Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Interview With Author W.B. Cushman – Part Two

Following is the second part of an interview conducted by Professor Emeritus Clarrisa Everglad, ftierra-del-mar-2-061rom her home in Orleans, Massachusetts, with Cushman in Portland, Oregon. The interview was conducted by phone. Please see Part One of the interview for details about Everglad’s career in journalism and as an author and interviewer of authors.

 

Everglad: Discombobulated by the cover you had designed? And who is Victoria?

Cushman: I have the technical skills of a snail – probably less. When I realized I was done with Rosy, I’d edited and re-edited, had my wife Susan do a thorough editing, which is a significant skill of hers, and received feedback from my official readers Jamie and Pat, now it was time to publish. Initially I went the traditional route, sending applications and copies of parts of the book to five traditional publishers. All that netted was two formal rejections and three no replies. After a couple of months I decided I needed to self publish, and when I discovered that self-publishing through printing houses was going to cost more than I was able and/or willing to spend, then I had to self publish, go the route of Amazon CreateSpace and Kindle Direct, also making use of the ability to reach more on-line and brick and mortar outlets via IngramSpark (a $49 fee) and Draft2Digital. This is probably unnecessary information, the point is I needed a cover and spine and back cover, and I needed the 52K plus words of Rosy formatted correctly for these companies upload requirements. And I could do none of that. So I turned to Fiverr

Everglad: Fiverr?

Cushman: An internet site where you can hire people, starting at $5, for all kinds of different technical and not so technical services. And reading through various people’s pages I settled on a woman in England named Victoria to create the cover art. It cost me $26, likely the best $26 I’ve spent. She offered unlimited revisions, amazinoriginal-rosy-coverg for that amount of money, beginning her process with what I had messaged her about the book and what I felt would be the best images for the cover. Her first image was vastly different from the one that is the cover of Rosy now. On the right is her first image. Too dark, too much of life left, Teddy and Matt much different than how I saw them. Only Rosy felt right. So I gave her feedback and she made another and this went on, back and forth across The Atlantic, for three weeks, maybe a little more, before I felt it was right. Which included having Marvin with brown skin, which wasn’t there through many of the versions she messaged me. But, long story long enough, to get back to the word “discombobulated”, which goes back to your question about how much I knew my characters before they appeared on the pages, to see her creations of Teddy and Matt, after all the changes, it was a little weird. Because now, when I pick up the book and read various sections, the young men on the cover are who I see when I hear them talking. So, it’s really interesting.

Everglad: I can see that. I’ve never actually had this conversation with an author before. It is interesting.

Cushman: Thanks. I’ve already decided to use Victoria again for my next book, “Astoria Strange“.

Everglad: Is this a book you are planning to write?

Cushman: No. It’s nearly done now. It’s a collection of stories, interwoven in their setting and sharing of characters, set in Astoria, Oregon, a small town on the Ocean about 100 miles from where I live. They’re told from the point of view of stories in a newspaper column that focus on subjects outside of what would be considered normal. Anyway, I’m working on the final story. When I’m done there’s going to be a significant re-write and editing process. When it’s all done I’ll hire Victoria again for the cover and back cover art.

Everglad: Is this book something you began after you’d finished Ring Around the Rosy?

Cushman: No. I began Astoria long before I started the story for the submission request that would evolve into Rosy. Close to two and a half years ago now.

Everglad: And you are hoping to have this book completed and published sometime this year?

Cushman: My goal is to have it published before the end of April.

Everglad: Now that would be quite the accomplishment, Mr. Cushman. Not publishing anything until age 67, then having a second book out less than six months later.

Cushman: It will be very cool if I get it done.

Everglad: Will this be a book similar in length to your first?

Cushman: It’s already nearly three times longer than Rosy, just over 150,000 words so far. Three of the stories, including the one I’ve been trying to finish for months now, are nearly the size of small novellas. Fortunately the stories are meant to be read one at a time, and many are, in fact, typical short story length.

Everglad: I’d like to talk more about the new book in a few moments, if we can, it’s a surprising addition to the breath of the interview’s original intention. But, let’s get back to your Rosy.

Cushman: Professor, if you’ll indulge me for just another minute, I want to reference a particular aspect of Astoria to expand on a point I was making a while ago about, what for me is the joy of writing fiction. Not only from creating something from nothing, something that wasn’t there before – a person, a coffee shop, a factitious newspaper – but also getting to play while doing it. Getting to goof on myself, which is really it, to play while writing, to flash on different times in my life and different people I’ve met and known along the way. And to bring those people, I don’t mean them or any of their personality, but to borrow their name as I create someone knew. I keep using the word thrilling because that’s how it feels.  So, to make the point, in the third of my “Astoria” stories I introduced a new character, a female police officer named Ruthie Thompkins. I needed a name for an officer right there in the story and this name popped into my head. But I didn’t make it up. Back in my high school in Wareham, Massachusetts, probably about 50 miles or less from where you live Clarrisa, there was a math teacher, head of the math department, names Ruth Thompkins. Lots of the kids in school called her Ruthie. So, I’m needing the name for a female officer and trying to think up a good one, and the name Ruthie Thompkins flies into my head and I go ahead and type that. So, I borrowed on a piece of my childhood. And that’s what I’m talking about, because there’s something in the doing that weaves my entire life together, make it richer in some kind of way, and, I used this word before, honors a time in my life.

Everglad: I do understand what you’re saying, Mr. Cushman. One of the joys of writing fiction.

Cushman: Here’s the last thing about that. And this comes more under the idea of seeing where the story takes me, which you asked me about earlier. I typed the name Ruthie Thompkins because I needed a name, a one-time name. But, honestly, to my surprise, Officer Ruthie Thompkins showed up two stories later, again primarily in passing. But, two stories after that, in a story titled “Rat Boy“, not only is Ruthie driving her cruiser onto the pages again, but now, by the end of that story, she’s become a much more important player. So, there’s no surprise to me when, over the final three stories, she plays key roles. She’s become one of the primary characters. And she showed up, originally, because I needed a name and I remembered a name from my high school.

End of Part Two

 

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Interview With Author W.B. Cushman

 

Editor’s note: Clarrisa Everglad is a former journalist, and Professor Emeritus at Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable, Massachusetts. She is the author of seven books on fiction and fiction writing, including “Show Up and Follow“, winner of four internationaltierra-del-mar-2-061 awards. She regularly interviews authors on their fiction work.

Following is an interview with new author W.B. Cushman of Portland, Oregon. The interview was conducted by phone from Everglad’s home office in Orleans, Massachusetts.

 

Everglad: Welcome to the world of published authors Mr. Cushman, and congratulations on your new book “Ring Around the Rosy“.

Cushman: Thank you Clarissa.

Everglad: This is your first?

Cushman: Yes. My first ever. I’ve had one short story published in a Weasel Press Anthology September 2015. But, this is my book.

Everglad: It’s an interesting story, one I enjoyed very much. We’ll get, in a minute, to some of the specifics. I understand that when you began your tale of Rosy and Teddy and Matt it was not with the idea of writing a novel.

Cushman: That’s true. At the time, in the Spring and Summer of 2015, I was committing myself to fiction. I’d been publishing a Blog for about a year then, the posts generally autobiographical in nature. Anyway, I’d begun writing short stories and submitting them to on-line magazines requesting submissions. I don’t remember which particular magazine this was for, but one of the sites was requesting a story that required an apocalyptic setting and at least one character with what would be considered a major disability.

Everglad: How did that venture morph from a short story to the now-published novel?

Cushman: There was a word limit, I believe it was 7000 though it could have been 5000. In short order I flew past the limit and made the decision I would just keep going and see where the story took me.

Everglad: Could you explain “see where the story took me”?

Cushman: There are probably as many different ways to write a story as there are writers. One way would to be thoroughly organized, creating an outline with plot development, character and setting detail, pretty much having it figured out. I would say I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. Most of the stories I write, and now this novel, I have an idea for a beginning and nothing beyond that. Seriously, it’s rare that I know where a story is headed, and I almost never know who’s going to show up to tell the story.

Everglad: Is writing that way anxiety producing? Don’t you worry you’ll bog down, get stuck?

Cushman: Yes, and that’s happened a few times. But, more often than not, an idea appears. Or a new character. In “Rosy”, for instance, I began the book with only three characters in mind, the three you mentioned. But when those three arrived back in their hometown, following the apocalyptic event in which the entire planet of Earth was cooked by a solar intrusion through the atmosphere, all of a sudden there were four younger kids hiding in the ruins of a private school. And we meet them when one calls out, “Halt. Who goes there?” Which for me is pretty cool. Who wouldn’t want to write those words in a story? It’s like a ticket right back to childhood.

Everglad: So, new characters appear, almost as if by magic. How did you come up with their names?

Cushman: Felix, Les, Cal, and Marvin? I don’t know exactly. I tried to picture each kid and a name that would work for him. If I can sidebar here for a minute, and this could be a much longer conversation, but one of the thrilling aspects of writing fiction for me is being able to create something out of nothing. Before I wrote “Rosy” there was no Felix Sylvia, an 11-year old living in Marion, Massachusetts in 2018. There’s probably someone with that name, maybe lots of someones. But not my someone. And how cool is that? And Sylvia was a name in my hometown growing up, a Portuguese name. I had a friend named Bruce with that last name. So, I get to honor and make jokes with myself and do whatever I want. Which is a complete joy of writing fiction.

Everglad: Writers have always been encouraged to know much more about their characters than they share on the pages, know everything about them, their habits, their likes and dislikes, the names of their pets, etc. Was that part of your process in writing your book?

Cushman: I would be giving myself way too much credit if I said yes. That would involve more attme-writingention to detail and devotion to being at my absolute best than I’m generally able to amp up – for anything. It’s a goal, to know future characters that well. To be able to tell you the name
of Felix’s dog. Maybe it’s Taffy. So, my best answer to your question is a little bit. I know each of them, and all the characters in the book, as individuals. I’d know each one if I met them on the street as a group. Ditto for Peter Frates and Cat Levesque and everyone else who adds their voice to this journey. Of course, when Victoria created the cover, and had a very particular Rosy and a Teddy and a Matt looking out at me, well, that was a little discombobulating.

End of Part One

 

 

 


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The Writing Was the Easy Part

I am a technological toad. As in, I can never find the right place to put the thumb drive into the computer. Or if I luck out, figure how to get stuff from the computer onto the thumb drive. I need to haul my step-daughter down into the basement – amidst her giggles – and beg for help. Not just one time – every time.

Imagine, then, my journey into the world of self publishing. I thought writing the story was the hard part. But…….no. It’s the uploads and jpegs, the mobis and pdfs. It’s trying to understand the step-by-step directions, having been assured as to their ease of that understanding. It’s the asking for help on my Facebook writer’s group, asking to have it explained to me like I’d just dropped onto the planet and understood not a word of its language — and still not having a clue when people have coddled me and easy does’d me, it all still sounding Roman.

I read and heard that I could self-publish for free – after having sent my first ever novel (kind of a 52K word novella) to five publishing houses – start spreading the news in NYC and cheerio to London – and when I received rejections and/or silence, I turn to the pay-us-and-wewb_cushman_front_1600x2400‘ll-publish-it-for-ya publishers and was bullied a little here and there, and didn’t have the money for that anyway, it turns out.

By the way, that’s my first novel right over there on the left side of the page. It’s titled “Ring Around the Rosy” and it began as a short story submission for an on-line magazine requiring an apocalyptic setting and at least one character with a disability, but quickly raced past the word limit, and slowly, very slowly, with a six-month break in the writing during a big lifestyle change, it got done, now with three characters with a condition considered a disability, apocalypse or not. Or, don’t dis my ability.

So, anyway, I was strongly encouraged to turn to CreateSpace, a free self-publishing entity part of the Amazon world, for both paperback and ebook publication, and stumbled upon other similar services including IngramSpark and Draft2Digital. Well, as I’ve indicated above, I was simply incapable of figuring out how and doing the simple things they asked me to do. With the story collecting (internet) dust, and remembering a conversation I’d had with a friend in Oakland, CA when I visited back in the spring, I turned on-line to an outfit called Fiverr. It basically a business that offers the services of people from all over the planet to do their thing, whatever thing it is that you need them to do. For me, to get going, I primarily needed help with creating a cover (my skill level – none) and formatting my Word document for pdf and mobi uploads (moi skill level – ditto).

As fortune would have it – and doesn’t fortune smile on techie toads – I hired a woman in England, name of Victoria, to create a cover, including the spine (wouldn’t have thought of that) and back cover. That’s it up there, the end of the world as we know it landscape with Rosy in her chair, Teddy with his Down Syndrome, nerdy Matt the attendant, Felix, Marvin, well, all of them. It’s quite beautiful and it thrills me to look at it, and it coast me $25. Then I was fortunate to find another young women, Beenish Qureshi in Pakistan, to create the appropriate formatting for both paperback and ebook requirements ($50).

The writing of the book extended somewhere beyond a year and a half, and the finding and messaging back and forth with the Fiverr women has been going on maybe five or six weeks now. As I write this, January 12, 2017, my book – My Book – is live for sale on Amazon as an ebook for Kindle,and a couple of glitches and proofs away from a paperback you’ll be able to hold in your hands, sink back in an easy chair, and join the kids’ adventure.

Someone must have kissed this toad.

(By the way, they’ve given me an Author Page at Amazon and you can find the book there – www.amazon.com/author/wbcushman )

(One more By the way – the writing was a lot of work. It wasn’t, in fact, easy. Just way easier than all this other stuff.)

 

 

 

 


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Monday Morning Pages — Notebook Number 29

I started reading “The Great Gatsby” downstairs in the recliner this morning, early, and twenty-five minutes later began thinking I really know next to nothing and have paid almost no attention in most of the years of my life, and have forgotten nearly all of the things I did see and half-heartedly committed to memory. In other words, so I’ll never be a writer. This follows the rejection I received last night of my most recent short story, the feedback being very direct and clear, with little encouragement.

So now today beings with me having to push through the mush of ancient stories — stories that say I’m not good enough and I’ll never be good enough and why kid myself of any hope to be a successful writer. Yes, those old as the hills stories, the genre of “who am I kidding”.

So there are two choices — and the older I get the more I am coming to believe that there are only two choices in every situation, kind of a yes and a no thing — in this case accepting that I will never write anything that will engage and entertain a large group of readers, large defined as in the thousands and really in the tens of thousands, and so why kid myself. Go on and do something else at which you will have a better chance for some success — though at this point in my life I have no idea what that might be. Or, door number two, carry on my wayward son. Keep on keepin’ on. Try, as Janis, said, just a little bit harder.

Now, practically speaking,  on the one hand I am early morning comparing my writing ability — if there’s really any of that at all — with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s. So there is that. And on the other hand — and as Henry David Thoreau said, I talk so much about me because I know no other subject so well — I have a six decades history of rarely plunging all the way in, with everything I’ve got, to whatever it is I’m on to now. Which now, in this now case, is writing. Being a writer. So give up because I’m just not very good and almost certainly not good enough. Or try just a little bit harder.

Actually the choice feels clear. Since 2011 when I left my somewhat jokingly defined “career” in human services, I have met a guy and co-wrote and created a CD of original music; picked up a paint brush and painted some paintings and had some shows and sold some greeting cards; and taken a creative writing class at Portland State and embarked on a path with some very specific goals to become a successful writer. Maybe not as good or successful as F. Scott Fitzgerald or the authors I like to read, but successful still.

This feels like the last house on the left on a dead-end street. And so, I write on.


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Taffy – My Hometown, My Friend, My Dog, And Changes

There are eight million artist stories in the city. This one is mine. This is called “Taffy”.

A few days agoI wonder if everyone can say that their home town has changed a lot? Or really a lot? Not to the point where it is unrecognizable, because how could that be. They can’t change the shape of the river as it curls under Main Street and heads north toward the old nail factory. They can’t change the fact that Route 6 runs smack through the middle of town, on it’s merry way from Provincetown, MA to Long Beach, CA. Or that there are beaches all over: Little Harbor; Briarwood; Pinehurst; Indian Mound; Onset; Parkwood; Swifts. They can change a lot of the houses – more bigs ones, less cottages – and remove the old corner neighborhood stores and put up more “private” signs and make streets one way and charge more for parking. And they can say goodbye to old bowling alleys and movie houses and say hello to another bank and another bank and another bank. But they can’t change the way the river swoops into the harbor from the bay, and kisses three or four different beach communties along it’s way under Route 6 and off toward Oakdale and Mayflower Ridge and, if it could climb the steps, up into Mill Pond and beyond.

But I will tell you about one part of my old hometown that changed, changed from when I was a kid, 11 and 12 years old, back when I would ride my bike all over town, often with a fishing pole dangling behind, joking with my friend Donnie on our way to another day of few fish and priceless memory. The place that changed so much was in back of Donnie’s house, just off Gibbs Ave next to the Everett School, because that’s where the woods were, unending and unbroken, an old fire road a half mile in, scrub pines and taller pines and oaks crowding together, pine needles on the ground like a golden rusty blanket. There are houses now and streets and lots of activity and action. But back in the day, our day, it was just the woods. And it was just Donnie and me and my dog Taffy.

I believe that every small town has at least one haunted house. I can’t speak for cities, but that is my thought. At least one. In my hometown I was aware of two. One was on Fearing Hill Road, in West Wareham, just before it crossed County Road into the town of Rochester. Light grayish blue clapboards, windows that reflected the sun but never let you look in as we drove by on the way to the farm Royal Davis’s family owned in Rochester. And it seemed like we would be in a car with his parents driving by one way or the other and it was always twilight. That place was spooky. The other haunted house was different. This one was deep in the woods behind Donnie’s house, way past the fire road, following on a smaller, less traveled dirt and pine-needle road about as wide as one car. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a haunted house because people lived in it. Maybe a scary house. People that lived way back in the woods. Major creepiness for an 11 year old.

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There’s A Place

ccrt 3There are eight million artist stories in the city . This is mine. This is “There’s A Place”.

My sister Sandy had mentioned to me at least a few times a coffee shop she was sure I would like. It’s name was The Chocolate Sparrow. It was – and is – in Orleans, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. Just at the rear end of a parking lot on what might pass as the main street of Orleans. Orleans is the place where the three main roads on the Cape – Route 6, Route 6A, and Route 28 – all meet up for the first time and for the most part become one the remainder of the way to Provincetown, which is kind of the end of the world in the United States. Even though I had grown up in Wareham – the Gateway to Cape Cod was what the sign said in our home town – and had attended for two years and graduated from Cape Cod Community College in Hyannis, some 21 miles away, I had never really spent any time at all in Orleans. My sister and her family lived in Yarmouth and my mother had lived in Harwich and I had friends from my past life up and down the Cape, I just never found myself in Orleans. And I had been on the planet for 59 years by then.

But the summer of 2008 was different. I had been, for almost a year, the Housing Director for the Aids Support Group of Cape Cod, running their permanent housing program in Provincetown called Foley House. I had lived much of that time with my son Spenser – his mom in Florida getting a brief respite – in winter housing in North Truro. But living in a winter rental means you get booted when the rents can go up a zillion times duing the Cape Cod summer, and by late June Spenser was back in Florida and I was crashing in a spare room of my friends Andy and Jamie in Brewster. So I was commuting 30 something miles each way down to P’town five days a week, meaning I was going through Orleans twice a day. And on one Wednesday night after work, around 4:30, I was meeting my sister at The Chocolate Sparrow to say hi and spend a few minutes together and check the place out. It has chocolate in the name because they sell lots and lots and lots of chocolate there. But to me it will always be a coffee shop, now one of my two favorites on the Cape. I began spending a lot of time there, after work, on weekends, after meetings, I made a new friend there. I would bring notebooks in and sit at a small counter looking out over the parking lot and I would write down goals and dreams and where I might work next and what I might do next, and where I had applied for a new job, working with kids, and from where I had already been rejected. (by the way, 73 official rejections and 0 encouragements before I got in my car a few months later and headed west toward Portland, a babe in the northwest wood.)

After I had been at the Sparrow a few times I realized that just across the street out back was the Cape Cod Rail Trail, heading both west and east, a 22 mile paved path on the former railroad tracks running through the Cape. Certainly lots and lots of bikers, but nearly as many runners and walkers as well. So I became a walker on the Rail Trail. The summer before, crashing at my sister’s after returning from a job in San Francisco and before starting with the AIDS folks in

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