In this second episode of the new season of our podcast, The Library Foundation’s Writer-In-Residence, Kurt Dinan, continues talking writing, reading, creativity, and more. Listen as Kurt interviews local author Geoffrey Girard about his writing process and his “other” life as a high school teacher — something Kurt and Geoffrey both have in common. Geoffrey writes thrillers, historical fiction, and dark speculative fiction. His first book, Tales of the Jersey Devil, is thirteen original tales based on American folklore. His upcoming book, Truthers, is young adult novel about a 9/11 conspiracy. Subscribe and leave us a review wherever you listen to podcasts.
In this new podcast, Jeffrey Hillard reflects on writing his forthcoming first novel, Shine out of Bedlam, part of his new Young Adult series, “Shine in Bedlam.” This first YA novel (also meant for adults) links history, mystery, and romance amid a myriad of wildly entertaining occasions in 1968. Jeff reads two special scenes from the novel and reflects on how he approached and developed them. Share your thoughts about this podcast in the blog comments below. Also, please consider subscribing to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. You may also rate it on iTunes and other platforms. We’d love to hear your feedback.
The award-winning fiction writer Thom Atkinson was the latest special guest for the “Inside the Writer’s Head” podcast. The recording offered Jeff the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend: “Thom and I have a special aesthetic kinship and artistic sense of collaboration, because our friendship goes back to the late 1970s, when we both studied at the University of Cincinnati. Our late professor, mentor, and writer extraordinaire, Dallas Wiebe, taught both of us so much, and his influence helped carry us through so much of our writing lives. Thom chats about his work and reads excerpts in this interview.” Share your thoughts about this podcast in the blog comments below. Check back regularly for future “Inside the Writer’s Head” podcasts. Also, please consider subscribing to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. You may also rate it on iTunes and other platforms. We’d love to hear your feedback.
On Saturday, June 30, at the Main Library, the Library Foundation’s Writer-In-Residence Jeffrey Hillard led a “Short Story Workshop” to help aspiring writers hone their craft and enrich their short fiction. The workshop involved a group reading of Lucia Berlin’s story “My Jockey;” helpful pointers on character development, dialogue, secondary patterns; and insider tips to help writers think about their work in a different way. In addition, the workshop included a curated list of reading recommendations selected by Jeffrey because of their “expert use of short fiction elements, techniques and moments.” For more tips, Jeffrey’s presentation, which has loads of useful suggestions, has been posted to SlideShare.
On Saturday, June 25, at the Main Library, the Library Foundation’s Writer-In-Residence Jeffrey Hillard explored the foundations, options, trends, and how-to’s that make self-publishing a viable opportunity for writers of both fiction and non-fiction. Jeffrey touched on some of the pros of indie publishing such as improved control. Jeffery says, “the majority of indie writers state total control as most important rationale for decision” for indie publishing. He lists other pros such as: publication time frame is optimal, which is a radical change from traditional publishing; ability to forge a career as writer is more opportune than ever and reasonable; gaining gratification can be gained by seeing your writing career grow; gaining satisfaction in reaching your personal writing goals as a result of indie control. Jeffery adds, “your success depends on quality of book, production, & marketability.” For more tips, Jeffrey’s presentation, which has loads of useful suggestions, has been posted to SlideShare. Go forth and write!
Jeffrey Hillard interviews memoirist Christine Grote in this entertaining and evocative episode of the podcast. Christine’s two memoirs, Dancing in Heaven: A Sister’s Memoir and Where Memories Meet: Reclaiming My Father after Alzheimer’s, explore unique and fresh ground in the arena of Creative Non-Fiction. In fact, Dancing in Heaven breaks new ground in the family-medical-experiences sub-genre, as Christine incisively portrays of the joy, pain, wisdom, sacrifices, humor, and love that dominated the decades-long caretaking of her beloved, late sister Annie. Christine shares insights into memoir writing and also reads from a very revealing project-in-progress. Share your thoughts about this podcast in the blog comments below. Check back regularly for future “Inside the Writer’s Head” podcasts. Also, please consider subscribing to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. You may also rate it on iTunes and other platforms. We’d love to hear your feedback.
“Oh, I feel that I could melt,
Into heaven I’m hurled….”
–George Gershwin (“How Long Has This Been Going On?”)
When the musical genius, Prince Rogers Nelson, died on April 21 and his legend slipped into a new direction, I began drafting a poem in my own poet’s response to his death. Although I’m still affected by this loss, the poem, “Leaking Rain in Minneapolis,” was a gift to my imagination.
Alongside the short elegy, I am pleased to have two drawings by a richly talented student, Patrick Zopff, whose art I tremendously admire. He is one of our great young artists in this region. I invited Patrick to create his own artistic response to “Leaking Rain in Minneapolis,” and so his lovely vision of Prince and the poem, as evoked in two original drawings, accompanies my poem.
Patrick Zopff is an award-winning Art major and Music minor at Mount St. Joseph University. A multi-talented student, Patrick’s work has been exhibited at Studio San Giuseppe Art Gallery (Mount St. Joseph) and in 2014, his art received honors recognition in the regional Congressional Art Competition.
Leaking Rain in Minneapolis
Smoke circles with no fire. No fire to add
any comfort to our loss. The smoke is fog afterall,
with nothing burning for us to smell its beauty.
The morning you died, a mourning dove rose above it
and looked down at purple in droves, at bed sheets
spray-painted in your symbolic name, Prince, the man,
still prevailing in posters and candles,
in song beaming from the inside of a truck.
Then, of course, the sun drenched it all. Bathed all
in light that washed the face of every balloon.
In a fit of calmness, light growing pale and paler
around Paisley Park, you withdrew from a last dance
to glide into an awaiting shadow.
There is something pain can’t return.
Your voice disappears in the hollow of our minds,
and yet it does return, waits, your hand empty,
this feverish voice coming constantly
in the darkness, in the blue TV screenlight.
It was like this inside that early Thursday
when a rain cloud almost whisked by unnoticed.
Small pellets of rain fell. The mourning dove
called for your soul
you could not keep hidden and to the sky
you could not hide from.
**the italicized words are from the song, “A Case of You” (by Joni Mitchell, covered by Prince)
I am still thinking about the festive poetry that populated so many evenings in April.
Here, following up my previous post, I’m going to share continuing insights into the unique “An Evening of Experimental Poetry and Music” that occurred at the Main Library a little over a month ago.
I originally wrote about the artists involved in this collaboration in my last post. I still have some lingering thoughts.
The true nature of experimentation in the arts, especially when unveiled with passion and open-mindedness in a public forum, can inspire a viewer or participant to ponder certain moments in the experiment long after the event. The poet William Blake said that all art is innately experimental, anyway and privy to visions that, when shared, seal something profound in the mind. Not necessarily life-changing, but profound enough to stir the mind.
As the experiment in poetry and music demonstrated, there are certain tiers or degrees of experimentation – always. There is no set cap on the term “innovation.” There’s no cul-de-sac-like, finite framework that binds the term “experiment” to a given end.
The event was actually called, “Chance Wheel Series I.” Two chance wheels were situated on two tables. One chance wheel contained the names of musicians ready to accompany the poetry, and the other wheel identified poets who would read. The determination of musician and poet was left to chance.
I was thrilled to be a part of this gathering. The Chance Wheel Series is part of the monthly Experimental Music program/series at the Main Library.
And I want to give special kudos to the artist, musician, and teacher whose truly innovative thinking conjured the evening, according to librarian Steve Kemple, who also co-facilitated the confluence of musical instruments (even the use of melodic typing on a typewriter) and poetry. Well, some impromptu prose, too, as when Kemple randomly pulled down a mystery novel, handed it to a guest writer, and encouraged her to read to musical accompaniment. A random move, yet one that produced a vibrant oral quality.
That special artist, musician, and educator is Marc Governanti. Governanti has created the wonderfully fictive “Fossington Institute,” which played the satiric center of the evening. Marc Governanti also created his intentionally ultra-solemn (comically solemn) character, Daymond Raymond, head of Fossington Institute. Governanti also built the two Chance Wheels. He and Kemple took turns introducing the evening, as Fossington Institute paved the way for collaboration.
“Marc literally asked me to create and play a character the night before. My character, Dr. Walter Von Perrier, was inspired by his instructions and his own Daymond Raymond.” Of course, Kemple played Dr. Walter Von Perrier.
“Marc is totally responsible for creating the context for our recent evening of experimental music and poetry, and we want it to continue,” Kemple says. “I greased the wheels and provided support for Marc and the artists. Part of that included my playing the role of Walter Von Perrier and co-emceeing.
Governanti, as Daymond Raymond, is unassuming, wonderfully cordial, and his pontificating delivery had impeccable timing. His and Kemple’s interludes between some of the poems and music anchored the evening. They both consumed their satirical roles to the delight of musicians, poets, and guests.
I also want to single out the readers and musicians. Readers: Nancy Paraskevopoulos, Kendall Jolley, Charles Gable, and Steve Kemple. Guests were invited to read, too. The musicians: Josiah E. Miller, Chase Watkins, Scott Holzman (also a terrific poet), and Jonathan Hancock.
“Experimental music,” says Kemple, “is something I’ve fortunately had the opportunity to showcase in a monthly series. Chance Wheel Series is just one event within that particular series.”
With the contributions of Marc Governanti, the generous musicians and poets, and Steve Kemple, I see Chance Wheel Series growing and shining as a new venue for writers and musicians to intersect and perform material.
After all, this kind of doing, as played out in Chance Wheel Series, is what our city’s artists have always embraced, and the venue of our library for such expressions holds rich potential.
The screenplay for “The Revenant” was co-written by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarrito and Mark L. Smith.
We’re talking narrative. We’re talking the primary source of all storytelling, filmic or narrative print. In fact, we can’t appreciate Leo’s versatile acting in early films like “This Boy’s Life,” “Who’s Eating Gilbert Grapes,” or even “Titanic” without saluting the narrative that was first imagined and crafted on paper.
The original script. Or the script adaptation from a novel.
In the most recent Academy Awards celebration, the evening’s first two Oscars recognized screenwriting. The Academy of Motion Pictures launched its public tribute to the mega-star employees within its billion dollar industry by illuminating one of the most understated of the industry’s art forms.
It’s the actual art which every actor, actress, director, cinematographer, and producer must salute. Leo DiCaprio knew it so well on February 28, and to Leo’s continuing credit, he’s a humble guy, an acting dynamo whose genius lifts every script he touches to a peak that we also crave to reach as movie-watchers. Leo DiCaprio thrives on top of that peak, and he loves to carry the torch for colleagues and fellow artists that give him ample room in front of a camera.
To reach that precipice, Leo had to follow the writing. It gave Leo and his director words they could trust.
The results of screenplays – the writing that gives a movie life – constitute the simplest and most extreme reason these “employees” can take advantage of their longevity and diverse opportunities. Each actor interested in some role usually, at first, reads a screenplay that his or her agent, producer, or director-friend passes along.
It was appropriate that screenwriting was recognized first on February 28. The writing should be the first thing an actor sees. In recent Oscar ceremonies, screenwriting has been front and center as the lead-off award category.
I teach a screenwriting course, and it’s not an easy genre to teach, much less one in which to write. It’s always interesting to think where a film starts. With words. With visual images and dialogue put on pages. Sure, a film might start with a director or producer’s vision, but the real grind starts with the process of transferring that vision to the page.
As with “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” in 2015, those visions perhaps exceeded expectations on Oscar Night when both films were awarded “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Adapted Screenplay,” respectively. It immediately occurred to me that the films’ epic productions perfectly transcended the words that were crafted to play out these visions.
My colleague at Mount St. Joseph University, Elizabeth Barkley, recently passed along to me a beautiful tribute to the script of “Spotlight,” one of her favorites in 2015. I’d asked her about the writing. She wrote, “The two worlds portrayed in ‘Spotlight’ are ones I know well: journalism and the Catholic Church. The script, especially the dialogue, felt authentic to me. The Boston Globe investigative team revealed frustration and excitement as they began to realize what they were onto. And they also felt fear, a natural response as they weighed the implications of their investigation for the Catholic Church. Church leaders, in contrast, came across as smug, convinced that no one could build a credible case against them. It was the ordinary Catholics in the film that rang truest: one reporter who had ‘fallen away’ from his faith, but still felt guilt, and another reporter’s grandmother, whose life had been intricately entwined with her local parish, so visibly shaken (no words necessary) at the end of the film as she pored over the story. Nothing fancy about this script – but it credibly captures the complexity of this heartbreaking, yet inspiring, moment in journalism history.”
Dr. Barkley points out honest, truth-to-power language in the film. The “Spotlight” script captured such varied tone.
The essence of a script or screenplay is pared down language. What are the most emphatic yet unadorned set of words you can craft for a scene? What are the fewest words possible that will do the most work, give the boldest understanding to how that scene, moment, and dialogue are to be played out? What can you, the screenwriter, convey promptly yet elegantly in your script that will energize an actor reading a role? How exacting can you be with words? This is all part of the art of screenwriting.
Yes, it’s an art form.
What makes it art? It takes creating scenes that drive energy, intrigue, and character interaction toward a resounding resolution. How the movie ends depends upon all points working in the previous 100 pages of the script, if it’s a regular feature film. No question that many poorly written scripts have given birth to thousands of poor quality movies.
Stephen King once said that the huge difference between screenwriting and novel writing was that screenwriting “forced the writer” to write in obligatory short increments. The writer’s imagination couldn’t wander; the imagination was required to dream up something that had to be major contained. No room for wandering on the page, cutting a delightful swath of language and robust lyricism. In the Hollywood-framed script, King said the writing couldn’t become unmoored and wander into something akin to poetry – not for long.
The next time you watch a movie, for just a moment, when you hear a spurt of dialogue, think about the writing behind the words. Lock into your mind the sequence; imagine the writer(s) penning those words. Imagine the fact that they could have been penned over and over again, until the perfect pitch, vibe, and delivery melded. Until what you hear rings with adulation, fury, real joy, utter disdain – whatever the tone, whatever the moment.
Think this, too: the acting, cinematography, set design, and costume creations were certainly reasons “Spotlight,” “The Big Short,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “Room” won Oscars this year in multiple categories. But, their ultimate appeal can be traced back to a writer sitting alone in front of a computer screen, cranking out page after page of words, scenes, and directions. I’m sure the thought of a red carpet rolled out at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood was the last thing on the writer’s mind.
Jeffrey Hillard celebrates the return of baseball by sharing literature about America’s favorite pastime. Listen as he reads and analyzes the work of the late author and poet Dallas Wiebe. Wiebe, who died in 2008, was a professor at the University of Cincinnati and a well-known local writer. In the second half of the podcast, Hillard is joined by Charles Gabel, Senior Library Services Assistant at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Gabel, who also writes and studies poetry, shares some of his favorite selections from the Library’s collection, as we get ready to celebrate National Poetry Month in April. Share your thoughts about this podcast in the blog comments below. Check back regularly for future “Inside the Writer’s Head” podcasts.