What a talented guy. Caleb has been an inspiration to me, and he has opened my eyes to the world of fiction, the landscape of journals and presses. I would not have had any success without talented, giving people like Caleb in my corner. I owe him a lot.
His chapbook, Charactered Pieces, is wonderful. I was lucky enough to see many of these in their rough forms, and watch him edit them and polish them up, and send them out into the world. If our novels are our babies, birthed amidst screaming, held in our arms while covered in blood, loved and honored over time, nurtured into well-adjusted adults that we are proud to call our own, then what are our short stories? If novels are love affairs, then I suppose short stories are stolen kisses. Now I’m not implying that I like to kiss Caleb in dark alleys surrounded by cigar smoke and cheap bourbon, but you could do worse. This is a riveting collection, running the gamut of human emotions, so stop being such a prude and go kiss this stranger in a dark alley, repeatedly, and in the morning, don’t call me to say thanks, just pass the whore around to somebody else. He likes it. Like most writers, he’s a masochist.
This is a guest post from Caleb J Ross, author of the chapbook Charactered Pieces: stories, as part of his ridiculously named Blog Orgy Tour. Visit his website for a full list of blog stops. Charactered Pieces: stories is currently available from OW Press (or Amazon.com). Visit him at Caleb J. Ross.
I’ve known Richard for a few years. We go back to the beginnings of Write Club, we’ve played in New York and Chicago and will soon, barring a nuke, venture to Denver. Why? To write. Strange how a person will take up travels just enjoy the isolation of pen to paper. Nothing inspires quite like a change of setting.
Chuck Palahniuk credited the visual bank of character references for his penchant for public writing (“Writing in public gives you that access to a junkyard of details all around you”). I’ll buy this. When blocked, but surrounded by people, it takes only a glance upward to see potential. Palahniuk could name specific passages inspired by passing strangers at an airport. The noise doesn’t bother him. Me, I like the quiet. And not that all setting changes must be mimetic—an influx of stimuli is the key—but for me, mimesis helps. When it rains, my characters feel it. I write in the rain a lot. Thus explains why so many of my characters are depressed-going-on-dead.
I’ve got a dream, a strange dream, to take a van cross-country, pulling to the side of the road when the landscape captivates, throwing open the back doors to write. Each stop would literally be a different view, an entirely new bank to stimulate the pen (NOTE: I love this idea, Caleb). Considering my mimetic tendencies, the resulting novel would likely be a lofty, self-congratulating meditation on the beauty to be found in the natural landscapes of this country. So, I’d hope it rains a lot during my trek. I don’t want to read a beautiful land tribute as much as I don’t want to write one.
Before I go, I offer notes on a specific example of immersion writing from my chapbook. Here is “Author Note on Story #5 (The Camp) In Hopes That You’ll Learn About Me Intellectually and Donate to My Pocket.”
As so many stories begin, “The Camp” was as a self-inflicted dare. The concept of “The Camp” is seeded in a desire to explore the horrid through a lens subjectively aimed toward beauty. I told myself that I should write about the hidden beauty in something ugly. How’s The Holocaust for ugly? But truthfully, The Holocaust could have been any tragedy as far as “The Camp” goes (though I would have had to change the title). I wasn’t looking to explore Nazi sympathy; I was simply after finding the pleasant within the unpleasant.
While most of this story is domestic in content, the few images of the college dorm room were created based on notes I took when visiting a friend’s dorm years before the story was written. I won’t claim that the written scene is so perfectly described that it could only have come from mimetic immersion, but being in the physical setting certainly motivated me during the writing of the story.