Welcome to my blog about life as a writer. I’m sitting in my home office, surrounded by my bookshelves and artifacts from travel. It’s actually a pretty messy place.
And yet, it’s a disorder I understand. I know where everything is in this maze of fiction, history, science, mythology, and anthology. I even have one shelf reserved for my published works (and which I hope to add to!) while the rest of the room is a kind of incubator for works-in-progress; half-finished stories, notebooks of ideas, scripts, poems scribbled on the backs of credit card offers, plays, and experimental chimeras. Its my own cave of Lascaux.
The challenge of being a writer today is that, if you seek tangible success, you go to war against an industry motivated solely by profit and not literature. Oh, I think you can certainly have both! But I’ve had my share of rejections from editors who spend two-thirds of a letter joyfully raving about the work they’ve read only to add, in a pipsqueak closing line, that “we have a poor track record of promoting untested, untried authors, and so with great reluctance, we’re forced to pass.”
So the art of writing today is being part poet and part strategist, part meditation and part tactical commander. It’s Emerson’s transparent eyeball outfitted with a laser-sight. It’s Henry David Thoreau returning from Walden Pond with a battered notebook in one pocket and a battering ram in both hands. There are two ways of looking at writing: you can do it quietly like Emily Dickinson in a secluded cabin, or you can actively campaign in public arenas with the publishing world’s equivalent of Roman Emperors watching from above.
Today I was informed that two small works of mine will be published. My poem “A Library Died” just won 7th Place in the Writer’s Digest International Poetry Contest. I wrote it about my great-grandfather, Frank Cipriano, who passed away at the age of 96 and could still remember the streets and sites of his native Naples (which, given its proximity to Pompeii and the fact that 90 percent of that doomed metropolis successfully escaped Vesuvius’ wrath, almost certainly became surrogate home to the survivors, so maybe somewhere in my genes I’ve got the ancestral memory of hurriedly escaping from the eruption). At family gatherings, he could sit off by himself and take mental tours of the Italy he knew. I felt a kinship with that, wanting to escape to other worlds while the clucking cacophony of a very large, very Italian family gathering whirled like a maelstrom around us.
Another piece of good news: My Travel piece “Mountain of Ghosts” won Honorable Mention in the Best Travel Writing Competition. You can see the list here. It is a recounting of my hike up Mount Fuji throughout the course of night to reach the peak for the scarlet hatching of sunrise. My friend Alice snapped a pic of that experience which I’ve posted on the About the Author Page here. Japan is a coin of wild opposites, finding a way to effortlessly blend its futuristic hyperindustrialized urban centers with the pristine loveliness of Kyoto and Nikko, mystical spots wreathed in dew and time.
The Connecticut Muse once asked me to comment on writing. “You know you’re a writer,” I said, “If the poetry book on your kitchen table was a pile of napkins last week.”
Watching this Week: The Maltese Falcon, White Oleander, and Metropolis (both the silent film and the anime variety)
Reading this Week: The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens
“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.” Titus Livius