Tag Archives: Huckleberry Finn

Why don’t I focus?

Some who’ve stopped by here have suggested I write more about writing. And I can appreciate that. I know that it can be frustrating to those of you who don’t know me that well to see me posting about my daughter’s tennis and college trials or my son’s band and baseball achievements. But I thought I’d take one of my blogs to explain my thinking…ya ain’t gotta like it, but at least I’ll try to make some sense for you.

When I first started blogging, my intentions were pretty simple: I wanted a way to keep my friends and family posted on the goings-on of me and mine. It seemed we were moving quite a bit, making some dear friends in each place. Keep in mind, too, that this was in the days before facebook became what it is today. I also wanted to use the blog as an outlet to continue to keep my writing muscles exercised and to feel like I had to do something. I’d enjoyed the weekly columns I’d gotten into the habit of writing for the Piggott paper (now the Rector paper) and the feedback I’d gotten from the community was favorable so it seemed like a good idea.

After some time I found myself without a job and in graduate school. It became a good opportunity to share some writing thoughts as well as some reviews of the books I’d read. I’m not big on reviews, but because I read a lot of superhero fiction, I thought those who had an interest in sci-fi and/or superhero books might get a little something out of the reviews.

Then, I had new work hitting the stands with Huckleberry Finn and Wizard of Oz graphic novels…and of course, my first novel. The blog became an opportunity to promote those things. I hate that idea on my blog, though, because I sometimes feel like I’m “pushing” my work to my friends and family…who would probably be interested in it anyway…but still. I know it’s one of those things that I have to do and I try to think that things like the recent blog hop is a necessity to get more people familiar with my work.

As I started finding myself speaking at writer’s conferences and leading writing workshops more and more, the blog became a way to talk about those experiences, too. Then I was fortunate to land myself back in the classroom…even if it was virtual…where I talk about writing all the time. SO, hopefully you see where this is headed…I find that I spend a lot of time talking about writing so much that I don’t feel like blogging about it too much. Yeah, I’ll do it some when something really calls out to me that needs sayin’, but I spend so much of my time talking about writing that I’m not motivated to blog about it. I know that’ll irk some of you who come here for pearls of writing wisdom…but I’ll apologize to both of you profusely!

So…there it is. And see, I’ve broken yet another rule in that this blog is 521 words.

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Spalding reunion the first

I had the fantastic opportunity to return to my Alma Mater this past week and what an incredible time I had. First, I was honored to take part in a panel of Young Adult Alumni on the Care and Tending of Books. Also on the panel was (my good friend and fantastic writer) Marjetta Geerling, Cory Jackson, Kelly Creagh, Edie Edith Hemingway, Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen. There were six of us total and each of us had a slightly different story to tell. Dunno if they were just being kind, but several attendees mentioned they thought it was one of the better of the residency.

Those who frequent this spot know that I highly recommend the Spalding MFA program for Writing (Yes, I also teach in an MFA program, but we teach Writing for Entertainment and don’t even cover prose or poetry…so it’s very much non-competitive kind of thing). My experience there was a far better experience than I had with my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. Spalding has a very “nurture the writer” mentality, not smash them upside the head and make them feel horrible one.

Rebekah J. Harris, me, Marjetta Geerling

As part of my trip there, I got to participate in the Homecoming festivities for the MFA program. While it was my first homecoming, it certainly wasn’t the first homecoming for the university or program. Part of the festivities includes what’s called the SPLoveFest, a short period of time when Alumni get to set up at a table and peddle their wares—mostly recently published books of one sort or another. I set up at one of the tables and displayed several of my comic series, including the graphic novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Ever the classics, they were popular amongst my more literary brethren at Spalding. I was further excited that several asked about my as-yet-to-be-published The Interns. No news on that yet, but stay tuned.

A couple of you noted that I did not blog last week. I apologize for that. We are trying to sell our home in Oxford so that we can effect a move to Orlando and the task of continually keeping the house ready to show just caused me to let that date slip right on by me. I’ll try not to let it happen again. I’ve got more material for Writer’s Mistakes in the not too distant future, weaned, of course, from my students and just from around the internet.

I’ll be appearing at the Gideon Media Festival again this year August 11-16. There is a comic contest available (as well as some other contests if the dates haven’t already passed), so go check it out. Additionally, I’ll be appearing at the Karitos in July (12-14) [like them on FB here]. Still working out the details for this one, but I’m looking forward to them both. Check them out!

Photo is YA author Rebekah J. Harris, me, and Marjetta Geerling, courtesy of Rebekah.

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The absent blogger

I’m afraid to look at the date before I “publish” this one…but I know it was sometime in July. Where oh where has the time gone? Well, for me personally, mostly school. Trying to balance my school with a busy summer schedule was hectic! With a capital WOW! There’s so much to catch up on, I hardly know where to start.

But I gotta start somewhere so I’ll start with Brittany having a go at American Idol. When we learned they lowered the age to 15 this year AND that there were auditions in Nashville AND it was conveniently placed next to Camp Electric on the calendar…well, we decided to do it. Brittany and I went to stand in line around 4 that morning and found the line already formed. However, once it was all said and done, we were in the first ¼ of the entire line. While she didn’t make it past the first round, it was a great experience for her. I was impressed by how efficient they were in their organization. Those guys know what they’re doing.

Brittany has been offered a contract/representation by CTA and we’re still examining those possibilities and praying about it. It sounds very good, but we don’t want to jump into it blind and make a bad decision that she’ll be stuck with. She’s competing in a contest that I’d encourage you to go vote for her here.

She’ll also be competing at the MidSouth Talent Fair Thursday, September 30. This will be her fourth year to compete there, her third in the “senior” category (which is ages 13-21). Come out if you can, and cheer her on.

Brett’s big event is his braces—which he didn’t want. He’s only had them on for two weeks, but we can already see major movement in his teeth!

I’ve had a busy summer also signing copies of Buying Time and working to promote it. I wish I’d had more time—maybe I should “buy” some, huh? Ha. Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis had me up for a reading and a signing and I was happy to have several family members and friends come out to support me. I can’t mention all of you, but if you were there, thank you for coming. If you couldn’t make it, DK graciously put some copies on their shelves, so go in and ask for it and pick up a copy!

This summer, I’ve managed to get myself some podcasting interviews. While I’ve been interviewed on television and for the paper and such before, this was a completely new experience for me—and I had a lot of fun. The first time I went on was with the Imagicopter folks. Next I went on with Andy Childress of bubbaworldcomix.com when we were at SFCC in Jackson. We were interviewed by Cody Shedd and Danny Rushing and had a blast. I’m hoping they’ll holler at me again for a follow up! And then, I had a very cool conversation with John Wilkerson, Jesus Geek. We had such a good time John had to split it into two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. In fact, we talked for another 20 minutes off air as we figured out that we knew some of the same folks out in Killeen, Texas! You should go listen to them—drive up the hits if nothing else! J

This coming Saturday, September 25, while the Razorbacks are beating Alabama, I’ll be at the Winston County Library in Louisville, Mississippi from 9 a.m. until that afternoon. I’ll be there with a handful of authors and artists, so if you’re in the area, come out and see us! You already know about Buying Time, Wizard of Oz, Huck Finn, but I’m also able to promote now Martyrs, an anthology of the early Christian Martyrs in which I wrote a 12 page story of Polycarp.

On October 2, I’ll be the keynote speaker for a Writing Retreat in Byhalia. I’ll be in Coffeeville, Mississippi the next Saturday, October 9. And then, I’ll blink my eyes and it’ll be November and I’ll lead the Hemingway Writers Retreat in Piggott, Arkansas. So, for those of you who read this blog regularly (thank you!), I apologize if I don’t get here as often the next several weeks!

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One week later

It’s been difficult to post to my blog regularly lately. Can’t answer exactly why. Sure the family has been busy, but I’ve still had the time to write here, just haven’t had the energy to do so really. Not sure if that in anticipation of my upcoming school-work, which is about to begin, or what. It won’t do my “hits-per-month” very good, that’s for sure.

Brittany missed a few days of school this week. She was tested for Swine Flu but the test came back negative. The Dr. suggested it was her sinuses again—this happened once before last year. Still, her being tested for Swine Flu was a little tense. She’s got three friends who tested positive for Swine Flu and I think that’s the reason she was tested.

Volleyball is in full swing and Brittany is having a great time. She’s one of the “setters” for the team and that seems to really excite her. BJ and I are still learning about the game. Something will happen and I’ll ask her what the call was…she doesn’t know either. Kinda fun to learn, though. Unfortunately, they were spanked pretty bad by arch-rival Oxford last night.

I’m actually moving sluggishly through the writing project on my plate now as well. I’m still working on Last of the Mohicans GN, and I’m finding it difficult to do. With Huck Finn, I knew the book so well, I moved through the entire process quickly. With Wizard of Oz (no release date from the publisher yet), it was a fun and fast read…and made the scripting easy. LOTM is 430 pages of very heavy text. How in the world do you condense that into a 64 page graphic novel? Don’t get me wrong, I like the book and think there are many visually exciting scenes…but wading through the text to get them is just very, very laborious.

It could be that I’m ready to move on to the project that will follow that. My agent, Kimberly Shumate, is still working hard at placing The Gifted, but we’ve swapped emails and had phone conversation about the “next” thing for me. As soon as I finish LOTM, I plan to get back to Cat & Mouse, the novel of which I’ve already got about 25,000 words written. No, it is not a “novelization” of my comic series—as someone recently thought. Instead, it is a different story inspired by my comic book stories. There will be a few supporting cast members who readers of the comic book will recognize, but beyond that, it’s brand new material. AND, I’m anxious to get back on it.

Lastly, Brittany is competing in the Mid South Fair talent show contest tomorrow. It’ll be in the Desoto County Civic Center Auditorium thing—a place we’ve never been but I understand it is quite BIG! Don’t know what time she goes on, but the competition starts at 2pm. Hope to see some of you there!

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Writing this-n-that

If you’ve been reading here much, you know that I’m in the middle of revising my novel at the request of an editor for a potential sale. On top of that, I’ve been keeping my fingers busy with this and that, pounding the writer’s pavement, so to speak.

At the top of the list is the long-awaited (by me, anyway) release of my graphic novel adaptation of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I was very excited to get to adapt this classic novel as it is one of my personal favorites. In fact, it was one of the books I used in my English Comp classes. Of course, I realize that I’ve just given Comp teachers one more thing they’ve got to go look at before making out their tests. Yes, I used to flip through Cliff Notes while making my tests. I wanted to be sure that the students could not pass the test if they’d only read Cliff Notes. Huck Finn is currently only available online through the publisher. Click to http://campfire.co.in/, select your country, then select “Classics” and you’ll see it listed with several others. Cost is $6.26 and shipping is free. And yes, if you pick one up, I’ll be happy to sign it.

On Saturday, I wrote a guest column for my ACFW pal Tracy Ruckman, who is the Christian Writing Examiner for the Examiner.com. Saturday, of course, was Free Comic Book Day at comic shops all across the U.S. To read it, click here. Look for the Huck cover image. I’ve also written two others for Tracy, one will be released tomorrow, which is Cartoonist Day, and the other will be Saturday, which is the anniversary of the first cartoon ever printed in a U.S. newspaper. Saturday I talked about what a comic book writer does, and the two main styles of comic scripts. Tomorrow I talk about how a comic book is put together, and Saturday I’ll give suggestions to writers interested in comic script writing. If you go, leave a comment so Tracy will be encouraged to have me write more columns for her! J

A few weeks ago I submitted a “funny sports story” to Max Elliot Anderson’s website. By appearances, it seems like my story came in second. I submitted the true account of my old high school pal Scott Cook catching a fly ball in the outfield…after it bounced off his head. Back then, it was the funniest thing we’d ever seen. Realizing now, he probably got a concussion from it.

Back to the grindstone. Thanks for reading.

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Re-reading a classic!

I’ve recently re-read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—for those of you paying attention, you know why. As usual, it was a good read.

Huck Finn is one of those stories that I didn’t have an appreciation for as a high school student and didn’t develop that appreciation until college. Of course, I think there is much of literature that is that way. Often, I think we try to get younger students to understand the classics when quite simply they are too young to understand. But that’s another ramble for another day.

One can certainly understand why many critics wanted it removed from shelves; the frequent use of the n-word being one of the primary reasons. The abusive nature of Pap is another. Of course, we don’t see it in any of the visual adaptations, but Huck specifically mentions that both he and Jim are naked most of the time while riding down the Mississippi on a raft. That would really go over today, wouldn’t it? A 14 year-old white boy with an older (at least 30) black man…a slave at that.

When I taught English at Northwest Shoals Community College, I used Huck Finn as one of the two novels we read during the course of the semester. There are all sorts of “literary” elements to talk about, but you can read most of those elsewhere.

One of the biggest elements of the book, I think, and not often talked about, is the reflection of attitudes about blacks. Keeping in mind, the book was written and published after the Civil War, but the story is set roughly 30 years before the war, when most of the country west of the Mississippi River was still generally unpopulated. Obviously, the biggest window we have is Huck himself.

Throughout the course of the book, he feels very guilty that he’s helping a runaway slave run away—it’s not the proper thing to do after all, plus, it’s against the law. Throughout the course of the several months trip downriver, Huck gets to know Jim as a person. When it comes time to turn him in or “go to hell,” Huck decides if turning Jim in is bad enough he’ll go to hell, then he’ll go to hell.

A very powerful moment of decision for Huck and for us as the reader.

Of course, race relations are a big deal in the U.S., and particularly in the South. It has certainly improved even just during the course of my lifetime. I was in first grade in Memphis during desegregation. I think much of the change has come with my generation and the ones that immediately followed. My own mom imparted to me these words of wisdom: “judge each person as an individual, not based on their looks or color of their skin.” Or something like that.

It seems that is the very lesson that Huck learned.

If you’ve never read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I highly recommend this classic!

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