Fear Not the Dog Bowl

I do not fear dog bowl. Say it again, mantra style. I do not fear dog bowl!

For those of us who have iron-gut, there is an implicit challenge. Enjoy the mixture, revel in the insanity.

Wait, Pal. What’s dog bowl?

Exactly what it implies–a bunch of leftovers and odds-and-ends that don’t really go together, but you know the dog would enjoy. The first dog bowl, at least in modern Edison lore, consisted of Thai food leftovers (2 dishes) mac ‘n cheese, goldfish and half-a-cheeseburger. It was delicious in its own weird way. To me, anyone who can stomach mayonnaise-peanut better sandwiches (yes, they exist) can handle dog bowl.

My friend once consumed cinnamon french toast, a seafood omelet and chocolate milkshake in one breakfast sitting. Go ahead, let that culinary hurricane sink in. The only way to make that one weirder would be to throw in lime Jell-O with some tapenade-asparagus. Did he get sick? No, but his brother was almost nauseous watching him eat.

Dog bowl, which is Edison's Man-Hash, some sausage-bell pepper mix and Cheez-Its on top.

We all get our inspiration (and revulsion) somewhere. Man-hash was just dog bowl with a little forethought and a skillet. Whenever my wife sees me working on dog bowl, she walks the other day. I offer some to the kids, no thanks. But my son’s gaze lingers, his curiosity piqued. He, like me, is of the Iron-gut Clan. And he can handle spicier South Indian food than I can. So there may come a time.

Since I’m a writer who writes about stuff (lotsa stuff) I offer this: Start throwing things together–characters, objects, places. The combination may be unworkable or toxic, or now and then produce something unexpectedly awesome. This weird world calls for a little zany. Taking a stroll through the loud, vibrant circus carries no obligation to move forward with it. Plus, you never know.

Very few rational people would follow a real-life Jack Sparrow. But he sure is fun to listen to.

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New Website

I am pleased, and proud, to present my new professional website:

www.justinedisonnovels.com

This replaces my old Emerald Minds site, which was an exercise in both fun and frustration (many, many hours building HTML and tables and monkeying with text-spacing).

I used Wix for this one and am damned pleased with it. Wix has evolved and improved over the past few years. For those of us who’d rather design and work on content, this platform (with hosting and security built in) means you don’t have to spend nearly as much time de-bugging code (a task I am incapable of) or worrying if your images are going to float properly.

(If these last two senses don’t make any sense to you, it’s all website speak.)

Way back when, in my web design coursework, a teacher was fond of saying, “Why re-invent the wheel? Why not be the little person standing on the shoulders of giants?” In other words, when somebody else (a lot of somebodies) have done so much of the web-building work for you, why not take what they’ve done and craft your own site?

Works for me.

If you think my site is nifty (cool!) and are thinking about something for your own books, art, or photography endeavors (very cool!) shoot me an email:

edisonchurning@gmail.com

Ferrari with a "Churning" quote

Leaving it Behind

What have you left behind to become who or what you are, now?

Several years ago, helping my godparents move out of their closed cafe, we encountered one item which wouldn’t budge. The waist-high iron safe was so heavy–or had actually settled into the poured-concrete floor–that we couldn’t move it. It seemed to chant “Back injury” every time I touched it. Ultimately, we left it for the suite’s next occupants to deal with. Ali and Farzaneh had no use for a 500-pound metal box, anyway.

On my first night of MFA courses at Hamline, program chair Mary Rockcastle said she had a first novel (about a young woman’s sexuality, I believe) sitting in a box up on a closet shelf. When asked if she’d ever get it down and publish it, she laughed it off. A soft-spoken fellow student (a Morocco-born physician) asked her about it again in a follow-up class. Nope. It wasn’t going to happen.

How can a writer abandon an entire novel? Even then, I knew it was a monumental work. Now that I’ve been through the process four times, mistakes and all, I’m certain it is. Endgame alone gobbled up 1,700 hours.

Red pen and coffee mug with Edison's draft work.

More than a few times–in fact, it seemed to be an unchallenged mantra at Hamline–people have said your first novel is an exercise in process. You have to write that first one–stumbling miscues, wee-hours epiphanies, atrocious errors–simply to experience all of that. Then you’re ready to write a novel. “To the closet shelf with you, Rookie Effort!”

Seriously?

But it’s true. My first, and MFA thesis, was called “Journeys of the Razed Bridge.” Jack and Jehanne. Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, girl has god-awful secret (and misdeeds), boy…You get the idea. It had everything (I thought) with an appropriately literary title. Bam, I was on my way.

Well, no.

Somewhere, harsh reality set in. A solid year of work now exists as an old Word doc and a paper copy in my basement. My writing went on.

Solidly into my 40s, now, I’m in a stage of life where casting off regrets is entirely healthy. Crucial, even. So there are random moments when I consider dragging out JOTRB for a re-work (a stroll down amnesia lane, if you will). But I’ve learned what I’ve learned. Jack and Jehanne may live again, or may spend eternity riding the baggage carousel. Either way, they did their job. I can be grateful.

 

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Persepolis Review

Marjane Satrapi’s tale of growing up in Iran is presented in a unique and often hilarious comic-book format. She is obviously a talented writer and storyteller and artist (three skills that seldom overlap). While the voice is strictly that of the coming-of-age girl (born in 1970 in Iran) the illustrations and Greek chorus-style renderings of authority figures beautifully convey what many Persians must have been feeling in the years surrounding the 1979 Revolution.

The writing is what’s often referred to as economical. You won’t find paragraphs of lyrical prose or florid descriptions of, well, anything. In that, there’s genius. We’re seeing the world entirely through Satrapi’s often-skewed eyes and dialogue with her family and friends. Because of that, the story is told with such authenticity that I don’t doubt a single word of it. The rumors and rules, protests and chaos, bombings and rampant decline of a once-proud country–this is how it really happened.

(On a personal note, my “godparents” hail from Tehran, and were close enough to hear the riots around the U.S. Embassy during those fateful days.)

Lately, thanks to our political climate in the U.S., the notions of freedom and immigration issues and fairness loom large in the public eye. At the very least, Satrapi’s heartbreaking story should be included in any intelligent discussion–a cautionary tale about what could happen. After all, as she states several times in the book, nobody foretold a theocratic regime taking over Iran. Who would take that idea seriously?

Marjane Satrapi's comic novel "Persepolis" with a Persian-style pillow

 

Tick-Tock

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

–Time, by Pink Floyd

 

I have a couple irrational fears in my knapsack–plus a few that aren’t so irrational. My recent 42nd birthday was neither a panic moment nor a boot in the arse, but it did seem to herald middle age. So, again (with feeling): What have I done with my life?

Copied image of Pink Floyd in concert

Pink Floyd concert from Pulse CD booklet

When I look around my house–and it is undoubtedly messy–the first part of the answer is easy (responsible for 85% of the mess), two great kids. Happy, well-adjusted, confident and fun to be with. (My wife, Luanne, is a huge part of this, naturally.)

The second part is also easy: My books. Three down, a fourth (“Tempest Road”) planned for September release, and the fifth (“Destruction”) and sixth under way.

Justin Edison's three available books on a shelf

Justin Edison’s three available books on a shelf

For the sake of sanity, I’m bypassing the questions of value or worthwhile investment these things occupy in my world and the hours of my life. (The Churning probably took 3,000 hours, all told.) This is an issue that all artists wrestle with–unless they’re an arrogant ass–yet the answer is defiantly evasive. (I’m a storyteller. Does anyone benefit/learn/see the world differently through my work?) Suffice to say, this is what I know how to do best.

Back to that irrational fear, though. The Pink Floyd song “Time” scares me quite a bit. “Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled line.” Call it a poetic urging to do something! (For each of us, that something is different, of course.)

I’d be kidding myself if I said my time was unlimited. Statistically, the fact that I’ve personally avoided cancer and bad auto accidents and death by violence, so far, doesn’t favor my avoiding them all in the future. Factor in my upcoming work plans and, well, my window of opportunity may be slamming shut. Only so many hours in a day. The fear of not doing enough looms large, every day.

A song calls. How do I answer? One turn on the merry-go-round, after all.

B&W pic of Justin's watch showing 4:10pm

 

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