A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #15 – The Coffepot

This is the story of a young man who was an excellent speller. He won seven spelling bees in a row, dominating the competition year after year after year. And then, in the eighth grade, with a trip to regionals (and state! and nationals!) on the line, this champion lost for the first time in his life, shocking the town.

How could this happen? How did he stumble?

Readers, I have some tough news to deliver. A difficult set of truths.

The Eighth Grade Spelling Bee of Cadbridge, Wisconsin, in the Year of Our Lord 1984, was fixed. Completely rigged. The boy, the potential champion, lost on purpose. For reasons that remained murky for years, he threw the bee.

I know because I was that boy.

It was the worst thing I ever did. But not for the reasons you might expect.

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Today’s Comment of the Week

From Wonderful Reader nilochahtims, commenting on A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #3 – The Blood Cake:

I started reading, and I could not stop. I had my daughter read the first two sentences, and she could not stop. Same with my wife. My favorite was the ear: icing on the cake. An ID-photo goodbye cake is just the tacky thing to expect in retrospect. It reminds me of all the people one would never know if work were not necessary to pay the rent.

It’s hard to imagine a nicer compliment. Thank you!

You can read about the unstoppable struggle I had with my officemate Jerry Seinfeld, or visit the 100 Objects page for links to all the stories.

Blog Tour Update: My Little Book Blog Takes the Baton!

Reminder of where we are on the Writing Process blog tour:

  1. Devon Trevarrow of The Starving Artist wrote an excellent post about setting goals, as well as some interesting details about her genres and her forthcoming works. A great read.
  2. Yours truly wrote a little bit about his own process. Unfortunately I kind of blew past the guidelines, instead writing a few thousand words about John Lennon and Stu Sutcliffe, John’s best friend and the Beatles’ first bassist. (I meant well! It really was about writing process!)
  3. And now…old friend of the Jacke Blog (see here and here) Lizzy Baldwin of the irrepressible My Little Book Blog tells how she turned from university magazine book reviewer to blogger extraordinaire. As always, Lizzy’s enthusiasm and practical wisdom shine through in every sentence. She also has a good roster of fellow bloggers on tap for next week, so the writing process tour is in good hands.

My thanks to Devon for inviting me, and for Lizzy for taking up the baton with such a thoughtful and compelling post (and my other guest, Hibou, whom I will be featuring in another post). It’s great to see the community of indie authors, writers, reviewers, and commentators all joining in together. Onward and upward with a classic from the Queen of Love herself:

 

 

“An Easy and Sophisticated Read”: A Review of The Promotion by My Little Book Blog

“An incredibly quick read…this is a book that makes the reader think…” – My Little Book Blog 

Wow, another great day here on the Jacke blog. I’ve been very fortunate with positive reviews, and the latest review of The Promotion (from Lizzy of My Little Book Blog, who also reviewed The Race a while ago) is another one to print out and hang on the refrigerator.

I love everything about this review; it’s hard to clip passages. But I’ll start with this:

One of the things that I loved most about the book was Wilson’s ability to create so much content in such a short amount of space. We see the main protagonist build, and build to a peak, before seemingly spiraling out of control, unable to deal with the facts he has been told. The mix of trouble and depression contrasted with anticipation and promise is built up astonishingly well.

Great! And what about the humor? I promised “intrigue and deadpan comedy” on the cover…

The dialogue is sarcastic and funny, but has a deep sense of a struggle, and of anxiety which gives the book a deeper meaning which kept me turning the pages till the very last sentence had been read.

I think that counts! And then the review has this, which has had me smiling all day:

As in all of Wilson’s work the writing is beautiful balanced between dialogue and description and is smooth in the telling which makes for a very easy but sophisticated read.

Man. This is about as flattering as I could imagine. It’s hard to top this as a description of what I’m trying to do. Providing an “easy but sophisticated read” could basically serve as my mission statement. To hear that it struck a reviewer that way—particularly one with as much enthusiasm for books as My Little Book Blog—is truly gratifying.

My thanks to Lizzy at My Little Book Blog for the excellent review.  Onward and upward, people!

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You can check out my response to reviews of The Race by My Little Book Blog (“warm and full of life”),  Small Press Reviews (“an incredibly astute novella about ego and politics”), and Radical Science Fiction (“Self-Deception Is Human”). Or you can read my thoughts on a previous review of The Promotion by My Author Within (“humor, depression, and hope, all together in one”). I’m terribly grateful for all of the fine reviewing I’ve received by these indie reviewers.

And of course, you can find The Promotion and The Race at Amazon.com (in Kindle and paperback versions). The Race is also available in other formats and locations.

Are you a reviewer? Leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll ship you a free review copy of either The Race (ex-governor of Wisconsin recovering from a scandal) or The Promotion (D.C. lawyer becomes obsessed with a woman he’s never met). Or you can enjoy the 100 Objects series, which is still going strong, which are all available for free here on the website.

Today’s Comment of the Week

From Wonderful Reader lilolimon, commenting on A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #13 – The Monster:

Your story made me laugh. Since I am a mexican I can relate completely to this guy jajaja
Is it something in our blood that prevents us from “behaving properly”?
I have no idea, but I can tell you every time I go to Europe I shock everyone with my reactions to things.
And yes, I also screamed and jumped up and down when I saw snow for the first time and I can´t help laughing when all the rest (Europeans and North Americans) tell me as if they were talking to a little kid: “but you see, snow is a problem, specially in the mornings when you have left your car outside the whole night. Snow is not fun”
But the truth is that I love to scrap the frozen ice of the car’s window, and I love to leave my footprints on the snow, and I love the way it stays in the tree’s branches, and the way it piles on the windows but I’m sure that if I had to deal with snow everyday I would hate it as well, just as I hate Acapulco and Tequila! 🙂
Anyway, I like your writing, you are funny and I like sarcasm a lot.
Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

You’re welcome!

My thanks to WR lilolimon for reminding me of the great day I had with my exuberant Mexican friend, searching for Nessie.

You can find all the Objects stories at the 100 Objects home page.

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #14 – The Bass Guitar

Are you familiar with the Suzuki method? I wasn’t. Oh sure, I’d heard of it—all those cute little violin prodigies, and something about kindergarteners learning how to play by ear that sounded impressive—but I didn’t know many details until I signed my kid up for piano lessons with a Suzuki teacher.

It turns out that Suzuki is great for kids. And really, really rough on parents.

Want to drop your kid off at a lesson once a week and pick him up an hour later? Nope. Because you’ll be sitting there during the lesson, watching and taking notes and cringing at each flaw that you were supposed to work on that week. How about listening to your kid practice in another room while you check your emails? No, that will not be your life. You’ll be in the room, listening, watching, helping.

Every night.

I won’t bore you with the other details except to say that you practice the same songs many times and by the end the kids turn into tiny musical geniuses. What they do is incredible. They can switch hands and play the right hand part with the left hand and vice versa. They can play songs by heart, and they can do things like play the songs backwards, and they can improvise. They can switch keys in mid-song. It’s astonishing. And they all can do it.

Halfway through our first year I realized my kid had developed perfect pitch. It really could not have been going better.

But there I was. Night after night I sat in the chair, listening patiently to my seven-year-old run through the same songs. Twinkle in every possible variation. Honeybee. Cuckoo. Lightly Row. London Bridge. Mary Had a Little Lamb. Long, Long Ago.

All these songs, night after night. And me just sitting there, smiling and nodding and making mild suggestions.

The boredom creeping in. The tension building. Waiting for something new. But no. Back to the Twinkles. Variation A. Variation B. Variation C. Variation D. Honeybee. Cuckoo. Lightly Row…more Twinkles…

Until finally one night I walked out in the middle of practice. I went to my office, closed the door, and turned on the computer.

That was the night I bought a bass guitar, an instrument I did not play, because I needed something new to happen.
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Thoughts on the Writing Process: The Wisdom of John Lennon

So here we go, some thoughts on writing process as part of the blog tour. But first a little business:

My thanks to the previous stop on the tour, The Starving Artist, run by the amazing Devon Trevarrow Flaherty. You should definitely check out her post on setting goals as part of the writing process.

And I’m fantastically excited about the next two stops on the tour:

lizzy-mylittlebookblogLizzy of My Little Book Blog, who has been featured on this site before. My Little Book Blog is so wonderful, and Lizzy exudes so much enthusiasm for books and authors and writing, that I’m tempted to give up coffee and just head over to her site whenever I need a pick-me-up. My Little Book Blog is a highlight of the Internet.

And then there’s Hibou of the International Sanitorium Berghoff, the one-stop shop for intense engagement with the sturm und drang of literature and life. Hibou reads David Foster Wallace and Thomas Mann so we don’t have to, and his posts about parenting and travel are not to be missed either. There are very few first-rate noticers in this world: Hibou is one of them.

Lizzy and Hibou will be writing about their writing process next Monday, June 23. Mark your calendars! And now, onto the main event.

Writing process! I’ve broken it down into…

Jacke Wilson’s 4 Easy Steps for Writing Success

  1. Find a space that suits you. Make sure the light, noise, and atmosphere all work.
  2. Figure out when you’re at your creative peak, whether it’s early morning or late at night or sometime in between. Arrange your schedule so that you’re writing at that time.
  3. Fail for at least twenty years.
  4. Skip number 3 if you possibly can. But be honest with yourself.

Really, that last sentence in number four is the only advice I have. But it means everything in the world to a writer.

I’m reminded of a great story about John Lennon. When the Beatles were in Hamburg, before the rest of the world knew who they were, the bassist in their group was an art student named Stuart Sutcliffe, who couldn’t really play the bass very well. Or AT ALL, actually. The others used to make him turn his back for photos so that they wouldn’t be exposed as a group with a bassist who had his fingers in the wrong place. Too amateurish. Might not get any gigs.

What was he doing in the band? Continue reading