Just Above Sunset
November 21, 2004 - Talking emus, the Harry Stephen Keeler Society, and flocking penguins...
Sunday, November 21, 2004
By Bob Patterson
The Nanowrimo.org website is a club house meeting place for writers who are encouraged to
use the month of November to write a novel. The Nanowrimo participants have message
boards, and local meetings in the big cities, and use the dynamics of a group’s camaraderie to provide encouragement
and support to inspire each member to continue with their own individual projects.
For this and the previous
two Novembers, I’ve been a stealth participant. I lurk in the fringe and
provide my own motivation for churning out my daily quota of keystrokes.
As a columnist, who wants
to use the Book Wrangler feature of Just Above Sunset online magazine to help
attract a larger literary audience to our e-publication, the opportunity to get to a Nanowrimo group meeting in the Santa
Monica Main Street area seemed like a chance to get some new and interesting topics and perhaps get a few more folks to add
to the roster of regular readers.
(Note: after a period of
“dead heat” competition, the Brits seem to be pulling ahead of Oz in the circulation numbers. So you Aussie regulars should send our home page URL to your literary mates because you don’t want
to be out done by Londoners, do you?)
The Novel Café has been
a combination coffee house/tea room/used bookstore for some time. These days
the cyber-beatniks all have portable notebook computers and the time-honored cliché about a smoke filled room is no longer
applicable. When I arrived, on Sunday afternoon, November 14, 2004, most of the
tables were occupied by artistic looking people working on laptops.
At the duly appointed hour,
the Los Angeles coordinator Elizabeth showed up and began to plug one of those serge protector multiple electric outlet things
into a wall socket. For those with a penchant for metaphors, the surge protector
made me think it was an e-writer’s version of “Excalibur.” Use
one to create dragons and then verbally slay them. Her computer looked like a
combination of a keyboard and a black rubber doormat. It was very thin, flat,
and flexible. She had a cell phone type thingie that plugged in to the keyboard. I’m not a computer genius so all this technological innovation overwhelmed me. When I turn on the computer to start writing, I think of it as “sitting down
at the typewriter.” This e-beatnik phase is all new to me.
I was hoping for a lively
discussion with thought provoking concepts that would pepper this column with items that could provide “Eureka!”
time for some folks doing some specialized Google prospecting in the future.
Brandon came along and
there were some introductions and some infield chatter type banter.
I was born in Pennsylvania
but had never stopped to wonder is the Keystone state’s Amish community the remnants of founder William Penn’s
original group of Quakers - or is that two different groups?
Brandon said his November
project was in the “crumbs in the butter” genre. He explained that
meant it was mostly devoted to highly literary discussions of trivial matters.
Next a young lady called
Curio came along. Her novel includes talking emus and her current dilemma was
finding out if penguins flock. I informed her that most of the penguins I know
were very enthusiastic about Christmas traditions and quite a few of them, whose homes I have visited, flock the tree at Christmas. That brought up another question: Why
are polar bears only at the North Pole and penguins only at the South Pole? Was
there a coin toss like at the start of a football game? Who won? Who lost? Are polar bears a more logical choice for defending
Santa’s home and elf factory?
The three regulars talked
about the postings on the site’s chat boards. One of the aspects of the
Nanowrimo site is that challenges will be put up, such as a dare to work ninja monkeys into your novel, and the various members
try to incorporate the newest invitation to innovation into their narrative thread.
I mentioned that NPR had
recently done a story about a fellow who was well known for the various incongruous twists and turns his work contained. I had to promise to track down his name and include it in this column, because it
sounded like that cult author could easily become the patron saint for the Naniwrimo regulars who accept all the challenges
Harry Stephen Keeler
The three intrepid keystrokers
plunged into their task and I scribbled a few pertinent observations into my official Ampad 4 X 8 Reporters Notebook. (It continues to work event during a power blackout!)
I flipped it shut, and put it into my back pocket and bid them farewell before disappearing (Lamont Cranston style)
into the Los Angeles night. (Who knows if my novel will be about a hard-boiled
“tinsel town” detective in the Philip Marlowe manner? The Shadow
Looking for stocking stuffers
for a book type person? How about these suggestions?
Radical Times by Maureen Slattery ($4.95 Barnes &
Noble Books) - It’s about time someone did a collection of Sixties quotes. It’s
a groovy book.
Batman Knightfall, Part One: Broken Bat by Dennis O’Neil ($17.95 DC Comics) - The evolution of comic books into a serious bit of
literature continues with this novel that is based on the famous comic book characters.
Lawyers: Jokes, Quotes, and Anecdotes by Patrick Regan ($9.95 Andrews McMeel Publishers) - Are you legal liable if you give this book
to your favorite attorney and he or she doesn’t laugh or at least chuckle? Don’t
look at me. I’m not going to dispense any opinions on that complicated
question for free.
The Secret Societies Handbook by Michael Bradley ($7.98
Barnes & Nobel Books) - We could tell you what this book is about but then
we’d have to quote a line Tom Cruise delivered in the movie Top Gun.
Baseball and Philosophy Edited by Eric Bronson ($17.95
Open Court) - Okay, Boston beat the Yankees this year. We admit that. Is there some great cultural significance to that? All this
time, we though: “it’s just a game.”
The Case of the 16 Beans by Harry Stephen Keeler ($22.95
Kessinger Publishing) - Keeler lives again thanks to this re-publication.
This issue updated and published on...
Paris readers add nine hours....