Interview with a Turkey . . . Hunter

“A Turkey Hunter’s First Shot”:
A Look into Allison Glock’s Turkey Hunt in Garden & Gun

turkey

I am standing between rows and rows of palmetto bluff pines. My ears are open to the crackling chirps of crickets, as they stretch out their legs, and I can feel the strap of the Benelli rubbing through my camouflage shirt against my collarbone. This is the picture that Allison Glock has painted for her readers in her article in the 2012 February/March issue of Garden & Gun.

I live in a household which devotes an entire closet to camouflage suits, insulated rubber boots plus a number of turkey calls, and April means one thing to my family—turkey season. In Virginia, gobbler hunting begins April 12th and runs until May 17th, with the exception of Youth Hunt Day on April 5th. Though my roots are down in South Carolina, I know what this short time span means to many Virginians. For hunters, the month brings the morning excitement of setting up against a tree with a box call and then waiting for turkeys as the rest of the forest begins to wake up. For the children of hunters (I fall into this category), this month means choosing to wake up on a Saturday morning rather than sleeping in, learning the precise angle of a striker on a slate call, and hoping that all the target practice in March paid off.

In “A Turkey Hunter’s First Shot,” Glock interviews turkey hunting legend, Jay Walea. With a descriptive account of her turkey hunt and a new-formed friendship with Walea, Glock forgoes the conventional interview style and conveys the true turkey hunting experience to her readers—even for those who wouldn’t know a tom from a jake.

The article portrays the turkey hunt with such descriptive narration from the outdoorsman himself that the reader is practically on the hunt as well. At one point, Walea says, “You hear the flying squirrels peeping. You’ll hear a screech owl once or twice. The first little birds to chirp are the redbirds. Watching everything come alive. I love that.” Many writers would embellish the atmosphere of the woods or the serenity of the morning, but in Walea’s account there is no exaggeration. Unlike a writer, a turkey hunter wouldn’t normally comment on dewdrops on leaves or thickening pines. A turkey hunter focuses on sounds, because after all, they’re listening for the gobblers. Because the interview directly quotes its subject’s exact words, his depiction of the morning is precise, efficient, concentrated on the necessary.

Glock not only relays the beauty of the woods, but also goes beyond the impersonal, by forming an authentic relationship with Jay Walea. Of all the interviews I have read, given and seen, whether in a fitness magazine or on the Today Show, the majority of interviewers stick to basic, objective conversation, keeping their subjects at distance. However, she makes an honest effort to really know and understand Walea; Glock moves past his appearance and background to a more intimate level where she describes his words and actions, and even eats dinner with his family. At one point towards the end of the story, when Glock has mixed emotions about killing her first turkey, she writes, “Walea looks at me with pity. He takes a deep breath, finds my eye again, and says softly, ‘I’ve cried too.’” Then, the hunter hugs the writer, who has formed such a sound friendship with Walea that he admits crying shooting an animal before, and in return, she conveys that sentiment to the reader.  Glock’s article goes beyond the superficial interview and treats her subject as a friend rather than an assignment.

Glock’s “Turkey Hunter’s First Shot” is an outstanding piece of writing because it uses expressive language and a personal relationship to help non-hunting readers understand the experience of stalking, calling and shooting. While not a candidate for great hunting literature, Glock’s piece is far more vivid than casual journalism.

Interested in Glock’s article? Follow the link—

http://gardenandgun.com/article/first-shot

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Importance of Bookstores

Reading

After reading a New Yorker article that questions the dwindling presence of bookstores, I began to reminisce on my childhood bookstore. I begged my mother every day to take me to the bookstore. Buying a book was much more satisfying to me than checking a book out at my school library—I got to keep the treasured story on my bedside table instead of returning it to the librarian and had the ability to reread the intriguing plotline whenever I wanted.  

 Upon entering my bookstore, I entered a haven—a comforting atmosphere surrounded by thrilling tales of adventure that captivated my adolescent minds. The employees greeted me with welcoming smiles, and I bee-lined for the children’s section, selecting as many books that I could fit in my arms, plopping down in the middle of the bookshelves on the carpeted floor, spreading out the books, admiring the eye-catching covers. The fresh stories dawned beautiful pictures on crisp pages; I buried my nose into the binding to inhale that fresh new bookstore smell (everyone knows and loves that smell—there’s no denying it).  I had an allegiance to my bookstore—feeling guilty if I visited another location to buy a book. The New Yorker article states, “Those of us who cherish our local bookstores do so not simply because they are convenient—how great to be able to run out for milk and also pick up the new Karl Ove Knausgaard!—but also because we feel a duty to support them, because we believe in their mission.”  It was about more than just the book—it was about the whole experience. The bookstore fostered my love for literature at an early age. The nurturing environment encouraged reading, which made me feel comfortable among the books. From there I jumped into stories that kept me interested in books. From E.B. White to Judy Blume to J.K. Rowling—my passion for literature grew with each visit.

Bookstore

 Today’s diminishing presence of bookstores makes me nervous. My childhood bookstore went out of business eight years ago. The vacant building broadcasts a dusty “For Rent” sign collecting dust on the milky, dirty windowpanes. The market for books is changing. The rise of the Internet and online shopping carves a convenient path for delivering books directly to my front door. But where is the experience in that? The bookstore environment encourages a love for the text, for the characters, for the author. The experience is irreplaceable—strolling through the shelves, observing colorful book covers, searching for the desired author. It’s lugging an armful of books to the counter. It’s carrying a new story out of the store. It’s bending the corners of pages. It’s inhaling the unique smell. The welcoming atmosphere encourages reading; the bookstores foster a love for literature within the minds of children.

 I believe in the mission of bookstores. I believe in creating a pleasant domain where children feel comfortable diving into a book, expanding their imaginations through exciting plotlines. I believe in promoting the importance of children’s literature, for it stands as the platform from which children cultivate a greater love for reading, expanding their palate through adult literature that spans from different centuries and continents. Instilling a love for literature at an early age fosters a lifelong love for it within our children. Despite society’s technological advances in the book world, there is still a need for bookstores.

 Where do you stand? What cultivated your love for literature? What happened to your childhood bookstore?

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The Bevel Summers Contest

Thank you for your overwhelming response.  The Bevel Summers Contest is now closed.

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Breaking into the Literary Pantheon

If you spend enough time in English classes or just around books, you learn that there are a few canonical names: Milton, Eliot, Faulkner, Woolf. These authors’ works are well-chronicled and widely, carefully read. And since many of these greats have come and gone, their bodies of work aren’t usually getting any bigger. Being widely read in the canon is a bit easier when the old masters aren’t coming out with new material anymore. Rarely does a newly-discovered work come up to claim a place among the classics.

But sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes we receive a gift wrapped between two covers. Right now, we’re getting very lucky.

I read in a New Yorker article that Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal is about to be published. Certainly, a journal may not as carefully crafted or audience-aware as a collection of short stories or a novel, but for writers and students of literature – and especially those who study American Southern literature – this journal offers new insight into the life and thoughts of one of the most important voices in American literature. O’Connor, a devout Catholic growing up and living in the protestant south, made her journal “a record of a Christian who hoped the rightful orientation of her own life would contribute to righting the orientation of the world.” Indeed, as excerpts demonstrate, this journal is a record of the writer’s reconciliation of her faith and her ambitions to become a writer. As her stories often do, O’Connor’s prayer journal offers to connect with readers on several levels: as writers, as believers, as doubters of any kind.

And that’s not all. Sometimes, lucky just doesn’t seem to cover it.

Just over a week ago, HarperCollins announced that they would publish J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of the old epic Beowulf in late May. Tolkien’s notes and comments on the work itself and a previously unpublished story will accompany the translation. Unlike O’Connor, posthumous publication from Tolkien is a bit less rare than a blue moon. Tolkien lovers though (I count myself among them) and Beowulf scholars (I don’t quite fit that bill) will be enticed at the prospect of reading afresh Tolkien’s elegant, winding prose and read his collected thoughts on the world’s oldest extant English manuscript. Tolkien’s scholarship, which focuses on the monsters in the tale, is held in very high esteem, but that’s not too surprising.

Nevertheless, it’s an exciting time. Both Tolkien and O’Connor are in the Valhalla of writers, and new material just doesn’t come around very frequently. But how does this new material fit in with the rest of their work? How should we think about these writings, how do we apply them to what we’ve already read? What do you think? Have you heard of any new works from the old greats?

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Blog Editor’s Discussion: March Madness Revisited

basketballIt is once again, dear readers, the time of year when ESPN neglects all other sports to show you basketball replays, and people can think of nothing other than their brackets and their Cinderella team. As a lapsed fan of basketball, especially on the collegiate level, I confess that the tournament really doesn’t excite me very much. If I hadn’t researched it for this blog, that would probably have remained the case. After looking it over in writing this post, I gained a new respect for March Madness, not just as an event, but as a cultural ritual with a connection to history.

The beauty of sports is that they connect people from different eras and geographical locations. Modern sports are geared more towards exciting displays of athletic ability and physicality, but the more ancient ones were a product of practicality. Sports such as boxing, wrestling, fencing, kendo, archery, target shooting, and jousting, amidst a horde of others, served in both idealistic and pragmatic capacities. All of them began life as martial arts, designed to make someone more formidable in combat, whether it be at Agincourt or in a back alley. The evolution from national longbow training to the modern basketball championship was not simple, but it is explicable.

One of the most difficult aspects of training is motivation. When a population turns a violent art into a sport, they provide one of the oldest forms of motivation known to man: competition. The simple notion of competition is profound in its reach. Human beings love to compete, to show that they are the best. As a result of this, sports have grown far beyond their initial role as a motivational tool. Competition is an important thing, nationally and internationally. The Olympics is (largely) a show of goodwill and trust in the international community, and March Madness is an opportunity for old traditions and rivalries to carry on in the United States in a healthy way.

In pondering the idea of competition, I turned to famous examples in literature. William Faulkner understood the instinctive urge to compete better than most, and his writing reflects that. In Flags in the Dust, he writes of the Sartoris family following World War I, specifically Young Bayard. The heir to the family, he went to war with his twin brother and came back alone. Young Bayard proceeds to drink excessively, drive recklessly, and generally try his hand at any highly dangerous activity he can. He was plagued not just by survivor’s guilt, but by an unshakeable feeling that he was not truly a man unless he died in action, which he did while test-piloting a plane. That ideal was a product of his proud upbringing, and is indicative of Faulkner’s argument. Competition, as Faulkner views it, is good and proper, but it cannot be allowed to overcome everything else, or it will extinguish our species. He wrote many books about the flagging, destructive nature of honor in the dying South, and the effects it has upon its misguided disciples. I think he would be very receptive to the idea of sports as a regional, national, and international method of competition, one which doesn’t end in self-destruction.

So in retrospect, I have become a fan of March Madness, and I hope it continues to promote competition and greatness between athletes and fans for generations to come. What do you think of that, dear reader? Can you come up with any other famous examples of competition in literature?

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Revolutions in Reading

glasses-guy

While perusing Facebook recently, I stumbled upon a link posted by a friend:

“This Insane New App Will Allow You To Read Novels in Under 90 Minutes,” the title promised like a Saturday morning infomercial for the newest vegetable chopper or shape slimming bra.  Intrigued by this surely impossible promise (and driven by my incredible ability to procrastinate on the internet), I read on.

Spritz, a Boston-based startup company, has taken the speed-reading phenomenon by storm with their new “Optimal Recognition Point” (ORP) technology.  The ORP is the precise spot in a word that, when focused on, makes the word easiest to absorb and decipher for human eyes.  Spritz presents texts to readers one word at a time, keeping them centered around the letter marking the ORP.  This letter is in red text as opposed to black text so that it pops even more.  In this way, Spritz users have every single word in the text presented directly to their eyes, avoiding skimming (which can cause the reader to miss some potentially vital details).

The website had a demo section where I could try out this “game-changing” app for myself.  They allowed me to read at 250 words per minute, 350 words per minute, and 500 words per minute.  At first, the faster speed was a little overwhelming.  But if I allowed my eyes to relax and simply focus on the red ORP, I found this app to be remarkably effective.  I was absorbing the sentence and its meaning with far less effort than usual and with vastly increased speed.  My mind raced with the thought of finishing reading assignments with ease – maybe now I can finally make it through Anna Karenina, which has been sitting on my nightstand since last summer!

I went to Spritz’s actual website to do more investigating.

“Reading Reimagined™,” enticed fancy text at the top of the page.  I was informed that Spritz is working with other developers to apply the technology to platforms such as websites, iOS, and Android, and e-readers.  Then, I encountered their “Why it Works” section:

“Reading is inherently time consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line.  Traditional reading also consumes huge amounts of physical space on a page or screen, which limits reading effectiveness on small displays.”

This made me stop and think.  Yes, reading is a task that can at times be frustrating, but it is also a valuable skill that takes time and practice to perfect.  Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of my childhood (besides learning how to ride a bike without training wheels) was when I learned how to read, or when I finished my first big-girl chapter book all on my own.  I have always relished the moment when I turn the last page of a novel that I have enjoyed over time on a beach or in a car or cozy in my bed after the rest of my family has long been asleep.

Reading may take time, but sometimes that’s the point.  Reading isn’t always something to do just to get it out of the way – the very act of reading, and sometimes the work and effort that it requires, has value in itself.  While this app would be incredibly useful for some drier reading such as textbooks, it depresses me to imagine using it to read a novel.  It seems like swallowing a tasteless nutrition pill in place of a savory meal – where’s the fun in that?  What do you think the value of technology like Spritz is?  How would you apply it in your life or work?  We allow technology to do so much for us, but I’m not quite sure I’m ready for it to automatize the act of reading for me quite yet.

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An Answer a Day

Q&A

I have an annou ncement to make: three months into 2014 I am still going strong with my New Year’s resolution.  I commend those of you who don’t share this problem, but for whatever reason I rarely follow through.  I resolved to write a journal entry every day of 2014.  And 2015, and 2016, and 2017, and 2018.  A five-year resolution, you ask?  Well, while doing some last minute Christmas shopping with my friend, we came across the “Q&A a day: 5-Year Journal.”  Each page lists the month and day, and below that offers five sections of three lines each.  The sections of lines provide a spot to fill in the current year followed by your answer.  It’s like a time capsule to keep track of how your opinions, concerns, and feelings change over the course of five years.  A little daunting, but intriguing enough for me to decide that I should buy myself a stocking stuffer.

            I’ll be the first to admit that every now and then there’s a piddling question that I don’t care to answer.  For instance, “Are you wearing socks?” (July 16).  Does that really matter?  No, but there are enough questions to make the trivial ones worth my time.  Some even apply to literature and creative writing.  For example, every October 26 I have to answer: “How are you?  Write it in a rhyming couplet.”  On July 11 I’ll be asked, “If you were a literary character, who would you be?”  Others are more personal, some less serious.  I’m especially looking forward to tracking how many stamps are in my passport on August 11 of each year.

            While these entries differ from a traditional journal’s, a sentence a day is still a great way to chronicle your year.  When I studied in Florence the summer before my sophomore year in high school, my grandparents gave me a travel journal.  My Nana told me, “You don’t have to write a lot each day, but you should write something each day.  Even just one sentence will trigger enough memories when you revisit your journal.”  I completed her task for the few weeks I was abroad, and after flipping through the journal years later I realized she was right.  So although this form of journaling is unusual, it will hopefully result in a similar outcome.

            The objective of this, or any journal, is to find some continuity in an ever-changing life.  I am guaranteed to have at least one constant for the next five years, and that is something I find comforting.  It is too early to tell how my answers are changing, but in the next five years I hope to learn more about myself, to see how my opinions have shifted, and to track how my writing has evolved.  It is worth exploring a new form of writing, and it is important to write every day.

            Do you journal?  Is it a daily activity, or reserved for days when something significant happens?  Would this 5-year journal appeal to you?

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“Romantic Moment”-A Poem by Tony Hoagland

frogAfter the nature documentary we walk down,
into the plaza of art galleries and high end clothing stores
where the mock orange is fragrant in the summer night
and the smooth adobe walls glow fleshlike in the dark.
It is just our second date, and we sit down on a rock,
holding hands, not looking at each other,
and if I were a bull penguin right now I would lean over
and vomit softly into the mouth of my beloved
and if I were a peacock I’d flex my gluteal muscles to
erect and spread the quills of my cinemax tail.
If she were a female walkingstick bug she might
insert her hypodermic proboscis delicately into my neck
and inject me with a rich hormonal sedative
before attaching her egg sac to my thoracic undercarriage,
and if I were a young chimpanzee I would break off a nearby treelimb
and smash all the windows in the plaza jewelry stores.
And if she was a Brazilian leopardfrog she would wrap her impressive
tongue three times around my right thigh and
pummel me lightly against the surface of our pond
and I would know her feelings were sincere.
Instead we sit awhile in silence, until
she remarks that in the relative context of tortoises and iguanas,
human males seem to be actually rather expressive.
And I say that female crocodiles really don’t receive
enough credit for their gentleness.
Then she suggests that it is time for us to go
Do something personal, hidden, and human.

tony hoagland

Tony Hoagland is an American poet and writer from North Carolina. I was first introduced to Hoagland’s poetry by his poems included in the recently published  Ecopoetry Anthology edited by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street. I found Hoagland’s poetry to be thoughtful, humorous, but also very thought provoking. His poem “Wild” featured in the anthology explores human behavior as group of bears migrate into a small valley town, putting them in the place of the human residents. In a similar way, his poem “Romantic Moment” connects human and animal behavior in regards to affection, challenging what we would consider “normal” affection.

“A Romantic Moment” challenges our typical view of human affection by providing an animal contrast, using descriptions of place in the poem to mark the difficulties in connecting human behavior to the behavior between animals. The poem places the behavior of a young couple on a date, illustrating their reaction to images of different species engaging in displays of affection and interest. The boy on the date describes that a bull penguin would, “…lean over / and vomit softly into the mouth of my beloved” (7-8), to express affection. Hoagland provides many explicit images like this throughout the poem in contrast to the simplicity of the human affection of “Holding hands, not looking at each other” (6), challenging the reader to think about the normality of certain human behaviors in contrast to other species. Hoagland uses the very last line of the poem, “Do something personal, hidden, and human”(27), to illustrate the disconnect with nature that is the overarching problem throughout the poem. The couple’s last words display a bias in judgment about what acceptable human behavior is but also more importantly displays the fear of being connected to the complex and sometimes wild aspects of nature.

Hoagland’s poems often challenge human views of behavior, and this one in particular causes me to think about the human display of affection in a new way. Poems that challenge the typical social or structural constructs are often found to be the most interesting and thought provoking types of poetry. Which poems do you find similarly provocative?

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Reading Actively

Mortimer J Adler

I’m not sure if it’s weird to have a favorite essay, but mine has been “How to Mark a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler since I first read it in 9th grade. I had a high school English teacher who had a genius way of pushing his students to understand and analyze what they read without them ever knowing. I remember the first time I ever made a real connection in a book. It was in my 9th grade English class and we had just finished reading Falkner’s As I Lay Dying. I struggled to get through the book, as many people do, getting lost in the ambiguous sentences and strange perspective-shifting structure. The day after we finished reading, my teacher assigned our class to read Adler’s essay. His aim was to teach us the importance of reading actively. He explained to the class that we could simply go through the rest of high school reading and writing without ever understanding what we read. The gravity of the books we read and their significance in our own life would never been fully realized unless we learned to read actively. Adler writes:

 There are two ways in which one can own a book. The first is the property right you establish by paying for it, just as you pay for clothes and furniture. But this act of purchase is only the prelude to possession. Full ownership comes only when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it is by writing in it…I am arguing that books, too, must be absorbed in your bloodstream to do you any good.

Like my teacher, Adler wanted to impress upon his readers that there is nothing delicate about a book. A book is a living and breathing creature that changes every time you open it. You cannot have full ownership over anything until you make it your own, and books are no exception.

 After reading this essay, my teacher assigned the class to read As I Lay Dying again. He said that he would be checking for book notes every day until we finished the book and that he expected to see colors, scratches, doodles, notes, lists, underlines and circles. We all complied, unaware of the gift he was giving us with this assignment.

 It only took me about 50 pages to realize how powerful Adler’s advice was. By marking and draining my brain onto the page I was able to make connections that I had completely missed the first time.

 Adler wrote, “marking up a book is not an act of mutilation but of love.” I want to challenge all of you to make this act of love. You will enrich not only your own experience as a reader, but you will give your books the attention that they deserve.

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Blog Editor’s Discussion: Self-Publication

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While I was brainstorming what I wanted to write this piece about (my version of brainstorming looking very much like drinking coffee and reading on my Kindle), I had a strange thought, which bloomed into a veritable forest of queries. What, I wondered, did the process of self-publication entail? How has the e-book changed the game, both for publisher and authors? Is it possible for average authors to make a living this way? After a mild argument with myself, I switched to decaf and went to work researching.

Amazon, it turns out, offers Kindle Direct Publishing ( https://kdp.amazon.com/ ) to anyone who has an account. There are several different programs for prospective authors to use in publishing e-books, but I think Amazon’s effort deserves place of pride for many reasons. Primarily, it is exceptionally user-friendly. As long as you put together and submit your work according to their rules, they will generally have it published and for sale within twenty four hours. Another major boon is the size of their audience. Publishing with Amazon means putting your work in front of an enormous amount of people, ostensibly translating to sales.

As with any business venture, however, there are negative aspects. While Amazon likes to advertise a 70% takeaway of profits on the part of the author, there are decidedly undermentioned caveats. First and foremost, if a sale is made outside of the United States or a specific collection of countries, the author gets 35% of the profits, due to the cost of trading in foreign currency. The same reduction is applicable if the work in question is published anywhere but on Amazon, or if it fails to meet minimum or maximum price guidelines (https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A30F3VI2TH1FR8#1-2_why_35 ). Obviously I understand that a business has to make fiscally responsible decisions, but I do wish some of these points were more clearly laid out in the advertisements, rather than hidden in the fine print. Even with those restrictions, I think Amazon offers an amazing service that should be celebrated.

Perhaps the most incredible thing that can be said about KDP is that it removes entry barriers, and de-stigmatizes self-publication to a high degree. Hugh Howey, author of the Wool series has stated that “Most of my months are six-figure months” (http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/07/tech/mobile/kindle-direct-publish/ ). Many authors like Howey have found financial and critical success in self-publication, success that might have eluded them completely had they stuck with traditional publication. By removing basically any restrictions on what can or cannot be published, Amazon, and businesses like them, have opened the floodgates. The resulting deluge of work can (fairly) be criticized as being typically bad, but it can also be recognized for enticing and developing some truly great writers. The great benefit of these communities is that they offer autonomy, as well as judgment-free support from a huge range of authors and readers, professional and amateur, in polishing authors.

I think that self-publication will not only grow at an extraordinary rate in the future, but that it will contribute to the creation of a new generation of great writers. Somewhere right now there are authors taking root, men and women who are obsessively honing their craft and growing under the tutelage and financial support of a broad community of literature-lovers. With the right environment, and enough people supporting them, they will surely bloom into something wonderful. What, dear reader, do you think of that?

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