Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Looking Back / Being Here Now

With just a couple of days left in 2010, I’m using the mysterious and unreliable tool of memory to fill the present (this moment) with the past (the last twelve months, now gone forever). I’m looking back and thinking about this “writing and publishing journey” I’m on and how it relates to “the nature of reality.”

Writing done in 2010: not much. One novel begun but shelved for now. Another in progress. Slooooow progress. Perhaps I’m biting off more than I can chew, but I want to do something thought-provoking and unusual, and I won’t be satisfied until it captures a glimpse of potential realities beyond human psychology -- without venturing into allegory, fantasy, or science fiction. Maybe we’ll see progress reports here in 2011.

This year, much of the time once dedicated to writing was diverted toward supporting my book, The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility, in the marketplace. Like a child just ushered out into the big world, it needs what little help I can give it. The balancing act between business and creativity is a fact of life, a tightrope walk I negotiate one day at a time.

A fun part of the writing/publishing activity this year was teaching my third semester of a course called The Writer’s Alchemy, offered by the Lifetime Learning Institute at Bard College. Using issues of the regional literary journal I published earlier in the decade as our texts, these classes explored the creative writing process through face-to-face discussion with authors selected from the journal. This year we dug into Prima Materia Volume 3: Stories We Tell Ourselves. Poetry, memoir, and fiction writers from this amazingly talented region of the Hudson Valley treated us to their insights about work, inspiration, and the publishing world. A few of our guests: Will Nixon, Melissa Holbrook Pierson, Alison Gaylin.

Another highlight was the opportunity to earn and learn at the same time, as I edited Jason Stern’s book Learning to Be Human. My own learning took place through the close study of the spiritual growth of someone “not me,” another human manifestation, Jason -- as documented in his monthly Chronogram columns, which I selected and assembled into thematic groups for the book (handsomely published by David Applebaum at Codhill Press).

I enjoyed producing three video clips for my friend Djelloul Marbrook's poetry books, featuring poems that fortunately were right in the groove of my interests as well as being exquisitely crafted. Djelloul tells me the videos are doing their job in the marketplace quite nicely.

Both my editorial and video work has been partly in the service of a new venture with my designer friend Joe Tantillo, a services company for independent authors called Indie Book Studio, conceived in 2010, birthing in 2011.

And finally, I’m looking back with a measuring eye at my second year in bloggerdom: 24 little posts, such a trickle compared to the deluge so many bloggers pour forth. On balance with all the other activities that husband-and-fatherhood entail, it is what it is. It is sufficient. But... hmm... please let me know if you want it to continue.

In my first blog post of 2010, I wrote this:

Another intention for 2010 is to re-read some favorite fiction through a new lens. I'm interested in how literary fiction can incorporate principles of nonduality without losing its identity and without becoming didactic or cliched. I want to explore the expression of Unity, from ancient Advaita to the mysteries of quantum physics, in modern realistic storytelling. This is done in several ways: by looking with new interpretive eyes at work I already love, by reading new stuff, and by writing my own.

I did make some progress on this non-resolution and I suspect I’ll have something to say about it in this space in 2011... that’s part of what all this has to do with “the nature of reality.” But more important is to realize that all of this stuff -- ideas about literature and nonduality, memories of past accomplishments, plans for future action -- is merely the flicker of shadows on the cave wall. Not the real thing at all.

There is only one reality, and that is this very moment, now, in which I sit by a crackling fire and type, or you look at a screen and read these words. There is nothing else but this instant, endlessly renewed. Enjoy it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Writings from Beyond the Half-Century Mark

I'm happy to be included in a very fine book of writings just published by Holy Cow! Press. When Last on the Mountain: The View from Writers over 50 is a labor of love by the editors and includes an eclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and essays by authors whose fifty-plus years mean the words are leavened with a bit of wisdom. Or a wry perspective, at least.

My short story, "Signs," appears here as well as in my collection The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility. The tale of a retired judge who's facing unsolvable mysteries, it is set partly in Woodstock, NY, with an important scene taking place at the Center for Photography of Woodstock.

From the book's Amazon page:
"These essays, stories, and poems were chosen from more than two thousand submissions of previously unpublished work. Some of the contributors — a poet laureate, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, a former foreign correspondent — have long literary histories; others — a social worker, a civil service employee, a clergywoman — began to write later in life. All of them were inspired by a call that asked for fresh and honest writing from the fullness of their lives."

It's at a low pre-order price now. Check it out!