Nothing Rhymes with Orange: A Poem

Nothing Rhymes with Orange

 

The Corn Hill streets are

Orange with leaves as

Orange sirens whizz by, the sound of

O R A N G E

Ringing in my ears, cigarette smoke rolls from the

Dark porch next door, an

Orange ember barking in October’s northern

Orange wind. Nothing rhymes with

Orange in the fall.

 

But it’s all around anyhow.

I’m a Writer and I Suck

I have to be honest, being a writer sucks.

There’s so much that I like about it. But there’s one part that I hate and unfortunately it’s the most important part of this job. Before I get to the part that I hate I need to remind myself of all the things I really like about it because again, being honest here, there’s days that I want to chuck my laptop out my window and quit over this one really important thing.

Here’s what my process looks like in order. I’ll follow that with the thing that I hate the most because sometimes that thing comes before and sometimes it comes after the following:

Research

I actually love the research part. I’ve written articles about sports, tech gadgets, bit coin, therapy and digestion. I’ve written poetry, short stories, novels, plays, and essays and every single thing I’ve ever written usually takes at least some research. It might not even be while you’re preparing to write or while your writing it, but some sort of digging has led me to be inspired to write a short story or a poem. Trying to write a short story about a man who fires a Desert Eagle? Head to the firing range with an ex-cop and learn something! That’s the best part of being a writer. I don’t have to actually choose a profession, I get to try them all on for a bit.

Trying to write a short story about a man who fires a Desert Eagle? Head to the firing range…

Planning and Development

Remember in high school when you learned to make an outline for your essay? Yup. That’s all this is. Every paragraph has about 4 or 5 sentences, the topic sentence starts it off and then a few supporting sentences. The last sentence may segue into the next paragraph. But tone and theme must be chosen and then each paragraph needs to fit into that mold. The prose and syntax is where the creativity can shine through. That was a segue sentence.

Creativity

This is absolutely hands down the best part of writing! You just write. Sounds simple and it is. A runner might say that they hit their high and don’t remember the last ten miles. This can be this part of the writing process where your head is down, the fingers are moving, and the brain is on a roll. To me this part can kind of be like watching a movie. I can see the events unfold and I’ll be damned if my fingers can’t move fast enough. I don’t stop for misspelled words or other common mistakes. This is machine gun typing and it’s total madness and it’s friggin’ awesome.

First Edit

Kind of boring but you need to fix all that machine gun typing. Capitalization, correct punctuation, misspellings, goofy errors and other easy to spot mistakes are taken care of here. This usually gets done the next day after a machine gun session when I feel a bit more calm and collected. It’s a completely necessary piece of the puzzle.

Second Edit

Here’s where it gets tricky. This is the body language of the written word. Tone can cover up the theme and sometimes the theme gets lost inside the tone. This goes for the whole piece and also for each and every sentence. “Can this sentence be rearranged”? “Can this sentence be said in a different way”? These questions get asked about every single utterance on the page. In a short piece, an off sentence can really derail a reader and authenticity can be quickly sidelined with a few badly written sentences. (See what I did there? Badly should be replaced with poorly!) As a writer all you have is your words so make ‘em goodly.

Third Edit

This is where I read the piece out loud and if I can’t smoothly read a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter without fumbling over my own mouth then something needs to change. It’s all about flow, baby. Make it flow. Make it beautiful. Make it unique. Make it make it because if you can’t sit there and read it and be entertained and feel the prose come alive then the editor won’t either and that means the reader won’t. Fix the spots that seem awkward.

Fourth Edit

Writing ain’t got nothing to do with writing and everything to do with rewriting and editing. I know I missed something and chances are I missed several things. Read back through very carefully.

Final Read Through

I have a very close friend and editor and this is where I would send it to her but not every article goes through her so sometimes this part is left up to me. For larger pieces she would read through here, put down her comments and I would go back to the first edit stage with what she wrote, sometimes having to wade through the creative stage again. But for smaller pieces I take one last read through and send it. If the editor of the magazine, website, etc. has any edits that need my approval it will come back to me, but nine times out of ten those edits are made without my approval (who the hell am I?) and the piece goes to publication.

Now we can get to the part that I freakin’ detest.

Like I said at the beginning this can sometimes come before the research stage or sometimes it comes after the Final Read Through stage. But it doesn’t matter where it rears its ugly head, I hate it no matter what. But it is more important than all the other stages combined if you want to get published. If you are only writing for you and you never want to share it then this stage will not matter to you and you no longer have to read my drivel.

The Query

You must query. A query is a question that you ask. That’s it. And it’s either “hey do you want me to write this thing so you can publish it”? or it’s “I wrote this thing, do you want to publish it”? Sounds simple enough but there’s a real art to it. I’m not very good at it and it’s by far my biggest downfall as a writer. But here’s why I hate it so much. Everything I believe in and want to write, feel passionate about, love, hate, ideas that I have, damn near everything that can evolve or devolve from writing comes down to a query. They’re about one page long and sometimes include a bio.

So all in all, you have a few sentences to prove to a total stranger, or an editor that you’ve worked with several times but actually never met in person, that whatever the hell you are going to write or have already written is worthy of getting paid for and for publishing. A lot of editors own the company you’re querying, or this is the editor’s dream and brain child and they want to know how you fit into their master plan, their complicated equation, their literary take-over. It’s depressing to think about and because of this my queries stink and I struggle for publication.

The best and most dramatic example is the current novel I’m shopping around. It took me six years to write it and it all comes down to a one pager to a stranger. It happened with a stage play I was shopping around too.

I ended up getting invited to a meeting filled with producers. I gave my one pager away to all of them. No one bit. Two and a half years of developing a stage play and I got fifteen minutes in a room full of producers who ultimately told me to take a hike. Then I had to read how they were reviving Guys and Dolls or some adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird because they knew audiences would come to that. No one is going out of their way to see some play they’ve never heard of by a guy they don’t know.

No one is going out of their way to see some play they’ve never heard of by a guy they don’t know.

It’s gut wrenching and keeps me awake at night. It’s probably the reason writers have the stigma of being drunk and staying up late, smoking by a dim light and eerily staring out the window to  an empty street.

That’s not me. I don’t smoke.

Anyway, I trudge on, trying to get through one cruddy query at a time, trying to make a little money and hoping to catch that break that everyone keeps talking about. I started freelancing around 2007. So it’s only been twelve years. I’m not sure how long you have to wait for your break, but I think I can go another twelve years, another few novels, a few more plays, a thousand more articles, hundreds of poems, and countless mind numbing, gut wrenching queries.

Anthony N. White Blog

Cattle Crossing

I wait. Then I wait some more. The I twiddle my thumbs, play on my phone, and do some more waiting. I’m standing at a cattle crossing and hoping that I actually see some cattle cross. Why does it take so long? Why would they put up a sign that says cattle will be crossing if in fact they do not continuously cross?

Truth is, I’m not at a cattle crossing. I am however at a crossing of sorts.

I have said over and over again that finding a literary agent or a publisher that will take a writer not under contract to publish a novel is much like sitting in front of a cattle crossing sign and hoping to hell you see some cattle. The signs are there for you to know where to find the agents, where to find the publishers that take unsolicited manuscripts from writers without agents. They are not hard to find, but once you get there it’s a whole other story.

No doubt that who you know is much more important that what you know. Pop star Cardi B owns 5 cars but has no idea how to drive. She also can’t rap. But that doesn’t matter because she’s connected. Paris Hilton wrote a book that sold well called “Confessions of an Heiress”. She received $100,000 advance on that book, her first. That’s an unheard of amount. But she’s connected and they knew it would sell due to being famous.

Those are extreme examples but they set the tone for the truth. I’m sitting here querying agents and publishers when I should be out there trying to make real connections with real people. I’m good at it really, but Rochester, New York is not a budding literary scene with agents just waiting at every corner. So now what?

Drink until I pass out!

No. That’s not helpful. Just keep writing, keep querying, and keep the dream alive. It’s pretty easy to get depressed when your sitting here alone at night hacking away at the keyboard and thinking “why the hell should anyone in the world care what you write”?

Before you know it you’re giving up and bowing out, convinced that your words are no better than anyone else’s, determined that your ideas and stories will remain embedded in a heap of convoluted rubbish instead of being neatly stacked on a shelf.

It’s a boring metaphor but the sun rises. Every day. Even if it’s buried beneath so many clouds you can barely see it. Even if it’s brick outside and it doesn’t seem to do any good, it’s still came up. Every day. Every damn day.

 

Thank Your Teachers: A Tribute to Dave Fish

It was my freshman year of college when I met Dave. He was in the graduate program at hippy haven SUNY New Paltz teaching Freshman Comp 101.  I landed in his class by mere fate or maybe some sort of secret lottery system I’m not sure of, but either way I was there.

Dave was going to show us what the Beat Generation meant to the world of literature and I was eager and ready having known for years who Allen Ginsberg was, his sad bearded face adorned a Rolling Stone that showed up some years before after his death on my parent’s coffee table. I read the article and was amazed that one man could do so much with poetry.

The novel that was assigned to us that class was Jack Kerouac’s masterpiece On the Road. I had no idea what was about to happen to me. I knew that I had been assigned many books to read in English classes, most of which were either good enough to finish or important enough to get through. My favorites up until that point were Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath. I thought I was just a huge Steinbeck fan, little did I know how little I knew.

I read On the Road in one day. My eyes couldn’t stop darting around the pages and I needed more. I couldn’t wait to get to class every day to see what everyone else thought, to see what Dave had to say, to see what the narratives that were extracted smelled and felt like. I was, in part, obsessed, because I learned, Kerouac was more than just a writer, he was a rule breaker, a punk rocker, the beginning of the “hippy” movement and possibly the end and beginning of something bigger generationally in America.

Being immersed in the heart of the dragon every day, surrounded by neo hippy socialites and pot smoking sandal wearing patchouli addicts made me see why Jack drank himself to stupidity and eventually death. By the time the class had ended I not only had read other books by Jack, but a biography as well. I knew Jack like I knew myself, in and out, and was seriously pained to see how misconstrued his messages had become, the consumerism of it all, the lost art of jazz, true prose exploding like roman candles across the sky.

But Dave, he understood. He knew what Jack meant! He was explaining it daily and in terms I had never thought of. “Mississippi Gene is Buddha!” Dave yelled and my pen hit the paper to make a note. My brain was melting. “You don’t need to write this down”, I thought. “Jesus! This is life shit!”

Standing in the Shawangunk Mountains late one afternoon, the sun starting to disappear behind the peaks, the chilly air starting to casually stroll in, my stomach reminding me to go back to campus and hit the dining hall, and I realized what it was I wanted to do. Of course, I always knew it, but I needed this moment for it to become concrete.

I wrote my first book when I was in first grade. I was on the news. It was a Christmas book, but more Stephen King and Tim Burton than your typical Christmas story. Although I had no idea what macabre was I was certainly already dabbling in it.

In the book, Santa had been impersonated by the Devil, who went around killing children, then made toys from their bones and gave the toys as presents to other children.

It’s fucked, I know.

And the worst part is, they don’t catch the devil in the end. The lead detective, a woman named Kristy, is unable to solve the crime. The ending was either intentionally left open for a sequel or more importantly, was a precursor to the way I saw all literature, further backed and corroborated by the Beat Generation more than a decade later.

Even at an early age I always wondered why there had to be a well-defined good guy and bad guy in every story. Real life never works this way. Sometimes you’re the good guy and sometimes you’re the bad guy.

Sometimes you learn a bunch of stuff and change your ways and sometimes you learn a bunch of stuff and don’t change a damn thing. If life is never so cut and dry why should literature be?

Art imitates life. I have always considered writing an art before it is entertainment. Good art makes for good entertainment, but good entertainment isn’t necessarily art.

In New Paltz, under the distinct tutelage of Dave fish, I was shown that other people thought this way and I wasn’t alone. My thoughts were suddenly vindicated, it was a relief and a burden all at once. I couldn’t give up and I wouldn’t.

In order to break the rules I had to first learn them and I did, imitating Kerouac, Ginsberg, Brautigan, Baraka, Corso, Snyder, and others. I spent so much time writing that I forgot to go to math class, business class, science class, and pretty much every other class. I helped start a poetry group and an on campus magazine that centered on poetry as art. I eventually dropped out of school completely and moved to the city of Syracuse to become the next Jack Kerouac.

I became a waiter instead.

I did go back and eventually graduate college with a degree in writing and since have pressed forward as the struggling writer that I have always wanted to be. But you can’t live out your dreams without a lot of people standing behind you encouraging you and aiding you along the way.

You never know where your inspiration can come from as a writer or as any individual ready to move forward and progress. What I may not have understood at the time but certainly do now is that my progress had to embrace the complete weirdness that I know resides inside me. But it’s hard to let that out.

You’re growing a second head that if you let it out people are going to look at you differently. I needed someone to tell me that it was acceptable and that others had done it before, to cultivate the plant of weirdness that has already rooted in the soul was actually a good thing. Let them think you’re weird, because, well, you are. Weird is unique. Unique is art. Art is entertainment.

The reason I’m a weird writer isn’t Dave’s fault. That burden probably falls on my parents. But the enrichment of my weirdness that led me to become a writer?

That one’s on you, Dave.

The Writer

When I was in college I had a professor get an overstuffed ego when his book was published and he won an award. He became so bloated he could barely fit into a classroom and even filled lecture halls with the stink of his gloat.

I hated him with most of my might. I was eighteen and didn’t give a damn about his dumb book. I just wanted to know how to get where he was.

On the final exam one of the questions was “What’s the difference between an author and a writer?” My response? “A writer writes and an author auths”. I actually received one point.

What this particular professor taught me, even though he did not mean to teach me anything, was that in order to be a writer you need to write. That’s it. It’s really that simple. But there’s so much gut tearing, so many hernias at every turn, gallons of sweat and annoyance, and infinite amounts of brain freeze with every key stroke that it’s so difficult for even the best writer.

So I wrote this email to myself on September 9th of 2017. I wrote it and saved it and I look at it as much as I can to help defeat writers block, help remember the importance of the writer, and to take the chance of freezing up my brain with another key stroke again and again.

The Writer

The writer is always at odds with him/her self, always trying to explain and justify their view, and going against popular belief now because it won’t’ be popular forever.

The writer is always creating the narrative of society when the narrative doesn’t exist, is constantly hearing the opposite of what they believe and will do anything to convince a straggling few that what they are seeing is a vision of the future, a glimpse into what is to become, however impossible that may seem at the time.

The writer isn’t about going against the norm on purpose, but because they can’t see it any other way, it’s not being contrarian just to rouse, but making sure people are roused to stay contrarian. The writer will bring something that isn’t’ in the limelight into view and do it even though there is no reception. The writer graduates into the next realm and lives to tell the tale, but it’s all for nothing because the writer won’t have the money and won’t have much recognition, but it gets done anyway.

The writer writes because if the writer doesn’t he/she will fucking explode.

The writer would rather be in writing than be in person because it’s not about standing in the spotlight, it’s about holding the spotlight, a light that most people won’t notice until it’s gone. What the writer identifies with now will make sense after the generation he or she exists in no longer exists.

The writer writes because writers write.