February Word Challenge, Day 11 (with poem)

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are sand, napkin, ski, insult, race.

Chosen word for free association: sand
Wyoming, wind, Ed, cats, Wheatland, Wyoming Sun, Wyoming son, Landshark

Exercise (haiku):

“Wyoming Son”
for Ed

Wheatland winter
Winds moan, mourning the loss of
Their Wyoming son.

— Stace Johnson, 2017

Title page of Wyoming Sun, inscribed to me by Ed Bryant

Title page of Wyoming Sun, inscribed to me by Ed Bryant

February Word Challenge, Day 10

There will be no February 10 entry for the February Word Challenge, because that’s the day Ed Bryant died.

There are no words.

Speak Out with Your Geek Out: Sense of Community

It’s Speak Out with Your Geek Out week, during which self-described geeks blog about various positive aspects of geek culture.

As an unabashed geek, I’m all over that.

One of the most important aspects of geek culture is the fact that geeks have each other’s backs, as illustrated by the very idea of SOwYGO; Monica Valentinelli came up with the idea after witnessing the development of a geek-bashing thread on a pay-per-click website.  It’s also illustrated by the outpouring of support for one of geekdom’s most brilliant lights: sf/f/h writer, critic, and mentor Edward W. Bryant.

Ed has been a fixture in the speculative fiction world since the early 1970s, when he first began publishing short fiction.  Not long after that, he founded the Northern Colorado Writers Workshop, from which many of the most successful writers in speculative fiction and mystery have graduated, including Connie Willis, Dan Simmons, Melanie Tem, Steve Rasnic Tem, and John Dunning.

Although Ed has published hundreds of stories, essays, and reviews, perhaps his greatest legacy will be his longstanding mentoring in the sf/f/h community.  He is an unabashedly kind man, and has patiently helped hundreds of fledgling writers and pro writers alike improve their writing and critiquing skills.  He is well-spoken, with a resonant, commanding-yet-gentle baritone voice, and he has irresistable charisma and charm.  If we were to apply old-school D&D stats to him, I think his charisma would be a natural 18, and his intelligence would have to be up there, as well.

Ed has been a Type I diabetic since 1968, the same year he attended the Clarion writer’s workshop and launched his writing career.  As he has progressed in years, the diabetes has become a frequent issue due to nerve degeneration.  He recently finished a ten day stay in a Denver-area hospital with a bout of gastroparesis, his fourth in the last three years.  In addition, doctors discovered that his esophagus has slowly been turning to scar tissue over that time, a result of the repeated bouts of gastroparesis.  He also had open heart surgery a few years ago.  The health problems have taken a toll on his writing, and his output has dropped dramatically since the heart surgery.  Unfortunately, this also means his income has dropped accordingly.

Here’s where the geek community shines.  Ed’s friends, students, and neighbors banded together in late 2008 to form the loosely-knit Friends of Ed Bryant organization.  The Friends of Ed Bryant website and Facebook group formed shortly thereafter.  The purpose was to get the word out to all the people who love and respect Ed that his health and finances were in jeopardy; it was time for the geek community to step up and pay back some of what Ed had given to us over the last four decades.  And pay back we did!  Within a couple of weeks, we had enough donations of money, labor, and medical supplies to dig Ed out of the financial bind he was in at the time.

Folks, it’s time to pitch in again.  Ed is currently facing the very real possibility of losing his home due to unpaid property taxes.  Eventually, he will likely sell that house and move into some form of assisted living arrangement, but right now, he needs to get the taxes paid so he can buy time to sell the house.  The Friends of Ed have mobilized again to solicit donations on his behalf, as well as brainstorming ideas to help him out over the long term.  Donations have started rolling in, some as little as $5, others in the hundreds, but we’re still far short of the amount he needs in order to pay the tax bill.  If you can afford anything — even $5 — please consider visiting the Friends of Ed website and giving what you can.  The donations are processed by Paypal and go directly into an account managed by the Colorado Fund for People with Disabilities.  Unfortunately, this is not a tax-deductable donation, but it does go to support one of the kindest, most influential writers in the geek community.  Ed has stood with us for nearly 40 years; it’s time for us to stand in support of one of our own.  Visit the Friends of Ed Bryant website, make a donation, and join the Facebook group to stay in the loop about Ed’s status.

Make me proud, fellow geeks.

Busy times

I have websites on the brain. In addition to spending a lot of time working on a redesign of this site, I have been putting together the initial informational launch of the Flying Pen Press website. That site is not in its final incarnation, and I look forward to building a standards-compliant CSS base for the site. For e-mail updates on Flying Pen Press news and events, sign up for the FPP Newsletter.

I went to see Bret Bertolf and his band, Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams, perform at Stories for All Seasons last night. Bret is a multi-talented singer-songwriter-musician-writer-artist-illustrator-actor-filmmaker, and his second book has just come out from Little-Brown. The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music presents as a children’s book, but the level of detail and inside jokes in the book are far beyond what today’s children would know, making the book and interesting read for parents and grandparents, as well. For example, in the section of the book describing “Countrypolitan” music, we see drawings of three cosmopolitan country stars on a patio grilling hot dogs. The final pages of the book allow us to identify the three stars as Skeeter Davis, Jim Reeves, and Chet Atkins, but what’s really interesting is the way Bertolf depicted their surroundings. In the background is a 50s-era ranch-style home with Frank Lloyd Wright lines and an Edsel in the carport. But most telling is the “Fallout Shelter” sign to the right of the house, pointing down to a concrete bunker. These are the kinds of details that small children today would not understand, and might cause them to ask questions, increasing the interaction between the reader and the child. In this way, Bertolf trusts the adult readers to fill in the back story for the children and educate them about much more than just the history of country music. I highly recommend the book, whether or not you have a child to read it to.

I also found out about a writers workshop taking place this August. I won’t be able to attend, because I will be taking off nearly two weeks later in that month for vacation, but it looks to be a workshop well worth attending. The Ed Writers Workshop is named for Ed McManis (and possibly for Ed Bryant, one of the instructors, as well.) It is a three day workshop taking place on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, August 6-8, at the Denver Academy. Instructors include Joanne Greenberg (Fiction), Edward Bryant (Science Fiction/Horror), Joseph Hutchison (Poetry), and Denise Vega (Children’s Literature). Registration fees for this workshop are reasonable, considering the amount of one-on-one attention students will receive with these award winning writers.

Speaking personally, I can heartily recommend Ed Bryant as a writing instructor, having participated in a couple of his writing groups. Ed is the master of the informative critique, and is able to point out strengths as well as flaws in a manuscript in a non-threatening way. He always remembers the cardinal rule: the manuscript is being critiqued, not the writer. As a result, writers leave his critiques knowing that even seriously flawed manuscripts have the potential to become great manuscripts with the right revisions.

Okay, enough stalling. I need to get my tax forms signed and in the mail. I’m happy to report that, for the second year in a row, my writing income eclipsed my writing expenses. Hey, $106 profit is still a profit!

A Year Later

For many U.S. citizens, the most tragic news to report on September 11, 2002 is that Johnny Unitas has died of a heart attack at age 69. However, I think many more U.S. citizens are breathing a collective sigh of relief that the anniversary date has come and gone without a significant terrorist event taking place. At work today, a few people with ties to the east coast were understandably emotional. Aside from that, it was a pretty normal day for me, and I’m thankful.

The Writer’s Circle group met this evening at a member’s home in the mountains. Rain fell the entire time, and a significant thunderstorm developed; it was wonderful. It was also a bit synchronistic; two of the stories we critiqued dealt with rain and lightning themes. I committed to having a story ready for next month’s meeting, which means I need to finish “Chesterfield Gray” in the next couple of weeks. It’s not a genre story, but the group is willing to read it anyway. As Ed jokes, “Sure, you can submit a non-genre story. It just has to be twice as good!”

One of our members is making significant strides in publishing, with several different white-hot irons in the fire. I won’t go into more detail than that, because it’s not my place to do so, as Brian Plante has ably demonstrated with his Chronicles of the Garden Variety Writers. But I will say that it is inspiring to see one of our own climbing the rungs. It’s also clear that he’s working very hard at it — much harder than I am. It’s probably not fair to compare our situations, because we have completely different schedules and family requirements, but it does make me look at my time and efficiency, as well as my commitment level.

Yes, I think it’s safe to say that I will be a published writer someday. But the examples have made it clear that this won’t happen at my current level of quality or output. I need more practice, and I need to lick some stamps.