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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

    My name is James Black. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Friend and/or follow me if you like.

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When I Make Time for #amwriting, I #amwriting.

I’ve become an avid follower of the hashtag #amwriting on Twitter. Writers typically use it to indicate they’re currently in the process of writing, although some add it to anything they post about the practice of writing.

Of course, a lot of #amwriting tweets are structured around the verb phrase “am writing,” e.g., “I #amwriting until I have to go to work.” Tweeting grammatically correct sentences with any particular verb phrase is harder than you’d think, even for writers. Because I’m a writer, I #amwriting a lot, (I lucked out there) and I have more to say than obediently adhering to “am writing” allows.

Twitter’s 140-character limit encourages creative usage of grammar, such as trimming unnecessary words and abbreviating spellings, but #amwriting tweeters go even further. Someone might write, “Kids woke early from nap; #amwriting time got cut short.” In this example, #amwriting replaces the noun form of “writing,” again to identify the practice of writing. The word “writing” would make sense in this context, but #amwriting leaves little doubt, emphasizing that the verb in this noun is not mere residue. Continue reading

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I Kissed a Book

Last night I finished a book I’d been reading for a few weeks. I held the book to my lips and kissed it goodbye, then tweeted that fact to my 194 followers and the world.

Just finished the novel I've been #amreading. So beautiful. Will miss the characters. Had to kiss the book goodnight/goodbye. #bookgrief

I was having a moment. And I told the Twitterverse. And I'd do it again.

Two people I don’t know (they’re not in my galaxy of the Twitterverse) RT’d me to their thousands of tweeps. Of course, my really clever tweets go ignored, but the moment I let my guard down and admit it, I’m at risk of trending.

The kiss and the tweet were impulses I don’t regret 24 hours later. The arcs of character and story are complete. The author definitely did his job. (Yes, I’ll tell you who in a bit. The point here is love of books. Patience, gentle reader.) So I have no right to want to know what happens to the characters beyond the ending even though I understand that for practical and artistic reasons books must have endings. I mean, I’m a writer, dammit, not some sentimental ignoramus. But if a book is good to me, I’m loyal, and I grieve not getting to read it anymore.

I’m curious to know if Mattia invites his parents to visit them and if Alice follows through with the divorce. It seems damn likely those things will happen, but can’t I read on just so I can stay connected? It doesn’t matter to me that the characters are honestly dysfunctional and that the author (Hold on! I’ll tell you soon!!) doesn’t let them off easy.

My wonderful writing coach Elizabeth Stark would admire the way the stakes keep increasing in this novel. Continue reading

Roger Ebert Will Be So Proud of Me

Writers who set up their laptops at Starbucks have been getting a bad rap lately.  On Family Guy, Chris disses Meg by saying she’s like “one of those people who sit in Starbucks and publicly write on their laptops.”

And Roger Ebert tweeted very plainly, “You can’t really write in Starbucks[…]”.

That almost hurts. I write in Starbucks and other coffee-selling facilities. If it were just a few years ago, my need for acceptance by people I’ll never meet would force me to stay at home, drink Folger’s, and write no less than 100 pages per day. Lucky for me I turned 40 last August and magically no longer give a shit what anyone thinks of my writing habits. (Yeah, that’s why.)

It helps to know that they’re simply wrong. Continue reading

Stand for Equality

While it seemed that everyone else at the National Equality March in DC wanted to see Lady Gaga, my Starstruck Moment happened when Lt. Dan Choi’s personal space overlapped the orbit of mine. There are a lot of people I respect, but I usually don’t lose my shit over any of them. Choi’s a rockstar. His golden aura blasted through my sunglasses, I shit you not.

Approaching the Capitol--Natl Equality March 2009

Approaching the Capitol--Natl Equality March 2009

The person I’ll remember most held a sign that stated, “This Straight Woman Stands With You.” As I remember, she held the sign above her head. The vertical presentation struck me; she looked immovable. But she was alone. No one around her interacted with her. She appeared pleasant but unremarkable, someone I could pass in the grocery store and not give a second thought. The people near me cheered, and I cheered with them. The straight woman who stood with us gave a smile but seemed shy about the attention.

She made an impact on me, but I had to keep going. The day was about travel: By van and train and foot. From central PA to DC. From McPherson Square to the White House and on to the Capitol. From separation to unity. But not from discrimination to equality.

The March inspired me, but it’s too early to say what sort of historic significance it will have. If those who are throwing that term around believe it was precedent-setting, I’d argue it was decidedly unhistoric. Continue reading

The Great Chain of Being in Contact

My friend Jane posted this on my Facebook wall: “Had a lovely imaginary conversation with you yesterday, which made me think it’s time for a real one.” Which brought to mind categories of conversations.

Face-to-Face: Or F2F. This kind of conversation happens in real time. You get to experience the facial expressions and gestures of the person you’re talking to and receive and give immediate feedback.

Presentational: Somewhat F2F, but one speaker addresses many audience members. If there’s time for questions, which in a very limited way resembles conversation, some jackass usually eats up the time by spouting nonsense in an attempt to outshine the speaker. Continue reading

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