November 24, 2015
This blog turns a year old today. It is officially a toddler. It’s definitely developed an attitude and occasionally runs away from me, leaving a trail of destruction. Since I started this little experiment, articles have been accessed over 280,000 times from nearly every country on earth. (I don’t know what’s the problem with Chad and Turkmenistan.) It’s been an opportunity to talk about things as micro as gender socialization of our daughter and as macro as immigration and refugee issues. I’ve tried to keep the theme of feminism in the forefront as it’s the paradigm that best helps me make sense of the world.
A year ago Andrea was starting her job at Planned Parenthood, I was on parental leave from Portland State and Cozy was just a cooing infant. That first blog post was about channeling John Lennon to embrace being a stay-at-home dad. Now Andrea is working at an amazing law firm in downtown Portland, I’m on permanent leave from PSU and Cozy is throwing all sorts of shade about not eating her chicken dinner. In that year we’ve taken Cozy to Canada, Mexico, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.
For the last year I have been writing like my life depended on it. We fully funded The Dream Police book and I’m wrapping up the seventh of nine chapters. My short story, “Elvis is My Rider,” was published in a great collection called A Matter of Words, and I try to get at least one blog post out a week, linking the big bad world to the tiny act of raising a baby girl.
Writing almost makes up for not teaching. It’s an inward act instead of an outward one, but it’s still about connecting the dots so you can connect people to each other. The writer who is turning my first novel, The Mission of the Sacred Heart, into a screenplay, Elizabeth Carlton Chase, suggested that I try my own hand at screenwriting and that I enter the Short Screenplay Challenge that she won in 2006. I thought, “More writing! Let’s go!” The challenge is a series of five page screenplays. They give you the genre, the setting and a prop. Oh, and 48 hours to finish.
I didn’t even know where to start. I had to Google what a page of screenplay looked like. My first round assignment was a drama on a toxic river with a doll. I wrote a little play called “Letting Go,” about a couple in southern Georgia who live downstream from a paper mill and lose their daughter to leukemia. It was an exhilarating experience. If it wins its heat, I go on to the next round in December. Winning it all gets your foot in the door in a big way.
All this writing keeps me grounded but it’s also a lifeline out of this mess. Like messages in bottles, I throw each page out into the world and hope something reaches somebody who says, “This is really good. Let’s give this guy some money so he can write more.” Like a musician sending dozens of demos out into the universe in hopes one lands in the ears of a major label A&R person having a good day, I write my lottery tickets. Then the story can be told of how the big break came from a funny blog post or a convincing Amazon review.
When Mission first came out, I went down to LA to push it everywhere I could think of. I snuck copies on to the New Release shelf at Book Soup in West Hollywood and left a copy in the men’s room of the Directors Guild of America office on Sunset with the inscription, “This book will change your life.” It seemed like it would make a good story. I could hear Wes Anderson on Jimmy Kimmel saying, “There was just no good material out there and then I found this book about Portland in the bathroom of the Urth Caffé on Melrose…” And there’s Cozy strolling down the red carpet. A boy can dream, right?
I know my stuff is good on some level. I’m certainly no David Foster Wallace, but I’m also not overly tortured to the point of suicide. Having an author that you connect with can be such a rush. Every positive reader review I’ve had has been a dream realized. I want to do what my favorites did for me. My favorite writer is Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) and the fact that we both have books for sale at Powell’s is really enough. I’m just happy that there are still plenty of people who want to read something longer than a tweet and some of them seem to really like reading my musings. It’s an honor really, that anyone would spend any of their time with something that started out for me as a blank page. (If you’ve read this far, snap your fingers two times.)
So a year after this blog started (and went completely viral with the help of a full blown fascist named Donald John Trump), I’m still writing away. After The Dream Police is done, it’s time for a non-fiction book about feminist fatherhood. I don’t have a title yet, maybe Sit Down and Pee, but I’m doing a lot of research. I write because I have to and if someone wants to give me some money at some point, I promise I won’t lose my hunger.