems odd not to have uttered a sound, not to have indicated your fears at all." (p. 8-9)

The third time she hears the story, Gornick is nearly forty. She says, "Ma, did it ever occur to you to ask yourself why you remained silent when Sol made his move?" Gornick's mother angrily retorts, "Are you trying to say that I liked it?" (p. 9)

Whether or not Gornick's mother liked being fondled by Uncle Sol, this example shows how malleable and subject to reinterpretation memories are, especially family stories and myths. The way we recall things can be greatly influenced by the stage of life we are going through. So, for example, a wedding might be recalled one way by a romantic young teenager, and another way by an adult woman about to enter into her own marriage.

Finally, there is the outer layer of the onion: It is often necessary in our writing to leave room in the present for those who are still standing around to account for what has happened in the past. In Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It, for instance, the narrator has retold the story of his troubled brother's death (in a fight) when they were both teenagers. Maclean and his father both recall in the book what a beautiful and skilled fisherman the dead brother was, but we don't hear them discussing the brother's death until near the end of the book, and something is still missing. At last they talk about the brother's untimely death, and their discussion includes this passage:

Once my father came back with another question. "Do you think I could have helped him?" he asked. Even if I might have thought longer, I would have made the same answer. "Do you think I could have helped him?" I answered. We stood waiting in deference to each other. How can a question be answered that asks a lifetime of questions?" . . . "It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us."

I guess the thing to take from this lovely passage is that the final accounting we seek of our memories often defies us. Still, it is important to ask these sorts of questions, and--when we are writing about the past--for us to show the struggle we go through to make sense of what has happened, even if--in the end--we are unsuccessful at doing so.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Art of Flashing Forward


Or, How Alice Munro Pulls Off Those Long Leaps Through Time


An interesting question came up in one of my workshops last spring, from a fiction writer. The question was about how to pull off jumps forward in time. "How do you do it?" this student asked. "Is there a trick?"

This is actually a common question, and one that usually comes from someone in my workshop who is writing from "too close" a perspective. It is certainly natural to want to do that, to be right there, up close with your characters. Writers love that feel of "immediacy." The extreme version of this is to place your prose in the present tense, which a lot of newer writers seem to want to do these days. The problem with this, though, is that it makes the act of moving through time feel very awkward and jarring. If you are firmly rooted in a single moment, it's harder to shift to another time period.

While there's no single "trick" to making leaps forward in time, the best thing you can do is to "back off" a little in terms of your temporal distance as narrator. Gaining some retrospective distance on your material makes moving around through time much easier. In fact, if you are going to be making a lot of long leaps through time, as Alice Munro often does in her stories, you will want to place your narrator (or the teller of your story) as far forward in time as possible, so that the narrator is looking well back upon events of the story.

That way, even if you leap forward ten or more years with your characters, they will still seem to be standing "in the past" as far as your narrative-perspective is concerned. This will make your leaps forward seem more natural, and more like ordinary human memory--where you might remember different events from various time periods in the past all in one thought.

Munro, you will notice, often uses a deep retrospective viewpoint to pull off her dramatic leaps forward through time, often called "flashing forward."

For great examples of such "flash forwards," check out Alice Munro's story collections. My personal favorites are Open Secrets and The Beggar Maid.

A Brief Tribute to Alice Munro


This week, Alice Munro was awarded the 2013 Nobel Price in Literature, a recognition that thrilled a lot of us women writers. Munro is one of the few working writers today who has really been able to capture the complexity of women's lives, our struggles for independence from our families and the orbits of men, the different stages that we go through in our lives (daughter, mother, lover, worker), and the many ways that others regard us as we go, and the demands they make upon us. Munro has explored how we often become our own worst enemies, has charted the lusts and rages that consume and distort us, and, like no one else, has captured the bewildering flow of time which has a way of leaving us dismissed and marginalized beyond a certain age, our energies dissipated by obligation, our youth and beauty spent, yet holding in our hands the cherished and priceless gifts of perspective, memory, and understanding. Nobody else has quite managed to show women as they are the way Alice Munro has. There is such respect and curiosity, and fearlessness, in her portraits of women, assets that are visible from her earliest work, which by the way she first published when she was nearly forty. I hope that Munro serves as a bracing reminder to any writer--man or woman--who hopes to capture women characters in prose, not to succumb to the lazy stereotyping of women so often seen in fiction and memoir, but rather to treat women as full human beings, the way Alice Munro has done. --Kim  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Poetry And Abstraction


What makes a work Poetry is the specific observation of the restless mind working. Frank Bidart did this in Watching the Spring Festival, and Rilke, too:

Bidart:

Inside the many ways to dance Giselle/The single way that will show those who sleep/what tragedy is.

Rilke, from The Duino Elegies (Mitchell trsl):

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels hierarchies.
For me, these passages become abstract, and lift the material beyond the strictly personal, beyond the reach of diary or note-taking, and allow us to attend to the universal, by which we mean the applicability to others, to the dreams and fears of others, that sense of waking up and of writing into ourselves and into understanding of what our lives are truly about. That we are the tragic Giselle.

I always worry about this with my own writing. That my journals are nothing but that, just journals, and they are. But if you keep working the language and attending to--what?--to what IS this poem actually about?--then somehow the larger elements of abstraction seem to rear up out of the material. And yet, I never want to stray all that much from the sweet and bitter Real--because, if I do, the poem disappears, and you lose that pungent physicality that makes all great writing sing:

A little more Bidart:

Many ways to dance Giselle, but tonight as you/watch you think she is what art is, creature/who remembers/her every gesture . . ..