Bad Advice Wednesday: Remake

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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Elizabeth Bowen

Not too long ago I was thinking about how I might grow my writing, move into a new phase, switch things up, rise up out of the ashes of the old and into something fresh, different, not to be expected.  We’re all stuck with our minds and our set of biases, also with whatever genetic inheritance, a certain approach to language, to structure and structures, and certainly to character. Our pathways through narrative may resemble neural pathways inherent in our brains, and may account for the wide divergence of what’s considered great storytelling.  I might dislike Thomas Pynchon while you love him, for example. Continue reading →

Progress of Spring: New Arrivals

categories: Cocktail Hour / Getting Outside

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Common Merganser pair

A wave of warm air from the south arrived yesterday, and with it a wave of birds.  In the last weeks they’ve come one by one–Bluebird, Red-Winged Blackbird, Grackle, Cowbird, Hooded Merganser, Mallard, Wood Duck.  But yesterday a whole crowd came at once: Belted Kingfisher, Common Merganser, White-Throated Sparrow, 1000 Robins, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Canada Goose and more.  Also, we spotted a fold fleck or two on the wings of a male Goldfinch (likely in celebration of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer).  And enjoyed all the birds that stayed the winter, Chickadee chief among them.  The sump pump is running, the stream has broken out, the drifts are very slowly melting.

I still need snowshoes for the morning circuit, but today it was all fresh–a hard, cold rain, the stream nearly out of its banks with snowmelt, a beaver swimming the banks against the current, examining the stream-side vegetation, the woods full of birdsong.

 

 

Guest contributor: Crash Barry

Serial Sunday: “Tough Island,” by Crash Barry: Episode 21

categories: Cocktail Hour

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“Ker-clink, ker-clink, ker-clink.”

 

“WHAT THE HELL?” I cried out. “WHAT THE FRIG?” The scene shocked me. The tide had drained all the way out. Edwin’s boat, plus a half dozen others, were laying on their sides at their moorings. A friggin’ disaster. And it was dark. Darker than usual. Real dark. The darkest ever. Which meant the light on Matinicus Rock wasn’t flashing. I turned around and looked six miles to the south. THE LIGHT WAS OUT! It was something out of the apocalypse or the Rapture. Continue reading →

Guest contributor: lisa diane kastner

Now What? (On Being Graduated from an MFA Writing Program)

categories: Cocktail Hour

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July 2012.  I wait with my fellow students on Ender’s Island off the coast of Mystic Connecticut. A bright and hot day.  My black gown hides the tapered sleeveless dress I purchased in Rome only a month prior.  The soft black cotton awaits its debut, which will be at the open air graduation party on the lawn outside of St. Edmund’s Church.  Michael White, the Director of Fairfield University’s MFA program hands me my diploma, an MFA in Creative Writing. Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Go Back to Your Beginnings!

categories: Cocktail Hour

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This was our very first post, four years and three days ago! It was called:

Beginning is Terrifying Business (Kind of a scary title)

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about apprenticeship lately, though I’m not sure exactly why (old age? sentimentality?)  I don’t think I ever actually used the word “apprentice” when I was one: all I really knew or thought about was making the book I was working on great, and getting it published so that it would change the world forever.  As it turned out, I wrote three books before getting the fourth one published, which ended up taking about thirteen years, and the world did not seem particularly changed.

 

Of course looking back I somewhat romanticize the time before book.  I’m not a groovy type, and I don’t pay lip service to “process” over results, but I do think the period of working hard without any rewards was perhaps the most important, if not the most pleasant, period of my life. It is important, too, for my job today, since I spend a lot of time with young writers who are in exactly the position I was in then.  When I work with them, I try not to forget what it really felt like: the energy, the frustration, the thrill of small breakthroughs, the bitterness. Continue reading →

Guest contributor: Richard Gilbert

Gardening and Being

categories: Cocktail Hour

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Looking south to a neighbor’s place

When your ancient essay surfaces and reproaches you—  “Gardening and Being” was published in Orion 20 years ago

As I look at it, you might as well ask, Does a sunset pay? In a certain sense, it is a sort of profanation to consider if my garden pays, or to set a money value upon my delight in it. Shall I set a price upon the tender asparagus or the crisp lettuce, which made the sweet spring a reality?”

—Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden

 

While editor of The Hartford Courant in 1870, author and essayist Charles Dudley Warner had the cunning idea—far ahead of its time, a concept memoir—to spend that growing season gardening. Not for vegetables but for joy. He prosecuted a thesis that gardeners are dreamers engaged in a spiritual activity. As he wrote, 144 years ago now, “To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds and watch their renewal of life,—this is the commonest delight of the race. To dig in the mellow soil—to dig moderately, for all pleasure should be taken sparingly—is a great thing.” Continue reading →

Guest contributor: Crash Barry

Serial Sunday: “Tough Island” by Crash Barry: Episode 20

categories: Cocktail Hour

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“I launched the skiff and rowed…”

Last summer, Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour began serializing Crash Barry’s gritty memoir Tough Island. Then, in August, Crash took a break from  Bill and Dave’s in order to turn his novel Sex, Drugs and Blueberries into a feature film. Now, he’s back and ready to finish telling the rest of his true stories from his time living and working on Maine’s most remote island. Click here for episodes 1 to 19.

Episode 20

Thanks to Captain Edwin Mitchell and his sweet wife, Nan, my second year on Matinicus was much better simply because they treated me with respect. They were an intelligent and well-read team. He was thin, strong and handsome, with a well-trimmed beard. She was kind and beautiful, with a quick smile and understanding eyes and ears. Good parents to their two daughters. Fine citizens. Moral and upright members of society. They didn’t treat me like their slave, obligated to jump at their beck and call. Plus Edwin’s love for Nan was so obvious and endearing. He enjoyed her company, so he didn’t dub around and delay the end of the workday as a way to avoid going home. Continue reading →

Getting Outside Saturday: Happy Anniversary to Bill and Dave’s

categories: Cocktail Hour / Getting Outside

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Bill and Dave in the early days.

Tomorrow, April 6, marks four years since our first post on Bill and Dave’s.  Four years!  I can hardly believe it.  Not that time passes so fast–in fact, it seems to crawl.  But that we’ve kept it up this long.  Post after post, image after image!  And all with no commercial intent, no advertising.  Except for ourselves, of course.  I put today’s post under the Getting Outside category because Bill and Dave’s was and remains a conscious effort to get outside the confines of the book, the page, the mores of traditional publishing, the dreams we’d had of what our writing lives would be like, and to find our way in the new reality, which is at least in part digital.  Well, we’re still lost, but it’s been a lot of work.  I mean fun.  We’ve attracted thousands of hits a week, sometimes thousands a day, and millions in four years.  Those first weeks we were excited to get fifty, then a hundred. Continue reading →

Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren

Lundgren’s Book Lounge: “Marijuana Valley” by Crash Barry

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence

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Sometimes obscured by all the hoopla and hysteria surrounding the marijuana legalization movement is the fact that the ‘devil’s lettuce’ (as one of my former high school students once described it), has become a permanent presence in American culture. The major league baseball Colorado Rockies recently announced that they would be selling marijuana brownies at it’s games–baseball, mom, apple pie and… marijuana brownies? You can’t get any more mainstream than that. Continue reading →