12 Winters Blog

Book discussion at Athens Library, and sending out new work

Posted in August 2011 by Ted Morrissey on August 21, 2011

I’m looking forward to meeting with a book group at Athens (IL) Municipal Library August 28, starting at 2 p.m. I’ll be there ostensibly to talk about Men of Winter, but in particular I’ll kick around some ideas about writing fiction in general, especially writing historically based fiction; and I plan to read a newly written short story, most likely “Crowsong for the Stricken,” which I finished toward the end of June. I’ve invited several of my writer/poet buddies in hopes of including their insights and expertise into the discussion.

Speaking of new work, I’ve been busy this weekend sending out a couple of new stories, “Crowsong” and another that I wrote in July, “Primitive Scent.” They’re both set in the same bizarre little village. I’d had the story that turned into “Crowsong” on my mind for years (on a low simmer on a back cerebral burner while finishing my dissertation, then writing An Untimely Frost), which is perhaps why it came together with relative ease. “Primitive Scent” put up more of a fight, though not much more. I’m currently writing a third story set in this same weird place, and it’s not working out well at all; in fact, I’ve decided to pretty much chuck everything I’ve written so far and start over. I’m still attracted to the basic concept, but the narrative keeps wanting to get away from me and turn into something longer than a story — but yet I’m not attracted enough to the idea to commit to spending the next three years or so turning it into a novel. Also, I haven’t been satisfied with the mood of the … thing I’ve been writing.

I had planned to start a new novel this fall, but if this third story turns out reasonably well, I’ll consider writing a kind of conceptual novel, with all the stories having the same setting and some of the characters popping up now and again.  We’ll see.  As I mentioned, I finished the manuscript for An Untimely Frost, and I’ve started looking for representation. I like the completed novel a lot (thank goodness, as I only devoted the better part of five years to it), but it’s … odd, and much more experimental than Men of Winter — which may make finding an agent and/or publisher especially challenging. But ultimately it ain’t about the publishing; it’s about the writing.

On the academic front, I had a paper proposal accepted for the PsyArt panel at next year’s Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900. The paper is about the psychological impact of the fallout shelter frenzy of the 1960s on William H. Gass’s novel (mainly) The Tunnel. I also have a paper on Beowulf that I want to write this fall; it’d be a sort of warm-up for writing the full-blown novel I have in mind.

Meanwhile, I continue reading War and Peace (and Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, with which I’m nearly done). I surpassed the 1,000-page mark in War and Peace, and only have about 200 pages to go. It’s a monster, and it’s taken me some time to get through it — but I’m not in any hurry, so I’m reading it slowly and carefully; and I’m enjoying it. Its complexity is remarkable — ranging from intimate human relationships, to religion, to critiquing various historical analyses of the Napoleonic wars, to … everything else — but what I wasn’t expecting is its humor: Tolstoy is often funny. When I finish, I want to return to Joyce for a while — but I’ll also need to be doing some reading for the Gass paper, and for the Beowulf paper. So many books, so little time.

tedmorrissey.com

Pathfinding: a blog devoted to helping new writers find outlets for their work

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