Old Moon

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Perhaps not all, but many things do indeed come to him who waits (or her, as the case may be). Peripheral Vision is here, in print, ready to hand at last. Here's a blurb that didn't make it to the back cover.

The intricacies of human relationships is the primary theme in Joan Cannon’s  fine collection of short fiction.  If you're looking for a flashy stream of action, look elsewhere, but if you prefer incisive characterizations, astute observations and sly humor,  give Peripheral Vision a try. Joan Cannon can take a microcosm of life and show it’s enduring effects. Translating the core of human emotions is never easy, but her prose, reminiscent of Louis Auchincloss, accomplishes that task with a few deft strokes. 
         In “A Home for Crusoe,” an elegant elderly woman who sells Crusoe, her beloved old car, to a parking garage attendant, imagines it taking the young man’s family on beach excursions and country picnics. Instead, it is reborn as a winner of stock car races.
         At Christmas time an immigrant tailor loses his shop in a fire, but everything, he says, has “Complete Coverage.” Everything, the reader realizes, but the amazing gift for his granddaughter that he had worked on all year.
         In one story a character has “hair as black and shiny as Mary Jane shoes.” In another, “his voice has a zing to it like a cicada in August,” and in a third, a dying man’s “IV bags dangled like tired party balloons.” In the final story, The Bear, a son visits the family’s wilderness camp the year after his mother’s death. He and his grieving father sit on the porch ”to watch the afterglow through the hemlocks. The chairs creaked softly as they rocked. They listened to the vesper songs of veeries and hermit thrushes and the towhee’s  sharp ‘chink’ until full dark. By the time a whippoorwill began its insistent calling, the mosquitoes drove them inside.... “
         Writing doesn’t get much better than that.
Joyce C. Ware

 I confess the author is a friend, but she's also a well credentialed writer herself. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Poetry vs. Prose, or Poetry & Prose?

I keep up with the blog,  How a Poem Happens. The  questions after each example are great for a tyro like me because without dissecting the poem, they stimulate ideas about how to make a poem happen. Writing poetry is for me not really like writing anything else for a couple of reasons, the first of which is that I've found a poem is in some way organic, as opposed to the manufactured quality of good prose. It really is like a happening, if the result ends up seeming satisfactory.

A second reason is that the impetus for a poem comes from a layer somewhere probably on the right side of the brain instead of the rational left. That's definitely not an original idea--just a statement of how it is. A poem does, at some point in its development, require plenty of input from that same left side, though, if it is to grow into even a free form that entitles it to be more than a kind of automatic writing.

I do find myself resentful, though, when I read much of today's academically admired poems that seem to be created for the express purpose of offering insoluble puzzles to its readers, as if one must be part of some elect aristocracy of art to decipher them.

The attraction of these contrasts is maybe the best thing about poetry.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

From Two Thousand to Twelve Thousand Words

That new photo is of the cover of a collection of short stories to be in print shortly. Peripheral Vision. Here's another case when I wonder what genre they fit into. Written over a period of over 25 years, they range from pretty simple stuff an insurance company used in its publication for clients to a long story serialized by one of the oldest publications in the US, to some other pieces that appeared in an occasional literary journal, plus the ones I've never found another home for until now.

Maybe they're "summer reading" or maybe not, but there's a variety of serious and some not-so-serious. If I had a million, I'd have liked to have them illustrated. Remember when even grown-up books had pictures? I wish they still did!

You might notice I've removed the picture of the title page for the Bookstogonow.com story. That's because it's been spoken for to be in a print anthology. I think it's still on their website, but I couldn't use it in the collection March Street Press is about to release.

The books (softcover) will be $15 plus shipping and available from the press at 3413 Wilshire, Greensboro, NC 27408. March Street Press has a website at http://www.marchstreetpress.com. The big retailers will be able to order them too--Amazon, B & N, and your favorite indie book store. Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 2, 2011


If you're like me, you quail when asked to tell what genre you're producing. The common understanding of that term won't fit my fiction. I have recently (within the past four years, say) rediscovered nonfiction, and even more recently (within the past two years) reconnected with poetry--but that's about as far as I can push classification.

Settling isn't romance, but it is a love story. Maiden Run isn't even that easy to classify, unless you could call it a sort of love story about one family's home with subplots about the lives of the siblings who must give it up. An editor whose judgment I trust calls my third novel "literary." I suspect the first two might fit that description as well. However, I  submitted an essay to a magazine seeking literary essays whose subject was an ideal fit. They rejected it because they said they were seeking "more literary" work. I guess that's an example of the usual myopia of an author.

I have a much admired friend who has published a large handful of romances in different subgenres. They are very good indeed, and each fits perfectly into the formulas that were required in the seventies when she wrote them. I was unable to bend my imagination to the plots and requirements of that kind of writing, while she relished the challenge as of a puzzle. I envy those who can both spot the necessary ingredients and how to present them within standard limits, and then craft fiction to fit. My characters are too apt to take hold and run outside any boundaries I may have decided on ahead of time.

Memoir seems to be on the upswing in popularity these days. Those I've read most recently all have some very much out-of-the-ordinary jumping-off point. One is about the peculiar (to an American readership) experiences of a woman who spent most of her life with a not too successful farmer in Africa while the upheavals of the fifties and onward were overtaking them. Another is about a very literate man who found himself not only imprisoned for a white collar crime, but incarcerated in the last remaining leprosarium in the US. Exotic places or circumstances might be enough to sell a memoir without too much trouble.  It's the same appeal fiction has:  the chance to experience something vicariously. It's a temptation to write a novel that pretends to be a memoir (not a new idea, heaven knows), and almost certainly, since it wouldn't be labeled as a memoir, you'd be right back where you started--that is, faced with the bare fact of your competence as a story-teller.

My main problem is how to approach an agent or publisher without recourse to classification--not because I'm unwilling, but because I don't know where my work belongs. Like most writers of fiction, I rely to a great extent on my own experience, but for a memoir, I have no eye-catching singular events to attract a reader. On the other hand, think of the poetry of a recluse like Emily Dickinson and the ruminations of an ordinary man like Thoreau.

I know you have to have a hook; I know you're supposed to be able to make "an elevator pitch;" I know you have to stand out from the hundreds doing the same thing. But even if you can follow those dicta, you have to find a way to fit into a slot before you can get anyone even to consider what you can do. You can't afford to pretend to be something you're not. This, I find frustrating.