Junot Diaz on writing (well sort of). Great pieces aren’t ready after one session of writing and if they are well praise be to you. One session means you haven’t enjoyed the adventure (I think.) Spending quality time with my characters and plots is truly a gift. I’ll try not to remember the imaginary awards of writing. Instead I’ll focus on the voice that comes from my papers.
You edit fiction for The Boston Review. What do you look for in a great short story? And what would make you want to immediately slip a story into the paper shredder?
Ha! Well, nothing calls for the paper shredder like a story that the writer clearly hasn’t sat on. A story that hasn’t been rewritten, or rewritten enough. So many writers that I encounter send their work in so soon. It shows, it really does. In the end all of us are subjective when it comes to what we’re reading for. As an editor you try to expand that, become a little bit wider, because you’re publishing for a readership larger than yourself. In the end what I’m looking for, which I think is what everyone looks for, is something that sings. More technically, something that is aesthetically beautiful and that challenges people’s sense of the form, and of the world that they live in. We all want to be arrested, to walk away turning over a good piece of fiction in our head. That’s my guide.
Today’s Daily Prompt was about anything I wanted to discuss. I chose a short-story by the looks of it. Please read, comment, and most of all enjoy. Oh, also subscribe!
She found me when no one else was looking. In the paper, three weeks back, the headline read DEATH BY POPULAR DEMAND. There were quizzical looks everywhere from the grocery store to the inside of college libraries. Neither man nor scholar could figure out what the title meant by first glance. So on they read.
The story told of a dead twenty-four year old boy and his ultimate demise. He wasn’t special by the looks of the newspaper photograph but the words on the outside spelled A-r-t-i-s-t. Five years of art school had instilled in him a kind of confidence not found in books. “He loved the world and so himself.” became a popular quote from the printed piece. The boy had said this to practically all the university professors.
It was a tragic story of how he was found on the fifteenth floor of the Heart Studio Apartments. Paint mixed with blood on a canvas that framed suicide. I think that’s when people decided to stop looking for me. Another artist gone too soon by his own doing.
“But I knew that you wouldn’t leave.” she said upon finding me. My consciousness was barely stable and so I thought her an angel. A real angel with fluffy wings when later I’d discover it was hair.
“They took you away because what you had to offer was something much bigger than a mural or scholarship. On your canvas was a theory of worlds. Universes hidden in bristles, disguised as brushes. I think you broke the laws of time. My dear sweet Amin.”
I can tell the day is still fresh even though I woke up late. The man in front of me, ordering a triple shot late, is without any wrinkles in his business suit. There’s something about him that’s different from the ones back home. The stripes on his back are bold thick black lines that glow with a grey outline. When he puts a hand in his pocket the pants hug a hard body.
He pays for the coffee. I pay and sit down to start my homework. Only two minutes later my eyes end up studying a couple in the corner of the cafe. I figure this is as good a time as any to daydream about my future.
I decided to enroll myself back into college but still am without a goal in mind. Like a trophy or Academy Award, maybe it’s easier to go through the motions of labor when there’s the possibility of a reward. Except, I’ve been in that frame of mind before and it got me nowhere. If anything I feel that this blog has reaped more possibilities out of my future than school ever has. I discovered newspapers that are looking for my point of view. I’ve opened up about myself for the good and bad, and I’ve learned more about myself.
So what do I want next? I want to finish school just to finish it. A bad grade can be a bad grade but that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned anything. Don’t get me wrong I still care but it’s different than before. I don’t think school has all to offer. I have all to offer if I just keep trying. Maybe some people envision romance or a fancy suit for their futures but I want my writing.
Daily prompt that I wanted to write for fun. Enjoy. Link. Subscribe. Circulate!
“ I really don’t know how to answer that, sir.” I said. He sat down right next to me on the bench outside the coffee shop, no invitation needed! In a way I was flattered by the look of his round arms and chin that stared at me like a third eye. The rest of me just felt shivers.
“I’ve been looking for you.” He repeated.
“I don’t know what that means. Did one of my professors send you? It must have been Dr. Diaz. I told him that I would have the paper turned in tomorrow so can you just tell him to trust me because…”
“Neither Dr. Diaz or any of his ancestors has sent me for you.” the stranger said. His voice was rich like my favorite coffee beans the ones my grandmother brought back from Guatemala. I don’t know why these two things clicked together but it made me want to listen to him closer. “ I have come to introduce myself as one of your Gods.”
No longer did he have such a cute chiseled face. Never mind the nipple ring poking out from his left pectoral. The dude was just plain crazy. Laughing was all I could do to keep myself from believing him. I started to get up before Mr. Crazy latched his hand onto my arm. That’s when I saw something.
The vision was like a dream that surrounds you from every corner of reality. A man and woman had received a baby boy and were taking a family photo. Two cream colored faces dotted over a round tar covered body wrapped in a blanket that read Benevolent Chancellor. Everyone looked happy. Everyone except the figures in the background. While the cheerful family readied for the photo there were three figures wrestling with one another in the background. A feathered snake charged itself at a Banshee whom wailed over the baby. Eight stars of celestial light appeared all around and drowned out the image.
Mr. Crazy was looking straight at me. I wondered how long I had been staring at him. My knees were buckling but I had to know what just happened.
“That was the day you were adopted. There aren’t many Gods who aren’t upset at this moment.”
“Why are they upset?” I said. That’s when the stranger, for the first time, appeared shameful. The lines around his mouth aged him to that of my grandfather. The muscle on his arms were flabby but the tattoos on his face glowed like the newborn star I had seen in a textbook.
“Like I said, I’ve been looking for you. It’s been a long time.”
I pass by this magazine cover every day while standing in line for coffee. No one forces me to look at it but still it’s there. An ugly photoshopped picture of a beloved actor. Robin Williams was a wondrous person to me for many reasons but ultimately because he made me feel okay to be gay. The Birdcage was a family movie for my household growing up. In the movie Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) & his partner Albert (Nathan Lane) pretend to be a straight couple living in Miami, Florida when in reality they own a drag club downstairs their apartment. The scheme is put on for the sake of their son who is marrying a politician’s daughter. It’s a fantastic movie and I treasure the joy it brings.
Fast forwards to present day and Robin Williams has left an array of funny, touching, and even some scary movies to watch over and over again. While he was alive I never researched too much into his ongoing life. He had a twitter account but although I’m twenty-something the desire to tweet is still nonexistent. His life to me was what I saw on screen and I prefer to keep it that way.
To someone like me, a fan, a magazine cover like this disrupts my mourning with feelings of anger. Believe me when I say that I am not angry at Robin Williams but instead the media. The media that fornicates a treasured actor with vile slander in order to sell more magazines, that is what inTouch says to me. How? Because I’ve seen tittles like this before on late night “news reels” telling me how Princess Diana could have been saved but she chose to die. The grave feeling of watching this is similar to watching America’s Most Wanted, as if the public eye missed something, like we’re now responsible for vengeance.
“He could have been SAVED” is a title that promotes ownership to the reader as if we’re responsible for knowing something that went amiss so we can avenge it. Recall Michael Jackson’s case and the death threats that went forwards to his doctor. When I think of this I can’t help but feel inTouch is trying to reminisce the MJ frenzy. I wouldn’t put it past them that they’re trying to start up another. So that leaves me with this conclusion…
I choose not to give into the media frenzy. I am sad. We all have memories of how someone touched our lives with their humor, their heart, their humanity, and that’s all I care about. I choose to pass down the joy and to not give into the media. The media isn’t what creates someone or something memorable. It’s the person. So cheers to Robin Williams. You are in my heart.