Dog Ear
Storytelling (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 08 November 2018 19:28

hen my wife tells the purse story, she always does it wrong. She starts with, “I left my purse in a Tokyo bathroom but someone brought it back.” I mean, what can you do with a story after this? All the suspense, the tension, the comedy and the trans-pacific dread, shot. When we meet mutual friends who haven’t heard this tale, I jump in an start with the Kyoto exchange leading into the chaos of the Narita Airport, the police, the sweaty brows, all that.

I thought about that a lot, the way my wife tells the tale. I thought you should never, never tell a story with a tension-puncture as the opening line.

And then I got in a bike/car accident.

In a nutshell, I was riding home and a woman threw on her starboard signal just as she hauled across my right of way. The next thing I knew I slammed into her passenger door, bounced over her rearview mirror and scuffed along the hood/side panel of her right front. I didn’t fall but sort of tumbled off. She stopped (the drivers (and the cops, ferchristsakes) behind us did not). I checked my leg, my fingers, my elbow. No damage to my bike or to my body. She had a long scuff down the side of her car (though I think that will buff off).

I was rolling in five minutes (actually passed one of the look-away cop cruisers at the next light). But while riding, I found myself thinking of my little adventure. Yes, this one would be fun to tell in the old, “So there I was, bombing down 1792, passing a long line of slow-roll cars. But little did I know, a middle-aged woman suddenly saw a business that she would sacrifice a life to wheel into…” Yes, it would be a good story, an epic.

Except for telling my wife.

Coming home with a blooded knuckle and a frazzled look, it came to me that a long stress-inducing tale might not be the best. Nor would be it fair to her – cycling in this awful city is dangerous enough. She’s a good sport to let me do it. If anything, I owed her a combat report, not a sea-story. And so I rolled into the driveway and met her as she came out of the garage.

“Look, I’m okay, but I did have a minor accident on the way home…”

Sometimes, a story should be used for information and not entertainment.


Last Updated on Thursday, 08 November 2018 19:33
Blogging (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 31 October 2018 17:46

loved Japan. If you read my trip report, you can see how much I loved it, day by day. Great fun, good food, friendly people. Outside of the “purse incident”, it was the perfect trip.

Now I’ve been blogging DOG EARs since 2012 and recording trips since 2011, which is a lot of words under the bridge. And it does take some effort. Usually I’ll take my tinytop with me so I can write as I experience it. This time, we were traveling light – a backpack apiece (and a purse, sometimes, it seemed). But this time it was adding some weight I didn’t need, possibly a pound (counting the computer, case and charger). And that wasn’t something I needed when I was carrying 13 lbs of weight on my back.

So I went with a small spiral notebook. This was dandy for recording my impressions – every night in the room, I’d lay in bed and doodle out the day’s events, capturing whatever clever phrases and observations came along. It actually took a while to settle into this writing – unlike electronic formats, with a pen you get one shot. And since carefully crafting something before putting ink to parchment (as the old monks would say), I had to learn just how much effort I’d put into formatting the prose. On one hand, I could just write Shrine, Buddhist temple, ice cream and then come out and fill it in, I felt I might forget some of the details. In the end, I settled on writing a first draft of what I wanted (adding details to the left page as I later thought of them, arrowing them into their insert points).

And then, home. And this is when the keyboard really started to rattle.

The first day we were home, I sat down and wrote the first two days pieces (adding this to the pre-trip piece). This gave me a bit of leeway. Then I’d try to knock out one a day, just to keep a spare posting or two to the good. Some nights I’d stay out late (train club stuff) and I’d lose my backlog. Sometimes I’d get inspired and write two. But every evening after dinner I’d publish the next installment and add all the BACK and NEXT links, then fuss with Facebook to put it out there.

It was actually sorta funny when the last episode ran. I sat there and realized I had no more. Then again, I do have other blogging to attend to. I have three books stacked up for posting, and I’ve got to start DOG EAR again (I gave it a break while posting about the trip, but here we are again). But yes, producing under a deadline is good training. As writers, you should try it. It’s good training for that happy future time when I’m producing content for millions, and not just my small plucky band of loyal followers.

And, to that, thanks for all the nice comments about my trip. That added to the fun!


Last Updated on Thursday, 01 November 2018 05:58
A matter of taste (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 04 October 2018 00:00

will be in Japan in the near future, just a short trip to celebrate our thirtieth anniversary (so you might notice a gap in my posting). We’re looking forward to this – some light touring and some pointless Tokyo wandering. Should be fun in a casual sort of way (I’ll be posting up my trip report in due time).

One thing though – one of the reasons I’m going is, in a nutshell, the Anime culture. We couldn’t get into the Ghibli museum (booked solid) but we’ll check out the manga shops and look at all the funny toys. I like it since the storytelling can be very dynamically moving (yet sometimes stunted). But it’s fun, just another part of the human storytelling culture.

The other day I was doing a favor call on another work team (their lead was not at work and there were questions). The woman there was a nice Japanese lady and I solved her problems quickly. Then we got to talking about my upcoming trip. When I told her that I was interested in checking out the Japanese bookshops, the anime and manga, she gave me this you’re kidding look, like adults give Peter Pan when they actually meet him. There was that moment in the conversation when you can clearly feel yourself being reevaluated. Um…

I thought about that as I went back upstairs. I guess some things are not universally shared in a culture. For example, if the Japanese think that I like cowboy hats and football, they will be sadly ill-informed. Just as I’d assumed that a woman who grew up in Japan would have any interest at all in the Japanese storytelling craze of space robots, vampires in high school and tentacles (yow). Then again, people find it strange that I’ve written self-help books, historical novels and nature stories (and not Space Opera). So I guess, in the end, we shape our tastes and interests as we drift through life and not as a solid cultural identity.

In writing this, I’m reminded of a fellow I’d met in Virginia Tech back in the early 80s. Nice guy from Louisiana with a drawl you could cut a board on. But he loved The Three Musketeers – talked about it endlessly. And there was nothing like listening to someone discuss the affairs of the court of Louis XIII with a corn-pone accent. That always broke me up, the ability of literature to jump environmental boundaries like a forest fire. Just a delight.

So I guess we’ll see what we’ll see and then report on it. No expectations, y’all.


Magic (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 27 September 2018 00:00

magine you could take any topic around the watercooler and suddenly affect people’s thoughts to flash an image directly in their heads. You know, like a phone with those boring pictures of your dog, but better. They wouldn’t just see the dog. They’d imagine his playful nature, his soft coat, and could emphasize with your love for him.

Well, that’s what being a writer is about.

Not only do we keep track of words others use but we develop our own words, ones that work. And we have boxes of words in our brain, all from those books we’ve read. So when it comes to the discussion around the coffee pot, we’re the ones who, when other’s gripe about the horrible commute, we note that view of the moon, swimming overhead as she dropped to the west, a beacon of natural beauty nestled amid the transformers and telephone lines.

And stop right there. Did you see it, the moon? Did an image come to your mind as you read that?

That’s how it should work. I remember one writer mentioning how words are toggles – they make images appear in the minds of your readers. And the better toggles are those single word ones that paint the image with a creative brush. And that’s the trick – don’t write with bland words like “The moon set in the west”. Punch it up. And talk that way, too. Sure, it’s free. But you’ll get good creative passion. If you watch, you can see in the eye of your listener as the image forms. And better yet – you’ll stand out as creative, even fun to talk to.

An even better office training tool is the appreciation board – the white boards in the breakroom that allow you to fill in “Things I appreciate” or “Things that make me happy”. Go to town on these. Write with passion and creativity. Make people notice. On our board, people recognize my statements. Some days I’ll appreciate a gentle breeze from the far-away coast or the passing glance from a pretty lady, as opposed to, say, spaghetti.

Remember: You are a writer. Use it everywhere you can!


Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2018 18:04

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