Posts Tagged ‘Street Song’

Progress Report #108

May 15, 2017

ms_in_may

My work-in-progress, Street Song, has four sections. Today, with the completion of Chapter 28, I finished the third section. So I have just one section to go. The light is getting brighter. This last chapter was particularly grueling. Day-to-day reality got in my way a lot—as it tends to do anyway. But I think also that there is an arc to the story that my psyche resonates with as I move through it. As I come to the end of a section (which is never arbitrary) I feel the exhaustion that comes with the end of any period of life. Section Four promises to be the most difficult of the book—15 chapters, most of which are relatively brief, but unusually intense. Strange occurrences call for careful depiction. Otherwise you sound like you made it all up—which I didn’t. But I need a few days r and r first. I’m so tired…

“Scribble, Scribble, Scribble, eh, Mr. Gibbon?”

April 5, 2017

I sometimes say that the only thing I’ve ever done that was harder than writing the book I’m working on, Street Song, was living out the events the book describes. It’s probably true, but it’s hard to know for certain while I’m still in the midst of it. Writing a book (as opposed to a “read”) is one of the most difficult things you can do. So much is involved and it all has to be organized in an organic way. This book is difficult not because it’s extremely personal, which it is, but because how you present your personal stuff has to be done with a special kind of care or it comes off all wrong.

When I started Street Song I thought it was one thing. Working on it, however, it turned into another and another and another. But then, a book, if it’s any good, is lots of different things. The book is partly my attempt at making sense out of my life, partly a warning to others, partly a long letter of explanation to someone I alienated that I didn’t want to alienate, and partly a plain old job. (We all need something to do.) Hopefully it will give some people inspiration—not because of anything I did, but because of what I saw.

As you’ve always heard, writing a book is an incredibly lonely task. You’re inside your head nearly the entire day—even when you’re not writing—and it goes on for years. In my case, nearly 11 years now.  It has led me to places in my daily life that I never expected to go to, created problems I never would have anticipated, as well as misunderstandings that I haven’t known how to correct. (I often feel at a remove from the world around me and can’t reach across the gulf.) This is not to say that there are no joys involved. They have happened, but they are few and far between. Writing is grueling. The greatest joy for me , I think, is the last pass, after you’ve finished the last draft and are fine-tuning the language and massaging the subtleties. I’m nearing that point. About a year away now—maybe less. I’ll be happy when it’s over.

Progress Report #106

January 18, 2017

I just finished Chapter 22, which is the last chapter in what I call Section 2 of my work-in-progress, Street Song. There are four sections, so I’m approximately halfway done with this, the final draft. The book takes a real turn at this point, so I’m going to take a short break in order to point my mind in that new direction. I’m also going to be busy over the next few days, walking the streets, protesting Trump’s inauguration.

Trump’s presence creates an interesting development for my work. The period my book describes was a time of crisis and upheaval. But I’ve had to soft-pedal that some because we’ve been passing through a time of decadent languor, which has often made the urgency of that earlier time seem false. Not anymore. I’ll make one last pass through the entire book after I’ve finished this draft and will feel free then to reestablish the crisis atmosphere that was present then. Much of the book is about committing oneself to the great universal ideals, something that’s going to be required of us again—soon.

Progress Report #105

December 7, 2016

The pace of progress on Street Song has picked up substantially, due largely to preparatory work I completed a few years ago. I’ve finished Chapter 18 now and am starting work on Chapter 19, which looks to be another easy one. It starts to get complicated again in Chapter 20, but my years of spending months and months on a single chapter  are over. I don’t intend to start posting the news about every chapter I finish. It’s just that I’m feeling  relief over the progress I’m making and want to share it. As I may have said here once before, the only thing I’ve ever done that was more difficult than writing this book was living out the events that the book depicts.

Progress Report #103 (Where is He Now?)

September 7, 2016

I’ve been making good progress. I just finished what I call Section 1, consisting of chapters 1 through 14. That’s between a quarter and a third of the last draft. But I have too much book in this first section. What I intend to do next is read through it and spend some time cutting, compressing, and removing any repetitions that have worked themselves in. Then I move on to chapter 15. The pace is picking up because I’ve reached a point, working from the previous draft, where I’d finally evolved a method that allows me to do more editing now, instead of rewriting. A subtle difference, but an important one. I still have another year to go, but I can see the light.

Sorry to put this up here with so little notice, but I’m reading from Street Song tomorrow, September 8, at the Presidio Officers Club starting at 6 PM. The event is free, but you have to reserve a seat. You can find all the information you need right here.

Lane Tietgen Revisited

July 28, 2016

LaneMy goal as a youth to make it as a singer-songwriter is a major thread in my work-in-progress, Street Song. You can’t really describe music with words, and, as I’ve worked on the book, it has occurred to me that most readers will be curious to know what I sounded like. I haven’t played seriously in over 40 years, but have never stopped entirely. I’ve decided to make a small demo-type recording of six songs which I’ll make available one way or another to readers of the book. All the songs I’m recording are referred to in the text. Three of them are songs that I wrote. One of the most vital songs in Street Song is “Highway,” by the singer-songwriter Lane Tietgen. I first heard “Highway” in 1972 on an album called Crazed Hipsters by Finnigan and Wood. Lane was not a member of that band, but had been in a band called The Serfs with Finnigan and Wood’s lead singer, Mike Finnigan. You can hear the Crazed Hipsters version here.

In the 60s and 70s, songs fulfilled the same function as poetry had in other eras. Religion, too! Certain songs changed the way people looked at the world. “Highway” did that for me. Several years ago, seeking permission to quote the lyrics in my book, I spent some time tracking down Lane Tietgen. I finally found him in nearby Sonoma, and he kindly gave me permission. When I decided to make this recording I knew “Highway” had to be one of the songs I recorded. So I sent him another email asking if it was okay for me to record it. He said I could, but he wanted to know if I was certain that I was playing the correct chords. I’d never learned it back in the days I was performing because it sounded like the type of song you needed a band to play, and I was a solo artist. Although I’d started learning the song, I hadn’t put a great deal of work into it yet, and I was unsure about a few of the chords. So Lane suggested that I come up to his place so he could teach me the correct chords. I was quite taken aback—pleased as could be. Judy and I recently drove up to Eureka in Northern California, and along the way  we stopped for my “Highway” lesson. Thank you, Lane.

Not many people know his work, which is a pity. I have a two-part piece here on my blog called “The Magnificent Return of Lane Tietgen” which I suggest you all read. He continues to be one of the few practitioners of the singer-songwriter genre who, in my opinion, is still really doing it. The best of that genre was about the exploration of the human heart, not neurotic complaints or political posturing. Lane has stayed with his heart.

 

Progress Report #100

October 4, 2015

A few days ago I returned from a two-week stay at the Mesa Refuge, a writers retreat in Point Reyes Station, California. My stay there enabled me to put some focused work into my book, Street Song. So where do I stand?

I have the first seven chapters of a 49 chapter book essentially finished. Those first seven chapters have taken a great deal of time because, for one thing, while working on them I saw that they contain the kernel of everything that comes later. I had to get them right. Another reason they’ve been difficult is that my initial drafts of those first seven chapters were a mess. I hadn’t yet found my way when I was working on them in the first two drafts. I still have a little bit of work to do on chapter 7. I also have two other chapters finished that come later in the book. They were written to show to potential publishers. My task now should be editing and refining what I’ve already written in previous drafts. They’re reasonably close to how they’ll be in the finished manuscript. So I hope the work will start speeding up now. I’ve been working on this book for over nine years. When I started I never imagined it would take this long. I’m eager to be done with it, but I have to get it right.

Am I happy with the work? Yes. As the Beatles once said, “it’s getting better all the time.” It’s satisfying when you begin to see your lines begin to look clean and deep. I’m on a roll right now and aim to stay on it.

One more thing, I will be reading an entire chapter from the book (one of the later chapters) at the Bauhaus Gallery in North Beach on Sunday, October 25th. The time of the event is from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. I’m one of two featured readers. The Bauhaus Gallery is located at 703 Columbus Avenue here in San Francisco. It’s a fundraiser for the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, so there’s a $10 cover charge. “Refreshments will be provided.”

Progress Report #97

June 1, 2015

It’s about time for another progress report on my book Street Song. My last report was in February, and at the time I was starting work on the material my agent needs to shop the book around to potential publishers. I’m still working on that. It’s my least favorite aspect of writing a book. It feels like little more than a song and dance routine. You have to put aside the real work and become a huckster for awhile. Publishers want to know what your book is about, of course. They want an outline, a synopsis, who your audience will be, and so on. That, in and of itself, is not unreasonable. But what has evolved is an assembly line approach, and creativity doesn’t work that way. The book will change in the act of writing. I won’t say I haven’t gotten any benefit from working up the outline, but it often feels unreal. In any case, I’m close to the end of the process. I hope to have it done by the end of June.

People often suggest I try self-publishing—it’s so easy to do now, it’s the future, and blah, blah, blah. I’ve known several people who have gone that route and it has frustrated all of them. One of the big issues is distribution—getting an awareness of your book out there. Publishers can do this more easily than individuals. And I do want to make a living at my work—not a killing, but a living. The only way to create awareness of your book when self-publishing is by going out and calling attention to yourself every chance you get. It’s an ego show, it’s ugly, and I don’t like it. Piracy is another problem.

In summation: I am getting there. Once I have a contract, I see myself rolling fairly quickly to the end. I see the story clearly, see how to tell it, and so on. All I need is to have the fetters removed and to receive my inspiration.

Progress Report #96

February 20, 2015

The world is going crazy so fast that it’s impossible to keep up with all the developments. Every time I plan a post, it’s made obsolete by something new. Putin and the Ukraine, the Islamic State, Climate Change, Greece vs. Germany, Republican (as in GOP) insanity, fracking. It never ends. You have to arrive at a deep point of view to say something that can’t be washed away by our contemporary lunacy. Maybe if I could post every day…But I’ve been hard at work on my book, and I’m going to confine myself to that for the moment.  I do have an idea for something I want to say that can’t be washed away by the madness. And I do hope to get to it soon. As for Street Song

I recently finished Chapter Four. Finished. I’m making real progress now. I have found my approach and my voice. All I need to do now is to keep moving forward. I’ve just had to abandon the sequential order of the chapters for a little while, though. My agent wants me to work up some sample chapters from the latter half of the book so she can have something to shop around. I’ve already started that work. The first one I’m working on deals with my first days as a street singer in Berkeley, which was the point where I began to stake my life on making it as a musician. I had a firm rule: I was not going to make any money other than through my music. I would sink or swim with it. The other chapter will begin from a point some time after I sank, namely my first weeks on the streets of North Beach in San Francisco with no money, no home, and no job—not even any ID. Some of that material is in the book, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. So after all these years, Street Song is finally moving forward in a real way. There will be no going back, no prolonging of the work. My aim is to get it finished.

I recently received a copy of the Japanese edition of Wild Parrots. I don’t understand a thing, but it’s nice to look at. I’m having some friends who can read Japanese look at it for me. The only thing I know right now is that the credentials of the translator are impeccable. I’m told that he’s the Japanese equivalent of a Harvard professor.

End of Year Progress Report, #95

December 31, 2014

This has been a difficult year for work on my book Street Song. Chapter Two proved to be a problem of sorts. There is a Preface and a Chapter One, and both were much easier. Chapter One is more a chain of impressions and images than a narrative. Chapter Two was the first long chapter of story, so it was where I had to struggle to find the voice and approach I want to use for the rest of the book. It took an incredibly long time. But I’m satisfied now. I’m working on Chapter Three, which shouldn’t take too long. And then it’s on to each chapter in succession. I’ve been working on this project for a little over eight years now. I figure that means it will end up either very good indeed, or else it’s an impossible pile of crap. I’ve shown what I’ve finished to a handful of friends, and it’s been well-received, which gives me hope. I intend to make strong progress this year. I also want to turn my attention back to this blog some. Out of necessity (the book) I’ve been neglecting it. But I have been thinking about it and what I want to do with it. Unless work on the book insists on my full attention, expect more frequent posts. There are certain things I’ve refrained from saying here, and I’d rather not do that anymore. Things are getting “seriouser and seriouser” in this weird old world. We need more frank discussion.

In the meantime, my best wishes for a happy New Year. May all beings flourish.