A Break from the Routine: The Blog Ramble

I’m breaking my usual second Tuesday rhythm because J.T. Glover over at his blog invited me to join the blog ramble of sorts going on around town. In it, each author introduces another author or two and points to their blogs and then answers four question about his/her own writing process. Next week, the newly introduced authors explain their process on their own blogs and introduce new authors. Etc.

First, introductions.

Sharon Harrigan writes, edits, and teaches out of Charlottesville after time in NYC and France. You can learn more of her bio at her blog , but for now:

Sharon Harrigan

Sharon Harrigan

Sharon Harrigan is a writer and editor who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Friends call her ambidextrous. Or is it amphibian? Meaning she writes fiction and nonfiction. Her stories have appeared in Pleaides, Louisiana Literature, Pearl, Apercus Quarterly, and Silk Road Review, and Prime Number. She has published dozens of essays, memoirs, and reviews in journals such as Narrative, The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Mid American Review.

Michael Hibbard ties together many a thread in his writing as well as many a person in his outreach to other authors. To fill you in from his blog bio :
Michael Hibbard (1970 – ) is originally from New Jersey and he has lived all over the United States, Canada and Germany. … For many years, he has studied the major world religions, philosophical disciplines and various branches of physics in a quest to understand the nature of the universe from one unified philosophy — which became the impetus for developing the Waking Dream Universe. The Waking Dream is the culmination of fifteen years of research, studies and collaboration with his son Kyle, in an attempt to describe the ill-understood aspects of our existence, exploring how we as conscious creatures mold the fabric of reality. … It is more than just a story, it is an attempt to Awaken the Dreamer within us all, and bring our world to a new way of thinking. … Michael is a member of the Author’s Guild, The Horror Writer’s Association and the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.

Look for their process answers at their blogs next week. For my process, away we go:
1) What am I working on?
More than I usually am, somehow, even if you don’t count changing passwords in the wake of the Heartbleed fiasco. I’d like to pick up more freelance magazine or textbook work again, but for my literary projects: a) Revising the first draft of a comic novella with my gracious workshop group. b) Preparing to look for an agent for my novel about teachers in a charter school. The manuscript had several near misses after partial or full requests from agents lately, so I increased the tension earlier. c) Collaborating with a kind soul to get a reading for my play about Aaron Burr. d) Beginning to read biographies and histories for a new play idea I have about medicine and art circa 1905.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
It tends to be more eclectic and more engaged in word play. I also like to splice in historical voices/found text and am heavily influenced by German literature and social theory.

My bravery totem

My bravery totem, for those despairing writing days

3) Why do I write what I do?
Mainly because it’s fun and a part of me thinks it could help to make the world a better place. I’m drawn more to naturalism/realism with the occasional absurdist twist because I don’t want readers to escape this existence so much as to study and reconsider it, especially in their relationship to other beings. (Think Brecht.)

4) How does my writing process work?
I usually work in spurts, though when possible I like to start thinking of the next project before the current one is in the lull that follows finishing any major phase. I take a while to mull ideas, then once I latch onto one big enough to sustain a project, I tend to do research and brainstorm, then I gradually build sketches into an outline and finally begin to write in earnest. I usually begin with an image or a thought and then try to figure out its implications and significance.

A Place in the Museum

When I hear about the latest short story or novel built from Facebook and text messages or told in Tweets, I don’t think, “Hurray! The next Sorrows of Young Werther! The next Finnegans Wake!” Instead, I think, “I probably won’t like that.” When I do stumble into things that have text-ese in them, I feel unease, and often disdain. Have I become a curmudgeon? Apparently. But why? Because, egotistically enough, I want to believe my work should belong in a museum in 50 or a 100 years, not now. I don’t want to be obsolete before I’m established.

I appreciate listening to WWOZ and SWR online and I maintain this blog, so why might digital communication and social media threaten me so? I suspect three reasons. First, I can be lazy. I’ve invested in learning about things such as the semi-colon, and I don’t want to lose the value of those skills (as, I’m sure, said many a weaver in industrializing England.) Second, I fret, rightly or wrongly, that the more time people spend on things Internet-y, the less time they spend on literature. I’ve seen this substitution among many students as well as friends, and all those studies that say we read and write more than ever before may be true but never seem to quantify the type of such reading and writing. Indeed, here is my third suspicion: the habits of such media appear to value speed in production and consumption, which would militate against certain stories and styles if no one can get past 500 words. Neil Postman has argued better than I will for the changes in reasoning and epistemology that accompany such changes in technology. Many a college class has already chipped away at the research paper in order to create space for the Internet meme as an assignment.

I want a slower, more reflective, slightly more reserved age—a world of me! It seems not to be the age in which we live. Shocking. So now I mope. When I hear about fiction that responds to the digital reality via incorporating said reality, I feel like the barbarians have gotten through the gates. Not only is literature squeezed from the outside, but it is being altered from the inside. (All those agents reading on Kindles!) Never do I feel greater sympathy for Bouguereau and all the French Academic painters than in such moments of self-pity. It’s like watching Fauvists storm the galleries while photography takes away more commissions–or Eliot slipping record players into his poems.

Image

Of course, it’s my task to adapt. And I probably will. After all, I do love the Pictorialists. And I’ll survive, and get over myself, and continue to look for people who make what I like, or, failing that, make stuff that I like so that I have it around to preserve in the museum of myself—which, of course, makes me more a product of my era than I may care to admit.

In concluding, I note, fan fiction seems to be emerging as the new dominant paradigm of literary production. But that’s a story for another time.