Monday, May 23, 2011

Chapter 55: In Which I Rhapsodize About My Love of Others, as if I Have Just Smoked a Vast Amount of Opiates

Oh my God! I just love everybody!

Not really. But lately I've been on a collaborative streak. While I think writing is, for the most part, a solitary act, collaboration gives me the opportunity to look at things from a new perspective. I've learned this the last few weeks at the Interdisciplinary Writers Lab. We have a pretty tight-knit group of students who, most importantly, feel comfortable around each other. This has made for some interesting interactions.

Brenda Wong Aoki taught the class different theatrical movements, or kata. For instance, there is shooting a bow, in which you draw back and imaginary bow and shoot an imaginary arrow. There is one for throwing a spear. There is a kata for hysterical crying, terrified crying, belly laughing, demure schoolgirl laughing, dying, etc. All of these actions are done to the rhythm of "jo-ha-kyu" (no idea if I spelled that right), or "beginning-middle-end." I find this an intriguing way to look at the world; every little action you take has a birth to death life cycle, whether its dialing on your cellphone or walking to a door or whatever. Brenda was very adept at reminding us of the emotion behind each action, and what should be going through our heads.

So we learned these katas. Then we had to come up with sequences in which we string them together. For instance, my group did a sequence like this: we show sadness (bringing our hands slowly in front of our eyes), then we say farewell (holding our hands up with the palms inward, then exhaling). We did this three times, then three of the people did the kata for love (drawing your right arm in an arc, ending with the hand in front of your heart, then holding the hand outward as an extension of love), which I did the kata for hate (glowering and shouting "Ho!" at some imaginary target). I'm sure that whole description I just did was very vague. But anyway. There was another group whose sequence was three "dying" katas in a row (sit up on your knees, stretch to the sky, then fall over), in which they fell across each other like victims of a massacre. Again, it was cool to see the physical comfort that enables people to do that.

Where things really got interesting is that Brenda had us perform these sequences in the background while individual students read creative pieces. Even though there was no rehearsal, it was amazing to see how synchronous everything was, how a certain sequence of kata could make a story or poem seem comical, sinister, or so much more profound. This is collaboration, and we're going to take that collab into the performance on July 6th. I'm going to read an older piece, and I've been thinking of having some of my classmates perform movements while I read. Should be fun. No, scratch that. It will undeniably be fun.

Also, I'm writing a piece for the 1000 Words reading on June 2nd, in Portland, OR. Here's how it works: the curator Mel Favara is sending us weekly prompts based on a theme. The theme is CONSCIENCE. Every week, Mel gives the readers a set of 5 words and a phrase to fit into a 250-word piece. I am writing a complete fiction story based on the prompts, but there is the option to do four independent pieces, and they can be any genre. Some writers don't like any kind of guidelines, but I love projects where I have specific parameters. I can go back later and edit the piece however I see fit, but the guidelines really help focus me while writing, and provide for new ideas. This is another kind of collaboration.

Also, I'm working on putting together my first anthology editing project. I won't go into too much detail on this, since who knows when it'll come to fruition, but it's been cool talking with other writers who have editing experience, learning the steps I need to take. Again, collaboration.

In other words: I just love everybody.


You know who I don't love? Amazon. Yes, they carry my book. This is not altruism on their part. They take a 70% cut from any sale. Buy my book on Amazon and I see very little of that. I'd much rather somebody buy it from an independent bookstore or the online Quail Bell shop, which also sells JDS. Plus, them being a monolithic corporation that apparently has gotten into politics with this Wikileaks suppression. Plus, the fact that Createspace, their print on-demand arm that Six Gallery publishes through, has straight up botched orders and printings of my book. I'll leave it to you to guess whether they compensated for this. So I'm not really feeling them, though I see the necessity of selling and publishing through this company.

My editor pointed this site out to me recently as a home for the ebook version of JDS, which I am prioritizing over the summer. They have pretty widespread distribution, but also offer the author 85% of the sale. Anybody who promotes the book online gets an 11.5% affiliate commission if the sale is through them. Right now I'm leaning towards Smashwords for the ebook. I might have a Kindle edition if I can scrounge together the money to upload, just for the extra revenue, though it wouldn't be a lot. The fact that Amazon takes a 70% cut from the sale of an electronic book (i.e. no printing costs) is pretty out there.

It's good to know there are alternatives to these seemingly onmipotent companies. Take Greyhound, for example. Shitty accomodations, sky-high prices, rude employees. Yet everybody rides with them because they're the only game in town. This is why I say "Hallelujah!" for the Megabus. Comfortable seating, bootleg movies to pass the trip, and, most important, reasonable prices. All it takes is one alternative to shake up the system.

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