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I’ve finished another draft of the memoir. Now, I’m working on a query letter to send out to agents.

Writing the memoir was hard enough, but imagine boiling a 94,000 word memoir down into 300 words. That sucks.

Any suggestions?

Previously on Boots to Blogs:

The last time we saw your hero he was stranded in the great, wide north of China with six boxes of Junior Mints, a pocket-gnome named Gnomy, five bottles of hand sanitizer, and a dozen paperback books. As our hero sidestepped loggies left and right, he marched off into Shenyang to teach youngsters how to write.

What you’ve missed:

Our hero survived his first semester as a full-time writing faculty. He was both pleasantly surprised and shocked by his students’ writing. He passed a lot of students, and failed seven, before catching the first train out of Shenyang for tropical southern Asia. He spent two months traveling around Vietnam, southern China, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, and returned to northern China refreshed and ready for another set of challenges.

What’s to come:

Stay tuned to find out if our hero finally finds a decent carton of milk at the local grocery store, if he doesn’t kill a handful of his students as they attempt to write arguments and find research for their writing, and news on his nearly complete (!) memoir.

Good morning everyone! I know, it’s 2 in the afternoon now, as I’m posting this, but I slept in today. I covered my windows in thick quilts to block out the morning light, and slept until 12:30 today. Tomorrow: I’m doing the same.

***

Diana pointed me to an essay in the Modern Love column at the New York Times web site. The essay is called May I have this dance? and is about a soldier dreaming about Natalie Portman while in Iraq. Whether you love Natalie Portman or not (I know there are some haters out there!) you should check out the essay. I like how the whole sweeping narrative comes together in the end. I envy the writer’s ability to pack so much (a bullet hole in his helmet, dead bodies floating in sewage, the whole atmosphere of being a target in Iraq) into his essay. Modern Love hosted a college writing contest and are now publishing the winner and four runners up. Look for a new essay every Saturday through Father’s Day.

***

Last night I sat on the back stairs drinking a beer and thinking, when I realized how quiet Mankato has become. It used to be incredibly noisy downtown, especially on a Friday evening. All the college kids would hop from house to house drinking and partying, and the house across the parking lot from us would constantly have parties. If they weren’t having parties, there would be at least half-a-dozen random yahoos loitering around their back porch, smoking, grilling, and playing beer pong. Now, nothing. Silence.

I thought I would like the silence, and I kind of do, but there is something eerie about it. Maybe it feels extra quiet because Jessica is gone and school is over and I have a week off. Or maybe, deep down inside my gut, I actually miss those crazy college yahoos across the parking lot.

Maybe.

***

Before Jessica left she hid 25 bite-sized Reese peanut butter cups around the apartment. I’ve done two searches thus far and here’s what I’ve found:

Thursday: blue coffee mug, Everglades shot glass, filing carrier, Easter basket, blue mixing bowl, cupcake tin, and among comp. books.

Friday: desk organizer, steaming pitcher, crock pot, coffee container, and ice cube tray.

On Thursday I just did a casual search around the apartment. I found the shot glass and filing carrier ones right away. I didn’t find the cupcake tin and mixing bowl ones until that evening when I was making cookies. I started to look in places I would hide peanut butter cups: in the teapot, at the bottom of my French press, behind the clock in the living room. What I’ve come to realize is that I wasn’t thinking like Jessica. I was thinking like Bronson, looking in all the places I would hide them, and getting disappointed when I didn’t find them. So I started to think like Jessica. That is how I found the one in the ice cube tray. I was working on cleaning out my closet when it suddenly struck me. Of course she’d hide one in the ice cube tray. That’s perfect!

12 down, 13 to go. Any ideas?

If you haven’t checked out the latest issue of the online literary nonfiction magazine Brevity do so. It features MSU’s very own Dick Terrill and North Dakota native Debra Marquart

It also features a piece by Judith Kitchen. No disrespect for Ms. Kitchen, but I am intrigued by her name. Kitchen. What kind of last name is kitchen? It makes me wonder if it’s her real name or a pen name. I wonder the origins, what her grandfather told her about their family name, or the story behind why she chose that particular name, that particular room. Either way, the name is memorable and catchy, and it’s got me thinking about names and naming things.

In junior high, I hated my first name. I didn’t know any other Bronsons and that name seemed so foreign and unusual. I was an unusual boy with an unusual name, but once, during a summer camp, I asked my friends to give me a new name, a nickname of sorts. One of my friends threw out the name Neon, which was one of Deon Sanders’ nicknames, and I snatched it up. After that, everyone at camp called me Neon. I turned my name tag around and printed my new name on the other side. I introduced myself as Neon to everyone. I dropped my real name in favor of one used by a former athlete. Looking back now, I feel so ashamed.

But that nickname changed who I was. Everyone at camp new my name. I got on stage and they chanted my name. I had a new group of friends, and we formed the most popular group at camp. We even had a tree, which we would sit under. At the end of camp, I took a piece of that tree – as a memory of that time, that place, and my new nickname.

When I returned to school that following fall, I went right back to being Bronson. I was again the misfit, the outcast, the geek who sat in corners and read Goosebumps books by himself. Without my nickname, I was nothing.

I’ve had other nicknames. In the military, some people called me Frenchy because my last name is French and I always had to tell people how to pronounce it. On a road trip from Fargo, North Dakota, all the way across the state to Medora, my friend Amy and I starting attaching nicknames to all our friends. The nicknames were based on cities we’d see during our trip – Amy Absaracka, Ashley Ayr, Bronson Bismarck.

The other day, when I mentioned the latest issue of Brevity to Jessica, and told her about Judith Kitchen (we both remember her because she’s edited three short nonfiction anthologies), Jessica dubbed me Bronson Bathroom. I called her Jessica Closet.

In a couple years, look for our novels at your local Barnes & Noble.