15 July 2022

new fiction: Big Boat

My newest fiction is a short-short, "Big Boat," coming out in Cirque Journal, #24 Vol. 12 No 2. It is currently posted online at the journal's website: cirquejournal.com The print issue will be available in August, 2022. 

This story is a tribute piece I wrote in honor of Ernest Hemingway, specifically in response to Old Man and the Sea. It is not directly comparable, especially since my piece is 1000 words to Hemingway's 127-ish pages. But it was born alongside the novella.

Often when I am blocked from creativity, I return to my oldest influences. I re-read and re-write their work. What that looks like is me reading into the obscenely early hours of the morning after long days of teaching, and then transcribing by hand pages and pages of their work into regular lined-paper composition books, as if I am a displaced monk on a mission to transcribe the last copy in the universe. Writing this way gives me a feel for the rhythm of the author's words in a visceral, body-memory way by that physical capture of words up through the pencil and into my fingers. It's been some years now, but I discovered this practice worked to break me out of dead calm, so to speak.

It has also been interesting to discover (over time and two graduate degrees) how controversial it is to acknowledge Hemingway as an influence. For context, the full list of influences is radically diverse and multi-gendered. However, in review, my writing is often described as "masculine" or "Hemingway-esque," which I'll take as a compliment and also attribute more to my own masculinity rather than to the man himself. 

But it's more than a gender issue. I own my experience, and as such, it is irrefutable, and it is this: I connect to Hemingway's use of words and language of story that continues to inspire me to be a writer. I savor the sharp, specific details of place and time: deer-foot gun racks; ash piles of lye where the women once made soap; a trout flinging itself out of a river; a marlin out of the ocean; the expanse of an African savannah as wide as the sea; and the skies over Mt Kilimanjaro. 

Truth: a year ago, when I was stuck in a non-writing space, I returned to Hemingway. Read a ton of my favorite shorts and Old Man and the Sea. Then, starting from the beginning, I hand-wrote about half of the novella. Wrote enough pages to shake loose my own. A few weeks later, I had a new chapter for my novel and a new short story, "Big Boat." 

For that influence, I remain grateful. 

This month marks 61 years since Hemingway took his own life. I hope it's rest he's found. RIP.

"The clouds were building up now for the trade wind and he looked ahead and saw a flight of wild ducks etching themselves against the sky over the water, then blurring, then etching again and he knew no man was ever alone on the sea."

~ Ernest Hemingway, from Old Man and the Sea