Scott Sparling

Hallucinations, a blog about writing, trains, and Wire to Wire

Viewing Entries From: January 2013

Inside Job

Posted on Jan 27th, 2013

Sometimes it's too cold to write in the treehouse. Even in the low 40s, the space heater will warm it up pretty good. But when the temperature drops below that, I write inside. 

A few weeks ago, the Sucker Lake News (I think that's what the publication is called) did a nice little story on the grant I won and ran a picture of my indoor writing space. You can see the conga that I keep to my right, in case any time needs to be wasted playing repetitive rhythms.

(The photographer placed a copy of W2W on top of the drum. When I first got the conga, I made a hard and fast rule that it would never be used as a table. It's a musical instrument, after all, and nothing should be placed on top of it. I make exceptions for books, CDs, unopened mail, dirty clothes, power cords, credit card receipts, manuscript pages, notebooks, tax files, hats, postcards, stuff I've brought home from work, and other, smaller drums. However, I draw the line at placing dirty dishes on top of the conga. Those go on the floor.) 

What you can't see in the photo are all the other, uh..totems that I keep on my desk for good luck or inspiration. The treehouse desk, by necessity, is bare. It's too small to collect crap. But the indoor writing space is a magnet for that kind of stuff. 

So for the next few blog entries, I thought I'd share some pictures of a few things I keep around me. Starting with these.

These two tin plates are Loteria pictograms I got from Tesoros in Austin. La Calavera is The Skull, although to me the image is more about death. El Corazon is The Heart. These are on the shelf right in front of me, and I look up at them frequently when I get stuck. Basically they tell me, Remember that the stakes are high. Remember to write from the heart. I need to remind myself of that a lot. 

Brave on Laura’s page

Posted on Jan 19th, 2013

Laura Stanfill is a novelist, editor, blogger, and founder of Forest Avenue Press. She's also the force behind Brave on the Page, an anthology featuring 42 Oregon authors sharing their thoughts on craft and creativity. 

A couple weeks ago, Laura pulled off an amazing event at Powell's City of Books in Portland, drawing 150 people on a Monday night to hear nine Brave on the Page contributers. The evening was a blast, featuring readings and a panel discussion. I was proud to be part of it, (despite the fact that there was a lot of talk on the panel about me not knowing how women pee when they're in the shower, posture-wise. I promise to get that right in my next book.)

Laura has a recap of the evening here that I won't repeat, but you should check it out along with the rest of her site. And writer and designer Gigi Little, who read at the event, summed it up this way: 

"I think Laura Stanfill has something really special going with Forest Avenue Press, and the support she's gotten says loads about not only Powell's and the writing community in Portland but also - and most of all - Laura's energy, ingenuity, and smarts."

I just want to second that -- especially the part about energy, ingenuity, and smarts. Thanks, Laura, for having the vision to imagine Brave on the Page in the first place. And for all the hard work and creativity involved in making it real.

Brave on the Page at Powell's: From left, Yuvi Zalkow, Joanna Rose, Jon Bell, Gigi Little, Robert Hill, Laura Stanfill, Kristy Athens, and me. (Not pictured, Gina Ochsner and Kate Gray.)

The next Brave on the Page event is at The Artist Edge Salon in Sandy, Oregon on January 27, with the terrific lineup of Laura, Stevan Allred, Martha Ragland and Liz Prato. If you're in Oregon, don't miss it.

Unfair in my favor

Posted on Jan 18th, 2013

Confession: I used to be a big Survivor fan. When Zane was young, we’d watch as a family. Sure, each show had a healthy dose of reality-show hoo-hah, but there was also strategy involved. Each week, we'd have some good pre- and post-show debates about whose mojo was working and who was toast.

The craziest part of every season was always the final tribal council, when the two remaining survivors had to answer questions from the outcasts. Inevitably, one of the questions would be, Why do you deserve to be in the final two?

In the four seasons I watched, no one ever answered that question honestly. The responses always had to do with playing the game fair but hard, being true to their values, etc., etc. No finalist ever looked at the camera and admitted what was glaringly obvious: I got lucky. I could’ve been voted off a bunch of times, but the key challenges broke my way, and things worked out.

Instead, it was always about their work ethic or their dedication. In the living room, I’d be calling the posers out. “C’mon, man. It’s 60, 70, maybe 80 percent luck. You stumbled on the Immunity Idol! Michael fell in the fire! That’s called catching a break. Just say it.”

And that pretty much sums up how I feel about being awarded an Artist Fellowship by the Oregon Arts Commission recently. I’m honored, of course. Very much so. And yes, I was dedicated and played the game fair but hard, etc., etc. But so did a whole lot of other very talented people. This time around, I was the one who caught the break. Next time, someone else. Like with a lot of things, you put your name in, and sometimes you get selected.

Or as Zane used to say, back when we were handicapping survivors, life is unfair, but sometimes it’s unfair in your favor.

The Fellowship will help me as I take some time off to work on Dogs Run Free. And the recognition means a great deal to me. Saying that I know I got lucky doesn’t mean I don’t take it seriously. It means I’ll work hard to live up to it.



You better watch what you do. "You Got Lucky" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.