Tag Archives: rape

Guest Blogger: What Do We Mean By Creative Writing by Heidi Ann Smith

What Do We Mean By Creative Writing?

By Heidi Ann Smith

What is creative writing?  By this question I do not mean to ask how we can cause those who are not creative writers to understand a work of creative writing rather, by this question, I mean to provoke others to ask how we might understand the question. For a long time I labeled myself as ‘a free-verse poet’ until it occurred to me that if I did not label myself as aligned with any particular genre I might have more creative writing options. Rosemary Butcher argues that, “the thesis is produced in a sense in the making of the work”. By this I mean to suggest that a creatively written text is evidence of a performance that has ended and that the performance must not aim at reproduction and by ‘re-production’, I mean a ‘preconceived’ idea.  If a creative writer is aware how a creative writing performance will end before the writing process has begun this necessarily limits the creativity since the nature of creativity implies that something will ‘arise’ or ‘come to light’.  It is in the making of the text that the artist supplies the necessary space and all of the materials that provoke a work of art to come into being.

Some may argue with the above proposition by asserting that anything can be interpreted as a work of art, for example, by arguing that Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” (1917) and other ‘readymade’ art proponents, have demonstrated that anything ‘chosen’ by an artist can be a work of art.  If you will recall, Duchamp argued that a urinal is a work of art simply because he ‘chose’ to submit urinal to an art exhibit (that claimed it would present all works of art).  Duchamp signed the urinal with the pseudonym, ‘R. Mutt’.  I would counter this argument by suggesting that the work of art was the designer of the urinal not Duchamp.  ‘Choosing’ a common object and signing a pseudonym does not instantiate a work of art no matter how famous the artist’s signature or how ‘well chosen’ the object. In terms of creative writing, the previous argument would imply, for example, that the poet Mark Strand could sign his name to a store receipt and that store receipt would suddenly become a creatively written artifact.  While an object signed by a famous poet may be of value, history demonstrates that monetary value or affiliation with someone famous does not necessarily translate into a work of art. Vincent van Gogh, for example, sold only one painting in his lifetime (and received very little money for it) and Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Peirce’s writings did not gain popularity until after their deaths. The previous examples demonstrate that the artist informs the field of artistic practice, not the viewer or the object, no matter how well ‘chosen’.  How was Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” altered by the viewer’s ever increasing appreciation of it?  How was Duchamp’s urinal informed by Duchamp’s artistic practice? While some may suggest that anything is a work of art, I would argue along the lines suggested by Deleuze that a work of art is ‘molded’ by a skilled and practicing artisan and that the work of art itself ‘causes sensations’ or ‘affects’ regardless of the viewer. Is a tree in a forest, a tree in a forest, if no human is there to view it? Following along similar lines of reasoning, some may want to say that a machine is a work of art. I suggest that a machine may be a work of art but a machine cannot manufacture an art theory, a machine can only instantiate an art theory.  Artists are creators of art theories that arise in the ‘making’ of the work of art. If this is not the case, then what are the fundamental notions by which we might arrive at understanding of what we mean by ‘creative writing’ and what are the conditions that allow or cause a work of creative writing to come into being?

About Heidi Ann Smith

Heidi Ann Smith grew up in the Chicago area and began publishing poems as a child. At a young age, she won various local and academic awards for her writing; based on her writing abilities, she was awarded a scholarship to a private high school and attended college courses during her high school years. After high school she began raising a family and was taken away from her writing, but soon returned to complete a Bachelor of Arts from Eastern Illinois University. She then earned a Master of Arts in Humanities from California State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Several of her poems recently found homes in various journals, and she published a scholarly thesis on the German artist George Grosz. Heidi is currently a PhD student studying Creative Writing at Middlesex University in London, England. THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY is her first novel.

You can visit the website at www.monkeypuzzlepress.com.

About The Clara Ann Burns Story

In Heidi Ann Smith’s short novel THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY, a woman who suffered child abuse looks back over her turbulent life as she approaches her fifties. Smith describes it as “a story of a young girl, Clara Ann Burns, who was tortured, abused and neglected by her family. When she was old enough to go out on her own, she got herself into situations that were not always the best. But in the end she raises her own family and holds onto the hope of healing and living without fear.”

Smith explains that the story “is based on some of my life experiences,” which included sexual abuse. “I needed to write this book–and I needed to have the right and the freedom to bring together different events.”

Rather than creating a traditional narrative text from start to finish, in THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY, Smith–who holds one master’s degree in fine arts in creative writing, another in humanities, and is a PhD student in creative writing–chose to express child abuse and loss by experimenting with literary genre. The result is that the protagonist, Clara Ann Burns, tells her story through written memories (short stories, lists, poems, one-minute plays) and memorabilia (hospital records, photographs, personal records). All are presented without explanation: a grandmother cooks breakfast while she speaks to her deceased husband; a mother scalds her child in a bathtub; the funeral processions of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the death of a child’s father; and the rape of a stepdaughter. This multi-genre approach, Smith feels, more accurately conveys “the impossibility of piecing together this story, and reflects the inconsistencies of an abuse victim’s memories that tend to jump from one instance of abuse to the next, rather than flowing through, perhaps, what might be considered the normal ups and downs of life.”

In addition, Smith points out, “These isolated memories of abuse that flash through Clara’s mind are what it means to have post-traumatic stress disorder. I suggest further that these isolated incidents also represent the perplexity of healing from prolonged neglect and abuse, since a constant state of fear is what is most familiar to Clara since she was abused by family members and friends for many years. If a child believes his or her own family is not adverse to his or her own torture, neglect, or rape, the child cannot survive as emotionally or psychologically intact. In Clara’s case, the abuse is pervasive, there is no relief for many years, nor hope of relief until she is an older woman and capable of looking at what happened to her objectively through the instantiation of the events as presented in the text.”

Despite the personal inspiration behind THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY, Smith’s academic and scholarly understanding of both creative writing and fine art informs the book’s power. She likens writing to fine art: “All the great artists I studied reflected their life; in a great work of art, you cannot extricate the artist’s life from their work. When you look at a work of art by Van Gogh or Caravaggio you see some truth about their life. For me, the truth does not necessarily read like a biography; there are details that are blurred from your view. When I was engaged in the writing process, some things that were hidden from my view came out–which may grab the reader because it hit me as well.”

Smith hopes that readers who can identify with THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY will find some comfort in it. “When I was a little girl I was very sick and I didn’t have a happy home life. I started reading poetry, and I felt some kind of resonance and a kindred spirit with the other writer’s work. I hope my work will reach someone and that they will also know that they are not alone.” And, she adds, “I also hope the work is received as a work of literature.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

Guest Blogger Joshua Graham: ‘Write What You Know’

We have a special guest today!  Joshua Graham, author of the suspense thriller, Beyond Justice (Dawn Treader Press), is here with us to share a few writing tips!

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

by Joshua Graham

It’s one of the basic guidelines (I don’t like rules, when it comes to creative work) of writing.  That’s why lawyers like Linda Fairstein and John Grisham write legal thrillers.  It’s why so many of Dean Koontz’s books are set in Orange County, CA.   With firsthand knowledged and experience, authors can write with authenticity.

Does that mean writers can only use subject matter in fields in which they’ve worked, places they’ve lived in or visited?  Absolutely not.  But does it help?  Of course!

My book BEYOND JUSTICE is set in San Diego, known as “America’s Finest City.”  It’s a gorgeous part of the country with near perfect weather all year round.  Friends from the Pacific Northwest hate it when I complain about the occasional cloudy day (Sorry, we’re all kind of spoiled, I know.)  Over a decade ago, my brother first invited me and my wife to come out to San Diego for a visit from Brooklyn, NY,  and we fell in love with the place.

Granted, you don’t have the diversity and “city that never sleeps” spirit of the Big Apple here.  But the tradeoff is more than worthwhile, in my aging opinion.  It’s a great place to raise a family; you have Sea World, the world famous San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park in your backyard, Disneyland just a stone’s throw away, and beautiful beaches along the coast straight up through Los Angeles County.

You’ve probably read plenty of books set in New York or Los Angeles, with all the grit and tension of those cities infused it’s quite familiar to most readers and movie-goers.  But things that happen in suburbia are generally not as well-known.  For example:  We had the infamous 2002 David Westerfield murder case where a young girl (Danielle Van Dam) was abducted right out of her house and found murdered later by her neighbor.  This happened in the same neighborhood where my friends lived.  It rocked the deceptively peaceful foundations of our quiet and pleasant existence.

For me, “write what you know” also applies to being a husband and father.  When I set out to write BEYOND JUSTICE, I asked myself what my greatest fear was.  That fear was not for myself, but for the suffering of my wife and children.  The opening chapters were perhaps the most difficult chapters I’ve ever had to write because I had to imagine in graphic detail my absolute worst nightmare. Anyone can imagine how terrible a crime like that of the opening pages can be, but these chapters resonate even more deeply with anyone who has a spouse or child.

I’ve written other books and stories that draw upon my experiences in my faith, my previous occupations (a classical musician, an IT professional/executive, etc.,) countries I’ve visited (Egypt, South Africa, Jordan, Israel, Italy, France, Canada.)  All of these contribute to my fiction, and makes it easier to write, but the most important thing is the story.

Writing what you know is a great starting point and I recommend it for all emergent writers.  But don’t limit yourself to these things.  Branch out.  If you want your readers to use their imagination, you as a writer must use yours.

Joshua GrahamJoshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).

Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in San Diego. Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press under different pen names.

Beyond Justice is now available in Trade Paperback through Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble. It’s available at the Kindle store for $2.99 for a limited time, and can be purchased for other ebook readers at Smashwords, and is now available for the iPad and iPhone at the Apple iBooks store.

A member of the Oregon Writers Network, Graham is a graduate of the Master Classes and professional writing workshops held by Dean W. Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Dean and Kris and the entire OWN, have been a major influence in his journey to become a published writer. You can visit his website at www.joshua-graham.com, connect with him on facebook at www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham or twitter at www.twitter.com/j0shuagraham.


1 Comment

Filed under Guest Bloggers

Interview with Joshua Graham: ‘My characters dictate where the book will go’


Joshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.   During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).

Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in San Diego.  Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press under different pen names.

Beyond Justice is now available in Trade Paperback through Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble.  It’s available at the Kindle store for $2.99 for a limited time, and can be purchased for other ebook readers at Smashwords, and is now available for the iPad and iPhone at the Apple iBooks store.

A member of the Oregon Writers Network, Graham is a graduate of the Master Classes and professional writing workshops held by Dean W. Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  Dean and Kris and the entire OWN, have been a major influence in his journey to become a published writer.  You can visit his website at www.joshua-graham.com, connect with him on facebook at www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham or twitter at www.twitter.com/j0shuagraham.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Joshua. Can you tell us what your latest book, Beyond Justice, is all about?

Beyond Justice is a story about a man who is falsely accused and convicted for the brutal murder of his wife and daughter and the human struggle for redemption, forgiveness and truth.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Sam Hudson, the protagonist is a attorney at a reputable law firm.  He’s a straight shooter, a bit self-righteous, but overall a likeable person who strives to do right by all people, especially his family who he loves more than life.  His worst fears are not for himself, but rather, the suffering of his wife and children.  And of course, his worst nightmares come true.

Rachel Cheng is Sam’s wet behind the ears defense attorney.  She’s really good at her job, but must deal with a powerful district attorney’s office in trying to get Sam acquitted.   This is by far the most difficult case, emotionally and technically, she’s ever had.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Most of the characters are an amalgam of people I’ve had the honor of knowing, as well as people who have left a less than positive, but memorable impression in my life.  The protagonist’s fears are very personal and ones I’m sure every spouse or parent deals with in their darkest moments.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  I do have an overall feeling of the beginning middle and end (this book is in three acts), but even with mini-outlines, my characters dictate where the book will go.  Within my given parameters, of course.

Q: Your book is set in San Diego.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Write what you know, right?  Plus, we’ve all seen movies and read books set in New York, or Los Angeles.  San Diego is a beautiful part of the country and well deserving of more attention.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely.  For the entire second act setting is everything.  And it’s a place you don’t want to imagine being, but I’m confident you won’t want to close the blinds on the picture window I’ve opened for you.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

69? Not 42?  J  Okay, on page 69, Sam, who has just dodged the bullet and made bail, having been arrested as the primary suspect in the murders of his wife and daughter remains under house arrest. He’s already lost his job, and struggles to pay the medical bills for his 4 year old son, who lies in a coma—the only survivor of the killer’s attack.

Believe it or not, things do get even worse for Sam.  It’s only page 69 out of 430!

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

This is from the opening chapter, Sam has just returned from an important dinner meeting with a potential client.

…I entered the house, greeted by the sweet scent of Lilac—her favorite candles for those special occasions.  So much more than I deserved, but that was my Jenn.  Never judging, never condemning, she understood how much stress I’d been under and always prescribed the best remedy for such situations.

From the foot of the stairs I saw dimmed light leaking out of the bedroom.  It wasn’t even date night, but I had a pretty good idea what she was thinking.  So before going up, I stopped by the kitchen, filled a pair of glasses with Merlot and set out a little box of chocolates on a breakfast tray—my secret weapon.

As I climbed the stairs I smiled.  The closer I got, the more I could smell the fragrant candles.  From the crack in the door classical music flowed out:  Pie Jesu from Faure’s Requiem. Must’ve been writing a love scene.  She always used my classical CDs to set her in the right mood.

A beam of amber light reached through the crack in the doorway into the hallway.  The alarm system beeped.  She must have shut a window.  It had just started to rain and Jenn hated when the curtains got wet.

Kathleen Battle’s angelic voice soared.

Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem,
Requiem sempiternam.

Jenn didn’t know a word of Latin.  She just liked the pretty tunes.

I nudged the door open with my foot.

“Honey?”  Caught a glimpse of a silky leg on the bed.  Oh, yes.  I pushed the door open.

Shock ignited every nerve ending in my body like napalm.  The tray fell from my hands.  Crashed to the ground.  Glasses shattered and the red wine bled darkly onto the carpet.

Jenn lay partially naked, face-down, the sheets around her soaked crimson.  Stab wounds scored her entire body.  Blood.  Blood everywhere!

“Jenn!”

I ran to her, turned her over.

She gasped, trying to speak.  Coughed.  Red spittle dripped from the corner of her mouth.  “The kids…”

I took her into my arms.  But her eyes begged me to go check on them.

“You hang on, honey.  With all you’ve got, hang on!”  I reached for my cell phone but it fell out of my belt clip and bounced under the bed.

On my knees now, I groped wildly until I found the cell phone.  Dialed 9-1-1.  Barely remembered what I said, but they were sending someone right away.

Jenn groaned.  Her breaths grew shorter and shorter.

“Bethie… Aaron.”

Her eyes rolled back.

“I’m going.  Hang on, baby.  Please!  You gotta hang on!” I started for the door.  Felt her hand squeeze mine twice:  Love-you.

No.

Tears streamed down my face.  As I began to pull away, she gripped my hand urgently.  For that split second, I knew.  This was the end.  I stumbled back to her.  Gathered her ragdoll body in to my arms.

“Jenn, oh God, Jenn.  Please don’t!”

“Whatever it takes,” she said.  Again, she squeezed my hand twice.  “Mercy, not…sacrifice.”  One last gasp.  She sighed and then fell limp in my arms, her eyes still open.

Holding her tight to my chest, I let out an anguished cry.

All time stopped.  Who would do this?  Why?  Her blood stained my shirt.  Her dying words resonated in my mind.  Then I remembered.  The kids.  I bolted up and ran straight to Bethie’s room.

Bethie’s door was ajar.  If my horror hadn’t been complete, it was now.  I found her exactly like Jenn—face down, blood and gashes covering her body.

Though I tried to cry out, nothing escaped the vice-grip on my throat.  When I turned her over, I felt her arm.  Still warm, but only slightly.  Her eyes were shut, her face wet with blood.

“Bethie!  Oh, sweetie, no!” I whispered, as I wrapped the blanket around her.

I kissed her head.  Held her hand.  Rocked her back and forth. “Come on, baby girl.  Help’s on its way, you hold on,” I said, voice and hands trembling.  She lay there unconscious but breathing.

Aaron.

Gently, I lay Bethie back down then got up and flew across the hall.  To Aaron’s door.  His night light was still on and I saw his outline in the bed.

Oh God, please.

I flipped the switch.

Nothing.

I dashed over to the lamp on his nightstand, nearly slipping on one of his Thomas Train toys on the carpet.  Broken glass crackled under my shoes.

I switched on the lamp on his nightstand.  When I looked down to his bed, my legs nearly gave out.  Aaron was still under his covers, but blood drenched his pillow.  His aluminum baseball bat lay on the floor, dented and bloodied.

Dropping to my knees, I called his name.  Over and over, I called, but he didn’t stir.  This can’t be happening.  It’s got to be a nightmare.  I put my face down into Aaron’s blue Thomas Train blanket and gently rested my ear on his chest.

I felt movement under the blanket.  Breathing.  But slowly—irregular and shallow.

Don’t move his body.  Dammit, where are the paramedics?

I heard something from Bethie’s room and dashed out the door.  Stopping in the middle of the hallway, I clutched the handrail over the stairs.  Thought I heard Aaron crying now.  Or maybe it was the wind.

My eyes darted from one side of the hallway to the other.  Which room?

Faure’s Requiem continued to play, now the In Paradisum movement.

Aeternam habeas requiem.

Something out in front of the house caught my attention.  The police, the paramedics!  Propelled by adrenaline, I crashed through the front door and ran out into the middle my lawn which was slick with rain.  I slipped and fell on my side.

Nobody.  Where were they!

Like a madman, I began screaming at the top of my lungs.  My words echoed emptily into the night.

“Help!  Somebody, please!”

A dog started barking.

“Please, ANYBODY!  HELP!”

Lights flickered on in the surrounding houses.

Eyes peeked through miniblinds.

No one came out.

I don’t know if I was intelligible at this point.  I was just screaming,  collapsed onto the ground,  on my hands and knees getting drenched in the oily rain.

Just as the crimson beacons of an ambulance flashed around the corner, I buried my face into the grass.  All sound, light, and consciousness imploded into my mind as if it were a black hole.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Joshua.  We wish you much success!

Thank you for the opportunity.  It’s really been a pleasure.  I hope your readers will visit me at www.joshua-graham.com or facebook: www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham .  Trade paperback and Kindle editions are available at Amazon.com, all ebook formats available at Smashwords.com, and for the iPad and iPhone through the iBooks store.

1 Comment

Filed under Author Interviews

‘Beyond Justice’ Joshua Graham on virtual book tour September & October ’10

Joshua GrahamJoin Joshua Graham, author of the suspense thriller, Beyond Justice (Dawn Treader Press), as he virtually tours the blogosphere September 7 – October 29 ‘10 on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

Joshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).

Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in San Diego. Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press under different pen names.

Beyond Justice is now available in Trade Paperback through Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble. It’s available at the Kindle store for $2.99 for a limited time, and can be purchased for other ebook readers at Smashwords, and is now available for the iPad and iPhone at the Apple iBooks store.

A member of the Oregon Writers Network, Graham is a graduate of the Master Classes and professional writing workshops held by Dean W. Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Dean and Kris and the entire OWN, have been a major influence in his journey to become a published writer. You can visit his website at www.joshua-graham.com, connect with him on facebook at www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham or twitter at www.twitter.com/j0shuagraham.

Publishers Weekly calls Beyond Justice “…A riveting legal thriller…. breaking new ground with a vengeance… demonically entertaining and surprisingly inspiring.”

To find out where he’ll be appearing on virtual tour, visit his official tour page at Pump Up Your Book here. Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in virtual book tours and online book promotion. Visit their website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Announcements