Friday, July 29, 2011

I Have Waited Too Long to Credo

It was just a couple weeks ago here in Orlando at the Jack Kerouac House that I first entered Credo, the College Park coffee house. I'm sorry I waited so long.

Credo is a donations only coffeehouse with a funky and comfortable interior, and a "creed" to go along with it. To say it succinctly, Credo rejects apathy. The idea behind the this community shop is to give back to its neighbors, offering help to the local Boys and Girls Club, a space for songwriters and doucmentarians, artists and writers, people who want to live life to its fullest in a meaningful, purposeful way. And yes, there are no prices on the coffee, no prices of the coffee cakes. You pay what you think you should give.

Do not let this imply that the coffee is sub par. Credo is leading an initiative to pay the coffee growers in the La Perla region of Guatemala a living wage. The coffee is shade grown on rugged and remote hillsides. This was an area devastated by decades of civil war, but now produces what Credo calls "a treasure" - Cafe de la Esperanza. The hand-cultivated coffee is sun dried at 4,000 feet above sea level. It's a sweet, citric java. For me, it's best in a French press. But you can get it in as many ways as you can imagine at Credo.

I don't wish to create a blog that resembles an advertisement. It is not. But on Friday afternoon, I spent nearly six hours at Credo, writing, filling up my coffee mug, and savoring the surroundings the people. I simply want people to know how great this place is.

Like so much here, I will miss Credo. I will miss its unassuming purpose and its quietly welcoming space. With just two weeks left in my residency, Credo cretainly will be a part of many of my remaining hours.


Some Writers I've Been Considering

These are not new names to many, but I've either been discovering or re-discovering their work while here at the Jack Kerouac House. And, I thought they were all worth sharing.

Authors (new and old) I've been paying attention to...

Denis Johnson
Simon Van Booy
ZZ Packer
Dinty Moore
Phillip Lopate
T.C. Boyle


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Soft Exposure

Great night at Infusion Tea for the latest edition of Soft Exposure!

I was honored to be part of a night that included friends and new friends, and readings from some talented writers. Although I read from my memoir, Accidental Lessons, and a bit from my new manuscript - the book I'm working on while the Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac Project, it was clear that poetry ruled the night. Some wonderful pieces on the themes of "waiting" and Jazz and monsters.

Tonight - I head out with the Essay Club. We've all read a recent NY Times piece by Jonathan Franzen about the links between technology, mobile device envy, and love. It should be a discussion of high volume. It always is

Two weeks remain for me at the JK House. I've already told the board members I'm planning an act of civil disobedience and chaining myself to the house's front porch. They'll have to call the cops.

In the meantime, I continue to redraft a manuscript and to write new material, hoping to shape some short fiction. But while I work, I can't help consider that these are my last hours here and there are levels of melancholy that envelope this temporary home and me. I've always believed there is some goodness in sadness. This is one of those times.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Cigars Galore

There's a photo here at the Jack Kerouac House of Jack smoking a small cigar while going through his notebooks. In another photo, there's a box of Dutch Masters cigars in the background. They're tucked in a cubby hole near his writing desk.


While at Jack's house...

Can't smoke in the JK home, but just minutes from the house is a great cigar shop - Corona Cigars. Fabulous. So, a one Cohiba and a McCallan single malt later - -

My younger son is visiting now too, and he smoked a small maduro.

Working on drafts of manuscript and also touching up some short pieces I've been tinkering with...hoping to publish them in a Kindle edition. More later.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Writers Getting a Little Help from Jack

Ten writers came to the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando on Saturday to capture a little bit of the energy that emanates from this place. I hope they left with a bundle of it.

Along with the help of Mad-about-Words, I held a three-hour workshop at the JK House - mostly about how to organize your writing, your story plan, and crafting that crucial opening paragraph.

Writers of all skills, types, and sensitivities brought talent and dreams into the house, each dedicated to doing something special with their work. All offered great questions, solid insight, and some engaging opening paragraphs to the full stories yet to be told. From the tale of a middle-of-the-night phone call from a nearly forgotten lover, to an awkward - if not strange - encounter in a transgender bar, to a young woman's obsession with money and the big check she would be getting from her uncle whose mysterious death still haunted her - each writer dug deep to find a new way to begin a story, and sharing those stories was invaluable.

The JK House is a fabulous place to hold this kind of workshop - intimate, cozy, and full of creative force. But what makes it all work? The people. The writers who come to these workshops feed this house, nurturing it out of its slumber and routine. The JK House is always special even when it sits alone and quiet - but the beating hearts and the stories inside those hearts and souls are the fuel that keeps the house's artistic fires burning.

Best to all the writers here today - and joy in writing.

David B

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On the Road - The Movie

Some of you may already know that the On the Road movie is close to release. It's a Francis Ford Coppola-backed production.

The Huffington Post published a wonderful article about the "authenticity" behind the making of the movie.

Kerouac followers - you will LOVE THIS STORY!

"All that raw land..."

One Month and NOT Counting

I've been at the Kerouac House for over a month now, and have just about a month left - a little more than halfway.

Its bittersweet.

This is a marvelous place to work: great atmosphere, historical and spiritual in a way. The neighborhood is wonderful, and the friends I've made have been supportive and genuinely interested in my work.

In the next couple of weeks - plenty to do. This Saturday Mad-about-Words is holding a workshop for me here at the Kerouac House for writers interested in pursuing more ways to enlighten their work. I see that as a big responsibility and I take it seriously. I look forward to it. The house will be a wonderful place to hold the workshop, as it's homey and full of "writer energy."

Then later this month, I'll be at Infusion Tea for a reading with Soft Exposure. I was at the June reading where we listened to some wonderful local poets.

Then, in August I'll hold my final reading at the house during a farewell party here. That will will include a lot of "sweet" along with the aforementioned "bitter." (I've already told the Jack Kerouac Project: "I'm not leaving!)

Then it's off to Sea Island, Georgia for the Scribbler's Writer's Conference where I'll be the keynote speaker Saturday, August 13th.

Meantime - the work on the manuscript continues: lots of redrafting, chapter changes, and touch-ups, and - as Hemingway said - the search for that "one true sentence." But I see it coming together and I'm grateful to the JK Project for giving me the time and this remarkable place to make that happen.

Then comes the doubt. Writer's have doubt, don't you know? Who knew? But I'm ready for that, and the writer therapy I'll need when that thick manuscript sits on my desk -- waiting.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

And One More Kerouac Hunter

That's what they call them around here - Kerouac Hunters. These are the people who stop by the Jack Kerouac House here in Orlando unannounced and excited they have found the place where their favorite writer, their literary and cultural hero lived and wrote. The Hunters arrive regularly and today - there was yet another knock at my door.

A gentlemen from Alabama, traveling with his wife, came up the porch steps in mid-afternoon and stopped to look around. I could hear him talking to his wife.

"This is the place. There's a sign on the door. Wow. This is it."

He had heard about the house and its history - the apartment in the back, the small room - 10-x-10 - where Kerouac wrote The Dharma Bums, where he entertained a Time Magazine photographer after On the Road made him famous, where Jack was living meagerly, nearly broke, writing at night when it was coolest. The neighbors could hear his typing until the dawn.

I answered the door.

"Hello," he said. "Is this the place?"

Obviously I knew exactly what he was asking, and I knew he already knew the answer.

"Yes it is," I said. "This is the place."

"Wow. And you? Are the you writer living here now?"

We talked for 15 minutes about the house and Kerouac, and although I was working and didn't offer to allow him inside, I did encourage him to look around the back of the house near the apartment entrance.

"So this is where he laid down on the ground to try to sweat out the flu?"

Kerouac came back from a road trip to Mexico and was ill. He slept on the ground in the Florida heat, hoping to rid his body of the sickness.

"And those steps there," I said, gesturing with my hand, "that's where he sat with a stack of oranges and his cat in his lap. There's a famous photo of that moment."

"Right there?" he said, pointing.

"Right there," I replied.

He smiled, shook his head imagining Kerouac life here, and in awe of where he was standing.

There are few places in the world where American literary ghosts remain: Hemingway's homes in Key West and in Cuba, and the Steinbeck House in California. But here in Orlando - there is something more. The Kerouac House is NOT a museum, not a pristine place where you can't touch the history. No. Here you can live with the ghost, experience the lingering muse, and let it all sink into your soul.

"Are you feeling a little of Jack?" he asked.

"Every single day," I said, "every single day."