Green-Arrow-Longbow-Hunter

A Story from Mike Grell about Green Arrow, The Longbow Hunters, and Frank Miller

By Seth Singleton

Meeting Mike Grell

I met Mike Grell at the Santa Rosa ToyCon in September.
It was an unplanned trip and an unexpected meeting. When I turned a corner and saw him drawing an original Warlord commission I was starstruck.
But the moment I stopped at his table to introduce myself Mike greeted me with a smile and a handshake. He’s known for reimagining The Green Arrow’s origin in a profound and humble series called The Longbow Hunters.

I first discovered him through a comic series called Shaman’s Tears.

Mike-Grell-handshake-Seth-Singleton
A hearty handshake from Comics Legend Mike Grell

The impact of his work can be seen in the storylines for Green Arrow that followed Mike’s miniseries. The most recent incarnation is in the CW television show The Arrow, which its creators have said many times is grounded in the foundation of Mr. Grell’s seminal masterpiece.

Knowing all of this, I was stunned when he told me to ask him anything.
What followed is a story about Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters and Frank Miller that I will never forget.

 

To contact Seth about a story click here.

 

 

 

You-Are-What-You-Listen-To-Neon-Lights-on-Brick-Wall

That One Night a Poetry Reading was Drowned out by the Background noise of an Excited dog and other Distractions

By Seth Singleton

I went to a poetry reading on August 30th.

I went to the reading to see two good friends Joseph Lease and Donna de la Perrière and to hear from a new poet named Natasha Saje from Utah.

I think it’s great to hear a different voice and hear her perspective. She called it a “dream come true and a marvelous experience.”

Vivarium-Book-Cover

Moe’s Books

It was held at Moe’s Books in Berkeley. Moe’s has a storied history among writers and poets.

Natasha is an English professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, and she made a point of stating that for her this was a powerful experience. It was a lot of fun to hear her description. Which, is understandable if you are just visiting or haven’t lived in the Bay Area for very long. Even if you have, Berkeley is similar to many bustling places, and the pace of our lives makes it easy to walk past gems like Moe’s and Pegasus bookstores on the way to work, the grocery store or coming home from anywhere.

Moe’s has a frenetic energy, in part, because of its location. It’s right at the corner of Telegraph and Dwight. Its location is prime not only because it is three blocks south of University Ave and the Berkely campus.

Energy-hands-people-sunset

The prime location invites street vendors, wanderers, and this can feel chaotic.  Unless you are familiar with this environment when you are driving or walking, and people who do not know where they are going, it can feel very confusing. When those people become restless, searching for a place where they can park or sit, and stop and think, it can be difficult to adapt to their erratic behavior and the response it evokes from others. The fact that unless you are familiar with the streets, being surrounded by people who are in a hurry is unsettling. They want to get somewhere that they can park and that makes it uncomfortable for anyone around them. They’re not going to drive with any comfort. It makes their actions seem sketchy, undecided, and inconsistent.

You’ve begun with this frantic energy that is so clear and prevalent and this great little bookstore that feeds on that momentum that people carry with them. Inviting anyone from outside to come in and experience the books and readings by Local and nonlocal poets. But it also creates the opportunity lack of understanding when it is clear to the people attending the reading that the people who are coming in and out are not paying attention to the reading or the impact that their coming and leaving are having.

I have some audio that I believe will illustrate or encapsulate one of these moments. We’ll see how well that works out. But I wanted to start out with this idea, in a bookstore on telegraph ave in Berkeley and a poetry reading. Because a few different ideas came out during this reading, and I think anyone who enjoys reading or writing or listening or even a public art performance like a poetry reading and experiencing this, what I am about to describe is probably going to feel not only familiar or disquieting in its familiarity whether you dislike people being interrupted, whether you dislike being interrupted yourself, when you are somewhere that you can’t control what’s happening around you when you are trying to enjoy something you want, again I think it goes back to that frenetic energy that I described.

Being aware of the reading

If you enjoy writing, reading, listening, or experience a public art performance or installation like a poetry reading and experiencing, what I am about to describe is going to feel not only familiar but also disquieting in its familiarity. Whether you dislike other people being interrupted or dislike being interrupted yourself, when you are somewhere that you can’t control what’s happening around you while you are trying to enjoy something that you want, I think it harkens back to that frenetic energy that I mentioned earlier.

The-Body-Ghost-Book-By-Joseph-Lease

Sonorous Poetry – The Lyrical Joy

So, Joseph started off the reading with selections from his new book The Body Ghost. I first heard Joseph’s voice during the reading of excerpts from his early collections like Testify and Broken World. He has had poems featured in Best American Poetry and Norton’s anthology. They contain a lyrical quality that is something that has always drawn me to poetry.

I had the chance to talk with him after the reading. One of the first things that I focused on was that I enjoyed poetry because it is sonorous. It goes to my childhood and the musicality of the message. When I was a child, it was easy to receive my indoctrination into Christianity and Pentecostal through the engaging songs and the messages they relayed. They were inspirational and engaging. Over time they became familiar and comforting. Poetry has always offered that musicality that invites me to enjoy, and engage and participate.

So, there I was listening to Joseph read from The Body Ghost. It was funny that I ran into someone who was at another reading held at City Lights about 5 months ago, that I also attended. During a Q&A I pointed out a line that I really enjoyed about a skeleton in a suit stuffed in a mailbox. “Just a body in a mailbox.”

It was a very haunting image to me and presented so many different ideas. I mean questions of course. But, also interpretations of that image can ingrain itself on the brain, on the memory, and on the ear. The person I ran into was named Colin. When he talked about the reading he mentioned that someone had made a comment, and then he said repeated my comment about the mailbox. It was funny to share an affinity, that for me, had my own reasons for enjoying, and I am sure Colin also had his own, but that we could both have a connection for different reasons over the same line. We could both relate to Joseph’s work, not only through that one line but now through the shared experience of hearing it read aloud and engaging with it at a previous reading.

True-Crime-Poetry-Black-and-White-Trestle

After Joseph read, his wife Donna de la Pierre read from her upcoming chapbook. I don’t have any information on it at this time, and I don’t want to take the risk of bothering Joseph or Donna at this hour. However, if you would like to see some of Donna’s published poems you can start with True Crime.

Recording and Timing

Perhaps it is a good time to point out that when I am recording these podcasts before I transcribe them here, it is usually four or five in the morning. There is often less outside noise to create distractions. There are moments when I might be inspired to reach out and contact them. But, since they are in my timezone, and it is not two or three hours later in the day, they would probably prefer to just sleep and talk to me later.

Donna read from her new chapbook. She offers similar musical phrasing when she reads. And, yet, her voice is a different melody, that is a compliment to Joseph, but is also singular and that is a supplement to her style and voice.

And then there was Natasha, who I have never heard. She read selected poems from Vivarium. Someone who is writing from a different geography is writing from a different mindset that is based there. I like hearing that thinking because that it is often parallel and then perpendicular to my current internalization or rationalization of my ideas.

But, hearing the images and the sounds and the ideas that capture her desire for writing is a chance to see inside someone else’s process. And I like that, simply because it shows me something that I have not considered before. It encourages me to find ways to make my work stronger and better, and I think overall my work becomes more reflective. This allows me to engage more with the outside world and the subject I am trying to capture.

Without doing so I might have gotten as close as I could, but I know that I would not be able to get as close as I might consider. Simply because without knowing more, how can I consider more.

To contact Seth Singleton about storytelling, click here.

Flick-the-flint-of-a-lighter-ignite-the-flame

When you edit for your readers it clears the smoke so you can see the fire and enjoy the true pleasure of revision

I decided to record a podcast and write this post about editing for a few reasons.

The first is that I am working on a draft of a novel.

The next is that I am also editing my first audiobook collection.

I am also the editor for the writing team on an upcoming digital strategy card game called Planet Rise. It’s the first game of its kind to offer a complete story. We are currently editing one of our drafts in preparation for the upcoming AfroComiCon in October.

Each process allows me to view the approaches I am taking and the results I am experiencing with a critical eye. The better I can understand my process the more complete I can refine editing my work and the work of others.

 

typeset-editing-letters

 

I’m also talking about editing because it is hard. The goal is to make the work better, but that means painful choices that can create more questions and problems than it seems to solve, at the moment. It can show you gaps where you need more work and where you are being redundant. Both can be demoralizing if you are unprepared, and can still be frustrating even when you think you are ready.

I have a story on Amazon called This is a Language of Fists. It started about 18 years ago with a scene. A cold wind moving through a boxing arena in a small setting, and the fighters, and the people there to watch them. Later I added a scene about running on a beach.

That scene grew to between 25-30 pages over the next 10-12 drafts. Then I whittled them down to about 15-18 pages. Ten drafts later, I was back to 22-24. Sometime after the 25th draft, I began slowly paring back to 21 pages and then finally to the 20 pages that I published. I asked classmates and teachers and advisors for their edits.

I don’t remember when I crossed the 30th draft because by then it did not matter. What mattered, was that each round of edits brought me closer. And that became my single goal. Getting closer. Doing it again. Looking for opportunities to make my ideas clearer.

“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” – Arthur Plotnik

Seeing the fire

Writing and editing are very similar. According to Arthur Plotnik, “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”

When you’re trying to write and, when you are writing, you are crafting the ideas as they come. Whether you are using an outline or structure, there is still the moment of inspiration and excitement, and those moments can’t be planned for but it’s the editing where writers have the opportunity to shape the story.  As Plotnik says, to let the fire show through this book.

It’s a great image when you think about starting a fire, and how the initial effect can be hard to see at first. But the best signal is the smoke when the fire begins to brew and the bits of kindling and starter are working that under the larger pieces of wood you are hoping to burn.

 

Seeing-the-Fire-and-sparks-at-night

 

Once that smoke clears, the fire is burning so cleanly that it is only producing the flames. The act of feeding on oxygen and the fuel of the wood eliminates the opportunity for the smoke to billow.

That’s when a fire is really enjoyed. When the light and the shadows it casts, and the heat and in many ways the nostalgia. The ability to trace all of the moments you were entertained by a fire. The timeline from your first moment with a fire. Whether outside or in front of a fireplace. It is something we connect to every time we enjoy a fire.

It’s the same with great stories.  They are something entertaining. The more they can engage us with their best representations There is a timeline in our minds of the stories that we have enjoyed

Letting the Smoke Clear

This became true for me while I was working on the first draft of a novel and many of the pieces that were coming together began to crowd my storytelling. And, I realized that I needed to find a way to set myself up so that the story would allow me to come back in. But, that when I came back in it would be with direction and purpose.

So I employed a tried and true method of writing my ending and then walking away. So that when I came back to finish that draft I could see the pieces that needed to be filled in and the threads that I needed to connect to that ending in order for the framework of it to be maintained.

So that my first draft would have these many through-lines and an ending, that I could then begin working with as I edited.

 

Smoke-over-trees-mountains-in-sunlight

 

It was helpful because that period of breathing allowed the smoke to clear. For any confusion, I might have been experiencing at that moment to abate. And by stepping back and allowing the flames to burn, and knowing I had already set up this fire so that it would reach the ending, which would be, in my mind, roaring and burn with all of the excitement that it had begun with.

That stepping back and letting it breathe meant that the smoke could clear. And as it began to burn in my mind with what I had developed, with what I had built on top and everything all I had been reaching for then the pieces became clearer.

The missing threads were easier to see. I could identify all of the trees in my forest that I had not described the way I wanted to in order for the story to be complete. And now that they were identified. I could go back in and work on them with a purpose.

Knowing that, by doing so, with each one of those details and corrections, I was getting closer to my ending. I was creating this story that would burn a fire that would entertain. And something that I believed that would really create a value to the storytelling.

That if I had not allowed it to happen, that value might have been something I rushed passed towards something else that I assumed meant completion.

Because I was able to enjoy that period of waiting, the anticipation and the sense of, well, definitely of relief and also a sense of comfort. When the smoke began to clear I could see the flames, much brighter than they had been before and that was a guiding light.

 

Spinning-twisting-flames

Revision is a pleasure of writing

There’s a really great quote below that illustrates editing your words the moment you realize what is wrong.

“Making love to me is amazing. Wait, I meant: making love, to me, is amazing. The absence of two little commas nearly transformed me into a sex god.”

―Dark Jar Tin Zoo, Love Quotes for the Ages. Specifically Ages 19-91.

Note the pause. It only took saying it once for the speaker to realize where their mistake had occurred and to backtrack and fix it by applying two little commas. By doing so, not only is the meaning, but the intention changed.

I think it is a great set up for this quote by Bernard Malamud. He won both the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and the National Book Award, but I still know him best as an author of The Natural, which captures a snapshot of baseball during it’s earliest heyday.

“I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times—once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say. Somewhere I put it this way: first drafts are for learning what one’s fiction wants him to say. Revision works with that knowledge to enlarge and enhance an idea, to reform it. Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.” – Bernard Malamud

Two different approaches to examining your work after it’s been produced.

One is the quick recovery, a verbal adjustment or correction. Or even a written correction that immediately follows to show just how quickly the desire is to fix where the mistake lies.

The other approach is the longer form. It goes back to that idea of the entertainment of the fire. Knowing what you are creating is part of the excitement in building a fire.

Knowing that it is the small pieces, the starter material, and the kindling, and finally, the larger pieces which let the fire roar and reach its crescendo and then a resolution glowing with the soothing warmth of the coals.

Pleasure-like-glowing-embers

Denying yourself that pleasure removes one of the aspects that Malamud points to here regarding the idea of revision.

What that fiction wants you to say. It’s a pleasure of writing. It’s an opportunity. It’s a gift because it requires time.

Time seems to be one of those resources that we are always in short supply. But, by dedicating time to this pursuit, we are actually taking pleasure in using our time for something that gives us pleasure.

The chance to take what we are writing and to make sure it’s saying what we believe, the best way we want it to and the best way we know we can make it sound.

You don’t have to kill your darlings, but…

None of this means that editing is easy. Or that the parts that are easy will guarantee that the rest of it, when it does get easier, will stay that way. It only promises that there will be hard choices.

Steven King loves to say, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Even if you are not egocentric when it comes to your darlings, they are your darlings for a reason.

They brought you to a certain place in your storytelling, that has added a value to that story. Removing them challenges the work that you have invested. But, because your intention is to make this your best work, to follow the approach of writers like Malamud, and others by understanding the story and then working to make that knowledge broader, makes the hard decisions necessary.

Hand-reachnig-out-of-shadows

And it can give you the incentive to push past personal attachment or even emotional attachment to those darlings. Just because you are editing them from this piece of work does not mean you are removing them from existence. There is comfort in having a small notes file that allows you to look back on them with kindness and fondness.

Even if it just ends up being in a piece about all the things you did not get to use while writing that book.

And I think knowing, that by storing them in that document or folder and keeping them alive there, you haven’t really killed them. You’ve moved them to another plane of existence and potentially they can be reincarnated, recycled, or whatever the philosophy works best for you.

They can be repurposed into your writing. And you might never know when that will happen or if that will happen. But, that their possibility will always be alive as long as you keep them in that document.

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”―Dr. Seuss

Edit for your Readers

When it comes to any final thoughts about editing, that can often be first thoughts when starting the process, is to keep in mind why we do it. And the real purpose behind editing has to do with the reader.

There is a very sweet quote from Dr. Seuss that says,“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

It starts simple, with the idea of the writer simply creating too many words, more than is necessary, but it ends actually, with an interesting warning.

Because, not only does it become a chore for the reader, but it becomes a chore for the reader who reads.

A reader who reads is a reader who is paying attention, and If they recognize that the writer is using more words than they need, they will believe that the writer is actually making it harder for them.

And that is going to challenge the reader’s thoughts regarding the investment of their time into a work that in many ways is not respecting their time. Or the investment they are taking.

And whether it’s worth that amount of work.

Book-open-writing-light-on-page

That can make the difference between the reader finishing what you have written, or deciding that it is simply too much work to try and understand what you might be talking about. But, what you have not made clear enough to them to help them understand, with a reason that helps them as they continue reading.

By asking the reader to invest their time, you are telling them you are going to share something with them that they didn’t know or that they can now understand in a way that they didn’t consider before.

Or many of the other revelations that can come from your writing that is beyond your initial intent.

That can only happen when the writing has been edited to a point where all of those possibilities are clear enough to be seen, and when it comes to getting that writing in front of someone’s eyes, making it difficult for the reader can prevent your writing from moving beyond the editor’s desk.

There’s another great quote from J. Russel Lynes that says,”No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.”

If you are trying to get your work past the editor’s desk, the amount of time you invest in editing before you send it off it will improve your chances that the best work, the best writing, and the idea that you have now begun to understand even more clearly, has been presented more concisely.

It’s because of the many attempts and approaches you have made to make it transparent for them, with as little as effort as might be possible, for them to understand, to engage and more importantly, to continue reading all the way to the end.

To contact Seth about Content, Editing, Podcasts, or to just talk about writing, click here.

Leave-a-voice-message-on-Anchor

Video Tutorial: How to leave me feedback about podcasts using the voice message feature on Anchor

By Seth Singleton

Do you ever wish you could tell someone on television that they were doing it wrong? It’s not that you are mean or that you are trying to hurt them, but you see something that they don’t or can’t.

What about radio?

Do you ever hear something that would sound better or if it was said differently?

It happens to me.

It’s not something that I try to do intentionally, but if I am listening or watching and I hear something that sounds wrong, my mind immediately pictures what it would sound like if it was better.

Then I wonder if there is some way that someone could have told them. Maybe I could have told them. But how?

When I post things I know that there is always a chance that I am doing it wrong. There is a mistake that I will miss or not catch. At some point, I know that I will hear or see or read the mistake and then I will hopefully fix it.

But, what if it wasn’t just up to me to catch the mistakes. What if other people could let me know too?

I think I could catch more errors.

Would that change things for me?

I think it would help me improve the quality of each new post.

Would I be aware of my mistakes earlier if someone let me know that I had made a mistake?

I would try to remember each reminder before I made a new post so that I could improve the quality and the content.

Would it have to be only mistakes?

I hope not. Don’t get me wrong, the value of someone pointing out what I did wrong is invaluable, but so is the idea of someone giving me support when I get it right.

Criticism or support can reveal how to turn a topic into a theme or series by changing my approach.

Use Your Voice

That’s one of the main reasons why I am glad that there is a message feature available through the Anchor platform.

Not only can you leave me your feedback, but you can do it in your voice.

Not sure how to spell the thing that you want to say?

Need to put some emphasis on a few words that will make all the difference in what you are trying to say?

Here’s your chance

The voice message service is one way that you can give me feedback on my podcasts. It’s also a great way for you and me to connect, and for me to hear how I can provide you with the content that you want.

To help you see how this works, I have included a series of screenshots and two short videos.

If you did not feel like reading everything above you can watch this short video about why I want to hear from you.

 

 

How it Works

The Recent Update

Anchor recently released an update for its app. The changes are cosmetic, but this short video shows you how to quickly navigate to the voice messages feature.

Making it Easier for You

 

 

Thanks for watching.

 

Contact Seth here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question-marks-trees-forest

Three Writers, Two Musicians, and One Doctor Respond to Questions Raised at the Black Representation in Gaming and Media Panel at GDC 2018 and Where the Conversation is Going Next

The present is always recovering from the past. When times are good it takes energy to sustain them. When times are bad it takes energy to change them. The best way to know how to sustain or how to change is asking questions.


Why Questions?

Questions reveal the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we reach our conclusions. Telling a story, cultivating a discussion, or building a world, involves asking and answering the hard questions. I was lucky enough to record my conversation with Dr. Sarah L. Webb, Fenyang Smith, and Jabari Alii. These three creators provided answers that not only informed the discussion, they also expanded it.

Question-Mark-End-of-Hall


Why the Same Questions?

There’s this thing called the Proust Questionnaire. It’s a list of 35 questions that were created as a parlor room game. The game is designed to establish a series of baseline answers people and then offer deeper insights. These can reveal the inner desires and surprising details that show the little differences in why and how we think what we think. It is named after novelist Marcel Proust who made it famous with his claim that when answering the questions a person reveals their true nature.

The host of the show Inside The Actors Studio uses these questions at the end of interviews with renowned actors. Vanity Fair has made a practice of including the questions on the last page of its magazine. The answers are supplied by public figures and always interesting and nuanced.

The questions are a valuable way to understand a person’s motivations, thinking, and more. It is also a popular way to create compelling characters and understand how their values can shape the direction of a story.


Why these Questions are different?

The Planet Rise team attended a panel on Black Representation in Gaming at the 2018 Game Developers Convention in San Francisco, Ca. We listened to a series of questions discussed at a panel called Black Representation in Gaming at the 2018 GDC in SF.

What I wanted to know is how does what we do change the way we answer and interpret the questions and how does that impact the creative process?

Why is this important?

I work on a video game that features a heroine who is a strong black woman and a commanding young leader. Two of the other prominent characters are also black. The success and failure of projects that feature persons of color have had mixed degrees of success and the questions in his panel were addressing the elements that led to success or failure. And the limits that this has placed on recent opportunities.
The questions were helpful because they offered the chance for speakers who work in the video game industry and represent the small percentage of people of color that are employed by these companies.
Chain-link-important-mike-alonzo


The questions

If our game is going to be successful then we must be aware of the way that our answers compare with the answers that we heard at the panel and how that will influence the game we are creating.
These are some of the questions that were raised at the panel.
  • Why are there so few games/movies with diverse main characters?
  • One Myth is that they are hard to sell or market, what do you say to this?
  • What is the value of a story that crosses all borders, and more?
  • Is it important to create a spectrum of diverse characters?

Who Answered

Fen-Smith-Lean

My first conversation was with Fen Smith, a musician and story writer for the game Planet Rise. Fen provided insight on the viewpoint of writing the environment and the characters that make it real.
You can listen to his answers here.

 


Sarah-Webb-profile-microphone
Sarah Webb Photo – Courtesy of Hodges Media Team
The second conversation was with my friend  Dr. Sarah L. Webb. Dr. Webb runs a website and writing contest called Colorism Healing. She has written numerous essays and published collections that feature emerging voices who are shaping a reflective discussion about colorism.
Part 1

Part 2


Jabari-Alii-Standing-with-Leaders
The third was with my friend Jabari Alii.
Jabari founded the company Blue Alchemy Studio. Blue Alchemy is creating the digital strategy-card game Planet Rise which is nearing its final stages.
Creating a company and a game, and making them both run requires a lot of planning.  How do these questions inform that process?
Take a listen.