JPG Magazine: MsB

Monday, July 21, 2008

chatting with charles

I've been so obsessed with my wicked life I have been neglecting my e-mail buddies. so here dear Charles is your most revealing e-mail,weeks late, and me with out my mink coat.

Is writing trying to kill me?

my life before I’m a famous novelist

by Charles P. Ries

Writing ... why do I need you? A hobby for sadomasochists. I got another four rejections yesterday; that makes 150 (on my first book)—so far. Maybe 150 literary agents know something I don’t? Is it time for a new hobby? One I can play without agents? Maybe I should start spending more quality time with my girlfriend?

But then there are those days when the sun shines and I dig out from my blanket of rejection ... when I feel the inner steel of patient, relentless persistence ... when I jump out of bed and say, “My work doesn’t suck. I just need to find one agent who loves me.” And on those mornings I prance to my computer with hope in my heart and I query onward! I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, some agent is going to love me! So today I sped past my 190th query with confidence in my new and improved manuscript that I’ve been working on (in its many forms) for eight years. Truly, writing is not a destination, it is a journey.

Dear Diary, I’m giving up writing and joining the circus. Yes, I will leave it all: the paper and pens, the publishers and agents who can’t love my inner fantasy, and I’ll join the circus. The make-up, big nose and fancy pants will help me overcome my feelings of obscurity. I will create an identity grander then my literary art. I will have something worth writing about. I will marry the fat lady, she’ll give birth to a midget, I’ll learn to swallow swords, make friends with a contortionist, turn my pens into pretzels, and finally live like a real man.

I have become a student of the query letter and kick-ass synopsis. (Eight years of practice makes us good at something.) Anyone who thinks this business is about just good writing needs a group intervention. “Charles, we all love you, but we are here to tell you, you have a problem. You have lost sight of reality. You will never be published! We’re taking your pens away. Please put your pen down slowly. You need to get a life!”

Life! Schmife! I have something better then a life, I have a novel! It has everything: love, mysticism, folly, resurrection, laughs, and the guy gets the girl. It’s a moneymaker; I just know it.

Dear Diary, I have been re-evaluating my existence. It seems I have been created to work, go to the gym, drink Starbucks non-fat, no-whip, extra-hot mochas and obsess about my writing. I’m a do-aholic; flawed for sure. People born under the sign of the twin fish are pathetic, restless dreamers. I’m having doubts about the quality of my writing. I got four rejections yesterday. One day God will run out of rejections, and bingo—I’m in. I just have to hold out. But to make things worse, recently I’ve been haunted by visions of a muse wearing a black, full length mink coat. Mink really gets me going. She’s been following me everywhere—even when I scrub the kitchen floor, feed the birds, vacuum the house, and feel pathetic about my writing. There she is, in mink. Scary how she haunts me, loves me. Me, unlovable, useless, pathetic me. Yes, poor pitiful me.

Yes, pain and rejection are often the food of rambling prose poems that we called our “journal” in high school. But then we all rose above high school angst and heartache and turned it into art. We became writers. We left the comfort of secretive journals for the adventure of rejection. Yes, rejection. It’s not quite cancer. But the other day I got a letter from a publisher telling me the manuscript I’d sent her wasn’t avant-garde enough for her. Why didn’t she just send me a letter bomb instead!

Dear Diary: I’m not avant-garde. I knew it! Maybe I’m a closet Republican. I guess it doesn’t matter that I wear blue jeans, black t-shirts, write poetry, and have a goatee. Elaine suggested I start to view myself as “Nonvant–garde” and build a movement around nonvant-garde poetry. I love Elaine, eternal keeper of my diminishing confidence.

We make chicken soup out of chicken shit until the gravy train arrives. I recently wondered aloud to a friend, “Am I the guy who is thinks he is creating art, but who (after waking from a dream) realizes he has been banging his head with a lead pipe?” The Aztec high priests gleefully ripped beating heart after beating heart from the chests of their faith-filled followers after convincing them (talk about true believers) that this life was just a dream (easy for a high priest to say). So is my hope of writing fame only a dream? Is my persistence just an addiction to an impossible goal?

My girlfriend, Elaine accommodates my periodic writing crisis like Mother Theresa. She hugs me and says, “Look Charles you could have worse obsessions than sitting around endlessly writing funny, weird stuff. You could watch the ESPN Sports Classics channel and drinks beer all day. Who cares if you ever get published?” She’s right of course – she’s always right; but the other day when I got e-mails from two agents (TWO!) who wanted to see the full manuscript of my novel. I danced with eternal hope. I pranced anew to my computer ready to continue creative battle. It only takes one person to believe - just one person to open the door for a manuscript to be sold. How could I ever have thought of giving up writing to join a circus? But... maybe an Aztec High Priest! I could get it going with ceremonial dress of feathers, gold and turquoise. Sharpen my sacrificial knife and invite a few agents over for dinner.


Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over two hundred print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory and five books of poetry — the most recent entitled, The Last Time which was released by The Moon Press & Publishing. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot ( He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore ( and a member of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. But most of all he is a founding member of the Lake Shore Surf Club, the oldest fresh water surfing club on the Great Lakes ( You may find additional samples of his work by going to:

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