Writing Update for my Students (2017)

A quick update about my writing projects.

First, I have put off  Ice Cream Follies indefinitely though I will definitely return to it.

Last summer I realize that I need to be publishing a lot more books — probably a book a year!  Actually I am very behind on publishing books; there’s a good chance that for 2017 I will publish two books — one fiction and the other nonfiction. Please note that some of my books consist of more adult themes, so I won’t be listing them all here. I publish under pseudonyms anyway, so it may be hard to find what I’ve been up to.

This year, I’m working on Minor Sketches and Reveries (short stories) and hopefully also my essay collection Noncrappy things from my blog will be ready.  I’m practically finished for my 2018 book, and I’m not 100% sure what my 2019 book will be; it might be a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure ebook I am working on. (Or it might be one of my more serious projects, who knows).  I want to publish at least 2 or 3 books for young readers; I don’t write them any differently or censor myself; it’s just that some titles might interest people from all ages, while others will not.

As before, I’ve been reading a lot of cool stuff from Project Gutenberg. Let me mention three:

Penrod by Booth Tarkington. This really funny book is about a stubborn and mischievous 11 year old. Although it takes the point of view of Penrod the boy, the writing is very sophisticated and satirical. Also one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. I’ve been told that the sequel Penrod and Sam is also great. (Incidentally, I’d really love to write a novel in the same vein as this book).

Speaking of funny stuff, I think Pigs is Pigs is one of the funniest short stories I have ever read. Guess what, Walt Disney made it into a comic animation movie (you should still read the story though).

I’m working on an essay about an 1836 Texas travel book that was the first book to describe the “Texian Revolution”. A fascinating ebook read.

No guarantees, but I think I will be performing again at this year’s Liars’ Contest sponsored by the Houston Storytellers’ Guild.  I competed a few times (last time I even got a trophy), but I still haven’t won.

Finally, I wish to teach you something related to writing. Getting stuck.

I have been stuck for a several weeks on several stories. I have been  working on 3 stories simultaneously (and have been revising another).  One story is long and complicated (too complicated) and I’m having trouble finishing, but I know that I will. Another story is easy to write and I will be writing and finishing it — but it is not a priority because it is not for this year’s book. The third story is for the book. Initially I was excited by the delicious premise, but after playing around with several possibilities over a few weeks, I realize that I just wouldn’t be able to write it! It’s not impossible to write, but the story had structural problems that I couldn’t write out of. I felt boxed in by the idea rather than liberated by it.

I have started stories that I thought I’d never finish. I’ve also gotten seriously stuck in some stories — and then eventually I figure out how to get past it and it ended up one of my most successful stories. Actually, this happens fairly frequently. There is a tendency for writers to avoid complex points in the narrative and just to make everything sound simple. There is a certain virtue to  that, but that is too obvious; sometimes it is better to mix a lot of different colors on your palette rather than just relying on three or four primary colors. Most narrative problems are not insurmountable, but what worried me more about this failed story is that the idea couldn’t walk on its own without substantial help (Also, it seemed to duplicate the theme of another story of mine slightly). At that point, I decided it wasn’t worth my time to  try to make my idea work. Time to invent a totally new idea. (wish me luck!).



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