Tag Archives: experience

Breadcrumbs to Blogs

There is so much to read on the web! Think of these as breadcrumbs, leading to a banquet of selections for your plate of experiences here in the wild internet.

First up – Molly Greene: Writer.

Molly has two previous books  and launching now, her latest mystery novel Rapunzel. Find out more about her books on her site. She blogs on writing and the writing life several times a week. Check out her post Self-Publishing: 6 Valuable Lessons I Learned Between Book #1 & #2 for some helpful hints post publishing that first book. The one that really stood out for me? Number 3 – “Confidence and experience strengthened my personal filter.” The key take away: There is a great deal of information out there, use other opinions on what to do as a guide but do what is best for you as long as you cover the basics – “You must have a well-written, well-edited, well-proofed and well-formatted book with a professional-looking cover.”

Second – O-Dark-Thirty.

O-Dark-Thirty is the literary journal for the Veterans Writing Project. The Veterans Writing Project provides no cost writing workshops and conferences for veterans, service members and military family members. Combining both print (O Dark Thirty) and online (The Report), the site offers opportunity for members of the military community to publish their work and for those without military experience to gain insight and perspective on what our service members and their families go through. The print journal publishes 4 times a year. The Report updates often with new work. Make this one of your must read stops when surfing the net and order a print subscription. For a sample read, Kevin Neirbo’s Later explores a Marine’s coming of age.

Third – Beyond The Margins.

Truly a smorgasbord of writerly edification options. “Think literary magazine run amok,” is how the site describes itself. A dozen contributing writers plus guest posters present diverse voices and experiences on the craft of writing and business of publishing. A recent post by Randy Sue Myers entitled Manners for Writers has some useful hints about writer behavior in the literary community. A key point not enough bloggers and tweeters understand – “Most readers…don’t want to hear complaints about how tired you are, how much you hate writing, and what a grind it is to revise. It’s better not to show how the sausage is made.” Yep,  and I’ve done this too, it’s easy when it’s time to log on and make a new post to fall back to what isn’t working. I see more than a few updates that are complaints and there is nothing in a complaint that encourages me to keep writing. If you can take that complaint and turn it into a useful piece of reflection, well, that’s another story.

Three breadcrumbs to follow, and each will lead you to other resources and readings. Enjoy.

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Write What You Know

Today a rare, non-writing related posting.

Friday was the ceremony marking my retirement after thirty-three years of service in the United States Army. More than three decades and during much of that time, my writing, (ok, it is a writing related posting) was inhibited. We are always told to “write what you know.” If I’d written what I knew, fiction or nonfiction, I risked losing everything in the military for I served under the entire lifespan of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

In retrospect – I wish I had written more and published what I’d written. What is written reflects the culture, good and bad. When social change is needed, it often is explored through literature, theater and song.

So get out there and write. Write what you know, and what you want to know in the future. Vicki Hudson Army Retirement Ceremony


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Three by Five and Jerome Joseph Gentes Part IV

recent download 041Welcome back for the final installment of this month’s Three by Five. Earlier, the discussion has been focused on writing, let’s explore beyond the writer a bit.

VAH: Jerome, if you had a super power, what and why that one?

JJG: Flight, no question, because the view’s spectacular from here. Sorry, I meant, from there.

What about this, what is your favorite, inspiring quote and why it works for you?

JJG: “The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong.” Philip Roth, American Pastoral

When I found this quote in context, it meant a lot to me, as I’d been trying to get some people I knew “right” for a piece of writing I was working on, and was failing. And I was failing to understand why I was failing. Reading these lines from Roth, and reading them in context, freed me to get them “wrong” and ultimately discard the entire project, one of most liberating actions I’ve ever taken as a writer.

I’d add this: my life in North Berkeley gives me many views of the body of water historically known as San Francisco Bay. For most of its long, geological existence, that body of water was not known by that particular name. In fact, the contours we now “know” so well, thanks to Google Maps and so forth, were not known by anyone, not even by the original inhabitants of the area. They hadn’t been explored. No one had gone out to see them, to look at them, to ponder them. But those contours existed, because that body of water exists and has existed a long time. It is already more enduring than anything we humans will ever make, any bridge, any boat, any software program. Getting that body of water “right,” therefore, is not the point, because we need darkness and fog and obscurity and the unknown to cross through or to wait out, however patiently or impatiently. In order to arrive, or fail to arrive. The body of water is utterly indifferent to all our efforts on its or our own behalf.

VAH: Tell me, what little known fact about you will amaze and or amuse Three by Five readers?

JJG: I’ve met and spoken with both Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, the former at some length, and someone I once dated has worked professionally with both Justin Theroux and Angelina Jolie, so it’s just a matter of time before Brad Pitt, Chris Martin and I are best buds.

VAH: Ahh, fact with future aspiration.

Okay, how about three random non-writing related facts about you?

JJG: I am a great cook. I have a killer backhand. I live very, very modestly.

VAH: A great cook? Maybe I should fact check that. . What would your last meal be?

JJG: Kumamoto oysters on the half shell with mignonette sauce. The chilled golden tomato soup I once had at Zuni Café in San Francisco. A perfectly-done ribeye steak with top-quality French fries and truffle butter. An iceberg wedge with some ripe heirloom tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. And fresh pineapple sorbet. And I would prep and cook all of these things myself as part of their lastness.

These particular foods [for] my last meal, because these are the simple but delicious flavors, foods and textures that I loved in late adolescence and early adulthood. The circumstances that would make this my last meal? Because I have lived a life rich in love, laughter, learning, and joy and in experiences that generate those, a life that has been perfectly seasoned with other emotions and the experiences that generate them, like regret, grief, unfulfilled desire, and so forth. I would be eating that meal because I had accepted the fact that I was expected somewhere soon, somewhere unknown, and didn’t want to be late or hungry when I got there.

VAH: “I was expected somewhere soon, somewhere unknown, and didn’t want to be late or hungry when I got there.”

Thanks Jerome.

Find Jerome on the web: TwitterWebsiteLinkedIn

Read Introducing Jerome Joseph Gentes. Read Part I. Read Part II. Read Part III.

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Three by Five and Jerome Joseph Gentes Part III

edited photo 2Welcome back to the August installment of Three by Five. This month, poet and playwright Jerome Joseph Gentes is the subject.

VAH: Jerome, what’s a page turner for you that keeps you up at night because you just can’t put it away?

JJG: This is going to sound pretentious, but Robert Fagles version of The Odyssey was the most recent page turner for me. Of course, it’s all about the desire to move and obstacles to movement. I’m trying to find out if his Iliad has the same or its own corollary qualities. I couldn’t read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials fast enough, and feel the same way about George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. There are also many books I like to re-read again and again, like Pride and Prejudice and Brideshead Revisited and Dancer from the Dance, books that are great comforts, like textual teddy bears, for when I can’t sleep. And then there are books whose mere existence is likely to keep me up at night, like those “written” by Fox News anchors and such.

VAH: “Textual teddy bears,” I really like that concept! I’ve had a similar experience as you describe with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Some books just call out for re-experiencing.

If there was a movie about your life and times, who would play you? Whataobut the theme song?

JJG: I’ve been told I look like Tim Curry, Jon Cryer, Johnny Depp, and Fabio Viviani from Top Chef. Depp is way, way cooler than I will ever be, but because he’s so good at playing uncool, I’d have to go with him. The theme song would be “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George, because it’s begins with the words “I’ve nothing to say…” and ends with connecting to another through saying that, and not through saying something. And since Depp’s sung Sondheim before, it’s a perfect fit!

VAH: Maybe an independent will green light that!

When you read a book, must you finish once started or will you leave it if you don’t love (or like) it?

JJG: I am a finish-it-if-started guy, and am trying to break that habit, but sometimes finishing a book is just not worth it. For example, I think Life of Pi has, like other books and many other cultural artifacts and phenomenon, for that matter, been successful largely because it was published post-9/11. I probably should have read it when “everyone else was reading it” but I didn’t, because I’m also stubbornly iconoclastic. That window closed. The movie, which I actually enjoyed, didn’t help matters, because it was good enough to deliver Yann Mantel’s story in an entertaining way, and strong enough to make me realize I no longer wanted or needed to read it. It’s why I’m not watching Game of Thrones, incidentally. When I abandon a book I try not to feel guilty. I do think, “Oh, if I could return this, I would do so, and just pretend I never bought it.” Erase the purchase and the attempt Maybe an e-reader makes that possible. “Didn’t even start that one! Buh-bye!” Click, delete, done.

VAH: Gone! Here’s a riff on gone – The blank page stares back at you, what gets you over writer’s block?

JJG: Blank pages are not my problem; it’s the ones already filled with writing that are the problem—pulling them apart and trusting that doing so is in the best interest of the words therein.

VAH: That’s a great lead in for the final question for this installment given revision is the hard work most wanna be writers don’t consider. Let’s look at a brass tacks of the writing life question – what do you do in order to keep up with what you send out and results of your submissions?

JJG: Nothing. I either have so much out there I can’t track it, or so little I can’t track it.

VAH: There’s symmetry in that.

The final installment for Three by Five with Jerome Joseph Gentes is on the final day of the month. Till then, here is another sampling of Jerome’s work:

Upon this Stone via Divinity School at the University of Chicago.

for the uranian ptolemy via Literary Buffalo’s Artvoice

Find Jerome on the web: TwitterWebsiteLinkedIn

Read Introducing Jerome Joseph Gentes. Read Part I. Read Part II.

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Three by Five and Jerome Joseph Gentes Part II

VAH: Welcome back to Three by Five and Part II with Jerome Joseph Gentes. edited photo1

Jerome, you talked about your first story earlier and a poem and story “sealing your fate” in college. Would you expand a bit on when you knew you were a writer and how you came to that understanding?

JJG: The year of the spaghetti story,  my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Sullivan, also encouraged me to write my earliest poems. In fourth grade I’d done some imitations of Frost, in a unit on poetry that I remember mostly for my first encounter with Poe’s “Eldorado” and Frost’s “Stopping by Woods On a Snowy Evening.” But Mrs. Sullivan went out of her way to get me to write more, to write longer, and write….oh, I guess I would say bigger. To write more honestly. The scale of what I wrote in response to her encouragements and her attentions evolved, and I’d like to think it deepened. I remember writing my first love poem, a generic one, to no one in particular, and yet somehow actually meaning everything I put down on the paper. Mrs. Sullivan was married to an English professor at San Jose State, and showed him my poems, and got some actual feedback for me. I don’t remember any of it, and sadly, no longer have access to that juvenilia, except in memory. That year I also wrote more plays—playlets, really, not full-length pieces—than in any other year I can remember.

VAH: Your experience echoes my own – including long ago first feedback. So many times I’ve wished I still had access to those early pages and the feedback.

What would be your best advice for emerging writers?

JJG: Don’t do The Artist’s Way. Forge your own! And keep your juvenilia! Seriously, if you’re truly sincere about writing, you have to see and hear. Do and be and play. And read. Read, read, read. Keep reading. Then, only then, in whatever time is left when you’re not doing all of those things, should you start to create and make. If you’ve done those other things before you start to create and make, what you create and make may actually be worth keeping, and tending to, and perhaps by then it will be more than mere juvenilia. I’m of the ilk that believes that not everyone who wants to be a writer can be. I also don’t think that you’re a writer just because you say you are, or that because you write, you’re a writer. That may sound harsh, but it’s because I’ve seen so many would-be writers or writers who wanted to be worthy of the identity or the calling abandon their desire to write or had that desire abandon them. I’ve known good, even great and published writers, who’ve had this happen.

VAH: Writing is more than the muse…

Jerome – The MFA? You have one, has that helped your career development or progress and do you recommend the MFA as worthwhile?

JJG: I have an MFA in writing from Columbia, which I’m frankly still paying for, in actual as well as figurative ways. The experience I gained while I was there, the personal and professional connections forged, however, while costly in terms of dollars and time, have been invaluable in terms of life and living. I continue to benefit from my connection to my mentors and peers from Dodge Hall. I feel lucky that I got my MFA when it was a relatively uncommon thing to do. For anyone considering an MFA now, however, I recommend careful, extensive consideration. There are so many more MFA programs now that I often equate it to a culinary degree: anyone can get a culinary degree, but not everyone who can or does will use it, and not everyone needs one in order to cook. They just need to cook. And eat. And so on.

VAH: I might be borrowing that comparison next time I’m asked about the MFA!

Do you have a favorite conference or writing retreat/seminar and what made it worthwhile for?

JJG: Vermont Studio Center in Johnson was a synergetic experience for me, largely because there were visual artists as well as writers of all genres there. I’d never been so close to the making of visual art before, and it energized me more than I can say. Not to mention that I was there in August, which, in contrast to the heat and humidity of New York City, was the perfect month to be there.

VAH: If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?

JJG: I’d probably be a photographer. Or a visual artist.

VAH: Makes me wonder what a hybrid visual/poetic Gentes piece would look like.

Return for more in August with poet, playwright and perhaps photographer Jerome Joseph Gentes on days with a three in the date.

Read Introducing Jerome Joseph Gentes. Read Part I.

Find Jerome on the web: TwitterWebsiteLinkedIn.

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Three by Five Presents: Jerome Joseph Gentes Part I

299Jerome Joseph Gentes is a professional and creative writer who lives in Berkeley, California. He works in all genres and was a 2012 Pushcart Prize nominee (Poetry). He taught at Niagara University and Medaille College and with Just Buffalo Literary Center/Writing with Light from 2007-2011. He is presenting at this year’s International Research Society for Children’s Literature Conference (The Netherlands), and has previously presented at the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture (Claremont Colleges), Colgate University, and San Francisco State. Developmental readings of his play Hold Your Piece took place in June 2013 with The Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco, and in August 2012 at Buffalo United Artists (Buffalo, NY). He collaborated on the revue Show Me Yours with New Musical Theater of San Francisco and was part of Found Poetry Review’s 2013 Pulitzer Remix project for National Poetry Month.


VAH: Jerome, welcome to Three by Five. Congratulations on your 2012 Pushcart nomination. Let’s start with why writing?

JJG: I was born a liar. Just ask my mother. Born a make-believer, a let’s-pretend-er – let’s-play-er. I really have no choice in the matter of whether to write or not. None. Writing is genuinely more natural to me than breathing. I often have a hard time physically breathing. I never have a hard time writing. As for revising, that’s another story.

VAH: You’re not the first writer here to say that about revision! What was your first story about?

JJG: It was about being a bowl of spaghetti, some point-of-view exercise in Mrs. Sullivan’s fifth grade class at Forest Hill Elementary in San Jose, CA. I copped this cartoonish, Chef Boy-ar-dee accent for my narrator’s voice, and was self-conscious enough to know that a) I was “stealing” that from some Disney flick or such, that b) was going to get away with it, and that c) the sense of “rightness” I felt before, during, through, and after was important.

My next stories, in high school, were shameless imitations of schlocky pulp and bestselling authors like Irwin Shaw. But in sophomore year of college, a poem called “Marathon” and a story called “The Deadsea Café” reaffirmed everything I’d done so far and sealed my fate.

VAH: Do you have a favorite literary character?

JJG: Joan Caucus, from Doonesbury. Hands down. Would love to have dinner with her, though I tend to find comic strip meals a bit two-dimensional. First runner-up, Miss Elizabeth Bennett, from Pride and Prejudice. Second runner-up, Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces.

VAH: That’s quite a contrast. Fitting, I think for a poet playwright. If you were stranded on deserted island a la Tom Hanks in Castaway, what book or series of books would you want with you and why?

JJG: 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective, because Garry Trudeau’s astonishing body of work is about being human and laughing at and about being human and the sound of my laughter on that deserted island would surely be a welcome change from the sound of the waves and the palm fronds rattling in the trade winds.

VAH: Dooesbury is the only comic I still consistency read in the funnies.  What would you say was your biggest influence with your development as a writer?

JJG: While my mind went right to the personal, and the many, many extraordinary teachers and mentors I had over the years, looking at the question more closely, I’d have to say the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s a script, of course, and one that’s executed rather strictly each time it’s performed. As a boy I therefore appreciated any and all variations from it—formal as well as incidental—that I detected from week to week, season to season as the liturgical calendar turned. I also learned to listen for the vocal shifts in tone and rhythm that signaled that a homily was wrapping up; I learned to appreciate the difference between celebrants who were oratorically gifted and those who were so deprived, and everything in between. As an older child, I got to be an altar boy, and play a specialized role in the performance and utterance of that script. As an adolescent, I then began to analyze and argue with both the script and its performance. And to resist it. As an adult, however, I’ve come around to appreciating its role in my development. J.D. McClatchy once said that poets who’d been raised Catholic might have a leg up on aspects of voice, tone and rhythm that are important for poetry and prosody. Which I also think are important for prose style.

VAH: That’s a complex and very different response than this question usually garners. If I’d known of that quote while at St. Mary’s for my MFA, I might have spent some time in the chapel listening.

More Jerome Joseph Gentes later in the month, on days that contain a three.

Read Introducing Jerome Joseph Gentes.

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Pulitzer Remix Day Thirty and Final Remix for National Poetry Month


For the final poem of the Pulitzer Remix project, number 30, I turned to the final page of the book. There, I found the story An Influx of Poets. Fitting, perhaps, as 85 poets took part in the project. The final poem from page 488, entitled Pages of a Book

Pulitzer Remix is a project of the Found Poetry Review.

Pulitzer Remix and National Poetry Month is done. What have been your favorite entries?

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Pulitzer Remix Day Twenty-Nine


Local Legend is the reply when noisy old men strike up a conversation. Found in the story A Reading Problem on Pages 324-325.

Pulitzer Remix is a project of the Found Poetry Review.

Only one more day of Pulitzer Remix and National Poetry Month. What have been your favorite entries?

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Pulitzer Remix Day Twenty-Eight


Today brings a haiku entitled Summit, sourced from pages 318-319 and the story The Liberation.

Pulitzer Remix is a project of the Found Poetry Review.

Only a few more days of Pulitzer Remix and National Poetry Month. What have been your favorite entries?

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Pulitzer Remix Day Twenty-Seven


From pages 306-307 and the story The Liberation the found poem Bereft.

Pulitzer Remix is a project of the Found Poetry Review.

Only a few more days of Pulitzer Remix and National Poetry Month. What have been your favorite entries?

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