Thanks Kat Kiernan for interviewing me about Instant Connections for Don’t Take Pictures magazine. Click on the link or the image below to read the interview.
Well, summer is right around the corner for us New Englanders. The warmer weather gets us outdoors into the parks, onto our brownstone stoops, and to the beaches. Hopefully, if you’re like me, you’ll be bringing a book with you.
Two years ago when I was knee-deep in writing Instant Connections, I was reading a lot of non-fiction books: Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, just to name a few.
This year, as I just started a new challenge––writing a historical fiction book, I’ve been reading and re-reading books in that genre to learn more about how authors tackle plot lines and building interesting and dynamic characters.
So, yeah, I’ve tackled all of Dan Brown’s books. They are easy to read and he tells a good story. William Martin is another favorite of mine. In the last year I have read his books Back Bay, The Lincoln Letter, and most recently Harvard Yard. His approach to writing gets you reading in the present day, in one chapter, and then in the next, you are reading about something that happened back in time. The story volleys back and forth like this throughout the book.
As for me, I have finished some of the research for my new book and have about 10% of the writing started. For a historical fiction book, most average between 90-120,000 words, so I’ve got a ways to go.
In between my writing this summer, I have added these six books to my Summer Reading List:
The Ocean at The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Understories by Tim Horvath
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
REMOTE by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
My Life in Heavy Metal by Steve Almond
The first two I’ve had on my shelf for a while, the third book is by a colleague of mine, the forth book I’ve started but need to pick back up, the fifth book I bought and will read because I liked their first book REWORK, and the last book I have also started but need to finish.
What are you reading?
I was out walking my dog this morning and we were standing by a tree where she was checking her pee-mail. To the left, I noticed a young girl (a teenager) running across the street towards us being led by her puppy. As she approached, I was waiting for her to say, “Can my dog say hello?” Rather, I was taken by surprise when she asked, “Excuse me, is this the mailbox thingy?”, pointing to the image on the left, an electrical box.
I said, “ah, no, the mailbox is that thingy”, pointing to the image on the right.
She stood in front of the mailbox looking bewildered. First, she tried to pull on the center of the box where the mail carrier usually inserts their key to remove the mail. Then she continued to stare until I finally said, “A little higher”, where she finally found the handle tucked deep in the shadowy void and was able to place the letter in and then walk away.
Do kids still learn how to write in school?
Do they know what a letter is?
Is the only word that they understand with the word “mail” in it start with an “e-“?
I still enjoy receiving letters and postcards in the mail. I hope that the act of letter writing continues. As I have been doing research for a new historical fiction book that I’m writing, I have been reading the letters of John Adams and his wife Abigail. Writing was so different in the 1800’s.
Please help inspire a young child to write, and also, please bring them to their nearest mailbox and point it out to them. Let them pee on it too if it helps them to remember where it is.
I wish I had this program when I wrote my first book!
This week I was out to lunch with author Tim Horvath and we were talking about a new historcial fiction book that I just started writing. I was explaining to him that it was difficult keeping all of the topics and ideas in order. He told me about this incredible program for writers that allows you to organize chapters, thoughts, notes––basically everything you need in order to organize and layout a book. It’s called Scrivener and you can download Scrivener through the Apple App store. I highly recommend it. Check out some of the videos on their site to see how it works.
“Opportunities will come at the unlikeliest of times. Sometimes they’re because of instant connections.” ~ Jason Landry
The biggest event for me in 2013 was getting my book published. I’m sure you probably figured that out by now. What will 2014 bring? I am not going to bore you with any New Year’s resolutions, rather, I’m going to tell you a few things that I will be doing for certain:
1.) I will be cooking more. Late in 2013, I got the cooking bug. I never really cooked much in our house. Either my wife cooked, or we’d go out. Okay, I would cook pasta once in a while––that’s not that hard. I’m also a master at making peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. What I’m talking about is cooking real meals, ya’ll––and desserts too! We just purchased a whole new set of pans and I’m ready to get my chef on! If any of you have any recipe suggestions or good mobile app suggestions to find the best recipes, let me know.
2.) I will be spending more of my time helping others make connections. This is one thing that I learned from the people who have mentored me. They gave me direction over the last couple of years and helped me create the network that I currently have. I wrote about these mentors in my book Instant Connections ––it’s now my turn to give back. It’s not like I haven’t given back. It’s just in 2014, I’m really going to give back. This is something that makes me feel good.
3.) I will begin to write a new book. I have a few ideas brewing, but nothing that I can share with you at this time.
I hope that you all have a great New Year.
Try new things.
Set some achievable goals.
Meet some new people.
Shake some hands.
Break some rules.
It’s been a little more than a month since my book Instant Connections: Essays and Interviews on Photography was released. I have been pleasantly surprised by the comments that I have received––both emails from people that I know, and some that I do not know at all. When I read things like, “the things that you talk about in your book I am experiencing right now in my own life”––these words strengthen my belief that I was meant to write this book.
Although I would like the book to be for everyone, I know that it won’t be. I’ve heard that some people like the interviews better than the essays, while others said they didn’t care about my personal stories, and at least one person was bothered by my potty mouth. I didn’t think using the F-word 34 times in a book with 85,000 words was a big deal. I do hope however, that those who have read the book (cover to cover) found the importance of the word “connections”. The other thing that I hope you took away was that I tried to make the reading effortless and down to earth, as if we were having a conversation in a bar or in a coffee shop. Although I am a collector, gallery owner, writer/author and educator, I tried to speak to you from the same level––never above you.
Instant Connections may not have landed on the New York Times Bestseller List nor the Wall Street Journal List, but for a brief period it was #2 on Amazon’s list for Critical Theory > Photography books––I’ll take that, even through it IS NOT critical theory.
Usually books are cataloged in book stores under a certain type like non-fiction, or fiction, or essays, or interviews. These “types” are usually printed on the back cover of the book. One person suggested the other day that it should have been categorized under “cool shit”. I’ll take that as a compliment.
If you haven’t picked it up yet, I hope that you do.
Happy Holidays, from Me to You.
“I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
~ John Adams.
(Letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780)
I read this quote on a plaque inside the State House in Boston, Mass. last week when my wife and I were doing some research during our staycation.
As we see, John loved the artist. He wrote and was well read, as was Abigail. Out of the clear blue sky last week, I decided to start a fiction book based on John Adams. I visited the Boston Public Library where the John Adams Library is kept in-tact, Faneuil Hall, Kings Chapel, The Granary Burying Ground, The Boston Athenaeum and finally The State House. I suspect that I’ll be making many trips to these locations over the next year.
There is trouble brewing in the old families. That’s your teaser for now.
So I went out to get a burrito, and came home with an idea for a fiction book. I ran the idea past my wife, and she wanted to know where I came up with such an idea. It just came to me, I said. I’m already working on a book of essays about photography and those are all non-fiction, fact-based stories from my personal experiences. This new idea has nothing to do with me or photography––it is a historical fiction story with roots to Boston, especially the Back Bay/Beacon Hill neighborhoods.
Since fiction writing isn’t my forte, I plan to do a little research before I get too engrossed in this thing. The Guardian ran this story about the 10 Rules for Fiction Writers. I need all the help I can get.
I know writers like Dan Brown and William Martin have a specific style where each chapter goes back and forth from adventures between the protagonists point of view to the antagonists point of view, or present day to to past. I don’t know if that is a specific style of writing––I guess I’ll have to figure that out. Right now this is just me being excited. I hope it pans out.
Slithering black snakes
guard doors at Nijo Castle
for hundreds of years.
Yesterday afternoon I had a very odd encounter with a women on the train. Now, I’ve had odd encounters in the past, but this one was a little embarrassing (for me).
I was heading to the dealership in Allston to pick up my car that was being serviced and was forced to take the train. The MBTA B-train is always packed with students because it runs straight up Commonwealth Ave toward Boston University and Boston College. As the train pulled up, I could see through the windows at what appeared to be a familiar face in the crowd: my friend and former MassArt alum Jennifer Feller. I smiled and she smiled back. I began moving through the packed car toward her and I was about five feet from her before noticing that the Starbucks cup she had in her hand read, “Taylor” in black magic marker. She continued to smile and I walked straight on by her to the back of the train––It was Jennifer’s doppelganger! I guess that can happen to anyone, especially when you haven’t seen your friend for close to two years. After retelling the story to my wife, she laughed out loud and said that I probably made Taylor’s day. Taylor if you’re out there reading this, Hi, I’m married.
I called Jennifer today to tell her this awkward story and she had a good laugh.
Eight years ago this week, 14 women from MassArt (including Jennifer) and the token male, me, embarked on a two week journey to Japan and China. We toured castles and temples, gardens and tea houses. We ate a lot of food and took a ton of photographs. Some people got sick, and some people got sunburns. We climbed a section of The Great Wall of China and got attacked by bugs. I signed a lot of autographs for school children in Japan––I was a rock star for about an hour.
While in Japan, I began writing haiku’s. Why haiku’s you ask? Since the time zone is 12 hours different than what I was used to, my inner clock was off and I couldn’t sleep. I would stay up at night dressed in my Japanese onesie taking self-portraits in the mirror or would write in my journal. The haiku’s were zen-like meditative moments for me. After visiting the temples and zen gardens in Kyoto, I felt very inspired. I became centered and one within my onesie. I hope I get a chance to return there someday.
Traveling and learning about different cultures has always intrigued me. Study abroad programs should be mandatory in all schools. You learn so much more than any book can teach you. I hope all my travel mates are doing well wherever you may be.
So yes, we are now aware that GoodReads has been acquired by Amazon. There seems to be mixed emotions about this throughout the social media circles that I’m in, and that’s normal when any change happens. It’s a great website, and if you’re into books, then check it out. In fact, check out my GoodReads page (see link at the bottom of this post).
I’ve been on a memoir quest this year, both writing one and reading many. Actually, I have another memoir idea that I’m trying to formulate now concerning my paternal grandfather. Born a twin on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, as a young boy he was shipped off to the United States to live with his aunt and uncle. The specifics of why this happened are vague. I plan to go to Nova Scotia this summer to research my heritage and hopefully learn a little more about my family and myself.
Anyhow, I’ve been getting some nice support from friends and fellow artists about my writing process and suggestions on books to read. These are the two newest additions to my list. I will be reading Elsewhere by Richard Russo first, then will tackle The Shipping News by Annie Proulx next––two Pulitzer Prize winners that I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own.
If anyone is curious what books I’ve been reading or what books are on my shelf, visit my GoodReads page (here).