Adventures with Words – February 2024

Adventures with Words – February 2024

Hello, friends. 

It has been a while since I sent out the last newsletter. I guess I needed a break. I hope you all had a good holiday season and that you have gotten a good start with 2024.

Do you listen to podcasts? Seems like everyone has at least one, unless they’re not listening to podcasts to be purposefully anti-mainstream. One that I enjoy a lot is 60 Songs That Explain the 90s, hosted and narrated, and pontificated about, by Rob Harvilla, a guy who is about 10  or so years younger than me, and yet, his observations and ruminations about the 90s and the music that soundtracked that decade speak to me. Anyway, you might also enjoy the series if you haven’t discovered it already. Also, it doesn’t stop at 60 songs… this podcast started during the pandemic shut-in period when maybe the people who gave birth to it figured it would only work during a time when people were stuck in their homes with little to do besides listen to podcasts.  What happened was it got popular and that’s why episodes are still being added. 

Writing News

Alright, so what else is happening?  I’m working on the first 50 pages of Elephant Ears, which, you may recall, an actual literary agent asked me to submit. To help me focus, I grabbed the first 50 or so pages and created a new document. I looked through those pages and I was feeling pretty good about what those pages communicate and accomplish. Those 50 pages introduced my protagonist, what they hope for, what they are happy about, what they are frustrated and angry about, what they believe they can do about that anger and frustration. We’re there when they meet a new friend and we follow them on a tour of the places of importance in their life. I thought we’d get all the way to the inciting incident.

And then Jenny Bartoy reminded me that I need those pages to be formatted with double-spacing, and size 12 Times New Roman (industry standards). I had a little tantrum, took a day to think about my life choices and then I got back to work. I streamlined and pulled many pages out of what was now about 80 and then got back into revising and polishing sentence-by-sentence and paragraph-by-paragraph.  Honestly, it’s a better 50 pages now. So Jenny, no, you didn’t ruin my day. I’m grateful that you are helping keep me on track. 

I’ve got 50 excellent pages doing all the things I need the first 50 pages to do – in under 12k words, my character hits the pivotal milestone of The Inciting Incident. And I’ve learned something. Taking the story in chunks works really well for me. The next chunk will be after the inciting incident and to another plot milestone (yet to be selected). Chunking it out like this allows me to treat it like a short story, which is where I gained the bulk of my writing experience.  

Art is Political

I’m thinking about how some people get upset when artists or athletes express political opinions. “Leave the politics out of the game” or “Why do you have to make it political?” I think those are foolish questions because the act of putting time and energy into artistic expression is an inherently political act. 

A moment for definitions. In this context, ‘political’ is anything that makes people uncomfortable. It might be a declaration of nonconformity, or a statement against power, or a call to action. Or if you take a good look at book bans, it could be the acknowledgment and depiction of people who lack power and privilege and the potentially uncomfortable thoughts that accompany immersing yourself in lives unlike your own. You’d think that ‘discomfort’ was a bomb tossed onto their Sunday dinner table, the way people react to being uncomfortably aware that others are not doing as well as they are. 

One way art can be ‘political’ is by making the consumer uncomfortably aware of realities other than the one they’re inhabiting. Another way is to simply be an artist in any situation where fascists hold power.

Fascists and wanna-be dictators seek to restrict and control artistic expression because they know the power artists wield. Watching a movie, reading a book, listening to music, viewing visual art – all can bring a person into the lives of others and encourage empathy with those people. When your power derives from controlling the opinions of people and in demonizing selected groups, you don’t want people developing empathy with those you are labeling ‘enemy’ and ‘monster’. Fascists power book bans, and funding restrictions, and seek to control what educators can and cannot educate about and the methods they can or cannot use. They certainly don’t want us seeing the ‘other’ as human and as deserving of happy, healthy lives as the people they’ve designated as ‘chosen’. 

Art is political whether you are creating it with government approval or without. The best stories, photographs, movies and paintings create discord in us. Art causes us to think, to compare, to consider and that challenges the status quo. So do art, whatever that looks like to you, wherever you can do it. If your art challenges the status quo, even better – you are an antifascist hero. 

As always, I would love to hear from you if anything in this newsletter sparked interest or if you want to share something about your writing process. Oh, and if you know of anyone who would enjoy receiving this newsletter, please encourage them to send me an email. When we get farther along with the process of getting my book published, the people on this list will be the first to know about any deals and cool events.

I wish you health, happiness and creativity.

Making Contact

Here’s where you can find me online:

  • – my blog
  • @CKCombs_author – Instagram and BlueSky, and sometimes TikTok and Threads 

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