Word Up- a Video, a Petition, and a Story

So, if you’ve been wondering about Word Up, the new community bookstore I posted about awhile back, here are some things to take the edge off of your curiosity.

First, a really cool video made by volunteer DJ Boy, so you can see what the place actually looks like!  (Though the layout changes all the time…)

http://uptowncollective.com/2011/08/15/word-up-books-a-video-retrospective/

I love the song he used.  It seems really perfect for the space.  I also love the wall art with the guy with the big book bling.  The part with the kids talking comes from a presentation they had pretty early on in the life of the bookstore, which was this play/presentation called Dig It, written, created, and performed by Northern Manhattan kids as part of a workshop based on Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States.  I recommend all of the things that went into this performance… collective theater-making, Howard Zinn, Northern Manhattan kids… all pretty great! 🙂

Next, we’re now trying to figure out a way to stay permanently in the space or at least in the neighborhood, so here’s a petition about that.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/help-make-word-up-a-permanent-bookstore-uptown/

You can sign it even if you aren’t from Northern Manhattan, so if you like the idea of the bookstore, don’t hesitate!

I’ve been enjoying my time volunteering there (aside from the fact that I seem to be facing a small curse related to turning the lights on and off).  A fascinating mix of people comes through the store in the course of a night or afternoon, and so many are so excited about the bookstore.

Today a man named Eddie Spaghetti came in and bought photography books from the bargain section.  One had pictures of European castles.  He showed me one, saying it was Dracula’s castle in Transylvania.  I don’t know if he meant a castle that was used in the movie (he was a fan of the one from the 1930s) or the actual castle of Vlad the Impaler, or what.  In any case, he told me that the castle had been on sale for… I think it was a hundred million dollars, at a time when the New York Lottery was three hundred million.  (Does the lottery even go up to three hundred million?  Shows how much I know about this..)  So his plan was to buy a lottery ticket, and if he won, buy the castle.

“I’d still have 200 million left,” he told me, laughing, “Use it to buy blood for the man.”

His favorite artist is Escher, and he rhapsodized for awhile about this Escher painting called Metamorphosis.  He gestured around the room, showing me how large it is.

“It goes all the way around, all the way from here…. all the way around the whole room.”  He described how one thing transformed into another, and then back into what it had been.  I liked the idea of this.  He told me that the painting is in Rhode Island, if I remember right, and that he wanted to go and see it himself. I thought of the paintings I have seen myself.  How beautiful they are up close.

He told me, too, about a boy who had cancer, and then his father snuck cannabis in the kid’s IV, and the boy got better and was hungry.  While the procedure sounds highly suspect, the detail about the hunger held my attention.

“There’s all this stuff we don’t know, about bark and plants and stuff,” he said.  And I agreed.

I thought about Dracula and transformation.  We talked about prison, about people in prison for drugs, about the books that people bring to the store.  He talked about how much a simple book can be worth, in money, if it’s a first edition, has a dust jacket.

After awhile he left.

Here’s a picture I found when I looked up “metamorphosis by Escher.”

http://www.globalgallery.com/enlarge/20774/

So there’s my Word Up story for today.  If you’re in the neighborhood, don’t forget to stop by!

Chatting with Charlotte about Royal Quarry

Royal Quarry is ready for release! Cover art by Anne Cain.

So, tomorrow is the release day for Charlotte Rahn-Lee’s novella, Royal Quarry, and to get you ready for the release, Charlotte and I managed to collaborate on an exclusive interview.  You may be wondering how this worked– we were wondering how it was going to work too!  Basically, I pretended I didn’t know anything about the book, and wrote down my questions in a notebook.  Then, Charlotte wrote down her answers.  Now, I am going to type them up here and ask her follow-up questions when they occur to me!  It’s a little silly, perhaps,  as a procedure, but I think you will find the content interesting.

RLF (that’s me!): Give a little intro about yourself and your background as a writer.

CRL (that’s Charlotte!): I am an inveterate creator of stories– my sister Lilah and I invented all sorts of characters, plots, and happenings for as long as I can remember.  I think I began thinking of myself as a writer in 6th grade. My writing training is all in playwriting– I have an MFA from the New School for Drama.

RLF: What happened in 6th grade?

CRL: I was in a different school district in 6th grade, in Cambridge, MA, and there was more emphasis on writing in this new school.

RLF: Is there anything in particular you want to convey to potential readers of Royal Quarry that isn’t mentioned in the blurb?

CRL: Royal Quarry was a lot of fun to write, and I hope it will be a lot of fun to read, too.  I did my best to impart this sense of fun while I was condensing the plot into blurb-form.

RLF: What prompted you to write this story?  Tell us something about how it took shape in your head.

CRL: This story had an unusual beginning.  Albert and Manning existed as characters in an epistolary game that you and I were playing.  Because of this, their relationship really had a chance to develop and grow in a satisfying way.  This story is a retelling–a reboot, I guess you might call it– of how they met.  I wrote it because you were planning on submitting to the “men in uniform” call for Dreamspinner, and I kept urging you, “Manning wears a uniform!  Write about Albert and Manning!”  You had other ideas, however, which eventually became The Clown and the Magician, so you convinced me to write it instead.  It was fun to write something for which I knew the characters so well but could dream up a new plot, choosing elements of the original version and inventing my own as it suited the story.  That’s the joy of a reboot, I suppose.

RLF: As I remember it, you had a whole bunch of ideas for the men in uniform thing, including a story about Manning and Albert, and kept pitching them until I was finally like, well, you should write one yourself!  I’m glad you did. 🙂  Since you most frequently write plays, I’m wondering how this experience related to your other writing.  Were there any interesting differences in the writing process for this prose piece?

CRL: Yes!  Prose is very different from drama, a medium I’m more comfortable in.  You have a lot more control over how your audience experiences your story in prose than you do in drama.  [In prose], you can draw the reader’s figurative eye to specific details in a way that reminds me of screenwriting.  You can describe your characters’ thought processes, even!  I was conscious with writing this story of not wanting to go crazy with my new-found powers of prose and explain or describe too much of what people were thinking.  You still do want your characters to show you what’s happening with them after all.  But it was a lot of fun to work in prose for a change.

RLF: What was your favorite part about writing these characters and their relationship?

CRL: I love how Albert’s (over)reactions always surprise, and I am very fond of Manning’s continuous struggle to maintain his professional composure.

RLF: Did you encounter any surprises while writing?

CRL: Of course!

RLF: How did you like writing a story that is centered around a romance?  Was it similar to or different from other kinds of relationship-based writing you’ve done?

CRL: The most unexpectedly tricky thing was the pronouns.  When two men relate to each other–sexually, romantically, or otherwise–in prose, your sentences become tangled knots of “him”s, “he”s, and “his”es.  It took some clever editing to make clear who was doing what to whom.

RLF: Did you learn anything new (in research or otherwise) while writing Royal Quarry?

CRL: I learned more than I will ever need to know about deer hunting.

RLF: Do you want to write more stories about these characters or this world?

CRL: I sure do!  Albert and Manning go on to have many exciting adventures together.  It would be a lot of fun to write down some more of them.  It would be really great to see them in a graphic novel– I’ve always wanted to try writing one of those.  Anybody know any sequential artists?

So there you have the interview!  Do you know any sequential artists?  Do you have more questions for Charlotte?  Let us know in the comments!  Are you ready to buy this fantastic book?  Here’s where you can find it, starting in about ten minutes: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2477

Enjoy!

The Clown and the Magician- Another Great Review!

Well, today is my first day of orientation for the PhD program in English that I am about to start.  So, naturally, I was relieving my nerves by seeing if anyone else had reviewed The Clown and the Magician.

And someone had!  Here, and glowingly: http://mmgoodbookreviews.wordpress.com/tag/rebecca-lynne-fullan/.  Thanks, Portia!  I am delighted to learn that there are gems falling from my literary tree.  I’ll try to keep ’em coming.

Also, I know everyone is eagerly awaiting the exclusive interview with Charlotte Rahn-Lee about her upcoming release (upcoming as in tomorrow!), Royal Quarry.  Fear not!  The interview is progressing apace, and shall be posted here just as soon as we both have a minute to breathe.

Actually, taking a minute to breathe sounds like a good idea.  Want to join me?   I’m gonna close my eyes… breathe in deeply… and let it out.

There.  We’re conspiring.

(I got to explain conspiracy to my Upper Elementary school students on our last class day.  I talked about how if you’re working on a secret plot you have to lean in so closely that you’re breathing the same air.)

Following Up (and Down and All Around)

Today, I read a lot of Endgame by Derrick Jensen.  If you recall from my mention in a previous post, it’s about taking down civilization to build up a liveable world.  Among lots of other things.

It took me awhile to buy it, after I wrote that post about Justice and Heat and Beauty and that book and gay marriage and trees and all… Not because I had to go far; I got it at Word Up.  Not because it’s expensive– the two volumes together were only $6.  Because… I was waiting.  Because it is scary, and because it is large, and also, in some other way that I don’t know how to articulate, because I was just waiting.

There’s a lot in this book, and some of it I am absolutely, hands down sure is true.  And some of it I am not.  But so far there is nothing in it that I am absolutely, hands down sure is false.  I can say that much.  And I’m not actually writing this post to go on and on about this book– not yet, anyway.

But I wanted to follow up.  Because everything I wrote before about the trees and their stripped off bark and their beauty is true, but it can’t be the end of the story.  The end of the story can’t be, I look at the injured trees and they are still beautiful.  That’s a great middle.  But it would be an end that takes me out of relationship with the trees, or makes the relationship only something symbolic and about my psyche.

Of course relating to trees is totally symbolic and about my psyche (she phrases this way so as not to invoke psychic, not to go too far so that you’re picturing the thoughts of trees flowing into her brain, even though that kind of is exactly what she means, if we just had a word better, larger, more precise than “thoughts”).  But it is also about my body and my breath (most especially my breath), my fingers and my feet and my head and my lungs, and the bark of the tree and the roots of the tree and the leaves of the tree.  If it becomes only about the idea of me thinking about the idea of a tree, the relationship is a fantasy– and no longer, I think, the kind the helps.

What I mean to say is that today I looked up what to do when bark has been stripped off trees.  I learned that probably these trees will survive.  I learned that stripped bark on a tree is very, very much like open skin on a person.  So it helps to clean it.  It also helps to trim back raggedy bits of bark around the wound, and to bind up any strips of bark that remain with the tree so it can heal itself.  But right today, I didn’t have tree trimming equipment and I didn’t have bark binding equipment– but I had water and soap and a sponge.

I took it all down to the trees and I cleaned all around the wounds as best I can.  It was surprisingly scary.  I felt like someone was going to ask what I was doing, or that whoever is hurting the trees  would pop up and… stop me?  Attack the trees?  Attack me?

I also felt much more keenly aware, in my fingers and my whole body, of the trees as alive.  It made my sadness and anger at their mistreatment stronger, different.  And I also felt, finally, that I was giving something real to a tree, which maybe I had never done before, not in this physical way.  That part felt good.

I’m trying to stay in touch.  I’m trying to open to and understand the relationships I have with the different lives all around me– and, also, remember that it’s not all about me.  It’s not all about how I see things or what I feel about a tree, it’s also about what that tree needs and if I can provide it.

Remember that saying, the personal is political?  The corporeal is spiritual, too, the spiritual is corporeal.  What is in our souls is not separated and floating, detached from our bodies, but pervades our bodies and is pervaded by them.  I believe.

So there I was, washing the trees, hoping it would do some good, and concurrently (in the general trajectory of my life) feeling more and more suspicious of much of the trappings of Christianity and even, sometimes, maybe, just kinda, or a lot,  suspicious of its heart– and in my head is this song:

Jesus took a towel and he girded himself, and he washed my feet, yes he washed my feet.  Jesus took a basin and he knelt himself down, and he washed, yes he washed my feet.

I ask the trees for their blessing when I go by them each day, and I try to give mine.  But now the stakes are changing.  Now I know that the stakes are grounded in my body, and the bodies of the trees.

So mysterious, I don’t even know what to say.  But I wanted to say something.

This isn’t much of an end, either.  Good, maybe.

The Clown and the Magician- News and Reviews!

Just in case you forgot what the cover art looks like!

Well, as with the similarly named post about “The Hanukkah Surprise,” I don’t know if there’s really news about The Clown and the Magician, but there are reviews!  Two from Amazon reader reviewers, one of whom is a friend and fellow writer, Jeffrey McGraw (http://www.jeffreymcgraw.com/index.html), and one from the M/M romance review site, Reviews by Jessawave.  All three reviews were kind and insightful, and my thanks to all the reviewers!  I’m especially grateful to Jessawave’s site for featuring my book in this review, and also for having a giveaway of it earlier.  I was particularly pleased by all the details LadyM picked up on in her review, since the questions she was asking about Jake and various other aspects of the story are questions I’ve been kicking around in my own head as well.  I certainly haven’t committed to a sequel, but when I play with the concept, those are definitely the directions I see myself going in.

So, without further ado, here are the reviews!

The Amazon reviews:

http://www.amazon.com/Clown-Magician-ebook/product-reviews/B005CK4HQ6

The Jessawave Review:

http://www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/2011/08/01/the-clown-and-the-magician/

Oh, and in case all that’s convinced you to buy the book, here’s that link as well:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2441