Wednesday, May 23, 2007

If you're reading this, fill it out!

Hey fellow writers,

I found this really cool writers' survey (thanks to my co-contributor Jenn) and just had to post it on the Table. I invite you all to fill it out as well. It has some really insightful questions about who we are as writers, and I hope that the other contributors will follow my lead and post their versions too.

Check it out, and as always, comments are welcome.


1.Why do you write?
Because it comes easy to me. I wish the answer was more complex than that, but that's what it really comes down to. Even when I was a kid, the English language just made sense to me, and I soon developed into a credible writer. Since then, I've developed my talent, managed to gain some experience, and acquired a number of writing-related ambitions.

2.When did you realize that writing was what you wanted to do for a living?
I was actually about a year and a half into my undergrad at USF, a Pre-med major (of all things...). I was struggling with my classes and reached the point where I realized I was not a science person. I have this theory that there are math/science, technical-minded people and more creative types. After spending three semesters trying to fit in with the medical crowd, I realized I was the latter. After some soul-searching, I emerged with my answer and officially became an English major, where I soon re-ignited my passion for writing, and the grades followed suit. I had found my niche and began seeking ANY way in which I could gain writing experience.

3.Do you write full time?
I don't have a full-time writing job (LET ME KNOW IF YOU FIND ANY!), but I have several part-time writing jobs that I juggle simultaneously. Together, they add up to plenty of work, though I still do not bring in the money I desire. In my free (i.e. non-paid) time, I also like to try and get some creative writing done. Basically, I'm either writing or thinking about writing 24/7.

4.If you could spend a week with any writer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
This is a hard one, but one of them would probably be Friedrich Nietzsche. I would just love to find out what made him tick because I think his ideas were really ahead of his his time. He's probably one of the greatest thinkers in history, and I am in awe of his unique way of looking at the world.

5.Where does your inspiration come from?
Well, I'm inspired by the art of storytelling. This could mean anything from a compelling article to a great film. I'm also inspired by my environment, the people around me, and my own inner demons. I guess you can also attribute it to my own overly-analytical mind. I'm just fascinated by people, I suppose, and the relationships they create and maintain.

6.Do you have a writing ritual? If so… what is it?
I don't have a writing ritual, per se, but I will usually go online, check my e-mail and B.S. for a bit before I finally turn my attention to my work. I need to have a bottle of water handy, and of course, if I'm hungry, I need to eat first too. Oh, and I always play music while I write, usually a film score of some sort.

7.What is the best writing advice you have ever been given?
There's one quote about writing that I really love. I came upon it a while back, and it often lingers in my head. Ray Bradbury said, "You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you." In a society that exalts homogenization and stifles creative expression, I think that it's vital for us writers to maintain a focus on our writing goals. Oftentimes, this means working on a pet project whilst holding down other, menial jobs to make ends meet. When it feels like the world is against you ever finishing your precious manuscript, this quote helps me stay vigilant and focused, even though I often have no practical reason to do so. That's why I started the Table.

8.What genre or genres do you write?
I'm a fan of all types of writing, and so I usually have a multitude of projects in some stage of development (i.e. that I'm planning on working on). Right now, I am currently a journalist for The Oracle, and I do advertorials for a company called Dunndeal Publications. I am also working on a screenplay that is a drama/love story/coming-of-age tale, am poised to collaborate with a friend on a novel that is a mystery thriller, and have a couple other non-fiction works that I have begun doing research for. Basically, if I have an idea for a project, I'll pursue it in whatever way best suits my objective.

9.What is the greatest obstacle you face as a writer?
Motivation. I'm a chronic procrastinator, and in order to write well, I need to truly become immersed in the piece I'm working on. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of effort on my part to get to that place. Either I don't feel in the mood to write, or I cant find the time to devote myself to my current project. That's a particular problem for unpaid, creative projects because they're not deadline-based. I'm gradually learning

10. Do you have a “writing” website?
Other than the Table, no. I'm still not too familiar with web design and am kind of learning as I go along. I figured starting a blog would be a good way to network and also give me an opportunity to familiarize myself with web design a bit. I'm hearing more and more about how writers need to be able to work with the internet, and there's no better time to start than the present!

Monday, May 14, 2007

OK, It's Official... I'm Meant to Be a Writer

I have a confession to make... I'm a compulsive worrier. So, when I accepted the post of Montage Editor for The USF Oracle this summer, I was a bit intimidated by the thought of handling this responsibility.

Sure, I had already been working as a staff writer for the paper for the past year, but this was an entirely different animal. Instead of simply submitting my own stories, I would have to manage an entire section of the paper, editing stories, designing layout, etc., and while I knew I could handle it, my anxiety refused to relent. Particularly troubling was that the fact that I would be working with a program that was completely foreign to me.

So, last night, I arrived at 5pm as expected, and my Assistant Editor (who is also new to the whole editor gig) was already awaiting my arrival. While we both were apprehensive about beginning our duties. However, throughout the course of the night, as we grappled with late stories, a total lack of workable artwork, and schedule issues (typical obstacles, I would assume), I ultimately found myself invigorated by the whole process.

What always appealed to me the most about writing was the creativity involved. The way in which a writer can transform a blank page into a compelling work of art is truly astonishing to me, and the greatest feeling of all is to have the satisfaction of being the one pulling the strings, to see something you created come to life. After three years as a published writer, seeing an article of mine in print does not quite create the surge of enthusiasm it used to, but my initial experience as an editor completely rejuvenated my love of writing.

To you writers who have yet to earn your first byline, please don't misinterpret my seeming nonchalance. I always relished the opportunity to add another clip to my ever-increasing portfolio, but I haven't been this excited about being a writer for as long as I can remember. It was like- if there was any lingering doubt that I had picked the wrong industry to work in, it was completely dashed after last night. That kind of self-affirmation is all too rare these days, especially for me.

What started as a few weeks of escalating anxiety has now crescendoed into a surprising confirmation of my place in this business. Although this editor job will only run through the summer (since it will interfere with my classes in the fall), I am certain that this experience will prove invaluable in the future. After all, the position has already effectively re-energized my focus on journalism. Not bad for a night's work...

"Why do writers write? Because it isn't there."
-Thomas Berger

Monday, May 7, 2007

Come and share in my jubilation!

I won't lie.

I'm going through a lot right now.

I'm starving.

And I'm a writer.

But that's the least of my problems.

In all seriousness, though, and on a much happier note:

I received my first paycheck today from the publication that I write for.

I'm ecstatic.

This proves that they aren't stealing articles from me.

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This proves that it's all legit.

This proves that I am, in fact, a working writer.

Which brings me to a good point.


These are occuring in all different fields, shapes, colors and sizes.

People are even stealing articles from people for their "search engine" sites and promising to pay and then you never hear from them again.

I'm guilty of falling prey to such predators so I'm warning you all to be careful. is a great place to find writing gigs but you must use caution.

The telecommuting freelance writer jobs link listed right here on The Crooked Table is a great credible source that often has links to LEGIT Craigslist posts.

I highly recommend that site to all of you.

It's a short post today since I have other work that I should be doing right now but I figured I'd just share the news with all of my adoring fans!

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Without my readers I couldn't even call myself a writer so I thank you all for your support and any other help I can offer you, don't hesitate to let me know!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Films for Writers: Stranger Than Fiction

As a writer, I consider myself principally a storyteller. Whether the tale is one of fiction or non-fiction, everything I write aims to describe or convey some message, even when it's an advertorial on a lanscaping service. I think writers are inherently drawn to storytelling. We're fascinated by human nature, by the interactions between people, and we aim to capture that essence into our work, whatever our current project may be.

Since a very young age, I was attracted to storytelling. However, in addition to the written word, one of my biggest passions was (and still is) film. While Hollywood nowadays seems content with peddling the same old recycled bundle of cliches, brilliant storytelling still exists in today's cinematic landscape, and when it's truly acheived, the results can be exhibilirating and very inspiring, especially for writers

Personally, films are a great source of inspiration for me, and in keeping with the Table's "for writers by writers" tone, I have decided to institute an ongoing segment called Films for Writers, in which contributors can select a film which they feel will provide us writers with a sense of inspiration or which contributes some incisive commentary on the writing process (I'm sure Adaptation will turn up at some point...).

For the first entry in this series, I would like to place the spotlight on one of my favorite writing-related films: the unlikely gem Stranger Than Fiction. Directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), this brilliant comedy/drama stars Will Ferrell in a rare escape from his usual Ron Burgundy/Ricky Bobby schtick.

In a shockingly heartfelt and believeable performance, Ferrell plays tax auditor Harold Crick who one day discovers that a woman is narrating his every action, as he says, "accurately...and with a better vocabulary." As it turns out, this mysterious narrator is best-selling novelist Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), who is stricken with writer's block as she attempts to find a way to kill off the protagonist of her latest novel, a protagonist named... Harold Crick. When Harold discovers, via the voice in his head, that he is marked for death, he seeks out the help of Dr. Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) and tries desperately to thwart his own demise.

As a writer, I naturally connected to the very premise of this film, and it never fails to deliver on the promise it exhibits in the opening scenes. First-time screenwriter Zach Helm's ingenious script touches on numerous themes that will undoubtedly be familiar to many viewers, especially us writers. The film sets out to tell a wholly original and clever portrait of a man seizing his destiny rather than idling watching the days fall off the calender, and on that note, it succeeds remarkably. The film makes a rather explicit case for the carpe diem approach to life and addresses the interconnectedness that surrounds us but that we rarely (or never) see. Every moment, every action, as the laws of physics say, has a reaction. As in the film, every instance is a vital part of life and should be paid attention to... and cherished. And therein lies the film's greatest strength. In addtion to simply telling Harold's story, Stranger Than Fiction weaves in layers of subtext.

Kay's dilemma with writer's block is clearly a common environment for writers, and the film's idea that her writing has a direct effect on the real world (for example, her power over Harold's life) is certainly food for thought. As the driving force behind the film's plot, Kay's struggle ultimately must decide the film's ending. In a strange way, the film is a cinematic representation of her still-in-progress novel. We, the viewers, become just as invested in this character as his creator, and the film's final statement regarding Harold's fate is a fitting conclusion, one that simultaneously reaffirms and disregards the entire writing process.

In short, Stranger Than Fiction shines as one of the very best films of 2006. While all lovers of a smart, moving story are sure to be pleased, writers are certain to appreciate the film's literary connections and will be particularly inspired by its outstanding finale. After seeing the film for the first time, I left the theater unbelievably charged and inspired. Hopefully, your response will be the same.

Have any of you seen this film? Feel free to comment on my selection.

Also, I'd love to hear your suggestions on other films to include in Films for Writers. Ask me to be a contributor and perhaps you can even cover it yourself!

Shoot me some comments, people!


Spotlight Scene: Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Dr. Jules Hilbert: I've devised a test. How exciting is that? Composed of 23 questions which I think might help uncover more truths about this narrator. Now Howard... Harold, these may seem silly but your candor is paramount.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: So. We know it's a woman's voice. The story involves your death. It's modern. It's in English and I'm assuming the author has a cursory knowledge of the city.
Harold Crick: Sure.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: O.k., good. Question one. Has anyone recently left any gifts outside your home? Anything. Gum, money, a large wooden horse.
Harold Crick: I'm sorry?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Just answer the question.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Do you find yourself inclined to solve murder mysteries in large luxurious homes to which you, let me finish, to which you may or may not have been invited?
Harold Crick: No. No, no, no.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Alright. On a scale of one to ten, what would you consider the likelihood you might be assassinated?
Harold Crick: Assassinated?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: One being very unlikely ten being expecting it around every corner.
Harold Crick: I have no idea.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: O.k. let me rephrase. [takes a deep breath] Are you the king of anything? Harold Crick: Like what?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Anything. King of the lanes at the local bowling alley.
Harold Crick: King of the lanes?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: King of the lanes, king of the trolls...
Harold Crick: King of the Trolls?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Yes, uh uh uh a clandestine land found underneath your floor boards.
Harold Crick: No. That's ridiculous.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Agreed. Let's start with ridiculous and move backwards. Now, was any part of you at one time part of something else?
Harold Crick: Like do I have someone else's arms?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Well is it possible at one time that you were made of stone, wood, lye, varied corpse parts? Or, earth made holy by rabbinical elders?
Harold Crick: No. Look, look. I'm sorry, but what do these questions have to do with anything?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Nothing. The only way to find out what story you're in is to determine what stories you're not in. Odd as it may seem, I've just ruled out half of Greek literature, seven fairy tales, ten Chinese fables, and determined conclusively that you are not King Hamlet, Scout Finch, Miss Marple, Frankenstein's Monster, or a golem. Hmm? Aren't you relieved to know you're not a golem?
Harold Crick: Yes. I am relieved to know that I am not a golem.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Good. Do you have magical powers?
Stranger Than Fiction is available now on DVD.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

This Is Why We Write

"What do you like to do?"

I hate that question.

It can be answered in so many ways.

"What do I like to do....when?" is often my answer.

When I'm bored?

For fun?

For a job?

I find myself answering, "I'm a writer" to nearly all three.

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"Wow. That's really cool," they say.

.I smile and nod.

They have no idea.

I started writing at the ripe age of six.

Some little piece about two squirrels fighting in my front yard for extra credit in my language arts class.

From that day on, everything became a story and the praise I got for the things I wrote down became a sick addiction.

I got a typewriter at the age of nine from some random old man walking down the street.

He had just moved to the area and was starting a free neighborhood publication and was looking for kids to contribute to the "Kid's Korner" section.

"You have a lot of talent." he told me and shook my hand like an adult.

I was hooked.

I wanted deadlines.

I wanted an editor.

I wanted my picture on the backflap of some best selling novel.

I had "Do Not Disturb" signs for my bedroom even way back then.

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Now they usually have "unless you want to have your head bitten off" written in italics at the bottom of them.

Yes, the writer's life can be somewhat stressful.

I spent 23 years of my life not getting paid for what I do and just merely dreaming about it.

Nowadays, it's a different story.

I actually got off my ass and sent things out to publishers.

I actually looked for the freelance jobs.

I actually got myself started somewhere.

Now I have deadlines.

Now I have an editor.

Now I have "no time to work on my novel."

Now I have achieved zen.

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But this is why we write, right?

Because we love it.

Plain and simple.

We accept the fact that some days our only friends will be a blank screen, a bottle of Jack, and a pack of Marlboros.

Our human friends have learned to accept the fact that when we're blocked and running against a deadline we tend to be more snappy.

When we get checks in the mail from writing and comments from readers on how great we are, we rejoice!

All the dreaming, hard work, and dedication....

All the sleepless nights....

All the blood, sweat, and tears....

It's all worth it in the end.

And you know it to be true, dear writer.

Or else you wouldn't be here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Welcome to the "Table," fellow writers...

Well, here it is, folks (although I should probably say "folk" considering I'm the only one currently reading this...), the maiden voyage...!

Let me be the first to welcome you to The Crooked Table.

First off, let me explain the blog's name. A few weeks ago, a longtime friend and I were meeting at a local Starbucks to discuss a story idea we've been developing together. He and I have both been working on other projects and had decided that we would work on a novel this summer. Anyway, this was essentially our first real brainstorming session, and we were both looking forward to start fleshing out the plot. It was a nice, breezy day out so we took our lattes outside and sat at one of the little metal tables.

Immediately upon sitting down, we noticed that our chosen table was, well, crooked. Jokingly, I asked my friend if this was a bad omen, since this occasion marked our first "meeting" about the novel. Rather than shrugging this off or ignoring my comment, he posed a radically different approach than my own. Perhaps the table's abnormality was actually a fortuitous sign, indicating that we were setting ourselves on a path of distinction. Although his comments were half-made in jest, something about his answer stuck with me, and for reasons unknown to me, I scribbled down the words "The Crooked Table" on my notepad.

At the time, I had been considering starting a blog, and when it came time to devise a name, I stumbled upon my notepad, littered with plot and character details from that soon-to-be novel I'd mentioned. I was looking to name my blog something unique, distinctive, but not overly blatant. The words jumped out at me, and I started thinking...

That experience, the seeming abnormality, of the crooked table truly fit with the concept of being a writer (bear with me...). As writers, I think we view the world in an entirely different light. I feel like we tend to be a bit overanalytical, suspicious, and inquisitive. But most of all, I think we see more than others. Whereas someone else would have never given that whole "crooked table" story a second thought, I have taken that as inspiration to create this blog. People too often pass by extraordinary people and events, not even realizing what they're missing. Like all writers, my primary source of inspiration is everyday life. Other people always wonder where writers come up with such brilliant ideas, and the answer is THEY PAY ATTENTION!

However, being a writer isn't all "sunshine and rainbows" (that's from a movie, but I can't remember which right now...). It's hard work, dedication, and often means long periods of isolation. It's a constant battle against a blank screen (or page, for those of you who work primarily out of notebooks), and often the most difficult part is just getting yourself to open up and freely and honestly express yourself. Also, since many of us must maintain ordinary (read: boring) jobs, it's a problem simply to find the time to focus your energy on writing.

I know from first-hand experience that being a writer is very rewarding, but it is definitely an inner struggle, which is why I created this blog. Writers, although some would probably never admit it, need to connect with other writers. That sense of community can really make all the difference. "The Crooked Table," as you can see from the top of this screen is designed "for writers by writers." I envision the blog as a forum for writers to interact with other writers, discuss their processes, share/promote their projects, or even post random comments/observations.

Over the past year, I've had the great privilege of meeting and getting to know some really great writers, and my intention is to get some of them to become regular contributors to "The Crooked Table." So continue checking back, as I'm sure we'll have new posts very soon!

So, fellow writers, I hope you enjoy the blog, and if you have any comments or anything you'd like to see, don't hesitate to bring it to the "Table."

Thanks for dropping by,

"I don't want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product... of me."
-Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), The Departed