I am so very happy to have my chapbook Off the Resting Sea published by above/ground press out of Ottawa. Thanks so much to rob mclennan for picking it up, producing it, and making a dream of mine come true for sure.
What a journey this stuff is. Things I’m thinking about upon it’s release:
I first started Off the Resting Sea as a story in a 2015 One Story class taught by Hannah Tinti. It was such a good class and I met many people in it that I am still good friends with. She did a five sentence exercise and used a stick figure guy to visualize structure. The feet set it up, the knees propel it, the thighs (ok, groin) escalates, the heart is the climax, and the brain is the resolution. We started five sentences using certain guidelines but it completed a structure. Then we took those five and expanded each one to a paragraph, and then each paragraph to five etc… and pretty soon I had a decent short story draft. In 2016, I workshopped it in a weekend class at Iowa Writers Fest taught by Malinda McCollum. I was cashed that weekend from having already spent a week in a novel workshop. She was a great teacher for that short of a time and she sensed the structure but I think she felt there something missing. I think that is the reaction on a lot of my work! It’s good, people like it, but hmmm, something unexplainable is missing. Then in 2018, my chapbook For Those About to Rock made the shortlist in Bath’s second Novella in Flash prize. The experience of writing that and the near miss got me really interested in the form but wanting to learn even more. I took a class by Meg Pokrass on Connected Flash with the idea of turning my Off the Resting Sea story into a series. Her prompts were perfect and got me to discover the heart of what is now this book. That got shortlisted at Bath in 2019 again and Adhoc Fiction said they would be happy to publish it after some work with the judge Michael Loveday’s editing service. Michael is awesome and his notes were very thorough and probably “right” but for whatever reason I couldn’t quite click with his suggestions. It wasn’t where my heart was taking the story. So I mostly worked on other projects. At the end of 2018 I learned that Red Bird Chapbooks had selected For Those About to Rock. I spent 2019 working with my editor on that and we clicked a lot more and I’m really proud of where we took it to final draft. Unfortunately, they were a slower operation and then Covid struck and I haven’t heard from them since July of 2020. Have no clue what they are up to or if it will be published by them. Venting one day, I tweeted about the heartbreak and it caught the eye of Rob who saw my website and asked if I wanted to work with his press on a chapbook. Um, yes! What a heck of an opposite given to me in return for voicing my pain into the void aka Twitter. He sent me some of his books so I could see what his production was like and I sent him Off the Resting Sea and the book was finally born.
Origin Story Prequel
I was on vacation in 2011 in Florida with my daughter and my now ex-girlfriend and her kids. We were on an early morning walk, just after sunrise, on Cocoa beach. Along with the beauty of the sea waking up was the aftermath of the Cocoa beach party life. We were next to the sea, but up the beach I saw a young woman sitting up on a recliner. She looked like she had had a hard night. An old man was sitting at her feet and holding her hand. An old woman was in a chair next to them. It was the scene of something big and small happening. I wanted to know. Maybe it was just Florida? I filed it away somehow and pulled it back when Hannah wanted me to get a stick figure moving.
Origin Story Footnote
There used to be a press called 33 1/2. They might still be open? Their gig was books of 33,000 words dedicated to the love of an album. So some folks did record review kind of essays. Some folks did memoir around the love of the album. Two that I know of turned it into total Fiction novella loosely using the album. John Darnielle wrote an awesome one on Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality where his character was a teen in a mental ward and they made him do a journal where he wrote about his life off the rails and his love of Black Sabbath. Kate Schatz wrote an awesome one on PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me. I so wanted to do that and I tried with the Black Keys Magic Potion and I got pretty far but I don’t know. Didn’t set sail. Then I tried to do it with Jane’s Addiction Nothing’s Shocking. Same result. Then in a tribute to that form and to my love of the art of the album, I gave my character in Off the Resting Sea the names Sergio and Jane from Jane Says. I still consider the main connection to be the name and the homage, but I feel some of the album’s spirit worked its way into my book too.
Flash Novella Form
To me the form is the closest thing I can come to cutting an album. I loved books and writing my whole life. I wanted to write books as long as I can remember. But nothing matched the excitement of getting a new album/cassette/cd home from the record store in my teens. I loved everything about albums. The whole art of it. The title. The cover. The liner notes. The pictures. The number of songs. The titles of the songs. The order of the songs. The lyrics. That was the pinnacle of art to me. I’m sad that the music world has mostly gone different directions. It will eventually be how different life is for painters.
A flash novella is an album. You work on it for about the same amount of time. Some can go in the studio and crank it out in three weeks. Some work on it for a couple years. A flash novella has about the same number of stories as an album has songs. The order matters. The concept matters. As much as you want it to. There are fast songs. There are slow songs. There’s instrumentals. There’s solos. Whatever. Never mind. I want to rock.
I’m working on more albums already! I still want someone to release For Those About to Rock. I want to tell you about the origins and the concepts of that. I’ve got a new one in at Bath this year after taking a year off. We find out about the Long List for that next week. My entry there is one of favorite attempts at the form so far. Maybe I hit a stride the way bands do on their third time in the studio? This never ends. There’s always another story to read. There’s always another story to write. There’s always another book. And then we die. I’m in. I can’t quit now.