Well, Standing Rock has fallen, Congress is collaborating and colluding with a treasonous maniac, and the Arctic is melting. On the bright side, many of us have awoken. Bigly. We are marching, calling, defending, meeting, planning, running, and fighting like hell for all that is good and decent in this world. Oh, and I have been to Sweden.
So there is that. What to do as a writer now? It’s taken this situation–and perhaps being in my middle years–to realize the importance of art in a time of war and turmoil. I’m nothing if not a slow-learner. How many of our historical memories of great or tragic times are now framed within the context of literature or art? Think, Macbeth. War and Peace. Les Miserables. Wartime poetry is as ancient as war itself: The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, and In Flanders Fields. Picasso’s Guernica, memorializing the German bombing of that city, is terrible-and
unforgettable. I saw it in Madrid.
Artists can record, teach, and explain. They can entertain. Sometimes, art can be used to heal. Gustav Holst wrote his orchestral suite, The Planets during The Great War, between 1916 and 1918. Here are my kids, two Christmases ago, doing their best to send light into the world by playing Bringer of Joy, the fourth movement:
No artist will be surprised by anything I’ve written here. Remember, I’m the slow-learner. Artists will do what they do and if there is any point to it all, it is that they need to express themselves in whatever manner they are moved. I sometimes see people in the publishing industry lecturing into the nether-sphere about what writing should do. What purpose art has. Try telling that to Bob Dylan.
I am wired to be a political animal in that I care deeply about my community and the people around me. I care about policies that affect them. I care about the environment, education, and health care. I care about good government, good policing, and corruption. I care about equal rights. I care about freedom and Democracy. I’ve been weaving these things into my novel, Shades of a Warrior, for years. Improving the story. Sharpening it. Would you believe that, my bad guy is a corrupt real-estate-developer-turned-politician who sides with polluting corporate interests over the safety and security of a local community? Yeah, no shit. And no, I did not see him coming. But The Orange Hellbeast is part of a trend of wealthy, powerful, corporate interests hijacking our communities and our Democracy. That, I did see coming. And that I do write about. The sequel to Shades of a Warrior is written and being revised now. Will it be usurped by real events? Who the hell knows? I need to get the first book out first. I am resuming submissions this week. In the time since I conceived of this story, the industry attention has moved from magical wizards, to dystopia to sexy vampires, to werewolves, to LGBTQ, to immigrants, to Muslims, to… So, we will see. Much of my story is told through the lens of the Native American and, more specifically, the Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) experience in northern Minnesota. My kids play with them. I go out with them. I do ceremony with them. This is my community. There is plenty of cultural sharing and overlap here. I am standing on the front lines of the resistance alongside them. Among the many things I have learned from my Ojibwe friends is tenacity, resilience, and humor in the midst of tremendous difficulty. We need these things now more than ever. By the same token, the Ojibwe experience, the LGBT experience, the immigrant and Muslim experience is the human experience. We are all human beings, trying to make it through a complicated, sometimes painful, often strange and hilarious world. The publishing industry’s habit of slicing and dicing us much like the political parties do is tiresome. For me (the guy who speaks three plus languages), it is possible to love and appreciate the things that make us different while simultaneously looking past them to what makes us similar. At the moment we are all in one, very big boat in a very rocky sea.
As an emerging artist, I will play my small part, working to teach, sooth, and explain with stuff that helps to inspire you to take care of your friends and your community. To defend your environment, your schools, and your immigrant neighbors. Hopefully, I’ll tell a good story and you will spit coffee or shoot a booger onto the pages at least once. Good luck with your own projects.
See you out there.