Cameron, Fitzgerald, Hanks & Hemingway

Apr 5, 2018 by

Cameron, Fitzgerald, Hanks & Hemingway

Credibility, May Day, The Past is Important to Us & Fifty Grand

I witnessed a cosmic literary alignment this week when reading selections of Julia Cameron, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Hanks, and Ernest Hemingway randomly together. Each of them fit together in a unique way.

Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron’s essay “Credibility” taken from her Right to Write fits with the others like a glove.

Four great writers who sat down and wrote to overcome their fear of whether or not they were good enough.

The essay says that in America we have a conviction “that being published has to do with being ‘good’ while not being published has to do with being ‘amateur.’ We treat the unpublished writher as though he or she suffers an embarrassing case of unrequited love.”

Her male counterparts understood the importance of the act of writing.

What if F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Hanks, and Ernest Hemingway had all said to themselves, “My writing isn’t good enough to publish. I’m just going to stick it in the drawer.”

Or worse, “I’m just not good enough.”

Or worse still, “I’ll never be good enough, so I’m not going to write at all.”

You may think I am joking about this, but how many people do you know who have said this? The answer is too many.

Anyone can sit down and write. And the more they do so, the better they will get. As long as they are reading, too.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “May Day,” his first great novelette, was published in July 1920, and related to a series of events that took place in his life in 1919. He feared that he had “unsuccessfully” woven the events into a pattern in his story. But he published the story regardless and it is a wonderful piece of writing.

His story details a Yale reunion on May 1-2, 1919 in New York and follows the antics of Gordon Sterrett, Phillip Dean, Edith Bradin, Carrol Key, Gus Rose, and Peter Himmel. The tale is sad, but has moments of color, yet is told masterfully.

Gordy is caught in a pickle and a situation of misery he seems to have created on his own. But reading the story one gets the sense of the true genius of Fitzgerald’s writing.

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks’ “The Past is Important to Us,” in his book, Uncommon Type, introduces us to Bert Allenberry, also in New York City, who has developed a time machine that allows him to go from near future to June 8, 1939 where he frequents the World’s Fair and finds himself infatuated with a woman from another time.

Hanks weaves a great tale of Bert not being happy with what he has, all the money he could want, and longing for something he can’t have. Like Gordy, Bert’s demise is created out of his own greed. The underlying theme is very much the same between the two stories written almost 100 years apart.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s story, “Fifty Grand,” from The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, The Hemingway Library Edition, involves a washed-up boxer named Jack Brennan who is facing his last fight and puts $50,000 down on himself to lose.

This is another story set in New York city. In this edition, there are extras with previous versions of the stories included. Right behind the published edition is exhibit 12A which has the note, “1st 3 pages of story mutilated by Scott Fitzgerald with his—.”

Boxing stories aren’t really my thing, but Hemingway’s writing is so rich and concise. Remember, he says 80 percent of a story should be like an iceberg—with the bulk of it unseen.

Conclusion

So how is it that I can pick up four books randomly and read four separate pieces together and they have overlapping themes?

That remains a mystery, but in part, Hemingway and Fitzgerald hung out together as best friends. They fed off each other. Tom Hanks has been an actor, screenwriter, director, and producer. His writings also have appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker. His book Uncommon Type, where every story features a typewriter, is his first collection of fiction.

Each of these writers overcame what Julia Cameron wrote about in her essay “Credibility.” They, like all writers, heard the call all writers hear and did something about their need to write. They sat down with blank sheets of paper, pricked their fingers and poured their hearts out onto the pages before them. Then they went back time and again and revised and made their words better and better and better.

I’ve been studying and writing short stories of late. Writing short stories is a pathway to the soul of writing. They don’t allow for lengthy writing. A writer must be concise. The transformation of the lead character must happen in a few paragraphs. The whole story is contained to about 1,500 words. This demands practice and determination. Once a writer perfects such a medium, he/she is better prepared for novel writing. Or so the theory goes.

I’m about to do my fourth revision of my novel The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club. I’ve been writing short stories for about two months now. They are a joy to compose and challenging as well. My word usage is much tighter than before. That’s the biggest thing to come from this exercise, but so is the joy of telling new stories. I highly recommend such a study. Not to mention reading from masters like the four authors above. You will be surprised how much you will learn.

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A Moveable Feast

Mar 16, 2018 by

A Moveable Feast

In my writing and reading, I am studying Earnest Hemingway. That led to my reading of A Moveable Feast, published in 1964 after he had died. The version I have includes a foreword by his son, Patrick, and an introduction by his grandson, Sean. There are also many newly released sketches about his son Jack and first wife, Hadley.

Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.”

The chapters about F. Scott Fitzgerald and the subsequent descriptions including his wife, Zelda Sayre, formerly of Montgomery, Alabama add a new level of color to the first celebrities of the Jazz Age. (Check out the short film I did last summer on Zelda as a ghost in Montgomery–going back home one night and visiting her old haunts in modern Montgomery.)

Hemingway paints a picture of Zelda that is anything but flattering. He all but says that Zelda ruined Scott’s writing career out of jealousy. Fitzgerald is portrayed in firsthand stories that show why he only produced a limited number of books in his career.

For instance, when they first met, Scott invited Hemingway to take a train with him from Paris to Lyon to retrieve a car Scott and Zelda had left broken down. Hem arrived at the train, Scott did not. Hem boarded, Scott did not. Hem arrived in Lyon, Scott arrived an hour later. Hem booked a room and wired Zelda where he was staying, but the message never got to Scott, who found Hem the next morning. Then there was the matter of where the two would eat breakfast. Zelda apparently hated cars with tops and so their’s had none and it was raining that day. Scott and Hem made it an hour before they had to stop in the rain. Once they stopped for the day, Scott said he felt like he was catching his death of cold. Hem kept insisting that he had no temperature and that he was fine. Scott insisted he was dying. He insisted Hem find a thermometer. The pharmacy was closed. Hem found a waiter who located an odd thermometer which he told Scott, “You’re lucky it’s not a rectal thermometer.” No temp, but that didn’t satisfy Scott. But after some doing, he then went downstairs to call Zelda and talked to her for an hour. This, he assured Hemingway was the first night the two had spent apart since they’d been married. The way Hem told it, it was a gross case of co-dependency before anyone used the term. The whole bit makes one wonder how stable Scott was himself. Then to see how Hemingway portrays the constant fighting between Scott and Zelda is eye-opening.

The first season TV series on Amazon shows they have a contentious relationship but Hemingway paints a much harsher picture. At one point they are arguing with their chauffer from France about whether or not they can put oil in their car, or whether or not their driveway is their’s or not.

But there are a few segments of the book where Hemingway writes about writing. “On Writing in The First Person,” Hemingway says that if a writer does a good enough job, “you make the person who is reading … believe that the thing has happened to him too.” He goes on to say that if one can achieve this it will “become part of the reader’s experience and a part of his memory.”

The observations and sketches about living in Paris in the early 1920s are colorful and enjoyable. He shares what it was like to live poor and to work hard at honing his craft. He was in love with Hadley and focused, intent on becoming a serious writer and loving living in what he felt was the best place in the world to be a writer at the time.

The chapters about Gertrude Stein and her calling Hemingway’s “the lost generation” are informative, as well as his summation that every generation is a little lost.

I enjoyed the read and will likely go back through this one a couple more times in my studies. There are Easter eggs hidden here among his feast of words.

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The Hazel Wood

Mar 12, 2018 by

The Hazel Wood

Last week I read Melissa Albert’s debut book “The Hazel Wood,” a young adult novel 355 pages strong. Not something I would normally read, but I’m trying to better understand what tops the best seller lists and this has been atop the Costco list recently. I wanted to know why.

The is a modern-day fairy tale but dark and dreary. The first half of the book I found rather intoxicating. Night one I consumed 87 pages. The second night I reached page 167. The third page 264. I did not read the fourth night. On the fifth eve I reached page 320. On the sixth I had 35 pages to read. It took seven nights to finish.

It was what a writer would call the Supreme Ordeal, where all hope seems lost for the main character, where things seemed to fall apart for me. After finishing I saw some of the comments on Goodreads and that seems to be the consensus, too. Though I thought most of the low ratings on Goodreads read as bratty.

Melissa Albert’s command of the English language is strong. She uses word pictures to help her readers imagine what she wants them to see. Even in a first-person novel where the reader is inside the head of the main character, Alice, the entire book. That’s not an easy thing to do.

She did a good job of foreshadowing and setting up and the following through later.

Like I said, I enjoyed the setup in the first half of the book. The latter half got to be a little strange for me. Like I said, this is not something I would typically read, but I am glad I did. I gave the book a four-star rating on Goodreads. These people who hated it, don’t appreciate the art of it, and this book is a work of art.

I don’t believe that any book must have a happily ever after ending. This one has something of a HEA ending, but without providing a spoiler, maybe not in the way the bratty Goodreads commenters would like. If an author writes a book that doesn’t end the way readers think it should, the author has done his/her job. Whether that’s good for the business-side of writing is another matter. What’s true to the story first should always be the first consideration. The answer isn’t always easy, I’m sure.

Congratulations to Melissa Albert. Writing this story, no doubt, was not easy. There are lots of twists and turns to keep her up many a night as she composed this novel. I hope she keeps writing despite the few Negative Nellies on Goodreads. illegitimi non carborundum is all I have to say to that.

(You can check out my list of 101 books I’m reading and recommend by following the link here. I’m at number 61 with this book as of December 2016. I’m using these books to improve my craft. Some of them are about writing better, some of them are fantastic reads. I invite you to check out the list. If you know of something I should read, please tell me about it.)

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Finding Water

Aug 28, 2017 by

Finding Water

I’m in Week Seven of Julia Cameron’s book, Finding Water.

Julia Cameron’s Finding Water.

This makes 19-straight weeks of following in her teachings, coupled with an equally invigorating study of my NIV Bible. Today I’m on the last pages of a second $0.50 college rule Walmart notebook. In fact, Chandler, my daughter, about fell over last week when I showed her the two-foot high stack of them in my closet.  Every three weeks now, I fill a notebook with handwritten Morning Pages. It’s the best form of prayer and therapy I’ve encountered in almost 52 years.

Friday

Friday was a crummy day and if it weren’t for my growing faith in God–thanks to Julia Cameron’s teachings, my daily study, and the confidence I’ve been building because of my Morning Pages, my weekly artist’s dates, and daily walks, (ones that have been trimmed the past month for medical reasons and the oppressive Texas heat) I’d probably be on a balcony somewhere ready and willing to jump.

Transportation issues presented themselves. Issues with a video project popped up. Issues with my ex reared their ugly head. Another video and web project presented issues. And worst of all, the book project with SMU, the one I’ve worked so hard on since 2014, well, I was not one of the 14 selected to go to New York in November.

And That’s Okay

All off it. It’s okay. At some point, mechanics will figure out what’s wrong with my car. There are always difficulties when you shoot a video project. You work them one or two at a time. They get solved and then you fix the next two or three that come along until the project is complete. Website and video editing problems you deal with. You use your creativity and you fix.

The Writer’s Path at SMU

I am grateful for what I’ve learned through the Writer’s Path at SMU. I would not trade the experience for anything. It’s honed my writing. The past year and a half I’ve been wigged out on opioids.

I am happy for the 14 authors selected. Julia Cameron teaches us in Finding Water to celebrate the accomplishment of other artists. They worked hard. I’ve worked hard, too. And now I’m free to follow my own path.

That’s what I’m going to do on my book, too. I don’t have to worry the next few months how I’m going to pay for a trip to New York in November. Things are tight enough around here as they are. I can now get into the feel of my book now that the opioids are having less of an effect on my brain. I can query to my heart’s desire. My brain is in a different place than it was in late June and throughout July. God wanted it that way. You can read my post from last night to read just how. Again, this is okay. God has me on a different path to getting published.

Even the sermon Sunday spoke to this very topic. With God, nothing is impossible. He has a plan. There was a reason I got hurt. There was a reason it took so long for me to get back on my feet and off the pain meds. There was a reason for all the bad things that happened Friday. I believe that. And most of all, I am okay with it. All of it.

And that’s what puts me further ahead than many.

dc.

 

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Zelda Fitzgerald’s Parents’ Graves–The Sayre Graves

Jul 15, 2017 by

Zelda Fitzgerald’s Parents’ Graves–The Sayre Graves

The graves of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s parents are in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama.

The grave site of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s parents and family members in Montgomery, AL.

They are marked as #28.

They are not easy to find unless you know what you’re looking for.

How To Find The Sayre Graves

Oakwood Cemetery section. How to find the Sayre graves, the parents of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.

Heading east on Upper Wetumpka Road in Montgomery, go past the Montgomery Police Department and down the hill toward Alabama Public Television and Paterson Field.

The last three entrances to the cemetery are important. The third one leads to Hank Williams’ grave on top of the hill.

The first one, St. Ann’s Street, is the entrance to the section leading to the Sayres.

Once you pull in at St. Ann’s, take the first left onto Stella Street. At the first right, turn north on Clarmont Ave. and go up the hill. The first right near the top of the hill is also Clarmont, but go straight another 20 or 30 yards. Then stop.

Off to your left, three rows in, follow the path of Clarmont to the west. You will see several tall and full trees, and there are two obelisk-like markers to the west in the next row of the Sayre resting place.

Once you are three rows deep, turn to your right and the Sayre site should be to your left.

Clearly marked at the front of the site is a memorial marker to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who are not buried there.

Photos of the Site

I’ve included photos of Minnie Sayre’s grave, as well as Anthony D. Sayre Sr’s resting spots. Minnie is buried on the far left and Judge Sayre is three graves to her right. Zelda’s brother Anthony Sayre Jr lies immediately to the left of the Judge.

Marker for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in Montgomery, AL

The grave of Minnie M. Sayre, the mother of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Close up of the tombstone of Minnie M. Sayre, the mother of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, who was born in Montgomery, AL

The tomb of Judge Anthony D Sayre, the father of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, in Montgomery, AL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zelda, Almost Home

In June 2017, I made a short film about Zelda. The premise, what if Zelda returned to her hometown Montgomery as a ghost?

Thing is, the more I learned about Zelda and her haunts in Montgomery, the more it seems she actually does return to the city quite often.

July 24, 2017 will mark the 117th anniversary of her birth in the Capital City of Alabama.

Here is Zelda, Almost Home, available on YouTube. Music courtesy of Moby.

 

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The Barrowfields–Book Review

Jul 13, 2017 by

It’s taken longer than it should have but last week I read The Barrowfields by new author, Phillip Lewis. 

The book starts out a little slow, but once you immerse yourself in the story, and that becomes easier to do with each passing page, Lewis takes hold of you with his quality, rich characters.

I enjoyed this book and will read it again. There are not many on the New York Times Bestseller List I would say that about. It seems of late the publishing industry is all about a bang for the buck that lasts three weeks and no more. My pen-pal, Amor Towles, currently on the list for 32 weeks with A Gentleman in Moscow remains there because his book is of substance. Something someone will want to read again.

The Barrowfields is of that same ilk.

Lewis blends a rich knowledge of literature, books and North Carolina lore together for a superb recipe of a tale. He takes us through his father’s courtship of his mother and the relationship with his grandparents. Then we see the main character seek to recover from the events of home that linger. He seeks to escape his past but like none of us, is able to do so. It comes racing back into his life and he is compelled to deal with it.

I am an active reader so there are a few lines from the book I underlined as I read.

A beguiling optimism is often the first step toward folly. Page 29

“I write, because it’s one of the only things that seems real to me.  It’s the only way short of death to make time stop.” This was not a simplified explanation for a ten-year-old. This was his truth. Page 45

As a fellow writer, I understand the perspective of Henry Aster’s father about writing.

And I so much would like to meet a woman as grounded as Story. She was a dear and though she herself is dealing with her own familial emotional baggage, she makes the story come alive and enjoyable.

I encourage you to find the book and give it a read. It is one you won’t want to take to Half Priced Books in a three weeks along with your current Grisham, Clancy, Patterson, Steele and the like. No, you’ll want to keep this with your Towles and Lees and Patchetts.

This book also helped me with my own writing. The language is rich and colorful and immersive. I look forward to the next book by Phillip Lewis.

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

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