Sushi in Two Bites? Please Don’t Judge, Stephen


This post from 2013 popped up in my Facebook memories today. I thought I would re-post to further explain my continued lack of literary fame and acclaim. And I will always grab an opportunity to plug one of the best writers in the History of Time. It is an honor to explain myself to Stephen King.

Not long ago, while sharing some sushi rolls with my eldest daughter, I sliced one in half and consumed the bite.
“You can’t do that,” said the Daughter.
“Sure I can, ” says I.
“Mom…you’re already not using chopsticks, how weird do you want to be?”

I sighed and felt compelled to explain.

“But I like the smaller bites. They fit my mouth better, and besides, that way I get to enjoy every single ingredient’s flavor. And use more ginger. And it lasts twice as long.”

Satisfied with my complete and logical reply, I get the look that says I love you and all, but that’s just not how it’s done.

I guess I have approached my writing life the same way. I go at it in small chunks, clearly on a much smaller scale than is customary. Stephen King, an author whom I adore, (though I’ve not read one single book except his On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft,) comments below. I read these words first in 2001, and they haunt me still. (See Steve, you haunt me in spite of myself. I am a colossal sissy when it comes to the horror genre. Two or three times I have turned one guarded eye toward your movies, yanked in against my will. As I am now in my fifth decade, I may be able to toss my sissified trepidation aside and tippy-toe into your written world. But no promises.)

From On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft, while discussing novelists who only write a very limited number of books, the words of Stephen King:

On the other hand–the James Joyce hand–there is Harper Lee, who wrote only one book (the brilliant To Kill a Mockingbird). Any number of others, including James Agee, Malcolm Lowery, and Thomas Harris (so far), wrote under five. Which is okay, but I always wonder two things about these folks: how long did it take to write the books they did write, and what did they do the rest of their time? Knit afghans? Organize church bazaars? Deify plums? I’m probably being snotty here, but I am also, believe me, honestly curious. If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?

Well, Steve, since you asked, with the exception of deifying plums, yes, I was doing all of the above. I would not think of boring you or anyone else with a list of life’s humdrum activities. But since I began writing in 1996 to the present day, I am, without reservation, eating my storybook plate of sushi in two bites, maybe even three or more. My world is full of durable afghans, well-organized bazaars, and I chase people down to pick and haul the fruit from the trees in my yard. In my defense, I am at least a two-book wonder, and that may not entirely be the last of my creative contributions.

So I suppose along with my sushi, I am consuming my literary capabilities in small, tasty bites as well. And yes, that violation of protocol does render me weird in the eyes of many. But I am savoring each bite, and leaving on the plate what I mean to leave.

To each his own, screamed someone. Probably while bleeding…in one of Stephen King’s magnificent books.

Dorothy Hagan is the author of The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean, not one bit scary but clever and funny as hell. She has super-duper (thanks again, Steve) reviews on Amazon. Read them. She also published a companion novel, The Edge of the Grace Period, 2000, that folks spoke of in the same breath with Willa Cather, Eudora Welty, Mary Karr and Molly Ivins. Seriously. She’s not making that up.

B is for Buy This Book

Okay, with all due respect to Sue Grafton and her enormously clever list of titles, it seems that since mentioning her in a post, I have had an awesome increase in traffic, well-deserved or not. So…thank you, Ms. Grafton, for your skirt tails and titles for which to grab a hold. That said, behold…a shameless self-promotion.

The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean is a rollicking good read, with tales of feminism, addiction, religion, goofy families, awesome friends and an ending so fun and unexpected you will be smiling for a week. So, please, do me and yourself a favor and Buy This Book!

Happy summer, amigos…

A is for Apology

Being a fan of fairness and civility, I wanted to share that Sue Grafton (her very own self) alerted me to the knowledge that she had in fact offered an apology to the indie publishing community, following some not-very-well received comments some time ago. She didn’t have to do this, and I appreciate that she did.

That said, I remain frustrated with the hordes of others (still waiting for your contact, Mr. Green) who just don’t seem to get that Art is Art…Stories are Stories…and One Man’s Drivel Is Another Man’s Peach. That Peach may fall straight from the tree, sit all by itself and rot in obscurity. Or the lucky thing may be picked up by Dole Company and end up swimming in syrupy goodness on your table. It’s a Peach either way. So please don’t judge that Peach unless you have had a look at it, a discernible sniff and maybe even an unbiased bite.

Not to belabor the point, but the following bears repeating. Dismiss the following self-published authors, if you professionally dare: Gertrude Stein, Walt Whitman, Virginia Wolff, Beatrix Potter, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Henry David Thoreau, Anais Nin, Deepak Chopra, Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Zane Grey, William E. B. DuBois, Strunk and White, E.L James, et al. I personally cannot imagine my literary life without them. They cared enough to share their work; they said Yes when others told them No. Good for them. Good for us.

If you are sitting in a well-marketed can of Peaches, jolly good for you. You have my sincerest good wishes and congratulations. But to those of us still struggling to get noticed, lying on the ground in either the sun or the weeds, let’s aim for some mutual respect, and hope that we can all fall into a vat of Peach cobbler. If you know someone with some ice cream, by all means, ask them to bring it.

Dorothy Hagan is the indie-published author of The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean, (2012) seven years in research, writing and publication. (This book is actually a heck of a Peach, and has great Amazon reviews to prove it. Unusual story about a young woman in the offshore world of men. Have a bite. It’s tasty.) Another deliciously published Hagan Peach is The Edge of the Grace Period. This did in fact fall from the same tree, being a companion novel.

Sue Grafton: H is for Hubris

The indie-published crowd is in a deservedly righteous dither after Sue Grafton and John Green tossed the lot of us into the “isolated” and “lazy” slush heap of artists. This author will not even validate their positions with a rebuttal. My only response would be the following: Gertrude Stein, Walt Whitman, Virginia Wolff, Beatrix Potter, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Henry David Thoreau, Anais Nin, Deepak Chopra, Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Zane Grey, William E. B. DuBois, Strunk and White, E.L James …self-published…every one. I could keep going but my indie-published, short-cutting fingers are tired. If this is the “lazy” and “isolated” conglomeration of authors of whom I am a part, well, I humbly accept my position within their indolent midst.

The publishing paradigm has shifted. To those on the “traditional” side, my sincerest good wishes and congratulations. But to those of us with the pluck and mettle, the tenacity and persistence, and the temerity to launch our best efforts into the hallowed realm of publication…kudos to you all, my thick-skinned brethren. Keep your chins up and your pens a’ penning.

Dorothy Hagan is the indie-published author of The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean, (2012) seven years in research, writing and publication. (Not a lot of books written about women working in the gritty, offshore world of men. Honest. Go try and find one.) Oh, yeah. And Lazy Hagan also published The Edge of the Grace Period in 2000, POD with IUniverse, before most “traditional” people had even heard of such a thing. Ms. Hagan’s books will never go out of print and will be entirely available when Oprah calls up for the Book Club.

The Secret of Life (And I’m Going to Tell It)

To say I learned a lot during my first year of public school teaching (at the tender age of 53), would be a striking understatement. Lessons learned were critical, intense and full-bodied. Some days I felt like I had done everything just short of cartwheels out the door to get my students to listen to me… about what things are important and lasting, and those that are useless (and often dangerous) diversions.

I learned a lot of lessons. But the one that is by far the most important, the most far-reaching, the unquestionably most effective, truth beyond truth, is this: Never quit caring. EVER. Never quit caring about your kids, never quit caring about your teachers, never quit caring about your relationships, never quit caring about your subjects…NEVER QUIT CARING.  Ceasing to care, ceasing to, as I say to my kids “give a rat’s pair of whiskers” is the one and only real way to fail.

Some days my students and I fought tooth and nail. We loved and hated each other, often feeling stuck, like families, in a forced symbiosis. But what we found was life-altering. If we hung in there, both myself and my students, if we hung in there and kept caring…about what it was we wanted and needed…that skin in the game led to success every time. Maybe not a 4.0 or a Teacher of the Year (or even Of the Minute), but success was ours as long as we cared to keep searching for it.

Kids know when you care. And teachers know when you care. And friends and family know when you care. Never quit caring about who and what is important to you. And that is, most assuredly, the Secret of Life.