Archive | September, 2013

“Burning Furiously Beautiful” eBook Now Available!

30 Sep

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Happy Monday! I have BIG news to share today. Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an eBook! You can get it for $8.99 at Lulu.

Here’s a bit about the book from Lulu:

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is the most up-to-date and accurate account of the development of American writer Jack Kerouac’s groundbreaking 1957 novel, On the Road. Using archival resources as the foundation of this book, Kerouac scholars Paul Maher Jr. and Stephanie Nikolopoulos have fashioned a gripping account of the internal and external experiences of Kerouac’s literary development.

And here’s our synopsis:

Fueled by coffee and pea soup, Jack Kerouac speed-typed On the Road in just three weeks in April 1951. He’d been traveling America for the past ten years and now, at last, the furious energy of his experiences flowed through his fingertips in a mad rush, pealing forth on a makeshift scroll that he laboriously taped together. The On the Road scroll has since become literary legend, and now Burning Furiously Beautiful sets the record straight, uncovering, among other things, the true story behind one of America’s greatest novels. Burning Furiously Beautiful explores the real lives of the key characters of the novel—Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty, Carlo Marx, Old Bull Hubbard, Camille, Marylou, and others. Ride along on the real-life adventures through 1940s America that inspired On the Road. By tracing the evolution of Kerouac’s literary development and revealing his startlingly original writing style, this book explains how it took years—not weeks—to ultimately write the seemingly sporadic 1957 novel, On the Road. This revised and expanded edition of Jack Kerouac’s American Journey (2007) takes a closer look at the rise of Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation.

The ebook can be read in the following formats: Windows, PC/PocketPC, Mac OS, Linux OS, Nook, Apple iPhone/iPod/iPad, Android, Kindle (Amazon), Sony Reader, Blackberry Devices, Palm OS PDAs, Cybook Opus, Bebook (Endless Ideas), Papyrus (Samsung) Jetbook (Ectaco), Windows Mobile OS PDAs.

A print book is forthcoming.

Friday Links: …Punctuation!

27 Sep

In honor of it being National Punctuation Day earlier this week (the 24th, to be exact), here are some punctuation-related links:::

Mary Norris’ delightful piece on National Punctuation Day in The New Yorker

Literary agent Sterling Lord talks about how deeply Jack Kerouac thought about punctuation in his recent memoir Lord of Publishing

“Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition,” said Kerouac in his “30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life

Alexis C. Madrigal gets to the bottom of William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac duking it out over the Oxford comma in The Atlantic

I suggest The Atlantic is creating their own fauxlore in their beatnik punctuation story

Thoughts on punctuation in haiku, with references to Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, Jack Kerouac, R. H. Blyth, Sora, Yaha, Richard Wright, James Hackett, Choshu, Hashin, L. A. Davison, David Coomler, and e. e. cummings

e. e. cumming’s liked to play with punctuation in poems like r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r

Roi Tartakovsky considers this topic in E. E. Cumming’s Parentheses: Punctuation as Poetic Device

“There are some punctuations that are interesting and there are some punctuations that are not,” says Gertrude Stein in Poetry and Grammar

Poet Bob Holman explains how to read a crossed out word out loud in The Brooklyn Rail

David Foster Wallace used endnotes to capture fractured reality

Check out “the greatest literary project of all time“: The punctuation-named lit journal The Ampersand Review

Punctuation impacts how readers perceive a work, I argue in this Writing Wednesday post

Which punctuation tattoo would you get?

Grammar Girl is the best go-to guide for “quick and dirty tips” on punctuation

Want exclamations in bed?! Check out the punctuation pillows from PB Teen

“Kerouac Opened a Million Coffee Bars”

26 Sep

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In Wrestling with Starbucks: Conscience, Capital, Cappuccino, Kim Fellner writes:

You could, in fact, argue that it wasn’t Schultz [founder of Starbucks] but author Jack Kerouac who popularized these places in the U.S. psyche. As William Burroughs wrote in 1985, “Kerouac opened a million coffee bars and sold a million pairs of Levis to both sexes.”

I think he may be right.

Kerouac coffee links:::

Beatnik Coffee Shop (a photo)

Kafe Kerouac

Beatnik’s Coffee House and Breakfast Joint in Chico, CA

Beatnik Coffee in Fort Collins

Kerouac Coffee Shop

Beatnik’s Coffee in Roseville, MN

 

 

Writing Wednesday: Choosing the Right Writing Tools

25 Sep

Alison Nastasi recently posted a great article on Flavorwire entitled “The Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors.” Critics have long had a disproportionate fascination with Jack Kerouac’s implementation of the typewriter, and I commend Nastasi for noting Kerouac’s use of notebooks.

A Columbia friend of Kerouac’s used to always carry along a little notebook, and Kerouac picked up the practice from him. In fact, his notebooks became so important to him that one of his girlfriends accused him of caring more about taking notes on what was happening around him than actually living life. When I interviewed Kerouac’s Lowell friend Billy Koumantzelis, he mused that Kerouac was always jotting down notes in his hometown bars. As he told me this, the intonation suggested he thought Kerouac was a bit eccentric in his writing habit. In Burning Furiously Beautiful, Paul and I go into more detail about Kerouac’s use of notebooks because it’s an important aspect of his development as a writer.

Truman Capote famously quipped that Kerouac was merely typing, and indeed typewriters are important to understanding Kerouac’s editorial process. His father was a printer so Kerouac grew up accustomed to printing technologies and was a masterful typist. His L.C. Smith and Underwood typewriters allowed him to spill out a mad rush of words, capturing the speed of the highway. These words and ideas, however, were culled from his notebooks.

It’s important for writers to find the right tools for them. Some authors commit their best works directly into their laptops. They are used to composing emails, and typing on the computer is more natural than writing longhand. Other writers, however, find that starting their first draft in a Word document only results in stilted text, as they are too quick to rely on shorthand, thanks to all the time they spend on Twitter. For many writers, a combination of different media work best, as they find the ease of cutting and pasting helpful to their editing process once they’ve gotten a first draft done in a notebook.

For me, personally, it depends on what type of writing I’m doing. If I’m writing a blog post, I indefinitely type it directly into the computer. Blogging isn’t my best writing. I care more about the content than the style when I blog.

If I’m writing research-heavy nonfiction, even then I will often write the majority of it on the computer, as I find it helpful to be able to keep my notes together and play with the placement of quotes. If I hit a wall, I’ll print out the work and mark it up with pen.

For memoir writing, though, I enjoy writing with ink in a notebook or even just a loose-leaf piece of paper. It feels more intimate to me, like I’m writing in my diary or writing a letter to a friend. I do a lot of my editing even with paper and pen.

When I was a teenager, I sometimes wrote on an electric typewriter. I think there was a part of me that had romantic literary notions associated with typewriters. I loved the click-clack of the keys. As an adult, I still see the value of writing on a typewriter. It is too easy to hit the delete key and to play with the order of paragraphs on the computer when starting a draft. Good drafts are often the ones where we don’t censor ourselves, where we commit words to the paper for a good long while before we look at them again and decide what stays and what goes.

Every writer needs to find what works best for them. Sometimes it’s a matter of trial and error. Sometimes it helps to shake up the routine every once in a while.

What are your favorite writing tools?

 

You may also be interested in:

Overarching Writing Tips from Writers from Big Sur: Don’t Censor Your First Draft

I Just Give Myself Permission to Suck

If You Miss a Beat, Create Another

Today’s the Day

 

The Coffee Habit of Jack Kerouac

25 Sep

I’m on a coffee kick! Following up on my post about coffee and personality, I wanted to take a look at Jack Kerouac’s coffee habits.

Although people are quick to point to Jack Kerouac’s proclivity for alcohol, he downed coffee while writing On the Road. Okay, he may have also been hopped up on bennies—that’s Benzedrine—but his intake of coffee during that writing spree is notorious.

In the famous Paris Review interview between Kerouac and Ted Berrigan, Kerouac said that it wasn’t until Satori in Paris that he “wrote with drink at my side (cognac and malt liquor).”

Of writing, Book of Dreams, he explained how coffee entered into his writing process:

Bleary eyes, insaned mind bemused and mystified by sleep, details that pop out even as you write them you don’t know what they mean, till you wake up, have coffee, look at it, and see the logic of dreams in dream language itself, see?

As for how he took his coffee, Kerouac apparently drank it black.

Your Coffee Personality

24 Sep

How do you like your coffee? I read on Yahoo! On the Road that James Moore and Judi James published a book called The You Code: What Your Habits Say About You, which says that your coffee order may give insight into your personality.

This coffee-intertwined-with-one’s-personality hypothesis reminds me of Dean Bakopoulos’ My American Unhappiness. The novel’s protagonist, Zeke Pappas, “psychically” knows customers’ coffee orders at Starbucks. I put “psychically” in quotes because Zeke’s clairvoyance is in reality a parlor trick, educated guesses based on how the customers look and act. In other words, he can guess their coffee order based on their personality.

Moore and James’ The You Code suggests that your coffee order is about more than your taste buds. It’s about who you are deep down inside. For instance: Those who take their coffee black, according to the Yahoo article written by Vera H-C Chan, are “quiet and moody.”

I’m not too picky when it comes to how I take my coffee. When I first began drinking coffee in high school, I drank it black. I think I thought that made me a badass or something. I was far from a badass: the word “badass” makes me uncomfortable; I wouldn’t say it aloud. I actually really liked the taste of coffee, though. It wasn’t something I forced myself to drink to look cool. Coffee felt comforting. Maybe because I associate it with my mom. These days I often take my coffee with milk, putting the milk in first, then the coffee. But not always. Some days I still drink it black, no milk, no sugar. If I’m at Starbucks I usually order a latte—sometimes just a regular latte, but other times, as I consider ordering coffee out a treat, I’ll get a vanilla latte, pumpkin spice latte, or gingerbread latte. When the weather’s warm, I’ll switch to a Frappuccino. Some days, I just drink tea.

The article doesn’t say—though maybe the book does—what it means if you vary your coffee order. Perhaps multiple personality disorder? I’ve always been a bit of a chameleon, adapting to circumstances and refusing to be pigeonholed.

Or perhaps that’s just me being a writer.

Citing Ryoko Iwata’s research, Pooja Thakkar noted one’s profession is indicative of the type of coffee they order. Apparently, we writers like flavored coffee, which might be why I switch up my latte choices.

How do you take your coffee?

From the Ottoman Empire to Greenwich Village: Coffee Houses’ Literary History

23 Sep

It’s Coffee Week! Sunday, September 29, is International Coffee Day, so I’m devoting the entire week to all things coffee.

First, a bit about Coffee Day, via Squidoo:

After a comprehensive research, it looks like that people started to talk about this festival as early as 2005, but there has been virtually on mentioning of this term until 2009 when a few local coffee shops began offering free drinks and discount coupons. In 2010, there has been news on national newspaper that briefly talks about activities on the day.

My conclusion is that the history of this festival is relatively short and my own conspiracy theory is that some sort of a national coffee association started to promote it as a way to generate more business.

So why devote a whole week to International Coffee Day 2013?  Well, one of my missions here on this blog is “embracing the beatific.” For me, part of that means noticing and celebrating the little things in life. So often we get hung up on fancy restaurants that serve rich meals that we take the ordinary for granted, even though it sustains us. A cup of coffee can be a great comfort. A pot of coffee can be shared amongst friends. It can fuel a writer’s creativity.

As usual, I’ll be putting a literary spin on things.

Let me kick things off by first telling you a little about the history of coffee. From what I’ve read, coffee originated in Africa, and by the sixteenth century had found its way over to the Middle East. From there it reached Europe and Asia, only coming to the Americas later on. Having first been cultivated by Arabs, coffee shops were prevalent in the Ottoman Empire. In fact, they became so popular in Mecca—not simply because they served coffee but because they became gathering spots, where people could discuss politics—that they were banned in the early 1500s. Imagine coffee shops as speakeasies!

It was about 1645 when the first European coffee shop opened, and that was in Venice, Italy. Apparently, Greeks had an impact on coffee culture, which is no surprise really when you think about the Greek Empire’s impact on history. Johannes Theodat was a Greek who set up the first coffee shop in Vienna. In any regard, coffee houses became the place for artists and writers to meet in nineteenth-century Europe. Again, it wasn’t so much about the coffee—though certainly there was an art to making a good cup of coffee. Much like Starbucks is today, coffee houses back then were places writers could go in, order a cup of coffee, and spend hours writing or conversing. Low on cost, high on value.

Here in America, we can thank Italian Americans for setting up coffee shops in places like Greenwich Village and North Beach. And wouldn’t you know it, these were the places the writers commonly associated with the Beats hung out. Tiny tenements made for cramped quarters, so eager to socialize on the cheap these poets and novelists met up at coffee shops in the 1940s. By the ’50s, they were doing poetry readings there. Today, many cafes offer poetry readings and live music.

Redeemer Writers Meet Tonight: Fall Writers Workshop

23 Sep

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I’ll be co-leading a fall writers workshop today with my friends Nana, Maurice, and Jane. Here’s the info:

 

Fall Writers Workshop
Monday, September 23rd, 7PM
Redeemer Offices, 1359 Broadway, 4th Floor, Main Conference Room

The Redeemer Writers Group will be hosting a writing workshop for which we invite you to bring a short piece of writing to be read aloud in small groups for on the spot feedback.

It will be a new thing for us as a group and our hope is that it will not only bond us closer as writers as we “put ourselves out there,” but it will sharpen our respective crafts to the ultimate glory of God.

Clip: 8 Contemporary Syrian Artists to Know

20 Sep

With devastating allegations that the Syrian government was responsible for chemical attacks on more than three hundred of its own citizens this past August and nightly news reports detailing the atrocities of civil war, the world casts its collective eye on Syria. Political pundits and laymen alike argue whether the US should step in and take military action.

Syria is more than a land of strife. Its capital, Damascus, is reportedly the oldest continuously inhabited city in the entire world.

From the bible, we know Damascus as the place where Paul was converted to Christianity. By the nineteenth century, Syria significantly contributed to the literature of the Arab world. Today, Damascus has an influential music scene. Syria’s contemporary art speaks to this rich culture as well as its atrocities.

Art preserves history. It is a visual lens through which we can better understand the socio-political milieus that have gone before us and that we live through today. Artists are particularly tuned into the world around them. They interpret what they see through paintings, photography, sculpture, cartoons, and collage, and in turn we may come to understand issues pertaining to religion, the economy, gender, and power through their civilian eyes. Their images may reach us in ways that words—particularly that of news reports—cannot.

Read more of my art post “8 Contemporary Syrian Artists to Know” on Burnside Writers Collective.

Tonite: I’m Talking with Tim Z. Hernandez

19 Sep

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Just a quick reminder that I’ll be expanding upon my interview with award-winning poet Tim Z. Hernandez at La Casa Azul (143 E. 103rd, NYC) tonight at 6:00. We’ll be talking about his new book Manana Means Heaven, whether Jack Kerouac was a womanizer, what it’s like to write sex scenes about someone’s grandmother, the difference between fiction and creative nonfiction, and a whole lot more.

Tim will give a reading and will sign books — and DJ Aztec Parrot will be spinning music from the 1940s and ’50s.

I’m super excited! Hope to see you there!!

Mediabistro posted about the event here.

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In the meantime, check out the awesome photos of Bea Franco and Tim’s guest post over on Rick Dale’s blog The Daily Beat, read an excerpt of Manana Means Heaven on La Bloga, and stop by to see Tim on The Big Idea. Then, follow along on the rest of Tim’s blog hop:

Friday, September 20 | The Dan O’Brien Project http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com/

Saturday, September 21 | Impressions of a Reader http://www.impressionsofareader.com/

If you happen to be in the New York area, Tim Hernandez will also be on a panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday:

The Poet & the Poem: Natalie Diaz (When My Brother Was an Aztec), Alex Dimitrov (Begging For It), Lynn Melnick (If I Should Say I Have Hope) and Tim Hernandez (Mañana Means Heaven) will examine politics and identity in poetry, and the complex ways in which a poet’s work can become intertwined with the poets’ personal narrative. Moderated by Hafizah Geter, Cave Canem Foundation.