Life Imitates Art Dept.

On New Year’s Eve, DJ Ferry Corsten will be headlining a huge rave at the Del Mar racetrack in Southern California. Corsten isn’t really my thang — he’s a trance DJ, while I go for funky house, progressive house, & some tech house (and, curiously enough, I saw him on NYE a few years ago, following John Digweed, Who Is God)  — but I’m still loving this, because Chapter 13 of Elegy Beach (text here, audio here) is essentially a post-apocalyptic fantasy rave (called a “vibe”) at the Del Mar racetrack.

Only two things could make this any cooler:

1.  Someone who has read Elegy Beach goes to Del Mar racetrack on New Year’s Eve and has a total hallucinogenic deja vu moment, or

2. I somehow end up DJing at Del Mar.

Okay, universe, I just sent up a flare….

There’s a weird kind of sympathetic magic that happens to me when I recontextualize a real place in a work of fantasy. It’s as if from then on I have artificial memories of impossible events that happened there. I know where the pre-Change bubble is on I-5 coming down into the California San Joaquin Valley. I know how the Water Court in downtown LA’s Bunker Hill ends up being used in Avalon Burning, and what confrontation took place in the ruins of CityWalk in Universal City. Which metal projection on the Empire State Building Pete grabs onto for dear life in the hang-glider sequence in Ariel. Where the pentagram is drawn on the dried pool beneath the tennis courts at Hearst Castle. The canal where Pete saw the manticore. Where the Goodyear blimp Spirit of America came down at the Tejon Pass. The spot on the bridge where Fred and Yan stop the Surfliner car between Del Mar racetrack and the ocean. Where the cornfield is in the Biosphere that gets raided by zombies in “Like Pavlov’s Dogs.” Where the entrance to Hell is in the upcoming Mortality Bridge (more about that in a future post).

Having a laminate of the impossible that can be placed atop the concrete world is one of my more obvious trademarks. It’s also just way cool. And when something happens in the world after I’ve written about it in some impossible context — yowza.

SF in SF Reading (pt. 1)

Last Saturday’s reading at SF in SF was an enormous amount of fun. Thanks to everyone who attended, and thanks to the wonderful Terry Bisson for hosting and interviewing, and to Rina Weisman and all who put together this splendid series.

I recorded the evening and will present the audio in three parts: Reading from Elegy Beach, reading a short story called “I’m Sorry to Have to Tell You This,” and the subsequent Q & A with me and co-reader Dale Pindell.

I also conducted a brief interview with Rick Kleffel of The Agony Column. He is an amazing interviewer, and I will post links when it is online.

SF in SF Reading – ELEGY BEACH Chapter 3:


Download: Boyett – Elegy Beach (reading) [16:12]

“Myopia” – Keynote Speech – LJWC 2010

This came about as a result of my bluff being called by Jared Kuritz, Director of the La Jolla Writers Conference.

James Frey had originally been slated for the keynote. Frey gained infamy when his ostensible memoir A Million Little Pieces was exposed as almost entire fabrication — after he had gained the Oprah Seal of Approval and been on her show to tout his own writerly sensitivity. Frey later claimed to have knuckled under to pressure from his publisher and agent, and as it was his first published book and he was on uncertain ground, he went along with it.

Perhaps that’s true, but there had to have been a point (more likely dozens of points) where Frey realized he was going to have to pile lie upon lie to make this work, and anyone with an ounce of integrity (or at least some kind of admirable quality) would have copped to it, apologized, and moved on. Instead Frey lied until it was irrevocably proven that he made it all up, and then his response was to say, But they made me do it!

In any case Frey not only studiously avoided many opportunities to become a vertebrate, he essentially made a career out of crying mea culpa and then exploiting that very exploitation.  I had a real problem with this and basically told Jared that I intended to walk out of Frey’s speech (I didn’t tell him that I was also going to do my best to get a lot of people to walk out on it as well.)

Then I saw that Frey was teaching a course at LJWC on generating controversy as a PR device. I went ballistic. I called Jared. How the hell can you have this charlatan teaching your students? What kind of light do you want to shed on the rest of the hardworking teachers who bust their ass to bring you a solid curriculum? Jared just laughed and said, “I’m pretty sure he’s gonna flake. I’ll give you the keynote when he does.”

Riiight. You’re on, I say. Safe bet, right? Then Frey flakes. (And this is before this week’s wholly justified pillorying and comeuppance regarding Frey’s Draconian story mill.)

So I scrambled to add another class and the keynote to my LJWC schedule. And because the students at LJWC are really good, and generally well along in their abilities — they got chops, folks — I wanted to avoid the platitudinous cheerleading speeches I usually hear and talk about stuff I wish I’d known when I was first starting out.

The result was “Myopia” — hardly my first speech, but my first keynote speech. I was (and remain) pleasantly startled by the reaction to it. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received was from conference organizer Antoinette Kuritz, who said to me (you can hear it at the tail end of the recording) that she wanted to send Frey a copy of the speech and thank him for canceling.

So thank you, Jared, for calling my bluff. And thank you, James Frey, for flaking.


Download: Myopia (LJWC 2010 Keynote Speech) [27:45]

The Writer as Performer – LJWC 2010

Here’s the last of my classes from this year’s La Jolla Writers Conference. I found it ironic that “The Writer as Performer” was the least attended of my courses — maybe writers just don’t want to be performers? Well, live & learn.

Next up will be “Myopia,” my LJWC keynote speech.

The Writer as Performer
The book may be over when you type “the end,” but your job  as a professional writer has only just begun. Our media-saturated world is crowded with entertainment clamoring for attention. Like it or not, one of your jobs as a professional writer nowadays is to direct some of that attention toward you and, by extension, your work. We’ll discuss avenues and techniques for presenting yourself and your work, including readings, interviews, teaching, public speaking, online presence, and more.


Download: The Writer as Performer [01;44:30]

Arm’s Reach – LJWC 2010

I tend to separate classes into practical and craft. That is, into courses that offer pragmatic, real-world information for leading a writing career that I don’t see offered anywhere near enough in writing programs, all too often resulting in starry-eyed dreamers getting whammed with the baseball bat of The Way It Really Is Out There; and courses that deal in technique and theory and approach to learn style and voice and all kinds of elements of writing.

This is one of the practical ones.

Arm’s Reach: What You Should Have On Hand to Lead a Writing Life
This class will not discuss art and craft, but will focus on the practical aspects of living life as a professional writer. What tools should you have on hand? What methods for organizing should you use? How do you deal with taxes and deductibles? What resources should be immediately available to you? Ideally you should be able to sit at your desk and have most of the tools necessary to live as a writer in arm’s reach.

Download:  Arm’s Reach: What You Should Have On Hand to Lead a Writing Life [52:44]

Soliloquies & Self Indulgence – LJWC 2010

Next up from the La Jolla Writers Conference series of class lectures is one I’ve been wanting to teach for a long time, because it’s all about purty writin’. I dunno if there area  lot of places you can run a two-hour class devoted entirely to lyric prose, but I’m all over it when the opportunity arises. Audio follows the course description.

LJWC Class re-creating The Last Supper

Soliloquies and Self Indulgence — It’s been said that writing fiction isn’t really all that hard: you simply list what happens. If you believe that fiction is about only its events and not also about the beauty of the words themselves, then this class isn’t for you. We will look at meter, image fusion and juxtaposition, “pure” narrative, indirect discourse, and other techniques and choices used by writers such as Cormac McCarthy, Jack Kerouac, James Joyce, Shirley Jackson, and others to create prose that is as musical and poetic as it is functional.

Download:  Soliloquies & Self Indulgence [01:52:02]

Reading @ SF in SF

Just a reminder that I am giving a reading tonight at SF in SF. Details below.

SF in SF
Saturday, Nov. 13, 7:00 PM
The Variety Preview Room
582 Market Street at Montgomery
(first floor of the Hobart Bldg.)
San Francisco

Reading @ SF in SF

I will be reading at the SF in SF (Science Fiction in San Francisco) series on Saturday, November 13. I’ll read a selection from Elegy Beach and a brief short story, “I’m Sorry to Have to Tell You This.” This is my first reading in the city since moving to the Bay Area earlier this year, and I’m really looking forward to it. If you’re in the SF Bay area, come say hi!

Doors open at 6:00 PM; readings begin at 7:00, followed by Q & A. Borderlands Books will have Ariel and Elegy Beach there for purchase. Proceeds from the cash bar benefit the Variety Children’s Hospital.

SF in SF
Saturday, Nov. 13, 7:00 PM
The Variety Preview Room
582 Market Street at Montgomery
(first floor of the Hobart Bldg.)
San Francisco

New Roles for Writers – LJWC 2010

No, really--my book is THIS big.

This is a kind of continuation of last year’s interactive lecture on New Media Alternatives to Traditional Publishing. I get the feeling that a survey of the changing roles and outlets for professional writers will be part of what I do at LJWC every year.

Because I did view it as a continuation, it took me a while to realize that there were students who wanted a more fundamental understanding of events and options. From now on I think I’ll start from a more solid foundation and then build. Yeh.

Course description:

New Roles for Writers: Keeping Current in the Digital Age
The extreme changes wrought by digital technology across all media have finally begun to wreak havoc across the publishing landscape. A writer’s options and obligations are both transforming and expanding. The traditional models still exist, but they are starting to be but one voice among many clamoring for attention. Writers who cling to traditional publishing models as the way things have to be are tantamount to polar bears stranded on ice floes created by global warming. Denial is limiting and even destructive. This interactive lecture will examine current publishing trends and options, skills writers will need to develop in the digital age, and directions publishing may take in the next few years. Where will you be when the dust settles?


Download:  New Roles for Writers [01:51:10]

Full Contact Faculty

I’ve posted here before about how clumsy I am. This last weekend at the La Jolla Writers Conference was no exception, and very publicly so.

First morning:  I like to dress well at these things, for any number of reasons not relevant here. I like to start nice but casual and kind of work my way up as the weekend progresses. So for my first day I wore a vintage silk tan & black guayabera shirt with black cotton pants, brown skate sneakers, and my brown porkpie hat. It’s 83 degrees in La Jolla in the middle of November and I’m in some demented California designer’s hilariously awful notion of a Polynesian resort. Perfect.

Among the many favors the ostensible resort bestows upon its guests (including locking the ice machines at night, not having coffee available in the rooms until this year, and charging a la carte for virtually everything, including Internet access) are flimsy coffee cups with joke lids. In the faculty lounge I take a drink of coffee at the same time someone across from me takes a drink of his coffee. He’s wearing a white polo shirt. Both of us spill coffee all down the front of ourselves. There’s no club soda to be had anywhere (the front desk recommends the restaurant, wholly unaware that the restaurant isn’t open), so I just have to live with it and go to class looking like I’ve barfed on my nice shirt.

Only I have somehow also cut my forearm, and at some point I have wiped my forehead with my arm. So basically I taught my first class with a massively stained shirt, cut arm, and bloodstreaked forehead, looking like I’d just wandered in from some entertaining brawl.

Next morning I’m barely awake (remind me not to let anyone schedule me for 8 AM classes ever ever again), barely caffeinated, and wearing my deep blue pinstripe three-piece. I get to class, leave my stuff on the table set up in the middle of the U of student tables, and realize I forgot to get myself a bottle of water. As I’m leaving I realize I should be sure my digital recorder is set up.  I pull it from my pocket as I walk around the tables and glance back at my stuff, then turn forward and walk headfirst into a plate glass window.

Rather unbelievably, the window doesn’t break.  And I don’t even feel that my head hit the thing. For some reason I think it’s my shoulder. I go get a bottled water and hurry back and get into my little middle section to teach. Everyone’s staring. “What?” I ask. Someone points to his nose. I put my hand on my nose and it comes away soaking red. My nose is bleeding profusely across the bridge. I also have a decent goose egg on my right supraorbital ridge. Christ.

I run into the bathroom, get some napkins, and dab at my nose, then hurry to teach the class.  A two-hour lecture on lyric prose. When it’s over I go to check the damage in the bathroom and see that my nose is covered with blood on top. I’ve just taught a 2-hour seminar on purty writin’ looking like the bad end of a mugging. It’s a credit to the students’ perspicacity and diplomacy that no one said a word. I dunno how they did it.

“Writing After Work” – LJWC 2010

Nothin up muh sleeve -- presto!

Just back from this year’s La Jolla Writers Conference and a jam-packed three-day marathon of teaching, as well as a wonderful time spent talking to students and faculty.

I recorded all classes and my keynote speech, and I’ll post them here over the next week or two. Here’s the first, along with its course description.

Writing After Work:  Balancing a Job and a Career
Many writers think they can kiss their day job goodbye after that first sale. The real world often begs to differ. Learning how to balance a day job and a writing career is necessary before your first sales, but it may be necessary for a while afterward, too. This class will look at ways to budget time, scheduling, and dealing with some of the conflicts that arise between job and writing career.

Download: Writing After Work [55:28]