Posts Tagged ‘The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill’

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.

Progress Report #73

February 23, 2012

This is written for those interested in the minutia of my creative progress for Street Song. Warning: It may be dry reading for most.

My original concept for the book was derived from a single image I had of myself walking alone down Grant Avenue, the main drag of the quaint old bohemian neighborhood here in San Francisco, North Beach. I assumed the book was the story of my 15 years or so on the street here. I wasn’t always on the street itself, but during that entire time I had no fixed address or even any ID. I slept in bushes, on rooftops, in store rooms, and so on. I started the project by doing a lot of research and then wrote a quick and dirty first draft.

After the first draft was finished, I continued doing research and started work on a second draft, which I knew was going to be a huge expansion of the first. I want the final version to be around 350 pages, and to get there I’ve been working from an idea I found in the Tao Te Ching.

If we wish to compress something, we must first let it fully expand.

After telling the tale of just my first year and a half on the street, I was already up to 900 pages. A large chunk of those pages deal with the ideas and events that led me to the street. It was at this point I realized that the essence of the story was what I’d just worked through. The next thirteen and a half years, while worth going into, are of less importance to the story. I decided then (this was last March) to go back through those 900 pages, cull out what was most likely to end up in the final draft, and from those notes make a detailed writer’s outline. I finished this project a couple of days ago. From that work, I know what I need to say about the last thirteen and a half years, which will be highly compressed. That’s what I’m working on now—creating the outline for the end. This should only take me a few days. Once I’ve finished it, I’ll resume writing the second draft, which I see as taking me a couple more months to finish.


Once I’ve finished the second draft, I have two more steps to go. The first is to start work on a final outline, one suitable for a publisher. Once I’ve gotten far enough down the line with that, I can start work on the final draft. I write in the morning, so I’ll continue work on the outline in the evenings. That outline shouldn’t take too much time. I see myself as needing a year and a half for the final draft. I don’t want to labor over the language too, too much. I want the book to sound natural and true.

There are a lot of books that tell writers the best, most efficient way to go about writing a book. They all say pretty much the same thing. They’re fine, I suppose, if you’re a factory writer of books. My method here violates almost all their precepts. But I think every real book has its own organic process. It makes its own demands. I couldn’t have done this book in any way other than how I’ve done it. My favorite part will be the writing of the final draft. Not because I’m coming to the end, but because that’s where the fun is: the final crafting of the story.

One last note: While I do have an agent, I don’t have a contract yet. You have to be around a year and a half out from the finish before you can go after one. My book The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill did well and enough people know about me through the documentary (millions have seen it) that I’m optimistic I’ll get a contract. Besides, it’s a unique story. (I’ll have more to say about that later.)