Saturday, April 23

"Good Game"

Jeremy's hand was wrapped tight with athletic tape, and he could only bump the Warriors' hands after the game. Every tap sent slashed pain through his wrist. Patrick tried to goad Josh into another technical foul and squeezed his hand hard enough to make him wince. The gauze pad above my eye had soaked through with blood. The excess oozed down. Coaches Lundgard and Browning hardly brushed one another.

The refs didn't call the flagrant foul on Matt's game-winning shot, but we still said, “Good game.” We would play again. There would be atonement. That would be a good game.


This may be over the top, especially with the threat of "atonement," but it rounds nearer to the truth for me than not. How often, especially when you're in high school or whatever, do you really mean "good game" when the final second passes and your team has lost? Do you really mean that the referees called it fair, that everyone played to the best of their abilities, that you deserved to lose, that they deserved to win? Hardly ever, for me at least. There is always that promise when you go through the line that if things had been a little different, if a foul had not have been missed or one mistake not been made, the result would have been different, and it will be that little bit different next time.

Sunday, April 17

A first novel: Advice

In the many years since I first decided that I wanted to be a writer, I have received a great deal of advice. I attended the Young Authors Conference three times in middle school. In my first summer at MITY I took Jack Kreitzer's Polishing and Publishing class. I took two fiction writing classes in my last years at Gonzaga. From all of those hours of lecture and study there is not a single distinct piece of advice that remains with me. This may be clear in the rather slapdash way I have approached my novel thus far.

The only advice I remember came from a form letter from K.A. Applegate sent in response to what must have been an extensive piece of praise for Animorphs that I wrote when I was 10 or 11. The advice was simple: write every day. It doesn't matter whether it's a novel, a journal entry meant only for yourself or a letter to an author who will never personally read and respond to it. Just write. It's solid advice that I have only managed during limited stretches.

Despite this poor history with advice, I felt the compulsion this past month to read some. Perhaps it's that I'm nearing the completion of a first draft. I want to be reassured that I have been on the right path and that I won't have to throw more than a hundred pages of writing and a few hundred hours worth of work out.

Whatever the case, I think one can advise much worse than the following.

Before writing can begin, there needs to be an idea and the conviction that the idea is good and worthwhile. Austin Kleon's "How To Steal Like An Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)" (suggested by Emmett) does this. Read, watch, listen. Find the best of everything. Learn from and adapt it. Don't wait to create. And, perhaps the best of his advice, write what you like.

The first third may be a memoir, and the final third as well, but the middle portion of Stephen King's On Writing has some solid advice on the mechanics of writing. Write two thousand words every single day. Never lose track of what the story is about. Follow the grammar and technique rules made by Strunk and White. Avoid using too many adverbs. Be prepared for a lot of rejection.

Then, for the necessary dose of humility, there is Jessa Crispin's "A Sea of Words." Being a graduate of an MFA program guarantees nothing. Modern communication technologies mean that anyone can be a published writer and that rising above the tumult requires so much more than skill alone.

Crispin's article was inspired by the editor's request that she base her next piece on writer's manuals, "the poor-man's MFA" as she calls them. With a will to write, honest friends willing to read your drafts and these three works, you can probably do better than most of those guides and still save yourself a few thousand dollars on tuition.

Single-spaced pages with one-inch margins? One-hundred and twelve.
Words? Eighty-four thousand and eleven.
Named characters? Forty-five.

Saturday, April 16

"Poker Night"

Mike stared at Jerry across the table. Jerry wore a Yankees cap and reflective sunglasses.

“I call,” Mike said. “All in.” He flipped his cards. “Pair of queens, pair of aces.”

Jerry gave a warrior's whoop.

“Wraparound straight! I win!”

“What the hell's a 'wraparound straight?'”

“Ace is high and low, so it's jack, queen, king, ace, two.”

“That's not real,” Mike growled.

“Okay, but a small straight still beats two pair, right?”

“That's Yahtzee, moron.”

“Oh. Good thing you didn't call me on those other hands then, huh?”


Also based on a true story. Except that I always knew a wraparound straight wasn't real. Was, however, disappointed that a small straight wasn't real.

Saturday, April 9

"Slug Bug"

“Slug bug!”

“Ow. What was that?”

“I saw a Beetle. I get to hit you.”

“That's stupid.”

“That's the rule.”


“Slug bug!”


“It passed us.”

“I'm sure.”

“Cruiser bruiser!”

“Ow. What's that?”

“Same thing but with a PT Cruiser.”

“You're a child.”

“Hummer bummer!”

“That really hurt.”


“Psych! Cruiser bruiser!”

“Nope. That's a Chevy HHR. They look the same.”


“Cop chop!”


“Subaru boogaloo!”

“I'm going to drive us off the road. Seriously.”


Based on real life.

Saturday, April 2

"First Kiss"

Alex had his first kiss last night. He and Sarah were waiting for her bus after dinner at Thai on First and huddled close against the evening chill. He considered asking her permission but decided to just sweep in.

There were no rising strings. In fact, Alex’s mouth was too dry to feel anything but the curry on her breath.

“I'm sorry. Was that too fast?”

“No, no. It was nice.” Sarah smiled.

Needless to say, Alex thought the world would be somehow different, brighter, the morning after, yet his Cheerios crunched just the same.


Given the chance to do it again, I would have read this piece first. It's the best of the three I wrote for the tournament. It's honest in its treatment of an early act of physical intimacy in contrast to the wonder and fireworks of a Hollywood first kiss. There are some nice details in the taste of Sarah's breath. I'm proud of this.