Today and tomorrow I'm interviewing author and writing teacher Jack Remick. Remick, along with author Robert J. Ray, run a fantastic writing blog that I've highlighted before (here). Don't miss Bob and Jack's Writing Blog. They offer seven free writing courses.
Jack has a brand new novel releasing this month, called The Deification. Readers interested in California's Central Valley during the 60's will discover the origin of the term 'beatniks', and much more with Remick's literary style. Check the bottom of the post for the book's blurb.
Today's questions focus on Remick's path to publication. One technique he uses is called 'timed writing'. Tomorrow I'll let him explain what timed writing is, and how it helps the writing process.
Debbie: How did you get started on your writing journey, and how long did it take until you were published?
Jack: We all stand on the shoulders of giants. As a writer, I have to acknowledge that some pretty good guys ran a lot of ink onto paper before I came along. Poetry was my entry into the writing world. Without knowing anything about how hard it was I decided early on—about 17 or so—to be a poet. I tried all kinds of poetry—romantic gushing, Greek dactyls in heroic form, free verse, all imitative until I met Thom Gunn who was teaching poetry at UC Berkeley. Mr Gunn, himself a terrific poet and friend of Ted Hughes, told me, after reading some of my derivative gunk that if I inhabited another man’s universe it would always be smaller than the one I could create for myself.
That little push launched me into a new world and a few months after that lecture I wrote a piece called To Kepler . That poem was my first published piece. I thought—okay, that was easy. But it took about fifteen years before I had another poem in print. Jack Moodey, a huge influence on my writing told me to take my time, don’t rush into print. Learn the basics before you try to play with the big boys. That was and still is good advice. Too many beginning writers feel the need for validation long before their technique is high quality. This need produces monumental problems.
A few years later I got interested in fiction. Again, success came fast—a story called Frogs come out in The Carolina Quarterly and again I thought well if it’s that easy, no sweat. But the Muses had other ideas and it took eight years for any of my work to find a home. After the initial learning ordeal, I’ve had some successes—novels, short story collections, screen plays and a couple of anthologies, one, The Seattle Five Plus One that I’m very proud of because in that poetry collection I worked with some inspired and inspiring poets who taught me a lot about craft, form, technique, drive, image, metaphor—all the good stuff you need to know to be not just a poet but a writer in this hard hard world.
Debbie: Do you have an agent? (you can explain why or why not, or how you found your agent)
Jack: I am fortunate to have a very good and capable agent by the name of M. Anne Sweet. She’s a poet, graphic artist, magazine editor and, now, agent who helps me shape my writing. She asks the oblique questions that make me ask other questions that in the end answer problems of narrative, dialog, object and, what I call “plot tracks.”
Debbie: Do you write every day? Have a weekly word count?
Jack: I work every day. I do timed writing two days a week with a group of other writers down at Louisa’s Bakery Café on Eastlake in Seattle. If you’re in Seattle, give me call and we can write together. It’s an open group so everyone is welcome. We usually write for thirty minutes. In addition to the active timed writing on Tuesdays and Fridays, I work scenes or pages three days a week with another group of writers so I get a lot done. If I’m not engaged with the clock and the fountain pen and a pad of paper, I’m working text, rewriting. We have developed an entire book of techniques for the rewrite, most of which Bob has gotten into his wonderful book The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Manuscript.
Debbie: I'd love to get to Seattle and write with your group! What methods help you combat or avoid writer's block?
Jack: As you can see from everything up to this point, writer’s block isn’t a problem. Using these techniques to develop stories, I’ve managed to produce The California Quartet, four novels that Coffeetown Press will publish in 2012. The first volume, The Deification is already in print and available either from the publisher or from Amazon.com. In addition to the Quartet, Coffeetown will bring out Gabriela and the Widow in 2012. I wrote Gabriela in less than a year using these techniques. Gabriela is the story of a 20 year old Mexican girl who comes to the Valley of Bones to take care of a 92 year old Widow. It’s pretty mythic.
Debbie: What's next for you, writing-wise?
Jack: Right now I’m doing some serious reworking of Valley Boy, the second volume of The California Quartet. Once Valley Boy is in the can, I have a novel called Maxine in just aching for a rewrite. I have a single rule for my writing—leave no book unfinished.
Find out more about Jack Remick with these links:
About the book:
About the book:
To be a writer in America, you have to bleed. Eddie Iturbi, a young car-thief obsessed with the dark magic of Beat culture in a mythic San Francisco, sets off on a spaced-out crusade to connect with the Beat gods. En route Eddie links up with living legend Leo Franchetti, the last of the Beat poets. Leo sends Eddie to the Buzzard Cult where a mysterious mentor reveals the writers' ritual of blood and words. Changed and invigorated and back in the City, Eddie falls in love with a snake dancer at the Feathered Serpent. She can't save him from Scarred Wanda, jealous bad-girl of literature, whose goal is to destroy Eddie before Jack Kerouac relays all the magical secrets of the literary universe. Immortality is just a book away. Will Eddie live long enough to write it?
Check back tomorrow for all kinds of details about timed writing, and how to use it to streamline your novel-writing process. If you have a question for Jack, leave it in the comments, and he'll try to answer if he can.
Check out the interview, Part 2.
Check out the interview, Part 2.