Random Thoughts on Writing

November 18, 2008

– I am making progress on the Charles Burden book. I think a first draft will be ready around Christmas, so order your copies now as the saying goes. I’m really hoping for some serious writing time this weekend and over Thanksgiving.

– I need to find an agent. That is, I need to go through the process of trying to find an agent. I love writing the books, but they are not going to magically publish themselves. I am not good at self-pimping.

– One cliche I hear a lot involves people talking about how when you do something you love for a living, it becomes work. I do not think this would be true if I were ever able to put “writer” on my tax returns or whatever. I say this because writing is already work. There is a quote I really love (but can’t remember the source of) that says, “The best part of writing is having written.” I think a lot of that is true, though I actually do enjoy the writing process from time to time as well. Revision, editing, and polishing I kind of hate as it only involves working with the part of your book that sucks or that you fucked up on. So, not enjoying these things, is a bit like saying I do not enjoy being told I suck. Also, two summers ago I had a rare confluence of money and time, so I wrote pretty much every day. I managed about 70,000 while trying to force myself to write a minimum of 1500 words a day. It was not easy, and it was definitely work, but mostly, I did enjoy it. I have no complaints about the time I spent writing. I would be perfectly happy to spend my life doing that/teaching writing.

– Applying to eight graduate schools is tedious, but I should be done soon. I finally got my GRE writing score, which means I can fill in that blank on the applications. Hopefully, I’ll get somethings in envelopes and sent out this weekend.

– I need to submit to the Literary Leo this year. I have a nice little short story about a guy who accidentally kills a mugger that might work. I don’t write short fiction much anymore. Even when I get new ideas, it always feels like I will need hundreds of pages to tell the story.

– How the hell did that happen anyway? I can distinctly remember when ten pages felt like a real accomplishment. Why does it take me 200 – 400 pages to tell a story now? I’m not necessarily complaining, I’m just saying.

– I could imagine writing some Charles short stories later on. I like him. I could probably write stories about his whole family. That might be interesting, actually. We will see.

– That is all, I think


November 7, 2008

It’s the end of the trimester, and I really should be grading papers, but instead, I’m going to take a minute and ramble reflectively about the election. After this, it will be back to the regularly scheduled oh-so-biting social commentary/criticism that the 4 regular readers I have have come to expect from me.

When my first child is born, the president will be a black man…

Hang on, I need to type that again:

When my first child is born, the president will be a black man. This is no small thing. Children grow up believing that what ever they grew up with is “normal”. So, it could also be written that my child will grow up thinking it is normal to have a black man as president. This means, effectively, that he or she will grow up in an entirely different world from the one I grew up in. I grew up in very racist Southern Indiana. Obama carried three counties in Southern Indiana and more or less split the vote in a few others. I simply cannot stress how remarkable this is. I went to high school with 796 white kids, 3 black kids, and a Jew. That is not the start of a bad joke. My senior year, two of the black kids were arrested and expelled for defending themselves against six white kids who started a fight and whose punishment was, well, let’s just say it was of a lesser degree than that recieved by their African-American peers.

Barack Obama carried three counties in Southern Indiana and my child will be born into a world where a non-white president is not unusual or exceptional. Further, everyone who has been carrying around racial stereotypes, whether they were expressing them or not, is going to be forced to re-examine them. I had my students write about the election, and several of them (my white students, that is) came out with the same bullshit about how it doesn’t matter that he is black and how they can’t believe we elected a Muslim. I wonder how they will feel in four or eight years. I bet most of them will feel something different. Something that is closer to the truth. At least, I hope that is what happens. I realize this does not end racism or the discussion of race in this country, but it does change the discussion.

I was exhausted Wednesday morning when I came into school. I stayed up until almost two in the morning hoping to see Indiana called for Obama. I went to bed unsatisfied, but woke up to good news. Later that morning, I cried when I talked to my students about how important this is. A lot of them don’t understand, but that’s okay.

Honestly, it wasn’t until later Wednesday night when I think it hit me all the way. I was off in search of some baseball ramblings to cleanse my election-weary palate when I stumbled on an article written by Joe Posnaski. Joe is a sports writer who also wrote a book about Buck O’Neil. He was friends with Buck O’Neil. If you don’t know who Buck was, you should go look him up. He was a great man and a good man. It isn’t easy to be both. Anyway, Buck passed away not long ago (about two years ago, I think), but in this article, Joe told a story about when he was travelling around with a very old Buck O’Neil and Buck asked him how old he was. Joe answered and Buck said, “Just think, you’ll live to see the first black president.”

I started sobbing uncontrollably when I read that. I couldn’t help it. I wish Buck O’Neil had gotten to see it, I think he deserved it more than I did, but that isn’t how things work, so I got to see the first black president and Buck didn’t. I’ve read enough about him to know that he wouldn’t begrudge me the privilege. I also know how lucky I am to have it.

What I Told My Students

November 5, 2008

Today, I was glad to be a teacher for a new reason. Something phenomenally important happened yesterday, and I had the opportunity to speak to my students about it today. This is roughly what I said:

We all know what happened last night. There was an election and Obama won. I want to take a minute and talk to you about it. Now, regardless of who you would have voted for or who your parents voted for, I want you to take a minute and think about what happened in America last night.

I grew up in Southern Indiana. It’s a racist place, and coming from there, just knowing that in my life time that state has voted for a black man for President of the United States is a remarkable and wonderful thing.

The world is a different place now than it was 24 hours ago. I’ve seen the world change before. When I was 21, September 11th happened and the world changed. A lot of you don’t understand that because you are too young. In the same way, a lot of your younger siblings are not going to understand what happened last night. America changed and the world changed. You will remember this for the rest of your lives. This is the day when America, as a whole said that skin color is not the most important trait. Instead, it is your ability and qualifications that really matter. This is a wonderful thing that happened and no matter who you voted for, you should feel proud of America today. So please, take a minute and think about what happened.

An Electoral Blog

November 4, 2008

Greetings Ladies and Gentleman,

We are coming to you today from Snyder-Lynch manner is fabulous Kentucky. I’ll be doing a running diary of the election returns as it they come in.

6:39: Gearing up for coverage, which starts in about 20 minutes. Some early returns are coming in from Kentucky where most of the polls close at 6:00 ET. Early results have McCain up big, no surprise there. I’m more interested to see the senate results, especially when returns start coming in from Louisville and Lexington which should pull heavily Democratic. We’re looking for an Obama victory tonight, and hopefully we’ll get to see some heads explode on FOX. Stay tuned.

6:52: Still not officially election night, yet, but 42% of returns are in for the Yarmuth-Northup race here in Louisville and Yarmuth leads 57-43. This is a good start to the night. It’s worth noting, by the way, that I have only voted for the winning candidate for a federal office once. That would be Baron Hill, in Indiana two years ago. So far, so good however.

7:00: Here we go! My first thought is that I miss Dan Rather. “Well, tonight’s election is going to be as slippery as a monkey in a grease barrel. Have courage America.” Oh, Dan, we miss you.

7:01: First returns Kentucky to McCain, Vermont to Obama. No surprises. Current standings: McCain: 8, Obama: 3. This should be one of the few leads for McCain tonight. Or, at least, if it’s not, we’re moving to France.

On FOX: Things are still calm. They think McCain is going to win Ohio. We’ll see.

7:06: Lunsford-McConnell is 50-50. Nice early start. That’s mostly Lousivlle. I’m not super confident about this race, but we’ll see. An uspet would be great.

7:08: On ABC, Gibson and Stephanoppopliouopous talk about how John McCain is basically fucked while still hedging their bets.

7:13: PBS reports that McCain was “subdued” and that Cindy M. had “tears in her eyes.” Yeah, that’s right, they see the writing on the wall.

7:15: The blogger’s wife has provided a lovely dinner of Tilapia and Mac & Cheese. Mmmmm.

7:16: Mark Warner picks up a senate seat for the Dems in VA. Daniels (R) holds on to the Governorship of Indiana.

7:20: Early VA reports have Obama leading.

On Fox: Starting to panick. I think I see urine trickling down someone’s leg.

7:23: McCain’s Campaign Manager: “He is the gamest political candidate in history.” Gamest? What the fuck does that mean? If I shoot John McCain and eat him is he going to taste differently from a more domesticated candidate? Gamest? What?

7:30: On the phone with Mom, hard to pay attention right now.

7:37: On ABC Louisville native Diane Sawyer shakes her head with feeling to show her sympathy for the unemployed people in the rust belt.

7:40: NC and IN are tossups. Gee, I wonder hwo tonight is going to go for John McCain. Because these states are always close.

7:43: It’s official. Anne Northup’s political career is over. She’s expected to concede any moment. It’s not even close. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
National Office Winners I’ve voted for: 2

7:45: Fancy swooping camera shots in the ABC studio. We’re pulling out the big money! Let’s swoop around and focus tight on Cokie Roberts! Yeah!

7:51: FOX joyously calls South Carolina for McCain. Oh Shit! Yeah! John McCain! South Carolina! Woo Hoo!!!!! The world, however, is underwhelmed.

Current Standings: McCain: 16, Obama 3, Lynch: Going to take a pee.

7:57: Anne Northup Concession speech. Oh, I love it. I love it. I LOVE IT!

8:00: Can I just say how nice it is to be so relaxed on election night? The last two were so stressful, but this is nice.

8:02: Lots of polls closing. Obama takes: NJ, CT, MD, ME, MA, DE, DC, IL, NH
McCain: TN, OK
Too Close to Call: MO, AL, MS.

Alabama! Mississippi! OH SNAP! This is good times people.

8:06: ABC calls PA for Obama. It’s the beginning of the end Johnny Boy!

Current Total: Obama: 103, McCain: 34.

On FOX; Talking about the Senate. DENIAL!!

8:12: FOX calls NH for Obama and Elizabeth Dole falls in NC! Dems +2 in the senate.

On FOX: Man, this guy looks so indignant. He looks like someone just pissed on his rose bushes.

8:19: Another pick up in the Senate. Dems take NH. +3. Oh the sweetness.

8:24: I love John Yarmuth. He’s giving his acceptance speech now. How wonderful. How very wonderful.

8:28: Kind of slow right now. Arkansas is about to close, but, um, who cares. Big round coming at 9:00. Still waiting on some swing states.

8:30: McCain takes AL and AR, so, yeah, again. Way to hold those two Johnny boy.

Current Totals: Obama: 103, McCain: 49

8:37: On FOX some lady from the McCain campaign is still not conceding PA. HAHAHAHA! Oh, the denial.

8:41: I’m bored. The wife is not feeling good. The Prime Minister (our incubating child) is rebelling. A bunch of polls closing in about 20 minutes.

8:44: Rudy G. reminds us that McCain was a POW. Oh, that’s right, I had totally forgotten. McCain has been so issue focused, that I totally forgot about his war record. Fart.

8:52: On FOX: Where have the Republicans gone? Virginia? Virginia? hdyhusidfj PANIC osdfufjdfj!

8:55: I wonder if Flomax is right for me. I’ll have to ask my doctor.

9:00: Another round of polls closing:
Obama: NY, MI, MN, WI, RI
McCain: KS, ND, WY, also McCain does take GA
Too Close to Call: TX, NM, AZ, CO, LA, NB, SD, (TEXAS! TEXAS! What the holy fucking fuck? Arizona! Oh Jesus)

Current Totals: Obama: 174, McCain: 76

9:05: Another pick up in the Senate in NM. Dems +4

9:09: FOX calls NM for Obama:

Current Totals: Obama: 179, McCain: 76

9:12: Fart. McConnell holds on to his seat. That was expected, but it’s still shitty.

9:18: So, every Obama person that has been interviewed has a big shit-eating grin and every McCain person has this kind of dower frown and just wants to talk about how “we need to wait and see.” Oh, I am really, really, really enjoying this.

9:23: Bob Scheiffer thinks Obama can’t lose. Oh, yeah.

9:25: CBS just called Ohio for Obama. If that holds it’s Obama 199, McCain 76 and guess what kids, Obama can’t lose because he’s carrying the West Coast.

9:29: PBS gives Texas and LA to McCain and also gives Ohio to Obama.

Current Totals: Obama: 199, McCain 119

Take it to the bank: President Obama!

9:34: ABC from McCain-Palin in Ohio. They are, um, not happy. Honestly, they look like all of their grandmas just died.

9:38: Math Correction. I must have added wrong somewhere. ABC has Obama: 200, McCain 119.

9:39: Looks like WV goes McCain.
Current Totals: Obama: 200, McCain: 124

9:43: On FOX: McCain camp still objects to the calling of PA. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Losers.

9:52: John McCain takes Mississippi.
Current Totals: Obama: 200, McCain: 130

9:57: FOX is worried about how John McCain is going to win. Heeheeheeheehee.

10:00: New round of polls closing:
Obama: IA
McCain: UT
Too Close to Call: NV, MT

Iowa is another pick up for Obama. Oh, it is sooooooo over. I love it. I love it. I love it.

Current Totals: Obama: 207, McCain: 135

10:06: It’s a McConnell out. Gross. I hate that guy. He’s the acrid fart on an otherwise fresh smelling evening.

10:08: ABC reports that people in AZ are getting a little worried. Gee, ya think? I mean, they just need to win California to win the election and that could totally happen. HAHAHAHAHA!

10:12: A couple of thoughts while we wait to hear about some more states. Obviously, tonight we will have elected our first black president. That’s fantastic and really makes me truly proud of America for the first time in a long time. Maybe in my life. Really. Good for America. Also, I just realized that Obama is winning the Children of baby boomers by a lot. We are going to kill the Republican party for a long, long time. I am really looking forward to it.

10:19: Boy is my racist conservative step-family-in-law upset right now. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

10:27: It’s all local right now. Things are slowing down. We’re both just waiting for Obama to hit 270, which should happen in about 30 minutes.

10:35: Bob Scheiffer can barely contain his glee. He’s had a ridiculous grin across his face for like an hour. I think I know who he voted for. This is soooooo much fun.

10:36: NB gets mostly called for McCain with 2 congressional districts still outstanding.

Current Totals: Obama: 207, McCain 138

10:37: Katie Couric laughs at the McCain camp’s chances. I really love Katie Couric right now.

10:40: SD goes McCain

Current Totals: Obama: 207, McCain 141

10:42: PBS calls Virginia for Obama. This seemed likely, but it is still so, so sweet.

Current Totals: Obama: 220, McCain 141

For the record, add California and you get to 275. Bye, bye Johnny!

10:47: In 13 minutes, California polls will close and it will be official. Republicans are upset, but you know what? That’s what you get. Seriously, can anyone honestly look at the last eight years and say that this country has been run well? No, no they can’t. It has been a total, total disaster. As I posted not long ago, I truly don’t know why anyone who stands for anything worth standing for would still identitfy as a Republican. Look at the destruction they have wrought in this country. They do not deserve to have any part in the government, but I’ll tell you what, I believe that Obama will include moderate Republicans. Those who have some shred of reasonability in them. I believe this, because I believe that Barack Obama is a good man and will be a good president.

10:54 Obama is currently up in Indiana. I hope I get to be very proud of my home state tonight.

10:55: There are five minutes left in John McCain’s political career.

10:56: Obama is actually up in a NB congressional district. That would be hilarious.

11:00: Here we go….
Obama: CA, OR, WA, HI
McCain: ID

Current Totals: Obama: 297, McCain: 145.


On FOX: Two and a Half Men. This is the greatest thing ever.

11:07: I am flabbergasted. This wonderful. Never, in my adult life have I been proud of my country in the way I am now. This is a beautiful moment. A wonderful moment. I can’t wait for his speech.

11:13: PBS reports that John McCain has called Barack Obama to concede the election.

11:15: Florida, anti-climatically, goes Obama.

Current Totals: President-Elect Obama: 324, McCain 145

I really enjoy that Florida was not the difference maker hear. They fucked us eight years ago, and now, by the time the state was called, it was a foregone conclusion.

11:18: McCain concession speech. “The American people have spoken and they have spoken clearly.” That’s right you got your ass kicked. Classy crowd with all the booing, by the way.

11:19: Colorado goes Obama.

Current Totals: President-Elect Obama 333, McCain: 145

11:20: Cate: Sarah Palin’s politcal career is over. This makes me smile. Also, I’ll say this, even though he was a bastard during the campaign, but he’s going out classy, even if his crowd sucks.

11:23: God, McCain’s crowd is terrible. I don’t recall ever seeing a crowd be this mean-spirited during a concession speech. What a bunch of jerks. I guess those are the friends he made during that nasty campaign.

11:27: AZ finally goes McCain.

Current Totals: President-Elect Obama: 333, McCain: 155

11:30: That was a cold crowd for McCain. Again, that’s what he gets. He threw his honor away in the campaign, and these are the people who flocked to him. He did, for his part, go out classy. I will give him that.

11:36: Another pick up in the Senate. Colorado goes with a Dem. +5

11:39: Nevada goes Obama.
Current totals: President-Elect Obama: 338, McCain: 155

11;53: I know Buddy Guy when I hear him, and he is playing Obama’s rally in Chicago right now, which is fantastic. I love Buddy Guy… On second thought, I might be wrong, but damn, that guy does play guitar like Buddy Guy. Still, this is an excellent night.

11:59: Obama acceptance speech.

12:01: See, that’s a classy crowd, I know their guy won, but, still, they cheered the opponent in defeat. That’s classy.

12:15: Good speech. I’m proud that he is my president now. I’m going to wrap this up, even though there is still one thing left that I really care about. Right now, Obama is leading Indiana by about 16,000 votes. If he wins there, it will be the proudest I’ve ever been of my home state. Even though, I didn’t cast my vote there this time, it means something to me to know that the place I grew up has grown enough in my life time that it can help elect a blck man the president of the United States, so I hope he wins Indiana, but even if he doesn’t I’ll still be proud. I’m happy for American right now, and happy for myself, and my child that, next summer will be born into a world that is radically different from the world of just twenty-four hours ago,

Good job America.

Today, I sat down to work on my book for the first time in a bit, and in a moment of down time when I needed to let some things work through my brain, I decided to add up the number of words I had currently written. I have to do this because, while I am working on the first draft, I find it easier to have a separate document for each chapter, so I don’t usually know exactly how many words I have. While I have been largely negligent over the last year, I have done some writing. As it turns out, I seem to have managed somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 words of writing on my book.

Why is this significant? It is significant because, the next time I sit down to write, I will probably pass the 100,000 word mark, which equals out to about 400 pages. This is a big moment for me. 100,000 was my goal when I started this book as I had struggled to get to 60,000 with the first one. Also, the book is not done. I would guess that the first draft will have another 10-15,000 words at least, and more will likely be added in subsequent drafts, so it seems it will take 450-500 pages to tell the story of Charles Burden’s life. I’m pretty proud of that not because it is long but because I knew this story was going to need to be long if I was going to do it right and because I wasn’t sure if I really could write anything that long.

In conclusion, I am feeling pretty good about myself right now. No doubt, something will come long and knock me off my high horse any moment now (Josh?).

Election Prediction

November 3, 2008

I think I will have to create a new tag for certain posts called, “because anybody cares” and file things like this under it. What follows is my official prediction of the 2008 presidential election.

My Predictions:

Popular Vote:

Barack Obama: 52%
John McCain: 46%
Nader/Barr/Other: 2%

Electoral Vote:
Barack Obama: 393
John McCain: 145

Best Case Obama:

Popular vote:


Best Case McCain:

Popular Vote:


How it breaks down:

I realize I am predicting quite a landslide here in terms of electoral votes, so here is my rational:

No-brainer states:
NY, ME, NH, VT, CT, MA, RI, PA, MD, DC, DE, NJ, CA, OR, WA, IL, WI, MN, MI, IA, HI (Total: 259)

TX, KS, KY, OK, NB, SD, SC, MI, AL, AR, TN, UT, WY, ID, AK (118)

So, looking at states that neither candidate can possibly lose, Obama is already close to victory with 259 EVs while McCain is looking pretty sad ar just 118.

Probably safe, but you never know states:
CO, NM, NV, VA, OH (New Total: 311)

AZ, LA, WV (New Total: 142)

A couple of things: Note that winning OH or VA puts Obama over the top. Also note, that any combination of two states gives Obama the election (NM and NV would make it 269 and send ti to the house).

Frankly, except for OH, I am as certain as I can be the Obama will win all of these states. I only put them as “probably safe because teu have been republican consistantly in the recent past. Still, it’s been along time since any poll has shown McCain leading in any of the non-Ohio state listed here.

For McCain, the biggest surprise is AZ, I think it will still go to him, but recent polls have shown the race there to be a statistical tie, which must be very encouraging for Obama. WV flirted with Obama a few weeks ago, but has since come back home to McCain. LA is curious because of the high AA population. I still think it holds McCain.

I have no earthly idea, but I’ll take a guess states:
FL, GA, NC, MO, IN, MT (New Total: 393)

SD (New Total: 145)

This probably a little optimistic on the Obama side, but early indications are that there will be greatly increased Democrat turn out this election, and I think that, combined with the “cellphone effect” (Obama gains 2-3% in the smattering of polls that have cellphone only households in their samples) will push Obama over the top in most of these states.

Last, I really, really have no idea about MT and SD, I think Obama will win one, but I have no idea wish.

So, there you go, I’m calling it Obama: 393, McCain 145. Huzzah!

Baseball, Age, and the GRE

November 1, 2008

I was sitting in bed talking to Cate a few minutes ago (she is not feeling well — pregnancy and all), bemoaning the current state of my beloved Reds and I uttered the following phrase, “They had a couple of winning seasons when I was in college.” This is significant not for the reason I would like it to be. You see, it has not been just a few years since I was in college. I last attended classes at Washington University six and a half years ago. Yes, yes, I know, I am only twenty-eight, but I am feeling my age. Six and a half years? What the hell?

If you didn’t know me, you’d think I was right on track. I have a decent, relatively comfortable job teaching English at a not-fantastic-not-terrible high school, I have an intelligent, beautiful wife, and my first child is on its way. That seems pretty on-schedule for a twenty-eight year old. Yup, just about right where I should be, except for one thing. Saved on my computer I have one completed novel and one almost completed novel. I think of myself, very much as a writer. Writing is what I love. It’s what I want to do with my life, and based on the feedback I’ve gotten from people I trust, I am reasonably okay at it, so I am going off track. I am going back to graduate school.

Assuming I get in to one of the eight schools where I am applying, I will finish my MFA in fiction writing when I am thirty years old. At that point, I will, even if things go well, have virtually no savings, the same student loans I have now, a two year old child, and be seeking a new career. That seems less on schedule. Still, I have to do it.

I do consider myself a writer, but I also enjoy teaching. Specifically, I enjoy teaching writing. One of the most gratifying experiences of my life was student teaching creative writing class a couple of years ago. I know how to teach writing, and I’m really good at it, but they don’t really let you teach writing in high school. At least, not without a bunch of unnecessary restrictions that prevent you from really being much help to the kids you are teaching. Not to mention, most of the kids don’t care about being good writers anyway, thus the new degree. If it works out, I should be able to find a job teaching at a college. Of course, I will need to get a book or two published, and hopefully I can, because I can think of nothing I would rather do than teach writing to a bunch of twenty year olds and write books. I’m serious. That sounds like heaven to me. So I’m going back to graduate school, hopefully (if I get in [I really hope I get in {really}]).

As part of the process of gaining admission to some institution or another, I took the GRE today. Actually, I retook it because my six year old scores have now expired (again, time progresses). I’ll be honest, it was kind of demoralizing in a way. I’m not as cocky as I used to be. I don’t know my writing score yet, but I’m pretty sure I did well. My verbal was basically the same as it was six years ago (I lost a few points, but I think that’s more random than anything). My math score fell off quite a bit, though. Now, I haven’t take a math class since high school (that would be ten years ago), so, considering, I think my solidly above average score is still pretty okay, but it was a reminder. I’m not 21 anymore. There are things I have let go, and there are things I have worked on. Mostly, I think I have made good choices, especially over the last few years when I finally got my act together, but from time to time I notice little things. I’m a better writer, sure, but I don’t do as well on math tests anymore. I always did well on math tests. I even toyed with being a physics major once upon a time. I suppose the test today was just a reminder that choices have consequences, even if they’re the right ones. I’m probably making too much of all of this, but somehow, today makes me want to get my ass in gear and write as much and as well as I can. We’ll see how that goes. I want to get Charles Burden wrapped up soon. Hopefully before Thanksgiving; definitely before Christmas. I want to work and put myself in a position to do the work I love. I’m going to try. I’ll keep you posted.