On Protecting the Creative Process

Brilliant Reader (and hard-at-work novelist) CH considers our offer to share her first line and responds:

Although I’ve decided not to share my opening sentence here, I’m grateful for your post, Jacke. 18 K-plus words later, I honestly couldn’t remember what my first sentence was. Today was one of those days when I wondered if anything I had written thus far was worthwhile. Thanks to your post, I discovered that at least my first sentence and the paragraph that followed were worth keeping. The rest will have to wait until I’m finished writing and ready to edit from the beginning. Thank you for making me curious enough to look back today, at least for a moment 🙂

Great to hear! Someday I hope to be mentioned in the novel’s acknowledgments, even if it’s just as “…and many others who offered their support along the way.”

Our contest is still open. And let me tell you, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the ones where the novelist calls our special number and reads their first line aloud, or clicks on our webpage that lets you just read it aloud to your computer. (Or the ones where people just read their favorite first lines from their favorite novels ever, which is a separate contest, also still open, and also with a free book giveaway at the end of it.)

Onward and upward, everyone!

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Good Luck NaNoWriMoers!

It’s National Novel Writing Month! And once again, I’m astounded by people who hate this project. (Has Laura Miller written her annual screed yet? I can’t wait.) Here’s a post from a while back:

NaNoWriMo: A Full-Throated Defense

What better way to tune up than to pull your favorite book off the shelf, study the first line or two, and enter our contest?

Onward and upward, everyone! Good luck with the writing!

The Fire Alarm (A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #30)

firealarm

We were in the middle of a dorm war. Every morning between one and three a.m., a resident of some enemy dorm pulled our fire alarm. Presumably someone from our dorm was doing the same at some dorm across campus.

In this war I was a mere civilian. A pacifist, a bystander, a protestor. And every night I was part of the collateral damage.

I was as young and stupid as anyone else, and I vaguely regretted that I was not out there, scheming, pranking, doing college things. Going to parties, meeting new people, heading out on unplanned road trips, horsing around in creative and astonishing ways. I did none of that, and part of me felt I was missing something important.

Frankly I was barely surviving at this place, and I was on the verge of losing my academic scholarship. Pranks were a luxury I could not afford.

And so after ten days of dragging myself out of bed, alarm horns blaring in my ear, I had had enough. Dorm wars? Not for me. I was one of the ones who demanded some action from the administration, which started with an angry meeting with our resident head, Brian.

Brian was a PhD student with a Dutch wife, a beard, and a baby, all of which impressed me. Brian was known as a hands-off resident head who didn’t care about the students experimenting with illegal substances as long as they did it in their rooms and kept the doors closed. (“I”m not a policeman,” was his resident-head mantra.)

We didn’t expect answers from Brian. Brian brought in the director of campus security, who gave us no answers either. Taking the issue seriously, measures were being taken, perpetrators would be brought to justice, penalty would be swift and severe, anyone with any information blah blah blah.

And then, on the eleventh morning, as we groaned and cursed and dragged ourselves out of bed for yet another two a.m. trip to the night streets of Chicago, a thought jumped into my head. Not even a thought. An impulse. But one with a whole wave of thoughts behind it.

The alarm was already going, the fire truck was on its way. Students were already walking out the exits. There was an alarm in our lobby. It was unpulled. And that was my thought:

I should pull it.

What compelled me to think of such a thing? In a strange way I saw it as my reward. Hadn’t I gotten up every morning for ten days straight?

A reward? Let me explain. Continue reading

The Cladogram (A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #27)

cladogram

I was a young father raising a toddler in New York City. I was also a broke, miserable student buried under an avalanche of student loans. In my filthy, sleep-deprived condition I suddenly remembered Thomas Hobbes’s description of life, which I’d read years earlier. What was the line? Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and…something else. Awful? Horrendous? Ridiculously terrible? Whatever. It all fit.

“Hobbes?” my wife said, shaking her head like someone watching a child board a roller coaster that will be too much for him. “Now you’ve got that in your head?” Continue reading

The Wayward Joke (A Jacke Wilson Objectino)

Yesterday was fun! Let’s try another Objectino!*

Dinnertime. An earnest seven-year-old is attempting to tell a joke:

BOY: Okay. Two cannibals are eating a clown. What does one cannibal say to the other?
BOY’S MOTHER: I don’t know, what?
BOY: “Does this taste funny?”
BOY’S MOTHER: Why are two cannonballs eating a clown?


Continue reading

The Glamorous Colleague (A Jacke Wilson Objectino)

Introducing…the Objectino!*

Overheard at an office meeting:

WOMAN 1: I’ve always had this thing for the days of real glamour. You know, like the Fifties and Sixties, when women had style. I was born at the wrong time! I could see myself as an Audrey Hepburn…or a Jackie O…

WOMAN 2: There’s a potato chip on your boob.


Continue reading

International Feedback on The Race!

Yesterday I posted a quick little request that summarized my thoughts on the U.S. elections. And of course, I wrote a book about a politician, based on some personal experience I had ghostwriting the autobiography of one of our nation’s gems. The politician in my book, a former governor recovering from a sex scandal, exemplifies everything bizarre about our system.

What is it about democracy that produces such creatures? Is there something about the process itself that turns people into these aliens? Is it an American phenomenon or is it true of democracies everywhere?

Well, I’m happy to report that at least some of the ideas in The Race translate rather well. Here’s a report from a reader in India.

Some highlights:

I admire the governor’s character-someone who is more than determined to fight and make a comeback no matter what people think of him. Even after being humiliated by his Italian mistress, his sons and his wife he still goes strong with this character, smile and determination to fight against a stronger opponent.

Yes! There is something admirable about the governor. Something sympathetic. A pathetic creature. But dogged. He exists.

The story has its own pace and takes you by surprise on every shameless and unplanned statement the governor has to prove himself.

Thank you! I know this will sound a little self-serving, but it took me by surprise as well. I vividly remember the day when I thought, “Wait, we’re ending every chapter with someone telling him how much they hate him…well, all right then! Let’s get it on!

The story showcases a lot of American humour which clearly shows how people from different parts of the country think and behave differently in a particular situation.

Glad you liked it! It’s Wisconsin, for sure. But it’s also Anywhere, America.

All in all a hilarious piece of work…

Wow!

…with two different characters who come together to shape up the life of the governor in words and in turn realise how sensitive and greedy can human nature be at times.

Readers, could I ask for a better review? It’s so generous!

A great political comedy wrapped with insight on changing human nature.

Thank you!

You can check out The Race at Amazon.com and elsewhere. Paperbacks still less than 5 bucks, e-book versions still less than three. And of course, free books available to all reviewers. Aha, you say: I don’t review books for some fancy news organization or million-hit blog. Discrimination in action! No, dear reader, you’ve misunderstood. Any review counts – even on your own blog, even at Goodreads, even a plain customer review at Amazon. It all works for me!

My thanks to Janak Mistry for the wonderful book review (which I lost in the shuffle for a while – sorry for the delay, Janak!). And check out Janak’s writings about Tibet, we all need more Tibet in our lives.

Onward and upward!