Sep 23

Writing Process Blog Tour

Man Writing

Jeebus, has it been this long since I’ve taken electron in hand and posted here?  While the question is rhetorical in nature, the reality is it’s been far too many months since I’ve bothered to even look here, never mind post.

Many thanks to my Twitter-Daughter, Megan for the nomination, I hereby point the fickle finger of fate at Heather Grace Stewart and Joe Hesch because it’s Tuesday and why not, right?  Thanks to my Twitter-Daughter for the kick in the pants that made this post happen.

What are you working on?

I’ve been scribbling lines of verse in my notebook, actually trying to arrange them in something close to a poem or three.  Mainly, I’ve been listening.  Gathering ideas for later use or quiet study.

What I haven’t been doing is working on anything with a goal in mind.  Which means my iPod Challenge series is still 25 entries from completion and I’ve only submitted one poem this year.  Which is misleading because I got tired of waiting so I withdrew it.

I have been pushing a pencil around a bit trying to draw, but like previous attempts it gets put to the side because it’s so much harder than it looks.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t honestly know that I have a genre to call my own.  I do know that my poetry breaks all sorts of rules, that I play fast and loose with bizarre and “unconventional” line breaks and due to my laziness, I write very short pieces.  That may be because my ideas are narrow in focus or germination or it’s because I enjoy the feeling of being “done” more than trying to flesh out the ideas to their logical conclusion.  Because, that’s work.

Why do you write what you do?

I write what comes to mind.  Most of it is directly influenced by what I’m reading or ingesting on the screen.  Words and phrases will ignite something in my head and my pen follows along.  Sometimes the ideas are good and sometimes they just sound pretty but mean little of value.  I think having an undisciplined mind hurts my writing, as well as a lack of goals or willingness to fail miserably.

How does your writing process work?

It’s slowly been evolving from write, scratch out, scribble, drink coffee/tea/beer/water, eat something, pick my finger nails, pick up my pen, check Facebook, SHINY! Time for something else, to just carrying around a notebook and thinking about writing and not actually writing to not even thinking about it very much.

Currently, it’s writhing on paper then an attempt to make some sort of sense or at least tease the meaning from the mess.  Trying to break thru the fear of failure or mediocrity or actually doing something well and raising expectations is what lies behind my self-deception of “writer’s block”.

Looking in my notebook, which is where almost all poems are drafted first, and half of other things, I see a pattern forming.  I write out draft sketches, based around an idea or series of words.  I then throw other ideas out on the page, which is typically the right page only.  I sometimes change pen colors and make changes, or notes.  Sometimes I make notes or critiques on the left page and use arrows (occasionally with circles and a paragraph, sometimes not).  Then I turn the page and try again.  It seems that when I do this, with clear paper, the ideas don’t swirl around as much.  They find a place to land and become organized.I have been viewing of my poems as ideas looking for their way home.

I’ll be back soon with the rest of the countdown…

Feb 15

Guest Post – Americana, Five Example by Scot Isom


Today’s Guest Post is by the ever humble Scot Isom.  Take it away, Scot!


When Mark asked me to do a guest blog, I didn’t hesitate. Since I knew he occasionally had guest bloggers, I already knew what I would write about should he ask. I share Mark’s passion for music, though clearly my taste is better (EDITOR’S NOTE: “Hey, now!”).

First of all, I have degrees in art and art history, was an airborne infantryman in the 82nd Airborne and write poetry and fiction. Somehow I ended up in Kansas City and deliver mail to pay the bills.

I could have chosen the Boss, or Neil Young, the rapper Brother Ali, or Pete Seeger. Instead, I am writing about Uncle Tupelo and Americana. I love Americana music because it continues the great storytelling of Faulkner and Steinbeck. Americana songs are all well written narratives which set you into the scene.

So, I will set the scene. My taste in music has been a continual evolution as my life evolved. I dwelled for awhile in the world of arena rock. In the army, I passed through heavy metal and found a home in punk which lasted into college. My taste in music became tastes in music. I now have eclectic tastes which are shaped from all my past music loves.

I was in grad school studying art history in Columbia, MO when I noticed another student wearing an Uncle Tupelo concert t-shirt. He had seen them the night before. His passion for their music triggered my curiosity. That evening I bought both Uncle Tupelo albums (they made a total of four). Over the next few years, I would catch them every time they came to Columbia and I continued to follow the two groups which formed when Uncle Tupelo broke up. Uncle Tupelo was at the forefront of the genre of music called No Depression so named after the title track of their first album. Now more commonly known as Alt-Country or Americana, the genre is still going strong and is always on my playlist.

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Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy of Uncle Tupelo were influenced by everything from The Carter Family and Leadbelly to Husker Du. The song “Still Be Around” written by Farrar is off their second album Still Feel Gone.

Uncle Tupelo imploded just after they landed their big record contract. Farrar continued Uncle Tupelo’s country influence forming the group, Son Volt. Their first album, Trace is on my top ten list of favorite albums. In the opening track, “Windfall,” Farrar writes a classic short story.

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Tweedy went a completely different direction and formed Wilco. Their first album was Americana, but with the second album, he looked more to The Beatles than The Carter Family. He opens the second album, Being There with the song, “Misunderstood” a which has become a concert staple for the band. Wilco was no longer Americana.

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No Depression became a rock genre with Uncle Tupelo, but it has been around since the 1960’s. Gram Parsons brought country to rock with the International Submarine Band and The Byrds. The opening track of his last album “The Return of the Grievous Angel” is an excellent example.

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Finally, you can’t write about Americana without looking toward Texas and Townes Van Zandt. He wrote several albums full of great songs and still found a way to never make any money. On the album, Together at the Bluebird Cafe (live with Steve Earle and Guy Clark), he describes losing his gold tooth in a poker game and pulling the wrong tooth to settle his debt. One of Van Zandt’s many great songs is “Tecumseh Valley.”

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Americana is alive and well with the music of Ryan Adams, Gillian Welch, and newer artists such Blitzen Trapper and Blind Pilot. I have eclectic tastes in music, but, at this point in my life, I find myself most at home in a scene set by an Americana singer.

Feb 14

26. Don’t Change


I found a love I had lost
It was gone for too long
Hear no evil in all directions
Execution of bitterness
Message received loud and clear


I fell in love with INXS before many others did.  It was the early days on MTV when they actually played music, talked about music and it wasn’t an afterthought.

Thefirst song on the album “Shabooh Shoobah” was ‘The One Thing’ and was the first video I saw.  The video itself, like many video’s from the time, was sort of “well, we gotta do something, so let’s do….THIS!” and it made no sense.  However, I loved the song.  So, I bought the tape and it became a part of my life soundtrack then.

Time passed, and the last song on the cassette became my favorite.  For many reasons, but at first it was it was so anthematic, so bombastic and so 80’s. Heavy keyboards, what sound like electric drums, and super fast guitar strumming combined to make a timeless song of its own time and place.

At least to me, it did.

I still love to turn this one up, turn it loud and bellow along…

Thanks for reading and be here tomorrow for another Great Guest Post!

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here

Feb 13

27. Under the Cold Streetlights


Come now, I’m leaving here tonight
Come now, let’s leave it all behind
Is that the price you pay?
Running through hell, heaven can wait


Is this a song of victory or a lamentation?  Based on the lyrics, it’s difficult to tell.

Still, having known a wide variety of people through the course of my life, I have seen that long road to ruin in people’s eyes.  It’s typically a loss of hope.  It’s a road with many exits, yet many people elect not to take an off ramp as that means change and change is scary.

Which can make this song an anthem of sorts, a victory march with a kick-ass guitar solo that ends right when it’s supposed to.  This song, like life, is what you make of it.

Thanks for reading!

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here

Feb 12

28. Penny Lane


Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
A four of fish and finger pies
In summer meanwhile back


Quite possibly the most British of their output, the nostalgia evoked in this song is done so well, that it crosses oceans, cultures, times and peoples.  The feelings it evokes for that which is past makes this one of the most effective songs of this style.

It’s also just a damned good record and quite possibly my favorite by The Fabs…

Thanks for reading!

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here