Monday, November 29, 2021

Author Post by Doug Kaplan: (Why) Sorry Isn't Enough!

In this comedy/drama, based very, very loosely on my own experiences, a middle-aged father of three named Doug Kaplan appears to have it all. An attractive and supportive wife, three healthy boys, and a successful career. He doesn’t shy away from his responsibilities as a father or as a son to his aging parents, and he is valued and respected at work. However, all his life he has been plagued by the accusation that he does suffer from one significant character flaw, a subtle but substantial penchant for being selfish, a flaw to which he is largely oblivious.


Sorry isn’t Enough

I remember this as if it was yesterday. I was sitting in my 11th grade Earth Science class, and I was seated next to one of my best friends, Jimmy B. Any teacher that allowed Jimmy and I to sit together, did so at their own risk. We were, in essence, each others bad influence. We never did anything too destructive, but we both found each other patently hysterical, and we were of the shared belief that it would have been a shame to keep our gift for mirth hidden from our classmates who otherwise were going to be sitting through one of Mr. Goodstones endless lectures dealing with the “Mohs’ Scale of Hardness.”


To his credit, Mr. Goodstone seemed to keep Jimmy and I under wraps for the most part through the occasional stern redirection, or his mellow and laid-back approach. However, he could become agitated and lose his cool with the best of them, and since he wasn’t a bad guy per se, you didn’t really wish to be on the receiving end of one of his eruptions. On one particular day, a day of no particular note, a student by the name of Tom P. decided to get up in the middle of class during whatever Mr. Goodstone was warbling about in the front of the room and threw out a piece of paper. Tom was far more of a buffoon than Jimmy or I, and he went for the “big splash,” as opposed to the quick snide or stupid remark that Jimmy and I excelled in. Not satisfied with simply getting up and throwing the piece of paper away, Tom stood up, threw his paper across the room, sank the shot and yelled, “Doctor ‘J’ shoots from downtown he scores aaaaahhhhhh!!!!”


It was at this point that Tom, who had completely interrupted whatever it was that Mr. Goodstone was teaching us about, looked at the obviously perturbed and offended science teacher and said in a quiet and somewhat reflective manner, “Sorry.” before reclaiming his seat, and believing he had doused whatever flames of rage Mr. Goodstone might be feeling. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Mr. Goodstone, yelling at a level that here-to-fore he hadn’t used in our classroom, screamed, “No! You’re not sorry, sorry is just something you were taught to say when you did something so unbelievably rude and disrespectful, that you felt you could get away with it by just saying that you’re sorry.” Tom, in the same calm manner then responded somewhat predictably, “Okay, then I’m not sorry.” Mr. Goodstone seemed actually okay with this since he felt he had at least imparted some sort of lesson on Tom P., if such a thing could have actually been accomplished.


It is this idea of forgiveness without regret or remorse that is central to the core of what makes the protagonist in my story Blind Spot, Doug Kaplan, a figure that can be maddingly hard to like. He is a good man who basically lives his life the right way, but he has his flaws, one of which is selfishness. This selfish streak has brought him to the precipice of losing everything if he can’t overcome this self-centered attitude that throughout most of his life, he largely has been blind to.


I am grateful to Fiona Ingram for this opportunity to promote my first novel, Blind Spot, I believe many authors have found the attempts to get published somewhat frustrating since so much of the emphasis in publishing, as well as in acquiring an agent revolve around topics that have become popular amongst the younger and social media driven crowd. I believe that Blind Spot will appeal to those who know what it is to be married, have children, establish themselves in their career, tending to aging parents, and then trying to balance it all. These are the challenges that everyone will find themselves dealing with at one time or another, and the saga of Doug Kaplan will feel very familiar to most readers.

Follow the author online at:




Instagram: hoffman_files


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Author Post: "My Obsession with Language" Elizabeth Kirschner

Elizabeth Kirschner is the author of Because the Sky is a Thousand Soft Hurts, a “blend of poetry, prose, memoir, and master storytelling.” This is her debut collection of short stories. Elizabeth shares with us below her obsession with language.

"My obsession with language came over me, almost like a demonic possession. I was only nineteen when I first took a Poetry Writing Workshop. I assumed poems were written by dead people for other dead people. I was that astoundingly ignorant, that blessedly naive. Within three weeks, I decided I would become a poet. I was utterly stricken by the power of language, its sheer audacity and nearly unmentionable ability to express what hitherto was inexpressible. Windows opened in the cave of my brain. My mentor was Southern. The way she said words like “chinaberry” or foxglove” lent them a physicality I didn’t know language could embody. Words became mouthy for me, something to tongue, loll around.

 Poetry is a language-driven construct. It demands an almost unbearably close examination of each and every word, which is akin to a hair dragged across the eye. Painful, even excruciating. The language in any given poem must be visceral, forcefully urgent, it must bear its own weight. At best, every word will work double or triple time, that is, take on nuance, substance, meaning via such devices as metaphor and simile. I loved this. The way a pairing of words, the just-so-ness of them, could transport them into another, more singular meaning, or apprehension. The poem does its work by apprehension, that is, as readers we apprehend meaning, the hint and scent of it, the taste even by what the words are working exceptionally hard to intuit, express.

My formal education was in the writing of poetry. Which meant I was inordinately in love with the language. I still am, as it is any writer’s essential instrument. When it comes to writing short stories, I’m not sure whether my obsession with language is a curse, or my most powerful device. I do know that constructing any given sentence can be crippling. If the first sentence isn’t load bearing, if doesn’t provide a scaffolding or stepping-stone into the next one, I revise. The sentence is structural. It must be tensile, strong, flexible. It must also have a voice.

The stuff with which we write is a construct of language, first and foremost. Characters cannot speak unless the writer puts words in their mouths. Nor can characters exist without a physical landscape, a physical description. Here’s an example from one of my stories, JONES BEACH. 

“It should not follow but it does; my brother is here; in the brief strenuousness, in a house like a cowl on the head. Rain falls, is a wall of birds, which wall off the bird heavy sky while the season stretches out of shape.

“Well?” I ask, my voice, a song with hinges. In the darkest sweater I own Im cold.

Spoons,he replies. The dead bark once. We take one anothers hands, lift spoons over the gas flame on the stove, the blue of it, noble.”

Note what the language does here. It reveals that a brother and sister are in a house that feels “like a cowl on the head.” Rain is not only falling, but is “a wall of birds,” which is, of course, a metaphor, one that gives the rain more weight, even a musicality. Each character is given one word each. The speaker’s voice is akin to a song, the brother’s nearly barks. It’s not much, but it’s a beginning. Everything and anything that transpires in a story cannot be brought to bear without language. For some writers, language is utilitarian, almost flat, like cardboard. It’s merely a tool, but for me, language has a kind of supremacy. I cannot, nor do I wish to, eradicate my poetic training. I think my exacting attitude toward language slows me down, but this is what I want it to do.

Isn’t this the work of literature intended to slow us down, make us take heed, take note, to help us examine each minute and nuanced particle of existence? Isn’t this the scathing beauty of it? I need the work to help me do this. To slow me down, until I get down on my hands and knees in order to examine each gritty and awful detail, which in itself is a cosmos. The sequence and ordering of each exquisite, or piercing, or horrifying detail is how a composition is made. This is what I’ve given my life over to. This slow, painstaking work. There’s nothing noble in it. But it’s what I do.

Language is how I journey into any piece of work. As I go deeper into the writing of stories, the more I want other aspects to surface and accrue power, namely, the narrative drive, which is akin to verbs. Narrative comprises its musculature. It’s what drives the story forward and around and back out again. I can’t say I do any of this well, but I can say that, at least for this writer, the attempt, even when it fails, and mostly, is does fail, is glorious. It’s the experience of what happens on the page that I crave. And language remains my vehicle of transport. The way it parallels life is, I think, magnificent, even when my stories convey the bleakest of realties, the journey is entirely worth it."

Elizabeth’s book is available on Amazon and you can learn more about the author on her website.