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A Hurricane, The Elephant, And God

The elephant was lost to the wind.

He stood foursquare against the tumult, head lowered as if ready to charge. It wrapped his body in its flags and banners, and then as quickly ripped them away. He had to close his eyes in some of the gusts, and occasionally his tail stuck straight out behind.     Many of the other animals found shelter, and even the monkeys came down to the lower branches of their trees. But the elephant flapped his ears in ecstasy as the wind battered against him, and trumpeted as loudly as the rowdydow would permit.

“I hear you,” said a frolicking cloud, as it whipped past his head. It turned a summersault back over the elephant’s back, and positioned itself with much dexterity in the elephant’s line of vision. “And I hazard the guess I’m the only one who can.”

“It’s like flying.”

“Now, now. You’ve tried that before.”

“But I’m staying on the ground, this time.”

“Well,” conceded God. “You’re standing on the ground. And it’s probable you will be staying on the ground. But, as you know, nothing in life is certain.”

“It certainly isn’t,” agreed the elephant, who then attempted to nod his head in agreement. But the wind took a particular bend, and not only could he not nod his head, but his trunk got thrown back into his face, hitting him in the eye.

“Ouch,” said the elephant.

“A cautionary God,” said God, “would go `tsk tsk’, and tell you to come in out of the wind.”

“And is that what you’re going to tell me,” shouted the elephant over the roar.

“God, no,” said God. “This is great stuff.”

“You’re a reckless God, then?” asked the elephant.

“Reckless. And cautious. There is a time for both. There is a need for both. Life demands that you run with it. And sometimes you run scared, and sometimes you run joyful.” The cloud was now tangled in the elephant’s tusks. ” And sometimes you get so caught up in it all that you can’t tell the difference.” The cloud shouted. “And sometimes you get hit in the eye. And sometimes you don’t.”

“And sometimes both,” suggested the elephant.

“You’re catching on.”

“But to you,” protested the elephant. “It is all so simple.”

“But …” The cloud sounded perplexed. “It is as simple as it sounds. Everything is everything. What you seem to do is pay too much attention to the individual parts. Concentrate on the whole.”

“I can hardly think of everything when I’m in the middle of this.”

“This is the perfect place.” The cloud played tag with the elephant’s ears. “Race with it. Race with it. Race with it. You

will never dance a better dance than here. With me.”

And the elephant watched the cloud tumble around his head, and bounce against his back, and twist around his tail.

And the elephant laughed, and laughed so loud that it broke through even the racing wind, and made the other animals peek from their shelters to watch.

And the elephant bobbed and weaved with the cloud, and the cloud held the elephant in a wispy embrace, and the wind turned to music.

Author Interview w/ CBC

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1. What unique challenges do you face when writing about serious
non-fiction issues such as religion?

I WRITE about spiritual matters and leave religion to others. The spirit and its quests drive religion – religion just interprets. The biggest challenge I faced in THE ELEPHANT TALKS TO GOD is that the Elephant started asking questions I could not answer. Thus endeth the book.

2. You wrote The Elephant Talks to God in 1989. Why did you decide to
re-release it with the added stories rather than write a sequel?

THIS WAS the decision of the publisher, Goose Lane. When they approached me for a re-issue they were unaware of the additional stories. It was decided the marketplace would prefer one longer book over two shorter ones. Having just one book also reduced production costs, which in turn reduced consumer cost.

3. Why did you decide to become a writer?

“I WAS born like this, I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice.” This quote from Leonard Cohen sums it up. Not “born” this way exactly, but within one month in grade eleven I went from ‘no writing’ to ‘continually writing’. I have no explanation. I had no previous interest nor inclination toward the arts, or writing. I was not a reader, and only after university deliberately read such children’s classics as Black Beauty and Alice in Wonderland.

4. What books or authors have most influenced your life?

POSSIBLY P.G. WODEHOUSE was the most influential author in my formative period. I even sent him a fan letter and received a response. In university I experienced Franz Kafka, and I believe I have read everything of his in print. Much later I visited Prague to research a novel I have since written about him. There are reports of ‘missing’ stories and diaries of Kafka still in Berlin, which I would dearly love to find.

5. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good
writing?

SURPRISE, HUMOUR and reality. ‘In context’ (it doesn’t matter what the genre) I want to be surprised by what is happening, yet fully believe in the reality created in the book. And somewhere, at least once, every character in every novel should make me laugh at least once.

6. What are you reading right now?

“WICKED” BY Gregory Maguire. His abilities as a writer astound me. I am a slow reader, and seemingly getting slower. Soon (?) to be read will be Alice Munro’s “The View from Castle Rock ” and John LeCarre’s “The Mission Song”, both requested Christmas presents. I also do a lot of research for my novels, and will embark upon histories of China in the near future.

7. What advice would you give to writers starting out?

I HAVE two steadfast rules, one put into rhyme. “When in doubt/take it out.” Regardless of the wonder of the poetic line, or the awe of the slice of dialogue, if you have any questions about its effectiveness, that is reason enough to remove it.
The other concerns the physical writing itself. At the end of your writing day, and you know what the next line of dialogue is, or the description you are going to write, or the next line of the poem – DON”T write them down. Start with them the next day, and you will quickly get back into the writing. I find this works 90% of the time.

8. Describe your writing process.

I’M A morning writer, roughly from 9:00 until 15:00. There’s a meal in there, and research and email and such, but I will generally complete two pages a day. I generally write seven or eight days straight and then take one off. At the start of a novel I have a well developed outline and characters, though I rarely write such things down. I find that at the end of a novel I spend an additional third of the writing time editing what is done. I usually complete a novel in two years.

9. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome
it?

THREE MONTHS of writer’s block during my second novel has (so far) been my experience with this curse (knock knock knock on wood). I sat at the desk literally for hours per day attempting to continue. I think I wrote five paragraphs in that time. I know of no way to overcome it other than attempting to write each day. My number two tip in question #7 will help in avoiding writer’s block.

10. Naturally, most writer want as many people as possible to read
their work. Who did you have in mind when you were writing this book,
the “believers” or the “non-believers”?

BRITISH PUBLISHER Joseph Dent introduced “Everyman’s Library” in the early 1900’s (which is now published by Random House UK). As my mother was from England and my father was a proud UEL, there were many of these books when I was growing up. Everyman’s Library had a motto at the beginning of each book: “Everyman, I will go with thee/and be thy guide,/ in thy most need/ to go by thy side.”
This is what came to mind when thinking of who I write for. I did not write for either believers or non-believers. I wrote for everyone, and my job is to make them both accept that the The Elephant believes. 

The Elephant Talks To God

As Kafka Tip Toes Past While You Sleep

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In my novel about Franz Kafka, where I fill in his “missing” diary entries, I create many dreams, because Kafka often recounted his dreams. For a recent blog, I searched the ether world for an image that included Kafka & Dreams. To my surprise, a quote came up, by Kafka, that I never came across before. Even with its doubtful provenance, I used it.
I later tried to track down the quote, and it seems this source is the only source. A monograph called Franz Kafka by Franz Baumer. But it is such a Kafka-like comment, I’ll take it.
Also, in hunting for this source, I came across a site called ‘Fuck Yeah Franz Kafka. Which is an attitude I much admire.
The Kafka story and quote:
“Once while visiting his friend Max Brod, young Kafka awakened Brod’s father, who was asleep on a couch. Instead of apologizing, Kafka gently motioned him to relax, advanced through the room on tiptoe, and said softly: “Please – consider me a dream.”’ from Franz Kafka by Franz Baumer
The unrelated site:
Jan 9, 2019 – Where people come together to celebrate the greatest author of the 20th century.

Reality/Un/Dis // Fact/You/All /// DDD /// Ghost

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I have a *new* message

From a “ghostwriter”

Who

Whom(?)

Will make my BOOK

look

BRILLIANT

Will this give me

A ghost of a chance?

{Image} https:/cdn.writermag.com/2017/10/shutterstock_715257643.jpg

No Giller Prize For Margaret Atwood … Or Me

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Much literary note has been taken that, although Margaret Atwood has won (jointly) her second Booker Award (for The Testaments), she was not even a finalist for the most prestigious (and lucrative) book award in Canada – The Giller. In some small way I can feel her pain (if, indeed, she cares at all).

I was in the fancy downtown Library a few days ago. When I left, I took a different route than usual. On the non-street side of the library, for its whole length, there is a walk/bike/delivery area. Down at the auditorium end, three chaps were unloading a van. I was surprised when one of the men smiled and waved at me.

He is a musician acquaintance who – oddly – I come across in similar circumstances, at other places, two or three times a year. This time he and his mates were unloading their equipment for a gig later in the evening at the library. They were going to play ‘background’ music for an event concerning the Giller Prize.

I have since looked it up on Google. It appears the Giller finalists are being presented at a half dozen venues across Canada, to be part of some type of panel about writing.

Anyway, while explaining what they were doing there, he told me he was so out of touch with Canada’s literary world, that he wondered if I was there because I was a finalist for the Giller, and on the panel.

I believe that we were both disappointed.

Rejection Takes Many Forms – And Comes At Any Time

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I glean many sources after information of which agents and which editors have purchased recent books that are similar to one of my manuscripts.
When I find someone I think will be compatible to my work, I research them. Then, if I think they would have a reasonable interest in my manuscript (and there can be a variety of reasons) I’ll send a query letter.
I prefer to go through this process of finding names a number of times in a row, instead of finding a compatible person, then immediately sending a query. So, when I find a person I plan to contact, I send this information to myself in an email. It can be weeks before I actually send a query to an agent or editor, and then it can be two or more months before I hear a reply.
I came across information that John le Carré has a new book coming out the end of this year. I adore John le Carré. This announcement unusually named both his agent and editor. I sent both to myself, and eventually wrote queries.
Recently I had a rejection for my NATO Thriller. It was a refusal sent through the portal of an agency (which happens more and more). Since it was not an actual response by the agent, I had to go to my Sent file to see who I had sent the query to.
Uh-huh – it was the same agent as John le Carré. So, I actually got rejected before I sent the query.
Well – anyway – that’s how writers think.

Turn Over A New Leaf Pell-Mell

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Alison Alexandra sometimes thinks of turning over a new leaf. Sometimes at the most traditional of times, like at New Year or her birthday or under a full moon or when the tide is at its highest. But then she remembers that well into her pre-teen years she thought the expression to turn over a new leaf meant reaching into the branches of a tree and flipping her wrist (somewhat like Amanda does when cutting cards) and when she found out the flip flip flipping concerned paper pages she was so bored she never did it. No, not once.

And anyway, why would she overturn anything in some sort of orderly fashion when she pell-mell turns things over at the very time they seem that they need to be overturned and not a minute or an hour or a full moon or one leaf later. That now is indeed now is, indeed, now and as she daily finds out from her windows or cliffs overlooking the ocean; tide and time await no Alison Alexandra. So she will not wait for them.

Alison Alexandra has often thought – and she also often thinks – that she could happily turn over all her leaves just from her prow-of-a-ship room jutting into the sea or the cliffs that, as yet, do not erode under her feet as she walks them looking out to sea. But that would be unwise and probably as stagnant as a rotting fish that sometimes lodges itself at the base of her cliff and though she has not travelled as often as those sailors and their spyglasses, she has travelled as far as many of them just to keep those leaves flip flip flipping.

So, today she is going to walk to town.

[Image} https://www.telllaurailovecrochet.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/turn-over-a-new-leaf-2-520×400.jpg

The Naked Man Roller Skates To The Flatiron Building In New York

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After decades, Macmillan, the publisher that produced my two novels, has left the Flatiron Building in New York. I am surprised that this news causes such a pang. But then, those days were exciting and unique

The first description following, is my blog where I describe my first meeting with my editor. During my first trip to New York. Where I first entered the Flatiron Building

The second article is by an editor at Macmillan, describing what it was like to leave the Flatiron Building and move elsewhere.

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My friend Google tells me that “over the transom” is still a viable term. In this case it refers to a manuscript accepted by an editor submitted cold – perhaps even from the dreaded slush pile.

At any rate, my manuscript for A LOST TALE was accepted “over the transom”, and I was asked to New York to meet the editor. Although I had experienced and appreciated Montréal,
Toronto, London, Berlin and other large cities by that time, I had not been to New York. Many events of that trip are memorable, but none more than my “lunch” with the editor.

The editor took me to some dark and trendy place for a late lunch. There were not many people there and, restaurant fiend though I am, the food was not my top priority. Discussion of “the work” and proposed changes was more on the menu for me.

However, as I sit across the table from my editor, I can not help but notice a man seated by himself beside the wall. He is tieless and shirtless and, though the lighting is dim, what there is reflects from his naked skin. He sits with a beverage and seems to hum to himself. My editor is discussing both the menu and some confusion he perceives at the beginning of my novel. I note items on the menu unknown to me and am doubly confused.

The shirtless man at the other table increases the volume of his humming and eventually a waiter goes to him and has words. The shirtless man has words back, but they sound like gibberish. At my table the editor suggests something from the menu and I happily comply. There is wine.

Whilst I eat and listen to suggestions, the shirtless man is spoken to by two other waiters. As I (wisely) restrict myself to a second glass of wine, two uniformed policemen enter the restaurant and approach the shirtless man, whose gibberish had increased even more in volume. In the course of a few minutes three other uniformed police officers – one of them female  – arrive on the scene. They are now ranged around the shirtless man and his table. I finally tell my editor what is happening behind him and why I am not concentrating fully upon his suggestions. He turns around.

Two of the officers remove the table from in front of the shirtless man. Two others, one on each side of him, haul him to his feet. It is then that we see his shirtless state continues all the way to his naked feet. The female officer takes the tablecloth from the table and drapes it around him. The four male officers form a circle around the naked, shrouded man uttering his gibberish, and hustle him from the restaurant. The female officer picks up what appears to be a pile of clothes from beneath the table, and a pair of roller skates, and follows them.

I say to my editor that I have never seen anything like that.

My editor concurs.

[Image]https://untappedcities-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/featured-flatiron-buildingknyc-untapped-cities1-1.jpg

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Bidding Farewell to the Flatiron Building

Kat Brzozowski, in a photo taken from CEO John Sargent’s office on the Flatiron’s 19th floor.

Today’s the first day that Mac Kids is in our new home at 120 Broadway. We spent the past few weeks packing our work belongings in orange crates, preparing to settle into the Equitable Building in the Financial District, trading our beloved triangle for an H-shaped office (because what would Macmillan be without an unusual layout?). I still remember arriving at the Flatiron Building for my first day 10 years ago. I looked up at the building in awe, thinking, “I can’t believe I get to work there.”

Walking through the Flatiron Building was like traveling through a science museum that showcases different ecosystems—the rainforest, the desert, the tundra. In your office on the 7th floor, you’d be stripped down to a tank top, sweating, with the AC blasting even though it was full-on snowing outside. But travel to the 10th floor conference room, and you’d be covered head to toe, wrapped up in an actual blanket, shivering.

The bathrooms alternated by floor—men on even, women on odd—and we all knew which bathrooms to avoid (the ones so small you’d be bumping elbows with your boss on the way out), and the ones that a friend called “destination bathrooms” (11, with its large waiting area; 19, with a gorgeous view of the city). Those bathrooms were worth the elevator ride. And who knows, while you were waiting—which could take a while—you might run into Jill Biden, or Tyra Banks, or Jim Carrey.

At my first job at Macmillan, at Thomas Dunne Books, I worked on the 17th floor in a sectioned-off area we called “the annex,” but which I thought of as Narnia. No one could ever find me, because my desk was accessed through a door that not every floor had. Yes, every floor was different, giving the building a funhouse feeling as you wove left and right, searching for the conference room or the kitchen anew with each floor.

And each company felt as unique and as special as its floor plan. Mac Kids, where I work now, was a wonderland, with framed art crowding the walls, brightly colored board books packed onto shelves next to classics, and a sparkling energy fueled by employees whose early lives were shaped by books. Walk by one office and you may spy a menagerie of life-size zoo animals, painted freehand by a famous illustrator. Where else but the Flatiron can an artist paint on the walls?

There’s no experience similar to working in the Flatiron Building. We’d bemoan the lack of conference rooms, then brag to our friends that we got to work in that building. We’d complain about the fact that we needed our key cards to get from one side of the floor to the other, then we’d pour out of the doors at lunchtime to get burgers at Shake Shack, or a BLT at Eisenberg’s, or a flat white at Birch Coffee, a plethora of delicious (and affordable) options spread out in front of us like a glorified mall food court. We’d tell our authors, “Don’t get your hopes up, it’s not that nice inside,” then see their eyes light up as they took out their phones to snap a shot from the point office, with views that stretched all the way to Times Square, with the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building so close you felt you could reach out and touch them.

That feeling I had on my first day in 2009 hasn’t gone away. I’ve felt it again and again over the past 10 years, the magic of seeing something from a postcard come to life in front of me. Farewell, Flatiron Building. You’re leaving a triangle-shaped hole in our hearts.

Kat Brzozowski is senior editor at Swoon Reads/Feiwel & Friends.

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/80191-bidding-farewell-to-the-flatiron-building.html

Author Reads An Elephant His Rights

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Tracked down to my apartment, I give a sample reading from my book of short stories, The Elephant Talks To God. And I explain the genesis of the book. Gotta say, it might have been more entertaining to emote some of the Elephant’s poetry.

http://www.authorsaloud.com/prose/estey.html

From The Elephant Talks To God:

The elephant was a curious pachyderm, and followed his persistent quest with a guileless intensity.

“More lucky than smart,” said some of the other elephants, as he blundered his way toward another piece of knowledge. They nodded their heads in his direction with the heavy weight of caution, and warned their small ones that too much thought would make them strange.

“An elephant wades in water,” they would sagely say, “only if the mud hole is wide enough.”

And the little ones would watch him, as they stood between the legs of their parents, and wish that they could follow.

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