I'm the co-founder of ADK MOGUL, a film and writing resource program that provides location and production management for films shooting in the Adirondack region. I'm developing a seasonal journal featuring the best in local student writing.
Currently, we are working with ten small independent movie theaters in the Adirondack Park in helping them transition to digital film and provide alternative and sustaining programming as part of our campaign, Go Digital or Go Dark.
We just released our first short film, The Deal, which was written and directed by my better-half, T J Brearton.
I'm also an English teacher. I wrote my thesis on comics writer Grant Morrison and Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. I'm teaching English at Paul Smith's College and North Country Community College, while assistant coaching the PSC swim team. I may never sleep.
I use a similar method in the sense that I track how long I’m working on something and, if crunched for time, I’ll use a timer and WasteNoTime to focus.
I use a cooking timer to keep myself on track. You can find software and apps to facilitate this method (Google “The Pomodoro Technique”) but I think a simple plastic timer and a cheap notebook work well. I divide my day up into thirty-five-minute segments. I call these segments “mods” thanks to a funny bit on The Office. The number of mods you complete in a day is completely up to you. I have a goal of completing 10–12 mods a day. Then, armed with a simple list of the different projects I need to complete, I attack the day.At the beginning of each mod, I pick a project, set the timer, and go to work. While the timer is running, I focus solely on that project. I don’t check e-mail. I don’t tweet. I don’t noodle with other projects. That’s 35 minutes solid that I focus on one project. At the end of the mod, I track my progress in a notebook. So, somewhere around the middle of the day, my notebook might look something like this:
Every time the cooking timer goes off, I can get a drink, grab a snack, go for a walk, and then move onto another mod and a different project. Chances are, though, I’m so engaged in whatever I was working on, I’ll decide to immediately reset the timer and keep on trucking! It seems a little silly, maybe, but—believe me—it works.
From Michael Lewis’s Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood. @peterwknox recommended this on one of his feeds so I picked it up as the fifth book I read on parenthood. As a result I think it’s one of only two fatherhood/new parenthood books I would recommend from this nine month saga that concluded last week. Now that I’m in this I think this book does a very valuable job in making me pay attention to the constant improv act that has become my house in the last week.
That’s what this book taught me: to be aware of moments. Of the five books I read over these nine months I would recommend this one and the Expectant Father.
I admitted last week that I wasn’t sure what to think about this series, because I didn’t feel like I understood enough. After reading the recently released trade paperback for the first half of this season, I feel like Stelfreeze deserves a ton of credit for this book. While I think Coates did a great job with the cultural aspects of the book and rooting it in an “our world” political discussion I think Stelfreeze deserves a lot more than the small lettered billing on the trade’s cover. His work in this is astounding. There isn’t a page that doesn’t crackle with energy–and this is a comic that is full of talking.
I dug this–I think it’s an important comic that will grow with more experience Coates gains from working with Stelfreeze. For example these pages:
This was a fun piece of comic booking. The thing I learned from this book, or what I paid the most attention to, was Dauterman’s paneling. They are sharp, continuous, and folded together in this way to make it look like the panels themselves are pages from a book. Giving an epic feel to this. Not to mention Jason Aaron’s sparse script with sharp edged one-liners.
My wife and I saw this over the weekend and had the hardest time figuring out exactly what kind of animation it was. Some kind of stop-motion, mixed with digital effects, and…what difference does it make?
It was a beautiful film that takes the Harry Potter plot device and mixes it with The Secret of Kells animation. It was a beautifully done, and great piece of animation.
Looks like I was wrong about Ta-Nehisi Coates being the first nonfiction writer to write comics, because duh–Gaiman was a journalist, @gwillow was a journalist, so was @kierongillen , and lots more. Like @vanjensen. Harvey Pekar is a testament to this.
But I’ve been letting this percolate for a while: nonfiction writers are able to articulate the many hilarious, absurd, and sad things at the world. Often they’re journalists, and as journalists they’re good at being brief and to the point. They’re good at cutting needless words and letting people tell the story. That’s critical, because in comics people translates to artists and omitting needless words is vital in not taking anything away from the art. Nonfiction writers are great at listening to how people talk, and often their dialogue reflects that as such.
For me, I would love to read a comic written by John Jeremiah Sullivan, Bill Bryson, or Joan Didion.
My wife bought me this on a whim during a trip to Vermont, and it quickly became one my favorite books that I read this year. I’m a bit of a curmedgeon-y old man in many ways, but this book is about the curmudgeons in all of us.
It has a Jonathan Safran Foer-like sense of humor without the heavy-handed sadness that comes with a Foer book. Sure, it’s sad–it’s about a man’s life and how he interacts with his neighbors which often results in old man cranky hilarity. Though, honestly, it’s more about how we choose to let that sadness define us rather than wallow in it. And while Ove wallows in it, eventually he comes out of it by way of the love of his neighbors. Who are hilarious people.
I liked it alot. You should check it out. Here are some highlights:
There are his observations of his neighbors.
Tottering around the streets like an inebrirated panda on heels as long as box wrenches, with clown paint all over her face and sunglasses so big that one can’t tell whether they’re a pair of glasses or some kind of helmet.
Sharp as a sawblade one-liners:
Like a bolt of lightning up your urethra.
Commentary on cars, because Ove is a dedicated Saab driver. Here’s what he had to say about an Audi:
It has those wave shaped headlights, Ove notes, presumably designed that no one at night will be able to avoid the insight that here comes a car driven by an utter shit.
And then total tenderness, a tenderness that made me appreciate the small little tender moments between my wife and I. This sold me on the book forever:
He put her in the bed, and then, just before they went to sleep, she turned to him, slid her finger in the palm of his hand. Burrowed her nose under his collarbone.
Really my favorite passage is the one pictured–in which he supports (in a completely complementary way) his Iranian neighbor.
Every writer faces rejection. There are two practical things to take from rejection. 1) the entity doing the rejecting is either stupid or didn’t need your thing. 2) you’re not good enough yet.
These are practical takeaways. Look at the thing you sent, a month after you sent it, and see how many flaws you can find in it. You can do better. I can do better. You might not be ready yet. Also, maybe you sent it to the wrong place. Perhaps it didn’t fit their editorial tone. Perhaps the humans there are just bloody idiots. That’s fine. At no point are you being officially declared Someone Who Should Not Write. Even if, as happened to me, an important editor does in fact tell you that you should consider another career. If this is what you want and you have something to say, keep going. Keep learning. Keep trying again. There are undoubtedly still things in this life to submit to, but some random person telling you that you may not speak through art is definitely not one of them.
1. The serialized format gave me an idea for releasing some short stories (one you can read for free here) in Kindle format. Yes, it would be interconnected, but each story from a different character’s perspective. Kind of like Olive Kitteridge by Strout.
2. That dialogue is critical to showing a character’s mental state.
My first fan letter in a comic and it was Casanova Avaritia 2 reprinted in the Avaritia hard cover. @mattfractionblog response sounds exasperated, which is probably more my reading of it than his intent (this was published in 2011), but when I bought the hardcover while in Quebec City, I couldn’t help but get a thrill from seeing my letter calcified in time in a hard cover. It was a really great reality check.
This book, Casanova, is so so important to me. Like Y: The Last Man, most of @warrenellis‘s work, Mark Waid, and loads more people this book convinced me that I might have something to say in the medium. That if your fiction comes from a place of emotional reality that super-charges it and gives it pure human truth. Even though, admitting to the latter later on in the back matter may not be in your best interests. Casanova is powerful, honest, and amazing.
Was there much of an adjustment between writing Archie and writing superhero comics?
<p><a class="tumblr_blog" href="http://archiecomics.tumblr.com/post/148750806106/was-there-much-of-an-adjustment-between-writing">archiecomics</a>:</p>
<blockquote><figure data-orig-width="789" data-orig-height="409" class="tmblr-full"><span data-src="https://67.media.tumblr.com/c030a5dd70cfb946119f7710ea07575e/tumblr_inline_obpjrubaE61qluleo_540.jpg" class="image-deferred"></span></figure><p>Not as much as you might think. My superhero work tends to be fairly optimistic with moments of humor anyway, and the tone is straight out of what I was doing with Humberto Ramos on IMPULSE back in the day for DC Comics. - Mark Waid</p></blockquote><p><p>And this why I love the new Archie series so much.</p></p>
Today’s notes page: I saw a coyote trot across my front yard this morning with what might have been opposum in its maw, or one of the stray patrol cats that linger my street.
I’m considering a new Bullet Journal Index structure and I’m hoping some of you may be willing to help me out. I have so many things to index from personal, to work-related, to reading and writing notes so I’m considering using a three-page bullet-journal index for each of those notes, and having one page for the month log, and one page for future log. I never make it a whole month in my little @fieldnotesinthefield book. What do you all think? Any advice? @kellysue?
A friend from high school had the original Jack Kirby and later Christopher Priest run. I picked up Reginald Hudlin’s arc here and there, mostly for John Romita Jr art, and when Coates was announced on a new series it tickled my academic obsession.
Black Panther #3 drops today and I thought I’d say something about the poetry that both opens and closes the book. The poem we used is Henry Dumas’ “Rootsong.” I first encountered this piece during one of my many study sessions with the poet Joel Dias-Porter. This would have been somewhere around 1995 or 1996. Joel is a tremendous poet in his own right, but at that point (and perhaps even today) he was mentoring a whole crop of young writers—Terrence Hayes, Yona Harvey, Jelani Cobb—who happened to be in the DC area. Terms like “study session” and “mentor” make all of this sound more formal than it was. Usually it was a crew of us at a restaurant or a cafe discussing anything from sports to politics to poetry. At one of these sessions, Joel whipped out a collection of Dumas’ work and turned to the poem “Rootsong.” What stunned me about the poem is how it used black myth to construct a narrative of the diaspora before and after colonialism and enslavement:
I’ve only read the first two issues and felt like I was missing a lot. It seemed like there was a lot to chew on, but I had no idea who any of the characters were besides T’Challa. That’s not normally a problem for me when enjoying a story. The dialogue also rewards you with a second reading, which I appreciate. Not many comics force you to read the dialogue a second time. It has a layer of authenticity that I didn’t expect, but appreciate it none the less.
The work outlives us, and the work exerts power long after we are gone.
Really, what I quite like about Coates’s work on this title is that he’s the first non-fiction writer to write comics. I think this lends itself well to the Marvel Universe particularly well because the Marvel universe has always been very interested in using the world we all live in as a source material for its characters and their personalities. From his work as a journalist, a poetry student, and all the great work he does at the Atlantic, Coates–and now @roxanegay–are in a unique position to enrich comics. Maybe change it? Maybe we’ll see more nonfiction writers rather than former tv writers in comics because of them? I hope so. There’s so much to unpack in these notes, so I’m excited to keep reading them and Black Panther.
Having married into a Detroit family, I feel a slightly closer connection to Hughes and why he left Hollywood.
Once a year, I re-read that definitive David Kamp profile of Hughes to think about how writing is a way of life and when Hughes left writing publicly he pointed it towards his family. Really, Hughes’s writing was always about family and their kids. What gets me is this:
John and James have found, so far, more than 300 pocket notebooks among their father’s effects (some Moleskines, others Smythsons), and these are but a drop in the bucket of what Hughes left behind: archival papers, old correspondence, personal journals, thick binders containing works in progress, and gigabyte upon gigabyte of computer files.
Going through all this material, said John III, has been “as comforting as it is horribly sad.” The brothers had also discovered a cache of letters that Hughes had prepared for each of his four grandchildren, to be opened and read when they’d reached certain ages. Even James’s little boy, eight weeks old at the time of his grandfather’s death, has a stack of letters awaiting him.
And I just think that’s a great way of conducting myself while I’m on the verge of being a parent.
…Around this time I left my previous career with all the dignity and aplomb you’d assume. I remember a pregnant Kelly Sue and I coming to HeroesCon so I could tell my parents I’d quit my job with a mortgage and a baby on the way but it was okay, I was already writing a book and a half at Marvel and my future was gonna be in COMIC BOOKS…
EDIT: This might be the train thing. The date is about right.
I’ve decided to change the frequency and format of my newsletter to focus more on writing rather than writing about writing and it is this:
I’ll be sending them out seasonally, which means only four (eight?) newsletters a season, and they will focus mostly on what I learned as a person, teacher, and writer.
I’ll also send a second one that will feature an interview with a writer I respect and adore where we’ll talk about the “business” of being a fiction or comics writer. I have this theory that every writer is essentially running their creative life as a small business owner and that means some practical, business knowledge, which–let’s be honest–creatives could use. It won’t be about craft, though I’m sure we’ll touch on it. It’ll be more about what it means to be a writer as a small business and how writers I adore managed to balance their creative talents and business savvy to make writing a successful gig for them.
That means there’s going to be one more newsletter this summer, and the next two won’t come until fall, and when I’m a dad. Subscribe here.
As a part of our anniversary, Meggan and I went to Quebec City and let the city take us wherever it wanted to. We ate, toured the fortifications, went to the musee de la civilizacion, but the highlight was finding a great comic book store called The Premiere Issue [Panel 2]
The employees there were excellent to us and we bought Moomin, which isn’t available in America, the Casanova: Acedia hardcover [where my first fan letter was ever published], Saga vol. 6, Paper Girls volume 1, Vision volume 1, James Bond: Vargr, and a couple of the issues I was missing of Poe Dameron. The employees tipped us off to a bunch of great places to eat and what to do while in the area.
Highlights from my notebook:
Seeing an actual pirate in the street.
Counting selfie sticks in front of the Chateau Frontenac. (8 in one day.)
I’ve started doing mind maps of the books I’ve been reading and here’s the one for Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Satan Foer. I think I’m one of the last New Yorkers to read this book.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.
This was so sad, especially with the end and…well, I won’t spoil it but I’m probably one of the last people on the planet to have not read this book. It’s hard to stop thinking about Zosha and Safran and my impending fatherhood. As a result I can think of nothing I want more except joy and love and lovely embrace for us in our castle. This beautiful place we live that gets better every day.
Very cool! One of my favorites! How do you go about doing a mind map? What concept did you focus on? Do you try to read all of the book in one sitting?
And to answer–because I find it difficult responding to comments on Instagram especially with the small field to edit what you wrote–is I sort of steal a method @austinkleon uses for his books except I’m more text heavy and rather than doing word associations I just pull out the quotes I liked that I note on a post-it and rewrite them on legal paper. Then it gets put in a Book Notes 2016 folder. Occasionally it’s accompanied by an author sketch or other things. Here are some highlights from the book:
THE NOVEL, WHEN EVERYONE WAS CONVINCED HE HAD ONE IN HIM. There were 272 thinly veiled memoirs, 66 crime novels, 97 storeis of war. A man killed his brother in a lot of the novels. In all but 89 an infidenlity was committed.
Ifactifide: Words never mean what we want them to mean.
The joy for me was with the dog Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior:
At this moment Sammy Davis Junior Junior made herself evident because she jumped up from the backseat and barked in volumes…I poined to the shirt that she was donning, but she masticated the major part of it, so that it only said: Officious Bitch. She is deranged.
It was a heartbreaking book with an end that didn’t really seem like it matched with the characters’ previous behavior, but otherwise I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard on every page. It’s funny book.
There was so much to like about this book, though I still think Saga is my favorite from Vaughan’s current comics work. What I like most about this book are the character’s voices. When I finished it I felt like I needed to leave a note to myself to make sure that Foster and Ellie’s voices sound like sixteen-year-olds while I’m rewriting Emerson.
We watched this while in Quebec City and I found this movie to be quite good. My predecessor teaching Art of Film–the creator of the class–Charles Alexander was a Trumbo scholar–along with Twain and Whitman, and while watching this I was wondering what he would have thought about it.
The most enlightening thing about the movie was how Trumbo operated the Black List operation. Most of the stuff in the movie, I knew. It seems like most movies about writers seem to want to obsess on how screwed up they are and how nothing can get in the way of their job as a writer. In the pictured scene, Cranston is taking pills and drinking whiskey while cutting up pieces of a script. I guess it wouldn’t be much of a movie if writers are just normal, every day folks who are completely well-adjusted.
One of the fascinating things about this essay is how it seems like Mills was reading my mind when I was working on Emerson.
artists are natural technologists. Historically, they’ve pursued the newest and best techniques, materials, and forms. When the methodology for achieving perspective became clear, few resisted it on the basis of a calcified iconographic style considered to be “high art,” or if some did they’ve been suitably forgotten. And had new inks, better canvases, or some unimaginable invention given superior means to the impressionists to capture washes of light and mood —like, say, film— they’d have used whatever was available. The purpose of painting isn’t paint, after all; nor is the purpose of writing a book.
In Emerson, it’s about teenagers coming to find that there isn’t much difference in the world of fiction and nonfiction that science and literary license work together.
science exceeds merely moody paradigms. It works. It gives us control over the universe and ourselves, reduces contingency and accident, allows us to be what we think we should be.
Art is part of the same process, and can be evaluated similarly. In allowing us to virtualize and experiment with realities and phenomena, and, gradually, to live in those realities, it is part of the same epistemological and creative process as science.
Finally, Mills sums up what I was thinking about during the whole process of writing my second novel:
artists-as-world-makers. To create something, you must first understand it; to create a world for humans to experience, you must first understand how humans experience the world.
I just hope I managed to do this, but it’s about the process and hopefully the product is a fun read.
Curse Words is a new, darkly comedic fantasy comic from writerCharles Soule (Daredevil, She-Hulk) and artist Ryan Browne (God Hates Astronauts) due early next year from Image Comics. The title details the adventures of a wizard named Wizord who turns up in modern-day New York and starts using his magical powers to help people. The twist? “He is actually an evil wizard in good wizard disguise,” Soule says. “It’s a reverse Breaking Bad with a bad guy trying to go good, except that it’s with magic instead of meth. But you can’t outrun your past, and so magical assassins, and all this craziness starts to show up in the city. There’s hogtaurs, there’s spells…”
Looks like I was way off when I tried to guess what this book was about but turns out I waw wayyyy offf.
There’s a whole blog dedicated to the new comic: @wizordcomic. I’m excited to see what new process stuff they put there
The strong impulse is to curl up into a ball, but there’s a counter-impulse, too, almost a petulance, that pushes the other way, and says: do the thing you do, whatever it is – even if it’s frivolous – and turbo-boost it with energy and integrity. On Twitter, someone wrote: “Misery is not activism.”
I’m not saying writing is an actual addiction, like to drugs or to sell short what it means to be an addict with my personal first world writer problems, but if it’s something that fuels your self-worth and makes you feel like crap and fried if you don’t get a taste of it then it’s not something that’s good for you right now.
I was going to send my newsletter this weekend, but this picture of Brian K. Vaughan (which has been set as one of my computer wallpapers for years now) keeps telling me to get to work. It’s just there in his eyes. Get. to. work. I’m taking a social media fast (other than what’s in the queue) to finish this draft of the Emerson novel.
Where does one start with something like this? This four volume (each about 500+ pages) of manga that doubles as memoir and historical biography refuses to be defined. It’s like 9th level Harvey Pekar, but for Japan.
For those of you who do not know, Shigeru Mizuki is a manga legend. And until recently, I didn’t read manga very much. I think the only one I read in middle school was Ranma ½, but soon that faded to more American comics and my knowledge of manga slipped until my Provost loaned me this massive set he just finished.
The collection follows Shigeru Mizuki from birth at the beginning of the Showa period in Japan 1926 up until 1989 and includes incredible scenes of struggle for Mizuki and his family. I’ve been leaving notes on my Instagram of some scenes that I’ve adored, but here are some highlights:
This is from volume 2, just before Mizuki ships off Guadalcanal. The illustrations of Japan’s fight in the South Pacific were breathtaking, but when Mikuzi would cut away to his experience I was surprised by how very boring a soldier’s life could be. He did little else other than get malaria, have really trippy fever dreams, and lose his arm in a freak accident. He saw little action, but if you’re a Howard Zinn fan the second and third volumes are critical to gain a Japanese soldier’s view of World War 2. For someone like me that’s a perspective you never get unless you go looking for it.
From volume 4: the fever dreams Mizuki had after breaking into manga were trippy. In this one, he bargains with a death insurance salesman to have a free trial in the spirt world. Mikuzi, throughout these four volumes, was always very interested in studying the Yokai. Funny enough, @jimzub ‘s Wayward collaborator Zack Davisson translated this series and I can’t imagine the level of work that involved.
Most interestingly from the last volume was Mizuki’s trials breaking into manga as a one-armed artist and writer, but also his recap of the Fiend with Twenty Faces. What a read.
I could go on with more highlights of this book, but I’ll sum up by saying if you want a change in perspective on the history of Japan–then you’re not going to find anything better than this.
Normal, @warrenellis ‘s new book, will be serialized in four parts starting on my brother’s birthday and ending on my mine.
Here’s hoping I can steal some time away around November 29 to go to one of the book signings Warren is doing when the book is released in print. I doubt it, but I’d like to try.
In his newsletter he shares the opening, and I could spend all day unpacking the first couple of paragraphs:
The oaks and firs stood up as they reached the interstate and pushed on through the South West Pacific Highway to the Salmon River Highway, past places with names like Falling Creek, Tualatin, Joe Dancer Park and Erratic Rock. Places you could walk out into and die and never be found. He could imagine them seared by sun in summer and shrouded in snow in winter. Hammered by hail the size of coins in spring and autumn, pounding flesh and smashing bone, processed to be carried off chunk by speck in the guts of birds.
For a year now, I’ve been watching the Trump candidacy the same way the rest of the world and at least half of the American population has – first as a harmless sideshow, then as a worrisome sideshow, then as an increasingly surreal and dangerous sideshow, and finally as a terrifying looming nightmare with echoes of Mussolini, Joseph McCarthy, Kristallnacht and Hitler. News reports and isolated video clips have made Trump’s rallies seem like bacchanalian proto-fascist white power orgies, fuelled by bald racism, pseudo-Nazi salutes and the imminent threat of violence toward any detractors. For months now I’ve believed that Trump’s candidacy was the most dangerous presidential campaign in modern American history. But the reality of a Trump rally, or at least this Trump rally, was about as threatening as a Garth Brooks concert.
When Comixology announced their unlimited program and free 30-day trial, I saw this book as a part of it and knew I needed to try it. This 48-page masterpiece was a marvel to look at. There is so much information in every panel, and every word balloon that it took me two weeks to get through it.
In fact, my Thought Balloon prompt response for next week was greatly inspired by it.
Yesterday’s desk–editing the second rewrite of Emerson.
Kay Ryan says a poet’s job is to rehabilitate clichés, but I sure don’t envy those who write parenting memoirs. All I feel I can offer is corroboration of the cliché: Sunday will be my fourth father’s day and I’m still learning and I still feel like he’s teaching me more than I’m teaching him. He’s asking me all the questions I should be asking myself.