Fiction School

Fiction School
Check out the podcast I host with two other writing professors

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Open Mic Tour 2012: Jody and Dave do the Weird States

After twelve years playing music in our living room, my partner Dave and I have blasted out on the road to play our songs for a wider audience—meaning someone besides our cats. Max and Fang show precious little appreciation for what we do, and even have the nerve to yowl in bitchy protest when we experiment with dissonant harmonies. We’ve been traveling for a week now, and have hit the following venues:

1)    College of the Redwoods, Crescent City, California: Played one song at the culmination of the Redwood Coast Writers Conference. It’s a little awkward singing a honky-tonk song in a library, but everyone was very supportive and sweet.

2)    Wild Goose Cafe & Bar, Ashland, Oregon: Had a great time playing with a small group of very accomplished singer-songwriters as well as a motley crew of poets displaying a wide range of mental health conditions. Check out the video of Michael Jackson Montgomery, country singer satirist who made up for somewhat primitive guitar skills with serious bravado. His showstopper? A song he claimed was scientifically proven to be the ideal pop country song; its only words were “ice cold beer and a pickup truck.” 

3)    Pub at the End of the Universe, Portland, Oregon: Um…wow. This place was dank, stinky, depressing and filthy, but we heard some talented, eclectic musicians. Also in the lineup: two jugglers and an autistic rapper. Awesome.

4)    Station Bistro, Auburn, Washington: This was a first; when we mentioned our tour, the enthusiastic host proceeded to interview us like we were on the Today Show, in spite of the fact that the place was virtually empty. Very surreal. There were literally five people there in addition to us: some young, adorable teen musicians, two aging hippie guys on electric guitar, and our host, Tim, who did some gospel tunes and then surprised us by reading a few poems in a British accent. Check out the video. Definitely memorable.

5)    Sean Kelly’s, Missoula, Montana: This Irish pub in downtown Missoula hosted a vibrant, well-attended open mic filled with wholesome, college-aged music lovers. In fact, despite showing up an hour early, we almost didn’t get to play because performing here is so popular. Our waitress told us the sign-up sheet goes up at 10 a.m. and fills by 10:15. Only by begging the host with a desperate story about traveling hundreds of miles just to be there were we able to secure a spot. Hooray to Mike Avery for his kindness! Highlights of this gig: a brother-sister band from North Carolina doing kind of a White Stripes thing with her on drums, him on guitar; this was the only other male-female duet we’ve seen so far—actually, the only chick we’ve seen perform at all! They were very hip, complete with ironic aviator sunglasses and hints of southern attitude. Another major perk of this venue: we had a long talk with a Choctaw-Swedish-Gypsy “minstrel” in his seventies who’s been playing Flamenco guitar for fifty-eight years. His favorite phrase? “I’m an asshole, not an idiot.”

6)    Zootown Brew: This spacious, well-lit gallery-turned-coffee shop became the location of our first full-on gig. When we called to see if they planned to host an open mic they said, “No, but you’re welcome to audition.” Voila! We played for a full hour to an almost empty room. Our audience included a couple watching YouTube videos, a guy with headphones on, and James, our very sweet and accommodating barista. Oh, and a guy in a bandanna we thought was drawn by our dulcet tones, but it turns out he just wanted to use the bathroom. Aw, the glamourous life of touring rock stars!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Fifty Shades of Grey Theory: The Top Five Reasons So Many Modern, Intelligent Women Long to be Dominated by a Hot Billionaire

Okay, full disclosure: I only read the first fifty pages of the runaway bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey. Obviously I can hardly pretend to be an expert on the topic. The English teacher in me just couldn't deal with the repetitive phrasing and amateurish characterizations. But that's just me being picky, I guess, because most of America's totally smitten.

I do have some theories about why this trilogy has become such a massive success practically overnight. Sure, it's horribly presumptuous to posit a five-part hypothesis about books one hasn't even read, but I'm feeling cocky, so I'm going for it.

1) Women Today Are Sick of Being the Bossy Pants: Whether we're calling the shots at work or ordering our toddler to stop biting the dog, today's average thirty and forty-something female (Fifty Shades' prime demographic) has tons of responsibility. Most are mothers and employed, leaving precious little time when they're not tending to some sort of duty or crisis. For the mommy who's tired of keeping up with the sippy cups and the CEO sick of sending bossy memos, Anastasia Steele's total surrender to hottie-who-tells-her-exactly-what-to-do provides the ultimate escapist fantasy.

2) We Want to be Worshipped: If there's one common denominator in every romance I've ever read from Twilight to Danielle Steel, it's this: the heroine gets worshipped. It's not enough to be just loved or respected; we long to be the consuming obsession at the center of someone's life. Anastasia gets her share of worship, even if it is of the handcuffed variety.

3) Hot Boy Billionaires Are So Hard to Find: With the economy in its ongoing state of brokenness, beautiful twenty-seven-year-old billionaires are incredibly scarce. Lots of real world women have to deal with partners who can't find work or whose income has been slashed to ribbons. That makes Christian Grey one seriously yummy serving of fantasy man.

4) Make That a Hyper-Masculine Hot Boy in Emasculating Times: Keep in mind that Grey isn't just a billionaire, he's a self-made man. At the tender age of twenty-seven he's managed not only to dominate the business world, but to do so without the help of any pesky inheritance or trust fund that might tarnish his virility in any way. Just as Superman spoke to a Depression-ravaged America with the fantasy of righteous power, Christian Grey distracts women from recession-era worries. Real world husbands plagued with unemployment, debt and paunchiness can be quickly forgotten as readers devour Grey's power in the bedroom and in the boardroom.

5) Twilight Was the Foreplay, Fifty Shades is the Climax: As you probably already know, the Fifty Shades trilogy started as Twilight fan fiction. Stephenie Meyer took unrequited sexual tension to an almost unbearable level, stringing readers along from book to book as we begged Edward to bite her already! Though of course Bella and Edward did finally consummate their relationship (sorry if that's a spoiler!) for many fans the lovers' wedding night paled in comparison to the steamy tension Meyer set up for hundreds and hundreds of pages. The Fifty Shades trilogy gives readers a chance to live out similar relationship dynamics but in a much more explicit, overtly erotic way, providing a release from all that pent up angst at last.

Before I wrap up here, I just want to add that I don't judge readers who love this series; I had my own reasons for putting it down, but I'm all for an excellent escapist fantasy in any form; this one just wasn't for me.

I want to hear from you! Did you get into this series? Does my hypothesis ring true in any way, or am I way off base? Fifty Shades fans and detractors, please, leave your comments below!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Simple Love Spell for Beginners

Love spells are powerful juju, and should be performed with care. Keep in mind that it's not the ingredients or the exact steps that matter so much as your intent and personal investment. If your heart is in the right place and your belief in the spell is pure, this is the most powerful magic of all. 

Perform this spell under a full moon. The Harvest Moon coming up on September 30th will be especially ripe for love, since this is a time of abundance and reaping, but any full moon will do.

  • A sheet of paper
  • A red pen, especially one you use often for private writing such as journaling
  • Pink or Red rose petals (other types of flower petals can work, but roses are best)
  • Your signature scent (perfume, essential oil, etc. If you don't usually wear a scent, choose one that appeals to you--one you would wear if you were a perfume kind of girl)
  • Your signature red or pink lipstick (if you don't usually wear lipstick, choose a shade you like)
  • One bottle with a tight-fitting cork

1. On the night of the full moon, list the qualities you're looking for in a lover on the sheet of paper using the red pen. Do not write the qualities of a specific person; just record your wish list. Be honest.
2. Anoint the paper with your signature scent.
3. Roll the paper into a tight scroll and gently place it inside the bottle.
4. Hold the rose petals in your right hand. Visualize yourself radiant and in love. 
5. Squeeze the petals tightly in your hand. Hold this vision of yourself for as long as you can. See it clearly. Savor the joy of it.
6. One by one, drop the petals into the bottle. Seal the bottle with the cork tightly.
7. Apply your lipstick and kiss the bottle, imprinting the glass with an impression of your lips.
8. Under the full moon, launch the bottle into a moving body of water. This can be a river, creek, or ocean, anything that flows.

Get ready for some breathtaking surprises!