The Writing Life: reflections by a working writer. The Writing Life

Reflections of a working writer, a university screenwriting professor, and the editor of Oregon Literary Review.

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Charles Deemer

Oregon Literary Review

MFA, Playwriting, University of Oregon

Writing faculty, Portland State University (part-time)

Retired playwright and screenwriter.
Active novelist, librettist and teacher.

Email: cdeemer(at)yahoo(dot)com

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Finalist, Oregon Book Award

Practical Screenwriting

Love At Ground Zero


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Blogs by (mostly) creative writers:

"Can We Talk About Me For A Change?"
Playwright Debra Neff Nathans

Debbie Ridpath Ohi, a weblog for writers (resources)

Silliman's Blog
Ron Silliman, contemporary poetry and poetics

Maud Newton
literary links, amusements, politics, rants

Darren Barefoot
Technical and creative writing, theatre, Dublin

Rob's Writing Pains
Journey of a struggling writer.

Mad, Mad World
Cara Swann, fiction writer, journalist, "reflections on humanity, random news & my life."

Random musings on a writer's life and times.

Barbara Flaska's compilation of the best online articles about music and culture.

Write Of Way
Samantha Blackmon's written musings on writing (composition and rhetoric).

Alexander b. Craghead: blog
Writing, photography, and watercolors.

Rodney's Painted Pen
Rodney Bohen's daily commentary "on the wondrous two legged beast we fondly refer to as mankind." His pen runneth over.

Frustrated Writer
This one named Nicole.

scribble, scribble, scribble
Journalist Dale Keiger teaches nonfiction scribbling to undergraduate and graduate students at Johns Hopkins University.

The Unofficial Dave Barry Blog
The very one.

The Hive
The official blog of science fiction / horror author Terence West.

William Gibson Blog
Famed author of Neuromancer and Johnny Mnemonic: The Screenplay.

The Word Foundry
Joe Clifford Faust's "blog of a working writer: tracking writing projects, musings on the creative process, occasional side trips into music, media, politics, religion, etc."

A Writer's Diary
By Cynthia Harrison, who has the good sense to quote Virginia Woolf: "The truth is that writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial."

Bow. James Bow.
The journal of James Bow and his writing.

Michael Montoure's weblog about writing, primarily horror and speculative fiction.

By David Henry, "a poet's weblog from Aberdeen, Scotland."

Modem Noise
By Adrian Bedford, a "fledgling Pro SF Writer, living in Perth, Australia."

"A wry writerly blog named in honour of a minor character in a minor Shirley Temple film."

Real Writers Bounce
Holly Lisle's blog, "a novelist's roadmap through the art and ordeal of finding the damned words."

2020 Hindsight
By Susan.

downWrite creative
Phil Houtz's notes on the writing life.

Vivid: pieces from a writer's notebook
Blog of Canadian poet Erin Noteboom.

The Literary Saloon
The literary weblog at the complete review.

Rabbit Blog
The rabbit writes on popular culture.

This Girl's Calendar
Momoka writes short stories.

Twists & Turns
Musings by writer Michael Gates.

Plays and Musicals -- A Writer's Introspective
A blog by John D. Nugent - Composer, Playwright, and Artistic Director of the Johnson City Independent Theatre Company

The American Sentimentalist
"Never has any people endured its own tragedy with so little sense of the tragic." Essays by Mark W. Anderson.

Screenwriting By Blog
David C. Daniel writes a screenplay online. "I've decided to publish the process as a way to push myself through it. From concept to completion, it'll be here."
Official site of occult fiction author Sean-Alonzo, exploring symbolism, alternative history, philosophy, secret societies and other areas of the esoteric tradition.

Crafty Screenwriting
Maunderings of Alex Epstein, tv scribe, about life, politics, and the tv show I'm co-creating.

Letters From The Home Front
The life of a writer, 21, home schooled, rural living.

Venal Scene
The blog of bite-sized plays inspired by the news (by Dan Trujillo).

'Plaint of the Playwright
Rob Matsushita, a playwright from Wisconsin, "whines a lot."

I Pity Da Fool!
Glenn's adventures in screenwriting.

Time In Tel-Aviv
Hebrew modern literature at its best, by Corinna Hasofferett.

Big Window
Robin Reagler's poetry blog.

John Baker's Blog
Author of the Sam Turner and Stone Lewis novels.

The Writing Life With Dorothy Thompson
What goes on during a writer's busy day?

The Rebel Housewife
Not just a housewife!

Barry's Personal Blog
A running commentary on writing and the writing life.

Bonnie Blog
Maintained by Bonnie Burton of

Writer's Blog.
By easywriter. "From the walls of caves to cyberspace."

Flogging the Quill
Pursuing the art and craft of compelling storytelling, by an editor, Ray Rhamey.

Man Bytes Hollywood
Sharing tools, strategies and resources for the screenwriter's journey.

Mad for the smell of paper
A writing journal.

The Writing Life
A blog by Katey Schultz.

It Beats Working 9-5
A screenwriting blog by a young Canadian screenwriter.

Stealing Heaven From The Lips Of God
Writer & Artist, Dee Rimbaud reflects upon politics, religion, art, poetry, the meaning of life, the nature of God and why toast always lands butter side down on carpets.

Robert Peake
Heart and Mind, Fully Engage ... a poet's website.

Sidestepping Real
By Ren Powell, poet, children’s writer, essayist and editor.

Suggest a writer's blog

plagiarism blog

The Writing Life...
"An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's."
J.D. Salinger

"All my best friends are writers and are dead."
A friend over beer, Berkeley, winter, 1959

"And it came to pass that all the stars in the firmament had ceased to shine. But how was anyone to know?"
The Half-Life Conspiracy

After October 31, 2006,
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The Writing Life II

(Posts archived here are from 01/10/03 - 10/31/06)

Sunday, May 25, 2003  
[from a memoir in progress, which began on 4/13/03]
The job market was tight when Carol finished work on her Ph.D. We both jumped into the employment fray with the understanding that I’d take a teaching job only if Carol got no offers. As it turned out, we both received job offers, and we accepted Carol’s opportunity at Chesapeake College on the Delmarva peninsula between Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

We thought we were moving east. In fact, we were moving south. We learned this very dramatically shortly after our arrival.

We rented a huge, sprawling farmhouse from a local doctor, whose brick mansion was half a mile away, our nearest neighbor. The house was two-storied with four bedrooms and a large formal dining room. A screened back porch faced a barn. Set a hundred yards off the highway, the farmhouse was surrounded by fields the doctor leased to farmers, property that was criss-crossed by dirt roads. Down the way was a pond, home to migrating geese in season. This, our first home in Chesapeake, was a writer’s dream.

On our first morning in the farmhouse, we were woken by singing. We’d picked the largest bedroom as our own, two others as our separate offices, and the third as a guest room. I got up and looked out the window. I remember thinking I was on a movie set. Below, spread across a large field of string beans, were dozens of black workers, the men in coveralls, the women wearing red bandanas over their hair. They looked like extras in Gone With the Wind. I swear to God they were singing a spiritual.

My first reaction was that this was an elaborate joke, a kind of welcome-to-Chesapeake-College ritual arranged by the English Department for newly hired Prof. Carol Deemer and her writer-husband. I was wrong. They were field hands doing their job. We had moved into the closest thing to the plantation south left in the country.

Carol jumped into preparing for her courses, and I looked around for a writing job to supplement our income. This is how I thought about it, though we easily could have lived on Carol’s salary alone. My male ego needed to feel like I wasn’t a kept man, a house husband. Finally I picked up a great gig with The Washington Post, writing short 500-word book reviews for their daily arts pages.

I’d written only several plays by this time but aggressively tried to market them in New York. I knew this is where reputations were made. In Eugene, one of my first plays had garnered considerable interest from a New York producer before finally falling through. It was a reckless story about the Black Panthers overthrowing a production of Our Town and forcing the actors at gunpoint to read through a new script called My Town, Your Town. I felt I was close to a major score.

But I wasn’t. As Carol immersed herself in teaching, I collected more and more rejection slips. I no longer added them to my collage, which, after all, had been the ritual of a beginning writer. I was a pro now. I’d written stories that made the “Roll of Honor” in Best American Short Stories. I was publishing short book reviews in The Washington Post at $100 a pop. By this time I also had published reviews in The New Leader, The Progressive and The New Republic. I was a pro.

English Department parties were frequent. The booze flowed freely, which made me feel right at home. We both were drinking as heavily as usual but now we paid more for it with morning hangovers and drunken arguments. It was clear we were drifting apart.

Chesapeake College had a small theater department headed by Leland Starnes, a former professor at the Yale Drama School, the best program in the country. Learning that I was a playwright, he cornered me to play Alfieri, the narrator, in an upcoming production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. The trouble was, I had never been on stage before. Starnes couldn’t believe it. How could I call myself a playwright if I’d never acted in a play? It was like calling yourself a driver if you’d never ridden in a vehicle. He shamed me into trying out, and I got the part.

Now I had a diversion. Before I got interested in theater, alone all day in the sprawling farmhouse with only our four cats for company, struggling to write, anxiously awaiting the mail to see if someone in New York might respond positively to my work for a change, I felt increasingly useless, increasingly like a failure. Acting was just the activity I needed – and under Starnes’ tutelage I learned about stagecraft and the actor’s art, things that improved my playwriting immensely. Maybe New York producers weren’t accepting my plays because I wasn’t writing at a high enough level yet. Although I had an M.F.A. in playwriting, I had come to the craft from fiction, not theater. I still had a lot to learn, and finally, thanks to Starnes, I began learning it.

5/25/2003 06:21:00 AM | 0 comments

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