Category Archives: Guest Blogger

LoQ: Epics & Poets

Here is Dreamland, coming at you with this week’s Letters of Questioning!

Dear mad maven Ravyn,

Writing IS the pits! The dissertation comes slowly. It’s like watching an iceberg move, it’s glacial – and what’s more, the climate has been hostile to its very existence. It melts while it moves! Two jobs did not for a good time make. But the worst is over now, I hope. Today I got a few scant words on the page. Not bad. Either like seeds, they’ll grow, or at least for now take root.

Your musings over meandering mumblers reminds me of two things. First, the classic greek oral epics and their blind poet. I refer to the Iliad and the Odyssey, of course! Can you imagine having to board blind Homer for a few evenings? Those are ~~long~~ stories, and almost as bad as the bible in some spots, what with the genealogy and other boring details. Well at least they don’t ~translate~ in a pleasing way, either in language or time. And yet, at ~the same~ time, there are some good scenes. It adapts well to our other modern modes. We may not let Homer in through our front door, but we let him in through TV, movies, new books. He costs less to feed and clothe that way, too, I imagine, and we don’t have to listen to him snore by the fireside when he’s done improvising his recitation for the night.

But I think too of a very old story, older than Homer even. The story of the invention of writing. It’s from Egypt, which was already old when Greece was young. One of their animal-headed gods got annoyed with the invention of writing. “How will people remember anything,” lamented the hoary old bird, “if they grow weak by referring to what is written!” Poor bastard. His complaint endures but I seem to have forgotten his name.

We seem to think we know why the seasons change now because of science, but I might argue (who am I kidding, “might”? all i ~do~ is argue) I might argue that in a bigger, metaphorical sense, the season changes and no one knows why. The empire crumbles, the culture is stale, the platitudes about truth and freedom feel weary. You’re right; we need the oral tradition again. I’m afraid when the books have screens that even my routes of escape and education are really just spying on me. I’d rather have someone to talk to.

A hearty congratulations on the publications. It’s so pleasing to see hard work pay off! I know the cookbook will bear fruit ~ha~ before too long as well. Does the madness reign or does a productive rain quench its thirst? Whatever the case may be, I hope you manage to take the work by reigns and lead us further into the unknown, uncovering the mysteries of life, the universe, and everything.

Speaking of mysteries, one more old story – from Babylon, which was old when Egypt was young. In the fertile crescent, god-king Gilgamesh was promised the secret of everlasting life. All he had to do? Not fall asleep. No sooner were the instructions given than Gilgamesh fell instantly asleep. I’ve always enjoyed our penchant for doing the exact opposite of what we want. On second thought, the mysteries look pretty fetching with a sheet on top. Underneath might be horror, hell – I think while you’ve got the wheel, I’ll just have a nap.

By the fireside,

~dreamland’s insurgents~

 

LoQ: Food of the Apocalypse

Welcome to this weeks guest installment of Letters of Questioning:

Dear castaway Ravyn,

Well, the prospectus defense is behind me, on to writing “the real deal,” the actual dissertation. “Defense” is really a poor word for the process. My advisers – like any good advisers, I imagine – were less like barbarians at the gates and more like security experts in their own right. I think “inspection” would be a good term. Is this dam going to hold water when the creative juices are turned on?

What is with all the water metaphors, in writing? Is it maybe that whole “water is life” slogan? I love the nautical themes you’ve come up with lately.

Like when you say, “nail down” a mission statement, I think of that scene in Moby Dick where Captain Ahab nails a Spanish doubloon to the ship’s mast, a reward for whoever first spots the elusive white whale…. A mission statement is a valuable thing. A piece of gold to keep the attention focused on the task at hand! Of course, it’s Ahab who spots the whale … and we all know what happens to that poor Luciferian bastard of a hero. Belay that allusion, boatswain~

Your ideas for the cookbook lately have been delightful! I love the idea of gluten-free as post-apocalyptic. And an epic quest to recover lost recipes. There have been many years now of apocalyptic stories, but they rarely, rarely discuss food. Never positively. Never a focal point in the plot. And the connection between food and language! The opportunity for fresh and interesting ideas abound. The connection between the past and the future. A future more alien than many of us (dirty gluten eaters) can imagine. A way for us to wrap our brains around it. So often the gluten-free get dismissed out of hand, but for folks really suffering from an affliction, it is (looks like, at least, from my observations) hellish.

I’m dwelling on the infernal today, it seems…. Must not have enough hell in my life, now that the defense is over.

How progresses the cookbook? The preparations for Camp Nano? I finally was assigned to the cabin, and I’m looking forward to starting writing – officially, I mean. I started drafting the dissertation some time ago. Speaking of the devil, I ought to go freshen up that draft with some of my most recent research, and the opinions my “consultants” gave me.

From Davy Jones’ Locker,

~dreamland’s insurgents~

We love to hear from you, please leave any thoughts and comments below!

Letters of Questioning:

Hey all, sorry about the missed week and thank you for hanging with me!  Here is this week’s guest letter from Dreamland!

My dear Ravyn,

Please accept my long silence. I’ve had to pick up a second job, as you know, because teaching and writing do not pay much. They apparently aren’t seen as “contributing” to the “economy” in any productive (read: capitalist) way. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut once said.

Yeah, you know, when push comes to shove, there’s no such things as “rules” or “law” or even really “words.” They’re all just words. Arbitrary sounds tied to indifferent things. Our associations with them are historical and change over time. What does that mean for writing? I dunno! But I think it means you can just start ~ using the tilde and see what people make of it in ten, fifteen, twenty years. Ha~!

I am impressed with your edits, my friend. You did a lot in a short span of time. Your writing has improved immensely, too. I remember, maybe now ages and lifetimes ago, but really just five or six years, working together on Nanowrimo for the first time. (Well, my first time.) I was impressed then what you could do in just a month! And now look at what you have produced in just over a week or two! Indeed, I’ve watched you grow with steady practice.

So tell me about your latest pieces, and your plans for the future! We’ve had some good conversations outside the letters about mobile workshops and whatnot, but I’ve been so swamped … I want to hear that beautiful dream again.

In closing today – as the capitalist market beckons my undercompensated labor – I leave you with a koan:

Language is a peace treaty and a declaration of war.

The nice thing about koans is you don’t have to write an academic article defending them! There’s some anarchy for you~

The raft is not the shore,

*~*Dreamland’s Insurgents*~*

 

What do you think of language and the rules of writing? Are they there for a reason or should they be abandoned?  What would you like to know about writing, what are your burning questions? We are ever on the quest, please share your thoughts as we love to hear from you!

Letters of Questioning: A Punctuating Lost

A guest post coming at you from Dreamland’s Insurgents! I hope you enjoy.

Dear Ravyn,

Oh, punctuation! That mad devil. If there’s one thing more abused and misunderstood in our language, it could only be spelling. Have you ever read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style? If not – don’t! Trying to append rules to the english language is like trying to give a constitution to a clowder of cats. In other words: only busybodies bother!

Emphatically – yes! – punctuation is one of the strongest and most overlooked tools of writers. ee cummings, whose very name causes Microsoft Word to fly into a tizzy, pioneered this direction. His levels haven’t been since paralleled! Every punctuation mark is a sign – telling you – how to read; they too convey inflection, emotion, intensity, speed. A sentence without punctuation is like a train line without stops. Direct, sure. Fast? Of course. Efficient. You know what else is efficient? Fascism. “At least they made the trains run on time.” No: Give me miles of countryside, picturesque towns, afternoons to wander strange foreign streets listening to foreign tongues, meandering, up the occasional difficult hill~ twisting – over bridges – gazing into rivers with the heavens*, reflected. I don’t want to get from point A to point B, I want to get … lost.

Have you been lost in your stories lately? I enjoyed “Home” very much (probably why the cat analogy came so readily). I appreciate how the imagination in your stories allows me the time and space to get away from the scholarly pursuits with which I’ve been laden lately. “Stimulus” is one of your stories that strikes me as a good merger of imagination and real-world experience. You managed to make a dreary setting feel literally abuzz with activity and sound and heavy with the burden of emotion. Can you tell me more about how such an immersive story occurred to you? Perhaps not a “muse” story (nor an “amusing” one, though one I’m musing over, for sure), but I’d like to know more about your inspiration.

Well, this insurgency must hit the books again. This uprising never ends! Be seeing you there, perhaps – in the table of contents! Ha!

Punctually yours,

Dreamland’s Insurgents

What do you think? Do you rely on punctuation for the tool it is?  What would be found in your table of contents of questions?  Please share your thoughts and ideas with us!

Letters of Questioning Week Hiatus

Sorry guys, but between Dreamlands Insurgents crazy school week and my Silly-Ass disease… well we just don’t have a letter for you this week. And for that we are both extremely sorry! We hope to have more amazing letters coming back at you next week, please just keep in mind getting a doctorate is crazy amounts of work, and that prospectus has to win out every time!!!

But hey! if you enjoy the letters, hit us up with some ideas, and if you are interested in joining in the frey don’t hesitate to drop us a line! We would love to hear your ideas!

Letters of Questioning: Fickle Muse Will Return

So much to discus and inspire! Deep thoughts to be had or admired.  Here is the next installment of Letters of Questioning, my response to Dreamland’s Insurgents.

Dreamland’s Insurgents long live the Dream!,

I must say, I almost have to pity you, if you are finding my writing to be the highlight of humor in your reading list.  That said, I am ever so glad my twists and turns have delighted you.  My newer works, while still having that flair for the dramatic, and the twists you are coming to expect from me, seem to have a deeper undercurrent. I was even asked, after one such piece, if I needed a hug, seeing as its content was just a tish past twisted.

Speaking of punctuation, I must admit that many often criticize me in that regard. I am just a little too fond of… ellipses.  And maybe, just maybe, I like to add all the commas, even when they are not so necessary… Oi, and there I go, with a few to many of both.  But what are your thoughts? Punctuation is, I believe, one of the most undervalued tools in our tool belts as writers, and one that I think all too often, is overlooked.  Add to that, the right play on POV and I think they work flawlessly to really affect the readers’ emotional climate. So many stories are just written in some form of third person, and almost always have been through the fiction I have read, and yet, the writer has such power just by changing the POV.  Sprinkle in the right punctuation and you have a powerful duo!

As far as answering your questions about my fickle muses… Well, one never knows when or even where they might pop up!  And don’t even get me started on who they might be! Rest assured, however, you can be sure they will make more appearances. Just don’t count on them to be who you want, when you want, or where you want, because those bastards obviously have a mind of their own, and they are just powerful enough that I have no say in the matter. (But if you find some way to harness those guys, please, please, please let me know!)

“Shadow’s Savior” ahhhh that was a powerful piece. I find more and more, if you look deep in my writing, you will find there is a lot at work on those planes that I often don’t even realize.  Too often we are left cold, shaken, and alone, wondering what has happened to us, to our shadows, to the lives we meant to live.  I think I truly believe you are correct, that the struggle itself is the inspiration, or that “Bob Ross” look alike wouldn’t have been harvesting the writers’ tears!

Ultimately I can’t say that my own experiences with my muse are what inspired them, but I also can’t deny that my fickle muses are not exactly those tales, so take from that what you will! At the end of the day, all we can do is be a conduit to the life that haunts us, and the stories we are bound to tell.

 

As always I await your response,

Ravyn

 

As always, we love to hear from you! Our marvelous community! Would you like to be a part of the letters?  Hit us up!  Do you too have questions that are just burning to be answered?  Drop them in the comments below and they will make their way into our letters!

Letters Of Questioning: Dreamland’s Muse

Hey all, it is that time once again for another installment of Letters of Questioning!  This week we have a guest post coming at you from Dreamland’s Insurgents.

Greetings, dear friend Ravyn,

I have watched your last bout of writing with great interest – and amusement! The muse stories with the “Bob Ross lookalike” and Richard Simmons have got to be some of the funniest stories I’ve read in a looong time.

When “Tears for My Muse” opens, I was bracing myself for a serious story full of sorrows. The moping, tragic artist as bedraggled hero. But juxtapose that with Eilack, the heartless painter who stores up the artist’s tears and serves them back to him later – damn. I felt like that drama queen got his comeuppance!

“The Pioneer” is even funnier. This is one of those times where your commitment to just the right punctuation pays off. The protagonist’s discomfort is awesome … and definitely shared. Using the second person here pays off really well. I have to put myself in the body – the corpulent body – of another person, and the cognitive dissonance just haunts the whole thing. So the humor – which is always sort of a release valve for feeling uncomfortable – is just in constant tension because of the leap my imagination has to make!

Finally, I want to talk about “Shadow’s Savior.” As a working-class scholar, I found this one the most stimulating on that level. “Factory work was all that was available to me,” the narrator begins. It quickly unfolds that the material processed in this factory is unusual – and the narrator, too, must be unusual to be any good at it. And yet the setting of a factory conjures up so much more. This isn’t a workshop where a skilled artisan owns his own means of producing artisanal or custom products. He’s alienated from his labor – and what’s more, we find out, the raw materials he’s working on are stolen from someone else. Stolen shadows: an intimate theft.

It’s capitalism, all the way down!

You asked in your last letter, “What is it that inspires the uninspired and the tired?” I think sometimes, the struggle itself has to be the inspiration. That eternal fight – which lasts only as long as we do, of course, but precedes us and gets handed down to others. We have to save the shadows. Find the folks who have less than us, realize our relationship – that our lives and theirs depend on one another. And see through the illusion. Isn’t a factory a good metaphor for illusion? The raw material comes in without history or explanation. You do your job. The finished product leaves. You can’t even afford to keep a piece. The wool is pulled over your eyes the whole time.

I want to know more about your muse stories, though. These have the making of a really fun series! How many are you going to have? Are they related? And how have your own experiences with your fickle muse inspired these stories?

Well, I think that’s all the time I have for today. But don’t worry, I will have more questions for you soon!

Viva the resistance!

-Dreamland’s Insurgents

There you have it folks. Another round of inspiring thoughts, or thoughts to inspire, or question, or… well… something! What are YOUR burning questions, we implore you, please by all means, ask us!  We love to hear from you, our rabid fans, or is that rabbit fans? Who knows, but I do know that we love to hear your thoughts, so please express them in the comments!

Guest Post – Camp Fail

movingtetris
Our version of Tetris!

sistermovingtetris

Hey all, I know I have been gone a few days, sorry about that.  I was out helping my sister move! Lots of work and then no interwebs at the new place!  I am home, but beat, but I have a GREAT post to share with you all!  My great friend and cabin mate, StoryCoat, has some wonderful words for you, so here she is!

Camp Fail

Well, unlike my lovely cabin mate Ravyn, I did not make winner this year at camp. As I packed my proverbial bags to go home I wiped away tears of disdain at my camp fail! I nearly tripped over my lip as I headed out the door and down the trail to get on the last bus leaving camp. The bus for losers.  Ravyn bless her pea pickin’ heart, was long gone in that decked out bus for winners, banners flyin’ the whoops and hollerin’ lasting for miles down the road.
As I boarded the bus I nearly slipped on the puddle of tears dropped by others who failed to get their word count goal. I mounted the steps and stood looking at the bus full of heads hanging low, lower lips flowing over laps touching the floor of the bus. Whimpers coming from the mouths of those who had failed along with me. The bus was full, almost standing room only. (I’m also slow) Then it hit me. My lower lip zapped back up so fast it nearly bruised my teeth! We aren’t losers! We didn’t fail!! Heck! We’re on the bus!! WE ARE ON THE BUS!!! That means we took the time to at least make the effort to try. “WE ARE ON THE BUS!!” I shouted, “WE AIN’T LOSERS, WE ARE TRIERS AND WE TRIED!! WE GAVE IT A SHOT!!”
Then some little green kid looked up with teary eyes and said, “Yeah, but . . . there is no try. There’s only do or don’t do.”
“Okay,” I said. “So everybody who wrote something – anything at all for Camp NaNo raise your hand.” Every hand on the bus when up, including the little green kid’s. “Well then,” I said, “We all done did!! Maybe we didn’t do as much as we planned on doing but we did something which is a damn sight better than the millions who stayed at home doin’ nuthin’ sayin’ ‘oh yeah, dude that Camp NaNo sounds like fun. I’ma do that one of these days.’ By golly, WE got ON the bus, we came, we saw, maybe we didn’t conquer but we did a little bit and now we can go home proud of the fact that despite all the adversity we faced in the month of July, we wrote sumpthin’. Whatever it was, it counted. IT COUNTED PEOPLE!!”

You shoulda been there to hear all those long faces zapping back up to where they belonged. Even the little green guy got happy! The shouts of joy echoed for miles and miles. Sometimes it’s not whether you win or lose. Sometimes all that matters is that you made the effort!
Thanks, StoryCoat, for those amazing words of truth!  So long as you have even one word, it is one more word than you had before setting out on this Camp experience!  How about everyone else? Was camp a fail? Or did you manage to do “something”?

Letters of Questioning: Flying a New Flag

LettersofQuestioning

Sailing these waters may be mighty dangerous, after last week’s look at plotting and how we get there, we have sailed on to murkier waters yet.  Taking a closer look at the Writer’s Role…  and without further adieu, here is the latest installment:

 

Dearest Dreamland’s Insurgents,

Of course the journey is never ending. There are of course periods of rest, reflection and learning, but then you move on and make changes. Don’t you know by now I am all about change?!? I thought my name said it all! Not to mention, what about you? Aren’t you all about upsetting status quo? Your name, like mine suggests stepping out of the norm. Not getting boxed in. Becoming a bit of a rebel!
Besides, is it not our job as writers to enlighten the world? As a writer we shape worlds. We affect the minds of others… even in something as simple as a fiction novel that is read for enjoyment. Honestly I think especially in fiction.
I was imminently inspired when I read The Writer’s Role in Society. It is suggested that writers are teachers, they have lessons to share and craft an entire work of art to do so. That writers offer something unique to them, something no one else can. The recreation of worlds.
I think that might just be the tip of the iceberg though! More than just lessons to share, we writers start new ideas. Inspire thoughts, and those cognitive responses move into actions. Like our very thoughts on a new idea in writing being that there are more than just plotters and pantsers, there two could be something new, revolutionary as evolutionists! Those who build upon what has come before!
So, my friend, I entreat you, what do you see when you look at the Writer’s role in society? Teacher, companion, friend, lover, anarchist, rebel… so much more, or maybe less?!? Or is it just a story shared? Are writer’s the rebels that can not be quelled? What say you?

Proudly flying my new pirate flag,
Random

 

Dreamland’s reply:

Ahoy, Random,
Why, I would never dream of upsetting the status quo – why? Who have you been talking to? How much do they know?! *ahem* sorry… anyway….
If by “enlighten,” you mean “set fire,” then yes, I’m all for “enlightening” the world. (I kid, I kid … mostly.) The question of the writer’s position isn’t easy to answer, which is why I also enjoyed the Nicholas Conley’s post The Writer’s Role in Society. He emphasizes that writers are teachers, yet, but another line that spoke to me was this passage:

“The different fiction genres each demonstrate a unique facet of the writer’s society. A horror writer will memorialize the discomforts of his era. A science fiction writer will demonstrate that era’s views on technology. A literary writer, of course, will display what everyday life was really like.

By writing a novel, the writer acts to keep his/her era alive for future generations, so that our children and grandchildren can understand who we really were, and what we stood for.”

Archivist, teacher – and, arguably, mirror. No matter how revolutionary or original we fancy ourselves, we’re also the products of our environment, somehow. So maybe one of the tricks is to show what is familiar in a startling way, or make the unfamiliar accessible?
Lots of writers have been agents of change, for good or bad. We have to have some awareness but we also have to build and burn, or, as one of my favorite bloggers phrases it, “sort, sever, detangle, grasp.”
So my question for you is, what do we do now? As agents of change, as writers, as people comfortable with assuming roles as necessary, fighting where we stand, agitating for change… What do we target? What forms of rebellion do we take and tell? Where exactly should our stories go? Where are we needed most and what for and why?

All dressed up with nowhere to sail,
dreamland’s insurgents

Be sure to check out Nicholas Conley’s Writings, Readings and Coffee Addictions, he has some good stuff over there!

 

 

So… what is your figuring?  Do you have something to add to our letter?  Have either of us missed something?  What are your thoughts on a writer’s role in society?

Do you have some ideas that you would like to see discussed?  Feel free to drop them here as well!