Backyard Process

Update on the Little Lolo revisions. It seems as though the process of revision is going very slowly and I don’t seem to have any new ideas for short pieces. I am up to Ch 30 of Little Lolo just trying to get it all into present tense which is much more of an endeavor than I had at first thought. Once that is all in present tense I still need to go back through and clear up scene/summary issues. I’m still not creating enough of an immersive experience. Not quite enough detail and tension–uncertainty to draw the reader in. And I know I have drafted this fairly quickly but I am bored quickly.

Perhaps that is why last night I had a dream that I had enlisted the help of Harry Crumb to make Little Lolo Stories into a graphic novel–together we continually tried to draw little Lolo’s face and also Mitedio’s face. I know my sister has soe pictures of the real life Mitedio so perhaps I can get some insight from that. Maybe I can interview my cousin Frankie since Mitedio was practically his father. At any rate in the dream I wanted to get those faces down.

On another note–I am typing this in a back yard in Colorado. My sister and I used to joke that we grew up in back yards and most of my fiction has to do with basements and backyards–places without windows and places without shelter. And I do miss my window just right off my desk. Now I have an internet card and can go online in any backyard I want–to write about backyards.

I am planning on visiting some bookstores arond here to get some pictures and perhaps some video–also I want to get some video at a great coffee shop here and in Walsenburg I like to visit from time to time so maybe I will be posting that soon.

Lorca and Failure

Last week D and I shot a brief interview of John R. Paul at Prairie Archives Booksellers and after I picked up an interesting bio of Lorca. I’ve been reading selectively and found an interesting portion on Lorca’s first writing success–but oddly the passage is themed towards failure. The writer Leslie Stainton describes Lorca’s attitude concerning his first book of poems in the following: “He expected to fail.”

That first book was titled Impressions and Landscapes and Stainton writes that Lorca retrieved all the unsold copies of the book from Granada bookshops and piled them in his family’s attic and she reveals that in his essays and lectures he later claimed to have burned those copies.

“There is within me an ideal so lofty that I will never achieve it.”

I’m thinking of Lorca and his first self-proclaimed failure especially since so much of my revision work for the summer is becoming larger and larger. I am beyond the genesis of the story and now I am going line by line and crafting sentences which is my biggest weakness and the thing I am least interested in. In short, I must become ambitious with my sentences as well as the arcs of stories.

Process–Teaching and Writing

Even though my job is so rich in the subject of writing, I do feel the teaching overshadows the writing. As a teacher, I rarely discuss anything other than grading and classroom technique with other teachers. We just all assume we know what strong writing is and rarely practice the act–I don’t know of any other instructors on campus that send me writing the way I send my writing out to D and other instructors.

But teaching is an incredibly important part of my writing process. Or at least I have struggled to make it an important part of my process this past year. I feel I am learning this slowly as I progress as a working and teaching writer.  

This term I have taught in the mornings and mid-afternoons and then I have retreated to my living room to park at my laptop in order to get down the Little Lolo Stories and to finish up the Cornbread Project. I listen to music and hack away at my laptop before preparing for classes. And I do think I am at a place with my teaching I can lean on my syllabus and lean on my classroom technique in order to spend more time writing and revising. And I feel I have needed that schedule to be productive and so I hope I can keep the level of productivity I have grown to establish. Can I stay as efficient and productive out of school? Do I need the structure and the freedom within that schedule to write effectively? 

I worry about this the way only a writer can worry he or she won’t return to a draft–you never know when something will be abandoned. Away from the teaching I do hope I can revise my stories and revise Little Lolo Stories much more closely. At least I hope I can keep my afternoons with the fictive spaces and the imagined voices I’ve created. I hope the voices will still speak to me an push me to get the drafts down.

But these past few days I have been only grading and figuring final grades–finishing up final office cleaning for the summer. Cleaning off of my desktop–real and virtual. And though the long academic term can seem so tiring and I do feel as my students, fatigued with the term and the work of school. I recognize this as I have my afternoons back to rest and catch up on my own thoughts. Mostly I want to rest and not think about school. But as I take the time to look back I see how this term has been so productive and yet, now, I am feeling that production slowing down. So can I keep up my own work as I have these last 16 weeks?

And I do have so many books I’d like to get to–and not just read but study a bit.  Books I’ve purchased and books I’ve been lent by students and friends. I’d like to get out and rest a bit as I have only been traveling from campus to home for 16 weeks. I hope to get out and experience time outside–hiking and walking and just getting away from the routine I feel I need and also I feel I need a break from.

Dust Bowl in Southern Colorado

doc49fe726d19bd6424469578Interesting article in the local newspaper today. The article is about how floods and droughts affected southern Colorado in the 1930’s. It all made me think of the Abuelito and his stories about growing up in Huerfano County and seeing the dust storms over head. I was skeptical of these stories–mostly because the Abuelito was a liar and a cabrón–but the pictures from Southern Colorado in the paper seem to confirm.

Stegner’s Sense of Place

This morning I’m thinking about the essay “Finding the Place: a Migrant Childhood” by Wallace Stegner. I’ve gone on about how much I admire Stegner’s writing style focusing on nature and also his use of long, complex sentences–these remind me of Richard Hugo–and this essay was from a book of essays I bought in Colorado Springs last year I’ve just gotten around to reading. In the essay Stegner recounts how he grew to be a writer and also a writer of place. He writes on how while growing up he was unaware he was a writer of the west–that’s just where he grew up. Like anyone, he had no sense of it ‘while it was happening’, he recounts. And reading I was surprised just how many cities he’d lived in at such a young age. He writes: I was born on wheels. And he lists how he lived in twenty houses between the ages of twelve and twenty. Amazing.

And mostly I read Stegner’s fiction and mostly I read fiction in general choosing fictive places created by real events. Though it is funny how I think of my family and my own upbringing in Colorado when I write fiction. And I have this thought quite often when I think of my own work–just how much of my own life I bring to fiction even though the characters are not real. I sometimes write on this weblog how I feel imaginary voices are calling to me but they aren’t imaginary. My Tio is real and my Abuelito is real–the conversations are fake but the people and places are real. As real as I can make them anyway from my imagination.  That paradox drives the prose.

Like Stegner I feel I can’t forget where I came from. I think about this when I buy a four dollar latte and how my Grandfather would lecture me. Or even the idea of becoming a teacher or a writer was sensible and the man approved in a way I was never comfortable with. As if I was choosing job security over creativity. I think about that all the time when I feel teaching is consuming my time.

Anyway, I admire how Stegner believes he returned to the west both literally and of course he returns figuratively in his work–in the descriptions of place and the in the creation of prose spaces. I also think I return to the small places of Colorado where I grew up when I write but also the past and also to all those unfinished or perhaps non-existent conversations I should have had in my youth.

Breakdown of Little Lolo Chapters

(I drafted something similar out for Cornbread and it was very helpful. I seem to be a bit stuck with revision of Little Lolo Stories Project so maybe this will help with ideas. I am especially stuck with the early chapters even though the arc is there. Now, of course, the language needs work but the arc is there.)


This is the intro to Mitedio’s Coco stories and the brief look into the boys’ life on Spruce. Introduces Lolo and older brother Relles.

1. Lolo lapping Milk

Here we learn Lolo is very scrawny and causes the Jefe some shame. Lolo embarrasses himself in front of the Grandfather.

2. Tattoos

We learn Lolo is obsessed with the Jefe and Mitedio’s tattoos–also bringing home spiders and snakes.

3. Lolo breaks wrists

This is a short chapter that follows Lolo on a night bike ride to box elder where he breaks his wrists.

4. Jefe’s ears and list

Here we learn the Jefe cannot work too much because of his ears–he is asked to go home and come back but his shifts are cut back which means he will increase amount of side-jobs.

5. Jefe mows lawn

Jefe is at home more and more and working on his yard and seems to take it out on Lolo–we also leanr he steals. This contradicts later chapters and I need to work on that.

6. Multi Purpose Belt

This establishes Jefe as very strict and the boys as causing a bit of trouble.

7. Las Dias

Here the birthday events are introduced–the Ortiz family time together.

8. Rabbit Story

Flashforward and intro of 1st person–Lolo tells Manito story of Jefe fathering a child outside of marriage. Lolo never tells what he sees until years later.

9. Crew of Fosters

Introduction of Jefe as frugile and Jefita takes in fosters to make money.

10. Mitedio plays with boys

Jefe has work and discipline but this chapter shows Mitedio as sympathetic to the kids.

11. Lolo around the neighborhood

Lolo rides around neighborhood–some interesting spots are inroduced– and he looks for Mitedio out drunk

12. Lolo and Chickens

Lolo cries when chickens are killed for dinner–hates to see animals hurt but then he grows colder to violence. This should come earilier too perhaps.

13. Boys play in snow

14. Jefe in Burma

Flashback giving a bit of sympathy to Jefe

15. the Bear

Jefe trashes Lolo’s teddy bear he sleeps with (Perhaps this should come earlier?)

16. the dog

The boys and Jefita take in a dog

17. driven to the fields

Jefe takes boys to side-jobs

18. Mitedio Returns from Korea

Introduces Mitedio as war vet and Korean War pow

19. Mitedio moves to Spruce

Mitedio’s wife puts him out and her brothers kick him out of San Luis Valley.

20.-24. Juanita’s Boy

Mitedio watches boys as Jefe and Jefita head to funeral–Mitedio is not allowed in his mother’s home because he is a drunk and thief. He is last resort for the Jefe and the Jefita in emergency.

25. Mitedio’s Fishing Trips

Mitedio takes the boys out and shows them more freedom than their Jefe.

26. Mitedio’s Fight

Shows Mitedio to be a drinker and unstable/also lonely

27. Rock in the Beans

Mitedio finds a rock in Jefita’s beans and is kicked out of Spruce

28. Lolo fractures skull

Lolo and the crew of boys argue more and more after Mitedio is gone.

29. Jefita pregnant

Jefita comes from doctor and the news is very sad news–another child will strain the family;s already thin budget.

30. Mitedio in prison

The Jefe tells the boys about Mitedio sentenced to jail.

31.-32. Jefita in Colorado Springs

The Jefe has to work more and more side-jobs after Mitedio leaves and after finding out a baby is coming. Jefita goes to visit her sister to deal with the pregnancy–perhaps considering leaving the Jefe.

33. Jefe and Crew Hunting

The Jefe and crew stop for some hunting after they work in the lettuce fields. Lolo falls down a hill and then shows some toughness–wins over Jefe’s affection. 

34. Jefe returns

When Jefe comes back from trip he finds the chickens and rabbits dead and blames Jefita. They argue and Jefita argues for Jefe to change his ways before new baby comes.

35. the fight

Jefe out to dinner with Jefita–thisis their makeup dinner–and then fights with Avellanos who is drawn as desperate and violent.

36.-37. Flashback

Young Mitedio and Jefe/Luis fight and scene shows Jefe similar to Lolo at young age.

38. Jefe gets stitches

39. Mitedio Calls

Mitedio calls while the Jefe and Jefita out and catches up with boys.

40.-41. Colorado State Penitentiary Visit

Jefe and Jefita as well as the crew of boys head out to visit Mitedio.

42-43. Jefe Arrested

Jefe arrested over fight with Avellanos.

44. Jefe Interviewed

I have the Jefe interviewed by the CJA and being asked questions about his family. He is pushed to speak about his family–jail time has broken him and forces him to see clearly.

45. Jefe plays in backyard

Resolution where I have Jefe playing with the boys–a pretty small gesture–but after time in jail he is ready to play. I still need to resolve the ears/hearing situation I set up early on.


This morning as I was driving out to school the following lines slipped into my head:

The Jefita had her own clippers and sometimes she dragged the boys into the bathroom for hairuts. They protested and squirmed out of her grip but she was firm.

Damn it, boys, the Jefita said. Do you want to look all vagamundo. Do you want to look like your Tio Mitedio.

Yes, the boys all agreed.

Oh, no, the Jefita said. you’ll never be men with that atitude. Always look your best. You want girlfriends don’t you?

No, Jefita, they returned.

You can’t get girlfriends with hair in your eyes and down your neck.

In those days the boys had two hair styles–shaved and long. When the hair grew too long it was shaved. The Jefita wanted tot ake the boys downtown to the Rodriguez’ shop but the Jefe ended that.

In my day, the Jefe explained. The Abuelito took a bowl and put it on your head and cut around with his scissors and that was that, mujer.

New Morning, New Hope

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2009-05-01 08:08:52 (GMT -6:00)