Friday, March 02, 2007

DMB and other Online things

For those of you sick of my constant references to the Dave Matthews Band, you may want to surf elsewhere . . . (although there are two "non-DMB" items at the end).

For the rest of you:

1. I came across a piece written by a college student, Patrick Snyder, about how it's become trendy to bash the band, and why he believes these so-called critics are wrong. I really enjoyed his piece (and I wrote him to tell him so*), because he was able to put into words that which I hadn't been able to. I also think, given his youth, he showed a lot of maturity, because at his age it's sometimes hard to speak out and say you like something when it's no longer "cool" to do so. Here's the link to his piece if you're interested: Patrick Snyder's excellent article in defense of the Dave Matthews Band.

2. Now, having said all that, I must also add that Dave has broken my heart . . . Why is that, you ask? Well, let me first say that I listened to a lot of DMB while writing Best Intentions. I'm the first to admit that I listen to a lot of DMB anyway, of course, but the band certainly played a part in cranking up the ol' muse each day during the time I wrote the book. Anyway, I wanted to use a small segment of lyrics from a song called "Seek Up" for my epigraph. (In layman's terms, an epigraph is that little quote you sometimes see on its own page, before the novel begins, that sort of sets up the theme, etc.) I did my research, found out who managed the rights to the lyrics, and sent off my request for permission. For months I waited, receiving an e-mail every once in a while from the contact person telling me she didn't have an answer yet. Because I still didn't have an answer by the time the book was set to go to print with my first publisher, I gave up and instead chose the Lord Jeffrey quote that you'll find in the book, and also on my website.

Then, lo and behold, the Macmillan deal comes through, and I realize, "hey! I have another window of opportunity to see if I can get permission to use the "Seek Up" lyrics!" So I write to the contact again, explaining the situation, hoping that with a large, well-known and very reputable publisher, I might have a better chance of obtaining a positive response. After all, DMB is known among their fans for their generosity -- not only with respect to charitable causes, but with their music in general. This is a band that lets fans tape the live shows -- and in fact provides a special spot and set-up at the concerts to assist them with this effort. So I'm thinking, if only I could ask Dave directly, I know he'd grant the permission . . . But we all know that is never going to happen . . . So I put my faith in the bureaucratic route to obtaining permissions. . .

Well, this time the answer came back promptly, and the response was "no" -- no explanation or reason given -- just a simple "Unfortunately, the publisher of "Seek Up" is unable to fulfill this request. Thank you for your interest in the music of Dave Matthews Band and best wishes with your project." I sent off my polite "thanks anyway" but inside I was not too happy. I mean, I've spent a lot of money on this band -- I mean A LOT OF MONEY. CDs, concert tickets, plane tickets, hotel rooms, etc. I always joke that if I was young, single, and childless, I'd probably be a groupie (do groupies even exist anymore?). I deserve to be able to use these lines, right? Is it really asking much to want to use ten lines from a song that the average person has never heard of. ("Seek Up" is not one of the band's songs that receives radio play.)

As a writer, I've received many, many rejections, and they always sting, each and every one. And this one stung the most. I considered breaking every CD in protest, never buying another concert ticket, canceling my membership in the Warehouse, all that "cleansing" stuff that is supposed to make one feel better. I even seriously considered my husband's suggestion (made jokingly, I think), that in the Acknowledgements section of the book, I add a little special note to Dave -- sort of a "thanks for nothing." But no, I'm a bigger and better person than that. In fact, I believe I've actually come to terms with this biggest rejection of all. How do I know? Let's just say I'll still be in the audience when the band takes the stage at the MGM in Las Vegas later this month, screaming with pleasure when the first note is played, singing along to every song, dancing in the aisles . . . Some things never change. . .

Okay, now let's move on to the non-DMB items:

1. My daughters and I have become addicted to a Podcast called Dylan's Couch. The creator is a 13 year old boy, and this kid is really funny in a sweet, self-deprecating way. (Not to mention his theme song is catchy and sticks in your head long after you've watched the latest episode). He's the kind of kid that I'd be okay with one of my daughters bringing home one day (several years from now, that is!). If you've got pre-teens or thereabouts (mine are 12 and 14), you've got to show this to them. It's a hoot! (FYI, the link above takes you to his website, but you can also access the episodes on YouTube -- the picture is bigger there, for some reason, and that makes the overall effect stronger).

2. In reference to the asterik above: Readers, please know that writers are an incredibly insecure bunch, and we love to hear when someone likes something we've written. (Now, if you don't like it, please keep that to yourself.) (Um, just joking.) So when I read something I like, I've gotten in the habit of writing to the person and letting them know. I even once wrote to Frank McCourt (author of Angela's Ashes), and though it was for a slightly different reason which I'll blog about someday, even he responded. (Hmm, maybe if I wrote directly to Dave about those lyrics . . . but I digress . . .) So I think the lesson here (if there is a lesson) is that us writers love to hear from you readers! Don't be shy!

The Genesis of a Short Story

One of my older short stories, "Flying Lessons," was just published at the on-line literary magazine, Hamilton Stone Review. The story was always one of my favorites -- I had a lot of fun writing it, and I enjoyed hanging out with my characters. In 2000, Glimmer Train reinforced my good feelings about it when they picked it as a finalist for the journal's Short Story Award for New Writers. But it was long, and that made it hard to find a publisher. Most journals have guidelines limiting word count, and at 7500 words, my story was way over the average limit of 3000 to 3500 words. So I'm especially grateful to Hamilton Stone Review for being willing to publish it.

A lot of people read it and see the similarity between Ricky's family situation and the real life family of my husband Rick. In the story, brothers Ricky and Joe live with their divorced mother and their grandma. My husband Rick and his brother also come from divorced parents, and their grandma lived with them growing up. Joe is a musician; my husband's brother is a musician. But before anyone gets the idea that I've contradicted my earlier post below, and that this story isn't fiction, let me give you a glimpse into a writer's mind (or at least this writer's mind) to see how we sometimes come up with story ideas.

In "Flying Lessons," the real "story behind the story" (as I like to say) is the character of Lisa. Now, it's true that my brother-in-law dated a lot of girls with the name of Lisa (in fact, he married and later divorced one of them). My husband once told me a funny anecdote about one of these Lisas (not the one he married), about how she was um, how should I say. . . clear throat . . . noisy, and how their quiet, unassuming grandma once remarked on this trait at the dinner table. Now, moving to another family -- mine -- I also remembered one of my own brothers dating a beautiful girl who was Israeli, and who did, in fact, have to return to Israel to serve in the armed forces. So the Lisa in "Flying Lessons" started as sort of a basic composite of these two girlfriends, and then I used the relationship between the brothers as my structural foundation because I find such relationships so, so interesting. (You'll see more brotherly dynamics in Best Intentions, too). To my knowledge, neither of the girls upon whom I based Lisa was a pilot -- the details about flying come from my own experience as a pilot. And everything else that happens in the story -- well, you'll have to blame that on what goes on in my crazy little brain . . .

So that's about it. Does the story have some real life components to it? You bet. So is it still fiction? Without a doubt.

I hope you'll check it out and let me know how you like it.