On writing ambitiously

On the heels of finishing a story I’ve had in my head for years, the 7100-word title story of my work-in-progress (nods to the Great Granting Agencies) – “The Purpose of Evolution is not Immortality” – which now brings the collection to five completed stories and 40,000 words, a blog entry to say I am here, writing ambitiously, assiduously, assertively.

On the heels of a story that intentionally broke several cardinal rules of narrative style (not the first in the collection to do so), a story that even I’m still sussing out, that stretches greedy fingers into all potential perspectives, a blog entry to say…

Well, I’ve already said that part: I am writing, and the way I want to.

I realize my need to experiment has led to under-publication, especially of larger works – namely two novels – even though I feel these works are engaging, a hell of a lot of fun. I see author-friends launching books left, right, and centre – sometimes with very little work already in print – but there just aren’t enough publishers taking risks, and often those that do have a more academic bent. That’s not me either.

Good fiction is unruly, alive, and as individual as the author him/herself. Nothing brings a stop-glare-and-sigh as much as the phrase “there’s too much style” or “prose shouldn’t draw attention to itself.”

A few years back, after contacting an agent at the recommendation of an editor who enjoyed the novel but was at a sinking-ship publishing house, all I got back was, “I don’t know, they’re just so strange.”  The next agent, despite a direct recommendation from one of his authors, never responded at all.

So on the heels of writing perhaps the strangest, most ambitious story yet, this a wide-smiling middle finger to the middle-grounders, the play-safers. Fiction is a commodity, yes, but it’s also an art, and one that can modulate many moods. How many actually think about the effect of sentence structure on your breathing? The effect of vague dialogue on your mental state? The purpose of seemingly random changes, unpredictability, on the narrative tension? And how about metaphors, scenes, symbols that defy easy interpretation?

I’m sure a few readers of the recently published “Mouth Human Must Die” were left cold, confused. And why was it so vulgar? So weird?

Happy, though, that initial response to the just-finished fiction is positive. A good writing group goes a long way. Nods there to Carol, Kayla, Susan and Elizabeth. And to my closest reader, Cindy.

Two Recent Reviews

I’ve just had two reviews posted on the Atlantic Books Today website (following two longer reviews – of Kevin Major and Kerry-Lee Powell – in their recent print edition). A small caveat is that Atlantic Books Today is funded by publishers, but managing editor Chris Benjamin does want honest, well-written reviews, sees the value in that.

I hosted André Narbonne in October at the Attic Owl Reading Series, was impressed and later begged off attempting a review of another story collection (quite poorly written) and requested permission to send a review of Narbonne’s collection Twelve Miles to Midnight. It’s a great story collection. The review is here.

And some time this summer I was sent the PDF of David Doucette’s A Hard Old Time Amongst Scavengers, and promptly forgot about it. I spend all day at the PC or laptop editing writers’ words, don’t want to read more fiction on the screen. Anyway, when asked about the review’s status I said right, right, is there a hard copy? One was sent. One day I’ll make a list of my favourite Atlantic Canadian Fiction. It’ll have Doucette’s novel near the top*. What a welcome surprise. That review is here.

*Along with Steffler’s The Grey Islands (fiction? poetry?), Powell’s Willem De Kooning’s Paintbrush, Bursey’s Verbatim: A Novel, Gunn’s Amphibian, Butler Hallett’s Deluded Your Sailors, and work by Mark Anthony Jarman, Ian Colford, Narbonne, Coady…. Maybe that’s the next blog post.

Lee D. Thompson

Reading Recommendations

thompsonLee D. Thompson

What is your latest release and what genre is it?Mouth Human Must Die -literary fiction

Quick description: The book itself is a limited edition with Frog Hollow Press, who specialize in chapbooks, broadsheets – fine printing, if you will. Lovely design, great paper. The story – all 7500 words of it – is narrated by Lester, a man with a mental illness. It chronicles a few days of his life and his interactions with Dr. Shabazz, a psychologist, and Lara, a Slow Loris at the nearby zoo.

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Brief biography:
I’m from Moncton, New Brunswick (Canada) and have been publishing fiction for 18 years. I’m far too involved with literary things, from having run the provincial writers’ federation to organizing a reader series and editing a literary journal called Galleon. I’m also a freelance editor. And a songwriter/guitarist.

Here’s a review published in The Miramichi Reader

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It’s here!

The books have arrived and are lovingly designed by Caryl Wyse Peters with a haunting Dave Skyrie cover. The story is as slant as anything I’ve written: Lester, the narrator, isn’t to be trusted. And that’s the thing about these Shabazz stories – the central characters aren’t well. It’s also the challenge – how to depict a mind in chaos, unhinged, yet make it believable.

So far four of the these stories have been written, with the fifth just underway.

Anyway. There are two ways to get copies before they’re all gone (125 were printed) – through me, or through the publisher.

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Full Cover for Frog Hollow Chapbook

Publication date for “Mouth Human Must Die” is likely around mid January, which means in fewer than two months the story will have gone from accepted to published. It’s been proofed, approved, and only the printing remains. I can’t stress … Continue reading

Engine Failure @ Jerrod Edson

There’s a nice review of my story “A Survivor’s Guide to Engine Failure at 35,000 Feet” on Jerrod Edson’s site right here. Jerrod is a fellow New Brunswick author temporarily banished to Ontario (but he’s NB through and through, don’t forget it). From his review:

“Warwick’s voice is manic, yet altogether alive and authentic (imagine a Hunter S. Thompson / Barney Panofsky offspring and you’re headed in the right direction). His memories of the crash are honest and raw, and utterly void of any writerly bullshit”

Edson has a new novel coming out this spring. Watch for “The Moon is Real” with Urban Farmhouse Press.

New Fiction at Numéro Cinq

nc-logo-160x128While I wasn’t overly productive last year, churning out perhaps 15,000 words of fiction, which hardly deserves the word ‘churning’ but perhaps ‘scraping’, I did produce a couple of things I quite like.

This story came out of a title, which itself seemed to come from thin air while crafting a grant proposal. There are times when everything comes together and writing a story is a joy, or a toy, and nothing makes me happier than the chance to play around a little. This was one of those times.

I knew watching endless episodes of air crash investigations would pay off. (Certainly made flying to Elba and Banff and Spain much more exciting.)

So here is “A Survivor’s Guide to Engine Failure at 35,000 Feet.” It is the second of my Shabazz stories, a story of a flight gone wrong, a bit of jungle survival and a man in need of much therapy.

Many thanks to Numéro Cinq head everything Douglas Glover.

Interviewing Jeff Bursey

As mentioned in the preface to the linked interview (see below), Jeff Bursey and I met through Joseph McElroy in 2010 when Jeff was looking to get word out about his first novel, Verbatim: A Novel. Jeff lived just two hours away but in terms of kindred interests, he was right next door. We have become good friends since. He’s the only person I’ve met (face to face) who has also read McElroy’s massive Women and Men.

The interview, focussing on Jeff’s second book, Mirrors on which dust has fallen, is up at The Winnipeg Review, another terrific resource (a la Numero Cinq) for all things literary.

Read it here.

Whaling (a critique)

I’d considered calling this blog “Notes from an underpublished author” but worried I would somehow set my fate in concrete, jinx my last chance at writerly recognition, or that an agent or publisher would come along and say, “Sigh, a … Continue reading