Monday, August 15, 2016


THE HELL WITH DRAWERS by Will Oldham: "The difference between lyrics and poetry is that I don’t understand poetry. I don’t understand biology either. Someone must be there to guide me through the meanings of things. Lyrics, recorded and sung, have the opportunity to sink long and thoroughly; they can work on and with the subconscious. We have long ago passed the time when poetry is memorized without such aid, and sitting there on the paper a poem makes me feel ignorant and insane." Click HERE to read the rest of Will Oldhams's "The Hell with Drawers." 

Click HERE listen to "I See A Darkness by Will Oldham (aka Bonnie Prince Billy)


Read the verses below. What's the tone? How does it make you feel? Then listen to it HERE (click orange arrow). Is the tone different? Is your emotional response stronger? Does Sting emphasize any part more than others? How does that effect the song's interpretation?

"Fields Of Gold"
You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in the fields of gold

So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley
We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in the fields of gold

See the west wind move like a lover so
Upon the fields of barley
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth
Among the fields of gold
I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We'll walk in the fields of gold
We'll walk in the fields of gold

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold
You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in the fields of gold
When we walked in the fields of gold
When we walked in the fields of gold


 Worried that a lot of your previous comments weren't posted in a timely fashion? Think you might need a little "Blog Post Extra Credit"? Post a reaction (minimum 250 words) to the viewing linked below and score a few extra points!

Junot Diaz Geeks out Over Comics: "In addition to being a Pulitzer-winning, chart-topping novelist and short story writer, Junot Díaz is more than a little nerdy. Okay, very nerdy. His work — including his latest story collection, This is How You Lose Her — is filled with references to geek-culture touchstones that blend seamlessly with historical analysis and intimate struggle. And towering above all else, his fiction is filled with references to comic books. But no one had ever interviewed him just about those comics. That’s why filmmaker Abraham Riesman went for a trip to St. Mark’s Comics in Manhattan — a longtime haunt for Díaz — to talk comics. To Riesman’s surprise, Díaz’s comics knowledge was even deeper and broader than he had expected." Click heading to watch video.

"Junot Diaz" by Edwidge Dnaticat: "If Marvel Comics had gotten around to it, Oscar Wao would have been a hero. As it is, Junot Díaz stepped in and made him one first. Oscar is a Dominican nerd (an oxymoron) who “could write in Elvish, could speak Chakobsa, could differentiate between a Slan, a Dorsai, and a Lensman in acute detail.” A young aspiring writer with wet dreams, Oscar steps out of the Dominican diaspora in New Jersey with such a singular vision of romance, such a nonstop hankering for a world where the underdog actually wins, that we fall in love with him. Oscar, spawned by a writer with a profound understanding of the mythical implications of science fiction as well as the history of the Dominican Republic under what Díaz would call a bad-ass dictator named Trujillo (true story), is heir to a fakú. That’s a curse."

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: "Oscar de León was not one of those Dominican cats everybody’s always going on about. He wasn’t no player. Except for one time, he’d never had much luck with women. He’d been seven then." Click heading to read the rest of the excerpt. Note: Excerpt contains language some may find offensive.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Please take some time to complete the following survey:
Thank you! Note: Do NOT post comments below!


Click HERE for a list a the top 50 literary magazines. Click HERE for a list of sites that do not charge reading fees (or sites that charge no more than $3). Read the descriptions, pick one that would suit your writing, then submit an appropriate piece of work. Post your submission receipt (or a link to it) below.

Note: Naturally, if you did your own research and arrived at a journal that is not included in the list linked above, it's perfectly fine to send your work there.

Monday, August 8, 2016


Students MUST post reactions (minimum 250 words) to the assigned viewing/reading(s) linked below. Students should select one of the following groupings. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

Click HERE to read the article,"The Refreshingly Murky, Mysterious, Mist-Shrouded Sailor Twain," by Glen Weldon. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Mark Siegel's graphic novel, Sailor Twain. Click HERE to watch to an interview with Mark Siegel.


Click HERE to read the interview, "The In Between World of the Graphic Novelist," by Francois Mouly and Mina Kaniko. Click HERE to listen to "Growing Up Chinese, Graphically." Click HERE to read an excerpt from Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese. .


Click HERE to read an excerpt from the graphic novel by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang, In Real Life. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Cory Doctorow's "Anda's Game," the story on which the graphic novel was based (read at least the equivalent of a few pages). Click HERE to read an interview with Cory Doctorow.


Tomorrow we'll be visiting with the award-winning author, playwright, screenwriter, performer, comic book writer, and "horror-drunk storytelling virtuoso" (Time Out New York), Clay McLeod Chapman (in the flesh).
Clay is the author of the dark trilogy for young readers, The Tribe (Disney), described as "Fight Club meets The Boxcar Children," as well as an acclaimed collection of short stories, "Rest Area." His "I Walked with a Spider" (Marvel) was a top ten bestselling comic book. Clay's six issue zombie series, Self Storage, described as "Storage Wars meets The Walking Dead," was turned into an "augmented reality comic" by director Michael Bay. His film, The Boy (from his novel, Miss Corpus), about a nine year old sociopath, was produced by Elijah Wood's film company, SpectreVision, and stars Rainn Wilson (The Office) and David Morse (World War Z). The New York Times compared The Boy to Lord of the Flies and called it "remarkable," "gorgeous," and "stunning to behold."

Again, Google Clay and come to class prepared to ask him at least one question.

Monday, August 1, 2016


Students must write a five page, two character scene in traditional stage play format (sample linked here) called The Hit, in which two hit men (or women) sit in a room waiting for their "assignment."  At some point during the scene, one of the characters discovers (or is told) that he (or she) is meant to kill the other. This project is rooted in an acclaimed 1957 one act play called The Dumb Waiter by the Nobel Prize winning English playwright, Harold Pinter. The Dumbwaiter has inspired many writers, including Irish playwright and Oscar winning filmmaker Martin McDonagh, who has admitted that his award-winning 2008 film In Bruges was indebted to Pinter.

Some things to consider: Who are the characters? Two men? Two women? How well do they know one another? Are they friends, lovers, or just co-workers? Are they young or old? A rookie and a veteran? A father and a son? A man and his wife? From the outset, do either or both know what the job is? If not, how are they told about the job (i.e. how do they communicate with those outside the room? Cell phone? Walkie talkie? Notes slipped under the door?) What do they wear? Are they masked? If so, with what? Ski masks? Halloween masks of superheroes? Dead presidents? Mexican wrestling masks? How is the play lit? Flashlights? Naked bulb? No lights? What does the room look like? Is it a normal room or a kill room? Beds? Chairs? Lined with plastic? Newspaper? Or…? Is a gun seen during the show? Does a gun go off during the show? Is another weapon used? What are they talking about as they wait? Are they talking about the job? Are they pointedly avoiding the job. Are they cagey? Outgoing? Do they talk about their lives outside, do they complain about their partners or their kids? Do they discuss or debate pop culture (a la Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction)? Comic books, movies, TV, music? Are there sounds that help us understand where they are? Music?

 Note: Do not post creative response below. Responses are to be brought to class (to be performed) Mon. AUG 8.


Students MUST post reactions (minimum 250 words) to the assigned viewing/reading(s) linked below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

"The Badass Interview: MARTIN MCDONAGH" by Amy Nicholson: "Martin McDonagh is the biggest thing since Shakespeare. That's not an opinion—that's a fact. The two playwrights are the only men in history to have five plays running in London at the same time. And like Shakespeare, McDonagh loves wordplay, antiheroes and death." Click heading to read interview.

"Interview w. screenwriter MARTIN MCDONAGH" by Jeff Myers: "McDonagh first tried his hand at cinema in 2005, with a pitch black 27 minute film called Six Shooter. With a budget of $125,000 and Brendan Gleeson in the lead, it won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. He has since made several Hollywood features, always mixing grim humor, moral hand-wringing, and sudden violence into an irreverent and hyper-literate cocktail." Click heading to read interview.

Click HERE to watch Martin McDonagh's Oscar winning short film Six Shooter.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the interview and ONE of the assigned reading linked below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN is a long form journalist often compared to David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter S. Thompson (who famously included himself as a character in his quasi journalistic pieces like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).

Here's what Sullivan says about including himself as a character in his pieces: "I never really feel like I’ve given myself away, in a piece; the “first person” isn’t you; you’re zero. The first person already involves the assertion of a mask. As for the balance, I feel about it precisely as one would at a meal or on a boat with strangers, wanting to talk about myself enough not to seem closed off, but never so much as to bore them, and always watching, in a probably paranoid way, for that moment, that line, when I’ve talked a sentence too long, and added a detail after they’d lost interest in the subject. The eyes people get at that moment, they glaze over and go dead, in an uncontrollable primate way—we can’t help it. I hate and fear those eyes. This isn’t exactly a heroic vision of the writer, but it’s natural. I am trying to charm the reader because I want him and her to come with me deeper into the piece. If you can bring them with you there, things get more interesting."

"You Blow My Mind, Hey Mickey!" by John Jermiah Sullivan: "One night my wife, M. J., said I should prepare to Disney. It wasn’t presented as a question or even as something to waste time thinking about, just to brace for, because it was happening. We have some old friends, Trevor and Shell (short for Michelle), and they have a girl, Flora, 5, who is only a year older than our daughter, Mimi. The girls grew up thinking of each other as cousins and get along beautifully. Shell and Trevor also have a younger son, Lil’ Dog. He possesses a real, dignified-sounding name, but his grandparents are the only people I’ve ever heard call him that. All his life he has been Lil’ Dog. The nickname didn’t come about in any special way. There’s no story attached. It was as if, at the moment of birth, the boy himself spoke and chose this moniker. When you look at him, something in him makes you want to say, “Lil’ Dog.” He’s a tiny, sandy-haired, muscular guy, with a goofy, lolling grin, who’s always about twice as heavy when you pick him up as you thought he was going to be." Click heading to read the essay.
"Upon This Rock" by John Jeremiah Sullivan: "I was assigned to cover the CrossOver Festival in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, three days of the top Christian bands and their backers at an isolated midwestern fairground or something. I'd stand at the edge of the crowd and take notes on the scene, chat up the occasional audience member ("What's harder—homeschooling or regular schooling"), then flash my pass to get backstage, where I'd rap with the artists themselves "This Christian music—it's a phenomenon. What do you tell your fans when they ask you why God let Creed break up" The singer could feed me his bit about how all music glorifies Him, when it's performed with a loving spirit, and I'd jot down every tenth word, inwardly smiling. Later that night, I might sneak some hooch in my rental car and invite myself to lie with a prayer group by their fire, for the fellowship of it. Fly home, stir in statistics. Paycheck." Click heading to read the essay.
An Interview w. John Jeremiah Sullivan: "It’s Ezra Pound who talks about the rose in the steel dust. They liked to do these experiments back in the Man Ray days, where they’d have a surface covered with millions of tiny iron shavings, then take a magnet in the shape of something—a rose in this case—and lower it down over the table, and the dust would gather itself into that shape. Beautiful to see. We do that with our material, when we’re writing well and not forcing it, not pushing the piece to arbitrary places. The thing itself—the rose—is the piece, and the form. It knows you’ve got ten thousand pages of material, but regrettably it only wants to be twenty or thirty pages long, so it starts demanding you make decisions. Now you’re in dialogue with it. The magnet and the dust are approaching each other." Click heading to read the interview.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the assigned reading/listening/viewing linked below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

H is for HAWK by Helen MacDonald: "Forty-five minutes north-east of Cambridge is a landscape I’ve come to love very much indeed. It’s where wet fen gives way to parched sand. It’s a land of twisted pine trees, burnt-out cars, shotgun-peppered road signs and US Air Force bases. In spring it’s a riot of noise: constant plane traffic, gas-guns over pea fields, woodlarks and jet engines. It’s called the Brecklands – the broken lands – and it’s where I ended up that morning, seven years ago, in early spring, on a trip I hadn’t planned at all." Click heading to read rest of excerpt.

Listen to an interview with Helen MacDonald HERE. Watch an interview with Helen MacDonald HERE.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the assigned reading(s) linked below. Students are to pick ONE interview and ONE writing sample. Extra credit to those who read both interviews, both stories, and post two separate reactions. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

Click HERE to read the Interview Magazine interview with Karen Russell OR HERE to read her interview with Guernica.

"Ava Wrestles the Alligator" by Karen Russell: "My sister and I are staying in Grandpa Sawtooth's old house until our father, Chief Bigtree, gets back from the Mainland. It's our first summer alone in the swamp. "You girls will be fine," the Chief slurred. "Feed the gators, don't talk to strangers. Lock the door at night." The Chief must have forgotten that it's a screen door at Grandpa's — there is no key, no lock. The old house is a rust-checkered yellow bungalow at the edge of the wild bird estuary. It has a single, airless room; three crude, palmetto windows, with mosquito-blackened sills; a tin roof that hums with the memory of rain. I love it here. Whenever the wind gusts in off the river, the sky rains leaves and feathers. During mating season, the bedroom window rattles with the ardor of birds." Click the title to read the rest of the excerpt.

"The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" by Karen Russell: "“Hey, you guys,” I swallowed. “Look—” And pointed to the pin oak, where a boy our age was belted to the trunk. Somebody in blue jeans and a T-shirt that had faded to the same earthworm color as his hair, a white boy, doubled over the rope. His hair clung tight as a cap to his scalp, as if painted on, and his face looked like a brick of sweating cheese. Gus got to the kid first. “You retards.” His voice was high with relief. “It’s just a doll.” He punched its stomach. “It’s got straw inside it.” “It’s a scarecrow!” shrieked Mondo. It was late September, a cool red season. The scarecrow was hung up on the sunless side of the oak. The tree was a shaggy pyramid, sixty or seventy feet tall, one of the “famous” landmarks of Friendship Park; it overlooked a ravine—a split in the seam of the bedrock, very narrow and deep—that we called “the Cone.” Way down at the bottom you could see a wet blue dirt with radishy pink streaks along it, as exotic looking to us as a sea floor." Click the title to read the rest of the story.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the combined assigned viewing AND reading linked below. Students are to post ONE comment addressing BOTH the viewing and the fictional excerpt. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

Neil Gaiman at the 2008 National Book Festival. Click heading to watch the video.

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman: "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately. The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet." Click heading to read the rest of the first chapter.