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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Nathaniel's E-Journal May 2006 - I'm Now A Published Author

As I sit here typing my mind is still in a whirl.  The idea that something I've written is actually getting published seems unreal.  Then again a lot of things I've done in my long life feel that way.


The first time I stepped out onto a stage in vaudeville to play a part in one of the Marx Brothers routines I felt the same way.  I'd been helping out in their rehearsals and knew the routine by heart, so when Gummo wasn't able to appear with his brothers one night, I was drafted then and there.  I'm proud to say that I did not suffer stage fright, but that was mostly because I had Julius, Arthur and Leonard with me.  I knew they had my back and I wasn't about to let them down.  In a way, it was like being back in the Union Army, where I knew I had a bunch of guys watching out for me just as much as I was keeping an eye out for them.  When we finished our routine they made sure I took a bow with them.  After that I started finding myself on stage a number of times with some of the other acts who knew me pretty well.

But I digress.  As my second semester taking writing classes was drawing to a close, one of my instructors urged me to try and submit a few of my short stories to a few magazines for publication.  This was in March and I trusted my instructor's judgement and with their help I prepared a cover letter, synopsis and a sample of one of my stories.  Needless to say the results were pretty much what I half expected...


Not to say I wasn't a little hurt, but my instructor was like, "Good, now you're really on your way to being an author."  Needless to say I gave her a very curious look, but nodded and kept trying.  Withing weeks the responses, or rather more rejections, came rolling in...


Yet in spite of this, Brian, his family, fellow students, and even other members of the English and Literature faculty kept urging me on.  So I kept at it.  Finally, yesterday, I got a response from of all magazines Playboy, who wanted to publish one of my stories. It was one I submitted on a whim to their college fiction contest last year.  I didn't win mind you, but one of the editors kept it on file because he thought it was really good.  

In any case, somehow they were looking to fill space and he remembered my story and contacted me saying they wanted to run it.  Naturally I said yes so next month, my first published short story will be coming out in Playboy Magazine.  I'm hoping the readers like it, or at least those who read Playboy for the articles, all of two of them.

Still, to have my first published story appear in a magazine of that caliber is an honor.  I'm hoping it will help springboard me into other publications or at least get my name out there.  Or rather my pseudonym Daniel Bachmann.  Bachmann was my mother's maiden name and Daniel was my grandfather's name.   Too many people out there know or heard of Nathaniel Steward over the last few decades who don't know my secret.  So a fake name just seemed more appropriate on this occasion.

So my first published work will be sandwiched somewhere in between naked women and... now I'm jealous.  Time to head out and enjoy some nightlife.  I hear there's plenty of great places here in London, and the lights at night are beautiful.  Who knows, I might get an idea for a few more stories.  Yup... I'm a writer all right.  Always thinking about the next tale.







Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Nathaniel's E-Journal December 2005 "Much Ado About Writing"

I'm back in "The Crypt" after having attended the last of my two writing classes for this semester... THANK GOD!   It's been a brutal four months but I made it.  Coming down the steps tonight I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.


When the semester began I thought taking creative and fiction writing classes would be a breeze.  I figured after spending the last sixty years earning two Master's Degrees, a Doctorate and half a dozen Associates and Bachelors I'd be used to writing by now.  But I was wrong.  Oh Lord how I was wrong.

The kind of writing I'd done in the past had been all academia.  I'd been taught how to write for an audience of experts in the field who were already familiar with the topics I was discussing.  I was entering a conversation so to speak where I had to find a way to insert my own ideas while acknowledging what had been already learned.  It was less personal and more cold and fact based.

But writing short stories was a completely new experience, and a very rough one at that.



We started writing the very first day of class so the instructors could see where we were at individually.  My first paper came back covered in so much red, I had to go downstairs to make sure my blood supply hadn't accidentally leaked on it before I turned it in.  After I was sure that hadn't happened, I began to wonder whether or not I should invest in red ink stocks before the semester got any further.  At this rate I'd have made my money back and then some just on my homework.

But things started to get better after that.  Both instructors really started breaking things down into plotting, creative thinking, pacing, point of view, voice, and so many other things.  I began to see how important it was to have a good idea of where you were going with a story.  I tried different methods of plotting my stories including the wall method which kind of got out of hand at one point.


Eventually I wound up using a 'loose outline' to help guide me.  I tried the traditional kind of outline where I clearly had everything planned out from start to finish, which worked, but it didn't quite feel right sometimes.  I'd be working a scene where suddenly I'd have a flash of inspiration which I felt would really make the story more exciting, but it would totally break away from the outline I had so painstakingly perfected.  So I discarded the new idea and stuck to the plan, but a part of me would keep wondering "What if I had used that idea?"  To make things worse this kept happening, so I consulted my instructors who told me to not be so rigid and to maybe explore some of those other ideas after I shared some of them.  One told me, "As long as these ideas enhance the plot and still lead to the ending you have in mind, explore them.  It sounds as if you could've really added a new angle to some of your characters and let the reader get to know them more personally."


So I went back to my laptop and began anew.  I slowly began to understand that what I was being taught in the classrooms were tools and guidelines, not step by step "you have to follow these  instructions to the letter or you'll fail" which was the way I'd been taught in my other classes in the past.  Plus, I had to get to know and understand who my new audience was and what they expected of me.  Eventually, I thought back to when I would tell stories about some of my old friends from vaudeville, the wars, and my childhood to others who knew my secret.  Once I started thinking in those terms I quickly found my 'voice' and the words started to come more easily.

Once this happened my grades began to shoot up.  I still wound up with a B in both classes, but that was because I started out so rough at the beginning.  But tonight, one of my instructors pulled me aside and complimented me on how far I'd come in just one semester.  She was really impressed at how I had learned to capture the voices of my characters as well as describe the settings from different eras in history.  "It was like you were really there..." she told me at one point.  Naturally I had to keep my mouth shut on that point, but still it was quite the compliment.

My other instructor advised me to keep practicing during the holidays and to take his next class in the Spring which would be more advanced.   He thinks I might be able to try submitting a few of my short stories by the summer if I keep this up.  So that is exactly what I plan to do in between visiting some of my extended family during that time.  I need to be in Connecticut by Christmas Eve, as Jason and his family will be expecting me.  Plus there are a few others out that way, I can drop in on as I make my way to New York and a few other places along the east coast.

I find myself smiling now as I sit here at my favorite table in my club.  This had been a very rough semester, but I wouldn't have traded it for the world.  Writing has opened up whole new avenues for me both mentally and emotionally.  I'm using my artist's eye to observe what goes on around me, but now I'm using words as well as paints to capture certain moments.  It's wondrous really and I can't get enough of it.  I want to keep doing this for as long as possible.  I have so many stories to tell already as well as the ones I've yet to experience and share.

A part of me is actually rather eager for February to arrive so I can try and take my new skills to the next level.  But I remind myself that I mustn't forget to live in the here and now. For stories are all fine and good, but being able to draw from life makes them extra special.  Not only to the reader to but to me.  So before I write some of those stories I must live and experience them first.

From where I'm sitting I can see the window looking out onto the steps that lead down here.  I can see it's snowing and now I have a hankering to be out in it.  I want to feel the flakes hitting my face and watch how it transforms the neighborhood.  Yeah, it's time to go out and make some more memories and have a bit of fun I can share in my writing one day down the road.





 




Saturday, July 4, 2015

Lisa's Private Thoughts July 4th, 20--


Happy 4th of July Everyone!


Tonight's fireworks display was spectacular as always.  I have to say here in Pointer we know how to party.  There was a huge barbecue in the park as always where most of the families converged.  Marisa, me and a few others like Teddy had blast.  There was the annual softball game, frisbees flying everywhere, and the traditional water balloon toss.  And as per usual, the waterballoon game turned into an all out water pistol fight thanks to 'certain' individuals who's name begins and ends with the letter N.  Naturally, Uncle Nathan denies the charges even though he was the one who handed me a couple of the water pistols himself claiming they were "Strictly for self-defense."

He doesn't realize I saw him pull another one out of his costume and nailed Marisa with it.  Then he had the nerve to tell her it was me who started it and then handed her a couple of weapons so she could get even.

Amazingly, he managed to stay dry the whole time.  I think it was the outfit that got him spared. 


Dressing up like Richard Henry Lee, the representative from Virginia who first called for the colonies to break away from England during the Second Continental Congress, was a masterstroke.  No one had the heart to mess up his outfit.  Plus it allowed Uncle Nathan to disappear and reappear throughout the festivities as needed.  I know he had to keep hitting the red stuff in order to stay outside on a hot sunny day like this.  And of course, the guise allowed him to wander among all the families, including those who had no idea who or what he really was.  He does this sort of thing every time he spends the Fourth of July with us, which is like every other year.  

After the great water battle ended, a bunch of us felt like cooling in the shade for a while and headed for the large canopy where Uncle Nate was relaxing.  His face was a bit red so I knew he'd just had another bag or two of blood, which meant he'd be good for another couple of hours.  By then the sun would be setting and things would cool off and he'd be all right.

Remembering he needed to 'stay in character' I asked, "Mr. Lee, how does this celebration compare to the ones that took place years ago?  Have they changed much?"



Smiling he began speaking, "Well, my dear, back in my day the morning would start with artillery fire, which woke up most of the town who hadn't already been up.   Then there'd be some cannon and musket firing a little later and there would be a parade.  There'd be music, marching soldiers, and of course there would be speaker who'd gone on for about an hour or two.  Then the real fun began, at least for the men.  They'd head to a tavern while the women went home and took the children with them..."

At that point I had to butt in.  "Hold it, you're saying the women went back to their drab daily lives while the guys partied?  Am I the only girl here who finds that offensive?"

A loud "NO" erupted from all around me, which pretty much included every mom who was present.


Undaunted, Uncle Nathan continued, "I quite agree ladies.  Which is probably why things started changing around the 1850's.  Then the celebrations became more like what we have these days.  Oh there were still the parades, cannons, and muskets, but then most families would to on a picnic and watch the fireworks at night."

Here he paused and glanced around at his audience which had grown considerably, "We've had fireworks since the very first celebration, for those who didn't know.  And yes, we were careful not to burn down the entire town while doing it.  That's another thing that hasn't changed.  We were very proud of our accomplishment and how our country managed to hang in there and stay together.  Oh we've always had our differences of political opinion and what should and shouldn't be allowed, but America has always managed to hang together.  And that's because the people stuck together.  Here in West Virginia we fought to free people who had been denied their rights to be citizens because of skin color.  As a nation we later fought to keep aggressors from threatening our way of life and that of others overseas, not only once but on many occasions.  America was made up of immigrants and welcomed even more who brought many customs and ideas which became part of everyone's life.  And we have to remember that.  Some people complain about others not learning how to speak, read, or write in English, but not everyone did when we first started out.  Some cannot learn because they're too old or unwell and we have to make allowances for that and remember that none of our ancestors knew the native tongues of those who were living here before WE arrived.  But they were tolerant and tried to understand us because they knew some of us came to escape persecution.  In New York harbor there's a very tall lady who still welcomes everyone who wants a chance at a better life or to escape some kind of threat.  Patience, tolerance and understanding is what she represents as well as a second chance at a better life. May we all remember that and try to live up to those promises."

With that he raised a glass and wished us all a Happy Fourth of July and finished with "God Bless America and all who come to her shores."  Once more everyone cheered and I thought, so this is what the 4th of July was like when he was a boy.  We had a parade, a bit of cannon fire, muskets, a huge picnic, comeraderie and now we'd had a speaker.  A speaker who managed to reach out to his audience and make us really think.  And in a few hours we'd have fireworks.   Yeah, this is what the 4th of July should be like.  Thanks Uncle Nathan.