put a little blue bird on it

twitter-bird

I am back on Twitter, my loves. It’s a long story why I ditched it originally, but I have returned to that odd playground of updates and promos.

You can find me here:

ELIZABETH DUTTON’S TWITTER ACCOUNT

With a new account comes a new format. My main influence in writing (and in life) is music. It keeps me alive and cooks my ideas. That said, I am going to try to post my “Song of the Day” on Twitter — the song that is ruling a particular day for me and providing that blessèd inspiration or relief. This, I know, will most likely only be interesting to me, but sod it. I do what I want!

It is sunny and crisp where I am today — a lovely day to be sure. I hope you are having an equally brilliant day and wish you lots and lots of love (I know you don’t think I mean that, but I most certainly do).

xo

don’t look back in anger 

We are all fueled by different things. While waiting for my pack of dogs to return from a midnight run in the woods, I watched a show called Fameless. It is, apparently, a prank show created by David Spade. He gets people desperate to be on reality shows to participate unwittingly in a false show that ends in their pranking. It is mindless at first, but then it becomes incredibly sad. The interviews with the would-be reality “stars” consist solely of them mugging wildly for the camera while announcing their greatest desire: to be famous. They want to be famous more than anything. When asked why, they generally reference a talent for being… energetic? I am not sure. Not much sense is made. Many of the pranked on the show talk in their intro interviews about which celebrities they NEED to hang out with because they are equally “fabulous” or some such.  This makes me sad.

These dear people have been sold a bill of goods that fame, especially for no real reason, is the ultimate goal in life. Everything is superficial. Everything is artifice. They are driven by a need for invented social status, for material goods, for validation, for lazily achieved recognition. My gran always said there were some people who would shit in Macy’s window if they thought it would get them attention. She was always right.

I had to stop watching the show because a) reality tv in general gives me the willies and b) the people were making me sad. I felt terrible for them; I felt awful watching their sincere drive for insincere goals mocked, often with them still clinging to the hope that perhaps THIS, this public humiliation, would make them famous.

As I wondered what drove these people to debase themselves in order to obtain “fame,” I started thinking about what drives me. I do not in any way want to be famous. The notion of fame is foreign, empty, and terrifying to me. I love to be a hermit.  I don’t even want to be monetarily wealthy. I just want my voice heard. I suppose the people on the show are just like I am. We just traffic in different media, have different means of yelling out to the world.

For more than a year now I have been looking for truth in my life that evades me, learning to be honest with myself, and digging at the parts that hurt the most. Fear not, this is not some uncomfortable confessional. I save that for my bi-weekly therapy appointments.

I have written before about the importance of drive and purpose. What drives me? Of course, I feel a deep, almost atomic-level need to write. That is really all I know how to do and the only way I can really communicate (there’s such safety and distance in words). I am neither the best nor the worst at this trade, but it’s all I have. And this is more than just the high-minded platitudes that spill from the lips of every MFA/MPhil writing grad. Writing is all I can do. I wish it was all I had to do. For whatever reason, I have always written and will always write, whether others read it or not. I may be shouting into an abyss, but my voice has been made tangible.

You know what else drives me? I have that same desperate need for validation that the dupes on Fameless possess. The difference is that I want so badly to be validated in so many ways and yet I never believe any praise or kindness. I do not trust anyone. Not a soul. I am of a mind that this is for good reason. A hard heart is a solid heart. Yet I really would give anything to feel truly necessary and vital and loved and relevant. I also wouldn’t know or believe it if any of that happened. Like my beloved Walt Whitman, I contradict myself. I really am large, and I do contain multitudes of something.

Deeper down, I have to admit a real driving force for me: anger. I am a very angry person. I didn’t think this, didn’t believe it for a very long time. Someone pointed it out to me months ago and it was like realizing there was window in your bedroom that you never knew about. I am totally angry. I generally take it out on myself, but I also take it out on others far more than I care to admit. Sure, I have a vast array of anger sources from which to choose, but there aren’t really different flavors of it. Anger is anger. A lot of my writing originates in anger. This is especially true of my current novel-in-progress. I am taking aim at things that make me angry. No, it is not a manifesto (although I do look particularly striking in a hoodie and reflective aviator sunglasses). I’m subtle with the anger, more so than I am in real life. But I am very, very angry. Maybe I actually let that rule me rather than drive me. Can anger be harnessed? I’ll try. I would say I am going to just get rid of it, but that takes time. I am working on that. In the meantime, I am going to acknowledge it. That’s the best I can do. That, like stringing words, is all I can do.

For old time’s sake:

awesome:

perfectly ripe white peaches

impending cooler weather

conversations that make you feel light

getting ready for the annual Halloween party

perfecting liquid liner cat eye makeup (yet nowhere to wear it)

binge re-watching The West Wing (such an antidote to the Trumpization of politics)

my sweet pack of dogs

despite a couple of medical conditions beyond my control, I am actually in very good health

non-awesome:

forgetting things/memory gaps

dashed expectations

others focusing on the aesthetic effect of my meds, while I focus on the lifesaving part

being so far away from my brother and my friends

people who either interrupt conversations or simply ignore what the other person is saying and plow forward with their own thoughts — give and take, people

creepy letters

Lastly, the updated Smile book comes out next month #ShamelessPlug #ThisLadyNeedsToGetPaid #NotSureWhyThisIsGettingPublished #IHateHashtags. Despite the glamorous look of writing little-known novels and humor titles while teaching at a technical college, I do not yet possess money, power and gloryyyyyyy. Help a sister out and at least recommend the book to someone. As a friend of mine who is a really excellent writer recently told me, he thought the original Smile book would be cheesy and embarrassing by proxy, but he read it and actually found it rather funny. So there. I got that goin’ for me.

I may be angry, but I still love you all.

xo

the seventh starling

I don’t write the best poems and that is okay. I try to evolve (brief aside here: my undergrad specilaization in English at UC Davis was Creative Writing: Poetry. I studied under Gary Snyder there.  I was accepted into the Creative Writing graduate program at the University of Glasgow on my poetry manuscript. Yet I now consider myself a novelist, albeit one who puts out the occasional humor title — or updated version thereof — just to keep things juiced). I left the protective cocoon poetry provided me to re-venture into fiction/prose and it is there that I now feel most confident (especially after years of writing ad copy at a really upright and just and non-profit investigative reporting magazine and editorials/speeches/business letters for an elected official. I do, though, read poetry voraciously, study poetry, teach poetry, find poetry in expected and unlikely places, respect lyricism of all musical genres as poetry, and adore poetry. I own countless notebooks filled with delicious or interesting or troubling words and phrases I like to keep on deck and let rattle around like soft marbles in my head. To wit: I love words.

It is for that reason that I offer these brief suggestions/comments/notations/observations as a public service. (I don’t want to get all Ezra Pound and H.D. on you, attempting to impose rules. See my previous sentence.)

  • poetry is not an impossible code in need of cracking. as a reader; it takes thought, imagination, repression of fear or confusion based instinctual judgement, some reasearch and most often discussion in order for things to click.
  • poetry is also not just a bunch of words strung together, something popped off in a fugue state of beatnik flow. that is what we call a working draft. if the poem cannot be analyzed, if a cogent thought never emerges, one may have some new genre (well, not new. dada has been done) on one’s hands but the point of art is to share ideas. if no reader can understand the core ideas, this is a problem. it may feel hip and intellectual, but it is still a pile of words. let your ego recede and let the poem grow.
  • the speaker in the poem is not always the poet him or herself. and the whole thing can be fiction in and of itself. it’s not always a journal and really shouldn’t be.
  • no one should ever be afraid to try writing a poem. poetry surrounds us, from music lyrics (more likely indie than commercial) to found poetry to overheard snippets of conversations, to the stream of consciousness  that livestreams in our heads all day. go ahead. capture it. just know that you aren’t done. everything (worthwhile) in this life takes work, craft, and rework.  we have brilliant, individual thoughts in our minds that need to be shared. the clearer this can happen in any medium (especially the written word) is when we reach true alchemy and human achievement. connecting your thoughts and brains to another so that the receiver understands completely your reality? that’s pure dead magic, is what that is (to borrow from the gorgeous lyricism of everyday Glaswegian parlance).
  • we like to think of poetry as the Wild West, lawless and full of reinvention. the reinvention remains,  but there are still boundaries. yes, boundaries should be shattered and pushed. I am speaking more toward the general preceding points.
  • my beloved Gary Snyder gave an excellent talk found here about the difference between academic writing and poetry. he follows is up with one of my favorite of his poems, “Billmgham, Alaska: The Willow Tree Bar.” check it out.  the man knows how to close a poem with a subtle punch in the gut. I love him forever, and not just for getting me into Alan Ginsberg’s funeral.
  • poetry is mysterious to many and has come to exist is the realms of academia and intellectualism with a stray from everyday life and people. it wasn’t always this way. poetry was in newspapers, magazines, popularly purchased books, public readings. if you love poetry, let’s keep fighting to bring that back.
  • look to the past for inspirations and cautionary tales, but never mimic. the mimic is not an artist. bring forth the new.
  • keep it fun.  I know the world is going to shit, but sometimes we have to acknowledge the light, the wonderfully absurd. poetry is neither musty tweed jackets holding frowning faces nor is it solely the painfully sincere yet rote realm of the spoken word stage. it is serious, it is tragic, it is insightful, but it is also absolutely hilarious at times.

All that said, here are some of my favorites (as of right now — my list is every changing):

“Wild Geese” (here)

“September 1, 1939” (here)

“Dolce et Decorum Est” (here) and a great reading here

“I am Trying to Break Your Heart” (here)

“The Powow at the End of the World” (here)

“The Fish” (here)

“Strong Men” (here)

“Being a Human Being” (here)

“At Roane Head” (here)

“at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989 ” (here)

“In Back of the Real” (here)

“The Untold Want” <basically any Whitman, but especially this> (here)

as with all poems, it is best to hear them aloud. read them aloud to yourself or if you like one in particular, try finding a video or recording of the poet performing it.  totally worth it. poems live both on the page and in the air.

love to you all

xo

drive 

It is good to be happy (duh). It is essential to be kind. These are wonderful parts of life.

What, though, is the point if a person lacks drive? Real purpose, not just lip service? Action? Everything good in this world takes hard work. I don’t trust people who don’t invest themselves in real work. I admire those who get their hustle on.
One of the smartest, most insightful, and direct people I know is Max Everhart. He writes really solid, well-crafted, and highly enjoyable novels and short stories. You can check out more about him and his Eli Sharpe series here. Anyway, he is the person who has really cemented in me something I always knew but needed to have brought to the front of my frazzley brain: no one is anything without a proper work ethic and anyone can accomplish what he or she wants by sticking to a decent, serious work ethic.

We are surrounded by images of people who have what my boyfriend Cornel West (it’s a shame he hasn’t found out about our relationship yet) calls “foliage;” the trappings of commercialism and empty value. The paper, the fluff, the expendable. Gilding. The work ethic is the tree itself. It is (to take from Dr. West again) the fire.

This is not in any way to say that we should be simply labor robots for the profits of others. We should work hard for ourselves and for the betterment of others. The harder I work, the better I feel. The more I give, the better I feel. Right livelihood, my sweets. Drive for significant contribution (not just window dressing), for impact, for creativity, for FIRE.

I spoke today with the screenwriter who is adapting Driftwood and the producer who is going to try and connect all the dots to perhaps make this long shot happen (they are both brilliant, by the way). They are fucking DRIVEN. They work and create constantly. It was energizing to talk to people who are not just talk, but actual action.

So: less talk, more rock. We must do what we’ve been called to do. And whilewe are at it, never let compassion and love get left behind.

I am up at 4:30 in the morning trying to downshift from putting in hours on work I really love, the work that saves me and keeps me going. It is late, I am tired, but it feels awesome.

xo

out of time

out of time

“Time is a flat circle,” said a fascinatingly greasy Matthew McConaughey in the first season of True Detective (which, thankfully, did not include Vince Vaughn). Time may be a flat circle, but it is also fleeting and maliable and strange.

I still think of the 90s as being 10 years ago. Things in the past can feel like yesterday or a million years ago. Emotion and memory affect the perception of time.

Sometimes we find ourselves out of sync — our timeline doesn’t match up with what we think we want or what we now understand. Right place, wrong time. Wrong time, right place. Wrong place, wrong time (that’s always what is said when people are cut down too early or walk into a bank robbery in progress or something — what if that was the right time and place for them, their journey finally complete and right on schedule?).

If all we really have is this moment right now, is time irrelevant? Am I sounding enough like an undergraduate who has taken her first philosophy class? Fear not, I will not examine the possibility that we are all just brains in jars somewhere being fed ideas of reality. Winding back time and remembering being that person, though, is interesting. I often wonder what it would be like to go back in time and talk to myself at 18. Or to just do it over again with the knowledge I have now. I wouldn’t have skipped as many classes and I wouldn’t have worried as much. I would have been braver and would have avoided my brief platinum blonde stage (I made a terrible blonde, but I did like the day glo pink and cookie monster blue I had off and on back in those days).

Anyway, anticipating time going forward is always a dicey prospect. It’s like when you are in a job interview and are asked where you see yourself in five years. I hate that question. It’s lazy and no answer is of any substance. What do we know about five years down the road, let alone five hours from now? Think back five years. Did you see yourself doing what you are doing at this moment? Time is full of surprises. To be honest, from a very young age I had this belief (it felt more of a certainty) that I would not live to see 30. I was a strange child. I don’t know why that was so set in my mind. I was wrong. I made it past that and then some.

Looking forward feels like an eternity sometimes until we find ourselves caught in the headlights of a day that seemed forever far away.

Which brings me to an update about events in the future. An updated version of the smile book, 1,047 Reasons to Smile, will be available on October 6. I have my fingers crossed that I will be a part of something out in California this October. Again, I can’t predict the future. The paperback version of Driftwood — with a new and improved cover and price — will be out in the spring of 2016. (2016! So futuristic.) My next novel is under construction with a constantly shifting completion date. When it is done, it is done. Then I will have to try and get it published. But that’s too far off to think about now.

I do know that in the near future, I have to go teach a composition class in about 40 minutes. For that reason, I bid you adieu. Breathe deep and enjoy this moment right now (you can’t be under too much stress if you are dicking around, reading my ramblings).

xo

If I ever need to publish under a pen name…

” 
This is an oldie but a goodie I wrote a while back:
 Untapped literary genre: HIPSTER ROMANCE

When Jesse accidentally runs into Camille with his fixed gear bike, breaking her self-built Lomo camera, it looks like things are off to a rocky start for the pair. Jesse smooths his mustache and invites Camille to a vegan craft beer festival to make it up to her. He is shocked when she accepts and that evening in front of a savory gluten-free pie food truck, romance is kindled and they begin the long process of “hanging out.” But things aren’t all smooth sailing for the sort-of-couple-I-guess, as Jesse fights for his dream to become a graphic designer (of which there are simply not enough in the world) and quit his day job at the sustainable coffee collective, just as Camille sees the collective as her opportunity to find a distributor for her sea salt and bacon topped caramel quinoa balls. 

Jesse was a bad boy, known to be involved in an underground kombucha manufacturing operation. But Camille was no saint, either. If anyone found out that she was from Orinda and was in a sorority at San Diego State, her image would be shattered. Besides, all she really wanted now was to keep it real, to use hash tags, to support the plight of some sort of South American peoples, to find the ultimate 90s workout video on VHS to use as part of an art installation she hoped to one day complete. 

Further stress is added with the sudden return of Camille’s former sort-of boyfriend, Marc, who has come back to town after training as an artisan book binder in Vermont. At some point, Marc will try to woo Camille with a book of Okkervil River lyrics he hand-bound in dried and cured kale leaves, stitched together with threads from an old Corona poncho. 

A tale full of longing, ironic haircuts, urban farming, unexplained monetary sources, and analog devices, this story is one you will want to say you’ve already read when someone mentions it.

the ocean

  
I heard a story last night about a local kid, maybe 10 years old, who had never seen the ocean (even though it’s only 2 hours away). After days of mandated, insipid testing, the teachers felt the kids deserved a field trip and decided to take the class to the aquarium at Myrtle Beach and then have a picnic lunch at the state park beach. Now, the teacher knew this boy hadn’t ever been to the beach. Because she is loving and insightful, she really LISTENED to the boy instead of just hearing that he’d never seen the ocean. She understood what that meant.

When they got to the beach, the boy almost couldn’t process what he was seeing. The teacher — with no judgment, just compassion — allowed the boy to be in awe of what he was seeing.

The boy slowly made his way down the steps and onto the sand. He stared at the water with a huge grin and complete wonder. The teacher allowed him this silence and discovery. The boy put his towel down on the sand and just stared at the water.

I’ll take a moment here to insert myself into the story to say that I cannot remember a time of not knowing the ocean. It has always been a part of my life, but I still stand in awe when I see it.

After a while, the teacher joined the student to sit and quietly watch the vast expanse before them. She gently answered the questions he had — that the water doesn’t fall off the earth because of gravity, that his observation that it looked curved was correct because they were seeing the curve of the earth — and they enjoyed the vastness, the possibilities. The boy even got a chance to wade around in the waves and wiggle his bare toes in the sand. Everything in that moment was awe, wonder, and possibility.

I have been thinking a lot about that story the teacher told me last night (I LOVE running into friends and neighbors at local restaurants and such). I fell asleep thinking about it, woke up with it on my mind. I thought of it as I drove down here to Columbia for the Book Festival, admiring the farm roads, fields, and peach orchards full of impending fruit as I made my way toward the freeways that still (despite insane traffic and crazier drivers) managed to be beautifully insulated on either side by dense varieties of hardwood trees in every shade of green.

I want to live that awe, that wonder, that endless possibility all the time. Every moment. Not just when staring at the ocean and not just when remarking on a vista. And I want to be the kind of loving, compassionate, insightful person that teacher is who can bring those indelible moments into the lives of others. She gave that kid such a gift.

That is the reason we’re all here. Give, receive, enjoy.

Be in awe.

xo

let’s make a deal

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Driftwood is available as a THE Kindle Daily Deal at Amazon today and today only! Act now!

Click → HERE ← to get your paws on the digital version for a song (I guess songs are $1.99). For less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can help support this struggling author.

If you already own the hard copy, get yourself a digital backup. If you have been waiting for the price to come down, today is your day. Tell a friend. Pass this on. Call your local radio stations (sample script: “Hey! First time caller, long time listener here. I just had to tell the morning zoo crew that today’s Kindle Daily Deal is Driftwood, a really great novel that I heard Kanye West has been saying he wish he had written because it is so amazing. Just thought I’d let everyone know what all the cool kids are up to. Oh, and can I send a song request out to [insert friend’s name here]? Can you play some Chaka Kahn? Hello? You still there?)

Let’s do this people. Get that deal, son!

xo