Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
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Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Monday, June 27, 2011

SNHU MFA Summer Residency Program, Part 2: Reflections on Star Island, or Who’s snuggling the rat?


See Part I (Argh!) here:

As some of yous might have surmised, the weather on Shutter Island last week turned from truly gorgeous to truly horrific (i.e., the setting from the Movie Se7en came to mind more than once). As Wiki put it: In an unidentified city of near-constant rain and urban decay ... substitute “rustic” for urban decay and you’re on Shutter Island. And for any writer feeling frustrated by a lack of success (whether finding an agent/editor/publisher or anything financial), here’s something to keep your head(s) above water with: Shortly after completing his education, he (Andrew Kevin Walker--the screenwriter of Seven) moved to New York City and began a career in retail at Tower Records. During that time, he worked on several projects, but Walker was unable to find much success until 1991, when he completed the script for Seven. Something tells me Andrew spent the summer of 1990 on Shutter Island ...

But I digress ... there was also a lot of fun on the island of shutter and although some of the jokes may be inside (to those in the program), Darrel Leo’s account (his reading the last night of the residency) was both brilliant and hilarious.

Reflections on Star Island, or Who’s snuggling the rat?

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip……

The rickety boat crawled out to sea. Some chipper college coed narrated the trip by pointing out assorted dead shit that we passed.

“On our right is the first naval, penal, leper, chemical warfare testing institution. “

A first semester student puked over the side.

Near the horizon, there were a few lumps of rock; the isles of shoals. Our destination, our home, our classroom…..our penal colony……I mean writer’s colony.

The hotel was okay. I mean okay in a there’s no hot water, your room tilts like a carnival funhouse, and there’s some bitch on the 2nd floor threatening your life if you wake up her bratty ass kid kind of way.

Katie assured us of the history and calm of the island. But… she’s from New York.

She finds Detroit peaceful.

So Not Tim forgot mixer.

I settled in and let myself steep in the island’s environment. I roamed the rocky shores, watched the waves crash in a violent froth and…….what is up with that fucking foghorn?!

We ventured out, rowing to a neighboring island. Captain Merle lead the way. Some went seeking experience, knowledge, excitement. Some went in search of a Dunkin Donuts. Still we ventured into that heart of smutty darkness and none left unchanged. No, really, we all had to change because of the seagull shit.

In our time of need we called out for our intrepid adventurer. “Craig,” we called, but…. he was not there. We later learned he was getting a mani pedi after his Cosmo shoot.

We welcomed new faculty members. After the first student faculty mixer, they were caught trying to hotwire a boat. Unfortunately for them, it was a row boat. As they trudged up the hill in defeat, Ann chopped the heads off all the petunias. Diane was heard yelling, “Residency on an island, bitches!”

Still, we read, and we wrote, and we listened, and we talked. We talked about books and words and craft and how fucking cool are Hungarian midgets?

I learned so much……how to query an agent, “So, wanna see my manuscript?”

Turtles………...are delicious in soup! Jason will take all the mashed potatoes. I can find literary gems in my waking thoughts like “Who’s fucking singing?”, or “Huh. That seagull just took a shit.”

I learned that My novel is always half done and writing from a fish perspective is hard.

There are 200 thousand manuscripts in search of a home. Mine is just one more lonely sperm swimming upstream. We need a workshop on touching ourselves. Kim is devious with corn.

Rituals and traditions endured. New ones began. Friendships made and strengthened.
To paraphrase “veni vedi,…… I didn’t study latin”…..we came, we wrote, we whined about it.

Next summer, I’ll be first on the boat back to Shutter island.

And here’s soon to be a graduate of the program, Kelly Gamble Stone’s reflection on doing time in a summer squall ...

Some one-liners about the workshops:

Tomorrow we examine the geography of blow jobs.

Wait, was the fish the narrator?

She looks normal.

Do it harder.

If you’re getting shot at, you’re going to say the F-word a lot.

Sexual frustration is okay.

I always love a man in a headband.

Are you famous?

I’m using the term shit loosely, of course.

My slit became a slat and now I look like a slut.

Coffee anyone? To say the coffee on shutter island was weak is being more than generous (like giving $77 million to a woman who once spilled McDonald’s coffee on herself). Shutter Island brew was pretty much brown water that permitted one to see the bottom of the cup if it was half full. I drink 3 mugs of the heavenly coffee soon as I wake up. One more beyond four in the afternoon and I’m up through the night, so I have to limit it to another dose before three to play it safe. I drank upwards of a dozen “cups” of the swill served on Shutter Island a day and managed to nap in the afternoon and sleep through the night (once that fucking foghorn became elevator music, around 11:00 p.m. or so).

Ann Wertz Garvin (one very funny lady) and one of the program’s brilliant staff, was clever enough to smuggle concentrated beans (coffee) aboard the S.S. Minnow and was saved from the Percocet state Shutter Island coffee left us in through lunch and into dinner ... which, truth be told, the four day nor’easter offset by replacing caffeine as a stimulant by day 4 of our incarceration. Ann is a native New Yorker and obviously wise to ways of surviving “rustic”.

I’m not sure who managed to capture the picture above of our ferry back to Portsmouth (a truly beautiful city), but a few of our pirates did upchuck their breakfasts on the return trip. As a guy without sea legs (and one who’s spewed on past voyages, both fishing and cruising alike), I focused my attention on a kindle version of a book by the SNHU desert father (Craig Childs), The Animal dialogues ... somehow reading how Craig was almost eaten by a Grizzly Bear made me feel better about our Perfect Storm return trip to Portsmouth. Craig is another of the program’s staff and a truly amazing guy (he danced, he typed on his laptop ... he mentored, he typed on his laptop ... he rowed, he typed on his laptop ... he ate while typing on his laptop ... he even defied the Percocet coffee brew while typing on his laptop ...

Here’s the voices of the two guys I kept hearing on that foghorn ...

“Madonna mia,” one guy said. “That fuckin’ noise. What is it?”

“Foghorn,” the other guy said.

“Foghorn? The fuck for?”

“So the ships at sea don’t crash.”

“What ships? There’s six rowboats and a couple of sailboats out there. And that dopey ferry we took here looks like it belongs on Gilligan’s island. And it’s perfectly clear out. Can’t they use a foghorn when it’s foggy out. I mean, not for nothin’, foghorn does have the word fog in it.”

“Maybe, but I seen some other boats out there too. The traffic could get a little tricky.”

“Other Boats? Traffic? Where? The little lobster things? Those guys working them things are tough SOB’s. Tough as nails they are. They don’t give a shit about crashing. I think that foghorn bullshit is for New Yorkers like us, pro’bly some sound track the back of the prison put on by Red Sox Nation motherfuckers.”

“You know what? You’re pro’bly right. Cocksuckers.”

Der fliegende Holländer (the most famous “ghost ship” of all--until the Thomas Leighton to Shutter Island, that is) ... but one hell of an opera (although my wife, the Principessa Ann Marie, said she’d kill herself before she had to sit through another Wagner opera) ...

Domani, the Oklahoma Kid (Daniel Mitchell) on his experiences with the Shutter Island Polar Bears (they swim anywhere’s ... they’re coooooool) ...