Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Birthday (Eve), Audrey Bilger!

OK, so I’m kind of anticipating birthdays again here—but I wanted to give a quick birthday shout-out to Robert Frost’s Banjo’s own SoCal correspondent & more importantly, excellent friend, Audrey Bilger.  Audrey’s frenetic schedule—complete with new admistrative job, book deals & her role on the Ms Magazine Blog—not to mention her usual run of publications (on everything from 18th century literature to comic strips) & activities, have reduced her role here—sad for us, blog-wise, but of course as a friend I’m thrilled by all the great happenings in Audrey’s life these days. 

If you’re new to Robert Frost’s Banjo, I’d encourage you to search the label “Audrey’s Writing.”  Some of Audrey’s posts, like her Lesley Gore interview or her examination of whether “Reformed Rakes” make good husbands have been among the blog’s most popular posts all-time—a day never passes that there aren’t “hits” on many of Audrey's posts.  

But I also have some good news for the near future—you won’t be simply reduced to searching for Audrey’s writing amongst the blog archives, because she’ll be participating in the Writers Talk interview series next Thursday, October 7th.  Mark your calendars & stay tuned, because I know that’s going to be an interview you don’t want to miss.  Audrey is one of the wittiest, smartest & most articulate people I know.

& also a dear friend—so happy birthday, tomorrow, Audrey.  Hope you have a great day, & many, many happy returns!


[Here's the conclusion of B.N.'s story, Still Life with Girl]


By the time the grandmother arrived the house was strewn with trash.  They had eaten raw rice from a box and pasta.  They drank maple syrup.  The grandmother screamed the mother’s name through the house—“Aliza, she yelled the stairs and down into the basement.  The mother was gone.  This was not the first scandal to hit the Village of Ramapo.  There had been the scandal about kosher chicken, one about meat and an entire dairy had been closed by the department of agriculture.  There were scandals that unraveled from 47th street all the way up the Turnpike and the Garden State.  There were the brothers that sold the same lot to five people and then decamped to Jerusalem.  This was different.

On the day the grandmother went to meet the principal she aimed to be prepared. She wore a sky blue dress with a belt that matched, a hat with bright red plastic cherries and a blue band. As support her girlhood friend Rebbitzin Gruner accompanied her, the one who supplied school clothes and shoes, who had some weight in the community.  And who also had if needed, a check book and her husband’s word that tuition would be paid.   She came fully made up, with a wicker handbag and dressed after all not to plead and not to offer an explanation, because she had none, but rather to attempt to assure the girl a place.  Seated in the inner office the first thing the principle said to the grandmother was that he knew for a fact that Mrs. Leiber was in Canada under the care of professionals, resting and making a fine progress and he had no reason to not expect her to return to her family soon. This was not just merely a piece of information passed from one to another in casual conversation, it was an opportunity, a chance, that in fact she had no chance of grasping onto. The grandmother understood this and felt that forgiveness was a wave that hit the shore and quickly went back out to sea.  Finaly with no tone of regret he said the truth was many people knew the story and he had other children to protect and donors to consider.

The mother would call sometimes and demand things—her books, a silver sugar bowl, a worn carpet. The grandmother cleaned the house and parsed through the children.  When she called the grandmother said that she did not know where the things were.  The boy sent to other relatives with money who could raise and educate a boy and the girl and baby stay with grandmother.  They moved out of the house into a small apartment closer to stores and a new school that would become one of many.  The grandmother made friends with the neighbors in the new neighborhood. She graciously accepted their cooked dishes the week the moved in, the invitations that followed and even the shared duties of watching children play.  The grandmother’s affiliation with Mrs. Gruner also carried freight along with curiosity. Her willingness to converse in Yiddish and to hem a dress here and pants there were well appreciated. The women admired the grandmother’s eye for decorating, for adding small details to a room, a vase, a golden and blue throw pillow.  They admired her upright stance, the fact that each step was measured. The truth was they still eyed the girl at a distance, unsure what she knew, what she had seen, how much she understood. And they after all had their own children to protect.

Once the grandmother took the girl to visit the mother in a house on a lake and there was a small row boat turned upside down next to a small dock.  They walked from the road where the taxi had left them off up a gravel and dirt path, the whole time the grandmother saying, “ How do you find such a place? Who could find such a place.” The girl sat on a lumpy torn couch with her feet dangling across from the mother in a captain’s chair that she recognized.  The mother did not offer anything to eat or drink and did not ask her about school.  The mother just sat and gave the girl a long hard look.  There was another woman there, older than the mother and she stood behind the mother’s chair. The grandmother stood with her back to them staring out a window that looked on to the lake—she said something about the view.  When they left the grandmother turned for an instant, just outside the turn and was about to say, “Please Aliza, please.” But before she could speak the mother looked at her and said “don’t start.” And closed the door.

Invariably they settled into a routine—a poorly mended rag doll family, flopping awkwardly through town.  Those times when the girl offered that she had not been invited to yet another one of her classmates parties, and had been crossed off every possible list real and imagined, and not counted in the tight social tally the grandmother would nod.  She did not offer to comfort or compensation by way of an alternative treat, never saying they would do something themselves that would be just as fun.  Except once the grandmother drew a long breath.  Just then girl wanted to say she hates this town, these people, having to be alone, but she knew if she said that it would sound to like her mother who they never mentioned and just the mere hint of startled the grandmother.  By this point she had matured enough to understand the pairings required in this life.  She could see the line of demarcation drawn, that outer distance, the tree line half way up the mountain, an off limits boundary where nothing could grow, where her mother stood, both hands blowing mock kisses.  The opportunity for return receded into the distance growing smaller and smaller until it was a faint speck. It was that breath taken from the air pocket.

Nobody could see the whole, some reactions expected, predictable, others a variable.   How far the tale traveled and how distorted it may have become and how crudely it may have been interpreted and internalized were random.  By that time the world had not changed and the grandmother bought her a new outfit for the holidays.  It was a white skirt with orange and brown stripes and a matching brown button-down shirt with a collar.  The entire neighborhood had the sukkas out decorated with plastic grapes and construction paper chains.  Across the street from their apartment was a boy’s Yeshiva.  A perfectly square building with a flat roof, a brick flash cube had the largest succah in the parking lot.  The girl never crossed the street to the school’s side except this once when two boys singled to her and shouted in Yiddish,  “ve koift min fish?”  She in fact knew where the fish market was and she crossed the street to point them in the direction.  The parking lot was empty, the school out for the holiday.  It seemed odd that boys would be sent to buy fish so late in the afternoon and in the middle of the vacation week.  These thoughts just skimmed across the surface of her mind. They both wore the identical uniform of black pants and white button shirts, with stiff black shoes. One had his shirttails out and bright red hair.   When she came closer she saw that one was loosening his belt and had his hand in the top of his white underwear and was pulling.  At first the girl though he was retarded, and she was about to tell him kindly but firmly that he can’t undress in public and to go home.  Before she could speak they pulled her behind the school. 

What he was holding had a slightly different complexion than the boy’s pale frecked face, darker, more the color of lips.  One of them circled around her and somehow maneuvered her up against a heavy metal door. When they pushed on her shoulders she slumped to the pavement, with her back against the door.  The redheaded boy’s pants were around his ankles and he landed on top of her and pushed her new sweater up to clear a space on her exposed stomach. Nisht z’vishen der baineh “Not between the legs” the other boy ordered and kept speaking in imperatives hurried speech that she could not understand, firing off commands.  The redheaded one held her arms back and then lunging back and forth against her exposed stomach until she heard a faint grunt and that sigh. On her stomach he left something wet and milky and she suddenly imagined it to be puss from a wound, a terrible disease, a sickness that was killing him and now her.  After, he stood up.  Looked straight at her, and said in perfect English. “Tell your mother.”  How could she explain it?  The skirt for the holiday was ruined from the dirt on the ground and all the leaves that had collected near the door were all over her, all over her.

© 2010
If you'd like to read more poetry & fiction by B.N., you can search the label B.N. writing; you can also read an interview with her here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Spring Ghazals Revisited

Happy Tuesday afternoon all!  I apologize for intruding on the flow of B.N.’s wonderful story, but I do have an important announcement—important to me at least!

I’m in the process of re-publishing The Spring Ghazals, my collection of poems written between 2008-2010, & I’ve started a new blog to record the process & also as a site where I can look back at the earlier stages of the book’s existence.  You can find The Spring Ghazals blog right here; & the first post went up today.

That’s it for now!  Hope to see you at The Spring Ghazals—& of course stay tuned for the conclusion of B.N.’s story Still Life, with Girl, which will post tomorrow morning.


[Here's Part 2 of B.N.'s story Still Life, with Girl]


The world separates as neatly as a sheet torn from the top of a tablet.  There are good people and bad people.  Nixon is bad, the mother says.  Vietnam is bad.  Martin Luther King was good, he was shot.  The FBI reads peoples’ mail, they have lists, the mother is sure she is on a list and her mail is read.  Whenever a piece of mail had the slightest crease the mother held it to the light, convinced that it had been opened, read, resealed by an entire team of government underlings hunched over an expansive dark wood conference table.  The people in this small community are bad, they are, she did not even hate to say it, little petty Jews.  They are not on a list.  The mother comes from a big city, several in fact, and studied at the Sorbonne, she speaks languages. Not Yiddish, that is not a language, more of a vulgarity.  Even though nothing in the house matches or is a set such that the neighbors at first asked when the furniture would be arriving she has silver flatware and trays and a sterling tea set and candlesticks as if to prove her lineage.  She is elegant but that is not important.  The mind is important.  The mother has no mother or father and no brothers or sisters. Only a mother-in-law that she calls my soon to be former mother-in-law.  She is waiting for peoples’ minds to open in new ways as her’s had.  Then she will assume her rightful place wearing the crimson mantle.  She reminds the girl of this often.  She reads and shakes her head.  They get the Village Voice and New York Times.  Stonewall was amazing. Then she calls a friend that comes over.  More friends come, they drive up from the city and hold poetry readings in the play- room.  Sometimes they bring food, strange gooey concoctions from Chinatown, bits of red floating in a brown sauce eaten with black lacquered chop sticks.  They sit on the counters in the kitchen with legs dangling or Indian style on the floor using cups for ash trays. They blast music and open windows   Like a memorized dialogue the girl hears about Jacques Brel and Lotta Lenya and living in Greenwich Village. 

“Do you see what I have going on here? “ the mother says to her friends. 

“You drove in, did you see them, it is like an ant hill, and they don’t even speak English, It is a nightmare…. Well I made one friend”  And with that the mother would flop into a chair and pick at the stuffing leaking from a tear in the upholstery.

 The mother savored hating the community, delicacies served up in Waterford bowls, relished (just a small bite) hating Chassidim, and without expanding on it
just plain hated the grandparents and the father and maybe the children.  Not the littlest baby named Freda, which means happy.  The mother refused to call the baby by her name and cooed to her in French.  The baby smiles and smiles a world of smiles, soap bubbles of smiles.

What sent it all careening out of control and over the cliff was the day at the dress store on Rt 59.   The mother went in and bought  Mrs. Leiber crinolines and petticoats. In fact after looking through the racks, she took the whole new Fall line, piled them on the counter told the lady at the cash register to have them delivered to Mrs. Leiber, as a gift. She then asked for a card to enclose.  The lady at the counter looked over the huge pile at the mother with an expression of confusion.  “These aren’t your size.” The woman said.  The girl recognized her as the mother of a classmate.  A comet streaking past the mother flashed her a fierce and haughty look. “I told you to pack them and deliver them, and if you must know they are a gift of love for my lover. So nosy, why are you so nosy”  It will be this look that caused the woman at the counter to recoil.  To turn instantly away from the grey cash register and, to reach for the phone the moment the door closed behind the mother.  The woman at the counter made three well-placed calls.  She calls the Rav in the shul off Rt. 45, she calls the principal of the school, who was the brother of the Rabbi of the shul off Rt 45, she calls her own husband to come and pick her up—right away. 

In the car the mother slaps the girl across the face, even though the girl has said nothing.  The mother drives the girl home and leaves her at the end of the driveway and then turns the car around.  The girl watches as the car snakes back down Viola Rd.  The men are out walking with the boys, the street begins to fill.  The girl runs into the house.  There is no mother, no father.  The babies are flushed from screaming and their hair is matted with sweat and dirt to their heads.  The girl takes a bag of frozen peas and sprinkles it into the cribs for the babies to pick up and eat.  By this point they were greedy and smelled. She remembers that Freda needs a bottle, that she props up for her by wedging it between the crib slats—like a water bottle in a gerbil cage.  They pull and strained against being lifted.  There are no diapers.  The mother, a rogue pigeon escaped from the cote, did not return. The girl ate raw meat because she has been warned never to go near the stove with her long hair.  The first few days the girl imagined that they were like a land-locked Robinson Crusoe, on an adventure. She felt safe in the house during the day, at night each tap of a branch against a window sent ribbons of fear through her.  After a few days, the days got bad too.

© 2010
[Please check in tomorrow for the final installment!]

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


[Over the next three days we'll be serializing B.N.'s story Still Life with Girl.  It's a very powerful piece of writing that I'm proud to have appear on this blog.]


It was as if they were in a submarine and the air lock had been breached.  When the water rushed in, each hoped for an air pocket to keep them alive.  Nothing more.   The truth, the family was different especially the mother, and as such they were approached with caution and viewed as suspect by their neighbors.  She wore her hair long uncovered and loose, a mane of the dark brown, that would always catch the slightest breeze and cause her to toss her head back and with one hand sweep the hair away from her face.  Other married woman wore their hair under a wig or covered by a scarf.  Such are the requirements of Orthodox women in communities and most women meet these requirements at least in part. 

Suburban conformity spread into the rural, a mediocre idea that grew.  The remains of an orchard that had sustained generations of landowning, hardworking Gentiles reduced to an apple tree in every other front yard.  The house a remnant—a moss green caricature slanted at the roof, leaned against underbrush and overgrown trees, an inlet of neglect.  Twice removed from the newer mirror image split-levels that flanked it on either side.

Inside, thumbtacked or taped to the walls were posters from distant farmer’s markets, Frank Stella exhibitions and quaint products, elixirs not sold for half a century, if ever. Throughout the house stacks of books created an obstacle course, so moving from room to room had to be done with care. The furniture mismatched and quirky, at the tables, chairs were unpredictable, some were whole, others are not, like lame animals allowed to remain out of kindness.  A slight shudder shifted all of them, like the seismic plates, under the crust of the earth, imperceptible at first, save a slight trembling of a glass of water at the bedside—a fault line that ran down the center of their lives.  It was more than the chafing between assimilated and unassimilated, more than a value placed on secular humanism and the possibility of world citizens. The mother asserted that she was educated and cultured and as if one thing followed from the other, showed little interest, in the color or length of curtains or in the price of eggs or in the latest trends in child rearing.  She told this to the girl often.  She would not interact with the neighbors and had turned down invitations so often that they stopped. 

In contrast, the other mothers watched children play in tight yards and talked to each other.  They shared ingredients and knew each others’ anguish at every toy stuffed inquisitively down the toilets.  They exchanged easy bright smiles.  Yet nothing humbled her, not the initial warmth at door, not the meals sent over when they first moved in, not the offers to share in a car pool.   Aliza Ahronson Berg would not go and join them. She had not lowered herself to that. She would not even give them a second glance when she backed the car (like a bat out of hell) out of the driveway getting out to get the mail dressed in a fringed brown leather jacket and peasant skirt with mauve ribbons tied in little bows and stitched around the hem line.

Long afternoons they sat inside, the mother read poetry and advised the girl to have a critical mind.  She repeated lines from poems—“ Do I dare to eat a peach” or “ I have measure my life in coffee spoons.”  Wisps of wordy smoke.  After she read she looked up and directly at the girl waiting for some mysterious response. A fixed gaze.  Her eyes implored the girl—say something, say something, you dimwit. 

Mrs. Failkoff said today that there was a giant hanging on Noach’s ark,” the girl offered because it was what she was thinking about, since it had just started to rain.

“And they pay her a salary for this?” the mother said.

There were multi-colored maps of the world hung on walls and she is told they are in the world. Lands conquered and claimed.  Independence fought for and won. Maps prove the world has changed, borders change when the world changes and then the maps change.  Taped to the fridge was a picture of the President under which it said “would you buy a used car from this man?”  Alongside it were pictures of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein. 

Aliza Ahronson Berg dabbled in domestic trickery and meals were a whole other kettle of fish, sometimes a whole dinner of artichokes or chocolate sandwiches.  With an emotion stronger than any ordinary envy the girl wanted, longed for what she had seen others have on their plates for meals, she would ask for mixed canned or frozen vegetables, a confetti of color, or even meat with a sauce, or a soft white bread sandwich. Once the mother agreed after the girl hoarded the frozen vegetables in the back of the freezer.  She attended school with some of the other girls on the street.  A small worn to the bone school with dingy ceiling tiles that hung slack.  The girl often late or not there at all.  When she was there, most of the teachers overlooked her, one openly objected and one was nice and let her sit beside the big desk.  She watched the other girls the way she might have watched fish sliding behind glass in a aquarium.  The mother did not ask her about school and did not look up when she pushed the mimeograph worksheets under her nose, did not react as she repeated something the teacher said. 

The girl could walk home from school or take the bus.  Most days she walked as it eliminated the seat dilemma. The bus was a complex social situation, based on family, older siblings, cousins and what a father did.  She would just as well walk herself over the railroad tracks and past the store with takeout chickens turning on a spit in the window.  Even the newest stores still with Grand Opening Sale hung in the window already looked ratty.  When the long driveway snaked at the pine tree the girl would cut across the yard to the back kitchen door next to the bay window.  Always through the ice lace on the pane she could decipher the mood she was about to enter. Dirty dishes on the table meant nothing, a book open and out signaled the mother had gotten out of bed and moved through the house. 

It was March; there were still some patches of snow on the ground and the lawn pitted with small pools of melted brown broth.  Through the window she saw them both standing in front of the white refrigerator. She recognized Mrs. Leiber from the library. Her mother’s hand around Mrs. Leiber’s upper arm and the other plunged, splayed fingers into her hair, their lips touching and Mrs. Leiber’s head tilled back as if she was looking up but her eyes were closed.  Mrs. Leiber’s sheital, not just a wig but a stylized blond affair with outward turned curls on either side, was not on her head and she was dressed in the mother’s blue and white striped robe and stood barefoot.

When she opened the door from the entranceway she heard them a Morse code of sighs.  Although she could only intuit it on the most general level—each signaling the way the girl’s life would change. “ I’m so wet.” Mrs. Leiber said before she noticed the girl standing there.  These sighs, the sound that rose over the hum of the refrigerator would replay in her mind over and over and would precede ten thousand harsh stares in school, on the street, in stores.  These, notes of human music that would follow the girl escorted out of schools that had previously made a place for her. Each time she carried all the contents of her desk and her coat.  As a principle would drive her silently home.  Each time she knew she would never see that school or those teachers again. A scene repeated itself with some regularity.  That day Mrs. Leiber fled the kitchen and then reemerged fully dressed and sprinted out the back door. “She’ll be back.” The mother said as she closed the screen door after her.

She was the oldest, the other two were babies—one could walk with a tipsy gait, the other did not even sit up and only took a bottle.  They each mostly slept dressed only in an undershirt and diaper.  They never went and there was neither stroller or carriage.  They both always smell funny like rusty nails. The mother wanted to go to a protest, she said that they would write a lawyer’s number on their arm with a ball point in case the cops arrested them.

The mother’s mood lightened, she put combs in her hair like a Spanish dancer and said, pointing to a map, “The world is changing and we will be part of it.” She did a little dance around the dining room adjusting the volume to Joan Baez on the record player: "you got to walk that lonesome valley, you got to walk it by yourself, ain’t nobody here can walk it for you, you got walk by yourself…” each chord loosening the knots in the coarse ropes of conventionality.

Men left a footprint on the moon and in the summer they closed Rt 17 and the New York State Throughway because of Woodstock, the counter culture just a few miles away, and about to knock on the door.  About to usher in a new value system.  The mother listened intently to the music like at the festival. Sad plaintive folk songs about love and loss, louder rebellious protest songs about war and death, and songs about taking, smoking or drinking enough of whatever that anything yelled at the top of the lungs sounded worthwhile.

Mrs.Leiber always walked home down Viola Rd, passed the twisted rows of apple trees on either side and crossed 306 to the intersection passing over the invisible boundary into the area where the women wear small pillbox hats over their sheital, where English was only spoken by outsiders.  The style of her dress was such that she never looked disheveled, smart European suits favor by the wealthy Chassidic women, crisp lapels on the jacket, a mid-calf skirt of the same material and her wig frozen into style.  She returned to her children, to the maid, to the cooked foods in the kitchen. Mrs. Leiber spoke German with her mother, sometimes French.  They both spoke many languages and lived in other countries. 

© 2010
[Please check in tomorrow for the next installment!]

Monday, September 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Eberle!

OK, it’s actually Eberle’s birthday eve, but I couldn’t wait to post my birthday wishes to my dearest!  Many, many happy returns, sweet pea!

Eberle & I have been together as a couple since 1997—we’ve known each other since 1984, which also makes her one of my oldest friends—& a very good friend at that!  There’s very little question in my mind that some of the most important aspects of my life—in particular, my relationship with music—have been completely enhanced & brought to fruition as a result of my relationship with this wonderful woman. 

& in some ways, music is also a metaphor here, because it’s difficult if not impossible to create good music without trust & communication.  It’s not always easy being in a “creative” couple, but it certainly has been extraordinarily rewarding for me.

Eberle & I will be playing a show at the Alpine Playhouse in McCall, Idaho on October 15th at 7:30 p.m.—it’s a benefit for the Playhouse, which is a rich community resource—& of course you’re all invited!  On Sunday we had our first rehearsal (Eberle will be joining in on exactly half the songs), & it was amazing.  I usually perform the blues as a solo act, but Eberle is able to find her place in that music with such skill & feeling!

As a bit of a celebration, I thought I’d share a song Eberle & I co-wrote several years ago—it’s called “Rubato Kangaroo.”  She plays flute; I play electric guitar.  I know this is one of her favorite songs, & I hope you enjoy it too.

& once again, happy birthday to my darling!

Photo of Eberle by Tim Hohs

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Photo of the Week 9/26/10

Blackerries, Indian Valley, Idaho
Thursday, September 23rd

Please check out today's post at The Days of Wine & Roses; it's the fifth poem in the "Heaven" sequence.

Tomorrow on Alcools?  My translation of Apollinaire's "La porte" ("The Door.")

& tomorrow on Robert Frost's Banjo?  No morning post.  A scheduling change, in fact: Please note that B.N.'s story Still Life with Girl will be serialized right here on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Sporting Goods"

Happy Saturday!  Hope you enjoy today’s offering, which is my translation of a poem by French Surrealist poet Phillipe Soupault.  I made the translation long ago in a country far away—namely, the 1990s in San Francisco.  

In other news: I’m off for a long performance day at the Council Farmer’s Market—last one of the year.  I’ll be playing the equivalent of about three sets of old blues, & will also be backing up good friend & music partner Heather Uebelhoer while she fronts her own set of singer-songwriter covers; the Recording King tricone will have its performance debut during Heather’s set.  Also: stop press!  There’s a new post on Eberle’s blog, Platypuss in Boots!  You can check it out right here.

Have a lovely Saturday!

Sporting Goods

Courageous as a postage stamp
he went his way
fingers gently tapping his palms
to count his steps
his heart red as a wild boar
was beating beating
like a pink and green butterfly
From time to time he'd plant a little satin flag
When he'd walked a long way
he sat down to take his rest and fell asleep
But since that day there've been lots of clouds in the sky
lots of birds in the trees
lots of salt in the sea
There are also lots of other things

Philippe Soupault
translation © 1990-2010 Jack Hayes

Friday, September 24, 2010

Homegrown Radio 9/24/10

Happy Friday, everybody.  It’s the last Friday of the month, & so Scotty Houston’s last go-round on Homegrown Radio, which is sad—but some good news: we get a twofer today, as Scotty supplied two songs for his finale!  Let’s see what Mr Houston has to say about “Loveless Lake” & “Million Tiny Dollars.”

My first week on Homegrown was kind of a cheater since the recording was already a few months old. I had set myself a goal of getting four new ones to you, so this week is a twofer to catch me up.  Since this series is all about home recording it goes without saying that everything I've been sharing is a little rough, and these are no exception.

Loveless Lake has been sitting around for a couple years as just the chorus in a more or less finished state, but nothing I've tried has really has worked for the verses.  This is the latest attempt.  The Mighty Lynch-Pins are set for a re-gathering to play at the annual Murder Ballads Bash at the Starry Plough in Berkeley for Halloween, and time permitting I may persuade the band to tackle this one. 

The title is a take off on the sad places in old songs like Heartbreak Hotel and Lonesome Town. There's a little reference inserted after the bridge, kind of a cheat to grab the entirety of a story line from another song and insert it. Or at least to give you a chuckle.

Million Tiny Dollars has been facing my DEL key and it almost lost the battle before I sent it to you.  It's an attempt at a topical pop song, not usually a good idea, but one worth trying at least... shared here solely for the fun of the lap steel solo. 

Thanks you John for hosting me on your Friday morning drive-time slot and to everyone who took a few minutes to give a listen or to comment and say hello.  RFB is one of the coziest corners of the internet and it was fun dropping some content your way.

Time to get the four track off the kitchen table now...

Well, don’t take it too far off the table, Scotty!  By the way, I’m very excited to announce that next month’s Homegrown Radio artist will be singer-songwriter Joel Murach.  Joel was a member of one of my all-time favorite Bay Area bands, Paddlefoot, & he’s since gone on play in the  bands 86 & the Slow Rollers, as well issue three solo albums (working on a fourth!).  He’s a fine songwriter & a fine musician, so I’m looking forward to his stint on Robert Frost’s Banjo.  But speaking of “fine songwriters & a fine musicians,” here’s Scotty Houston!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Writers Talk with B.N.

I'm so very happy that my good friend B.N. has agreed to participate in the Writer's Talk series.  My association with B.N. goes back to 1984, Charlottesville, VA, when she was in the final year of her poetry MFA & I was in my first year. B.N. really was the first person I connected with in the program, & we've maintained a friendship based on both writing & a shared wry view of reality.  I have the greatest respect for B.N.'s writing talents, & it's been a privilege to make her work available here on Robert Frost's Banjo; it's also been heartening to see how many people have responded to her work, because I strongly believe her work should have a wide audience, & in fact much wider than what I can offer her here.  Speaking of B.N.'s work being posted here: please check in next week for her story Still Life with Girl, which will be serialized from Monday September 27th thru Thursday Septemer 30th.

B.N.'s work has appeared in the following publications: Gulf Coast, The Gettysburg Review, The Cream City Review, Quarterly West, Memphis State Review, Seneca Review & Timbuktu.  Speaking of Timbuktu, the production of another dear old friend, Molly Turner, you can read B.N.'s poem "A Story" from that publication over at the Writers Talk blog.

Without further ado, here's B.N.

When did you first realize your identity as a writer? 

I wanted to write from an early age—maybe 12.  I grew up in a home with thousands of books.  They were perhaps the most significant possession—certainly afforded the most space.  Books were sacred objects.  This came from a history of the Holocaust—Nazis burned books.  I understood pretty early, maybe six, that books were what separated the clean from the dirty, the compassionate from the brutish, the sacred from the profane. 

My identity as a writer—me calling myself a writer has waxed and waned over the years.  At points I found it deeply pretentious—would rather call myself a wife, a mother.  I think that is because I am an Orthodox Jewish woman and our identity in our day to day lives is much more based on family.  

Describe the creative process involved in any one piece you’ve written—this could be book, a story, a poem, an essay, etc.

I write reams—or it feels like reams.  How I picture the character in a certain situation.  I will also have themes—class and money, sexuality and age.  In fiction I never plot—although I love an O. Henry twist, these days very out of fashion.  In general my creative process will involve one piece of music—a song over and over until a draft is done.  As I work a very dull day job, I write small notes all day long and then when I get home I type them into the computer.  I review them every few days to see what I can still use.

Could you describe your relationship to the publishing process (this can be publishing in any form, from traditional book publishing to blogging, etc) 

I have had very limited relationship with publishing.  For some early years I published a couple of things a year—both poems and stories.  Those few publications a year required me sending out a lot.  This became costly both in money and energy.  Then I had a family and had to support the family.  The last thing I ever wanted to see in those days was a rejection note from a grad student that said something to the effect of—nice stuff but not today.  That would have just been too much.  My favorite line is: “this just does not meet out needs.”  I always have a vision of little grimy editors trying to satisfy their needs—black Lycra.

In truth, I think there is so much great stuff published—much more in fiction than poetry but then there is also a lot of crap—a lot.  I can’t figure it out.  Taste and trends are not something I have ever had a handle on.  It seems that much of the fiction I see published is articulate, not super ambitious and invariably makes gestures toward some third world life in traditional garb. A cult of the exotic—change the characters names to Joe and Dianne, set the whole thing in the rust belt and nobody, nobody would give it a second glance.  Unfortunately it does speak to a poverty of imagination that is American—and not very exotic at all.  This scares and saddens me.  What we take as diversity only (which is morally good) and giving other voices is only happening because to a large extent there are few voices emerging.

Logistically, publication is a challenging.   I am also not a very record keeper.  It has happened that something was accepted that I do not remember sending, and once I just received a copy of a journal and lo and behold there was something of mine in it.  I essentially gave up the whole notion of publication

How has being a writer affected your relationships?

It may have made me more difficult to live with and more messy as there are sheets of paper every place.  In reality I am not sure it has had such a huge effect.

How would you describe the community of writers you belong to—if any?  This may be a “real” or “virtual” (in more than one sense) community.

I have a few “writer” friends and those relationships are “virtual,” meaning email and phone. They are like any other “long distance” relationship in that in some ways they are more precious than my day-to-day relationships.  For people who live far from large communities or cities where there are other writers they are essential.

What are your future goals in terms of writing?

I want to write the best book of short stories to hit the world in the last 50 years—I want it to knock socks off.

Bonus Question: If your writing were a musical instrument, what would it be? 

Oh it would have to be something with broken strings.  It is hard to be a mediocre violin.  What else has strings?—not a guitar—they are too sexual—maybe some kind of dulcimer

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trouble In Mind, or the Tricone’s Debut

Happy Wednesday afternoon, folks.  I recently had an attack of “guitar acquisition syndrome,” a disorder that does afflict a number of guitarists—in fact, there are related syndromes for uke & banjo players too.  The result of said attack is the guitar in the pic to the right, a Recording King squareneck tricone resonator guitar.

Now you might ask, “John, you already have two resonator guitars, one of which has a metal body—what makes this one different?”  Good question, & I do have answers!

First, there are three basic cone configurations in resonator guitars: there’s the single cone with biscuit bridge, which is found in my Regal metal-body resonator; there’s the single cone with spider bridge, which is found in my Gold Tone wood-body resonator; & there’s the tricone (3 cones, of course!) as found in the new Recording King guitar.  You can see the three guitars together in the pic on the left, & you can find a clear explanation of the different ways these cones produce sound here on the Acoustic Fingerstyle site.

There are also two basic neck configurations associated with resonator guitars; they either
have a round neck or a square neck.  The “roundneck” models have a neck just like a conventional guitar with a rounded back & are typically held in the conventional manner.  The neck action is usually a it higher than on a conventional guitar to allow for slide playing, but usually roundneck resonators are set up so that you can actually fret notes & chords with your left hand fingers in addition to or instead of using a slide.

This isn’t true for squarenecks.  As you can see in the pic to the right, a squareneck guitar has a thick, squared neck.  The “squareneck” design allows much more flexibility on tunings because the neck is so strong.  This is important in slide playing because the majority of slide playing is done in what are called “open” tunings—this means that if you strum the strings
without any of them being fretted or “stopped,” a major chord will sound.  The six open strings on a guitar in standard tuning don’t produce a common major chord.  Also, with a squareneck guitar, the player typically doesn’t wear a slide over her/his finger, but instead holds a slide (often referred to as a “steel”) in his/her left hand.  & the guitar is played facing upwards on her/his lap.

I see myself using this new guitar quite a bit with my music partner, Heather U (note to Heather: since we’re now getting calls for bookings, we need to come up with a band name!), but I’d also like to incorporate the guitar slowly into my blues playing.  Speaking of which, I’ve added a “test drive” video of me playing & singing the old blues standard “Trouble in Mind” (& occasionally messing up the lyrics!) with the Recording King.  It has a few rough spots—I’m not used to playing lap style—or singing while playing lap style!  But all in all, I think it’s a reasonable effort as a “test drive.”

Hope you enjoy it!  & important note: tomorrow on Writers TalkB.N.!  You know you don’t want to miss that! 

Adams County Makes the News - Council Leader #20

The Council Leader
Published Every Thursday by the Council Publishing Company
Fred Mullin, Editor

April 30, 1915

While down at the depot one day last week we heard J.L. Griffith of Payette knocking the Council Valley as hard as he knew how in the presence of a homeseeker whom one of our real estate men was about to close a deal with.  On coming up the street we were told that Mr. Griffith had been doing a lot of knocking which we did not hear.  He was very imprudent to say the least.  Mr. Griffith sells tombstones and he has practically a monopoly on the business in this part of the country, but such talk as he made on his last trip will certainly erect his business tombstone in this vicinity in short order.  The people will not exert themselves to give their patronage to such knockers.

February 26, 1915

Editor Leader: 
If you want your county to improve, improve it.  If you want to make your county lively, make it so.  Don’t go to sleep, but get up and work for it and talk for it wherever you have a chance.  If you have property, improve it.  Paint your house, or if you can’t paint, give it a coat of whitewash.  Make it look bright as if somebody was supposed to live there.  Clean the road that passes your residence; also your yard, not only the front, but also the back yard.  Make your surroundings pleasant and your property will be worth more on the market.  If you are doing reasonably well, try and do better.  Go and talk with your friends; give them your advice and theirs, and see if it will not be better.

Work for home interests.  Trade at home; help your home dealers; keep your money at home as much as possible and it is likely to help you in return.

All successful counties have been made by property owners working together.  Public improvements are an investment that pays.  Don’t believe every scandalous rumor that is put into circulation concerning your fellow countrymen; crush the report in its infancy instead of throwing it out to the vicious newsmonger.  Don’t waste your time on dirty quarrels and hold back your aid from good objects through spite, but work for some good and you will find yourself benefited.

Sunny Side, Indian Valley.

April 30, 1915

Whitely Bros., Council, Idaho
Gentlemen:  This is to acknowledge receipt of a sample of apples that reached me through Mr. Freehafer, and we have never tasted anything like them in our lives, and if you can raise that kind at Council I would like to place my order for next year’s supply.  I have a little boy 4 years old and when he bit into one he said, “Oh mama, just see the juice, let’s get more of them.”  We certainly enjoyed them and wish to thank you for taking the trouble to send them.
Will H. Young, Boise

Editor’s Note: Mr. Young is the state bank examiner and the apples spoken of are the famous Council Valley “Delicious” variety.
January 29, 1916


Council Leader:
Will you please state through the columns of the Leader that House bill 36, which, had it passed, would have opened the cattle range to sheep grazing, was indefinitely postponed when it came up for the third reading in the House this morning, and which action finally disposes of the bill.  The reason we desire to state through the leader the fact of this bill’s defeat is because we know that a great many cattlemen at home were much concerned for fear it would become a law, and we know they will be glad to learn that it was killed.
E.W. Bowman
J.I. Linder

February 5, 1915

Council Leader:
On January 15, the undersigned wrote to the Idaho Free Traveling Library commission at Boise requesting an application for a case of books for this place, and received reply to the effect that there was a move on foot to kill the commission.
Insofar as the state has gone to great expense in establishing the commission and purchasing books, and that the great need of the public in this line is good books such as the state furnishes, doesn’t it appear to you that this is a very unwise move?

There are a number of good reasons which are apparent to the average person why this commission should remain intact.  Here are a few: the great initial expense has already been met; any community containing six responsible parties is allowed, upon application, a case of books; the transportation charges are paid by the state and no cost whatever is attached to the reading of these books; the case remains in each community for four months instead of thirty days as in some states.

The Goodrich live ones have formulated a petition to our representatives in Boise asking that this commission be retained, and it would be a good idea for every community to circulate one to the same effect and without delay.  The wording need not be lengthy or flowery.

I cannot help but think that this expected move is due to some wild idea of our governor to curtail expenses, but if he is to strike at our educational factors, he should be met with strenuous opposition from everyone, politics not considered.

A Subscriber, Goodrich

February 5, 1915
I am giving you for publication a few notes on croakers and faultfinders.  It requires a keen discrimination to know just how large a piece of the mantle of charity should be thrown over the chronic croaker.  Whether a croaker can help croaking is a question that puzzles me.  A frog cannot sing; his throat is not built right; he can croak and that is all he can do; but the chronic has trained himself to be one at his will, so that he is a blight and a thorn in all places that he or she goes with croaking and fault finding.

I do not know but that there are some men and women who are so constructed that they can only croak, croak, and keep on that everlasting croaking, and instead of condemning them we ought to pity them.

A man who is miserable is certainly not a man to be envied and the croaker is most assuredly a miserable man.  Croakers are probably the most numerous class of people on earth.  It requires no special political or religious conviction to be a croaker or grouch; it requires no genius; it does not even need a common school education.  It is one of the glorious privileges of idleness that you may grumble if you wish.  Nobody wants to have anything to do with a gruff or a grouch.  He soon becomes blear-eyed, lop-sided, pigeon-toed and lantern-jawed and puts or takes on all the horrible looks that a fiend in human form is liable to get.
No, you cannot be a grouch continually and be a decent man.  He will at last imagine that people are shunning him, if there is any life left in his poor, grouchy soul, if he has one left that can be recognized as one, and as being shunned.  It is a fact that all decent people do shun him, for he is a blight in society and a home destroyer.  So it would be better for him and all concerned that he would quit for one week and give all a rest and see how pleasant it would be.  Now smile, you son-of-a-gun, for one week.

Sunny Side, Indian Valley


Why go hungry?  The Overland Restaurant can feed you.

Don’t fail to clean your seed.  We do the work right and at reasonable rates.  Fred Cool.

Reduce the cost of living and escape the sweltering heat by taking meals at the Council  Café.  These are close times and every nickel you can save counts.

Mrs. John Clifton and son left yesterday morning for Midvale to attend the funeral of
Chas. Lakey’s baby.  Mrs. Lakey is a daughter of Mrs. Clifton.  The baby died from
whooping cough and mumps. Another of their children is dangerously ill.

Next Sunday will be observed as Rally Day and there will be preaching both morning and  evening.  Everybody welcome and a special invitation is extended to the members of the
Methodist church.

There will be a prayer meeting on Thursday evening.  Listen for the bell.

Last Sunday added another 100 to the attendance record at the Congregational church
Sunday school.  Next Sunday is the last day of the contest.

This section is being treated to a good rain and there was some frost Saturday night, but
owing to the cloudy morning Sunday we think it did very little damage.  The early garden
is coming on now and lettuce and radishes will be plentiful in a few days.

Clyde Steward, Harry Ludwig and Ike Haworth started Friday to Caldwell with some horses and mules to attend the big horse sale.

Bruin will suffer now, as Fred Bailey and Joe Wilkerson have gone bear hunting.

D.K. Lindsay was out after the rain dragging the road from his place to town.  We wish a few more of our neighbors had autos.

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


[L.E. Leone once again tackles the big questions: the miraculous in various manifestations]

I refuse to look stuff up. Therefore I might have this all wrong, but I have been thinking a lot about something one of J-man’s disciples is alleged to have said while they were practicing for the greatest circus act of all time: walking on water. J (as I recall) was spouting this line of new-age crap about just having to believe, man, blah blah. And Whatshisname, the disciple—expressing a much more human (and therefore meaningful to me) point of view—goes, “Dude, I do believe. Help me with my disbelief.”

We search for words. We think we might know what they mean. As I sit and search for these ‘uns, in 2010, a record player next to my head spins an old Carter Family album of gospel tunes. In my own way, I enjoy their music, but suspect that A.P., for one, was a total asswipe, and am glad (if I accidentally listen to the words) not to be very (if at all) Christian. Joseph Spence, on the other hand . . . I would waltz across water to hold my head for one song next to his sound hole, to dance in his spit and sweat. I would swing from his broken strings, sell my soul to the devil to believe, while I’m still alive, what he’s believing with those bass runs and belly growls.

That his guitar was always out of tune in the exact same way to every other ear but his . . . this is, as best as I can put it, my strongest argument for going on living.

John, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve studied theology, poetry, and music. Help me explain to my little brother Chris about love. How it is both bullshit, and the only thing in the world sharp and hard enough to cut through the bullshit to the beautiful blank space we like to think of as a core. How it can be blind as a midnight chicken, yet still see through walls, layers and layers of winter clothing, and cement-block-fortressed, barbed-wire-wrapped hearts . . . just not necessarily Tupperware. Or wax paper. Or even, truth be told, plastic wrap. How it is worth it.

Without any doubt.

Monday, September 20, 2010

“Plum Alley”

Happy Musical Monday, friends!  I’m here with our monthly Alice in Wonder Band song, & this one’s very good—to my mind, it may be Eberle’s best composition, at least in terms of vocal songs.

The Alice in Wonder Band started as a vehicle for Eberle’s considerable compositional talents, & her original songs were always our best material.  She was able to compose songs that underlined the strengths of each band member, & the tunes themselves were always fun to play.

The song “Plum Alley” comes from a stretch of road near us that’s lined with wild plums.  In fact, plums thrive in our part of Idaho—many of the plum photos in the slide show accompanying the tune were taken in our own backyard!  The song is seasonal, too, because the plums are just now coming ripe.

“Plum Alley” had an interesting origin.  Clarinetist Bob George joined the Alice in Wonder Band in 2003, & Eberle decided we should have an improvisational warm-up in Bb, the clarinet’s base key.  The first section of the song was the “basic” melody for this warm-up.  Not long afterward, the words came to Eberle along with a second section, & the warm-up became a song.

The recording comes from a 2003 performance at the Alpine Playhouse.  We did record this song during our one “studio” session, but the mix was all wrong.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the master tracks from that session, & so I can’t do anything to fix it.  Tho the live recording isn’t perfect, it does give a fair representation of the song as we played it, & it's superior to the studio version in the latter's current form.

Speaking of recordings, if you’d like a digital alum of Alice in Wonder Band music (including this track) for free, just follow this link to Bandcamp & download our one & only album, Elephant Cloudland.   If you prefer, songs may be downloaded individually.

Hope you enjoy the song! 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Photo of the Week 9/19/10

Plums Ripening in Our Backyard
Saturday, September 18th

Please check out today's post at The Days of Wine & Roses; it's a poem called "I Cover the Waterfront."

Tomorrow on Alcools?  My translation of Apollinaire's "Salomé"

& tomorrow on Robert Frost's Banjo: this month's featured Alice in Wonder Band tune.  See you soon!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

“Trâgnala Rumjana”

Happy Saturday!  I thought I’d share a bit of music with you today, & since this is Robert Frost’s Banjo, why not some banjo music?

In the distant past (all of two years or a tad less), I wrote about the banjo playing technique known as “frailing” or “clawhammer.”  For those who aren’t familiar with banjo playing, it involves striking down on the strings with the fingernail of either the index or middle finger, while also using the thumb to either play the drone string or else “drop” down onto the four other strings & play parts of the melody.  Frailing is an African technique that came across on the slave ships along with the akonting, or original African banjo.  It’s a very rhythmic & percussive style, & is still used commonly in what these days is called “old-timey” music (as opposed to bluegrass, which features quite a different style of banjo playing); it’s also long been favored as a style for dance accompaniment because of its rhythmic drive.  

I’ve dabbled in clawhammer style playing, tho for the most part I have a sort of idiosyncratic banjo playing style—perhaps the sort of thing you’d expect from someone who learned guitar fingerpicking for playing old blues & ragtime.  But tho I’m not a clawhammerist myself, I do love to listen to this style.  There are a number of talented practitioners these days, but one player I especially like is Cathy Moore of the (now apparently dormant, sad to say) Banjo Meets World blog.

Ms Moore is an excellent musician, tho as far as I know, she has never issued any recordings beyond those found on her blog & her super YouTube channel (also called Banjo Meets World) Ms Moore’s playing is—as frailed banjo music should be—filled with pulse & drive, but it’s also crisp & melodic.  She also often ventures outside the standard 2/4 timing of most clawhammer banjo music, playing a number of pieces in “odd” time signatures such as 7/8, 9/8 & 11/8.  The song I’m featuring, “Trâgnala Rumjana” is, according to Ms Moore’s notes on the video, “A Bulgarian song in 7/8 played over the scoop on my Gold Tone OT-800 banjo.”  For the uninitiated, a “scoop” is literally a scoop out of the bottom of the fretboard—it’s found on a number of banjos, especially the openback models favored for frailing, because a lot of frailing/clawhammer players tend to play with their right hand above the fretboard as opposed to the banjo drum.

Speaking for myself, I do hope Ms Moore, who has been silent both on her blog & her YouTube channel, is ok & still playing the banjo—I’d also add that if Cathy Moore ever wants to record an album, I’d definitely get in line!

Hope you enjoy this.

The pic shows a Gold Tone OT-800 banjo—nice machine!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Homegrown Radio 9/17/10

Happy Friday, everybody!  We’re here once again with Homegrown Radio featuring another fine song from Scotty Houston.  Let’s see what Scotty has to say aout this week’s song, “Love By Wire.”

I thought I'd try something different this week.  I'm usually pretty slow at both writing and recording, but this one was about two hours from idea to 4 track to mp3 (still pretty snailish for some folks I suppose, but that's about as sudden as I can get).

A simple uke lullabye sung to another song, so to speak.  Genuine Oakland traffic noise here and there.

Thanks, Scotty!  Hope you all enjoy this one (&, don’t forget, you can also listen to Scotty’s two earlier songs in the same mp3 player!)—& please don’t be shy about leaving Mr Houston a comment!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Writers Talk with Aaron M. Wilson

Aaron M. Wilson lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A. where he attempts to understand life, others (including his two cats – one good and one bad), himself, and especially his wife – in that order. He earned his M.F.A in Writing from Hamline University located in St.Paul, MN. He writes about books, stories, movies, and his experiences as an adjunct instructor of English, Literature, and Environmental Science on his blog: Soulless Machine.

His fiction has appeared in eFiction Magazine: The Premier Internet Fiction Zine, Pow Fast Flash Fiction, The Hive Mind, and he has forthcoming works in Eclectic Flash (September 2010), Twin Cities: Cifiscape Vol. I (August 2010), and The Last Man Anthology (October 2010 – also featuring stories from Barry N. Malzberg, C.J Cherryh, and Ray Bradbury).

You can get a sense of Mr Wilson's writing by reading an excerpt from his novel in progress (working title: Solar Capital) on the Writers Talk blog.

When did you first realize your identity as a writer?

I think that I’ve written about this elsewhere, but I’ve always been a liar and a storyteller. I exaggerate when there is no need. Just ask my wife. We play a strange game where I’ll relate some happening from the day, and she’ll stop me and ask, “Did that really happen?” Then I’ll have to admit that it didn’t. I don’t know why I exaggerate. I just do it. I’m just glad that I’ve found a partner who will not only put up with my crazy but enjoys it. 

Describe the creative process involved in any one piece you’ve written—this could be book, a story, a poem, an essay, etc.

I’m in love the process that produced my story “Spilling Sunlight” published in August by Evolve Journal. The editor contacted me thought Twitter and asked if I would like to write a story for their August issue. The catch: The story had to be inline with Evolve Journal’s theme – the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The assignment, it was an assignment, had my interest.

I quickly wrote a short story of about five thousand words and shot it off the Evolve Journal’s editors. The editors were interested, but they suggested a few fixes. From that point, the story started to change as we went back and forth a few times. I’m very happy with final product, and I enjoyed their comments and watching my story improve through feedback.

Could you describe your relationship to the publishing process? (this can be publishing in any form, from traditional book publishing to blogging, etc)

I blog. I Tweet. I’m thinking of getting into Scribd. Right now, I post some of my fiction on my blog and on others around the web. I’m excited about the #TuesdaySerial community where authors post flash-sized segments of a longer story on their own blog or website. On Tuesdays, a link list opens at Inspired By Real Life, and authors link their stories for the community to read and comment on during the week. When I’m finished posting my contribution, Bike Mechanic, I think that I'll publish it via Scribd.

My interest in Scribd started with the publication of three short stories and an author feature in the June issue of eFiction Magazine. Doug Lance, the editor, has been able to create a dynamic and beautiful publication and post it using Scribd. To my surprise, Scribd is being used by a diverse and talented group of writers and artist. I really wish that I had an eReader to make better use the technology.  

However, my hope to find my way into the traditional book publishing biz. I’ve managed to get my big toe in the door. I have stories in two upcoming anthologies: Twin Cities: Cifiscape Vol. I, a collection of Twin City authors speculating possible futures for the metro area published by Onyx Neon Press; and The Last Man Anthology published by Sword and Saga Press in celebration of Mary Shelley’s novel, The Last Man.

How has being a writer affected your relationships?
Positive: I’ve met many individuals both in person and online of like mind. Also, my wife, Jessica Fox-Wilson, is a poet and artist, and we practice, inspire, and support each other. I’ve also sought out and put together a writers group to help enforce deadlines.

Negative: The more time I spend writing and working on a story, the more time I want alone to write. I’m constantly pushing people away to find time to write. It is like Nirvana’s song Lithium, “…I'm so happy 'cause today / I've found my friends, there in my head...” It is not that I always prefer characters to “real” people, but the characters in my head demand to be let out on to the page. 

How would you describe the community of writers you belong to—if any?  This may be a “real” or “virtual” (in more than one sense) community.

I participate in both “real” and “virtual” writing comminutes. My “real” writing community is the most reassuring. They keep me on deadline, and I need deadlines to maintain my writing. We turn writing into each other once a month, and we get together, in person, to workshop stories, poetry, whatever. However, my “virtual” writing comminutes keep me motivated by sending through links to contests and journals excepting submissions. Through Twitter, I’ve found @TuesdaySerial, Pow Fast Flash Fiction, eFiction Magazine, Evolve, and other journals with motivated and charismatic editors that have become important to my writing practice.     

What are your future goals in terms of writing?

I’m always working on novel length ideas that end up truncated in short stories because I burn out on the idea, or I chase the new shinier idea that I just imagined. I really want to complete a full-length novel. To that end, I have started yet another novel length idea. My goal is to complete a novel length work of one hundred thousand words.

Bonus Question: If your writing were a musical instrument, what would it be?

Auto-Tune. (Don’t ask.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Few Snapshots From Summer

Here are a few photos from our summer - enjoy!

Yours Truly on the Porch with guitars, Manxine, Weenie & Pablo - June    

Depot in Eureka, MT - my trip to see Rory Block - June

Eberle & I at an island wedding gig - July

Daylilies in the Garden - July
Canned Goods & More at the Adams County Fair - July

Mt Hood Seen from the Balcony of the Balch Hotel, Dufur, OR- August

Eberle During Our Canoe Trip on the Payette River - September

Don't forget: tomorrow on Writers Talk - Aaron Wilson of Soulless Machine!