Dirty Realism? IDK maybe? I just write…..

Raymond Carver, one of my favorite short story authors once described himself and his writing as being “inclined toward brevity and intensity”.

This is the approach I take when writing short stories also. Some, I don’t know who, call the style “Dirty Realism”, and I don’t know if many authors labeled as dirty realist care for this term anymore than Korn likes being branded “Nu Metal” or Greta Van Fleet enjoy all the recognition of sounding too much like Led Zeppelin, but at the same time, to basically start a new genre in music or to be compared to one of the greatest rock bands in history, or being labeled as a dirty realist writer, would be fine by me.

I’ve always enjoyed reading, by the time I was 10 had read over 300 books, from Tolstoy, to the Warren Commission, and if you don’t believe me, I actually won an award for reading, (ha that was a unique experience being called up to the podium in an awards ceremony in elementary school and given a plaque with the words “A day without reading is a day without sunshine”). I did not know the school librarians kept up with this statistic.

I don’t necessarily think about genres when I’m writing. I write what I see and what I have experienced, and what I feel in my heart. When writing poetry, I feel I had an amazing teacher in Dylan Thomas. The first time I read his poem “If I were tickled by the rub of love” I was mesmerized, because I had no damned clue what he was talking about. But that one poem led me on a journey, where I learned terms like syllabic and pentameters and assonance and consonance, and it led me to read his biography, where he was quoted:

I am a painstaking, conscientious, involved, and devious craftsman in words, however unsuccessful the result so often appears, and to whatever wrong uses I may apply my technical paraphernalia. I use everything and anything to make my poems work and move in the direction I want them to: old tricks, new tricks, puns, portmanteau-words, paradox, allusion, paronomasia, paragram, catachresis, slang, assonantal rhymes, vowel rhymes, [and] sprung rhythm. Every device there is in language is there to be used if you will (qtd.in McKay 376)” You can read my essay on this poem here: http://d21c.com/Chad_Ard/CMA/iiwtbtrul.html

Writing is a journey, not just one where you find a book you love, but when you find yourself wanting to learn more about the craft, and the language, and the author, and you find yourself writing, and re-reading, and editing, and editing more, and well you feel like you’re writing Absalom, Absalom, but you keep having to remind yourself you’re not Faulkner, and you can’t go a page and half without completing one sentence, so I start writing in the style of Faulkner’s “stream of conscientiousness” with a hundred pages and narrowing it down to five. And you re-read your poems over and over, in your head, and out loud, which can be annoying if you if you live in an apartment with thin walls, till you know each line, each word, and the same is for my short stories, until you sometimes get sick of them. And this is where some writers probably give up, but this is where you have to take the stand and remember it isn’t about getting it right, it’s about getting it written. Let it sit, if you have too, but come back. Don’t leave it just sitting there, you are the one giving the story life, and that means something.

In the second foreword of three forewords in Stephen King’s On Writing: A memoir of the craft, he explains: “fiction writers, present company included, don’t understand very much about what they do—not why it works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad” (11). King goes on to say:

When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done you have to step back and look at the forest…Your job during or just after the first draft is to decide what something or something’s yours is about (201).

So, I follow my heart, and I’m so fortunate to have a wife who supports me, and good friends and fellow writers who encourage me, and then the author’s of books I’ve read from Carver, Langston Hughes, Cullen, Fitzgerald, Sinclair, and so many countless others on social media, like me, promoting their published works, to keep writing. I have so much love and respect for all of you on Twitter, and Facebook, and other social media sites, because I know the struggle, and the want to give your characters life comes from someplace within, that cannot be easily dismissed or just put on a shelf to collect dust.

Reviews from my new book Forever Striking A Crucified Pose A Collection of Short Stories and poems

Sissy Pooh:

wow! I almost felt like I had a daughter of my own. I guarantee you when I have a baby girl I’ll be the same way. Well written! And I really like the parts about the “evil eye” or “death look” or something like that. I feel like I get that sometimes too. haha Good stuff though. Very personal and not generic. It’s a feeling that any good father would feel if he even cared about his daughter a little bit. You made the story about “you,” and “you” is something no one else can write about….you described the relationship in such vivid detail I would have never known you didn’t have a daughter. good stuff man…really good stuff…Aaron C.

I can honestly say I love this story. Being a daddy’s girl myself, I know what I put my daddy threw and still am. I love the whole plot…Brittney H.

This story was SO SWEET! And now that I’ve got that out of my system, I wanted to say that I don’t want the title to change. To me, it seems to encompass the idea; she is his entire world and he would do anything for her. It’s true – one of the hardest things for a Dad to do is let go of their little girl and I think you did a wonderful job of expressing those emotions without getting “mushy”…Courtney H.

Well done. I thought it was a very realistic portrayal of the relationship a lot of fathers have with their teenage daughters and also the daughter’s boyfriend.
In my family, it’s my mom that’s overprotective; everything the dad was saying/thinking reminded me of my mom’s attitude towards me or my brother growing up, dating, etc. The story is something that I think a lot of people can relate to….Elizabeth M.

Being the mother of two girls I can relate to this story. I live in a household where attitudes and emotions run wild on a daily basis. The story was thoughtful and the insight into how teenage girls feel about their parents was dead-on. There may have been one or two lines I would have worded differently. The very last lines could say: I wasn’t losing control of my life; my daughter was starting hers. Just a thought, but overall I smiled the entire time I was reading it. It made me feel good…Kelly Y.

I liked the last line. I think it should stay the same. It’s more meaningful…Mystina S.

I can relate to this story because it reminds me of my own experiences with my dad. I like that the parents are so real and that the story flows well. I feel like I know the charecter’s personally. I laugh at the mom because I could see myself saying all that to my husband when we have kids someday. Your story also reminds me of a bit by Bill Engvall about boys dating his daughter. Also, it would be a good episode on a sitcom….Jessica B.

This is my favorite story you have written so far. I am a daddy’s girl so this really hit home. This guy reminded me so much of my dad. He does not speak a lot but he sure does have things on his mind. His daughter is so realistic because she had no idea she was having this big of an impact on her father just like I had no clue except for the hints from my mom. This is a great story. It amazes me how well you bring all your characters to life. I think you should definitely leave the title because when my dad calls me by my pet-name, to me, it reveals his sincerity…Marli M.

I think this story will be successful because it is something that every father will go through. It also reminds me of what my dad has been going through in the past couple years. I read this story and finally understand his perspective. It’s a good reality story that I think everyone could read and benefit from it. It was good. I would kind of add a little more to the ending though. I’m not really sure its finished, but I think you can still go somewhere with this story. I think you should elaborate some more on the dad’s feelings when they are dancing together…Mystina S.

Dude, I almost cried. I like the interludes that seem to interupt the story. It is enough of a break, so the reader doesn’t have to just constantly hear him complain. You answered teh problem in an extremely productive manner. Very nice!. Benjamin E.

I love the detail, I’m a bit a detail junky myself, so I defnitely got a good sense of what was going on. I was reminded a little bit of my dad, just because he is protective of us too, you had a good grasp on this character…Kendall C.

I agree with Kendall; you captured the overprotective father extremely well. The ending, while sentimental, works with the character; no matter how gruff he seems his main feature is still his love for his daughter…Kelsey R.

I think you’ve found an archetype here: the begrudgingly accepting father. Dale is the Everydad. It started to remind me of the relationship I had with my last girlfriend’s dad until the dad started to approve of the boy – he had severe bi-polar disorder, and this story is making me want to write about him. I like the way the daughter starts digging in the yogurt for M&M’s. …Jacob M

I liked this story ALOT! It sounds to me that you have good family values. I like how you made it so personal and I was just into it the whole time, usualy when I read things I get side tracked but this I was deep into this story. I have to say I LOVE the title because it is original and it fits perfectly. I like the evil eye thing haha I think that happens to everyone, it was something I think all your readers can relate to…Alexander L.

The Tree and The Chainsaw :

That was really good. It was a bit of a slow beginning, but once it got started, the momentum kept me going. The ending is not what I expected at all. I somewhat expected for him to come to a closure and leave the tree. But I don’t guess the story was really about him anyway though… John E.

I think it built and ended beautifully. I’m not surprised that the characters have real-life counterparts. They feel real. They speak how my family speaks…Jacob M.

I love that idea that since the boy’s family rarely visits the site of the boy’s death, he becomes Jim and Rose’s in a sense. I noticed that while I was reading and I’m so glad that you voiced it. It brings a wholeness to the story, I think….Courtney H.

Very good story. I liked the dialogue between Jim and Rose; it felt very real and made it easy to picture the characters in my mind…Elizabeth M.

“I know these people.” The story reminds me of a conversation that could happen in my family. My favorite part was the ending. It was so real. I could see it all. Great work….Marli

Wow. This story is amazing. I think of all your stuff that I have read, this one is my favorite. I could see it all happening. I could see it all from the start. The details are great. I love the conversations between Jim and Rose as well as the little details in between. I could see both sides of the spectrum as far as whether or not to cut the tree down, but once he told the story, I agreed with the decision. It was really hard to read the part about the crash because I’ve known some people to die like this, but that made it that much more real. Excellent work….Jessica B.

I absolutely love the imagery in this story that makes everything clear. I actually felt like I was there standing with them and smelling the blood and everything they too were smelling. Its very vivid. I also think that this story can help teenagers and others to realize how dangerous drinking and driving could be because of the imagery you used. I think it will make a difference in someone’s life later. I love it. Great job….Mystina S.

I like this story, and it seems very realistic. The couple in the story could easily be my grandparents who have been married for 35 years. The back and forth between them brought the story to life…Kelly Y.

The mindsets of these characters reminded me of my grandparents. My grandpa is a very straightforward man who does things the instant he thinks that they need to be done and sees no reason to ask opinions about it, and my grandma thinks things out a bit more, but they are a good balance for each other just like I think that these two characters balance each other out…Kendall C.

Overall I liked this story. These were three dimensional characters for me, and the dialogue really flows for me…Kelsey R.

Forever Striking A Crucified Pose:

A very good story with an equally good and important message. It’s nice to see someone who isn’t afraid to (heaven forbid!) criticize the church and acknowledge flaws in religious institutions and people; particularly in the Bible Belt.
I think my favorite part of the story is this, particularly the last line:

I understood at an early age that nothing is perfect. Not even our most sacred institutions are faultless. And perfection, or the pursuit of perfection, is what I believe has made humans dysfunctional. To expect perfection from others, or our institutions when we ourselves do not come close in our own daily lives to being perfect is a duplicitous act. And I have found over the course of my years that those who practice this vain existence are rigid people. And if you pay close attention to history you’ll notice that societies of people who refuse to bend to collective change are eventually eradicated… Elizabeth M

Speaking technically: I loved your description of Eureka Springs. I’m from Texas, so I don’t feel shamed in saying that I’ve never been there, but you created a clear picture in my mind, and yet I could still relate it to certain places I know back in my hometown. Wonderful characterization also, I could definitely see this preacher’s point of view.

Speaking personally: I think this guy’s the antichrist. Oh, I’m not saying that he should be a perfect little preacher. Some churches are terrible. The majority of the ones I’ve been to are hypocritical. And of course, people aren’t much better. But the way in which he rationalizes his actions and his tendency to be appealing to others gives him the characteristics of the antichrist. I mean, the guy cheated on his wife and convinced the woman he cheated with that God understood why she was committing adultery. He made it sound like they were sexing it up for Jesus for crying out loud.

One last thing (sorry this reply is so freaking long. I couldn’t resist) the preacher’s ramble at the beginning reminded me of a part of Benjamin Franklin’s The Autobiography. “I concluded at length, that the mere speculative Conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our Slipping.” But at least Ben Franklin tried. None of us can be perfect, but we can know what will hurt others and try to avoid that. We can at least try to be the best we can for the sake of those we affect.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed this :)…Courtney H.

First things first, that is a very powerful story. I think maybe if we had a paragraph telling a little bit of what Lon did when he was off doing his own thing that would be great also. But I can honestly say that story gave me the chills when he justified cheating with “He knows how miserable we are” and it wasn’t because he was a pastor because I agree with the fact that pastors are just people to, but just the fact he justified cheating. the story flowed very well and the set up was great, I’ve never been to Eureka Springs, but I think it will be a very interesting place if there really are extremely sactified people on one side and sinners on one side! Overall i enjoyed the story, the only thing I would like to hear what he did when he ran off….Britney H.

I think my favorite line is:

” Placing the concrete statue of Christ on the mountain was not an act of modesty, it’s a proclamation saying we are Christians and we are proud of that fact. Therefore, to counteract that straightforward display of arrogance, the left-wingers, and swingers, and homosexuals, or in other words, those who directly insult the bible-thumpers, have taken up residence in the valley below the mountain.”

I believe you just wrote about nearly every city in America. Everywhere you look there are divisions among the people as far as religion, morals, lifestyles, etc. Our world is definately divided and corrupt…Jessica B.

The setting here is perfect. Eureka Springs is one of my most favorite towns in Arkansas, and I think you captured the contrast of it. Don’t you just love the iron of a giant Jesus statue in one of the most swinging towns in Arkansas?

I also like the character you’ve developed in Lon. His rationale for his position really fleshes him out, and by giving him these flaws you make him seem more real…Kelsley Robbins

I like this one. It’s kind of unusual for Lon to be so aware of his flaws. It’s easy enough to believe he is that flawed, but it’s on a new level when he knows it so well. He has his excuses and rationales, but still – wow. I love the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington reference. His movies always leave me disillusioned….Jacob M.

This story plays into the reason I don’t attend church anymore. There are too many preachers out there, who weren’t neccessarily “called” to preach. This charchter “Lon” is no one I want sending prayers up for me. He is exactly what is wrong with Christianity. The character proves he is not perfect, but he is so dislikeable to me, I don’t want to keep reading about him. I did like the lines when you said the statue was a lie and then listed the reasons it was a lie. People do interpet Jesus in so many ways..Kelly Y.

I realy like how you speak your mind in this story. Most people are afraid to talk bad about church or whatever but you just said how you feel and that is awesome in this story. The character Lon reminds me of the preacher at my grandma’s church, when she makes me go, a good reason why I’m not so big on church. I like the description of Eureka Springs it made me get a good visulisation because I have been there and the description of it took me back and overall this is an excellent story…Alexander L.

At Piney Bay:

You have understood the first rule of contemporary poetry, namely, to write about what you know, using sensory details instead of abstract language. “At PineyBay” becomes your own, because it’s a location you know intimately, and the descriptions work very well.

I was struck by the beauty of the line “Indolent sun reflects off the green pool” both in terms of its romanticism and in terms of its realism: Arkansas heat can indeed feel indolent.

Forever Striking a Crucified Pose (recently self-published) and the journey it took to get here.

So, it’s taken about 15 years to finally get around to it, after debating with myself about taking the old fashioned route of attempting to find publishers to publish my stories (and I did send several query letters over the years). I did manage to get several op/eds published and a poem in The Finger and a few positive responses to a screenplay I had written, I found my self focused on these stories when I want to focus on new stories. So after a heart attack in February and resigning from my work in the non-profit sector, I decided to self-publish on Amazon. Although, I do not know how well the book will do, or if anyone will purchase it, I’m just very happy to no longer have these stories sitting stored on a documents file on my computer collecting dust metaphorically speaking. And maybe, just maybe, someone will read it and I hope find something within the pages inspiring, but either way, I’m just happy to be able to share it with the world. CMA