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Monday, February 16, 2015

Corpses Rarely Wander: How I Became a Loveless, Trailer Park Nomad

Today, I'm featuring an indie book I read and reviewed in 2013. Why so late? Well, Corpses Rarely Wander: How I Became a Loveless, Trailer Park Nomad by Cynthia Polutanovich has been revisited, revised, and relaunched (as of this Valentine's Day, no less). As you can see from my 2013 review below, I enjoyed the memoir upon first read, and am looking forward to a re-read to discover the new content:
Corpses Rarely Wander is a compelling read. In this chronological memoir, the author bares her soul to the reader, detailing the specifics of her difficult life with honesty and candor. The painful, sad, and sometimes harrowing events are not sugar-coated, nor is the author fishing for sympathy or casting blame. She reveals her inner demons while chronicling her efforts to rise above the adversity that haunts her like a stubborn ghost. Simultaneously poignant and humorous, the coming-of-age-style story kept me intrigued to the finish. The somewhat abrupt ending left me wanting to know more, which is a good thing.
Why now for a revision, you may ask? Ms. Polutanovich explained her rationale on Facebook:
The reason why I did this revision was because I realized the memoir, since I started writing it 8 years ago, had an internal view and a world view that was pretty hardened. It was all tribulation and no healings, no process, and no lessons learned. I've done so much inner work, softening and healing over the past 4 years and I wanted that to be reflected here. It was simple. I wanted there to be more love and vulnerability. Also, there were a few more stories I wanted to share. There were also a few more risks I needed to take that I hadn't managed to take in the first version. There were a few more truths that I wanted to tell. Additionally, since I am a truly overzealous reviser, I wanted to go back in and refine the writing even more. But mostly, I wanted to make sure that what I was putting out into the world was good magic. As a writer, I'm responsible for what I put out into the hearts of other humans. And so I toiled for these reasons. It was worth it. I'm finally totally and completely proud of this memoir. This wasn't a little revision. It was a major one. To me, this feels like a whole different book.
If you'd like to hear more about the book, right from the author's mouth, check out these audio interview links: Interview Part I: http://fccdl.in/5IvJwD13U and Interview Part II: http://fccdl.in/zNM1i0u4d

The New York Times Called Cynthia Polutanovich’s Writing, “Eloquently Steamy.”
At the age of eight, in 1982, Cynthia Polutanovich, the quirky narrator of this 1980s and 90s coming-of-age memoir, moves with her mother and sister into a trailer park in small town Maryland. After she leaves home at age fifteen, you will journey with her to West Virginia, Nebraska, and South Carolina, taking a break for a long car camping trip along the East Coast, finally ending up in the northern mountains of New Mexico. Circulating through 1990s grunge bars, coffee houses, and living in trailers, shacks and school busses, she deals with issues of fundamentalist religion, relationship troubles, poverty, personal trauma, and a sudden addition to her sexual identity. Told with an unconventional wit, warmth, humor and moments of radical candidness, Corpses Rarely Wander captures the search of a young woman to find love in the world around her, meaning in this brief life, and a home inside her own skin.


About the Author: 
Cynthia Polutanovich is a writer and wanderer. In 2010, she earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Hunter College in New York City. Her poems have been performed to by the critically acclaimed Dusan Tynek Dance Theatre all over the U.S. and Europe. The New York Times described those poems as, "eloquently steamy." For the Sins I Can Remember, a play she co-wrote, played in New York City in 2013, garnering the featured listing in Time Out New York and was produced again at the New Orleans Fringe Theatre Festival in New Orleans. She's still roaming, writing zealously, meditating, and drinking crazy amounts of tea.  You can follow her on Facebook at: http://on.fb.me/17iTpYU and on Twitter: @CynthiaNomad

An Excerpt from Corpses Rarely Wander:
I looked at my car parked at a restless angle and walked toward it.
I got into the driver’s seat out of habit and reclined the seat. I dozed for a while, and when the sun got closer to the center of the sky, I woke up and looked around, disconcerted for a second to wake up in a car with the door wide open. I grabbed the Tom Robbins that I was then almost done with, stuck my legs out the side of the car and propped my sandaled feet on the door. I had nowhere to hang my proverbial hat, and I felt desolate and yet acutely alive. I was living life on my own terms — reading, writing, experiencing a la the beats or Henry Miller and Anais Nin (I didn’t know at the time that they both had spouses that more or less took care of them by working or conning during those years). About an hour later, I finished the book and put it down on the seat beside me. The small, wispy clouds looked like Cyrillic script. I felt certain that everything in existence was trying to communicate with me. It didn’t occur to me at the time that maybe everything everywhere is always trying to communicate with every other thing. I felt I was on the verge of a huge change, and then my stomach sank as I remembered every other time of change I’d experienced and the period of hardship and alone-ness that preceded each of them.
In the brief moments I had seen Jessie, she told me that Moona was living in a little shack just a short walk behind Claire’s trailer, but I hadn’t seen her around. I decided to look for her and set out on a dirt path that curled around the trailer through competing stands of pine trees. I passed a couple shacks and investigated them to find they were empty. I kept walking around a little circle of trees, which was harboring a tiny outhouse, and there, on the other side of it, was a leaning wooden structure. The door was open, and I peered in. There were two rooms. When I walked in, I was standing in a room about 8 ft. by 8ft. It contained a bed and a nightstand. I looked to the left, and Moona was in the kitchen, which measured about 6 ft. by 6 ft., digging through a student-sized fridge. Those two nooks constituted the alpha and omega. The floors were dirt, and it smelled like standing in a tilled garden.
She hadn’t noticed me. I said, “Hey.”
She popped her head out of the fridge, startled, her red dreads swinging and then saw me and said, “Oh, hey man. What are you doing back in town?”
“My car broke down.”
“You staying?”
I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. I’m living in my car as of today.”
This was a totally acceptable response. “Oh, cool. You got any cigarettes?”
“Yeah.”
“Cool man. You want a beer?”
“Sure.” She passed me a Corona.
“No limes though, man. Sorry.”
“No problem.”
We passed the afternoon sitting in two busted up lawn chairs as the two rooms of the shack reclined onto each other behind us. When evening came, she said, “Let’s go borrow my landlord’s truck to go to the Tesuque Market.” So I followed her back past the shacks to a house by the road. Moona knocked, and a tiny, elderly Latino man appeared at the door. He was stooped with age, wrinkled, and had a mischievous smile. He was wearing a short-sleeved button up shirt with a white t-shirt under it and khaki pants that were falling off him. Moona asked for the truck, and they bickered for a minute. I could tell this was a replay of many earlier conversations by the way they both seemed so comfortable in their roles.
Finally, he said, “Tomorrow you drive me to the Flea Market, and you can have the car now.”
“Fine.”
He added. “And I want to go to the Casino.”
She countered, “ I just took you there two days ago.”
He pressed. “I want to play some slots.”
Moona sighed.
He challenged her. “Do you want to go to the store or not?”
“Fine, I’ll take you to the Flea Market and the casino.” She held out her hand, and he fished his keys out of his pocket and put them in her palm. He was the winning team, and he looked happy.
So we took the truck to Tesuque market. I bought apples, carrots, bread and cheese, and we bought some more beer. When we got back, we dropped the truck at Jose’s, and walked back to her shack. We made cheese sandwiches and were about to adjourn to our disintegrating lawn chairs when she said, “I just want to do something first really quick.” She took out a needle and a lighter.
“What the fuck, Moona?” I felt sick to my stomach. My only solace in the whole world was preparing to shoot up.
“Just take a second.” She turned and pulled out her stash.
I grabbed two beers and said, “I’ll be in my car.”
As I was leaving, she called after me, “Don’t be mad.”
I called back, “I’m not,” as I was walking past the outhouses.
I climbed into the driver’s seat again. The sun had just disappeared and left in its place streaks of color, as though it were a warrior and had painted itself for battle. I became hopeful for a second, dug out my key and tried it in the ignition. Silence. I had to admit, there was no plan coming to me. Even if I could get a ride into the city, I had no significant funds and no way to get around. There, I didn’t even have a dead car to sleep in. I lingered on a fanciful idea of earnestly endeavoring to live in my car. I imagined learning about plants and living off roots and berries. I would write books and hitchhike around. I’d make jewelry out of found objects and fashion my old clothes into loincloths. Sometimes, I could get rides to the library and stockpile books. I’d be like Malcolm X in prison when he used his time to read every book he could. It would be an incubating period. The car would become my chrysalis/ prison. I would emerge a scholar and a seasoned radical.
But I imagined the summer coming and me sleeping in that little vehicular oven. I remembered it was the desert and that the plants weren’t overly edible, especially to a novice herbalist like myself. My interest was piqued, but with even a slight nod to realism, I had to admit that life would be Very. Very. Hard. I hoped for an option to make life hard in a more reasonably endurable way.
I sat like that for a couple hours with my feet out the window smoking, and finally fell asleep curled up in the back seat.


Buy Corpses Rarely Wander on Amazon or Gumroads (Pay What You Want)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: Opening the Creativity Diamond

Do you ever struggle with writer's block, or feel like your brain is stuck in a rut, recycling the same old tropes? Do you wish you knew some time-tested techniques to nudge your creative mind in new directions? Do you have trouble establishing (or maintaining) a consistently productive writing schedule? If so, I have something that may help.

I recently read the review copy of Opening the Creativity Diamond: The writer's guide to creative thinking by Tony Jones, which is a book designed to help writers unleash their potential. Tony Jones is a fellow indie author, blogger, and Google Plusser with "years of experience as a trainer of creative thinking tools." In his book, Mr. Jones reveals proven ways to 'jump-start' your brain, including detailed examples, puzzles, and brain teasers.

Mr. Jones explains that "I have tailored a diverse set of techniques for writers. The book contains many examples of the ideas in action along with a few exercises for the reader. There is even a chapter on writer’s block and how to work through it."

The book begins by explaining what the Creativity Diamond is, and how a writer can benefit from understanding it, while Chapter Two explores the Myers Briggs personality traits, and how you can understand your own traits and learn how they influence your creativity. From this foundation, Opening the Creativity Diamond goes on to provide creativity-generating techniques like brainstorming, anchoring, random stimulus, role-storming, and more. In general, the book defines a technique, explains how to use it, describes why it works, and offers tips for implementation.

A favorite example of mine is The Six Questions (or 5Ws and 1H): Who, What, Where, When, Why and How? Mr. Jones describes how you can use these prompts to make sure your writing is creatively providing your reader with the necessary information. Even if you don't answer all six questions in your scene, mentally addressing each will help you craft a coherent and robust narrative, and possibly provide you with fresh ideas you may have overlooked by not considering the 5Ws and 1H.

Although I've read many guides on the various components of writing, and a couple books on personality traits, I've not read a book combining the two into a creativity guide. I found found Opening the Creativity Diamond to be a short (50 pages), fun, educational read, and recommend it to any author searching for ways to maximize their creative potential.

Tony Jones has dined with royalty, supped Slings in Singapore and been taught by several Nobel Prize winners (though he could have paid more attention). He is an Indie Author, freelance writer and blogger based in the early 21st Century. Apart from his day job, he is also a lead writer for Starburst Magazine. He writes about psychology, creativity and the kind of science fiction and fantasy he liked to read in the 1970s.



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