SCRIBBLER IS MOVING, Y’ALL

The library is rolling out a beautiful new website!
From here to infinity, you’ll find new posts here.

((See you on the other side!!))

scribbler

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Writers, get ready for WriMo!

come_write_in_logoCome Write In This November in Celebration of National Novel Writing Month 2016!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

Join us, STL literati, and fellow Wrimos at Central Library each Saturday in November, 2-5 p.m., for writing games, word sprints, a contest, and a weekly wordsmithing seminar. Week one, we’ll convene in the first floor Book Club Room, then the second floor Training Room weeks two through four.

We’ll supply the caffeine. You supply the story!

Come Write In! Sign

In the meantime, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check out upcoming NaNoWriMo prep sessions in the area:

Mon, October 17, 6:30pm – 8:00pm: Ferguson Municipal Public Library (TODAY!)
Tue, October 18, 7pm – 9pm: Mid-County County Library
Tue, October 18, 7pm – 9pm: Maplewood Public Library (yes, there are two on the same evening! take your pick)
Mon, October 24, 6:30pm – 8:30pm: Indian Trails County Library
Tue, October 25, 7pm – 9pm: Maplewood Public Library
Wed, October 26, 7pm – 9pm: Samuel C. Sachs County Library

Sign up to begin writing and word-counting here, and RSVP for the regional kick-off party on October 22 here!

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The Odd Beauty of Space Raptor Butt Invasion

I’m skeptical.

I scan the library’s shelves for the telltale spine typography of the self-published and I’m skeptical. I Google their print-on-demanders and their price packages and I’m skeptical. I flip through their pages, a veritable collage of design and editorial missteps, and I’m skeptical. These Indie Author Day people and their glittery SELF-e marketing scheme give me the heebie-jeebies and I think this whole self-publishing industry must be filled with vampires who prey on uninformed wannabe writers’ disposable incomes, and I’m skeptical, guys. I’m also an introvert, and so I tend to think not speaking –and by extension, not publishing — is kind of a plus in a world full of information static. And I’m a perfectionist: if what you’re saying isn’t the cream of the mainstream crop, to be lauded and validated by the best and brightest, why bother saying it at all?

BUT — Let’s acknowledge that I’ve been an avid consumer of publishing powerhouses’ little cash cows since my eyes could focus, and I’ve worked in publishing, and I was an English major, and I’ve participated in my fair share of writing w24453778orkshops. I’m indoctrinated. And I hold that indoctrination dear because I’ve paid (and continue to pay) a lot of money for it, and it makes me feel smart.

AND — Let’s consider for a moment the revolutionary potential of the self-publishing enterprise. How much of mainstream publishers’ stuff is really all that good? Since it’s been fed through a finishing machine, it’s somehow worthwhile/true/lasting? Eh… no. It just makes for an attractive product. And with so many hands in the mix, stretching and trimming until all is palatable and correct, how can a voice shine true? How can the traditionally unpalatable and the traditionally incorrect ever win?

I confess I haven’t yet had much enthusiasm for this Indie Author Day event. For one, I worried it would mean joining the vampire legion, leading the library’s group of writers astray. Mostly, though, my gut impulse was to silence these writers — I think, because I’ve been trained to think, that if the bigwigs aren’t interested, then there ain’t really any interest to be had. So quit. Or at least quit trying for an audience. Write in private the same way you poop in private — take a few bites of that postlapsarian shame cake!

Friends, this is the selfsame crap my brain whines at me whenever I try to do anything. I hear it so much in my own head that I apply it to other people. And these other people tend to mill about on the margins already, so what gives me the right to further marginalize them — and myself? That makes me The Man’s proxy, and that’s, like, just what The Man wants.

Anyway. This rambling is all to introduce an evidently enlightening article from Lit Hub’s M. Sophia Newman, “How a Self-Published Writer of Gay Erotica Beat Sci-Fi’s Sad Puppies at Their Own Game”. It threw into question my whole outlook on the situation, and I hope it does yours, too.

An excerpt:

Question: If you could pick a single writer to make an effective, compassionate statement about identity politics to a divided literary community, who would you pick? Would it be a schizophrenic, autistic person who’d authored an e-book called Space Raptor Butt Invasion?

Despite the unselfconscious strangeness of [Chuck Tingle’s] writing style and a lack of what fancy-pants literary types might call “talent,” his work is lighthearted, good-natured, and hilarious. He’s timely and in touch with the American cultural milieu. He clearly embodies the nondiscriminatory mindset that science fiction and fantasy types now seem to favor.

And he’s prolific. Whatever else he might be doing, Chuck Tingle clearly applies the seat of his pants to a chair each day and puts words on the page, unfettered by what other people might think.

I envy him. I admire him. And although my writing is very different from his, I’ve begun to self-consciously emulate his work ethic. To me, he’s been an unexpected jolt of energy at the last possible moment, and a good example to follow forever after—just as the elves were to the shoemaker.

I invite you to come to the library’s Indie Author Day panel this Saturday. Watch as I attempt to shed my many layers of privilege, low self-esteem, and indoctrinated skepticism! And meet a few cool writers who’ve been-there-done-that in the process. We have much to learn from them.

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What Abe Lincoln’ll Get Ya

What with Barnes & Noble’s recent decision to take the plunge and stock self-published content, it would appear the indie book industry is on the rise, right? There are the proverbial success stories: Fifty Shades of GreyThe Martian. But content aside, it’s often even tougher for the self-published to pass muster cover-wise. Peek into one writer’s experiment with selecting the often — questionable? — graphic design that packages independent titles:

What a $5 Book Cover Looks Like

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Peter Derk’s takeaways:

1. If the seller doesn’t ask you a good number of questions, forget it. If all they wanna know is your name and the book’s title, then they probably won’t deliver something of quality. If they ask about the dimensions of the book, font preferences, and if they ask for attached images that show the kinds of things you like, you’ve found a good seller.

2. I wish I’d identified two sellers I liked and spent my $37 on them, using the extra cash to buy more revisions or other services, rather than spreading the money so thin. I’d be happier with the results, and I’d rather my money had gone to paying people who did a good job.

3. If I’d known I might spend a total of $75 for a finished product that I had the rights to, I would have looked into some other graphic designers to see what $75-$100 would get me. When the price is $5, it’s hard to ask other graphic designers to do anything. But when the price is $75, I think there’s more room to talk to someone without being insulting.

May Derk’s $37 dollars benefit you and yours, too! And speaking of self-publishing, don’t forget to join us at Central Library this Saturday for our first annual Indie Author Day celebration — we’ll hear first-hand reports from those in our local St. Louis indie authorship trenches!

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… And we’re back!

Scribblers,

Please forgive the hiatus — as I’m sure many of you know by now, the STL Scribblers group has changed hands since founder Eric Lundgren moved out east. I’m the new facilitator, Lainie Formby, and I’m happy to have been asked to join such a welcoming community of writers!

I have some activities planned this fall that I’m eager to share, the first coming up in just over a week:

indie-author-day-sign

SLPL is excited to join over 200 other libraries across North America in celebration of Indie Author Day, an event designed to bring local writing communities together to participate in author panels, book readings and signings, workshops, presentations, and more.

Central Library presents The Pros (and Potential Pitfalls) of Self-Publishing, a panel of Missouri-based authors at the ready to talk independent authorship. Join St. Louis local Nicole Evelina (Daughter of Destiny, Been Searching for You), Svetlana Grobman of Columbia Public Library (The Education of a Traitor: A Memoir of Growing Up in Cold War Russia), and SLPL’s own Joe Schwartz (The Games Men Play, Ladies and Gentlemen: Adam Wolf and the Cook Brothers) as they detail their forays into self-publishing, take questions, and sign books Saturday, October 8th! Light refreshments will be served.

Then, be sure to stop by Central again one week later — Saturday, October 15th — for the third annual St. Louis Small Press Expo. Learn more here. #STLSPEx16

In the meantime, keep an eye on this page for indie authorship content in the days leading up to the panel!

Questions, concerns, or suggestions for Scribblers going forward? Email (eformby@slpl.org), call (314-539-0396), or come to the next STL Scribblers meeting on Wednesday, October 19th. We love new stories, and new faces!

 

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Top Transformer: “Off the Menu” by John Frain

In June 2016, the STL Scribblers participated in a 800-word writing challenge on the theme of Transformation. After a democratic vote, John Frain’s twisty and wonderfully Columbo-esque story “Off the Menu” was determined the first-place winner. John received a $25 gift card to Half Price Books in University City and the glory of publication on this blog. Congratulations to John–we’re very honored to present his story here.

pufferfish  n poison

Off the Menu

Sosuke Tanaka’s license said he understood the intricacies of preparing pufferfish. Overcooked, you lose the taste. Undercooked, you retain the poison. Two years of training, a rigorous certification test and impressive credentials landed him in one of Tokyo’s finest kitchens.

Before going home, he always studied the upcoming reservations list. The restaurant was a destination for tourists and dignitaries, and Tanaka keenly understood his patrons. He’d pick up special ingredients from the farmer’s market. Hit the docks to reel in fresh seafood. Collect herbs from his own garden. All to tailor a meal for a favorite diner or visiting VIP.

One name leaped off tomorrow’s list. Tanaka checked twice. Took the unusual step of confirming with the hostess. Before stopping by the docks, he crossed the street to a bar. Enjoyed twenty-two-year-old scotch that wafted down his throat as smooth as warm, melted chocolate.

He greeted no one upon arrival at the restaurant Friday afternoon. Walked directly to the kitchen to create the evening menu. At eight p.m., he peered through the doorway window into the dining room.

Tanaka recognized the customer at Table 12, tan jacket, patches on the elbow, regaling his guests with a story. Jonas Webster, chief editor at CollinsHarper. Tanaka, not needing his superb memory here, had submitted his flawless cookbook manuscript to Webster six years ago. He’d received a one-sentence rejection: “Sorry, didn’t make it past the appetizer.” An editor who thought he was a fucking comedian.

Took six years, but Tanaka finally uttered his reply, albeit under his breath, as he stared through the glass. “Tonight, Mr. Webster, you don’t make it to dessert.”

Tanaka prepared his specialty appetizer, a teriyaki crusted beef wrapped around asparagus and mushrooms. He had served the dish once to the prime minister of England. Rave reviews. He drizzled a raspberry sauce around the edge of the dish to resemble a hardback book cover. Special for his audience. A last supper should be exquisite.

Webster selected the wine, sloshed it in his glass and dabbed a sip across his lips before allowing the waiter to fill glasses around the table. For the meal, however, he did as important guests here did: allowed the chef to choose the menu.

After the appetizer left the kitchen, and as the sous chef worked on salads, Tanaka focused on the tiger puffer that lay before him. He left the liver inside, an act that could cost him his job, his lofty salary and his future. An act that would most certainly cost Jonas Webster his future.

Tanaka appreciated the fact that preparing the puffer incorrectly – some might say illegally – was even more difficult than a correct preparation. It’s the way it should be. Nothing worth this much should come easy. So engrossed in the moment, he didn’t hear the waiter call him twice. Finally, his masterpiece complete, Tanaka set out the entree for Table 12. He joined the waiter to ensure the correct plate found the man with patches on his elbow.

“Ah, here he is now,” the general manager said, addressing the table, but saving his longest look for Webster at the head. “Allow me to introduce Tokyo’s most awarded chef, Sosuke Tanaka.”

Applause from the diners, smiles all around. Webster leaned back, held out his hand to shake, then, remembering the customs of the country he was visiting, stood to bow.

“A more delicious meal I have never enjoyed,” Webster said.

“Was my pleasure,” Tanaka said. “Special for you.”

“Tell me,” Webster began, “how long have you been at your craft?”

“I’m a recent convert, sir. Indeed, I’ve been a master chef only the past decade. The gift was revealed to me later in life than most.”

Addressing both the chef and the general manager, Webster was effusive in his praise. “I’m sure I speak for all your guests when I say we’re fortunate that whatever you tried first did not pan out. This, my friend, is your true calling.” A toast, and the table drank in agreement.

For Tanaka, this was all unexpected. He wanted to hate the man. He wanted to enjoy seeing the man succumb to the poison in the puffer. His plan laid out so well, and now the victim was spoiling his effort by demonstrating his honor.

The puffer waited on Webster’s plate. The general manager, beaming, leaned in and said, “Please, sir, enjoy your dinner while it is hot.”

“Your hospitality is beyond reproach. I don’t know how you’ll beat that appetizer, but I’ll enjoy finding out.”

“Your kindness overwhelms,” Tanaka said. “There is only one way to save my honor.” Tanaka pulled the puffer fish from Webster’s plate and swallowed the liver, chasing it with a full glass of water.

He bowed toward Webster and returned to his kitchen for the final time.

 

John Frain is working on his debut novel and enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction. You can follow him on his website.

 

 

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Top Transformer: “Looking Through Glass” by J.D. Campbell

In June, the STL Scribblers held a Transformation Microprose Contest, challenging writers to produce a 800-word piece on the theme. J.D. Campbell’s “Looking Through Glass,” a powerful piece on justice and empathy, is the second of three winners, selected by democratic vote. It is published here for the first time.

jd

Looking Through Glass

Joyce Canter watched Jamal through the one-way glass as the boy sat shackled to the interrogation room table. Tears burned his eyes. The law mandated a minor’s parent to be present during questioning, but that would prove difficult since Jamal’s parents lay dead in their living room.

“Book him,” Joyce said.

Lieutenant Daniel Haden cocked his head. “Ms. Canter, the evidence isn’t that clear.”

Annoyed, she turned and faced the Lieutenant. “Two dead parents aren’t clear enough for you?”

The Lieutenant frowned. This wasn’t the first time he and the district attorney had butted heads. “Both Jamal’s and his father’s prints were found on the gun. Self-defense is plausible.”

“So is murder.”

The Lieutenant took a deep breath and said, “Three domestic disturbance calls in the past six months, all from Jamal.”

Joyce quit listening to the Lieutenant. There was no need. She knew Jamal’s guilt the moment she looked through the glass. The eyes of cold blooded killers spoke to Joyce Canter like hymns to angels. They may well up with tears and plead their innocence, or even dilate remorse, but the eyes never lied to her.

She had first become aware of “the gift” while clerking for Judge Thayler as a law student. One glimpse into the eyes of a courtroom criminal was like truth serum, a confession of sorts, which shot an electrical sensation throughout Joyce’s body. The gift was never wrong and Joyce always sided with it over any counterintuitive evidence.

Joyce looked at Jamal again through the glass. “He’s a killer, Lieutenant. A fifteen year old stone cold killer.”

“I would never question your–”

“Then don’t!” Joyce interrupted.

Joyce did not understand the Lieutenant’s empathy. Even when her husband was murdered four years ago, the Lieutenant had handed out compassion cupcakes to every suspect he interrogated. Pointless Joyce thought.

“At least hear his side of the story,” the Lieutenant pleaded now.

“No. I’m late to pick up my son.” Joyce walked to the door but before leaving she added, “The truth will prevail Lieutenant; it always does.”

Moments later, she arrived at Ethan’s school. The Wonder World Preschool decor provoked a degree of imagination long forgotten by Joyce. Cartoon animals covered the walls. Sea lions swam in blue oceans which transformed into green fields peppered with black cows.

Entering the school, Joyce was met by its director, Susan Landers, and escorted into an observation room. In stark contrast to the hallway, this room was cold, colorless, and void of personality. A one-way glass window peeked into an adjacent room where Ethan sat alone drawing at a table.

Confused, Joyce asked, “What’s happening? Why is Ethan by himself?”

“Ms. Canter,” Susan chose her words carefully, “Have you noticed a difference in Ethan’s behavior? Anything out of the ordinary, or say abnormal?”

Abnormal.

The word was still registering for Joyce when Susan produced crayon drawings from a folder and handed them to her. One picture showed a stick person holding a knife dripping with red blood. The victim, labelled Victoria, lay covered in a pool of red. Etched below the knifeman was the name Ethan.

Joyce gasped.

The next drawing showed a boy having his hands sawed off by Ethan. Another painted a gruesome mass killing of his classmates. The last showed a closeup of the knife plunged into his teacher’s eye.

In every drawing, Ethan’s stick figure wore a satisfied smile.

Joyce could barely speak. “I don’t understand.”

Susan Landers took a deep breath. “The children were asked to draw a picture of something they knew how to do, like pickup their room or brush their teeth. Ethan told his teacher this is how you kill someone.”

The drawings slipped through Joyce’s fingers and floated to the floor like falling autumn leaves. She peered through the glass and connected with her son’s eyes. The moment was brief, but the sensation freight-trained her, nearly knocking her over.

“I need to see my son now!” Joyce said, pushing past Susan and entering the classroom.

“MOMMY,” Ethan yelled and ran into his mother’s outstretched arms. His little beating breaths resonated as she held him close, consumed by his pure unadulterated love. “I missed you Mommy,” Ethan said, kissing her cheek.

Joyce sobbed uncontrollably as she carried Ethan to his carseat.

Driving home, she looked at Ethan in the rearview mirror, coming to grips with her son’s true identity, feeling her gift was now an affliction and not a blessed power. For the first time she realized there was a human being, a loving soul, connected to the image she viewed through the glass. Wiping away the tears, she dialed the Lieutenant, hoping there was still time to hear Jamal’s side of the story.

*

After graduating from the University of Iowa, J.D. began a career in advertising by writing, producing, and selling radio commercials. He currently owns Campbell Creative Media, a creative, marketing, and consultation agency.

In his free time, J.D. dabbles in the dark waters of fiction, recently winning 1st place in the 2015 St. Louis Writer’s Guild annual short story contest.

J.D. resides in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife, three daughters, and a finicky Australian Shepherd named Mazie.

 

 

 

 

 

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