Month: August 2012

Echo Park Rising and a Brief Story Set in Deland, Florida

So I’m excited to share that I’ll be reading at Stories Books and Cafe this Saturday as part of the Echo Park Rising, which is a community “party” featuring bands and art and food.  It should be a great time.  And I’m lucky enough to read with writers like James Greer, Natashia Deon, Jim Ruland, and Oriana Small — memoirist and porn star.  Check out the whole list of writers’ on the poster to the right.  But full disclosure, the poster says, “Joseph Lapin — of the LA WEEKLY.”  Well, I’m just a freelancer.  Just to clarify.  My writing appears in there sometimes.  And I hope it will continue.

Well, I did much better today with organizing my time and not feeling so overwhelmed.  I sent out a few more pitches, and now I’ll wait and see what happens.  Plus, I wrote two good stories I hope will be in print soon.  But you never know.

So, I had a comment on yesterday’s blog from a friend of mine from college.  It was cool of him to read some of my posts, and he was wondering when I was going to start writing about the golden days at our undergrad at Stetson University.  I thought about telling a story involving him, but I decided it might be too obvious who it was, considering he just wrote a comment.  I’ll probably share some of those later.

Well, I’ll share another story. When I was in college, I used to work at a bar called Central Park.  One of my fraternity brothers got me the job for some extra money to help with food and other expenses.  Before I was a bartender, actually — I almost completely forgot about this — I was a bouncer.  Yeah, all 5’10, 160 lbs was probably the least frightening thing in the world.  A couple times on the weekend when the college kids never showed, I was at the front door with a metal detector, scanning people to see if they had knives.  That freaked me out a bit.

But the owner started to like me, and he let me be a bartender.  My buddies used to show up real early — probably around 8 or 9 — on a Thursday night, because we served $1.00 drinks.  It was absurd.  And my buddies, including this guy who commented on the blog, used to sit there with me until the rest of the school walked in.

And on one of those nights, a girl walked into the bar, and I swear the room had stopped.  I know it’s cheesy to say, but I watched her walk in front of the bar, start towards me as if to order a drink, and then turn around as if I was watching a dream.  This is where I was introduced to my fiance.  I was 19 at the time.  A friend of mine, Burger, introduced us.  Or was it Heron’s friend.  Probably both.

So that’s my college story.  I worked at a bar to make extra money, and I ended up finding the love of my life.  (Maybe it’s too short and the pacing is a bit off, but, hey, it’s almost Friday, right?)  We’ve been together for 7 years, and we’ve lived in three different states and about seven different cities.  We’re getting married in February.  And I’ll be blogging about that, too.

Time Management, Gin, and Reading at Stories

One thing that I’m learning about freelancing is that time management is so important.  At first, you think you have all day, and you can work on certain projects as much as you want.  But then you start getting work while you still need to look for more work and it suddenly builds up and up and you feel out of control…whew!

Detroit, Joseph Lapin

That’s kind of how I felt today…powerless to outcomes.  Will someone respond to my pitch?  Will an ad agency respond to my query?  Will someone hate my writing or like it?  Well, those questions are out of my control, and, as soon as I remembered that, I felt better, which is what they talk about in the rehab center I used to work at.  Oh wow, I almost started to write about the serenity prayer.  But I’m going to stop myself.  It’s obviously a great thing, but it seems somewhat intimate.

And I have to remind myself one way to help with the feeling of powerlessness is to keep a schedule and follow that schedule.  Even when you can’t finish your work completely, remind yourself there’s always tomorrow.  The sun also rises.  (What an amazing title that was.)

So to change the subject, I was on twitter, and I started talking about my top five poems with another poet.  One of the top five was “Gin” by Philip Levine.  I wrote a bit about him yesterday and how he finds beauty in work.  Well, Gin, that’s an incredible poem.  It’s about the first time the narrator, a young boy, drank gin.  He couldn’t figure out why people drank that stuff.  He said it tasted like hair tonic.  Continue reading “Time Management, Gin, and Reading at Stories”

Misclassification at the Ports and Approaching Deadlines

So today, I went down the docks with a couple of organizers who taught me about misclassification and the unfair treatment of truck drivers.  It was fascinating, and I’ve been working on the story tonight.  I think there are several stories here, so I won’t reveal too much.

But it’s 9:37 p.m., and I’m tired, because I’ve been trying to write this story.  Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve written a straight news story, but it’s clicking again.  It was really great to see the docks, talk to truckers and union workers who really had an intimate understanding of the ports.  Honestly, my knowledge is pretty slim.  But with the introduction I have received to that amazing place, I feel like it was meant to happen.  I hope to write about the port more.

Every time I go to the port or see those tremendous cranes holding up the sky, I think of Philip Levine — my favorite poet.  I was lucky enough to interview him for the LA Weekly blogs, and that was an honor.  He writes about the beauty and struggle in work.  And I can’t help but see it, too.  The cranes, the truck drivers, the dirt and sweat.  Believe me, I’m glad that I’m not working manual labor anymore, but it teaches us so much about life.  Some people love to work with their hands out in the shit.  Some people love to hump wheelbarrows filled with mulch.  But that isn’t me.  I love clacking these keys.  I hope I can make it pay.

Well, I have another deadline this Friday, and I have a rare problem: I have so much information and conversations I’m afraid I won’t be able to fit it all in.  Well, tomorrow it’s just time to sit down and write the damn thing.

Also, it looks like I will have a reading this weekend.  But I don’t want to say for what or where until I know it’s confirmed.  So stayed tuned for that knowledge.

Okay, I’m beat.  Goodnight everyone.

Dream Incubation Continued and Awesome Interview

Yesterday I posted about dream incubations, and I said I would write down a question and try and stimulate my dream to help assist with my writing.  Then I would share it today.  My question was: “What scene should I write about next?  What is the next memory that I should include in my memoir?”  Well, like all good insights, the dream didn’t seem to be related to my question at first.  This was the same problem many of my students had, but you must, in order to follow the exercise, write about your dream and allow your thoughts to develop freely.

So last night, I had a dream that a literary agent had emailed me out of nowhere to tell me she loved my blog, and she wanted to represent my book.  I was excited in the dream.  My goal was finally met.  But I wasn’t sure what book she was talking about.  Didn’t she know I was working on a revision?  And as I was writing this dream down, it hit me — I haven’t been focusing on the book and the craft.  In reality, I have been focusing on what I had to write to score an agent.  And until I put the thought of the agent out of my mind, well, then I will never really be writing.

Tonight, I will put the same question under my pillow and see what happens.  I did get some great writing done this morning, however.  I wrote about the time I was sent to see a child psychologist.  I didn’t want to go.  I was about 11, so I came up with this plan.  As soon as I met the psychologist, I was going to say the worst things possible.  So, when he opened the door and stuck out his hand, I said, “F-U-C-K you.”  He didn’t know what to do.  Neither did my mother.  I sat down in the chair, turned it to the wall, and giggled for an hour.  Basically, I wrote a few scenes involving the child psychologists I saw.

I also have some awesome news.  Today, I interviewed David Ulin, book critic and author, for a piece on Joseph Mattson.  Well, he’s an amazing guy, and he had a lot of great thoughts.  That was an incredible experience.

But as I said in the beginning, I would also share the negative news.  I’m getting pretty nervous about my student loans and making sure they’re taken care of.  It will be fine, but there is just a bit of anxiety about them.  I feel, even though it’s embarrassing, it’s important to share these details, too.

Dreams and Writing — Incubating Inspiration

Last night, I wrote a post that included some thoughts about dreams, and I can’t tell you how important I think dreams are to writing and art in general.  I’ve incorporated this thought process into my own craft and teaching.  As part of my creative writing class at the rehab center, I had a week-long unit — it should have been much more — on dreams.  It was called, “Images and Dreams.”

For that week, I had them read Stuart Dybek’s, “Pet Milk,” and I introduced two writing exercises called Dream Incubation and Dream Reentry, which I stole from a podcast from a University of California Berkley psychology professor.  Basically, the exercises function on the principal that dreams are images generated by your unconscious that are trying to bring to “light” ideas, memories, thoughts, or emotions to your conscious thoughts, which the dreamer has suppressed.

Well, I always talked about in my class that writing was an act of discovery.  We used freewriting to see what was “on the mind.”  And I prescribed to the idea, which is talked about extensively by John Gardner, John Dufresne, and many other writers, that writing is dreaming.  I forget who it was, but they called writing dreaming in reverse.  My buddy Gonzo would know.

So with all this in my mind, I taught my students about dream incubation.  What this means is that you use dreams as a way to fix a problem or answer a question.  Have you ever been really struggling with an idea, a poem, a story, an essay for class, and no matter how hard you tried to find the answer while you working, you just couldn’t do it; but then, as if out of nowhere, the answer hits you in the shower, on a walk, or in a dream?Psychologists believe that this happens because your unconscious is till working out the problem even when you’re not aware of it.  Dream Incubation is a way of stimulating this process while you’re awake. Continue reading “Dreams and Writing — Incubating Inspiration”