Attention Writers

Last September we began a project to bring the Arts and Art’s issues to the air. Now in our 5th month, Playtime with Sid and Bill Featuring Kerri Kendall, is the best and most comprehensive Arts program on Commercial Radio in the United States. 2018 is the year of the writer on our program. If you missed last week’s show, check out the Facebook Live rebroadcast as we talk with Author and Loyola University educator Nadine Kenney Johnston about the art of writing memoirs. this week we are back like speaking with Jill Pollack from Story Studio Chicago, a local and online resource and workshop for writers. The show airs every Sunday at 1pm on 1590WCGO in Chicago, but streams world wide at 1590wcgo.com. Help us to strengthen the writing community across America, and shine a long missed light on the great Authors and writers…and bloggers…across the nation.

Also joining us on today’s program is the Artistic Director of Chicago’s Prop Theatre to talk about Rhinoceros fest, a juried show to highlight the best in up and coming and innovative playwrights and Theatre companies.

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Every Little Detail

Every Little Detail
At this moment, 23 years ago, Ana and I had just been pronounced Wife and Husband. I remember every detail, as if I was back at that moment in time. I recall how my heart beat and that I felt like a fool, the only foreigner, a trespasser to a city under siege, and yet I hardly felt alone. There was gunfire in the Plaza a quarter mile away, echoing hollow among the shell-torn buildings, and across their neglected and weedy lots. Ana arrived in an old brown Mercedes taxi driven by a friend. She was in a borrowed red dress, cradling a small bouquet of crimson roses wrapped in a several pages of the city’s wartime newspaper, Oslobodjenje. Ana hated red roses. They reminded her of too many funeral. I was in the clothes I would wear crossing through the frontlines. Hasan Haljevac, my Kum, or best man had offered one of his old maroon suits…with bell bottoms! Ana, quite diplomatically said that she wanted “a war wedding.” Hasan’s wife, the artist Nadja, our would be matchmaker fought emotion, cocking her head with such a sweetly sympathetic smile. Little blond-haired Sasha, a sniper, walked the two blocks from the frontline to see his good friend married. There were tears in the eyes of my new mother-in-law,Renata Ivoš. The sky was clear. It was warm for an October day. The air held a jaundiced hue from the war, it’s ubiquitous dust, and from a 1000 smoky fires around the city. The sun was a smudge of white glare above the embattled limb of Mount Trebevic rising over the city and valley. The air smelled of wood smoke. I was leaving Ana that night, attempting to escape the city. Olja Borkovic, my new sister-in-law was softened, in contrast to her street punk persona. I was falling, joyously, understanding that even if I did not survive that night, all my prayers had been fulfilled. I am still falling, joyous and hopeless. I love you, Ana Turck. Happy anniversary. You are more beautiful to me now than that first moment I saw you and thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen…

ADVICE FOR YOUNG WRITERS.

Met a young lady recently who endeavors to be a writer. With a nod to the late great Danilo Kish, I had a bit of advice for her… 

  1. Find tragedy in fortune and fortune in the tragic.
  2. Lead your readers to great thoughts, then gleefully shove them off the cliff to that thought.
  3. Believe in ultimate truths and them question them.
  4. Get really cool glasses and search for the perfect chair.
  5. Be a benevolent tyrant of syntax.
  6. Be fearless. Fearlessness for the writer comes only from living in truth. Caution, it is not a natural human quality, but you are a writer so no one ever accused you of being human!
  7. Language is malleable and infinite with possibility, just as clay is to the sculptor. You are a sculptor.
  8. Your literary sculptures are a communal compromise between the words you choose and how your audience interprets your words.
  9. Seek to eliminate any interpretation of your words, even though you will almost always fail in that endeavor.
  10. Failure makes you a better writer.
  11. Writing is community.
  12. I don’t eat fish, they swim in their toilet and it is very rude to watch someone eat you, which is why I don’t associate with cannibals.
  13. Writing is music and rhythm. You must discover  whether you write like Beethoven, Coltrane or Zeppelin.
  14. Find your own voice.
  15. Writer’s block is for the unimaginative and those with nothing to say.
  16. No writer was ever respected for adhering strictly to the rules, though a fair number did get published.
  17. Identify with humanity instead of politics, reason over religion, truth over law and compassion over justice.
  18. My feet hurt. I’m glad to be seated. Sit down when you write, it’s better for your feet.
  19. Write constantly.
  20. Always be an editor instead of a censor.
  21. Writing is rebellion. If your family supports your writing you are left with little choice; you’ll have to shave your head and get the tattoo.
  22. There is no writing without pain. half the trick to being a really good writer is in surviving life’s pain long enough to write about it..
  23. Prefer places in which you are a minority.  The perspectives are richer, the humility far more valuable and the music is surprisingly easy to dance to!
  24. I generally suck at all the things I have an expert opinion on, which is why I became a writer.
  25. You may leave home without money, water or a passport, but never leave home without at least two good pens and something to write on.
  26. If you are 11 years old or younger, start looking for a literary agent now, so that you may find one by the time you are forty.
  27. No one writes well before they are 40, but everyone writes well if they wish to.
  28. Wine is an elixir to honesty. Too much wine confuses bitterness with honesty. I prefer beer.
  29. Never let anyone tell you that you should speak with just one voice, it is rude to all the other voices in your head!
  30. Every word has been written ten billion times before. Every word you write is a new and undiscovered country.
  31. Never wear a hat when you write. I don’t know why, just don’t do it.
  32. Die upon every page, for your life as a writer depends upon it.
  33. Don’t take anything too seriously. Seriousness is a lie. Comedy and humor are the writer’s best tools for deconstructing the world.
  34. Taste colors. Feel the texture of sound. Measure the tempo of the human heart in love, in fear, at death. Breathe in the scent of every emotion. Swim in the cool deep current of truth. Grasp the sunset and measure its weight in your hands. Ruminate over the absurdity of forever.
  35. Always write through the character’s eyes rather than your own.
  36. As a writer you are never alone, worlds and characters and conversations fill the air around you.
  37. Words have power. You are powerless without your words. You are your words.
  38. Cherish solitude and loneliness, which are imperative to the act of writing well.
  39. You are a character in everyone else’s novel. Realize that every word you write is not for you, but they definitely reveal everything about you.
  40. Everyday truths are self evident. Great truths are massaged from random thoughts, but ultimate truths are your Holy Grail

Literature as Future history and the Power of Fiction.

In 1999 I began work on my very first novel. It took me four years to complete; a 93,000 word epic about 6 friends coming of age in a small French town I’d fallen in love with many years before. I edited the book now and again, but overall it seemed far too intimate to do anything with. I printed a copy and put it on a shelf. “A Perfect Place,” takes place years from now, the world at war with America. a virulent nationalist fervor, led by a particular demagogue and championed by a criminal sweeps through town, observed by a dying university professor who believes all human history can be described and predicted using the template of the French Revolution. Dusting off the novel late last night I was stunned at how closely I described what is happening to our nation, and what may lay ahead. In this excerpt two of the characters are faced with going off to war:

He was waiting for Antonio and David. Rather he was waiting for Antonio and having doubts whether David would actually show after the other day. The note they left at his door went unanswered, but David had always been a little flighty in Bastien’s opinion, so anything was likely to happen. Bastien, however, was not placing too many hopes on David showing.

Antonio arrived first, climbing up through the skylight, waving when he saw Bastien. He scooted onto the ledge beside Bastien, and asked where David was. Bastien only shrugged, watching the curious characters in the alley below. Antonio looked as well, the bottoms of his feet tingling as they dangled so high above the ground.

“What’s the show today?”

“Josephine Baker.”

“Oo-la-la. Even I would tune out for her.”

“Why, like to borrow one her dresses?” Bastien grinned. Antonio was suddenly flustered, searching for something to say. Bastien patted his leg before Antonio could get the words out. “Good comeback. I’m only just kidding.”

“Are you always going to torture me with that?”

“You kissed me, Goddamnit.”

“Once.”

“And you said you loved me!”

“I, uh…” Antonio stammered.

Bastien could see that his friend was hurt and embarrassed. He threw an arm around Antonio’s shoulders. “I love you too, man.”

“You do?”

“Sure, for all the years we’ve been friends. You’re my best friend in the whole world, man. Even if you are a queer bird.”

“I didn’t say I was queer.”

“Well, someone who kisses other boys might want to start asking some questions, don’t you think?”

“Just confused.”

“Well, you’ll figure it out, right. Not important though, right now we have bigger things to worry about.”

Of course he was talking about the war. They were quiet for a moment, that new worry creeping into their thoughts. Antonio sighed, looked out across the hazy jumble of rooftops and power lines, catching only a glimpse of the greenish-brown river beyond.

“Ever wonder about dying?” he asked.

“Only about dying here.”

“Here or anywhere?”

“Anywhere but here.”

“Hmm.”

“Don’t think about it. It will just make you sick.”

“How is that possible? Maybe we will be killed or crippled, come back as hopeless as these others.” Antonio motioned to a table of veterans throwing catcalls at Bastien’s blushing Sister.

“Maybe you’ll get cancer tomorrow.”

“Maybe.”

“You could get hit by lightening, or drown in the river. Do you worry about those things too?”

“I worry about things you cannot even imagine, my friend.”

“Do you worry that I will throw you from this roof, if you don’t shut up?”

“I am now,” he grinned.

“Look there’s a rat,” Bastien pointed out the furry creature scurrying through the tables. An elderly man and wife saw it and smiled at one another. Both boys could see the holo-tech modules in their ears.

“I bet the holo-tech program will make that old couple there think that it’s an adorable poodle.”

“Disgusting. I’d rather have a rat.”

“A rat?”

“They know how to fight, how to survive. With a rat you know he is out for himself. Nobody will mess with him unless he wants a real fight. That’s who you get behind, protect his ass. In the war, I intend to be a rat.”

“I’ll be behind you, Little rat,” Antonio nudged with his shoulder.

Bastien looked at him for a long moment, judging him in a way that almost made him want to retreat for it. Instead, he rose to meet it, felt himself becoming a man.

“I know you will. And yes, I do think about dying.”

Antonio thought to say something, to ask him, but the effort just seemed too small. It was enough that Bastien was thinking about death that made Antonio not feel so alone any longer.

“And David?” Antonio asked.

Bastien could only shake his head.

“I went by his flat earlier,” he said. “The note was gone.”

“Maybe he saw it?”

“I spoke with his crazy mother. Well, spoke at her while she stared at me like I was speaking English or something.”

“Will we be the three Musketeers?”

“He will not come with us,” Bastien said recalling their last time at the chateau.

“I had that impression, too.”

“David is on another road, perhaps more deadly than ours, and certainly more dangerous for the soul.”

Antonio nodded in reluctant agreement, looked admiringly at his friend. Bastien pretended not to notice, looked off across the town. He tried to imagine the two of them at war, wondered what it would be like for each of them, but could not quite form proper thoughts. The war was too real now to ponder, to imagine themselves in the news images from the frontlines, or to think that they could soon end up like those wretched souls in the Hotel des Invalides, or upon that hill at St-Cirq Lapopie. It came to them as this undefined monolithic thing, something which could neither be understood or reckoned with, only faced as confidently as their untested hearts could manage.

A Mystery of Languages Solved?

After more than two decades studying and travelling in the Balkans there was one recurring question. I can honestly say that I had the same vexing conversation with dozens of people throughout the former Yugoslavia over the years, from acquaintances at cafes to various professors, intellectuals, artists, historians and a philosopher or two. Is it possible that the answer lay right under our noses, or more specifically, under our tongues?

For all of my Slavic friends, family and acquaintances: I have long wondered where the Serbo-Croatian and overall Slavic languages designation for German and Germany come from, Nemački, Nemačka, respectively in Serbo-Croatian. travel back in time to the 3rd through the 6th Centuries AD when Slavic tribes migrating into Europe came into fuller contact and competition with Germanic tribes whose language they could not understand. The S-C word for mute is Nem or Nemy. Possibly the term was a bit of a perjorative by Slavic nations as they came into contact with Germanic tribes. It is the best theory to the origin of the word whose derivations extend to the Hungarian német, who arrived in Europe around the time of the Slavs, the Turkish, Nemçe and Almanca, who borrowed from the Bosnian/Serbian in the 12th and 13th centuries as the Ottoman Empire occupied souther Europe to the gates of Vienna.

STORMS: A Poem

We are storms and banks and reeds

Whipped by the wind, we rise to bluster and succumb to our own floods

We are fear and desperation and pointlessness

Cold, we huddle for fear of being forgotten, yet that is our fate.

We are hope and need and desire

Dragged from our homes, Our cries lost to the tumult of the world

We are tragedy and sickness and alone.

And if there is any redemption left to us it lies in the sacrifice of love

                                                                                       WC Turck