Reading and Writing. We’ll Skip the Arithmetic

This Wednesday evening I’ll be part of a group reading at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts. I’m rather fond of readings in general. Back when I was attending a lot more conventions, I generally preferred the author readings to panel discussions, even when I was on the panel and someone else was doing the reading. Maybe especially then.

There’s nothing quite like hearing the author read their own work, especially if it’s a story you’ve already read yourself. Now you can hear where the stresses go, and what the author chooses to emphasize or minimize. Literally hearing the work in the author’s own voice, aside from their narrative voice, which can be quite different.

I think I was completely turned on to readings at my very first World Fantasy Convention. I had the pleasure of hearing Parke (Pete) Godwin read then, and it was an eye-opener. I know I’ve mentioned Pete several times before, but something I wanted to point out here is that he was an actor for many years before he became a writer, and it showed in his performance. And I do mean performance. As an actor he knew how to work the lines and hold the audience’s attention. I realized then and there that the act of doing an author reading was or at least should be, at least in part, a performance, not just the person who wrote something reading it aloud. If you’ve ever attended a convention or library reading with an author who doesn’t know how to read (in the performance sense), you know what I mean. You miss out on most of the value of the work.

Now, I’m not an actor. Never was, never will be, and I don’t have nearly the chops that Pete did. But I always  take his example to heart when I do a reading, and I try to bring at least a little of that performance art to it. I do my best. I don’t always hit the target, but at least I know where the target is.

That’s half the battle.

Adulting Sucks

The main problem with being a grown-up, at least in terms of age, is now and then you have to be an adult. Not all the time, granted, but more often than is either comfortable or convenient. So I spent most of yesterday afternoon on chat hold because my phone had stopped working. You can tell how much I value my phone AS a phone because it took me almost two days before I realized it wasn’t working.

Because I had to make some phone calls in my role as alleged adult. Anyway, after several hours wasted it turned out to be a misaligned sim card. So I’ll have to adult again later today. Not looking forward to it.

As soon as I sign off here, I have a story to write (and other things to write, but this one has a deadline). I don’t look at that as doing grown-up things. Making myself sit down and get to work? Sometimes. But the writing itself?

Never.

Good News From the Far East

Now that the contracts are signed (and stamped, where appropriate), I can announce that I’ve sold reprint rights to “Night, In Dark Perfection” to China’s Science Fiction World Magazine.  The story first appeared in Clarkesworld #39, December 2009.

This will make the second story I’ve had translated into simplified Chinese. Looking forward to the issue, even if I won’t be able to read it.

Calling in Sick

It’s what you used to do when, you know, you were actually sick. Or really, really wanted to make an out of town concert or somewhat and knew you couldn’t possibly make it back. That’s not something I did very often. I liked my job, liked working, and it helped me keep my schedule tight. I knew what was work time, what was writing time, and how to keep the two separate. I have to confess I still haven’t gotten this new existence thing sorted yet, but still working on it.

All by a rambling way of saying this has been a rough several days. That’s right; I’m sick. Probably a sinus infection. I’ve had them before, though I think this might be the first one since moving up here. To cut to the chase, I hadn’t eaten in nearly four days. I’m only exaggerating a little. I’d had a dish of fruit, a bowl of cereal, and two pieces of toast since Thursday. The thought of food was disgusting. It’s not that I couldn’t eat, I just didn’t want to.

I woke up this morning thinking, “Today I’ll try.”

Still wasn’t hungry, and certainly didn’t want anything I was capable of making, and didn’t feel like going out. Take out it was. I’ve had soup and a little mei-fun. Not because I especially wanted it, I just thought I should. So far so good.

But for anything like a proper blog post? I’m calling in sick.

Life, Intervening

I spent most of the day in the repair shop, getting the Yeti’s snow tires swapped for summer tires and having the alignment corrected, which required new tie-rods, and etc. The point being I didn’t have time to do a proper blog post. So in an attempt to make up for that, I’m putting up a piece of flash done for this week’s meeting. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The Professional

I’m one of those people who do what they’re born to do. Sounds ideal, right?

“’Follow your bliss” was the way mythologist Joseph Campbell put it. Yes, I thought so too, once, before time and experience kicked that notion in the ass. I learned bliss has sod all to do with it; the reality goes a lot deeper.

We’ve all heard stories of the four year old sitting at a piano for the first time and playing a complete song by ear.  That’s what it was like. Something inside me was dormant until that moment, a day I will never forget. One of my friends, Jack Thompson, came back to school after missing a week due to the death of his mother. He was still in a very bad way, and everyone was being extra nice to him, which in junior high probably made things worse. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just put a hand on his shoulder.

Just like that, he wasn’t sad anymore. His grief drained out of him like a sink when you pull the plug. It didn’t go away, though. Whatever he was feeling, I felt, and then he didn’t feel it anymore. As simple and profound as that. That very afternoon he was playing ball with the rest of us like nothing happened. I don’t claim to be the quickest mule on the track, but by the third incident I figured out what happened to the ones I touch, and to me.

It’s what I do, now. People find me. I’m not sure how, but when it’s too much for them, they come to me. Lisa was the most recent. She appeared at my door one day, unannounced, as they almost always do. Appointments are optional.

“I’m told you can help me,” she said.

I invited her in, got her a cup of tea, looked her up and down. Pretty, twenty-something, with the eyes of a whipped dog.

“It’s because—“

I stopped her. “It doesn’t matter,” I said, though I knew. That was part of my gift. Fear was holding her in a relationship she didn’t want to be in. Fear was in her posture, in her speech. We agreed on a price and I took her fear away and swallowed it.

When I was done, her face was like all the rest. Not bliss. Not joy. Not even happiness, only relief. Someone else bore the burden they could not or would not.  I want to hate them all for that, only I know two things they don’t—the fear, the grief, would always return, born anew, whatever the circumstances. I can ease their troubles but I can’t cure them, only they can do that.

Something else I learned, that first time. It was right before lunch. I was hungry when I touched Jack’s shoulder. Afterwards, I wasn’t. Maybe there’s always capacity for trouble, and I don’t really solve anything, even though I’d like to.

At least I never go hungry.

-The End-

©2019 By Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.