10.31.2016

Rocket Man

I was thinking about a clever title for this. Something involving a messenger with winged boots, but in the end, Sir Elton John's 1972 classic summed it up quite nicely.

I briefly eluded to the saga of the Rocket back in a previous post (which can be found here).
Before I get too far in to that, however, I feel like I should give some background in to TTC (or Todd's Typewriter Curse as I have affectionately come to call it). It seems that when I find a typewriter, there seems to be something about it that's amiss.

There's the Royal that was actually doing well until I pressed on the platen knob the wrong way.   The Safari which the cat seemed to think was it's own personal....space (that beauty came from Craig's List).  There was a Royal Arrow that I think it's actually mostly OK. Just needs cleaned. I'm hoping. Otherwise, it might be an issue with the escapement. Fingers crossed that a good cleaning is all it needs.

The last of the typers to fall under the curse was an Underwood Electric 565 that I got at a garage sale for $10.  I can hear the hum of the motor, but it just won't advance. I'm hoping that's something simple like the tension band (at least I think that's what it's called--I'm still learning).

So...fast forward to about 3 three weeks ago. I was at a writing event at a friend's house. This friend collects typewriters and has been my sherpa. Guiding me through the jungle of thrift store finds and helping me make sure I don't wind up with something I won't be happy with.

While there I got the chance to actually type on some of the machines in her collection.  I fell in love almost immediately with the Hermes Rocket.  I set my sights on that gem of the ultraportable world. It's sleek. It's sexy. It's a dream to type on. And I wanted one.

The Hermes, in car terms I'm told, would be something along the lines of a Mercedes or BMW. You are getting a quality machine. One that is built to last.

Here's a shot of my friend's Hermes Rocket:

I knew I was going to Herman's this year (after the way it was described to me, I really couldn't miss it), so I put the word on the Antique Typewriter Collector's page that I was in the market for a Hermes Ultraportable (Rocket, Baby, or Featherweight).  

I didn't hear anything. I found out later it was because most of the people were trying to get their own gear ready for the meet-up at Herman's (and not that they were ignoring the newb as I had originally feared).

But my friend came through. Unbeknownst to me, she also put the word out and I found that I was going in with my choice of a Rocket or a Baby.  I was beside myself.

We got to Herman's and I saw my two contenders on Saturday.  The Baby was gray in a gray case. It had the classic Hermes portable look to it.  It also had the Montgomery Ward decal.  I was tempted. Sincerely tempted, but then  saw the Rocket.


I'm told this one dates from some time in the 50's. It had that classic green case/keys.  I loved the logo--it reminded me of the sci-fi classics I grew up on as a kid.  It did not have the classic snap-on travel case, though. It had a leather attache case, which looked to be custom made for the Hermes ultraportables.

Being a huge fan of bags, I found the tipping point. So, that's what I went with.  I knew the zippers on the bag would need to be replaced and the Rocket would definitely need to be cleaned.

I was showing a couple of the other collectors there the Rocket later that night and made a deflating discovery.

Todd's Typewriter Curse had again struck.  We were putting it back in the case and found that the Carriage Release seemed to be....well...missing. 

Yes. Missing.  It wasn't that the knob had snapped off. Nope. We could see the holes in the carriage where the bar is supposed to be. The bar, and release at the end of the bar were completely missing. 

It's not something that one generally looks for, because it's not something that is generally missing. Especially from a working machine in what appeared to be great condition.  I was flummoxed.  

And I was a bit sad that I was going home with a non-working machine. I mean, it worked, but there would be the minor annoyance of not being able to release the carriage without hitting the space bar.

The seller of the machine was completely unaware, and no one else there had really ever seen or heard of such a thing. I know he's on the lookout for a replacement part so that machine could be made whole again, so I left feeling a little better about the whole thing.

And then, Monica, the writer/friend/typewriter guru who set me back on this path of creating on these beautiful machines, again did something unexpected. She said, "Here's what we'll do. You'll take my Rocket until we can get yours fixed. You should have a machine you can type on."

I was speechless. Not a new state for me this past weekend. 

That's what this community is like, though. I made some new friends this weekend. Friends that I know I can call on for advice or help. And if there's something I can do to help them, like craft a clever blog post--I definitely will. It's yet another tribe that I find myself in.

I have my borrowed Rocket.  And I thought that really would be the end of the saga, but as it turns out, that's not quite the case.

On the way home we stopped at an antique mall for a crash course in 'typewriter hunting.' 

I stumbled upon this.


It's an Olivetti-Underwood 21. "It's basically the guts of an Olivetti, wearing Underwood clothes" as Monica described it to me.   The machine also has a very similar feel to the Olivetti Lettera 22 that was the favorite machine of one of my writing inspirations, Mr. Leonard Cohen.  I knew from there I had to have it. And...thus far it does not exhibit any signs of falling prey to Todd's Typewriter Curse.

Fingers crossed.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some typing to get to.

-A.T.



Typecast

I'm glad I took the day off work. I have found that taking a day after a major event or weekend to process said event or weekend is a worthwhile thing.  Had I tried to process all of the amazingness of this weekend in the limited span of yesterday afternoon, I know I would have been a zombie today.

I'm still pretty much a zombie, but at least I'm home to process it in my own way (involving shorts and a t-shirt).

Todd--what was this amazing event that has you zombified and in gym clothes?!?

I'm glad you asked.

It was the Annual meet up of Antique Typewriter Collectors.  Or, as it's known by most, "Herman's."  As in, "are you going to Herman's?" or "Can you bring that with you and I'll get it from you at Herman's?"

Herman Price, CPA.  And in my mind the godfather of antique typewriter collecting.  Once a year this man opens his home to people from all over the country and the world to come together and discuss, share the love of, and even buy and sell antique typewriters and antique typewriter ephemera.

This is Herman. A gracious man, a generous host, and a font of knowledge when it comes to typewriters. To say he is world renowned in this field would, in my opinion, NOT be hyperbole.



A friend and fellow writer got me turned back on to the manual typewriter. My feeble attempts at collecting had yielded quite a few Royal models in various states of functionality, a couple of electrics, and a 1929 Underwood from my dad that I want to restore to its former glory.

But I didn't really have a typer I could use on a daily basis. And that's what I really wanted. After trying her Hermes Rocket at a recent writing event, I knew that's what I wanted. I put word out on the Antique Typewriter's collector page on Facebook that I was looking for a Hermes ultraportable, but got no bites.  But that's a story for another time.   The saga of my Rocket is its own tale.

So, who in the world collects antique typewriters?
Doctors of Philosophy, authors, college students, elementary school students, entire families, retired professors, I.T. professionals, mechanics, mechanical engineers, photographers...the list of people who collect is as eclectic as the machines they collect.

It is a wide and varied group.  A group that looks a little like this.


One commonality among the group is that most everyone here that has a passion for the machine known as a 'typewriter' has a passion to see the machine working and usable.  Granted, when they get that machine restored and working they may never type on it, but they know they could. That's what separates the collector from the etsy hobbyist who buys old machines to chop keys for those cute, hip necklaces or charm bracelets. To me that's as bad as the albums that get melted and formed in to chip bowls. 

The other thing about this group, is that it is overwhelmingly welcoming.  I'm a newbie to typewriter collecting. I barely know what I want in terms of machines to focus on. I was the second newest 'collector' there (and I missed getting an award for that by one week).  I have 8 machines. Most of the people that came to Herman's brought that many machines from their collections to sell and trade this weekend. Never once though, did I feel that my questions were stupid. I was welcomed. It was awesome.  Again, to find people who have a passion for something I really dig and the fact that they wanted to share their knowledge instead of hoarding it.  

In short, it was amazing.

There were a couple of "once in a lifetime" moments that really made the weekend special. 

At the meet-up last year, I'm told, Peter Weil and Paul Robert talked about the upcoming release of their book, Typewriter.  

This year they did more than talk about it. They brought the first 100 copies.  Signed and numbered.  AND BOTH of them were at Herman's this year to sign the books.  Considering that Paul is from the Netherlands, this is definitely one of those rarities that seem to abound a weekend at Herman's.




I know this is definitely one of those special things that won't happen again.  It was just one of many that are currently swimming around my brain bucket awaiting some kind of processing.  Side note--you should totally go over to Amazon and get this book. The photographs are beautiful and the history of the various machines is unsurpassed. It is a masterclass in a book. And if you are the least interested in typewriters, it should be on your book shelf. Don't let the blurb about hipsters scare you away from getting it. You need this book in your collection.

Another book you should look at is The Typewriter Revolution by Richard Polt.  It was the first book I was told to get when I expressed an interest in typewriters.

So...another cool thing about the weekend--Richard Polt was there. I got to meet him. Talk with him. Watch him crush the speed typing competition.

I can't really say enough how great the weekend was. I think as I go through my life and become unashamedly geeky about the things I am passionate about, it's refreshing to me to find pockets and tribes of people who are also geeky about those things. I don't really like large groups (and most of the time small groups, if I'm being honest), but it's different when I'm around people that share the same love for those things that I am now (or for years have been) geeking out over. 

This weekend was such a weekend.

In case you're wondering, I did come home with a Hermes Rocket. Monica, my typewriter pusher, made a few inquiries and I wound up with 2 Hermes Ultraportables to choose from.  Of course, I chose the one that invoked Todd's Typewriter Curse (more on that another time). But all was made right.

And on the way home, a quick side trip yielded another find.... An Olivetti-Underwood 21 in its original case with original accessories.  I'm told it has a very similar feel to the Olivetti Lettera 22 that one of my inspirations, Leonard Cohen, swears by.  So we'll give it a go. It's in beautiful shape and appears to be fully functional. 

Just another feather on the cap of a kick ass weekend. 


If the weekend has taught me anything it is this.

  • Find your passion.
  • Find others who share your passion.
  • Always remember, we all start somewhere.
  • Never be ashamed of the things that make your heart sing.
Alright. It's time to step away from this machine of the future, and load some paper in to this machine from the past that is sitting here waiting for me to infuse part of my soul on to the pages.

Have a wonderful day my friends!

-A.T.




10.29.2016

Weekend at Herman's (Pt. 1 of ?)

I'm exhausted. That good kind of exhaustion that comes from laughter, common interests, brain overloads, and of course witnessing firsthand machines that were previously not known to be in existence. Or that people had not seen in decades.

As a writer, there is a certain romantic notion associated with typewriters. All of my writing heroes used typewriters. They are a tool. But they were so much more than than. They were the conduit by which those amazing minds gave birth to the words that inspired me and those like me to finally come to grips with the fact that writing is more than something we do, it's something we are.

And this weekend was all about being in a place where those magical machines are revered.

It's interesting though.  This meet up is made up of some writers, but by and large the people that are here are here because they love the machines. There is a beauty that I can't quite describe. They are feats of engineering. And this weekend I have seen prototypes. I have heard talks from authors who are the premiere authorities about typewriters.

The opportunity was amazing. And the only requirement to attend was that you have a love or at least an interest in typewriters (or be the traveling companion of someone who does).  I met giants in the typewriter collecting field. And I met masters of repair and restoration (who live in Ohio).

It's another tribe.

I posted pix on Instagram and Facebook so I'm not going to do so again here, but I took many. Machines that I was interested in. Machines I had never seen. All fascinating to me.

My brain still has so much to process. And of course there is the story of the Hermes Rocket that looked poised for a bright shiny orbit, but wound up actually faltering on the launch pad.

More on that later. Don't worry, I think that it will have a happy ending. We'll see.

Right now I'm tired. And tomorrow is a day of mostly driving back to Ohio from West Virginia.  Yes, my friends, the Typewriter Heaven is roughly 4 hours away from home. I know. It blew my mind too.

*ding*

Peace,
-A.T.

10.24.2016

Of NaNo, Nanites, and One Man's Perfect Bag

Todd's Magnificent Bag
I know, based on the page hits of my last post, that at least 56 of you (OK 52 if I count my page hits) are waiting to see what happens next in the quest to find one man's perfect sac. Er...bag.

My friends, your wait is over.  I have found what will likely be my perfect writing-slash-go-to-he-looks-like-a-writer bag.  It's the Rothco Vintage Canvas Urban Pioneer (with Leather accents).  OR "Canvas laptop bag from the Army/Navy Surplus Store." If you want to keep it simple whilst still basically using the same number of words.

You can find your own here, or on Amazon. Or something similar at your local military surplus store, I'm sure. The funny thing is, I bought this bag a little over a year ago for pretty much the same purpose. At the time I was lugging around a MacBook circa 2009 and sometimes my Chromebook. So it always seemed to be a bit unwieldy.  Now, with the MacBook Air, it works out damn near perfectly.  Here's an action shot:

I give it a test spin again this weekend by taking it with me up to the NCOW Plot-in (more on that later), and it seemed to work out very well.  It currently holds the following items with room to spare:
  • Personal Journal
  • Ideas Journal
  • Leather Writing journal (Moleskin with a leather cover)
  • MacBook Air 11" + AC Adapter 
  • Pencil pouch
  • Pouch with USB cables
  • Second pouch with digital recorder + mic
  • papers
  • Bottle Opener
  • Kindle Paperwhite
  • Copy of Ray Bradbury's Zen and the Art of Writing
  • Set of 30 Staedtler fine tipped markers for coloring
  • A finger puppet giraffe named Doug Ragebacon, Jr.
  • Writer's Emergency Toolkit Deck
As mentioned, there is still room in the bag. It's not stuffed to the gills. It's not too heavy. And it's got all of my writing essentials plus enough of the 'I'm stuck what do I do now' kind of things that comprise my security blanket. 

A friend I work with who has been following the saga came by my desk today and asked, "So. This is it? This is the one perfect bag?"

I answered honestly, "For now."   

But for now it is. For now I can cross that off my list of things that would stop me from writing. It sounds funny, but it's true. There is just enough OCD mixed in with whatever soup is cooking in my brain that I can easily see myself not going to a write-in or otherwise spend the time creating vs. obsessing over the perfect bag.  It's how I'm wired. I should probably be on medicine for it. And probably would be if I weren't terrified of losing the words. But that's a topic for another time. 

So...my bag is good. Thanks for asking!

NaNo Plan-O
Now on to the fun stuff.  National Novel Writing Month starts in just 7 short days.  This-for many writers- is our Boston Marathon. It's where the metal hits the road and you see if you have what it takes to be a writer.  

OK. Some of that is bullshit.  NaNo actually did more harm to my writing than good the first 3 years I tried it.  True story. I got revved up to do NaNo, and you know, to get my book (or at least the first draft) written in ONE MONTH. Because if I could write a full draft of a novel in ONE MONTH then fuck yes, I was a Writer with a capital W-Like Winner!!

And each of those first three years, life happened. I didn't have a NaNo support group (I didn't even know what those things were). And because I couldn't finish NaNo, I felt like a failure as a writer.

"Finishing" NaNo consists of writing 50,000 words in one month's time. 

I participated last year. I finished 25,000 words. I technically didn't "win" NaNo (despite a computer glitch which I fixed today that said I did win).  So...I didn't hit the word goal, but I didn't fail.  And I didn't lose. Because I stuck to it. I got 25, 000 words in to the first draft of a book that I'm really looking forward to finishing.  The goal for this year's NaNo is to hit the 50,000 word goal and 'win' NaNo all the while still working on the book I started last year, The Treachery of Rainbows. 

Last year was the first year I participated in NaNo as part of a writing group, my tribe.  They told me what to expect and how to get in the right (write) headspace for NaNo. And it helped. I wouldn't have gotten nearly as far as I did without that group. 

This year, I'm part of a second family -- er, writing group. And something tells me they very much have the 'no one gets left behind' approach to NaNo, so it will be interesting. 

I'm looking forward to it.

Because I have a *gasp* plan for where my story is going!! 

I know.  I'm a pantser.  And I don't think that piece of me will ever go away. It's where my ideas start. A spark....a session of lost time in front of a keyboard and then hours later there is something in front of me that I have no recollection of writing.   

It's been that way ever since I realized that writing was as vital to me as breathing.  And that's good.   It's my process. Your mileage may vary. And it should.

This weekend I attended the second of the pre-NaNo Plot-Ins that the North Central Ohio Writers group hosted.  And I found something out about my self.   I need  to plot....just a little.  And my version of plotting is making lists.  Tying up characters to events. It's not a massive outline of and then this happened, and then this happened. It's more along the lines of, well...this should happen at some point to set things --either the characters or the readers--on their ears.    And it's a list of those things.

Being in to music and doing several short screenplays, I think of them as 'beats.'  What drives the song (story, movie)?  

So, I worked on some beats this past Saturday.

And I figured out where The Treachery of Rainbows  is headed. And I figured out at exactly which beat the readers are going to really just hate me. And I figured out what's going to happen in Book 2 and Book 3.  

The plotting paid off.  I didn't use it the way someone else did. I used it the way I needed to.

For me. 

For my story.

That's really the key, isn't it?  There are a thousand different books out there that will tell you how to write a book. What you should do. What time of day you should right. What blend of cardamon you should have in your soy milk chai latte. 

But that's all bullshit.

All those books really boil down to is this.

Someone did something, in this one way, and it worked for them. So that became their habit. That became THE way to write books, because that was THE way that worked for them.

Will it work for you? Maybe. Probably not. I mean, not exactly. 

There is only one thing you have to do to be a writer.

Write.

It's the most simplistic and simultaneously tortuous thing in the world. Just write.

I had a something of an 'ah-ha' moment in the middle of a conversation with a friend.  I said to them, in recounting how I try desperately not to get TOO fanboy with a couple of the writers in my group. And it's hard. But here's the ah-ha moment.

I'm never going to write the way they do.

Now, hang on with me for a few more beats, because at first blush, that can sound disheartening...like Oh man...I'm never going to be able to tell a story or write a book like they do.

That's right. You're not. 

You're not. I'm not. I'm not going to EVER write a book like Stephen King, or Brian Keene, or Tim McWhorter, or C.Bryan Brown. 

Ever.

Because I'm not them.

And here's the kicker....They're not me, either.

None of those authors is going to EVER write a book like Andrew Todd Skaggs.  No matter how long they live. My stories are mine to tell.

That's how you stop comparing yourself to others.  It's hard, but it's vital to keep from spiraling (at least it is for me).  Sure, I'm never going to write a book like them.  

But they'll never be able to tell my stories the way I can. 

And that's what it's about.  Telling the story. 

Finding your voice.

Putting the tools in the bag and taking them where they need to go.

And just....just fucking write, man.

-A.T. 



10.21.2016

Bilbo Baggins and His Luggage

TV and movie luggage and bags always seem so sleek and stylish. I'll see something and think, "Wow...that is a sexy bag. I need one of those!!"  Yes. I am well aware of the use of sexy and need in the same thought. But...that's the way my mind works.

I might have an obsession with (among other things) bags and cases. I believe that there is the ideal bag for a situation. I believe that there is (for me) a perfect backpack AND a perfect messenger bag. Because, you know, flexibility is important. There are, of course, the sub-categories of day bags, writing bags, camera bags, work bags, and creative go-bags.

No. It's cool. I know I have a problem. I'm well past denial and on to the acceptance phase.

Sexy male FBI agents seem to have the best messenger bags in Hollywood's outpouring. In looking at them, though, I realize that most of them are props (and not really practical) or if they do exist, they are ridiculously expensive. $50-$100 is about my top end for a bag. Sounds high, I know, but keep in mind I want something that will last. Also keep in mind that I get about a 45% discount on bags through my day job. So there's that.

I had a bag for Imaginarium. It was the Thinkgeek.com Bag of Holding Con Survival edition. For what I used it for that weekend, it was actually the perfect bag. I can see that being my go-to con bag. A couple weeks after the con, though, I realize that it's not really great as a day to day bag (at least not for me) for my writing stuff.

You see...I have been limiting my personal bag (work bag is a whole other topic) to writing items. But sometimes I don't like limiting myself to just the writing side of it.  I have a whole creativity kit. That, looks about like this:


I know...I know. There's a lot going on there. But to be honest, that's a pretty good representation of what's going on in my headspace creatively about 95% of the time. So...yeah.

The writing bag had about one-third of that. And it fit in the con-bag. That subset fits in most any of the bags I have (yes, there are many). That's fine, but it didn't much help with the 'creative go-bag' concept I'm trying out. 

I thought I had an epiphany the other morning. The STM Velo 2 messenger bag is FANTASTIC. Seriously, it is probably the closest I've come to a perfect messenger bag. It's been my go-to work bag for months now. I'm paring down the items that go home with me from work, so I thought, "Hey...why not just use the Ogio backpack that my friend gave me for work and use the Velo for the creative go-bag?"  In my mind it worked. I had mapped out where everything would go.   The thought, though, was not quite congruent with the reality.  I still gave it the college try, but after 30 minutes, I dropped it.

The problem with forcing things to work in a bag, is that it becomes painfully obvious that it isn't really working...usually at a key time when you actually need it to work. 

I scrapped that though. The STM is a great messenger bag and perfect for my work needs. So, there it will remain.

That leads me to the CGB (creative go bag, c'mon...it wasn't that much of a stretch). I got things in to the Ogio backpack, but again...it didn't really fit in a way that worked well for me in my head. 

Enter the Everki Titan.  This is a beast of a backpack. It's designed for a 17" laptop (my 11" Air is dwarfed in the laptop section, even in it's hard case).  It's about the size of a small child or a medium size koala bear. 

Everything fits in the bag.


Seriously everything.  I will need to make some adjustments in the coming days to get things settled in to their proper compartment (because, everything does in fact, have a place it belongs).

The funny thing about this whole process...this obsession if you will...is that it has actually led to another epiphany of sorts.

I don't need to take that stuff with me everywhere. It's nice to have, but it's not necessary.  I can be creative with a napkin and a pen, if it comes down to it. And if it's a cloth napkin, I can do a magic trick AND tell a slightly off color joke (neither of which is as funny with paper napkins).

I don't know when it's going to happen--prior to NaNo or shortly following--but I will be paring down the bag collection. The STM is staying for sure. But I think I need to shift the thinking. Instead of the perfect bag, I need to identify the necessary tools  and go from there. Honestly, most of the time, it's the following:

MacBook Air, headphones, journal. And sometimes a flask. I mean, an external drive that looks like a flask. Ok a flask, too, who am I kidding?

The drawing is nice, but that's definitely something I mostly do at home. So, that doesn't have  to be in the bag. Parsing that element out, even if I did keep the Kindle and Bradbury, I think the options for the 'perfect' bag would be easier to wade through and I wouldn't feel like I was carrying an 800year old Jedi Master on my back everywhere...

So...we'll see how this goes.

And yes...hashtag shit you probably could have lived without knowing about me.  But hey...the good news is, it means all my really good ideas for things to write about are getting stored up in the NaNo bank.

Have a great rest of your day!
-A.T.


10.11.2016

Dropping the Asterisk

I have put a few posts up in the past couple of days about the Imaginarium convention I just attended. I expect as I go through and process the events of the weekend that there will be more.

I have spent a large part of yesterday and a good portion of the drive home Sunday trying to put my finger on what made it so amazing and what about the weekend had the most impact on me. Both as a person and as a writer.

And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks (or whatever cliche that loosely translates to "Well no DUH").

If you'll read up a little bit, you might get a hint.

I'll help you out...see the bit up there where I say as a writer?

There's no asterisk.
There's no condition on that statement.

This weekend I came out of the creative closet. When I had conversations with people, it was as a writer. When I attended panels and workshops, it was to further my career as a writer.

A writer.

I'm a writer.

I don't want to be a writer someday.  I AM a writer.

Not a writer with the spoken or unspoken asterisk* which added one of the following in my head when I would tell people I'm a writer:
*who hasn't published anything on Amazon
*who only writes a blog
*who sometimes writes writing memes
*who sometimes writes poetry memes
*who has several works in progress write

No. Those may be true, but they are no longer conditions of me telling people that I am a writer. As I mentioned, I met writers this weekend living in all stages of the writers arc. I met SO MANY people who said they sometimes felt like an imposter for whatever reason, like they didn't deserve to call themselves writers. In fact, in a truly sad realization, the panel entitled, "The Imposter Syndrome" was probably the fullest panel I sat in on. It was literally standing room only. Which can only mean that it's really not just me.

But you know what? Fuck that. I'm a writer.

OK. I know this seems silly to some of you. You're sitting there thinking something along the lines of Duh, Todd. We know you're a writer. We read what you've written. We couldn't do that if you didn't write it, so therefore you MUST be a writer.

There's a little more to it than that, at least for me.

Yes, I know I write. I write a lot. More than you actually see. Some of it is good. Some of it is shit. Some of it is somewhere in between.

But not everyone who writes is a writer. It's really that simple. Lots of people can write. But the people that can't go a day without putting pen to paper (or banging something out on a keyboard, typer, or blog)--THOSE people are the writers. Not just people who write.

Being a writer is one of those things that even though you know you're one, there is still a piece that requires external validation--at least on some level.

I don't need you, the reader, to read my work and tell me it's good bad or otherwise.

But I do NEED you to read it. At some point.

It's true. I would write anyway--even if there were no one to read it (another tenet of many of the writers I met this past weekend), but ultimately I feel more fulfilled when I know someone is reading my work.  Even if that work is this blog (for now).

I don't know if this makes sense to anyone but me.

I felt like the convention this weekend was a massive 12-step gathering in a way.

Hello, I'm Todd, and I'm a word-a-holic. I filled my first journal when I was seven and...phhhhew....well, I've been writing ever since. I almost got fired on my last job because I would just start writing. I couldn't stop myself. I find that if I don't plan my day around writing somehow that I'm wasting the day.  I mean...the writing doesn't control me.  Oh shit. It does. I honestly thought I could quit. But I can't. I know that now. I'm powerless. The need to write, even one little thing, every day just overwhelms me.

And then the other members would be all, "Welcome Todd.  We love you. Thank you for sharing. Remember, if you work the outline, the outline works."

It is an addiction in a way. And a sickness of sorts. Now...I have to be completely honest here--if there WERE a cure for this, I would never take it. I need this outlet to survive.

I have two great fears. The first is losing my sight. I know I could still write and create without sight, but I still would lose part of the observation of the beauty around me. It's a subtle lesson and reminder to always look at things with a sense of awe and wonder. That childlike fascination that helps us paint the most amazing word pictures. In that sense, the fear is a good thing.

The other fear I have is losing my mind. I talked to a few other writers this weekend and that was high up on the list. One had a fear of losing her hands.

But our minds. As a writer, that's the place where it all begins. There is something in our make up that allows us to suspend the disbelief of the actual world we live in and create entirely new worlds to bring our reader in.

I also have this recurring dream about losing my legs, but that one doesn't scare me. Something about those dreams let me know that it's probably going to happen at some point and that it will be OK. Ironically I had those dreams more when I was trapped in failing marriages. Go figure.

The other dream isn't quite so scary. It's the dream I have of walking in to an airport newsstand and seeing my book on the shelf.  Of getting on that plane and sitting next to someone on the plane who is reading that book.

And then eventually, god help me, sitting on panels at writing conventions--looking for the person sitting in the audience like I was this year. Terrified that someone will find out. Find out that I'm not a real writer.  The fucked up thing about that is...what IS a real writer? If you ask me a real writer is someone with a story to tell. And no matter what they do, that story has to come out. That story will beat around in their head, forcing its way out.  Those with the courage to sit down and give birth to those words--THEY are the writers.

And they are my people.  I am one of them.

This year has been an amazing one for my growth as an author.  Chris, Randall, Tim, Trace, William...you started it.  You pulled me in and would not ever let me pass or sail by with the bullshit excuse of "I'm not a writer because I just blog."  Thank you for that.  Carma and all of the amazing family up in Ashland in the North Central Ohio Writers group--thank you. Oh my fucking god thank you.  The retreat broke down some major barriers for me.

And Imaginarium broke the last of the barriers.

I'm a writer.

I am sitting here in the break room at work, choked up, feeling the moisture in my eyes as I write and read that sentence. Because it took me a while to get here.   I'm not going to lie. I'm sure at some point, many points, along the way I will again feel like an imposter. But that doesn't matter. I'm a writer.  I'll find my way back. Now that I know what this place is. This feeling. This acceptance. This shared sense of tribe--I don't want to leave it.

Y'all are so screwed.

I got out of the shower this morning and was hit with another passage for a book. I don't currently have a book that I'm working on where it fits, so I wrote it down.  I might use it someday. I may never use it.

But writers write.

And I'm a writer.

Thank you for reading this random meandering. This is one of those things that I had to write for me. I had to try to solidify what was floating around in my head. I hope that if anyone was out there feeling like I was just a few short months ago that they had no business calling themselves a writer, that they can squash that doubt.  It has no place.   It's no longer welcome in my head. And it shouldn't be welcome in yours.  You're a writer. Write.

Peace,
-A.T.



10.10.2016

Con Funk Redux

My daughter has been to many cons (conventions) in her short life. And she always talked of the 'con funk.' It's a feeling (at least from what I'm experiencing now), of bittersweet melancholy. I never understood it when she would talk about it. I figured it was just exhaustion and she just needed to rest or get to bed early that night she got home so she would be well rested the next day and she would be OK to function back in the real world.

I'm sitting here, though, 90 minutes away from when I have to be back at work. Yeah...stupid on my part not to take the whole day off.  And I'm sitting here thinking....fuck. I really don't want to go back. I still need to process everything that happened at Imaginarium. 

But the truth is, I don't. I don't need to process what happened at the Imaginarium convention this past weekend.

I know exactly what happened. 

I lived a 72 hour waking dream of a (hopefully) prophetic nature.

I saw the lifecycle of the writer played out before me. From the fledgeling scribe who just set pen to paper last week all the way up to the established authors who are gods among men to some of this crowd.  I saw the beautiful story arc of someone who can't help but write to get these thoughts out of their head and somehow those words...that music on the page that they produce resonates with others and both are healed.

I saw-I lived- all of that. 

And I saw my place in all of that. I saw where I came from. I saw where I could go. 

The power of that....the sheer blessing of actually living that dream in real time and experiencing the beginning, middle, and ending of that whole process is mind blowing. 

It was a safe bubble in which I could say, "I'm a writer. And sometimes I feel like I'm broken. And the only way to even come close to feeling somewhat whole or at least together again is to put these funny symbols on a page and hope they somehow move someone else." Then to have someone looking knowingly across the table as they finish their bourbon and give me that look like, "I know exactly what the fuck you mean, my brother. Welcome to the tribe."

What writers know--and what is sometimes hard for non-writers to pick up on-is that much of the time, the worlds I'm putting on paper, the lives there, are more real to me than my own life most of the time.

That's a hard thing to reconcile because the denizens of the real world tell us creative types that that's not normal. 

But for me it is. 

It was real, too, for most of the attendees and guests of Imaginarium I'd wager.

THAT is what is making this day so hard.

There was, for a brief three days, a world where it was ok to be fucked up. Where being damaged WAS the normal. I have yet to meet a perfectly well adjusted person who calls themselves a writer. That was the magic of the weekend. 

That was the intoxication more powerful than any drug. 

And that's why this hangover is hitting harder than any I've felt in my life.

I will work through this. I will draw from it. I will take the lessons I've learned and become a better writer. Because otherwise, what was the point of being shown the vision of what could be if I don't take the active steps to get there?

Peace
-AT


10.08.2016

Imaginarium: Day 1

I think I probably warned you that this would happen. So...really, if you keep reading at this point, you only have yourself to blame. My culpability is nil in this endeavor. You're the one reading this.  I'm just the writer.

Just the writer.

The writer.

It's about a quarter to 2 (a.m. for those keeping score) and my brain is still trying to process everything that has happened in the last 8 or 9 hours.

I'll try to recap, but after a beer and several rum and diet Dr. Peppers, there's a VERY good chance that this will be more random and rambly than normal.   I'd apologize for that, but you're the one still reading. I'm just the writer.

This is a photo of me on the way down. There was a gas station I stopped in somewhere before Cincinnati.  This is obviously before I hit the parking lot that was I-71 going through Covington, KY and Florence (Y'all).  Multiple mapping programs said it should take about 3 1/2 hours. And I planned my departure time accordingly.

Those programs were full of shit and didn't take in to account the construction and the fact that people tend to drive like shit. So, the 3 1/2 hour drive was 5. Granted that included a few pit stops along the way, but still.


Anyway. I got here and got checked in.  There was a minor kerfuffle with my room. And...wait...seriously... 'kerfuffle' didn't get flagged as a misspelled word? Wow. OK...back to the story. I got check in and things looked a little like this.


All checked in. All registered. Got my Rick shirt on. And my con creds. And I'm ready to do this. Oh..and I'm completely overwhelmed because this shit is legit. Not, of course, so legit that I would quit, but fairly legit nonetheless.

I made my way down to the Vendor Hall (or Artist's Alley as it's called in some cons) to see what I might want to spend my limited budget on this weekend. In the lead so far is a really nice leather cover for journals.  A close second is the $10 Nerd Mystery Box. I will probably buy one of Brian Keene's books. Even though his website is kind of hideous, he is the main big name dude here this weekend and it should be a thing. 

I learned a few things on Day 1.
  • Sometimes you CAN actually judge a book by its cover.
  • You should not always be so quick to point out to people when they think crackers taste like ass that they actually don't taste like ass.
  • Sometimes the best part of a panel is the knowledge of who to avoid on future panels (Carma, this does NOT mean you or Bad Boy Hair). 
  • There are few things funnier than seeing clowns in a hotel bar 40 minutes before their show doing shots.
  • Unless it's the dude in the too short shorts trying to slyly take pics of said clowns and having them totally call him out on it. 

There was more amazingness to the day. But I'm tired. And sleep is winning.  And maybe the rum.

There will be more tomorrow (er...today).

Goodnight my friends.
-A.T.



10.05.2016

He Was Looking For A Place Called Lee Ho Fook's

Warren Zevon notwithstanding, it has been kind of a weird week (and it's only Wednesday).  I'll get back to the only classic rock song I know of that references beef chow mein in a few minutes. First things first.

Dad and I made a quick run down to the Farm on Saturday. Regular readers know that the Farm is pretty much my soul. It's where I go to recharge. When shit doesn't make sense in my life, I make the trek down there.   The 4 1/2 drive is cathartic. Each mile under the tires helps shed some of the bullshit that has accumulated. By the time I get off of 32 on to 1750, I'm focused only on the now. There is some serious Zen in the drive. I hate most drives, but I have found as I do laps around the sun in this lifetime wearing this Todd-suit that when I'm driving to places that make my soul sing, the drive doesn't suck.

And I was road-tripping with this dude, so how could it be a bad day? Seriously have you ever seen two more handsome fuckers than these Skaggs boys? If you have, I don't want to hear about it.


One of the things that enhances my calm down on the Farm is the barn.  The barn was always a mystical place to me. I did some exploring of the barn in my youth, but it was always with the threat of admonishment from Mamaw. I was constantly told the barn wasn't safe. There could be snakes. The whole barn could fall.

In retrospect, I should have ignored her more than I did. I hear Dad tell stories of the barn and the magic is born anew.   There are stories of the saddle room that had a cut out in the door for the cats.  That same door is now my writing desk at home.  Stories of the horses. And the tobacco hanging in the loft.  It's an amazing piece of my family history that was so vital. And now it's probably going to fall over this year.  So that added somewhat to the bittersweet feel of the trip.  I was still surprised how much I got out of the relatively short trip (9 hours on the road, 2 hours actually at the Farm, and 1 hour looking at a trailer--but I'm jumping ahead).

Here's the Barn as it looks today.  The rounded grooves above the loft door are where tin had blown in the wind, etching its love song to the barn...


This is probably one of my favorite shots of the trip.  It was when Dad and I were walking back from the barn toward the house. The gray skies with a hit of sunlight trying to peek through perfectly captured my mood. 


I was happy, too, to see that the Emerald Ash Bore had not completely decimated this tree.  This tree has grown with me and has always been on this Farm. I can't imagine going down there and not seeing this. I know one day (likely this year), the Barn will fall, but my hope is that this tree will outlive my grandchildren. A stalwart sentry on the path to the land that was ours and will one day be again. 

So...yeah. Bittersweet. Why? Well, for one thing, someone is living in the farmhouse now.  For a time after my Papaw passed and my Mamaw couldn't live down here on her own, a friend of the family moved in to the house with his family. They fixed up the house and took care of things. And there was life down here. Kenny and his family were/are amazing. When Kenny got his house built, he moved out, but never really stopped being a caretaker to this land that is my soul.

His son, lives in the house now. They are doing much needed repairs to the house--there's still things needed in the aftermath of the tornado from a fews years ago.   So Kenny's son and fiancee are living there. And they're fixing up the place. It was surprising to me how much it looked like a real house again. That's the part that makes me a little sad, though. Because it does look like a real house again, that a real family is living in. But it's not my house. 

The good thing about it is, someone is taking care of the house and the land. And that will keep drifters from fucking with it as is happening quite a bit in that area of Eastern, KY.  The other thing that is really cool about it is, after talking to Nathaniel, I know that the Farm means to him what it means to me. After all, we both grew up there. It's a calming place to our soul.

I couldn't be happier about who is living there.  Truly.

Dad and I are looking to get a camper or trailer to put down there so we still have a place to crash and crap when we have to escape from this bullshit every day world. 


This is me in what may be the last shot in front of the still standing barn. I don't know how I feel about that. Actually, yes I do. I feel sad. Like part of my soul is about to die or go on a very long trip from which it may never return.


If you have a place of peace that makes your soul sing, never lose it my friends. Fight for it. Do what you have to do. The places where your soul can be free are few and far between.

My lunch is over, so I get the Werewolves of London are going to have to wait for another random meandering down the path of the twistedzen.

Have an awesomesauce rest of your day, my friends.

-A.T.

On Being Intentional About More Words On The Page

I am a writer. Well, scratch that.  Maybe. I love taking pictures.  For a season of my life I loved writing songs and was even in a band...