What Makes You/You?

What Makes You/You?

Sally Sheinman, a visual artist living in the UK, created an amazing piece of artwork using my words for her ongoing project What Makes You, You?. Anyone can submit an answer to this question, and for some of these she creates a unique work of art. You can see the collaboration and find more about the project and the artist on her website.

A striking part of Sheinman’s piece is it’s living lifeforce embodied in the main part of the image. These multicolored, neural-like splotches remind me both of DNA and stars (and we are as much star-stuff as we are the DNA and neural connections within us). I love the details included on the figure: a mouth, a heart, and a brain. Sheinman really captured my words in a striking way in this “new kind of portraiture.”

I’ll be including this piece in my oeuvre partly because it’s my words, and since I’m a writer, words are pretty much all I’ve got. But mostly because I want to make sure the most people possible discover the work of Sheinman. She’s talented and truly an artist who knows the value of collaboration and community.

To view the full size image and check out other pieces from the What Makes You You? project, simply follow this link. 

What Makes You You? Randal Eldon Greene July 15th
Find Sally Sheinman
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Maskenfreiheit

maskenfreiheit

The last dialogue I wrote was short. This one is long. Like one of my longer pieces to date. The idea of a masked ball was floating around my head for quite a while. I knew I wanted my characters to be wearing animals masks and that I wanted to refer to them by their animal.

Well, finally a story coalesced around the idea. It’s dialogue 27. So I’m over the halfway mark now in my 2018 writing challenge.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to know what your writing goals are (or were) this year and how they have (or haven’t) been progressing.

Animal Masks Photo by Angel Yulo

Photo by Angel Yulo

2018 Challenge Halfway Point

2019 Challenge Halfway Point

I gave myself a challenge for 2018, and I’m at the halfway point. I challenged myself to start a series on Medium and to post to that series once a week. What I primarily write is fiction, so I decided to make my series a collection of short stories.

Idea Flash

The idea germinated from two unpublished flash-length manuscripts I had in my computer’s story folder. Both were a single, long paragraph. The first was totally in dialogue, with the speakers differentiated through the use of dialect and italics. This story was “Expire,” and I always knew it’d be the first piece in some future collection; I just didn’t know what that collection would be. It’s the first of my dialogues for many reasons. Primarily though, it’s because the content and form of the story both explore the complications of communication through storytelling. Meaning is difficult to convey, especially when you’re working with literary fiction where there may be multiple meanings or the form can be odd, experimental, and artfully crafted.

 

The second story was a monologue originally designed as a page-length long sentence.  I pulled it up, proofread, changed some things within the extant text, added a second speaker to comment on the focus of the long sentence, and—voila!—I had another dialogue.

 

And so with these two as my base, I challenged myself to write a collection of creative conversations—dialogues all. A challenge not only because of the tight weekly schedule, but also because of the constraints of the form. Dialogues are more or less constrained by an inability to indicate inner-thoughts, background information, motivation, or describe characters and setting (at least I can’t do any of these things without verbalizing them, which isn’t always possible or desirable in this form). While constraining, much like a choosing a poetic form to constrain one’s writing, restricting myself has also been freeing; I haven’t been able to choose from the infinite options normally available to a writer of fiction. Having infinite choices eliminated is in its own way liberating. While I can be experimental and push boundaries to a degree, I still know one thing: it’s all got to be dialogue.

writer silhouette

So, having stuck with the terms of the challenge I set (only dialogue and at least once a week), now that I’m halfway through, I want to reflect on what I’ve done thus far. Specifically,  1) How have I done? 2) What would I do differently? 3) How will I proceed? 4) Will I do it again?

 

How have I done?

I started the series by posting an introduction the first week of January. Every week after that I’ve dutifully put out a dialogue. So I’ve succeeded in that respect. But I haven’t succeeded in every respect.

 

One of the reasons I gave myself this challenge (outside of forcing myself to complete fiction writing projects quickly) was to build my fan base by putting my work out there. While I’ve gotten a few more blog followers just from being more active on WordPress where I’ve also posted weekly about the latest dialogue, my Medium stats indicate that I haven’t really increased my readership for my fiction—and it’s my fiction reader fan base I am attempting to grow. I’ve done something not  quite right. My readership remains  dismally low. So low, in fact, that I count it as nonexistent.

Dialogue series stats

 

What would I do different?

The first thing I would have done differently is to have chosen a platform for my work other than the Medium series platform. There are myriad issues with the series platform, including accessibility problems and an issue with subscribers actually getting notifications when a series is updated. I also figured out that series have even worse read ratios and interactions from readers than your typical self-posted article. It’s really only publications who opt to use Medium as their parent platform that give most writers any real chance of visibility (two of my dialogues were sent and accepted into Medium publications, The Creative Cafe and  Lit Up). So even without accessibility issues and a broken notification system for series, I may not have found it any easier to build a fan base or increase readership had I simply been self-posting my stories as regular Medium articles. As it is, my stats indicate that I am—though not intentionally—writing solely for myself. No one else views my dialogues. I’ve added to my oeuvre and kept to the strictures of my challenge, but the work hasn’t brought in new readers like I thought it would. While there are no guarantees that another platform would have gotten me more readers, I think the series platform simply doesn’t work for writers trying to build their platform around it, though those with an existent platform could arguably succeed with it. Writing for publishers on Medium seems like the best approach if you’re going to do Medium. Could I choose again, I’m not sure what I would go with (Medium articles, Wattpad, my blog, etc.) but it certainly would not be the Medium series platform.

door choices.jpg

How will I proceed?

I am failing to gain readers even as I weekly come closer to completing a short story collection, so why continue to write at all if I don’t have anyone to read what I’ve written?

 

As Rosie Leizrowice, one of my favorite bloggers, wrote: “If you love the process, you react the same way to failure as you do to success.”

 

I am successfully writing; I am failing to reach readers. I don’t care. I love the process. So I will carry on doing exactly what I am doing. More or less.

Vision Planning Strategy Process GOAL puzzle

The one thing I’ll do differently does not change my process, but is itself another process. Since no one has read or can even easily access my stories, I am allowing myself the luxury of taking down the pieces posted in the series to seek actual publication in zines, magazines, journals, and literary reviews where allowed. New stories won’t be posted in the series, just information about them. The series itself is just acting as a kind of repository for my challenge, all in one place. The process, on the other hand, stays intact. The process has allowed me to create at an accelerated rate, far surpassing my normal leisurely speed of writing where I tend to setting aside what I’ve written, only to come back, edit more, and set aside again, practically ad infinitum. And since I’m not reaching readers, maybe I can reach some publishers with my work instead.

 

Will I do it again?

Not exactly. While I love the process, I also need to learn from the process, whether that process led to success or failure or (as in this case) a mix of both. What I’ve learned is that imposing deadlines on myself is a fantastic motivator to work more quickly and cleanly. I think knowing this will help me when I turn my attention to planned future collections of stories and essays. I might even be able to apply the most positive parts of this process to future novels.

 

What I won’t do again is put my work out there without either monetary compensation or accolades (e.g., without publication credits in a magazine, review, etc.). While meeting obligations when under the scrutiny of the public eye is a powerful motivator, I’ve found that without the public eye or an expectant readership I’m still finding success in sticking to the deadlines of my challenge. Deadlines that—I came to realize a while ago—are really for myself.

 

I’ve also realized that the information-addicted internet culture doesn’t really need me to add my fictional words to the digital cacophony. If I want my words read, I’d do better to stick to the traditional routes of finding readers through the types of publishers whose subscribers have the temperament and attention my words deserve.

 

So I will be cultivating a process—a process that includes setting deadlines to complete a story, a chapter, or to have a work ready to send to a potential publisher. And you can be sure that once this challenge is done, I won’t be writing another book of dialogues. But the stories and the words, oh yes, they will keep coming.

dialogues

LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE

LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE

I dashed off a quick dialogue this week and even decided to already submit it. I hope it comes off as ironic as the phrase “live, laugh, love” comes off kitschy (kitschy to the point of being meaningless).

While I am devoted to cultivating a fulfilling life, I find “live, laugh, love” to be the condensed expression of all that is opposite to what I mean by “fulfilling life.”

According to my medium series (where I’m actually keeping count during this writing challenge) this is my 26th dialogue. So this marks the halfway point in my challenge! Thanks for cheering me on, Bookworms!

Squid Life

Train Lit Mag

Train Lit mag

 

I’m excited to announce that my 15th dialogue, Jonathan Knudsen, has found a home in Train Lit Mag. The short story will be featured for a week on their website.


As you might have noticed, my weekly dialogue post did not show up last week. I was on vacation and didn’t manage to find time to post on Saturday. But rest assured, I did get a story done. Cut is the title of the dialogue I finished but failed to announce. I’ll be busy tomorrow morning writing the next weekly dialogue. I haven’t decided which idea of the many stories floating around my noggin I’ll work on. Possibly another one with a German title.

Let me know what you think of Jonathan Knudsen, and I’ll keep you all posted about any more dialogue publications that come along.

Skeleton with Headphones

 

Vorchaoskampf

Callout68

What is the Chaoskampf? And what came before (vor) it?

Great questions!

The Chaoskampf is a term given to a mythological battle between a deity and a serpent or dragon. This archetypal story is found in mythologies all over the world, from Norse to Greek, from Judaism to Egyptian religion, and beyond.

My story takes place just slightly before the fight. Watch this amazing video about how leviathan fits into mythologies across the world and then go here to find which dialogues are published and free to read online. You can also keep updated via Medium.

Kaoskampf

“Destruction of Leviathan,” Gustave Doré

The Bat-Cat God and Other Self-Reproachments

The Bat-Cat God and Other Self Reproachments

Bookworms, have you ever had a regret? Have you ever regretted your constant regrets? Well, I’ve written a story for you. It’s called The Bat-Cat God and Other Self-Reproachments, and it’s a part of my dialogue series.

Read all of Randal’s available dialogues by following this link to his Medium series.

The Bat-Cat God

Wine Drunk Together Again

Wine Drunk Together Again

Yesterday my latest short story in dialogue was featured for my series. Wine Drunk Together Again is a story about old friends meeting up overseas to relive their post-highschool trip to Spain. The story is divided into three parts, each named after the wine grapes used to create the current bottle on their table.

You can read all my available dialogues in my online fiction web series, Dialogues: a Collection of Creative Conversations. If you have any troubles accessing the series, let me know.

Click here to find the series and links, or just see the publications tab.

Wine and Wine Grapes

Insults Two by Two

Insults Two by Two

This story comes from two places: a childhood that had it’s fair share of insults slung at me and from the feelings of intense anger that have awoken in me since November 2016.

You can see the first place reflected in some of the lesser, totally repeatable insults (e.g., poopy pants). Other, more hurtful insults, may have been directed at friends or myself. Some possibly (and shamefully) may have been said by me (e.g., inbred hick).

You can see that these characters’ insults (if the insults have relation to the election) reflect a perceived entitlement to forgo politeness or political correctness some hateful homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, misogynistic, and racist individuals have displayed in their words and actions since a conman conned our nation.

These insults—from name-calling to blatant attacks on our environment and education—have made me angry. Stressed. Tribal at times.

But this story also has two characters who have something different to say than a comeback. Or maybe they say the most effective comebacks of all. I am too angry at times to feel such a non-confrontational reaction is the right reaction. After all, I’m hurt. Friends are hurt. Good people I won’t ever meet in person are hurt. And I feel dismayed and angry. And I want to do something about it. I want, in fact, to lash out.

Yet, I know that I want to stop feeling this way — angry and without control — every single time another insult comes along from this administration or its base. Instead, I want to learn to to feel a different way. Hurt, yes. I’ll always hurt, and I flee from temptations of apathy and lassitude. I want to learn to be in control, to not feel enraged. I want my reaction to be modeled on something better than the forces that are tearing at the fragile seams of our democracy. I want to find a way toward peace — if not outside myself then inside, where it must start, where it most counts.

Content Warning:
When you get a chance to see this story, just note it does use explicit and abusive language. 

When it comes out in the future, I suggest you just skip Insults Two by Two if you feel the trigger warning pertains to you.

Read featured dialogues and links to available dialogues on Randal’s Medium series.

insulting girl flipping the bird with both hands