I’m a recovering church dramatist. Back in the day, I worked with a performance team. We wrote sketches and performed them during Sunday services. We had a lot of fun and we were, dare I brag, pretty funny. This was in Chicago where improv is king. We’d craft scripted sketches out of improvised scenes we made up related to the pastors’ sermon topics. It was fairly organic at first and, for the most part, we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. As long as we didn’t swear or anything.
Poet Joseph Brodsky began spending winters in Venice in 1972, and his holidays there continued for years. In 1989, he published his reflections of those winters in Watermark. In this lyric essay, Brodsky makes a rich physical and metaphysical journey into that city, where he calls up the primordial and the eternal, the fixed and fluid properties of the watery landscape, and the real and impressionistic architecture of the city.
So maybe I have a hyper-competitive side; it’s been present since my youth. In Little League baseball, I was the first kid in my city ever ejected from a game. I’m also still bitter about the time I lost a foot race against Howard Schaap.
One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends. – St. Nikolai Velimirovich (1881-1956)
The noted novelist who taught the fiction writers workshop I attended said this a lot: “Assume your reader is smarter than you are.” As a reviewer of self-published works for an online indie book review site, I see a lot of writing that makes me wish every author kept this in mind.
I have a friend who has this gnarly summer job—she calls it an “opportunity.” The thing is it’s not, in truth, gnarly at all. I mean, if picking rocks in the broiling sun is immensely amusing, or if spending most of a day uncomfortably bent over with a linoleum knife hacking away the weeds from inside small prickly spruce trees is an escapade of frivolity, or if cutting heavily tractor packed sod with a shovel is a thing to delight in, then I guess her job really is “gnarly.” When she gets back from her summer job—at least she has a rocking hot tan—I offer my sympathies to her: “Whatever, pays the bills, right?”