Ivan Brave, author of the literary novel, They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach, that I reviewed last Sunday, is here as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. He has some interesting things to say about story and the writing process. This is an unusually long blog for me, but I thought you would enjoy meeting this fascinating author. Grab a cup of coffee and read on…
1. What prompted you to explore the theme of fear of commitment and success, which is a theme I gleaned from reading the book?
You don’t start off easy, do you Maryann! For one, fear of commitment and success are two different subjects. But, since you ask, let us relate them and answer accordingly.
I argue that any meaningful success we enjoy comes as a direct result of commitment. If you succeed in finishing a novel, it is because you commit. If you succeed in marriage, it is because you commit. If you succeed in making this world just a little bit better, then it is because you commit. Conversely, failure to accomplish these feats, when boiled down to what is within your control, comes down to the opposite of commitment, which is indifference.
If you feel indifferent, then forget novels, marriage, or improving the world. What about writing one page? Going on two consecutive dates? Or even brightening a coworker’s day? How could you accomplish any of those without deciding? Without committing?
I believe the key to understanding the problem of commitment in the book is the word “fear.” But if we’re going to start talking about FOMO (fear of missing out) in the modern age, then we’re going to need a lot more space on this post. Nevertheless, you’re on to something.
2. Is the character of Ilya based on a real person?
On me, a little. But not like you would expect. When I was in college, I got into the music scene in Austin. College radio DJ, music production, rock band management, festival production, and a slew of internships at major radio stations around the city.
Seriously, I thought I had found my calling in an exciting industry! Until, after so much publicizing/reporting/producing other people’s music, I decided to double down on myself. I bought the software to do it, locked the bedroom door, and made a handful of my own songs. They were fun (still available on Soundcloud) but . . . no matter how hard I worked at it, there was a nagging feeling inside that said, “You will never be good enough.” So I quit. Followed shortly by an exit from the industry. You can imagine how that felt.
And so, Ilya is not so much his author, but rather what his author gave up in life. Given the chance to reincarnate, I would have never given up doing that which brought me so much pleasure—which is to listen to, and make, and enjoy, music. When you read TLTW, then, the reader should hear the quite voice of an author telling Ilya on every page: “Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up!”
3. How, and why, did you decide to tell the story in the format you used, pausing the present narrative for the interlude and the coda?
Like anything about a novel, especially the motivation for certain elements, the answer is complicated.
One reason is I was influenced by Gerard Genette’s literary theory of the narration. He doesn’t regard narrators by the grammar they use (I/she: first/third person). Rather he regards narration as a matter of distance from the story plot, meaning, “Is the person telling the story involved in the story?” This view led me to experiment with various voices, at various points in time, with various degrees of bias, all telling the story of a young DJ about to break through in his career.
Another reason for the mixed format was that it felt like composing music. Depending on how much of a conductor the reader wants to be, all the instrumentation/literary-devices are there to play with—to make the book symphonic. Otherwise, you could cut to the chase, and simply read the story of a guy who loses a bad girl at the beginning of the summer and gets a good girl by the end—like it were a simple pop song.
4. Did you intentionally leave the ending rather vague so readers could imagine the “what comes next” ?
My professor Sigrid Nunez used to say a story should have “an afterlife.” As in, you want your characters to do a bunch of things while they have your attention. But even after the story ends, and characters die off, or move on, the spirit of that character or story should persist in our imagination. So, if there is any positive feeling of “the summer continues” after the last page, then, in the best of light, I take credit.
Instead, in the worst of light, if the ending is unsatisfying, then I take full responsibility as well. Can I be honest? I simply did not know how to end this story. Not that I didn’t know how it ends plot-wise (Ilya launches his EP to commercial failure, but gains the attention of a star DJ who lends him a hand at recording another EP to commercial success, then they fall in love and become the old man and the old woman of the interludes). But I just didn’t know how to write that ending without it sounding cheesy. So I hid the cheese in the closet, I suppose. Between the lines.
5. What truth do you want readers to come away with after reading your book?
That it’s possible.
6. What is your family’s favorite story to tell on you?
My favorite story to hear is from when I was a baby. My uncle lived in the apartment under us, and one night he couldn’t get to sleep. My father was stomping from his bedroom to my crib, back and forth, back and forth, all night—because I wouldn’t stop crying. My uncle, though he had a big exam the next day, thought it was the funniest thing. Apparently at one point the situation got so bad that my dad started negotiating with me, then yelling at me, then begging me to stop crying. While always, in between, there were those footsteps, back and forth, back and forth.
7. What other creative things do you do?
Lately, because my wife bought (and never used) a whole water color set, I’ve been painting mushrooms, triangles, and goofy-looking animals on Saturday. All for fun. But then, a little more seriously, I consider my private tutoring as being very creative, moreover some of the projects at my full-time job require a lot of creativity.
8. What do you like best about where you live?
I live in Bucharest. The best part is living with someone I love. I know she’s my wife, but this is the first time I ever lived with a partner. Best roommate ever. Most specific to Bucharest, however, are the great parks, the general feeling of coziness there is in my neighborhood, and also how everything is 15 mins away.
9. What else would you like to say to the people who will read the blog post?
The reason I write is to connect with individuals. And the reason we should connect is to inspire one another. So reach out to me. Share a thought. And tell me a story.
BOOK BLURB: Loyal fans know him as a rising internet star and the resident DJ at one of Brooklyn’s sauciest nightclubs. But one blistering summer day, after relapsing, getting dumped, and winding up at the hospital, Ilya Gagarin awakes in a nightmare. The only way out, he figures, is to finally debut his EP, meaning, to realize a deeper dream.
The process of producing, together with the power of music and an urge to accept his past, is passionately described in his journal—while the larger story follows the weeks leading to his EP launch, his struggle to quit drugs, and his falling in love again to a guardian angel. It is she who teaches him, “Do you know how Russians say Once Upon a Time? Жили были. It translates to They Lived They Were.” Suggesting Ilya might just get his fairy tale ending. Or at least move on.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Iván Brave lives in Bucharest, Romania, where he writes poetry, reviews, and novels, as well as promotes language learning in multinational corporations. He graduated from The New School in NYC with an MFA in Creative Writing, after earning a Bachelor in Philosophy from The University of Texas at Austin. Language, multiculturalism, and love, or anything that connects, are the themes dearest to his heart. In addition to winning prizes, such as the Writing Award from The Vera List Center for Arts and Politics, his writings have appeared in literary publications like The American Scholar and The Acentos Review. Iván’s second novel, They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach, is out June 16th 2020.
Well, it’s Wednesday again, and here’s Slim Randles with another bit of fun with Windy Wilson. If the social limitations of the current pandemic are starting wear down your coping skills, you have nothing on good ol’ Windy. He of the fractured English and limited social graces that make the guys down at the Mule-Barn Truck Stop wish they’d stayed home when he shows up.
Me? I’m kinda glad he shows up to make me laugh a little. Goodness knows, we need plenty of reasons to laugh in these challenging times. After you read the offering from Slim, let me know in the comments how you’re coping and where you are finding a little joy in your days.
In the meantime, grab one of these scrumptious cupcakes to enjoy with your beverage of choice – chocolate even goes good with a sweet red wine, just saying…
No one will admit knowing how Windy got permission to use the police car. All we know is, he did, and some dumb @#$% showed him how to work the loudspeaker.
“Now you folks’r prolly wonderin’ who it is drivin’ ‘round makin’ sure ever-body is bein’ safe today. Yep, it’s me, Windy Wilson, behind this year mask in the cop car.
“The more ‘sperienced amongst us want to remind you to wash your hands, wear your mask, and stay away from them rock concerts, okay? Too many people. Ain’t safe.”
Windy turned right to go around the block. His voice faded a bit, but that was okay, because we’d been kinda wishing for that off and on for years. But it’s amazing how smart an old cowboy and camp cook can get when he has an audience.
“And …” he continued as he passed the drug store …”when we get all back to where it’s okay to visit with each other and go back to school and ever-thin’, I have a tip for you. If you do perambulate yourself off to a rock concert, take along some hearin’ protection, ‘cuz them guys’ll blow out yer eardrums iffen you don’t.
Why, don’t know for shore if I mentioned it before, but I went to a rock concert my ownself and saw that Starvin’ Chickens band. You talk about loud? Took me the best part of two days to stop throbbin.’
“And that reminderizes me of the time me ‘n ol’ Alberene Soapstone … you know, the Lewis Crick songstress?
Yep, the very same one’s singin’ up at the Sip ‘n Slump nightclub in the city. ‘Course, not sure if folks can go in there to listen at her ‘til this coronary virus gets straightened up, but … hey, there! Doc is that you divin’ into that doorway with the mask on? Why, folks, here’s a guy who knows his way around your pesky virus. Why, I recomember the time me ‘n Doc ….”
Some communities just have radio and television for entertainment.
Brought to you in honor of the police officers and firefighters who put their lives and health on the line for us each day. Thank you.
Check out all of Slim’s award-winning books at his Goodreads Page and in better bookstores and bunkhouses throughout the free world.
All of the posts here are from his syndicated column, Home Country that is read in hundreds of newspapers across the country. I am always happy to have him share his wit and wisdom here.
Slim Randles is a veteran newspaperman, hunting guide, cowboy and dog musher. He was a feature writer and columnist for The Anchorage Daily News for 10 years and guided hunters in the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna Mountains. A resident of New Mexico now for more than 30 years, Randles is the prize-winning author of over a dozen books. He’s also the host of two podcasts and a television program.
Good Monday morning. I hope everyone had a good weekend. I did. I worked a bit on my WIP, then did some coloring and quilting. This is a panel for the quilt I’m making for my granddaughter.
The center piece is from one of her t-shirts, and the two side pieces I made from material with patterns related to Harry Potter that I bought. The center piece is bigger than any of the other t-shirts, so this will be the focal point of the quilt. I wish the side pieces were big enough that you could read the newspaper. LOL
I wasn’t planning to do a Monday blog this week. I’d rather be working some more on the quilt, or be coloring in some new books I just got, but then I saw how the number of cases of COVID 19 keeps growing, especially in the U.S. While checking out some news stories related to that, I came across this article in The Atlantic by Yascha Mounk
Mounk states that he was hoping to write a story with a different focus, a more positive focus, but things have changed so dramatically in the two weeks he’s been working on the piece, the news is not so positive.
Like Mounk, I was hoping for good news at this point, too. Remember back in March and April when we thought we’d all be safe by June?
Well here we are folks, and we are not safe, despite what the White House and some pundits would like us to believe.
It is not safe to gather in large crowds. I pity the folks who plan to attend upcoming political rallies, as well as the GOP national convention, which is so totally not necessary and such a public health risk.
It is not safe to be out dining and dancing, no matter how many “Girls just like to have fun.”
And sadly, it is not safe to be with family, or travel to see family, or embrace when we do see each other.
Mounk is of the opinion that because the pandemic is not a top news priority, pushed aside by the murder of George Floyd and the aftermath of that tragedy, people are no longer as worried about their health as they were three weeks ago. Not that the murder didn’t warrant being front page news. It certainly did. Just as the aftermath of the murder deserves all the coverage it gets. It’s just unfortunate that those issues couldn’t share space on the front pages with the latest about the virus.
Some of the facts worth noting:
A second wave is coming.
The virus is not going away in the heat of the summer.
A vaccine is still months away.
The virus lives the longest in the air. It can linger for hours, especially in enclosed areas.
Older citizens and high-risk individuals need to continue to practice safeguards, that especially means avoiding crowds.
What will happen as more states open is very uncertain. But even if government officials on the local, state, and federal levels don’t require certain safety measures, we can use our own common sense. I urge you to do that.
For more facts about the corona virus visit the Coronavirus Resource Center.
Some quotes from Mounk’s article:
If the virus wins, it is because the World Health Organization downplayed the threat for far too long.
If the virus wins, it is because Donald Trump was more interested in hushing up bad news that might hurt the economy than in saving American lives.
If the virus wins, it is because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, created to deal with just this kind of emergency, has proved to be too bureaucratic and incompetent to do its job.
If the virus wins, it is because the White House did not even attempt to put a test-and-trace regime into place at the federal level.
If the virus does win, then, it is because American elites, experts, and institutions have fallen short—and continue to fall short—of the grave responsibility with which they are entrusted in ways too innumerable to list.
That’s all from me for today folks. I hope you have a safe and productive and happy week.
First, Happy Friday everyone. It’s good to be at the end of this week, which has not been one of the better weeks I’ve had recently, and I’m looking forward to a restful weekend. Then, “Come Monday, it’ll be all right.” If I listen to that song enough times, it might come true. Plus, I really like it. Thank you, Jimmy Buffett.
If you’re looking for some bargain books to add to your Kindle, check out this online Book Fair. There are lots of books to chose from in several genres; romance, mystery, thriller, and paranormal. I’m participating with Open Season, the first book in the Seasons Mystery Series, and I do hope you will consider adding that title to your Kindle.
On my Kindle, I’ve been reading The Mudlark Orphan by Rosie Darling and enjoying the story very much.
Eight year old Maise Clegg was plucked from the workhouse by the Rynotts to work on the banks of the Thames seeking treasures as a Mudlark.
Abandoned as a baby Maise never gave up hope that one day her mother would return to claim her as her own, but as she stood in the dirty river water that dream soon washed away. She soon learnt that life was like the river; dark, fast moving and dangerous.
Life would teach her lessons she had never wanted to learn, but would fate mend what had been broken, before she succumbed to the Thames as so many had before her?
This is going to be a short review as I haven’t finished the book yet. I’m about three-quarters into the story that is harsh at times and relentless in depicting the hardships that orphans experienced at the hands of others. While the story is fiction, the reality of what children like Maise dealt with could be a documentary.
From our positions of comfort, even the most meager of comforts, it’s hard to imagine what that life was like. What atrocities so many children faced throughout history, and my heart ached for Maise as one hope for a better life after another was washed away.
I’m at a point in the story where her life might take a turn for the good, and I so desperately hope it does. Making a reader care that much is the mark of a good storyteller, so I give Rosie Darling five stars for drawing me so deeply into Maise’s story.
Now, here’s my friend, Slim Randles with a short essay to remind us of the small pleasures in life that bring large doses of joy.
It’s the heat that defines us this month. It greets us at daybreak with its promise, but in an hour or so, it bears down on our shoulders and makes us dream of shade and something cold to drink.
The best thing about our hot season, however, are evenings when most of the earth cools, and that breeze slides in off the mesa and caresses our cheeks. Then it’s time to sit, and laugh, and tell stories and just be with someone we love. Then is the culmination of a day we can be proud of.
Inside each of us, we silently and privately applaud ourselves, because the hot day tried us, but we did it. All day. We made it through the heat today. Made it with our hands today. Made it through to another precious June evening when we can sit on the patio with something cold and someone sweet.
So it gets hot in the daytime. Okay. But just don’t forget to give us these evenings, these blessed evenings when we can recall what cooler weather felt like.
Without these evenings, it would just be another hot summer day.
Because Slim always has a sponsor line, here’s the one for this week’s column:
Brought to you to honor all the doctors and nurses and hospital workers. Real heroes in our lives.
How has your week been? Have there been joys you want to share? What about plans for the weekend? I’m going to work on a quilt and try to get some coloring in. I’ve found coloring quite restful and peaceful. What do you do for peace in these crazy times?
Saturday was the official graduation day for my youngest granddaughter in Austin Texas. She’s the last of the grandkids to graduate from high school, and her graduation is so different on so many levels from her cousins.
First of all, there was no traditional ceremony in an auditorium where all the kids gathered to sweat out the hours together. Which was kind of odd because the kids all got their caps and gowns a couple of months ago. I guess in case they wanted to save them for posterity.
I wonder how many people keep their caps and gowns and for how long?
When I graduated high school, we didn’t purchase caps and gowns. We rented them. Which made sense considering that so few people actually kept theirs. I did hang on to my gold honors tassel for quite a long time, but I don’t remember what happened to that after all these intervening years. I would never have purposely thrown it away. I worked too damn hard to get it.
But, back to my granddaughter, Kat, who also graduated with honors in the top 5% of her class.
She said she was just fine with not having a ceremony. Sitting for hours in a cap and gown was not an activity high on her list of fun things to do, but that did mean that she, and her classmates, missed that important element of “finishing.”
Important milestones in life need to be marked somehow, not just melt into the ordinariness, or not ordinariness of life as we know it this June of 2020.
There was no party, no gathering of friends and family, although her mom and dad decorated the house and made it all festive. They also set up a zoom party where grandma’s and aunts and uncles and cousins could all come in and wish her well. It was fun to see everybody, and to at least be able to share that kind of celebration with her, but it definitely was not a party.
I don’t know if she was disappointed, probably on some level she was since her older sister had a very nice gathering of friends and family when she graduated high school a couple of years ago, but Kat is not the jealous type. She’s never begrudged her older sister for anything, and I’m sure that when the sun set on Saturday Kat was just fine.
Although, if she hadn’t decided what she wanted for dinner that evening she may have had to have leftovers for her graduation meal. How memorable is that?
Actually. Kind of memorable if you think about it, and in an atmosphere of total fun, I bet she’d like that.
The type of celebration that my granddaughter and her peers are having is not the only thing that’s so dramatically different for high school seniors this year. So are the plans, or the lack of plans, that they have been able to make for the future.
College is on hold. Any summer jobs are on hold. It seems like our whole lives are on hold because of this COVID 19.
But again, the impact the virus is having is not something that’s of all-consuming concern for Kat. She seems to be adapting incredibly well to whatever comes her way and perhaps one day she will be telling her kids and grandkids about the very bizarre high school graduation she had.
In the meantime, this proud grandma wishes her well for whatever comes next in her life. I know she will accept it with as much grace as she has everything in her life, and good things lie ahead. She is smart. She is strong. She is… Kat.
Have you had a not-your-ordinary graduation in your family this year? Want to give a shout out to a kid or grandkid you’re proud of? Go ahead and leave a comment and we will celebrate all.
And in case you haven’t seen the nationwide online celebration to celebrate all graduates, here’s a link to the YouTube video.
Okay folks. This isn’t an easy blog post to write. I’m going to be honest about my failings as a white woman in America when it comes to issues of bigotry and racism.
I was inspired to write in part by this awesome painting by my daughter, Anjanette. She created this a couple of days after the murder of George Floyd, and it has such a powerful statement.
When I saw the photo of the painting on Facebook, I cried. Just like I cried the day I saw the video of George Floyd being murdered by cops in Minneapolis. I cried, as I have almost every day since, when I see pictures and videos of the chaos and violence in so many cities across the country.
But let me go back to the beginning of my journey toward those tears.
In July 1967, I lived in Detroit and clearly recall every day and every hour of the race riots there. I remember my husband slept downstairs for three days with the shotgun at his side after we heard that people were coming to the Tank Arsenal and the General Motors complex next to it. Both were frightfully close to the apartment complex where we lived.
I will be honest and admit I really didn’t understand why people were rioting. Even though I’d been active in Civil Rights efforts a few years prior, life issues had pulled me away from finding out any more about the disparity between the way I lived my life and the way black people lived their lives.
Sure, we had a shared history of poverty, and I experienced some discrimination because of where I’d lived when I was growing up. It was a poor neighborhood, but all white. And, as a good friend pointed out many years after 1967 while holding her brown arm next to mine, “Nobody will ever know about the discrimination of your past. Mine is indelibly marked in the color of my skin.”
Still, it took the passage of many more years and lots of reading about the black experience and racism and bigotry to gain even a smidgen of an understanding of the depth of the problems in our society. A society that has been dominated and controlled by white Americans who have stepped on the backs of black Americans to keep them down.
I even had the audacity to write a book about bigotry Coping with a Bigoted Parent, which is thankfully out of print. I say “thankfully” because I didn’t know shit about the topic back then. And I really thought we’d solved the major issues of racism with changes that came out of the Civil Rights Movement. But we didn’t do enough. Not nearly enough.
More recently, I’ve listened to podcasts like Throughline and Code Switch that often tackle topics of racism, offering the listener a different perspective – that of a person of color. And I’ve watched videos on YouTube, like ones from LeRon L. Barton, and really see some of what has brought us to this point of cities burning.
It’s the pent-up anger, exhaustion, and fear experienced by black, brown, and indigenous people facing structural racism and systemic disparities between the way white and black people are treated.
A common term to describe those differences is White Privilege.
In September 2017, Lori Lakin Hutcherson, Editor in Chief of Good Black News responded to a friend who was asking for clarification of what White Privilege means. Jason, a white man, was confused about the concept, never having it pointed out to him in specifics. So, Lori did that pointing in a terrific article that was originally published in Good Black News and was reprinted later in Yes Magazine. Here are just a few of her answers to Jason:
What this past week of listening, of reading, of really paying attention to the messages of black people has taught me is that White Privilege is having the luxury of going to bed and forgetting about the problems of being black.
White Privilege is being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hostility.
If you’ve never had a defining moment in your childhood or your life where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have White Privilege.
If you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’ve achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it,” you have White Privilege.
If no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, you have White Privilege.
Instead of forgetting, I’m going to remember what has happened in recent days and find one way that one old lady can make a difference. Enough is Enough and Black Lives Matter need to be more than just a hashtag.
Have your thoughts about racism changed in light of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and riots?