Revise !

Posted in Dreams, Kerouac, Life in general, Novel excerpts, On writing, Writers, Zone 9 Trilogy at 8:42 am by Marion

Writing is revising, and I will spend all day revising the last chapter, then going through the entire first draft of the book.

For inspiration, here are some quotes:

“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”
― Raymond Chandler

“Given the initial talent … writing is largely a matter of application and hard work, of writing and rewriting endlessly, until you are satisfied that you have said what you want to say as clearly and simply as possible. For me, that usually means many, many revisions.”
― Rachel Carson

“Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”
– Samuel Johnson

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”
– Colette



Posted in Kerouac, Life in general, On writing, Running, Writers at 9:06 am by Marion

I’ve started a new short story. It started as a look into a recurring nightmare which over time I realized was also my worst fear.

It seemed interesting to explore it, to examine all the thoughts tied in with that recurring dream. I also described what happened in the dream, as well as my responses to it.

Once I explored the recurring dream, people emerged, deep ideas, fears, and emotions. I found the short story has taken off.

Yet what I’ve figured out is that the story will be a chiller, a “suspense” piece, and clearly a niche work.

Why do we do that? Why do we consider Science Fiction, Horror, Detective, and other types of stories to be “genre” fiction?

Is not one of our greatest writers, Edgar Allen Poe, a “genre” writer? Have you actually read Poe? Today, his work would be shunted into a category, and never see daylight.

So my horror story is in progress. When I have a draft, I’ll put it up.


Where the ‘Road’ Began

Posted in Buddhism, Kerouac, On writing, Writers at 9:02 am by Marion

Photo courtesy of Google

On Monday I spent several hours researching the places Jack Kerouac visited in Rocky Mount. I am not the first to do this work: John Dorfner of Raleigh, N.C., has done the heavy lifting. My goal is to assemble facets of Kerouac in new ways, while adding new information.

If you’ve read On the Road, you know the episode about halfway through where the heart of the novel really begins: “One day when all our Southern relatives were sitting around the parlor in Testament, gaunt men and women with the old Southern soil in their eyes …. a mud-spattered ’49 Hudson drew up in front of the house on the dirt road. … A weary young fellow, muscular and ragged in a T-shirt, unshaven, red-eyed, came to the porch and rang the bell. I opened the door and suddenly realized it was Dean. He had come all the way from San Francisco to my brother Rocco’s door in Virginia, and in an amazingly short time.”

Testament being Rocky Mount, the house is on Tarboro Street. That’s the neighborhood where so many of my friends lived, when I grew up in Edgecombe County. It was 1328 Tarboro Street, just across from the little store where Dad and I used to watch Matchbox car races, about a half mile from Eastern Elementary School, where I attended third and fourth grade. Sycamore Street, Eastern Avenue, and I went to junior high school at Edwards, on Marigold Street.

Changes after desegregation meant that many people left these beautiful neighborhoods – and Edgecombe County became somehow less desirable, in what is called “white flight” – two decades later I returned to my own elementary school to teach French. I loved the children, although the demographics were against them. Their families had few resources; often when I visited their homes I saw roaches, horror movies on play, even in one home a pile of dirt. Parents who drank; and crack that invaded our cities in those days.

We segregate ourselves based on money, skin color, fame. We classify ourselves as “better than,” even when we don’t intend to.

Kerouac knew that. Indeed, On the Road contains the narrative of a man whose first language was French, who never felt he belonged to this or that group; a man who by traveling was able to connect with all people, all places.

The Buddha taught that all life is change. A river is never the same from moment to moment – and yet, it is always the river. On the road, everything always changes, and yet it is always the road.


My World and Jack’s

Posted in Kerouac, Life in general, On writing, Writers at 10:06 am by Marion

This morning opened with a 6.2-mile run, begun before sunrise and ending just as the day warmed. My friend remarked the moon’s cusp was so bright, the dark half also shone. I get a sense of the physical sphere up there, the Moon as object, when the Dark Side is illuminated. Looking up at the Moon I feel my own life more concretely.

After many years focusing on research, data, and analysis – and really forcing all my right-brain creativity into a narrow left-brain chute – I have emerged on the other side. I opened up the novel files to see if I still cared. Imagine my astonishment: Not only do I still care, but I have so much narrative stored inside that took shape over the last eight years.

Yes, opening those files and reading that opening, I felt my own breath, my own life, return. I am different now than when I started the novel in 2002. Among many other life changes, I am now eight years divorced – as compared with two years’ married. 16 years is a long time, and yet for the life of the novel, what matters is not the years, but my own understanding. And for that, I am grateful. My artistic vision now is more polished. Thanks to many years as a data gal, I am also more focused and disciplined. My thoughts still unmoored in many ways, and yet they are no longer so fragmented and unconnected. I see the thread of narrative now. I respect the tedium of explanation, although it’s still not a strong point.

Back to Kerouac. I revisited his home with a friend in June. I am revisiting that time in his life, roughly 1952-1957, or the years prior to On the Road’s publication.

I’d like to explore those years more, define them. I’m not sure that’s been done. No, I’m not Ann Charters (the amazing Kerouac scholar). But I feel affinity with Kerouac for any number of reasons.

His first language was French, my second, nearly native, is also French. I think, feel, express myself, and experience the world differently in French. I believe he did, as well.

We also share a Christian mysticism, along with curiosity about, and dedication to, Buddhist principles.

Last, there is the mystery of nature which Kerouac embraced. Indeed, it may be at the heart of his travels. His road stories focus on the surroundings, the freedom of space and setting. His stories about Big Sur, his letters about writing often focus on the woods. There’s usually a trail nearby, especially in works outside of On the Road.

I’ll post chapters as I complete them, unedited as they are. “The secret of writing is the rhythm of urgency,” Kerouac said. With this window in my life, there is urgency.


Campaign Update

Posted in Campaign '09, Kerouac at 9:00 am by Marion

Greetings from the Campaign Trail. My run for Greenville City Council, District 3, is going very well, with lots of good wishes and support throughout the district. It has been such a great pleasure to meet so many of my neighbors in the district.

In many conversations with you, we have talked about large issues such as crime and economic growth, as well as smaller matters such as parking, garbage and overgrown lots. Each of these topics is important.

Indeed, city government has more of an effect on our daily lives than any other level of government. It is your City Council that makes decisions with often immediate, and personal, effects — what is built beside your home, what happens with your garbage and recycling, how your property taxes are spent.

That’s what motivates me to run, and I hope, to serve. It is very important to have reasonable, level-minded and impartial leadership. I am forward thinking, but I also know some of our old, Eastern North Carolina ways are good ones. Honesty, hard work and integrity are our hallmarks.

I invite you to get in touch with my by email or phone if you have any questions about me or the issues.

From the campaign trail 2009

PS – I have just learned from my email-pal, filmmaker Curt Worden, that his delightful film about Jack Kerouac, “One Fast Move or I’m Gone,” has been picked up by Atlantic Records for distribution. It will be screened in several U.S. theaters starting October 20.

This film is a very sensitive look at those nightmarish days Kerouac spent at Big Sur, so artfully captured in his novel of the same name. If you have read and enjoyed Kerouac, this book is an insightful self-examination — showing how success and fame, poisoned by alcohol, can eat away at even the greatest talent.


News Flash: Kerouac Estate Ruling

Posted in Kerouac, Life in general, Writers at 12:44 pm by Marion


It’s been quite some time since I posted, but I wanted to share this news with Fiction Dailyland:

Fla. judge rules will on Kerouac’s estate is fake

by the Associated Press

13 mins ago

CLEARWATER, Fla. – A lengthy dispute over the estate of Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac has ended with a Florida judge ruling that his mother’s will was fraudulent.

Gabrielle Kerouac left all of her son’s assets to his third wife, Stella Sampas Kerouac, when she died in 1973. Ever since, the Sampas family has had control of Jack Kerouac’s manuscripts, letters and personal belongings.

But Jack Kerouac’s daughter and nephew believed the will was fake. They filed a lawsuit that has dragged on in Pinellas County for the last 15 years. On Friday, a judge finally ruled that the will was a forgery.

Bill Wagner, an attorney for Kerouac’s nephew, says its unclear what action his client will take next.

Previous reports have placed the estate’s value at $20 million.

I always suspected something was fishy about the way his estate seemed to be settled so strangely, since he was at odds with his third wife during most of their tragic marriage.

I’ll keep you posted.


‘Empty’ Words

Posted in Buddhism, Figuratively Speaking, Kerouac at 8:59 am by Marion


If you’ve ever spent more than 10 seconds with Buddhist teachings you’ve come across them.

The words.

Buddhism has a complex language and dense vocabulary that work together in a rich interplay to create a world of concepts that has no toehold in the seen world. For that reason, it rivals philosophy for complicated concepts that require page after page of descriptions. Yet many of these words aim to describe not meaning, but lack of precise meaning: that is, emptiness.

It’s not for the feint of heart. For that reason, Jack Kerouac, with his trademark verve and energy, put together a compendium of ideas, definitions and examples from his Buddhist studies. It was published in 1997 as Some of the Dharma, and at more than 400 pages, it’s a dense book … and as Kerouac says, only “some.”

Let’s start with the term karma. It’s part of our ordinary language, but what does it really mean — and how is it commonly used?

In the Buddhist sense, karma has to do with the sum of actions taken by a person, not just in this lifetime, but over several lifetimes — forever. That explains why bad things happen to good people — and vice versa — there are ghosts in our closets.

In popular usage, karma usually refers to performing acts of kindness, doing right by other people, helping out dogs and defenseless animals, with the hoped for possibility that something good will come back to you. Not a bad way to live.

Call me a true believer of karma. Once in the early 90s, in a new job, new town, not a lot of money, I accidentally walked out of a store without paying for my chocolate-covered raisins. Ka-ching! I thought. I win!!

That night, my car was broken into. Ka-I-ching!! Karma. I pay for everything now, and if I find a dime on the street, usually I’ll either leave it or give it to someone else.

Karma brings up the idea of reincarnation, which to the Buddhists is an integral part of the relative, or physical, world and the authentic, or unseen, one.

There is the concept that at death, a person’s soul or consciousness passes into another life form. To have human form is a supreme achievement, showing that a person’s past live has been noble and good. That’s why His Holiness the Dalai Lama is so greatly respectful of any other human being, even the Chinese leaders who torment him and his fellow Tibetans.

Yet even for those of us who don’t ascribe precisely to this idea can find meaning in the concept of rebirth and reincarnation. In my nearly half a century, I have been many people — school teacher, graduate student, 4-year-old, 14-year-old drama queen, moody 20-year-old, preppy (sorry, it was the ’80s) and waitress.

These incarnations are episodes and experiences that are long gone, not to return (especially the waitress days, but out of karma-awareness, I always leave big tips!)

There are other terms, for other Figuratively Speaking posts — paramita, tathagata, buddhadharma, ahimsa, parinama, samadhi ….




Posted in Events, Kerouac, On writing, Writers at 6:29 am by Marion

White Line Miles
Originally posted on 19 February 2008

The words appeared like a highway


The head security guard was called that Thursday morning as Greg and I prepared to enter the New York Public Library exhibit of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” scroll. I was working on a public radio piece; she didn’t like the mike. At last she waived me through; we were in.

I stepped into the exhibit hall and, well, swooned. The 60-feet of scroll was unrolled in a long, narrow case that led to a giant picture on the back wall of a highway. It appeared the scroll was itself a road, part of this asphalt one, and each connected by sheer length. The scroll, hundreds of words, and the pavement, hundreds of white lines.

Rather than starting in order … and risk losing my clear thinkingness on notepads and jottings … I began with the scroll itself.

I stared for I don’t know how long at the first paragraph. I read the first line over and again (find it here), looked at the typewritten letters one at the time, watched for penciled edits. I simply drank in the paper, as if I were sitting with Kerouac himself and he was telling me, “Now here’s where I started, you see I was drinking lots of coffee and had been working on this thing for years in my mind, and one afternoon I knew it was time to get started, and my girlfriend had this long architect’s paper in her closet, left over from an old boyfriend, and I taped those long sheets together to make a roll so I wouldn’t have to stop thinking and writing to reload the typewriter.”

After about an hour with the scroll, I must have come to my senses and noticed Greg, who was a dedicated reader and examiner of each item in the exhibit. I felt a little superficial in comparison.

I went into the large hallway outside the exhibit room and recorded some thoughts for my public radio audio diary, then went back in.

Still not starting at the beginning, I went next to his notes for “Some of the Dharma,” the long book he wrote about Buddhist thinking for Allen Ginsberg. Never printed in his lifetime, the pages were printed about 10 years ago, just as he designed them, with his drawings and typographical designs — poems in pyramids, haiku in neat boxes.

At this point, I’ve seen only about 5 or six of the 300 items on view. I go out for air, and noticed that we’ve been at the exhibit already for two hours.

IMAGE: Jack Kerouac. Private manuscript copy of “Gone on the Road,” the first page of the typescript of an early version of “On the Road,” written in August–September 16, 1950. From the New York Public Library Berg Collection and reproduced courtesy of John G. Sampas, legal representative of the estates of Jack and Stella Kerouac.

Kerouac in Rocky Mount
Originally posted 29 May 2008


In the photo above, you can see the back of the house on West Mount Drive in Rocky Mount, N.C. where Jack Kerouac spent several months in early 1956.

He lived there with his sister, Caroline, or Nin, and her husband, Paul Blake.

It’s only through the dedication of John J Dorfner of Raleigh, N.C., that we know about this house. In the early 1980s, after moving to the state with his wife, he became obsessed with knowing more about Kerouac’s time in Rocky Mount.

Understand, nowhere did any biographer mention the possible location of the house. That’s why when I made a similar search about the same time, I came up empty handed.

I was working at my first newspaper job in 1986 and heard from another writer that Kerouac had spent time in “Big Easonburg Woods.” I knew Little Easonburg but had no idea about this other place and figured it was just a rumor, anyway.

One day I trekked to Braswell Memorial Library, looked through the North Carolina collection. Nothing. I drove around in Little Easonburg, which is just west of town on Sunset Avenue. Nothing.

Then in the late 1990s, curious again, I went to Braswell Library.

By this time, Mr. Dorfner had published his slim, but dense, volume, Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount.

There were photos inside and I drove along West Mount Drive until I found the house. It is pictured above.


Writing is rewriting

Posted in Kerouac, On writing at 7:19 am by Marion

THIS WEEK: On revisions

Was it E.B. White who said Writing is rewriting? It was a hard lesson for this writer, penning my first stories at 18 and dreaming of my own brilliance … nurtured in college on the Kerouac myth of spontaneous prose and not knowing what I do now about the years of writing Kerouac put in before “On the Road” erupted in a three-week spasm.

There is simply no way to sit down and in a single take write anything worth reading, much less saving. You can stare into the mirror of your own words, but it doesn’t make you beautiful, just vain.

True, there are writers who have energy and fire, such as Hunter Thompson, but there is a vigor there that comes from a worked intensity. It’s not just flinging words around and admiring your own genius.

I believe it was Anais Nin and Henry Miller who conversed about the heat of a first draft: When perched over your own words, you are feeling your own emotion and often deluded into thinking you’ve captured it in prose. When you read it the next day you find it flat. Many times I’ve wanted to throw away what was written the day before.

Even now, I have been working on a feature article for about four weeks and imagined it had verve and energy. Yesterday I printed a copy and it read flat and dull to me. The real work for a writer is to hang in there, to have faith, to polish and deepen in the right places, to add enough and not too much, to know where the heart isn’t beating and get the blood into those places.



Posted in Kerouac, On writing at 10:25 pm by Marion

You aint just whistlin
Dixie, Sea —
Cherson! Cherson!
We calcimine fathers
here below!
Kitchen lights on —
Sea Engines from Russia
seabirding here below —
When rocks outsea froth
I’ll know Hawaii
cracked up and scramble
up my doublelegged cliff
to the silt of
a million years —

Shoo– Shaw—Shirsh
Go on die salt light
You billion yeared
rock knocker

Sad as wife & hill
Loved as mother & fog
Oh! Oh! Oh!
Sea! Osh!
Where’s yr little Neppytune

Excerpt from Sea: Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur by Jack Kerouac. 1962, Penguin Books, New York, N.Y.

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »