Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sunshine Seas and Dandelion Wine

Wednesday, February 22, 2012—Orange, California

Laziness. Or at least in certain areas of my life—I simply feel uninspired in regards to so many things (which is partially why I haven't written here for a while). I’m especially bored with teaching. This has led me to some important decisions. I’ve all but decided not to apply for the Ventura District job. I’m also going to pull back on my Irvine application and tell the people who are writing my rec letters not to bother. I simply don’t want to move forward in anthropology. I also don’t want to spend the rest of my days having to be in Orange County. I simply don’t like this place, in a broad cultural sense; these people are really boring and strangely backwards (I say “strangely” because it hard to understand how they could be so while living in one of the biggest urban areas in the world). I’m thinking very seriously of going back to school and doing a second masters in English literature, because I think it would be fun, but also because I really like teaching and would like to stick with it—just not as an anthropologist.

I’m looking at the program at Cal State Channel Islands, which is up in Camarillo. It would work on many levels. First off, there’s a professor up there I’d like to work with. That part of California, coastal Ventura, county, is also an area I’d like to explore more deeply. Another factor in this school’s favor is that it’s out of the L.A. Basin, but not so far from it that I can’t easily visit my family. I also like the fact that the program is small (it won’t even officially exist until the fall of 2013)—I have no desire to slay academic dragons: I just want to get a no-hassle degree from a good school that’s in a place I want to be. If I do decide to go this route the question becomes what do I do for money for the next year while I’m waiting for the program to start. I’m trying not to think about that, though, mainly because I’m tired of boring, money-related thoughts floating around in my head …

The overarching reason for getting this degree is that I have finally come to understand that I’m a book guy—literature is what I do because it’s who I am. Not centering my day-to-day life in this area means that I spend an awful lot of time (of my dwindling years of life) doing things that fundamentally aren’t me. I’m a writer, yet I find that during many weeks that writing is the third or fourth priority in my life—because my job and related activities take up so much time. This has to stop and I’ve made the decision to make this happen sooner rather than later.

Speaking of writing, I’ve been doing a lot of it lately (to the detriment of my teaching work). I finished "Girl in the Orange Bikini." Or at least I think I have: I’m not sure I like the way it ends. It’s a different kind of story for me, so I think I’m going to have to live with it for a while before I make any decisions as to how successful it is. I did really enjoy writing it , though. Since “finishing” it (is any piece of writing ever truly finished?) I’ve played around with some other ideas. I’m still thinking that this story will be part of a book project of short stories that are broadly thematically linked. I’ve even got a title for the book I’m letting myself get used to: Sunshine Seas. Right now I’m envision all the stories taking place on and/or near beaches. I want the book, as its title to suggest to be permeated with summer light and the smells of the ocean. I’ve lived most of my life in coastal environments and for me a sunny day at the beach is the ultimate metaphor for all that’s good and right about this planet. Heaping Stones is book about shaking off darkness and stepping into the light. Backwaters of Beauty and Mother Earth are about defending one’s right to live in that light. I want Sunshine Seas to be about luxuriating in that light, in hope and wonder. Not that there won’t be a dark side to it, but that will simply be counterpoint to what I hope is something very positive and healthy. I want to write a book that says happiness is not only possible, but likely, assuming certain basic realities are understood. Oh yeah, the title also refers to a 1970s McGillivray and Freeman surf film I really liked as a kid called The Sunshine Sea (it was originally called Waves of Change, but it was later retitled for re-release after it bombed when it was first came out).

I finished Dandelion Wine. A fantastic book. I believe that people get drawn to certain things in life when they need them—and I definitely needed that book now: it’s really helping me understand what I’m trying to do with my own writing at the moment. Like my proposed Sunshine Seas, it’s a book of simplicity and hope. It’s also a book that really could have changed certain aspects of my life if I would have found it when I was growing up (I read so much Ray Bradbury for a few years as a kid—how did I miss such an obvious classic!—Actually, I know why: because it’s about regular people living in a small Midwestern Town—there’s not a Martian or spaceship to be seen). It’s weird, but I’m just now beginning to realize how all those Ray Bradbury stories I read as a kid have affected my writing today, both stylistically and in regards to substance. Like Ray Bradbury all I want to do (now) is tell good stories. As I’ve mentioned, these days I just want to be a high-end pulp writer. Sometime recently I figured out that I’d rather be Ray Bradbury than Dostoyevsky. Since then, literary happiness has come to me as a deluge …


helicopter steve (Estabrook) said...

That's a pretty neat idea...Sunshine Seas. And funny you should mention Dandelion Wine. I read that a couple years ago and it along with Something Wicked This Way Comes I think best shows the almost transcendent quality in Bradbury's writing. It's like a half-remembered dream. I need to read it again. Anyway, what I was getting to is that you achieve that quality in some of your writing. I first noticed it in the ending section that you ultimately cut out of Heaping Stones, and your Mother Earth books reflect this as well.

Rob Woodard said...

It's good I have you around to remember things for me -- I've already pretty much forgotten what I cut out of Heaping Stones. I can see what you're talking about with Mother Earth, though. Sunshine will be veering hard into that territory.

Got Something Wicked on my shelf. Reading some of his short stories at the moment.