June 18th, 2011


Buy my book, or, Making a short story long

This is a ramble, and it is inspired by our recent jaunt through the backlist to produce ebooks. It'll continue off and on for a few days, in multiple discursions on the topic of writing and poetry and the like. It will be self-referential. It may even be long. You can take breaks -- I will.

This particular segment, and a few after, was inspired by a book of poems (mine, of course) -- TimeRags, which in later iterations became TimeRags II. You can find it at the kindle store: http://www.amazon.com/TimeRags-II-ebook/dp/B0054SLLMY/ref=sr_1_1? or at the Nook store http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/timerags-ii-steve-miller/1031429921?ean=2940012961976&itm=1&usri=timerags and eventually at Smashwords.....

As some of you may recall, Sharon Lee and I are writers, and for the most part over the last 25 years, we've written together. This doesn't mean we've not done other things-- we have. Did you know I had span of being a freelance writer dealing with the local fishing industry? That I covered computer topics? That I covered the WIC program?

Still, mostly we've written together ... let's call it lately.

But the Steve Miller, Writer story began many years before I met Sharon, back in the days when I was reading Tom Swift and Spinoza, Rick Brant and Walt Whitman, All About Space and The Steel Cocoon. Probably we can date the start of the story to age 6, because i know by the time I heard about the first satellite launches i already had determined I would be a writer. Date it July 1956 -- when I turned 6. You see, I read what was in front of me, from a very early age, and my grandmother made sure I always had new words to read. When I'd read the new words there was always the encyclopedia, the library card, the school library, and ... me. Because by the time I hit sixth grade I was already writing stories down in my essentially illegible scrawls, and my grandmother - a poet of some influence in the NYC scene -- was all for it.

I also read some of my grandmother's poems -- some were published in little magazines, some were entered into contests ... and she was eventually awarded a gold medal by the World Congress of Poets. At some point, when still in Junior High (now often called "middle school in these parts) I started attempting poetry, with the challenge of the New York Poetry Forum contests in mind. I read Bratsk Power Station in eight grade. I liked poem, really.

Eventually I had full notebook .. .and then full notebooks, -- some bound, some loose leaf with 3 rings -- of poems. Or attempted poems. I kept at it, you know, and even got brave enough to read some in public, and even to send them to friends. Usually, girlfriends. Sigh. Kids....

In high school I read poems, wrote stories, and sometimes paid attention to school. sometimes to girls. I graduated in 1968.

Anyhow, I managed to get into college and fell into the joy of newspapers, working my way from chess reporter to assistant news editor rapidly, and then falling into the wonder of feature writing. I was getting paid to write at the same time I was sending my book reviews (gratis) to dozens of fanzines, and with some luck, began to get noticed as an eclectic reviewer. While still in college I began receiving regularly (and for free) the entire monthly output of some major paperback publishers -- resulting in paid reviews (eventually up to and including the Baltimore Sun)... and while I was writing some fiction, I was still doing some poetry for myself. By the way, in those days I was often Steven R. Miller, having taken an unfortunate bit of advice from one of my grandmother's poetic cronies.

Something about college did work for me, and in the midst of a college course I wandered in early to a class one day and handed the professor a couple typed pages. He received it with a glance, and a quizzical expression.

"Oh, a poem." Sigh -- can you say attitude from the heights? "Yours, of course." You might imagine your favorite skinny-and-snide high-falutin' British actor with tiny mustache, perfect hair, blue shirt and tie, and the requisite "I just ate a lemon" purse to his lips, if you like, as saying this. It'd be close.

The class continued to assemble, he got out the rest of his papers, and stood leaning against the blackboard as he so often did (with languor, you understand) and with several minutes to go before start time, he read my effort. Then he stood, walked over to me with expression on his face, and said to me "Not bad, Mr. Miller, not bad at all!"

Which helped start me on my way to a bad habit -- I began going to the coffee house on campus, and reading my poems. And I started daring to send some of these to ny grandmother, and after 4 or 5 of them, she asked me when was going to publish my book.

She was serious, and lived in a world where poets published their own books, where Yehudi Menuhin might stop by, where her day was full of people who wrote. Seriously wrote.

Meanwhile ... ooops. let me be clear on this: I did a LOT of academic stuff "meanwhile",with much of my attention someplace else... meanwhile, I say, I took some creative writing courses.

These were problematical -- I did reasonably well, grade-wise, but -- but -- I was perhaps put of place. Understand that the Vietnam war was in progress, and all good poets were (according to some) expected to be writing anti-war poetry. Me? I wrote science fiction stories and love poems. One of my stories, finished just in time for a class, was introduced by the instructor with "Here's another one of Mr. Miller's stories, slick as usual." That story went on to be published in Amazing, and in fact by the end of my college career the instructor was showing off his poetry sales to little magazines with circulations in the hundreds and I'd had multiple fiction sales to Amazing, with a circulation 100 times larger. And mine came with a check.

I ended up with a poem in Amazing at some point, too. I also ended up briefly on faculty along the way (as an undergrad, teaching science fiction in Winter Session or Mini-mester courses). Eventually the creative writing pro gave me an A+ on a short novel I wrote as a advance credit class, which has thankfully been lost to the world. The entire comment on that story was " A good start." Not my favorite instructor, you betcha.

Harry -- I haven't mentioned Harry before in this run -- Harry was an early fan of mine. Other than family (my grandmother, for example) and girlfriends, he may well have been the first fan. Harry got to know me because i ran odd hours, and because i was always writing poetry, even at the counter of Dunkin Donuts. Harry and Dunkin Donuts weren't together in many ways ... but more, later ... a storm's brewing here and I want to get this online today ...
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