This morning–right before leaving for work–I found a story I wrote quite a while ago for Jenny Cornell’s Representation of Science in LIterature class. The story is called House of Two Bears and it is an exaggerated story based on something my Grandfather used to tell me.
The old man was a great story teller. He was very animated with these stories too–at least in my memory. He walked around and imitated voices and threw his arms andweight around as he spoke. He was also a very good liar–he could convince anyone of anything. He convinced me of quite a few things. But when I was a little moco and I used to wear his t-shirts to bed because I had no other clothes there at their house, he used to tell me stories. Kind of like fairy tales. And, of course, he was always the hero and he was always the one making the tough choices. I can picture this in my head. They lived on Routt in those days next to Bessemer School and before bed the old man would tell me his stories and get me drowsy and then he would watch his little black and white television. I remember he had a a poodle named Buttons in those days and the dog slept on the bed with us. I can’t remember so much of that time in my life but I remember those stories. The old man was very much a failed writer–maybe he could have been a writer if he would have gone on to school or if he were allowed to finish school instead of getting to work at such a young age–truck deliveries, peach picking and then carpenter work and then finally the steel mill, which was the last job he ever held in his life. Maybe if he would have gone to school he would’ve been a writer. I do think I am not exaggerating–the men would sit around the picnic table in the back and smoke and play cards and tell stories. War stories and mill stories and also stories from Huerfano County–stories of their youth.
The stories I remember the most were the fables–the stories of him riding a horse across the country and the stories of him finding ghosts andfinding troubles that always had to do with the bottle. The old man was some kind of a drinker too–which is something that kept those stories going. (Sort of like Tortilla Flat meets Big Fish if you’ve read that book or saw Tim Burton’s movie.) He also prefaced every story as happening before the war. That was always important. As if he were a better and more youthful and lively person before the war. The war gave him friends like Millburger and others but the war also gave him bad thoughts or at least I always thought of those stories and his reactions to telling those stories as being very tragic and important to him.
I tried to write down some of these stories: the one where he meets an Indian and they let him live with them–the lessons they taught him. The time he went weeks without real food and drink and had visions–had visions of his first wife and his sister who both died when he was young. And, of course, the drinking stories and the love affairs. And they were more than stories because he had physical evidence. The watch from California and the binoculars from New Mexico–the hat from Arizona–the work gloves from Utah. Every mark on those old physical things were sold as evidence of what had happened–every knick and mark to the leather or to the glass was evidence of the truth of those stories.
Of course, the Grandmother always called him a liar. Told me he was ‘full of it’ and was a liar. Told me he never left Colorado when he was young until the Army and not until he was drafted. But the stories were so convincing and so compelling to me. And I needed those stories too after a while–wanted them before bed and wanted them finished. Wanted to know what happened.
So today I reread “House of Two Bears” and wanted to return. At first I wanted to go back to this thing I was working on about the time I spent in New York State but I think I will work on the Grandfather’s stories next–the stories about being a cowboy and being a drinker as well as the stories about the old man dealing with ghosts.
Lately, I’ve had only two books on my coffee table around me while I write: Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros and the Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner. I’ve also been listening to Los Lobos and Bob Dylan today as I think of the world of the Little Lolo Stories. And I can say these texts have sponsored and infected my writing.
Here’s a line from Caramelo that really got into my head when I first read it on a train with D. I immediately marked the page and go back to it quite often. Cisneros writes:
Because a life contains a multitude of stories and not a single strand explains precisely the who of who one is, we have to examine the complicated loops that allowed Regina to become la Senora Reyes.
No other line I have read in fiction has influenced more than that line. I think because I am trying to do exactly that with Lolo–trying to understand ‘the complicated loops that allowed’ little Lolo from those old home movies and photos to become Lolo from family stories and arguments. Also I think because all these voices from the past and the present–from my reality and the fictive reality–all converge in fiction and the ‘multitude of stories’ and ‘complicated loops’ remind me so much of the complexity of the narrative in Little Lolo Stories. How complicated it is for me to get my head around all of these stories to get them down.
Now, Wallace Stegner gives me the form to ‘borrow’–the scenes and the mix of narration and action. I love the rugged stories and the sensibility the prose from Stegner gives. The sense of journey. I feel Stegner gives me the push to focus on the ‘single strand’.
And Los Lobos gives me the music and the sound of the old neighborhood and maybe even the old folks house on Spruce Street–the Abuelita’s old radio and records.
This last week has been tough. Work and then a Saturday event. The semester has torn me down but today the voices still come after me. As I do laundry I hear the Jefita:
You don’t want a family. You want slaves to work for you.
This afternoon I printed out the 164 pages of the Little Lolo Stories and sat and read through again, noting the places that need tweaking. I’ve been printing out and re-reading and re-envisioning so much of the book I can’t keep up with my thoughts for revision. Anyway, I couldn’t help of thinking about this Monty Python routine:
We at The Missouri Review would like to thank you for considering “Farmhouse in the Lanes” for publication. While at this time it does not fit our needs for our current issue, we appreciate your consideration for our magazine, and commend you on your writing.
We wish you the best of luck in getting your work published, and hope you will consider sending more in the future.
The Missouri Review
Recently, I have created a Youtube account and considered the thought of posting videos. I have been practicing editing videos and also creating movies for quite a few months now posting videos on my private blog for friends. It wasn’t until recently I’ve thought to publicly post anything. But I am very tempted to post interviews of writers I meet and would also like to meet. For example Deborah Brandt and also local authors–Carol Manley, John and Peg Knoepfle. Just to name a few.
And I would also like to post tours of bookstores and coffee shops–I do find quite a few coffee shops and bookstores. (I famously told D when I first met her that I enjoyed bookstores and coffee shops and I do believe I have stayed true to that.)
Yet, I do fear the Youtube community–their responses are nasty and immature at times. Or at least underneath all the videos I watch. But I do like the idea of discussing process and also discussing this idea of failed writing–revision and other arcane topics memorable only to other failed writers. I’d like to follow this idea that Kim gave to me from Tracy Daugherty. The idea to follow writers that are leading literary lives–lives based on the study and the creation of narratives and literature.
(This is upsetting. Mostly because this is a form and no real specific editorial comment was given. And I used their submission form online and they want to know if they should return it or shred my email?–showing me there was not much thought to this email.)
Dear John Paul Jaramillo,
Thank you for submitting your manuscript entitled Huerfanos to Arte Público Press. Unfortunately, your submission was not selected for publication.
If you wish your materials returned to you, please send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with the appropriate amount of postage. If we do not receive your SASE within a month, we will shred and recycle all materials.
We appreciate your interest in Arte Público Press. Please feel free to submit other selections of your work for our consideration in the future.
Nicolás Kanellos, Ph.D.
I’ve been doing some research on the dash. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit and I really do hate thinking about grammar. Yes, I am that kind of writer. Playing more by ear is my thought, but I do teach and so I understand correctness is just as important as rhetoric. But I feel the dash is needed in fiction but when mostly academic non-fictive people read fiction I believe they perhaps criticize the twisting of some rules. Like Dr. Ede hating my use of dashes.
Anyway, this would be not quite breaking a rule or not tweaking a rule to serve the rhetorical situation. And I do tell my composition students never to use a fragment or a run-on for rhetorical effect knowing that it is fine and most of the creative non-fiction we study in COmp 112 utilizes run-ons and fragments. And the only answer I can give them is that these are not normally used in academic writing or literary analysis but fine in creative work. But of course I also argue that creative work is academic.
Anyway, here is a post from my favorite grammar site–the Guide to Grammar and Writing–and a site I link from my course sites.
|The dash is a handy device, informal and esentially playful, telling you that you’re about to take off on a different tack but still in some way connected with the present course — only you have to remember that the dash is there, and either put a second dash at the end of the notion to let the reader know that he’s back on course, or else end the sentence, as here, with a period.|
Use a dash [ — ] (or two hyphens [ — ] on old-fashioned typewriters) or dashes as a super-comma or set of super-commas to set off parenthetical elements, especially when those elements contain internal forms of punctuation:
All four of them—Bob, Jeffrey, Jason, and Brett—did well in college.
In most word-processors, the dash is created by holding down the option key and hitting the key that has the underline mark above the hyphen. This can vary, though, from program to program. Usually, you get an en dash (see below) with the option + hyphen key, and you get the larger em dash (used more frequently) with option + shift + hyphen keys.
Do not use dashes to set apart material when commas would do the work for you. Usually, there are no spaces between the dash and the letters on either side of a dash, although the dash is frequently shown that way in documents prepared for the World Wide Web and e-mail for typographical and aesthetic reasons (because the WWW authoring and e-mail clients have little control over line-breaks).
In writing dialogue, the dash is used to show breaks in thought and shifts in tone:
“How many times have I asked you not to —” Jasion suddenly stopped talking and looked out the window.
“Not to do what?” I prompted.
“Not to — Oh heck, I forget!”
A dash is sometimes used to set off concluding lists and explanations in a more informal and abrupt manner than the colon.
We seldom see the dash used this way in formal, academic prose.
I walked into my kitchen and thought about the situation again. We didn’t evaluate it as a story, so let’s use it in the English version. Don’t worry about it. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll be sending you checkmark evaluations later today, most likely.
P.S. We like to know how people have heard of us. Please let us know this. IA
(When I am rejected, I always wonder, is it the content? Could this be the answer?)
Dear John Jaramillo,
I’m afraid we cannot accept your story after all.. Our third guidline says, “English only.”
I know some of Hemingway’s wonderful work contatins Spanish. But this is a tiny venue with strict guidelines. We cannot expect our readers or our evaluators to understand, “Oy, lo. Muy chingon,” and “mujer!”
I offer you the opportunity to send another story, paid for by your payment of $15.00, or the return of your $15.00. I’m sorry.
(Here it is if you were curious.)
Front Seat and Pinocchio
(word ct: 100)
That morning in the Chevy, I said, “You know that thing that makes people learn?”
“Oy, lo. Muy chingon.”
“Know what I mean?”
“Brain?” she said.
“Jiminy Cricket. I saw it on tape.”
“Jesus. I let you talk all night”
“I’m just saying. I don’t have that.”
“People don’t sleep in cars or what?”
“Well, we’re here.”
“I’m older. I say they don’t.”
She leaned up and revealed a blemish where her Jefe had taken a cigarette to her cheek. “If you ashamed, take me home—”
“Ah, mujer! Go back to sleep!”
I speak anecdotally in the classroom so often some of my students begin to speak of my Grandfather as if they know him–as if they know his influence upon me. And because as a fiction writer I don’t begin to think that the Jefe in the writing or the Grandfather from those anecdotal lessons from the classroom–those moments where I lead my students through my own literacy development as a model for them–is the real man. As in most non-fiction I am well aware that the character on the page has to be honestly addressed a literary equivalent and not the true persona or the true image of a person.
Jenny Cornell was very clear about this idea in my own non-fictive writing for her. She would always write that she was not comfortable at addressing the I or the speaker in the essays I wrote for as the real John Paul in her office–but rather she always addressed the persona or the created John Paul in the essay. The non-fictive face or the equivalent of a pose–very controlled and always used to rhetorical affect.
And so the dilemma of the Grandfather. The man I speak of in most of my classes. So much to the point a student told me today–your Grandfather did a great job in raising me. And I can assure you this is the furthest from the truth. Influenced or sponsored but not in a mentored sensibility. And I have to admit some of the examples or anecdotes in the classroom are controlled for rhetorical affect. Like my fiction–molded and crafted to determine theme or simply to give me a world to address.
The real Grandfather–my father’s father–never gave me much. I have an old hunting rifle and I have his canteen from WW II or at least that is what he always sold. As for my mother’s father–I met him on two occasions before his death. I was very young–let’s say 12. His legs had been taken from a bout with diabetes and his drinking. He gave me a sense of mystery and really all I have of him is a photograph folks say looks like me.
The Grandfather I most often speak of and write on was not my Grandfather at all. He was the man my Grandmother–or the woman who raised my mother–lived with for most of my life. This relationship was the most influential of them all. He mentored me and sponsored me–taught me what it was to be honest and trustworthy–he also drank and smoked and chased women and treated the Grandmother so poorly as to influence my creative sensibility in such complicated ways.
And so when I write about the Jefe or the Chief as my father’s father was called. And when I write about the Grandfather and write about the Jefe I am also referring to the man who was living wth my Grandmother and not the man who raised or even biologically father my mother. This complicated fusing of reality and merged relationships I utilize in my fiction and the way I utilize anecdote in the classroom I must be honest about as it is all for rhetorical affect. In fact these stories though are so honest in capturing the feel of living on Spruce as I did for a time or on Routte as I also did for a time and truly capture this world of Bessemer and the south-side of Pueblo as any home movie I could show or play via the Internet and this weblog.
So am I dealing with these lost family connections in my family? Am I trying to account for these lost relationships in my classroom and in my fiction writing?
I found an interesting weblog the other day. Instead of emailing everyone I know about this I will post it here for convenience:
The site is very simple and is a collection of contests and current/new literary reviews. Also looks like the site has been up for a while and I am not exactly on the cutting edge of the Internet.
Now, I usally go to the Poets and Writers Magazine page but I am finding their site is not always updated and I find quite a bit of old information.
The guy who put it together has a youtube site and I find this type of marketing or sharing of creative literacy or whatever you want to call it very intriguing. I would never create a youtube site like this though I am tempted at times. I wouldn’t want to read my own work though but maybe discuss other writer’s work–maybe link it for classes.
I sent off the novel Huerfanos off today via the very easy to use website from Arte Publico Press–they are listed in Poets and Writers and I have had luck with PW’s links. Here is what they sent me back and I am posting here so I don’t forget:
Dear John Paul Jaramillo
Thank you for submitting the manuscript entitled ‘Huerfanos’. There is no need to submit anything else at this time.
Our editors will be considering your work and making a decision as to whether it can be published. All submissions not accepted for publication will be returned if a self-addressed stamped envelope is provided.
Manuscript submission details :
Title : Huerfanos
Author : John Paul Jaramillo
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
City / State : /
Nicolas Kanellos, Ph.D.
Arte Publico Press – Latinoteca