Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of inspiration, is brought to you by novelist William J Jackson.
There is a realm of wonder and discovery where kids delight in little treasures found in the dust on and off the path. Anything seems possible there.
My friend Bob Swanson called it “Findersland” when he was little. In Findersland one day in a weedy rubble-rough vacant lot, Bob reached down and picked up a marble, and he marveled: “So this is how they’re made!” as if marbles emerge from the junky but fertile vacant lots of everyday life, just as diamonds emerge from carbon put under tremendous pressure for ages.
When I was a kid I found things. At the creek I found an arrowhead. On the street I found a silver ring from Mexico, Our Lady of Guadelupe, shining brightly. On junk day I found a lamp made of a pink conch shell from the ocean. In an old abandoned farmhouse I found hundred-year-old newspapers and magazines. I found a box of pens once in the snow, decades before pens were a dime a dozen. It’s fun to be in Findersland. There, everything seems like a sign or a hint or a premonition. Treasures come to you, they find you, in Findersland.
My friend Bob Swanson “is no more”, as they say in India. But I still spend time in Findersland. Every day when I walk my dog, or go about my business, I find things. There they are on the side of the road, spied from the corner of my eye. Colorful wrappers, old coins, pieces of cloth, broken earrings, weird fragments of civilization and dropped toys. I use these findings to compose the collages I’ve been piecing together for 40 years now, with so many textures, colors, ideas and bits of life.
Every day as I listen to people talking, or read the newspaper or a book (whether new or a translation of an ancient text), or watch TV or scan through twitter, I find apt phrases, colorful speech, neologisms, old gems, vivid images and proverbs. I know I collect more than enough. The abundance of Findersland is astounding. And in my composing of collages and books of many voices I share some of what I’ve found. I find that some compositions seem to grow and find their own shape, when given enough time. Anything is possible with the lively materials discovered in Findersland, when the right creative moment is found.
Makeshift experiments with found objects—a lot of what I do begins with that. A memory of an event, a person, a colorful saying or colloquial phrase; a scrap of weird advertising, a ripped up photo. I grow things from found impressions and mixed memorabilia and then have to figure out what genre to say it belongs in. Trying to get actual life, quirky experienced reality, into the story or picture I’m composing.
Linguistic findings give life to stories. I’ll give two examples. Diving for Carlos is a coming-of-age novel I wrote over a few decades. It includes all the great teenage jokes, slang, curses, and surprises of growing up in Mid-America. I picked them out of the air, and they became a story reflecting the era my friends and I lived through.
Gypsy Escapades is my second novel, and it includes bits of people and places and things I found in the course of living in India for three and a half years, over a 40-year period. During those decades of researching and teaching courses about India I gathered many impressions, almost without realizing it, and when the time had come, I repackaged those unforgettable bits as a suspense thriller with the story of four friends traipsing across the landscapes of India, trying to outwit terrorists’ plans to wreak havoc. Gypsy Escapades is also available at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Findersland is on the sidewalk and in the street, in the home and in the dream—wherever you happen to find it. My friend Bob Swanson knew a good thing when he saw it. “So this is how they’re made!” I think Bob Swanson revealed the secret that fateful day in Findersland.
That was delightful… thank you, William!
William J. Jackson was born in Rock Island, Illinois. His novel, Diving for Carlos, reflects on experiences growing up in midwest America. He studied acting at Goodman Theatre School, the Art Institute of Chicago, and appeared in summer stock productions and at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Connecticut. He lived in New York City and in Vermont, and spent three and a half years in India. He earned his PhD from Harvard, and has published biographies and translations of South Indian singer-saints’ songs.
He has published fiction set in India in his short story collection, Worldviews Kaleidoscope. His short fiction has appeared in Long Story Short and other journals. He also authored Heaven’s Fractal Net, about fractal-like geometrical patterns in the world’s cultures. Most recently he published a suspense novel set in India, Gypsy Escapades, with Rupa Publishing, it is the first of a series of novels involving some of the same characters.
His works, including Diving for Carlos and Gypsy Escapades are available on amazon.com and his websites are http://redroom.com/member/william-jackson/blog and http://iupui.academia.edu/WilliamJackson.
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.
The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with adventure novelist and poet R (Ron) Clint Peters – the four hundred and sixty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.