An Embarrassment of Glitches by Dean Gloster
This month we’re supposed to tell you about our embarrassing
early writing mistakes, and friends—that's a rough topic, because I’m still making
Yeah, I know—the plan was to give
us a soft lob about the long ago that we can talk about wryly now, with the
benefit of all this time and distance.
a pandemic. At this point, the misty distances of time were, like, Wednesday.
But that’s not how I roll. Thomas
Mann said of my kind, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult
than for other people.” Since I’ve never experienced easy writing, why start
now? And since I’ve never directly followed the monthly writing prompts before,
why change that now either?
Oh, I have plenty early
embarrassments. My first literary work, at about 6, was Go Turtle, Go,
an homage of P.D. Eastman’s Go Dog, Go. (Homage, as used in the
preceding sentence, is a French word meaning “blatant, direct ripoff” except by
a kid who can’t actually draw.)
On the theme of not being able to
draw, in the mid-80s, when I was a law clerk for a Supreme Court Justice, I
circulated cartoons to my fellow clerks (which I wrote about here) that I eventually
had to tone down, when a third of the Justices—including my boss—insisted on also
being on my distribution list. (The resulting pinnacle of my art career was
that I did the drawing for Sandra Day O’Connor’s annual Christmas card. Yes,
really. Which was hard, because I can’t draw. Seriously.)
And while I was a law clerk at the
Supreme Court, in the evening I’d stumble over to the Department of Agriculture
for night classes in Arabic, because my plan at the time was to go the next
year to Beirut, Lebanon, to write the Great American Expatriate Novel about the
American press corps in Beirut, which I blogged about here. That idea—to type
in a seashore hotel to the background noise of desultory rifle fire—was ended
before it even started by the base note punctuation of the bombing of the U.S.
Marines there and resulting flight of the American press corps entirely. Which
did save the world from one Earnest Yet Terrible Novel Set in Wartime, but left
me somewhat at loose ends.
So instead I went on to a three
decade-long legal career. The result was enough savings to finance my current
novel-writing gig nicely, but it’s put me a little behind on the whole
So I’m still making embarrassing
early writing mistakes.
The latest mistake is writing at a
glacial pace, while the world is on fire.
It’s a difficult business, writing
novels. It’s hard and uncertain, and mostly not very lucrative. And—unlike when
I was a lawyer—the days that I don’t feel especially productive don’t still come
with a paycheck to reassure me that, yup, I still count. It’s even worse now,
because I’m in the U.S.—we’re in a pandemic, in a terribly run country, sliding
into authoritarianism unless we change that in November.
Under the circumstances, writing a YA novel some days feels like licking the end of a pencil and scribbling a few words on a notebook in the middle of a house on fire.
The U.S., with just over 4% of the
world’s population, has over 22% of the world’s Covid-19 deaths. South Korea
started with many more cases per population than we did, but unlike us managed
the epidemic—their total death rate per population is now barely over one one-hundredth
And organizations like RepublicansUnited
are now raising funds for a 17-year-old serial murderer with white supremacist
social media posts who traveled from Illinois to Wisconsin to shoot three people
this week, killing two. Argh.
We need to be better than this, America.
It’s enough to create a constant state
of rage, but an endless cycle of rage is not a fertile ground for creativity.
So let me leave you with one good
word. I’ll try to keep moving on my novel, which is going embarrassingly slow. In the meantime, let’s all try
to do something in November to make sure we’re not embarrassed to be Americans
for the next four years: Vote.
Good luck to us all.
Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for
children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former
stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut
YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library
Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens
will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans
of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the
Dying Girl.” His current novel is about two funny brothers who have to team up
with their friend Claire to save the world. It has all the usual Dean Gloster
novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save
someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and a slightly
off-kilter sensibility. Also a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is
missing 57 percent of his soul.
When Dean is not
studying Aikido or downhill ski racing--and, let's face it, there's less of that right now--he’s on Twitter: @deangloster