Two Cool Things

1. Another Nashville writer at Qarrtsiluni! And she’s writing about Piggly Wiggly, which means she’s writing about Dickerson Pike. But I must say, I realized upon reading this that I don’t really consider Dickerson Pike to be East Nashville. I mean, yes, technically. But I feel like maybe it should have its own name.

2. All afternoon I watched as this story became about how scientists had broken the speed of light. But I like it at this moment where it’s still a story about a genuine “What the fuck?!”

“My dream would be that another, independent experiment finds the same thing – then I would be relieved,” Dr Ereditato said.

But for now, he explained, “we are not claiming things, we want just to be helped by the community in understanding our crazy result – because it is crazy”.

“And of course the consequences can be very serious.”

Grandma A.

My Uncle B. sent me this picture of my Grandma A. He says it’s her high school graduation picture, which would make her, I think 15 or 16. Did I ever tell you about this? My grandma was the youngest in her family and she blew threw all her studies at the one-room school house by the time she was 11. So, they were trying to decide if they would go ahead and send her to high school or if she’d just not go to school any more and, if they did send her to high school, how she’d get there.

My great-grandparents bought her a car. She got her driver’s license at 11. And off she went to high school. And then to college. And then she had to be a beautician for a year or two while she waited to be 21 so that she could get her teaching license.

But then she was a teacher at a one-room school-house.

And then she got married and moved to Battle Creek and then she became a real estate agent and then she was my grandma. Ta da!

God, I miss her.

Between her and my other grandma, I guess there was no question I’d have curly brown hair.

What If Kids Today Do Not Suck?

No, I know. Impossible. Have I heard their stupid music? Do I not know how they think “everything the [sic] do is somehow worthy of being posted on Facebook & Twitter & Tumblr. They have grown up with an audience for their every banality and expect it. They are vain and shallow. Believe me, I know this well.”? And look at the ridiculous ways they dress. Ugh. Kids today. Suck, suck, suck, suck, suck.

What do they suck about now?

They want to be writers, but they don’t want to read.

Giraldi’s right: it’s both crazy and prevalent among budding writers. I’d also welcome theories on why it’s prevalent—is writing a more natural activity than reading? Does watching stories unfold on TV or in film give kids the same creative urge that reading does? Is it just that it’s easier to see your ego in words you wrote yourself?

This is, by far, the stupidest thing I’ve read all day. People–kids today–read all the time. They read all day long. I heard on NPR that people under 25 send, on average, 110 text messages a day. These are not people who don’t read.

Let me posit a counter-theory–there’s a lot of terrible shit out there. Why just yesterday, I finished a book so bad that it made me wish there was a Mystery Science Theater for books. This book ended in a bout of mutual necrophilia, which I think was supposed to be horrifying, but ended up being hilarious. Because nothing says “Sure, I can get my actually dead dick up” like a ghost impersonating and somehow embodying the corpse of your wife. Who the fuck cares if kids today don’t want to read terrible shit like a “horror” novel that makes no sense and ends up with a dude gratefully and without compelling explanation fucking the thing that killed his wife and the teenager he was trying to fuck?

To that, I say, “Good decision, kids.”

Or let’s try another theory–Maybe Harold Bloom was right and writers–I would argue especially young writers–are very concerned with writing stuff that is derivative of other stuff. Shoot, I felt like throwing up when I realized the Sue Allen thing is going to be like The Terminator, but with methed out asshole neo-racists and post-Reconstruction Confederates. I’m going forward anyway, both because I at least want to write the first chapter where the evil post-Reconstruction Confederate complains bitterly about what a bunch of pussies all the men in his Civil War reenactment group are while they contemplate whether they should turn him over to the Feds, because he’s such a racist crack-pot that he seems like he might actually be a danger to others or whether he might be a Fed posing as a racist crack-pot trying to get them to implicate themselves in something.

And I’m sure that seems fucking derivative of something as well and the Butcher will read it and go “Oh, so that’s like [thing I forgot about] meets the Confederates.” And I will want to throw up again.

Oh, right, my point. Maybe young writers want to write without reading because they’re actually trying to say something about their anxieties about influence and their uncertainties about how to be original without shutting oneself off from influence. It’s funny to me that, when Harold Bloom says it, it’s smart and something we should all consider, but when kids try to express it, they’re narcissistic assholes.

Or my third theory–kids who want to write and who are asked to read by the teachers they want to teach them to write have no idea how to read a book like a writer. They literally don’t understand what reading can teach them about writing and teachers of writing, who are usually also teachers in the English department, do a pretty bad job of switching from “What does the rose symbolize?” to “What’s Faulkner doing with this rose? Does it work for you? What would you do differently?” It’s a different skill-set–reading for lit crit reasons and reading for ideas about strategies of writing (and both are different from reading for pleasure).

I only had a couple of classes–one I remember particularly vividly, even after all these years–where we read something, could be fiction, could be non-fiction, could be theory, hashed over what it meant and then turned around and tried to write something using what we’d just figured out. And both of those were taught by the same person. And I’m still in regular contact with her because she fucking rocks.

Are some kids narcissistic assholes? Sure. But are you teaching them how to read as a writer? Are you discussing with them anxieties about finding out that what they want to do has already been done? Or anxieties about “ripping off” someone?

There is only one way that I know of to become a writer–get words on the page and rip off people better than you. And the only way I know how to rip off people better than you is to read them. Sure, we don’t call it “ripping off,” but you know what I mean. If a writing teacher is only focused on teaching you how to get and shape words on the page and not on how to figure out what better writers are doing in order to emulate it, the writing teacher sucks, not the students.

Seven for the Seven Who Couldn’t Get to Heaven

Today Tiny Cat Pants is seven years old. Since I started this blog, a lot has changed, three marriages, two messy divorces, four kids, a hit TV show… Okay, fine, in a lot of ways, nothing’s changed that much.

I still live in Nashville. I still work at the same place (though in a different position). I still hope to be a writer.

On the other hand, I simply cannot imagine that I would have all of the wonderful things I have here if not for this blog. I wouldn’t know most of my dear friends here in Nashville. I would never have met almost all of you. I wouldn’t be a published writer at all, period, the end. No short stories, no nothing. And therefore I wouldn’t have had the awesome Southern Festival of Books experience last year. I wouldn’t have heard Nina Cardona on Nashville Public Radio call me “Nashville writer, Betsy Phillips.”

And these aren’t even all the good things. It’s just where my head is at because SFB is coming up again soon. I mean, would I even own a house? I think any other real estate agent than Kathy–who I met through blogging–would have killed me long before we found this place.

I am very, very lucky and it’s because of you guys. I hope I bring you even 1/100th of the joy you’ve brought me. But I just don’t think that’s possible.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting and lurking and making this all possible. From the bottom of my heart.

Now, excuse me. I have a little something in my eye.

There Is No Better Past To Go Back to

from “America“–

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his
automobiles more so they’re all different sexes
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.