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Writing is now a performing art

In high school my friends had a punk band called Prep H. They mostly played for fun, but I was easily persuaded to host a punk party where they could perform publicly one Saturday night. For the show they placed a round poster board sign in the opening of the bass drum, with their name hastily drawn in crude colored marker. It wasn’t much of a sign, but no matter. They were a band, and bands put signs in their bass drums.

I have easy digital tools so my signage was cleaner, but I am no more a web designer than my friends were drum painters. No matter. I am a writer so of course I have a website.

And a feed and a blog and, if I am smart, a presence. (I’m getting smarter.)

Writing today is a performing art. I don’t mean in the sense of Harlan Ellison’s instructive gimmicks, writing full stories in bookstore windows over an eight-hour day, but an ongoing habitual performance. I’m not just talking about a good voice for readings and trimming those eyebrows for a photo. We need to write the copy for our stories and books, not just the text inside them; we need to think about cover art and head shots; we need to blog and tweet and post and make ourselves present as more than reviews in newspapers and spines on shelves. We need to get out there. We need to be public.

It is a reality that most of us are unprepared for. Continue reading


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Nobody knows anything (Boston Marathon bombing)

It’s weird to post a long-mulled-over essay about potential violence in America only to find one’s social page filled up with actual violence. I already put a stake in this ground but I’m not crediting myself with any foresight. Nobody knows anything, except for the investigators. It’s tempting to guess, but stupid.

After the Oklahoma City bombing, the initial guessing on US news was that it was the work of Islamic extremists. Only three years earlier, followers of the “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman had tried to destroy the World Trade Center with car bombs.

The night of the bombing I was with a friend, switching news channels along with most of America. At one point when she left the room, I added Univision to my rotation. I admit I was unsure of my Spanish when a University of California professor suggested it might be the work of Americans disaffected with their government.

It was days before I heard the same on Anglo media. Nobody knows anything.

Continue reading