Slag from James Kidd’s “Salt”

James Kidd’s short story Salt, mentioned in NewPage’s review of Issue 6 by Aran Singh, is a surreal flash fiction beginning with the line: “You will soon learn that dying in the desert is not as romantic as you once thought.”

When asked about both the process of this particular story and others, James Kidd had this to say:

“The idea for this story came about from a challenge. Two friends and I decided to write something, either a poem or a short story, the only rule being that we had to include five words:

  • borscht
  • cactus
  • chicanery
  • umami
  • bamboozled

We had a week to write our respective pieces, and of course I forgot about it until twenty minutes before we were scheduled to meet. I had a few ideas drifting through my head before then, and just lost my mind for a little bit, writing out these two pages in one sitting.”

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Describing his editing process for this story:

“It took a few months before I finally arrived at the finished piece, which was made all the more difficult because I was attached to the story behind the story: the words we had mandated for our little challenge (which I lost. Another friend fired a coffee mug and stamped the words into it, because she’s brilliant).

The only words that stayed were cactus and borscht, and that’s fine, I think.”

 

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“I tend to compose a first draft in a notebook. The notebooks I’m using now are those paper bound Moleskines-you get three in a pack for $17.95, the price of one of their usual leather-bound ones. In a pinch, restaurant ticket books work well too.

Anyway, if I start something on my laptop, the delete button is far too tempting: Nothing seems good enough to me at first, so I don’t get anything done. On paper, however, I try not to give myself time to second-guess the work. The words just flow out, and if I do have to edit as I write, I try to only cross out things. I can always reuse lines that way.

“On paper, however, I try not to give myself time to second-guess the work.”

Of course, if I want anyone to read the manic scribblings I’ve just made, I have to transcribe it to the computer. This offers me a chance to get a second draft out of the way. I immediately cut sentences that don’t work, or words that I know I was too precious, too self-aware with.

One of my most frustrating tendencies is that in that second draft, I can sometimes become too invested with finding a new way to write something. Trusting the first draft, or at least my general instincts within that draft, is something I’ve learned that I need to do more often.”

 

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Slag from a Postcard from a Man Whose Heart Is on Fire for You

Kenneth Anderson, one of our Pushcart Prize nominees for his poem “Bastille Day Sale,” admits that he goes through little editing in his poems.

However, for his poem “Postcard from a Man Whose Heart Is on Fire for You,” he submitted one of his only Pieces of Slag: an old broadside, printed by himself as “The Slipshod Press” and a friend a few years ago for an art/poetry collaborative. The collage artwork was also made by Mr. Anderson.

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Below is the edited version, much of which Anderson rejected in final drafts. When I asked him about his editing process, especially for this poem, he had this to share:

“My problem is that I tend to treat poetry like life. Nothing is settled. There is always room for improvement, bold change, or subtle alteration. This I balance with a natural laziness and the desire to preserve, in the language of its arrival, that spark or animus that makes the poem breathe. Also, as I get older, the years of practice and a hard-won trust of my own instincts conspire to create a kind of confidence that I prefer to leave mostly unexamined.”

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Slag from Meghan Barrett’s Ecology and Ecofeminism Poems

Slag for Body Volume:

“These are the notes/word bank I create while reading through the article (title and authors at the top of the first page). I take these notes in my poetry notebook, then grow the poem from there on paper, then in a doc. This is my process for all my found poems.”

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“And then the first draft, on a legal pad (it’s actually in pencil, but I enhanced it so you can read the words):”

body-volume-3

 

Slag for “Honeybee Dance…”

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Barrett’s thought process is fascinating as she moves from draft to draft. Although we only accepted these two poems out of the packet she sent us, she also has another strategy, which, while we couldn’t include the notebook pages for them, informs her other work.

“While writing a ‘research based’ poem, I start by creating the ‘Biopoetics’ where I write down a blurb, no more than 400 words, about the interesting science I want to see reflected in the poem. Then I close that document and write the poem in a new one. This is the case for both ‘Euplectella’ and ‘Phycodurus eques’ – I publish the ‘Biopoetics’ on my blog, Meghan-barrett.com after the poem itself is published to inform my readers of the science behind the art.” -Meghan Barrett

Slag from Linda Wojtowick’s Two Poems

“For amusement or use, because I see that you enjoy some glimpse into process- these are from a collection I’m working on, and all of the poem titles are either the name of a racehorse (Vain), a tomato strain (Beefsteak), or a mineral. So there’s an overall “animal, vegetable, mineral” theme. I’ve been just picking the title first and going from there. Here are a couple pictures of early composing notes on these two poems.” -Linda Wojtowick

 

 

vain
Notes for “Vain”

Many of my own notebooks look like this-arrows pointing in different directions, new sections to be added later, questions that I pose myself-and this is one of the reasons I always start my work in notebooks. That freedom of thought is essential in early drafts, when you still need to let yourself be surprised by your own work.

 

beefsteak
Inspiration for “Beefsteak”

Frankly, I never knew there were so many names for tomato strains. Wouldn’t First Lady II just be Second Lady? Who is Dr. Wychee? What kind of a name is Beefsteak? With just a little curiosity and observation, Wojtowick created a poem with some of the most arresting images in our second issue. We are all lucky to have her.

 

Welcome To Expirdating! -Slag

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In a nutshell: this is an embarrassing photo of a lame secret that was supposed to stay hidden in a notebook forever.

I start every writing project with a pen in a notebook (it has to be lined, it has to be spiral-bound, and it has to be hardcover).  This is because if I start typing onto a screen with a perfect white emptiness and a thin blinking cursor and a clean “delete” button, every word I write will end up deleted before it has a chance to go anywhere, and writing by hand forces me to roll with the punches—a messy activity that I’m not, as a major Type A control freak, very good at.

These two pages are basically the gist of the final piece, which is expanded and edited to make “ExpirDating” (which already loses its dash halfway down the first page—I’m the daughter of a marketing expert, after all) into a more legitimate company.  “We’re betting on love” was the basic idea from the beginning, as scribbled on the first line so that I wouldn’t lose sight of my premise.  It seems my biggest struggle in this first jotting was the naming of the customer, who started out with some pretty stupid names.  I think I wound up with “brian1988” (eventually lowercased) because there is something sort of sad and plain about it; someone who is not trying to be funny or express very much but is apparently feeling in need of life experience on Valentine’s Day, which makes me want to hug him.  And I mainly like to write stories about characters that make me want to hug them.  Finally, it should probably go without saying that I’d been reading George Saunders at the time, and also that I’d been thinking a lot about dating culture and relationships, on account of I Am In My Twenties, and that is what we do.

-Lillie Gardner

Read Lillie’s final piece Here!