Tag Archives: John Grochalski

Van Gogh Painted the Sky Last: Thoughts on John Grochalski’s Winedrunk Sidewalk

2 Sep

vanGogh

So that’s a photo of a van Gogh painting that hung in the recent exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new location, MET BRUER, called Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible.

The whole exhibit was really fantastic but this painting really floored me.

Because van Gogh painted the sky last.

Last.

Something about this strikes me as counter-intuitive. I mean, sky’s are a pretty integral and magical part of the man’s work.

and of course:

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This got me thinking about artist process. How did van Gogh paint? How did Beethoven compose? How does art get made? And is there a right or a wrong way to do it?

I know how I do it.

I get up every morning at quarter to five and I write until it’s time to get ready for work. I do this five days a week, taking weekends (and of course vacations) off. This is also the schedule that John Grochalski keeps. In fact I got my schedule from him, and not just because he sleeps next to me in bed.

John decided that if he was ever going to get any real writing done he needed to make sacrifices and the sacrifice he chose was sleep. I thought he was crazy and watched for years as he pulled himself out of bed each morning and made something out of nothing.

Then I saw all the something he made.

See that pile there next to the computer?

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That’s a lot of poems.

Eventually I joined him.

In conjunction with this schedule, he created a blog called Winedrunk Sidewalk in 2008. He vowed to write a poem a day.

Every day.

And (with a handful of exceptions) he did.

For nearly 10 years.

This week John informed me he was done with Winedrunk Sidewalk, that it no longer served in the way it was supposed to. As he said on his final post:

But I soon developed WineDrunk into a poetry site, mostly to keep me writing regularly. I think I’ve achieved that. And it’s been really wonderful to have had people read and comment on the blog. I think of WineDrunk as a fine piece of digital art. But this year I’ve gotten rather restless with the whole thing. Concentrating on writing a novel while revising another novel lead to a lot of frustration on my part in having to post a poem daily and to try and have that poem at least maintain some quality, some shred of artistic value.

8 years. A poem a day. That is nearly 3,000 poems. Three thousand times that he crafted something from nothing and while the poems themselves are art, the blog, as a whole is also art. A testimony to the process of making art.

So how exactly does one make art? Pretty much everyone in the world has an opinion on that.

If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist — because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not. So you have to write when you’re not “inspired.” … And the weird thing is that six months later, or a year later, you’re going to look back and you’re not going to remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you wrote because they had to be written. – Neil Gaiman

Solid advice but is that true for poets too? Should they only write when inspired? What constitutes inspired? What’s the difference between that and procrastinating? I know so many talented people who want to make art but don’t because they don’t make time or because the only wait until they are inspired. Is that better? Is the art better?

What makes you a good writer? What is the proper mix?

Much has been written about this. Charts have been rendered. Famous writer’s brains have been picked clean.

In the end, everyone’s routine is different but one thing seems abundantly clear. Without a routine, there’s no work. Without work, there’s no art.

Three thousand poems is an impressive feat and putting yourself out there every day takes real guts.

Everyone is going to find their own routine. Those that write every day might find the same kind of magic and frustration that John found creating Winedrunk Sidewalk. It’s never going to be perfect but it will always be true.

Sometimes we paint the sky last.

Sometimes we write a poem every single day for nearly a decade.

Either way, we make something from nothing.

Rest in peace, Winedrunk. You done good.

 

Hiddles, Links, Books and Rowling (oh my!)

31 Jul

 

That’s Hiddles making a little heart for no other reason than the fact that in the universe there is Hiddles making a little heart. And there it is. Don’t you feel better now?

So…here we are – now nearly a month since This Is Sarah was released into the world. Some reviews are coming in and that’s always nice and always appreciated because it helps spread the word. Speaking of, I was talking to my friend Rita about this. She had a podcast coming up for Book Riot (you can listen to the whole thing here) and she was curious about my opinion on how Goodreads is used – mainly do authors want “bad” reviews or is it just better to say nothing?

My answer? Bring on the bad reviews.

First off, everyone gets bad reviews. It happens, and you’ll be sad for a while and then you’ll get over it. Then it will happen again and eventually you won’t care.

But the important part of this is that a review is an OPINION which means that all the reviewer is saying is “I don’t like XYZ” and another reader might see that and say, “Well, gee, I LOVE XYZ” and buy your book. See how that works?

That said, the one thing you never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever do is respond to a review – good or bad, really, but especially bad. We’ve all heard about explosions when authors behave badly.

But the flip side of that coin is that sometimes, readers behave badly. I’ve experienced this too – one reader rated my book one star before it was out…and I know who had ARCS via my publisher and she wasn’t one of them. Instead of responding, I ignored it and it went away. Am I lucky? Maybe. Would it be the end of the world if it had stayed? No.

The message here is this:

Readers – review the book, not the author.

Authors – hush up. Goodreads is a place for readers. Let them be.

Moving along – I have some linky things.

First off, is a recording that John Grochalski did of his poetry reading at Hemingways this past June for the release of Starting With the Last Name Grochalski. It was a great reading – a fun night of poetry and laughs and friends that ended with a mad dash through a Pittsburgh downpour. It was such a good night someone should write a poem about it.

Secondly, I got a little surprise in the mail yesterday – an ARC of Hagridden by Samuel Snoek-Brown.

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I forgot to take a picture of MY copy so you’ll have to settle for the cover from Sam’s site.

Sam was awesome and interviewed me for my release of This Is Sarah and I can’t wait to return the favor during this blog tour. I read the first chapter when it arrived and guys, this is the real deal. I’m so excited.

Next up I’ve got some linky stuff to share:

 

 

  • Also, This Is Sarah was entered into a Book Cover contest. Anita, at Race-Point really did a stellar job so if you have a moment to vote here, you can help her win! It would be much deserved!
  • Many thanks to Clockwise Cat for giving these poems a home.
  • And to Stephen at Dead Snakes for these.
  • I’m going to have a piece out about this on Saturday’s Forked Road – but August 9th is the This Is Poetry party in Illinois so if you’re in the neighborhood, you should check it out. This is Poetry was started by Michele McDannold as a tumblr and has now morphed into their very first book:

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Cool, right? I’m all:

 

And that’s about it from me.

EXCEPT today is JK Rowling’s birthday so to celebrate here’s the amazing new covers that everyone outside North America gets to enjoy!

My favorite new cover is Prisoners of Azkaban:

Azkaban cover

It’s my favorite mainly because it depicts what I think is the best scene in the ENTIRE series – the moment Harry realizes that it was the time-traveled version of himself that saves him from the dementors. It’s very “You are the One You were Waiting For” and it’s fantastic.

Okay that’s it. As of Monday it’s back to novel-writing. I’m looking at you Palimpsest.

Bye kids. Play nice while I’m gone.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

The Librarian by John Grochalski or What Would Rand Do?

16 Dec

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Hi kids!

So today is an exciting day because now you can officially purchase John Grochalski’s first novel The Librarian.

Here’s what smarter people than me have said about it:

Grochalski has done it. He’s taken the wry wit and tenderness of his poetry and transformed it into a lyrical, biting, and at turns incredibly humorous first novel. Welcome to the world of Rand Wyndham, a former librarian and misanthrope extraordinaire in his late 30s who suffers through temp work and other horrors to retreat nightly to the safe haven of Rooney’s Pub, where he has proudly earned his stripes as a regular. In well-crafted prose, Grochalski keenly captures the inane ritual of the daily workplace routine but also the ridiculous and entertaining scuffles, drunken chatter, and other misadventures of bar life. For Rand, having to deal with bleary-eyed hangovers in cubicles under the glare of fluorescent lights is worth every minute of boozing with the other regulars of Rooney’s until last call. And I didn’t want to leave the bar either—I had a hard time putting Grochalski’s book down. A great read and a rousing success.
—Scott Silsbe, Editor, The New Yinzer

And:

John Grochalski aims straight for the heart of things. With equal measures of acid and awe, he lights out for territory originally assayed by the legendary Charles Bukowski. Roll down the windows, fire up the imagination, and pass the bottle this way: you’re in for one helluva ride.
—Don Wentworth, Editor, Lilliput Review

AND:

John Grochalski is that rarity in literature these days—an honest man. In his poems, stories and novels Grochalski eschews artifice in favor of something grander and more immediate; he strives to show the world as it is in all its mortifying desperation. Here is the real grit of lives eked out in the trenches of a culture and country in steep decline. To read Grochalski is to know America.
—Kristofer Collins, Editor, Low Ghost Press

See? Now you’ve got no reason NOT to pick it up.

And if you’re in the Pittsburgh area on  December 23rd,  come down to Modern Formations Gallery (4919 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa) for the book launch. Doors open at 8pm and there is a $5 cover charge. It’s a joint book launch so the always fantastic Mr. Scott Silsbe will be there too promoting his new book The River Underneath the City out via Low Ghost Press.

Exciting stuff!

Happy Holidays kids. And remember as you struggle through another season of holiday malaise, ask yourself What Would Rand Do?

(…..More than likely he’d be at the bar!)

Peace, Love and Starbursts,

Ally

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