Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hot Dogs, Valor and Courage

       Yay. 4-day weekend. How come? Does anyone know, remember?
       Oh. Yes. I remember.
        Memorial Day—everyone loves it--its the start of the boating season in some places, the weekend they run the Indy 500,  the weekend Oregon State Parks switch to summer rates for camping and getaways, and “the arrival of the season of entertaining. People stop thinking about blustery spring storms and start thinking about summer barbecues and picnics. Memorial Day is the perfect time to hold a backyard cookout to honor the arrival, finally, of summer. (Salem Oregon, Statesman-Journal, May 24, 2012)
       Oregon state workers enjoyed a "Furlough” day  on Friday, which means state government offices and state courts will be shut for four days over the Memorial Day holiday—of course, the Friday Furlough was without pay. Darn it. Have to work on that.
       It hasn’t always been so problematic—like what to do, cookout or camp, boat or beachcomb, party or PARTY.
       The biggest holiday weekend in May has an honorable history. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Later, in the early 20th century, it evolved into Decoration Day in many parts of the country. People began to honor their family dead, along with veterans, often trekking to family burial plots some distance away to clean-up gravesites, put flowers on the graves, and sometimes gather with family for get-togethers or picnics.  If you check around, you may find some old-timer who remembers that—Decoration Day became a solemn good time for all.
       So, what does any of this have to do with writing? It has to do with the sacrifice and valor, war and remembrance, hope and despair that either influenced, or was recorded in prose and poetry over not just decades, but centuries, by philosophers and writers.
For centuries, from Homer’s Iiliad, Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, Scotland’s plaintive song,  Loch Lomand,  down through the ages, Western poets and writers have honored soldiers fallen in battle.
       Several American books considered “classic” were written by authors who were either deeply influenced by the futility and heroism encompassed by wars, or who experienced it first-hand, and memorialized it in writing.
       Heminway, who served as a Red Cross ambulance driver in WWI, and Bradburys’ works reflect the influences of WWII, as do those of Salinger and Stienbeck, who served as a war correspondent in WWII. Even Betty Smith’s classic, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, incorporates the social effects of WWI.
        Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five was based upon his experiences as a POW during WWII.  Joseph Heller’s Catch-22;  Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead;  Gore Vidal’s Williwaw;  Tim O’Brien’s memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, and novel, Going After Cacciat;  Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead are all based upon first-hand military experience in war-zones.
       For those among us who consider our soldier-warriers “cannon fodder,” and/or dismiss their service as either stupidity and waste, or at best, somehow self-serving,  they may want to consider those who stepped up and ensured that we have the liberty to think and express our ideas in  a free society. Can we prove it would have been different without them? No. One cannot prove a negative—but one can by viewing the world through the lens of history. For myself, I  thank those who served and gave their lives in times past that we may celebrate a 4-day weekend in peace, and live to write about it.
                                    Flanders Fields says it well:
                                    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
                                    Between the crosses, row on row,
                                    That mark our place; and in the sky
                                    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
                                    Scarce heard amid the guns below.
                                    We are the Dead. Short days ago
                                    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
                                    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
                                    In Flanders fields.
                                    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
                                    To you from failing hands we throw
                                    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
                                    If ye break faith with us who die
                                    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
                                    In Flanders fields. (John McRae, 1915)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dear Readers: Help Us Help You

Now that all of us at Gold Man Review are fighting over which stories and poems we want to have published, we’d like to take a timeout for icepacks and gauze, but more especially to hear back from you.

Other than a shiny, solid gold (I’m assuming it’s solid) mascot that just begs to have its nose polished, what services or events would you like a regional literary magazine to contribute to the community? Your community? Remember the more people who read GMR the bigger the literary community of Eugene gets. Some delirious ideas are as follows, though we hope you may have some better suggestions:

Half a dozen golden pioneers washing cars with sponges shaped like pickaxes to fundraise for literacy.

Writing workshops in which all attendees dress up like their favorite Portlandia character.

Sasquatch reading children’s books in a tiny chair to kindergarteners.

Flash-mob-style readings at the Woodburn outlet mall (with or without Sasquatch, TBD).

A thirty-mile, single-file hike on the Lewis and Clark trail that doubles as a lecture titled, Follow that Raccoon Skin Cap to Self-Publishing.

To Tree or Not to Tree: a vegan barbeque at Alton Baker Park in which the pros and cons of paper and eBook publishing are discussed.

Water balloon fight filled with environmentally-safe gold liquid, followed by a 5K run to raise awareness of environmentally-safe gold liquid.

Speed-reading contests: location to be determined—either at a very quiet place or a very loud place, but there will be a buzzer.

An all-out social media blitz proclaiming Eugene, Oregon as the center of the literary universe.

Got any ideas?

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Few Things to Report…

Gold Man had an amazing set of submissions this year. We are anxious to finish the reviews and push the nominations to publication. Remember to buy your copy of Issue 2 November 1st at Barnes and and Amazon.

The Gold Man Publishing website will be under construction for the next few weeks and we are excited to add a few perks to the site, check us out soon. 

Due to an enormous amount of community and regional support, Gold Man will be expanding for Issue 3. 

Lastly, Gold Man Review is in the process of becoming a Non-Profit. Our focus has been on the community and will remain at the center of our mission, which will chiefly be in the Salem, Portland, and Seattle area. Check back soon for updates. 

Thank you for all your submissions and until next time, 

Gold Man Team.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Going Old School for Character Ideas

Are all of your characters starting to sound the same? Do they lack a
unique something at their core? Here’s an exercise that can help you
come up with new characters.

It starts with Theophrastus. Who in the world was Theophrastus, you
ask? He was an afterthought to the golden age of Ancient Greek
literature, in short. But around 319 b.c.e. he wrote a strange work
that you might find helpful. It’s called “Characters,” and it consists
of 30 short character descriptions of various types, like “The
Insincere Man,” “The Man without Moral Feeling,” “The Talkative Man,”
and so on. They’re all defined by their flaws, so they are inherently
interesting, in story-telling terms. He makes up typical dialogue and
situations for each of them which you can translate to a modern
setting, if that’s your thing.

For example, here is Theophrastus on “The Unseasonable Man”:

The Unseasonable man is one who will go up to a busy person, and open
his heart to him. He will serenade his mistress when she has a fever.
He will address himself to a man who has been cast in a surety-suit,
and request him to become his security. He will come to give evidence
when the trial is over. When he is asked to a wedding, he will inveigh
against womankind. He will propose a walk to those who have just come
off a long journey. He has a knack, also, of bringing a higher bidder
to him who has already found his market. He loves to rise and go
through a long story to those who have heard it and know it by heart;
he is zealous, too, in charging himself with offices which one would
rather not have done, but is ashamed to decline. When people are
sacrificing and incurring expense, he will come to demand his
interest. If he is present at the flogging of a slave, he will relate
how a slave of his own was once beaten in the same way — and hanged
himself; or, assisting at an arbitration, he will persist in
embroiling the parties when they both wish to be reconciled. And, when
he is minded to dance, he will seize upon another person who is not
yet drunk.

Aside from some historical strangeness, a lot of this still has
resonance, and you can use just one of the situations, or make a
variation on any of them, to develop your own character or story.

Go skim the rest at

A lot of the descriptions are actually pretty funny, and here are
several ways you can use them:

1. Find one that seems especially interesting to you as a basis for a
character, and develop it. Think about an interesting situation to
plop that character down into. What will really challenge that person
the most? Or give them a chance to shine?

2. Turn the flaw into a virtue, and create a story that is a response
to Theophrastus’ unfair slander against your character.

3. Change a significant detail, and see how that changes your idea of
the character: make the character a woman instead of a man, make them
a recent immigrant from China, make them a dog, or a child, or a
magician. You’re a writer—use your imagination!

Click here to learn more about Darren Howard.