Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Drawing on experience

I've been drawing now at my "new job" for a few weeks. It's been great having been in sales for so many years, I've had to retrain my eye and my hand to be able to get in the flow. I'm fortunate in that I've never stopped drawing and painting while I was selling other people's art, but more importantly, I was blessed to have watched closely the techniques and professionalism that they carried to the job. I'm hoping that being able to be more hands-on-creative will make my days less stressful, even when the stress of deadlines looms over me. I was able to do some illustrations for Creative Director of TeamDetroit, Toby Barlow's website for his new book (US release Feb 08) Sharp Teeth. The book is about packs of werewolves living in LA. It's pretty cool, and the excerpts I read (the book's written in free verse) are edgy and risky.

Lately I've been reading some non-fiction. I finished Philip Carlo's true crime book, The Ice Man, which chronicles the life of Mafia contract killer, Richard Kuklinski. It's one of the most chilling profiles I've ever read. Kuklinski killed nearly 200 people with methods ranging from the traditional hit methods of guns and knives to the more obscure, such as cyanide, crossbows and rats. That's right, rats! He allegedly found a cave where hundreds lived and would put the mark in the cave with a video camera set up so the person who hired out the hit could witness the suffering. He was paid extra for the victim to suffer. It's fascinating stuff for anyone who likes reading about the dark underbelly of society, and that would be me.

Also, I'm rereading Into the Wild, the excellent accounting of Chris "Alex Supertramp" McCandless and his demise in the Alaskan wilderness' Stampede Trail. Aside from Krakauer's writing prowess, I'm intrigued by the fact that McCandless was able to do all the things he did while alone. That's always been a topic I've found enthralling; that people can sleep at night in desolate places without any human companionship, support, camaraderie. I personally think the kid comes off like a spoiled kid who couldn't appreciate all that he had, and who romanticized Jack London and Hemingway too much, though it's still a tragic story on many fronts. Namely for the pain his parents must've felt reading some of the things he said about them to his sister, Carine, in letters he sent to her.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Royal Oak Barnes & Noble Signing

I'll be at the Barnes & Noble on Main Street tomorrow, from 7-9, for a discussion and book signing. I'l read a few excerpts from selected stories, and then take any questions from the "audience". Hopefully an audience will constitute a group of three or more people, but you never know at these things. The November issue of Traverse Magazine came out today. They actually put my name on the cover! I was stunned to see it there. The first 4,200+ words of Measure of a Man are excerpted, and they built a widow page where their readership can finish the story. I feel honored and blessed that the people at Traverse thought enough of my story to feature it in their publication. I have Patty LaNoue Stearns to thank for showing my book and illustrations to the staff at Traverse, most notably Emily Tyra, who gave me so much consideration.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Tiger

I received a really wonderful email from a person I never met before. He's a lawyer from Ann Arbor that sent me some kind words regarding the fact that my book resonated with him. "Paul" grew up on the east side, on Chalmers where it hit the river. Among the many humbling things he pointed to within the stories of the book was his connecting the tone and content to a William Blake poem called, The Tiger. Paul referenced a scene in Mean Streets, one of the best Scorcese films that many folks who claim to love movies have never seen, where the owner of a bar shows DeNiro a tiger in a cage. The poem is beyond my intellect (hey, not hard to do, really) but the point Paul referenced a "fearful symmetry", i.e., the fact that beauty and terror live within close range to each other. Here's a sample:
William Blake

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

There's quite a bit more, and you can probably find it on the internet pretty easily. But here's the part Paul referenced that gave me a chill, because it's so close to the tension I try to build within most of my stories. Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving myself this kind of credit; that I can consciously paint with these exquisite and layered themes to build toward one underlayment of plot. That said, here's the part of the poem that feels like the true root:

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

That God (for those of us who believe in Him) can create such gentle creatures as the lamb and such terrifying creatures as the tiger, is the fearful symmetry of life in most big cities. Maybe the riot influenced much of my early perceptions of the situations that I experienced, and that my and my wife's families did. Either way, it's what excites me in literature and art.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Agent search is tough

One of the things people ask me at signings, is how did I get published. What was the process; Do you have an agent, etc. Lately I've been trying to get an agent to handle things because I don't want to wear that hat and try to write, too. It's difficult enough to sit down late at night and put stories down, transcribing them from that place in your brain onto paper before they're forgotten or diluted, without having to try and find a home for them. Even with a book in print, albeit a regional press, it's an uphill battle to try and get someone to rep you. Juggling kids and a day job, I've decided to not get too high, not get too low and try and enjoy the ride this book has been.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hey everyone. I shoud have started this sooner, but I had a blog on my website, www.joeborri.net, and figured that would suffice. Hopefully with this blog, people can communicate with me, and each other. My book, Eight Dogs Named Jack, has been out since early July, and I'm hoping this blog will increase the visibility of it, and help further my aspirations to be a writer.
Thanks for checking in. I hope to actively post things that I find relevant and entertaining. Please drop me a line.
Best regards,
Joe Borri