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Saturday, August 11, 2007

day of the blog

an angry Wyoming mob

Jentel Artist Residency Program
Banner, WY

I spent the first three and a half weeks here writing as though I had a publisher and a deadline--you know, money at stake. I took the novel and the comments of my pitiless writer's group (in last night's dream Barry called the last draft "morally bankrupt"), the notes I'd fed into a tape recorder on my drive out here, the dark suspicions I've harbored about the work but never faced, and I brought all this knowledge and self-loathing to bear on a pack of 4x6 note cards, each of which became a chapter outline for the third draft. These three days of work, among the unhappiest of my creative life, propelled the subsequent 21 days of difficult but fluent labor, which have resulted in 80 pages (40,000 words) of a brand new draft, typed into a new Word document, that I hope I don't flatter myself to think are almost readable.

I almost made it to the end of Part I (of IV), but twenty-three days of writing seven hours a day, with one day off in the middle, have slowed my output to a stingy, viscous drip. I may not be done with Part I, but I'm done with the novel, at least for this residency. Confronted with the attractions of the Wyoming landscape, the Jentel movie collection and library, and my four congenial colleagues here, who are all winding down their work too, I have decided that I will spend the day blogging.

Having blogged early, with the year-long site for daily writing (launched on my birthday in May, 1999), I've gotten some encouragement to blog seriously now that so many are doing it for so much money. I've been sorely tempted to follow this advice, having enjoyed D&P so much and being so long unemployed, short on money and loath to squeeze myself back into the cubicles of industry. But when I'm going full-tilt on the novel, I can't even write in my diary. I certainly don't have the mental capacity or motivation to blog, even half-heartedly. Blogging and fiction are mutually exclusive, and only someone with much more effectively delineated mental cubicles than I could pull it off.

Blogging is about immediacy and impulse, throwing it away, shouting outrage into tunnels and hoping angry mobs come stampeding out of them. Fiction is about writing it, loving it, rereading and hating it, revising it, then throwing it out and starting it over. I've tried to harness the energy of the blog for the purposes of fiction, having it out with my sadistic writer's group in blog format, also churning out rhapsodies of vocabulary enrichment. But I cannot write fiction and blog seriously. So today, when I will not write fiction, I will blog.

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des R├ęcollets.