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You have probably not noticed that I haven’t been around. Maybe you missed me at first, but you surely didn’t lose any sleep over it. Summer is generally a less focused work time for me. I tend to stray from my writing, and often go days where I only write for my hour minimum and no more.

That was not this summer. I am getting ready to apply to MFA programs over the next couple of months and the process is showing itself to be rather grueling. It began with the GRE in May and has been spiraling out of control since. I was exhausted by the test and took a week off afterwards.

Then, I began collecting work for my writing sample. I am allowed twenty-five pages to prove that I am the next big thing. When some people hear that, they say, “Wow. That’s a lot.” Let me tell you that it is not enough. I have too many stories to choose from to pick just twenty-five pages. Then there is the problem of not choosing my strongest stories. Just because I like a story doesn’t make it my best. You, reader, see the dilemma.

I finally decided that I needed a writerly break. I needed something that could distract me from the stress of the application process while still being able to write. In July, I began writing short but sweet articles for PortlandBeer.org. As many of you readers know, I enjoy beer. It has been a joy to write for the website. The only problem being that it filled the void that this blog used to fill. But there are certain perks that come with writing for a beer website, perks I don’t get with writing a blog.

Now, I am stuck. I have been making great headway with the application process. I have the two stories that I am pretty sure will be my writing sample. My letters of recommendation are in order. I have a binder full of schools and deadlines. My research into faculty and programs has been extensive.

The only problem is the cover letter. It won’t get off the ground. I’ve started it probably twenty times and erased it just as many. I am told that the cover letter is the most stressful part of the process, especially for us writers who are so concerned with choosing the right words. I am also told that it matters but not nearly as much as the writing sample. So why is it so hard?

I can have confidence in my writing when it is my craft. But when it comes to talking about myself, I begin to falter. It has been humbling. In a strictly masochistic sense it has been fun. The process of putting down my reason for writing onto a page is a good exercise. I think we should do it more often. That being said, I want it to be over with. My reasons for writing sound either pretentious or amateur.

I write because I have to. (clichéd)

I write because I want to see social change. (Who do I think I am? Norman Mailer?)

I write because I want to present the world as I see it. (Is this high school creative writing?)

I write because I think the process is important. (Go on.)

I think that the process of putting thoughts onto paper is something that everyone should do. In the world today, we often speak without thinking, act without considering others. Writing forces one to slow down and consider all sides. (Hippy)

I cannot seem to win. It was nice to take a break from the most difficult 300 words of my career thus far, but now it seems that I have to get back to the grind. Maybe I’ll stop in and write for the blog more frequently. (Don’t hold your breath.) Wish me luck, and if you see me around town, feel free to buy me a drink. God knows I need one.

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There are few problems that I have with living in the beer rich city of Portland. The biggest problem (if you can call it that) is that I often drink so many tasty brews that I forget what a bad ale tastes like, and reversely, it takes a real kick-ass beer to catch my attention. The same could be said for my reading list. I rarely read a bad book.

A while back, I experienced both a beer and a book that got me excited.

I came home from work and found a present waiting for me in my fridge. A bottle of Full Sail’s Top Sail Bourbon Imperial Porter. As any pizza cook knows, nothing invites a tall glass of beer like a full day of pizza slinging. It had been one of those days.

I sat down on my couch, popped open the bottle of porter, and pulled out Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold. I have been a lifelong reader of Marquez. I love the way that he can steer the reader in certain directions with great ease.

I watched the porter climb up the pint glass. The scent of chocolate, fig, and a well-aged bourbon wafted towards me. Somehow, these flavors were all detectable, but not a single one was overpowering. I lingered at this stage, simply smelling the beer. Finally, I tasted it. It tasted smooth. I like the idea of bourbon barreled aged ales, but they can be overbearing, often tasting so strong that the flavor of ale is lost. This was not the case with Full Sail’s Top Sail. The bourbon barrels added a smoky aftertaste to the ale, but I could still taste the original porter.

Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a book that is up front with the story. It is a tale of a man, Santiago Nasar, who is murdered when it is discovered that he has dishonored Angela Vicario by sleeping with her before her wedding day. The man Angela marries, Bayardo San Roman, simply returns her, but her twin brothers go on a mission to return honor to the family name.

Marquez’s novella takes its time telling the story of the man who goes back to uncover as many details about the murder as he can. What he unravels but never reveals is that the town knew the murder was to happen. Many in the town are too busy (the bishop is riding through that same day) to deal with it themselves, and others are prevented from stopping it by mere coincidence. As the story continues, we begin to see a society that may have been more proactive had Nasar not been a Turk. By revealing the murderers at the start of the book, Marquez is able to dig into the townsfolk’s whereabouts, eventually revealing an entire town as accomplices in Nasar’s murder.

I enjoy porters, but I am rarely in the mood for them. They can be too heavy. It is only when the rain is pelting the window panes that I can start to feel my appetite for a dark beer growing. However, I am always in the mood for a good beer. Top Sail is such a great beer that it is a shame that it is only available for limited release. Sadly, I have not been able to find another bottle.

I often enjoy sad books, but I have a hard time getting through the really heavy ones. (I have yet to finish a Hubert Selby Jr. novel.) Chronicle of a Death Foretold is not necessarily a sad book. It brings sorrow in the way that the society has failed to stop a murder, but Marquez magically keeps the mood light. In the way that only he can, Marquez weaves the tale of murder with ghosts and wild drunken wedding parties. Perhaps the saddest moment of the book comes in the last paragraph:

“They’ve killed me, Wene child,” he said.
He stumbled on the last step, but he got up at once. “He even took care to brush off the dirt that was stuck to his guts,” my Aunt Wene told me. Then he went into his house through the back door that had been open since six and fell on his face in the kitchen (120).

The murder was what I, the reader, have been waiting to see. I spent the entire book in anticipation, allowing the actual scene to be riveting but not heartbreaking.

I closed the book and took the final sip of my beer. At an ABV of 9.85%, the porter left me feeling pretty fuzzy, but I still had the wits to wonder how a town could have let such a seemingly innocuous man die. I closed my eyes and thought of the two pieces of art that had made for such a wonderful close to a busy day. The beer that allowed for me to be entirely engrossed in a book that was worthy of all my attention. Truly, a wonderful experience.

Top Sail Bourbon Imperial Porter:
Member of Full Sail’s Brewmaster Reserve Line
Very limited availability in 22 oz. bottles and draught
ABV 9.85%
IBU 65

Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Translated by Gregory Rabassa

The path of a writer is not an easy one. There are more obstacles than anything else. Don’t worry, this is not another pity party for us writers.

This is a thank you card.

I am grateful for the life that I live. My parents are the type of people who are always happy. I watched my father, who never graduated from high school, get his GED and start his own business after he turned fifty. My mother went back to grad school at the age of thirty-six. She had my youngest sister the day after graduating. I was raised to be happy. My parents have supported me throughout my life decisions. All of which have contained writing in some way.

I write for my sisters. They are the ones that I want to impress.

I have the greatest friends in the whole world. They read my writing and give me feedback. They read this blog. They help me be a writer. They offer their copy-editing services for free. When you are a writer, you get used to receiving rejection letters. I am used to being told no. It is a great thing to be reminded that I can write, to be told that a piece of work is good.

There are people who do not know the influence they have in my life. The professor who watched my writing evolve over my college career. She gave me critiques, but most importantly she offered her encouraging words. My first English professor, simply wrote the words, “You are a legitimate Writer” on a paper. These words made me take my writing to an entirely new level. A family friend writes novels out of San Francisco. He was the first person to tell me to submit my work. He told me this at a time when I had stories written but had no idea what to do with them. He is the person who really got me moving.

There is my partner. She has been one of the greatest things to happen to me. She is always the first person to read a new piece. She has had nothing but encouraging words for me, even throughout the times when I have been an asshole. She is a musician. She has taught me that when you are an artist, you’re whole life must surround your art. She is truly a wonderful person, and I would be nowhere without her. Her family has been quick to accept me and my sometimes precarious career.

These are the people for which I am thankful. Without them I could not have made it this far. Without them I would not be able to put up this link to the magazine that has chosen to publish a story of mine. This is a big thank you to everyone who will ever read something I have written. I could not do it without you.

Read my story “In Search of Spare Change” in issue ten of 34th Parallel

A Drinkerly Link

A Writerly Link (Warning: Shameless Self-Promotion)

A Bikerly Link

A Rice Cookerly Link

A Readerly Link

When I began writing this blog last September, I had no grasp on the consequences that such actions would bring about. For the first time, I was making my writing extremely public. (I had written pieces for my town’s newspaper in high school, but I am still convinced that no one read those.) I had given myself a schedule, so when I strayed from that schedule, I felt guilty, so I stopped maintaining the blog.

I finished up my undergraduate degree last June and had spent the summer moving in Portland and camping in Montana. I got some writing done but nothing serious. This blog was going to be a way to keep me writing, but it was also going to be an escape from the novel which at times, was growing tedious.

I would write the novel at my desk in my office, and I would write the blog on my couch in the living room.
But as the months grew on, I began to love writing the novel, and I was no longer looking forward to the blog posts.

I began writing the blog at my desk.

I pinned these feelings on a couple of things. I had set up too many rules for the blog. I would always discuss writing. The posts had to be a certain length. The blog was also picking up popularity around this time. (Nothing too popular, but I was getting seventy hits a week.)

All in all, when I missed a blog post, there was a sense of relief. I could let it go.
It’s months later, I still get asked about this blog. People still wonder where my posts went. I miss it. Every time, somebody asks me when I am going to write another post, I feel the pangs of guilt strike my chest.

This is why, I am going to start posting again.

Things are going to be different here at AuthorByDay. I want to explore the readerly aspect of this blog, which means you might be able to spot the occasional book review (or beer review). I may post some of the ridiculous ideas I have. My writing has grown to a point of seriousness that I could use a place where I can take a break. I will still talk about writing, and drinking, and writing, and cooking, and writing, and living, but I am going to do it in different ways.

Stay tuned.

A Writerly link

A Pizza Cookerly link

A drinkerly link

A Bikerly link

A Readerly link

A Writerly link

A Bikerly link

A Drinkerly link

A Pizza Cookerly link

A Readerly link