Saturday, December 28, 2013

Resolutions...No, Really.

Not much of  New Year's resolution guy. Not much of a New Year's guy. Not because it's "for amateurs" as some say, but because it seems strange to me to resolve to be better, eat less, drink less, smoke less, get healthy, blah-blah-blah at the beginning of a new year. Why not make it, say, February 12 or June 1? It doesn't really matter, does it? If you want to resolve, why focus on the new year? But I guess if a long-standing tradition helps you resolve something worthwhile, then have at it.

But if you do resolve anything this New Year, I'm asking you to consider including a different category of resolve.

Yes, health, friends and family issues are certainly good subjects for resolutions. But I suggest you include the category of "creativity." How do you resolve to further your creative side in 2014?

If you write, write more, be more disciplined. If you paint, paint more or take on a new project. If you dance, dance with purpose. And if you simply just keep a nightly or daily journal - stick to it. Buy yourself a nice leather journal and a good pen and have it at. Make the time for yourself. Creativity is really about discipline. You have to have a plan. Make a time and place for your creativity and don't waver. It's like working out - set a time, a place, and a plan and then JUST DO IT!

It's nice to think that creativity begins from some magical place, is sparked by a muse, or a spiritual moment. And part of that may be true. But don't wait for that "moment" or your muse to speak to you. Get to it. Resolve to nurture your creative side, but do it with purpose.

David B

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It never really ends...

I like rewrites and edits and that whole process. I enjoy the refining and fixing. Lisa, who has done a lot of a my draft editing and has not only found my stupid grammatical mistakes, but also has made some astute, keen observations about story and plot. She's taken a hard look–actually a couple of hard looks–at a draft of a fiction work entitled NIGHT RADIO. As usual, she's pointed out some matters that need my attention. And that's what has consumed me over the last couple of weeks. Thanks, Lisa. No, really, thanks.

The reason I bring this up is to celebrate the process. If you write–any kind of writing–learn to enjoy this part of the work; the fixing, cleaning-up, the readjustments. This is where the work really starts to come alive. Think of it as waxing after you've done the hard work of washing the car. As you move your soft cloth over the car's finish in smooth circular motions, the shine begins to emerge, the true beauty of the automobile's exterior comes alive. This is what you are doing with your story–giving it shine, luster. This is not work, this is the remarkable last steps before you release your baby–your story–into the world. Don't rush it. Don't curse it. Take the time to savor this,  embrace your words and massage their meaning.

If you write, this process is inevitable. Don't dread it. Instead, give it a big hug.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pets and Literature: Who Says They Don't Mix?

I started working on a collection of pet stories. All creative nonfiction pieces about my experiences as a pet owner; all kinds of pets: dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, fish, lizards, even a squirrel. Oh yeah, there were some turtles in there. I have had many pets as a child, a parent, and as an adult. And why wouldn't  owning them generate great stories? They do. But many times pet stories just aren't taken seriously.

Pet stories tend to fall is the basket of "not so serious literature." Light stuff, overly sentimentalized. Not serious works of prose.

But for many of us, pets are our mirrors in life, aren't they? How we treat them, interact with them, live with them reflects on how we live our lives, how we conduct ourselves, how we interact with our fellow humans, our lovers, our kids, our friends. Good pet stories are not really about the pets, are they? They are about something bigger, bolder, richer.

I hope I can shed a light on that. I hope I can begin, in some small way, to change the way the book world–that world of literature–looks at pet stories.

Here's an early draft of a piece for the collection. It's called "MIKE." How am I doing?

Sunday, December 1, 2013


I have been privileged in a lot of ways in my life. I have great kids, people to care about, a love that is like no other, and the incredible delight to be able to tell stories–on the radio, in print, online, in ebooks, and in live-lit performances. I do see it as a privilege. I've been blessed.

From time to time in my career, I have been blessed to win some awards–big and small. But recently I was awarded the 2013 Chicago Writers Association BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD for nontraditional nonfiction for my memoir ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE. And this was particularly special. 

Not only was the award presented after wonderful writers read and reviewed the book, which is special in and of itself, but this story, this book, is so incredibly close to my heart. It's a story of fathers and sons–my father, my sons. And there is nothing more intimate than a man's relationship with his father, no matter how imperfect it may be. 

Yes, I am privileged to tell stories. But I am even more privileged to tell the stories of my life. They–and this award–are precious. 


Monday, March 11, 2013

2nd Story - What a Treat!

I've been doing readings and part of storytelling events in Chicago for a couple of years, but there was nothing quite like the experience at 2nd Story at Webster's in Lincoln Park, Chicago on Sunday night.

What a fabulous group of storytellers! What a great, enthusiastic crowd! And what a marvelously supportive company 2nd Story is. I am grateful for the opportunity, the experience, and the chance, of course, to tell my story.

This may be what a lot of first time 2nd Storytellers say, right? But here's the difference for me, I think.
I not only loved the experience - and will do it again in a second show on Monday night (3/11) - but I learned from the others tellers on the stage with me. I didn't see it only as MY part in a show. I listened and learned from my fellow tellers - Bobby, Kim, Kareem. They are pros.

And that, for a writer, a performer, is important. Learn from your colleagues, learn from the best. Johnny Carson once famously said, "Genius is only knowing what to steal." He's right. Be your own artist, make your own mark, but emulate the greats.

I was the student at Webster's Sunday night. And that was wonderful.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

And then this happened...

I've been considering new ways to get people writing. Yes, there are a lot of prompts out there and some very good websites and blogs that offer stimulus for getting people to tell their stories. But I want something with a little more meat, an investment if you will. 

What about this idea?

I write a few words, the beginning of a story, and then contributors fill in the next paragraph or so. Nothing too daunting. In fact, maybe keep it to a word limit; one hundred would be a good idea, allowing for a collaborative effort on this blog site, writers building on what the previous has written. We give it a few weeks or so, and see what kind of story evolves. We could call it the "Short Story Project."


Maybe someone wants to try. Here's a beginning to work with...write an additional 100 words...

     The car's right side tires had been driven into the low weeds just off the dirt road, as if someone had hurriedly pulled over. This was an unusual place to see a car parked, and especially at this time of night, along this stretch of road. Bobby walked this way to get home each night after his late shift at the bar and had never seen an automobile even drive along here, let alone one momentarily abandoned in this dark, lonely spot. He hesitantly peered inside driver-side window of the old sedan, believing he might find a couple of half-naked high school students. Instead, in a hint of moonlight, he could see only an opened white envelope on the passenger seat, three or four pages of a what looked like a handwritten letter littered the floor. Bobby reached for the driver-side handle, and after quickly looking around for anyone watching, he slowly opened the door. A mix of cigarette smoke and perfume filtered out. There was a half-empty can of beer in the cup holder. It was still cold to the touch.