Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Day One of Class...

I might have said:

For the purposes of this course there are only two kinds of writers: those of who are of use to you & those who aren't.

I hope you'll write some wonderful work on purpose, but first let's just try to write well by accident.

And then I also might have argued that all fiction writing is accidental.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Round-Up of Stuff I've Recently Tweeted (of the writerly variety)

On Writing… 
I prefer straddling two worlds, the one we basically agree on as reality and one that I completely control called fiction. A compromise.
The more complex the story (& world) you're writing, the more advantageous to have a straightforward point of view. A complex narrative with a chatty narrator who will just state things, for example, is smart.
Language compression and early aggressive use of white space allows for real breadth of narrative.
Sometimes you have to print the novel/poem out; only on paper will that snarling you hear show its muzzle, its bared teeth.
"I want to build an artificial heart, but you're not going to go from zero to a whole heart overnight." Kit Parker, bioengineer #noveladvice

On Poetry…
this might be controversial, but, look, the names of some poetry presses make it hard for me to take them seriously, as they deserve to be.

On Reviews…
my fave subgenre within the Amazon Review canon: the reviewer critiques the person who recommended or gave them the book as a gift.

On Teaching…
Sometimes I refer to my younger self in class as "Young Baggott." As in, "Young Baggott would have obnoxiously argued against..."

Arguing Against “If You Can Dream It…” in 9 Tweets
"If you can dream it, you can achieve it," is missing a basic component, actual work. It's actually mean unrealistic & weird.
"If you can dream it, you can achieve it" undercuts the whole notion of dreams, often wonderful b/c they can't be achieved only dreamed.
The whole notion of "wanting something badly enough" is also a weird mind-game & toxic after failure.
It's not that you had strong competition or the industry is flooded or you need to work harder but your desire is intrinsically flawed?
People achieve things they weren't dreaming of, actually, often when they're engaged not in "wanting it badly enough" but the actual work.
Maybe this: dream unachievable things if you want & then devote yourself to the work at hand (probably b/c you need it).
If you'd asked me at 20 if I dreamed of publishing 20-some books, I'd have said no, of course not or I'd have ignored you b/c I was writing.
Visualization is something different. A box jump begins with imagining yourself on top of the box. It's powerful especially in sports.
I'd like to read an article that interviews a number of successful people who never really thought they'd be successful. #didntdreamit

Monday, August 22, 2016

Okay... so here:

Let's say you have a chunk of a novel that's not working. The story is in place, more or less, but the urgency or voice or the sentence-to-sentence chemistry is off. You don't need to change the story as much as you need to change how its told. What if, as a completely cocky exercise, you sit down and write the first paragraph of the novel as if it were written by Marquez then Aimee Bender then Michael Cunningham then Colson Whitehead then Stephen King then Atwood then Zadie Smith. [Insert your own author-picks here -- and, of course, specific books.] It's not that your work would end up sounding like theirs (what a lovely problem you'd have then) but you'd find, perhaps, a new way in -- a new and inspired way in.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

prying open process...

This semester, for each story my writing students read, I'm going to ask them to do something I've never asked before. Invent a moment(s) in the author's life in which a glimmer of this story came to them. Don't research the writer's life. Don't look up interviews. Just, while reading the story, reflect on the writer's possible points of entry from life to story. The point isn't to gain insight into this or that published writer's process, but into the student's individual creative processes, to have them acknowledge that writers have creative processes (including themselves), to engage with the idea that the story didn't exist and then it did, but it didn't arrive whole.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sh*t Baggott Tweets About Writing

Writing a novel is pouring foundation while simultaneously stitching the quilt over the character and dreaming their dreams for them.

Let's say the Idea for a Novel is a locked house; voice is the key to the door, the jimmy for the window.

Writing a novel is drafting blueprints while oil painting a corner of the canvas then revising the blueprints accordingly.

I can sketch the plot but I have to simultaneously write the novel's opening to see if it has texture, voice, urgency.

I call it "mud-hoofing" a scene. Plot-wise something specific must happen. You feel like a puppet-master. Rely on details to make it real.

A grad writing student was telling me about what each professor had taught him. I asked what I'd taught him, had no idea. "You? The body."

When in doubt, remember your character has a body. Writers tend to exist in their heads but the body should sometimes lead.

Writing a novel is being able to build a house while ignoring its sinkholes. You have to be able to write with blind-spots.

Being an incredibly messy person has helped me as a novelist who can write first drafts where I just don't see the mess.

I wrote to music for the first time in my career recently. It turned out to be excellent -- IF you read it with the right soundtrack.

If you want to follow, I'm @jcbaggott ... 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Today's Tweets ...

My writing students get pounded with structure & then I teach them 3 Act structure by breathing in, holding my breath then breathing out.
Structures (3-acts, 5-acts, rising action...) are just paths through the jungle that someone's already cleared by hacking with a machete.
Writing is metabolic. Writers vary in the amount they can take in (reading, living, breathing...) before they need to create.
(I tweet on writing @jcbaggott. This is what I wrote today. Thought I'd share with you writerlies here.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ten years since my last collection, I have a new book of poems coming out this spring -- Instructions: Abject & Fuming. But, people, PEOPLE, the art on the cover is by this young up-and-coming artist whose work I love. Check out VICTORIA MAXFIELD. 

(The cover image we chose is on this page; try to guess which weirdness we much lush oddness to choose from.)

Monday, August 8, 2016

First Seven Jobs.

Seeing people post their first seven jobs makes me rethink my childhood. The list below is a look into the mind of the grandchild of a pool-hall hustler. It's still my job to hustle. Today, is the pub day for The 7th Book of Wonders in paperback -- and, look, it was a top 100 New York Times Notable and an Entertainment Weekly pick and Kirkus pick. There's not much more I can do except tell you to buy it. So I have. And now how a glimpse into how I started out, not in writing but in hustling... 

1. Dog-Trainer/Dog-Ride Owner and Operator. I would get neighborhood kids on rollerskates in summer and on sleds in winter and get my dog to pull them around our dead end – for cash. I paid my dog in marshmallows from the kitchen. All gross, no net.

2. Performer. I charged my family to watch me and my best friend put on Carol Burnett like skits in the living room.

3. Day Camp Owner and Operator. By ten or eleven, I ran a camp on my porch where neighborhood moms could leave their kids for a couple hours. One mom ran a daycare and would drop off her own kids and the kid she was supposedly watching.

4. By 12 or so, I was babysitting for a dental hygienist. 8-hour days, two kids, ages 2 and 4 or so. At twelve? It was a different time.

5. Eventually I got (and was fired from) a filing job at an eye doctor’s office.

6. I was a terrible caterer. My boss said he’d never seen someone do so little work. He was actually pretty impressed. One of our gigs was a lunch stand for a banking convention. I had to give change by doing math in my head. I’d basically take the money and then hold out a bunch of change and tell them to take the right amount because I couldn’t do the math.

7. Deli worker. Now this I was good at. I eventually could guess slices down to less than a quarter pound by holding them in my hand – so when I gave birth and the obstetrician held the baby and guessed her weight – and the nurses gushed -- I was seriously unimpressed.