Notes on Note-Taking

The following is a guest post by Jim Naremore, whose short story “The Bleeder” appeared in Issue 12 of Typehouse.


I’m a compulsive note taker. I think all writers should develop that as a habit. When I get into that wonderful place of creativity, it can feel like I’m a kid again, running through backyards on those never-ending summer evenings, chasing ideas and observations like fireflies, and a trip to get coffee can be like a trip to the Paris flower market for inspiration: a line of dialog, a character, a setting, a mood, a description, whatever. The novel I’m currently wrestling with came from piecing together three of those random single-sentence thoughts I jotted down at different times.

I try to carry around a notebook. I say “try” because Inspiration seems to get bored and gets its jollies by sneaking up on me when it sees I’m unable to write something down easily. Because of this, my notebooks also tend to be stuffed with random bits of paper torn from things or folded bank deposit slips or some such scrap of ephemera, with cryptic messages scribbled in the margins. I’m currently working on three of them, small pocket-sized things. What goes into them is usually no more than a single sentence or a fragment, sometimes just a single word (I run across some really killer words). My novel takes most of the ink, but I have ideas for new short stories and bits of potential poems and even character names scribbled in those notebooks.

Sometimes I’m forced to carry the idea in my head until I can get someplace and do something with it. This is like carrying water in your hands across a busy street. I cannot tell you the number of fantastic ideas I’ve had that I’ve lost. I know I had them. I have no idea at all what they were. In fact, I remember distinctly having the last line for my novel drop from the sky on me one day in the car. It was exquisite, but I have no idea what it was now.

Then there is the note that is now meaningless to me. As an example: written on the bottom corner of a page full of plot outlines and other good thoughts is a small note: “HIT IN THE CHEST WITH A JELLY DOUGHNUT!!!!”

That’s all it says.

I try to go all Sherlock Holmes on it and deduce the meaning by looking at the other notes I wrote around it with the same pen (pens are like flirtations in a crowded bar… they come and they go…), but nothing around it in that blue ink makes it any clearer. It’s got four exclamation marks. Obviously at the moment I wrote it down I thought this was genius. But now, I’ve got nothing.

I cast my mind through the great mental rolodex of characters I have created, searching for one who either would find being hit in the chest with a jelly doughnut to be a moment of great personal transformation or growth… or who at least deserves it. I get nothing. Taken from the other end; who have I written that does doughnuts? Who is the potential lobber of said doughnut? No one comes to mind.

A different angle perhaps? Was I thinking of doing memoir? I do recall being hit in the chest with a tuna sandwich once. Here, I am certain, is the naissance of the note. But a tuna sandwich is not a jelly doughnut. It doesn’t take much postmodern literary criticism and deconstruction to see that the underlying essential artistic gestalt of a jelly doughnut is not that of a tuna sandwich. Its like orangutans and goats.

So, there it sits: the jelly doughnut note. I run across it periodically when I’m going back over my notes, combing for good ideas when I’m stuck or looking for a new direction to take, or just the right line or phrase. I’ve never come to a point where I’ve said: “Eureka! Lay that doughnut upside his chest!” It’s like a needle in a haystack I keep finding, over and over again. Normally I’m pretty possessive of my ideas, most writers are I think but you need someone to be hit with a jelly doughnut? Be my guest.

“I’m nobody… Who are you?”

The following is a guest post by Mahdi Ahmadian, whose poetry appeared in Issue 12 of Typehouse


And each line I breathe I find myself again, as people judge my poem as me and believe the poem is the way inside me, to my head and my being. I confess and I do not want to confess, but I express emotions that are far detached from what I am. As a poet, or better to say a maker, I find myself becoming a non-entity with poetry, with writing, with creating. I often reflect on Things I know but I do not know, subjects, mere things shrouded by the eternity of everyday. It is better to say: “I gush words like a geyser.” However, this geyser, this stream of words, poured on a page of a paper, is the result of accumulation of raw material (boiling words and ideas) inside the maker’s imagination. Making a poem can lead to a state of being that is ahistorical, atemporal, aspatial, and one can feel the inwardness of nature while making. It is this inwardness of the poetry that shapes the poem and Things in it. This gift of writing makes the creator feel redeemed each time the completion of making occurs. However, the urge to make more and make better makes it unbearable as one feels castrated by the inability to make more and better. The maker in poetry is dominated by the language. However, this self-chosen domination leads to recognition and makes the one find his/her own nature and heritage anew, one which lies in the collective unconscious of the ones from yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In the poems published by Typehouse Literary Magazine, the subjects are real, but they are not. Imagination is the essence of these works. Imagination is the gear that turns the wheels of these poems. You can close your eyes and find your being transmuted in different forms and shapes, as though your being is a non-being, and that is what the essence of the making is. You turn to an alien, an outlander, and become the one who can feel the nature of the ones that occupy the space of your imagination. This unconscious process of crafting poetry creates identities and deconstructs them over and over again. Once you find yourself becoming the beggar on the bridge and once the man who died in a car crash in another part of the world, changing roles and forming new masks, or better to say new realities. You leave the boundaries of the flesh and turn to reflect on the experience of the self as the Other— the one you do not know. This representation sutures your being with the supplementing reality inside/outside and merges it with what is essentially beyond perception, what is concealed in an ever enunciatory mode of existence which we call writing, leading to a better understanding of being in the world.


You can find Mahdi at his Website, or on Instagram or Twitter.

Before “A Fireball for Edgar”

The following is a guest post by Brandon Jenkins, whose short story “A Fireball for Edgar” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.


While reflecting on this past year, the first year I actually started submitting my stories to publications, I began pondering why I’m a writer and why I chose to write about the things I write about. I found myself reminiscing about the first story I ever wrote a long time ago. Although the details of that first short story I ever wrote are foggy at best, I can recall the circumstances surrounding that story as if it were yesterday.

The assignment from our third grade teacher, Mrs. West, was to write about the moon then read it aloud to the class. I can vaguely remember a few of my classmates reading their stories to the class: My best friend Justin talking about eating ice cream on the moon; my friend and little league teammate Lance talking about a neon green moon that would drip radioactive ooze; and my friend and teacher’s pet C.B. who ingeniously created a world on the moon and used the earth to light up its sky at night.

I can remember taking my turn immediately after C.B. because I had a clever plan to one-up him. I had decided to use everybody in the class in my story. Since it was a big class (there were about thirty of us), I had to group a lot of people together to make it read faster but at the very least every student would get a mention. Those who were close friends of mine, however, got prominent roles in my story.

As I mentioned, I don’t remember too much of the story itself but one thing I am certain of is that it was titled The Remote Control Moon and the premise was simple: our class had the remote that controlled the moon. I was a few sentences in when I remember all hell breaking loose both figuratively and literally.

As I read about Lance accidentally smashing the side of the Empire State Building with the moon, or Justin nearly killing himself while trying to control the moon, the actual Lance and Justin were convulsing with laughter on the floor at hearing their names mentioned. I remember at one point my friend Matthew actually injuring his elbow when he fell out his chair from laughing so hard when he smashed another classmate into the ground with the moon.

All of the girls in the story were broken down into several “gangs” which I based on their real life cliques. I couldn’t help but notice Mrs. West getting a special kick out of this. Their job in the story was to find the “special” remote that controlled the room.

When I was finished, and nearly out of breath from both reading and laughing, there was maybe one or two boys still seated properly. The rest were scattered around the room hyperventilating as if they just ran a marathon. I handed my story to Mrs. West and got a polite applause from those able to do so.

Maybe that’s what made me want to be a writer: The fact that I was able to entertain thirty of my classmates while just being myself. Maybe I would’ve become a writer regardless of how the story was received. All I know for sure is my friend Matthew was still in considerable pain when we went to recess later that day.


You can find Brandon on Twitter.

Writing is Gross

The following is a guest post by Ruy Arango, whose short story “Waking” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.

A lot of people think writing is great, that it’s cool and sexy, that there’s something really special about it, something artistic.Those people are wrong. Writing is gross.

Writing is gross because it’s personal. Not the warm conversation kind of personal, the middle-school-sans-antiperspirant kind of personal. In fact, it’s so personal writers often shy away from showing it to anyone, the way you’d shy away from lending out your underwear. Writing is hope and desire and fear all rolled up into a ball of letters. Sometimes there are even semicolons. Gross.

Writing is gross because it’s work. It’s not spontaneous and it doesn’t feel good. It’s unpleasant enough that many writers struggle to do it at all. They think of the drafting and re-drafting and pages of line edits and decide to do something else entirely, like clip their nails or masturbate. It’s the sort of thing people put off. Gross.

Writing is gross because most of it is bad. That’s right, bad. And a lot isn’t even bad, it’s really bad. It has typos and too many commas. Sometimes it doesn’t go anywhere, just limps on page after page. Sometimes it doesn’t even do that, just sits there, dense and off-putting, like a stool sample. It’s the kind of stuff that attracts flies, that leaves a trail of slime. Really bad. Gross.

So, writing is gross, but what about stories? We like those, love them even. They’re great, fantastic, the best. We couldn’t do without them. Is there something to be said about this? About the fact that stories are made from writing (ew), that they’re forged over days and weeks and years, and that if the writer had a soul (doubtful), some part of it would surely be in that story, that thing we read and take into ourselves like nothing less than the communion of God almighty?


But writing is still gross.

How I Accomplish “Pride, Excellence & Beauty”

The following is a guest post by Carolyn McMurry, whose artwork appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.


Scrolling on Instagram can make you feel obsolete about your skills. I know I did, but I also knew I wasn’t so much obsolete as I was on a different level artistically. I mean, I have a lot to do, I have a family to take care of, school, work; so drawing wasn’t exactly my first priority. Not to mention, I just don’t have the time to devote to a heavily detailed work. However, I saw what abilities I wanted to accomplish in those Instagram artists. I mean, I really, really wanted to get there. So I decided to make time and learn from them instead.

This particular series, “Pride, Excellence & Beauty,” was inspired by many of those works on social media and the techniques that were used to create them. I have also currently been very aware and inspired by my culture and natural hair movement. This embraces our skin, our hair, our bodies, and our pride. I wanted to show that in my work. For the longest, I didn’t have any real meaning behind most of my art. Portraits have always been my thing but they were just random photos from the internet of my favorite celebrities. I took a new direction. Still portraits, but they were more culturally aware with opportunities to improve on texture, shading, and detail.

In a way, I wanted to give myself some form of a foundation. I asked myself, What about my art do I want to change, improve? I didn’t want my outlines to be too heavily defined, so I picked up different textured pencils and experimented. I didn’t realize there were so many shades that resulted in different outcomes. Graphite, soft and dark charcoal, layering…I can’t believe it took me this long to figure out why a No.2 pencil is a No.2 pencil. I studied the shading, blending, posture, and detail of many other artists (@ts_abe is my favorite). I worked on curls and the texture of hair, because curls are a significant part of the culture; and our hair is much of our pride in itself. Not to mention, curls are a challenge all their own. Shaping the face and its features properly was a major goal. To think, all this time and I still hadn’t gotten it right. In my defense, using a reference was simple. I was great at that. But that wasn’t the case for my freehand style. Freestyle was the struggle.

I challenged myself to draw differently on purpose to get away from what I had always done, while still expressing the beauty of what I had always known. Thus, the pride was born. Pride in my culture, pride in my work, and pride in my choice to learn rather than envy. This series was a part of my coming out, artistically and as a new woman who refuses to let others dictate how I express myself. If I took a risk with nudity, I told myself not to care what someone else might say. In fact, I was going to freehand the same type of photos until I was satisfied with my improvement. So really, “Pride, Excellence, and Beauty” was reflective of my own personal journey and where I’m trying to go. Hopefully, people can be inspired by this change of life artistically and personally.


You can find Carolyn on Facebook 1 or 2, Instagram and Twitter.

About “On the Bridge, In the Rain”

The following is a guest post by Toti O’Brien whose creative non-fiction piece “On the Bridge, In the Rain” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.

I have written about anorexia a few times, in different forms. A couple of takes were remote—they approached the subject through myth, fairy tale, archetype. One was very serious—it examined the subject from a Marxist, then a feminist point of view, also touching at legal, medical, sociological, economical aspects. Such break down had required time, study, labor, research, and of course it meant lots to me. I hoped an anthology about mental illness would accept it—probably the ideal publishing venue. I found one that was interested, but my essay exceeded the word limit. The editors suggested I choose a section and make it into a whole. Well, cut-and-paste rarely works. Or it does but the result is quite scarred, Frankenstein style.

I decided this was my occasion for starting afresh, utilizing the same raw material in a different way. Having limited time, I followed the advice Grandma patiently administered when I was a child—sometimes still hesitating in front of a task that seemed new, complicated, or just task-like (an unpleasant feeling itself). “I don’t know where to start,” I would say. The banal excuse! Grandma laughed out loud. “Then start in the middle,” she replied, so amused I suspect she was repeating a trick the nuns had played on her—in the orphanage—when she felt abandoned, or helpless, or lost. Well, she needed to grow strong and brave, apt to do whatever had to be done. So did I.

I learned to approach things—especially delicate, controversial ones—jumping in with no intro, no bows and no curtsies. Simply dive. “In media res,” said the Latin. All right. On the bridge, then. Why would writing about anorexia be delicate? Only the universally accepted cliché finds an audience. A snapshot, a codified scene, possibly involving throwing up in the toilets, a fucked-up body image, a quasi-corpse narrator tormented by guilt, possessed by strange demons. Sometimes sorely repentant, sometimes redeemed, horrified by her past sickness. I am using female pronouns for a reason.

What could have been nerve-wracking, what could have caused hesitation (and not knowing where to start), was my need of not providing the expected snapshot, but tell another story. Or just tell a story. Tracing the arc (the very shape of a bridge), designing the curve, constituting the fabric of a life—mine. But if anorexia draws the contour, makes the core of my existence, then it is rather a form of identity than a freaking twist of insanity. And who wants to hear that?

“On the bridge, in the rain” sees anorexia as a process, a path, with its own set of meanings. I have wanted to say this out loud for a long time. No wonder. It takes centuries for the oppressed to find their voice, and this is a story of oppression. But she (the oppressed) finds it, for sure. And it sings.


You can find Toiti on her website.

Origin of “The Fire”

The following is a guest post by Vincent Salvati whose story “The Fire” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.


My story, The Fire, was inspired by an event that took place in August of 1891 to my great, great-grandfather. James Murphy and his seventeen-year-old son of the same name spotted a fire in the distance and set out to investigate. Living close to the railroad tracks, they walked down them in the direction of the smoke. As they were crossing High Bridge, the son noticed an approaching train and alerted his father. It is unknown why the elder Murphy did not follow his son to another track. But regardless of the reason, he remained where he was, and the son witnessed his father’s horrible death. My great, great grandfather was forty-three years old.

While my story is just that–a work of fiction, I have always been intrigued by this event that ended my ancestor’s life and surely traumatized his son and the rest of the family. His seventeen-year-old son was the oldest of eight children, the youngest still in her mother’s belly. That unborn baby would become my great-grandmother. She was born in March of 1892–a full seven months after her father’s death. There are so many facets of this story that I do not know. Did he kill himself? Was he drunk? Did he even know his wife was pregnant? I have tried to research, with no luck, the fire to which they were heading. That mysterious blaze has always intrigued me.

Like much of my writing, I used a particular incident as a stepping off point and let my imagination take over from there. The fire became my central focus, and I allowed it to lead me through the creative process of investigating what the fire would mean to an individual or the family, as well as how it would affect them. Additionally, I wanted the deadly train event to play a role. The era was also important to me and one I often consider. The period prior to and just after the turn of the twentieth century is rich with oral histories I recall being told as a child. By mixing these elements together, I was able to satisfy my storytelling appetite while paying respect to the past.

The Arcane Poet

The following is a guest post by Andrew DiPrinzio, whose story “The Salt Pans” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.

Henry David Thoreau didn’t believe in accidents. The arcane poet wanders in his own magic circle. A magician of sorts, Thoreau believed the poet held the power to round up all the forces of the natural world and, at the right time, conjure something important. Thoreau believed in magic. According to his biographer, Kevin Dann, Thoreau’s walking buddies (including Melville, Hawthorne, and Fuller) reported that whether in search of a rare bud or a sleek arrowhead, Thoreau possessed an uncanny ability to find what he was looking for. Buddhists would say that is the way of the universe; everything rises. The galaxy gathers at the precise moment to assemble what one needs. Often when writing, I feel like that wanderer. A blue-cloaked wizard lost in the desert, except unlike Thoreau, I don’t have the entire cosmos behind me.

With The Salt Pans (Issue 11), I decided to draw my own circle. First, two characters who were, like me, searching. Second, a mystical landscape. The Gozo salt pans of Qbajjar Bay are breathtaking and empty. At dusk, the red sunset pools into the pans multiplying itself a hundred times over. It is a place one can easily believe some ancient horoscopy exists, like my protagonist, Jenna believes. Then, I added imbued objects collected: a leather Nefertiti bag my wife bought secondhand in Malta, a specific biography of Robert Kennedy I bought because I liked the cover photo, my dream car, a red Corvette Stingray, a postcard from Corfu, a package of sardines, and more. Each, I hoped, if I placed into my circle in a particular pattern would conjure some brilliance. When that failed, I rearranged, then again until those objects, when touched by my characters, seemed to shine like rubies. They became imperative. I felt if I moved one, the magic would evaporate.

In that circle, I wandered, searching for a solution to the moment the central tension (Jenna hiding her past from her fiancée, Reed) needed to come to a head. Reed enters the kitchen to confront Jenna while she is preparing dinner. I tried it dozens of ways. Jenna cries. Jenna leaves. Reed yells. Reed cries. Reed leaves. They all felt common, until I moved one of my objects. “Reed placed the postcard onto the counter.” A simple gesture. The postcard fell into place, magically shifting the section’s tone to subtlety. From Reed’s restraint, came Jenna’s quietness. The story felt complete.

There must be more efficient writers out there. Ones who sit down, and consistently write with focus. Could I have achieved this using another technique? The internet isn’t want for downloadable formulas for a “successful” story. Each containing the plot points designed to keep the writer on track. Did I wander for too many mornings in revision? I suppose. I also suppose Thoreau could have found his precious flora with a field guide, but where’s the magic in that?

The Secret Writers Face

The following is a guest post by Jarred Thompson, whose poetry appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.


Creative writing is an act of love, and like any act of love it comes with a sense of anxiety and intimacy. You wonder whether the words will obey your creative ambition or whether they will betray you on the page, ending up stillborn and stale. Yet, despite the fear that comes with performing such an act, there is a momentary sense of fulfilment after a creative work has been completed. This moment of fulfilment reveals itself in the images and sketches of human life that the writer has created on the page. Creative fulfilment is so enticing, so indulgent, that I find myself feeling satiated for a brief moment in time.

But, like any sense of fulfillment, this moment of Elysian happiness fades as the creative mind seeks new stories, images, and experiences to relate into fiction. A writer’s life is one that can never be totally fulfilled and this is the burden that all writers and artists must bear. For it is that sense of lack (that sense that the story could be told better, richer, fuller) that we return to the page to press our hearts and minds to it in the hope that the right words may capture the elusive dog that barks in our dreams. As Robert Frost once put it:

We dance around the ring and suppose,

But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

My poems featured in the latest issue of Typehouse Magazine have a lot to do with secrets. When I wrote Condition I was meditating on the secret lives that gay men live. The poem takes place in a gay bathhouse, a place designed exclusively for unattached, anonymous sex. Throughout the poem there’s a questioning to the exact conditions that bring gay men to these places where their secret sex lives may be performed. I wondered what was it about being gay and being trapped in a closet of patriarchy that forced gay men to “plant secrets in each other”, to open themselves up to strangers in a desperate effort to attain pleasure and a sense of escape. What were we trying to escape so desperately? When I wrote the serenity of a toilet cubicle I was contemplating the division between the private self and the public self and how incessantly the one demands to be the other.

It seems then that a writer’s vocation is to give breath and voice to secrets; to unearth them and allow metaphor or imagery to transcend them. Creative writing creates a sense that we may never capture the kernel of truth in the middle of our lives, but the pursuit of it is a never-ending dance that empties our lives but fills our dreams.


You can find Jarred on Facebook , Twitter. or his website.


I’m Not All That Romantic Anymore (But It’s OK)

Today’s guest post comes from Ryan Drawdy, whose story “12 Crocodiles” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.


I wrote the following line today, and I didn’t hate myself for it:

In today’s world, consumer-facing brands have to do something to differentiate themselves from the competition.”

I’ve come a long way. At 13, I was as romantic as I could conceive of being. I used the word “quandary” in every other poem and always tacked on “the vast vacuum of” before writing “space.” It was infinitely exasperating that the “real world” could be devoid of unicorns and somehow, people were not rioting about it. Strangest of all, I never once considered the most fiscally responsible manner in which to file one’s taxes.

I am not the same as I once was. Now, I am responsible for a family, for a child, for my own basic needs. Life may be romantic, but it often hides that part of itself in shame, as if it were in fear of being criminally liable for lacking a “realistic perspective.”

Still, this is all part of growing up, which even the artist cannot avoid altogether. He may suspend his gaze on the stars out the window while cooking his meal, but soon enough he will have to look down to ensure it is safe to eat.

If I told you I wouldn’t change a thing, though, I’d be airing a lie. If I could, I would wreck the vessel of modern life, shifting its insane priorities so you and I could spend the majority of our lives working on what we love instead of what we must.

However, I do not wish for no responsibilities—neither as a man nor an artist. I’ve felt the pleasing thrill of disciplining my hands to work when they wish to slump; I’ve known the pride of a story finished through grit and force of habit alone. More than this, I’ve learned that if I want to invite others into the world of my imagination, Romanticism is insufficient. If I don’t write smartly as well as passionately, no one will catch the vision.

Do you know what I didn’t have as a fervent 15-year-old (besides a driver’s license)? Any structure to my writing whatsoever. In dozens of poems and stories about the “profundity of celestial love,” I never did discover how to withhold enough detail to generate suspense, or how to place a goal in the heart of my protagonist and drag her through hell to obtain it—all for the delight of the reader.

At 27, I write about consumer-facing brands by day, so my wife can throw out expired milk without batting an eye. By night, I’m still peeking around in the craters of the moon, wondering how they manage to contain entire oceans.

A celestial quandary, indeed.


You can find Ryan on Facebook and Twitter.