Birthday blog-34

[Note: I spent much of the weekend thinking and writing about the bond Mark and I shared around writing. We certainly bonded around sports and simply from spending time together when he was in his formative stage. But that doesn’t always guarantee a closeness later in life.

The driver who hit and killed Mark robbed his parents of many things. She robbed me of my only son, and a relationship I’ll never replace. She also took the brightest of personalities, one with passion (and compassion) from a world sorely in need of people like him.

As difficult as 2017 has been, one of the things that keep us going is knowing that Mark had a passion for Earth, other people (and bringing them together), and of course, writing. We founded the Mark Baumer Sustainability Fund earlier this year. We’re happy to announce that we are now a 501(c)3 nonprofit. We also have a brand new website that just went live. Check it out. Also, today would be a great day to remember Mark by making a contribution to the fund. It’s now tax-deductible and a great end-of-year gift to give for a cause that will support causes and organizations that cultivate traits that were part of Mark’s philosophy of life—love, kindness, and working towards building a better and more equitable world for all people.-jb]

 

Birthday Blog, Thirty-four (34)

 

-1-

Developing any craft requires diligence, attention to it, and maybe more than anything else—a dogged determination in cultivating it—regardless of how many people flock to your doorstep. I think this an apt application for both writing and music, too.

I’m not a musician, but I’ve had a passion for various kinds of rock-rooted musicology dating back nearly 50 years. I know a thing or two about it, and what I don’t know experientially, I’ve gleaned from a longstanding tradition of reading what once was known as “rock journalism.” While no longer as prevalent as it once was given the demise of print, there are still outlets where this genre of writing resides.

Since we’re on the topic of writing, I think I can weigh-in on this with definite ink stains on my hands, or perhaps better, a worn keyboard on my laptop. It was 2001—I had read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Afterwards, I decided not to be some occasional dabbler. I set a goal—I wanted to get published. Following King’s prescription, I got up early before work and wrote something every day. After a year of doing this, I got an essay published in Casco Bay Weekly just like King said would happen. I’d really become a writer. Continue reading

Writing Questions

I’ve been writing for a long time. Well, it seems like that to me, and for most people, 14 years isn’t anything to sneeze at. That’s a quarter of my life.

If you’ve been a reader of my various blogs, then you are somewhat familiar with my story. If you haven’t heard it before, here it is in a nutshell. At the age of 39, after dabbling with writing on-and-off for a couple of years, I got serious about my craft. Much of this newfound motivation was a result of reading Stephen King’s well-known book about writing, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I followed his advice in establishing a routine and adopting discipline. About a year later, I had an essay published. Three years later, my award-winning first book, When Towns Had Teams, came out. That was in 2005.

I continued on through two Moxie books, the period I called “the Moxie years,” and in 2012, decided it was time to move on to something more personal—a book of seven essays touching down on my life experiences, with several centered on my hometown of Lisbon Falls. That book was a failure from a sales standpoint, even though it contained my best writing to date.

During the last decade-and-a-half, I’ve also spent extended periods freelancing for local newspapers, regional magazines, alt-weeklies, and a few websites. I’ve gathered a file of clips, with my most recent ones posted here. Continue reading

Fewer Words

Blogging regularly requires finding a subject and crafting a post about it worth reading. The subject can be something significant and newsworthy—or it can also be mundane and personal. As my sister commented the other day, “there is almost no topic that can’t be worked into an interesting post.” That’s what it takes to keep creating content, consistently.

When I got serious about my writing, I realized that writing regularly was part of the process required to develop my craft. Actually, Stephen King shared that secret with me. Since then, my blogging track record dating back to 2003 (although some of that blogging is no longer with us, at least not on the interwebs) demonstrates that commitment.

While I’ve continued to build narratives of 500, 1,000, and upwards of those word counts, the world seems to be moving in a minimalist direction regarding communication. How many words does it take to tell a story? I’m not sure. Probably 400 or 500 would be on the lower end. I’m a firm believer that it takes more than Twitter’s 140 characters to communicate effectively. And I’m no fan of communicating by emoji via Facebook. That probably identifies me as old-fashioned.

No one writes letters these days. People can’t even be bothered to email.

Then there are days like today when life gets in the way and there’s not enough time to tackle something larger. I’ve been ruminating about things I observed during recent work-related travels through western Maine that I can’t do justice to today, so I’ll hold off ‘til a later date.

Richness follows Loss

I know that not everyone who reads the blog is a writer, or aspires toward the writing life. However, over the past few weeks, a window of reflection has opened, looking backwards. What I’ve been able to see with uncommon clarity, has been much of the past decade or more for me. Writing has been at the center of this period of time, what I characterize as my personal period of reinvention.

Life dictates that we move on from grief and loss. Outside of the death of immediate family members—and even then, superficiality predominates how others respond, with platitudes, or worse—clearly demonstrating some sort of structural disconnect and a deep-rooted denial related to death and dying in our culture. “Get over it and move on” is what we’re expected to do.

Over the weekend, I went through some of Bryant’s books. A demonstration of grace from his son, when he offered me the opportunity to go through his father’s collection of books, at the funeral service. He followed up with an email and we spoke by phone during the week. I planned to meet him on Saturday at his father’s apartment in Augusta.

Bryant had taught at Colby-Sawyer, with Wes McNair. There were several of McNair’s books sitting on his bookshelves. Most of them ended up in the two overstocked boxes I lugged out of the apartment and put in my trunk. Continue reading

Still Pushing the Envelope

Aging is many things—we stop being active, no longer take risks, start referring to ourselves as “old”—these are just three things that come to mind when I think of people I know who have transitioned from being “young” to being “old.”

I’ve been thinking about my own life, and what motivates me to keep pushing through resistance. Recently getting another book out the door—my fourth title in nine years—doesn’t qualify as prolific, but it’s still a respectable output for a writer that does more than just write to make a living.

When I set out down the road to be a writer in 2002, I knew nothing about what lie ahead. Fortunately, I was aware that in order to compensate for starting later than many (I was 40 at the time), I would have to work my ass off at learning the craft of writing. For me that’s always been about writing as much as I could carve out time for, in a nod to Stephen King’s advice in On Writing, I’ve written almost every day for the past 12 years.

“Have you written your own success letter?”

Continue reading

Small Town Newspapers

I spent an afternoon this week at the Lisbon Historical Society, reading through newspaper accounts about the town. I’m trying to nail down some events from the 1970s and 1980s. Reading back through the clips, I noticed a place that was considerably different than most of what I remembered at the time, when I was coming up.

Back in 2007, the year before writing Moxietown, my initial plan was to write an extensive nonfiction treatment on my hometown of Lisbon Falls. I just found the original outline of the proposed chapters. Some of that book ended up being folded into my first book of history about Moxie, which then led to a second one. There are no plans for a third. Continue reading

Reading books 2012

Books 2012 01

Why read? That seems to be the question at hand since I’m once more at the end of a calendar year with another assortment of books read over the course of the past 12 months. With a list like this comes some sort of requirement to justify the time I invested in making my way through these books. Hence, I report back to you, dear reader.

The rediscovery of reading transformed my life back in 1997. I say “rediscovery” because like so many, I’d found other second rate substitutes for books and reading in the course of leaving school and entering the realm of work. Now I’ve come back to an even more essential task—reading broadly. I wish a few more of you would begin wrestling with this task. Continue reading