Friday, October 14, 2011

Author Guest Post - Christopher Meeks

I'd like to thank Christopher Meeks for being here today to share his journey as a writer with us. Be sure to check out my review of Love at Absolute Zero, and enter for your chance to win a copy of this book!

LIFE AS A COAL MINE: MY JOURNEY AS A WRITER – Christopher Meeks

Of the many things that have made me proud or have given me pleasure, I probably wouldn’t have done any them if I hadn’t been naïve, lost in the metaphorical coal mine. For instance, driving across the country to run a mini-mart in Alabama with a friend from Pittsburgh was probably nuts, but it became an amazing adventure and led years later, without anticipation, to my first novel, The Brightest Moon of the Century.

At an even earlier time, my following a young woman I’d only known for two weeks to Denmark was more than crazy, but I managed to get college credit for it (I studied there) and, years later, the trip gave me the seed for my second novel Love At Absolute Zero.

Now that I think of it, if I hadn’t been immature and realized it would take years to become a published fiction writer—first of short stories and then novels—I might have given up.

You, Marie, asked about how I got my start as a writer, and I’ll tell you it depends where in my adolescence I place the start marker. Like all students, I had to write essays in high school, but that doesn’t count. Or does it? My science teacher thought my paper on the future of cars was amazing, and for the first time ever, I thought I wasn’t a terrible writer. Not long after, I wrote some poems and one of them was published in the school literary magazine.

My start could also be placed at the University of Denver when I decided to take, as electives, a poetry writing class, a short story class, and a screenwriting class. The latter convinced me to move to Los Angeles where, okay, I wouldn’t be rich in two weeks, but I thought two months was certainly possible. After all I had the great script. I was just a kitten on some railroad tracks, optimistic and misguided.

It was after several courteous rejections and no offers that I decided I had to accomplish something dramatic quickly, and I wrote a short script, took my life savings, and with a crew of ten, I started shooting a ten-minute 35mm film that I’d run in at least one theatre and then submit to the Academy Awards Short Film category in order to win an Oscar and become a world-famous director.

The moment I probably truly started as a writer, though, was when the Los Angeles Fire Department shut down my filming in my apartment because I didn’t have a filming permit. A filming permit? I’d never heard of such a thing—and it was my apartment. I instantly lost my life savings. I couldn’t afford to rent all that expensive equipment again, nor could I afford the permit and the two firemen that had to be on the set. Right then and there I decided I’d only write because for writing, I didn’t need no stinking permit.

Thus, along with the daily busloads and plane caravans of young screenwriters to L.A., I thought I’d still make it big. When a stint as a stock clerk in a camera store began sucking away my life force, I went on my Alabama adventure. After five months in the South, I had an epiphany in my aluminum trailer: I would return to L.A. and go to graduate school in a writing program.

I thought it would be in screenwriting, but when I found USC’s Master of Professional Writing program where I had to write three theses (no longer offered), I went there and wrote a screenplay, a novel, and a stage play. The screenplay won a major award, the play went on to be produced, and the novel…it was a brick.

I was far too young to be writing about as astrophysicist in a floating space platform who, in worrying about his teenage daughter back in Alabama, takes the equivalent of the Hubble Space Telescope to look at his house—where he sees his daughter being attacked, maybe murdered, on the front lawn. Yes, the idea was high-concept, but I was only in my twenties and had no kids or real concept of being fifty. The essential truths weren’t there.

It was after that point I started writing short stories about things I knew, going after the odd truths of life that I saw. Only after I turned fifty would I try writing a novel again. Now I have my second. I thank my stars that I didn’t know it’d take this long. Sometimes it’s great to be naïve.

About Christoper Meeks:
Christopher Meeks began as a playwright and has had three plays produced.
Who Lives? A Drama is published. His short stories have been published in Rosebud, The Clackamas Literary Review, The Santa Barbara Review, The Southern California Anthology, The Gander Review, and other journals and are available in two collections, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea and Months and Seasons. He has two novels, The Brightest Moon of the Century, a story that Marc Schuster of Small Press Reviews describes as "a great and truly humane novel in the tradition of Charles Dickens and John Irving," and his new comic novel, Love At Absolute Zero.

Thanks again to Christopher for being here today, and don't forget to enter for your change to win a copy of Love at Absolute Zero! 

 

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~Marie

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