Friday, November 17, 2017

Dear Evan Hansen: A play review, on the Thursday Afternoon #MINI


The best way to judge any piece or art is by the story it tells, and by the way it tells it. To be truly great, a piece has to have both, a great story told brillaintly. I have never really thought about muscial theatre in the same way I thought about poetry, painting, music compostion or literature, but Dear Evan Hansen changed that for me, two minutes after the curtain went up.

From the opening number (Anybody Have a Map?) Tony-Award winning Rachel Ray Jones left little doubt that the story was going to be told well, but I still had some nagging suspicion about the story itself. Just another teen drama? 

I had heard a lot of buzz about Ben Platt prior to the show as my wife and I waited in the long line to get in, but I understood as soon as Waving through a Window stuck a knife straight into my gut. The Tony Award winner delivered a powerful yet controlled and emotional yet not overly indulgent performance that made me want to hit play again as soon as it was over (something I do with the soundtrack all the time.)



At it's best, a work of art is something that moves the spectator, connects them viscerally to what is going on in the artist's mind. In effect, the spectator transcends his or her spectatorship to become intimately involved in what's happening in the media. When you hear the anguish in Ben Platt's voice, you experience the tumult of a socially awkward teenager who has spent his whole life looking through the glass, wanting but not being able to go inside and join the fray. 

Credit the incedible job that Benj Pasek and Justin Paul did telling the story in a dozen well-written songs. Ben Platt's For Forever is a perfect example of the marriage of good story-telling combined with a great song that defines Broadway at it's best.


As far as the story is concerned, playwrights Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Steven Levenson were able to somehow take a tragic tale and create hope. I left the Magic Box Theatre stranglely optimistic about what the future holds for Evan Hansen. 

I could go on, but this is the #MINI and the rules are clear. Keep it short, Mister. 



Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.



Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why I Write: The Thursday Afternoon #MINI


The person sitting next to me was just the person you didn't want to be sitting next to on a five-hour flight; overly curious, just old enough not to care about what anyone thought about her, and slightly redolent of cat urine. She pointed an alabaster finger at my computer as the captain announced we had reached cruising altitude, meaning we only had four-and-a-half hours flying time left.

"Whatya doing?"

In truth, I was trying to finish up the edits on my latest manuscript, but I just shrugged, hoping she would go back to staring out the window, below which the green majesty of the Northern Forest crawled past.

"Looks like you're writing a book?"

I nodded.

"You some kind of author?"

Indeed I was, the unpublished kind, the kind of author I was going to remain if I didn't get these edits into my literary agent.

"Trying to be."

She pushed her pince-nez glasses back against her sharp, thin face and leaned against me to get a better view of my screen.

"This isn't erotica, is it?"

I assured her it wasn't.

"My friend Mabel reads erotica, but I don't touch it."

She reached over my lap and twisted the laptop toward her, squinting as if she had just sucked on a lemon. After a few minutes she straightened back up in her seat.

"It's not half bad, although I don't think Mabel would like it, not steamy enough for her."

I went back to my editing, conscious of her gazing over my shoulder at the computer. 

"Have I read anything of yours?"

I explained to her that I was still unpublished, after a solid decade of writing, editing and querying. Her thin purple lips curled into a snarl; or maybe she was smiling. It was hard to tell.

"Can I ask you something?"

A hundred responses tumbled through my head; I didn't utter any of them, nodding instead.

"Why are you bothering?"

It was the same question I used to get all the time, before people stopped asking me anything at all about my writing. My wife has asked me this question--many, many times--my friends have asked me, and my patients have grumbled it, sour-faced, usually after having had to see one of the other providers in my office. 

"You say you've been doing this for more than ten years, and you're still not published?"

I nodded; the angle of her lips steepened, giving her a look of sheer incredulity.

"Why don't you just give up and do something else?"

I'll give her one thing; she wasn't afraid to say what was on her mind. I had a strong suspicion she was going to recommend I take up Canasta, but she lapsed into silence instead, and fell asleep a moment later, her breath coming in soft snorts and chortles.

Letting out a sigh of relief, I opened my laptop and got back after it--or tried to get back after it, that is, as her words reverberated in my skull. Why don't you just give up and do something else?

In truth, I've tried to give up a handful of times, usually after a flurry of rejections or--even worse--no responses from the agents and/or publishers to whom I had sent material. One rejection is bad enough, but five in a few day's time? That's soul-sucking.

But I don't stay away too long. The truth is, I like to write. That's pretty much all there is to it. If you are wondering why I woke up at 4:30 am for an entire year to write my first manuscript, it's because I enjoyed doing it. I thought things had changed after I signed with a top-notch literary agent back in 2013, but they hadn't, I was just hoping they had. (I hoped that) Writing had become a profession for me, something I was doing because I had to or because I had been somehow ordained to. But this was merely a fanciful notion, one that was dispelled for me by the score or so editors who passed on my manuscript. 

One of the editors (who worked for a major, Big 5 publishing house) was enthusiastic enough about the book to pass it up the chain, but in the end it was still a no. There were other positive signs as well: the first being that the concept and pitch had garnered as much interest as it did, having been requested by more than two dozen mid and major houses; the second was the significant amount of optimistic feedback the manuscript had garnered along with the rejections--an unusual thing and a very good omen according to Liz, my agent. 

But in the end it was still a no, and I remained a guy who enjoys writing, not a published author. It was a distinction of which I was acutely aware for several months, and one that kept me from lifting the lid of my MacBook for a good long while.

When I finally got back on the horse to start working on an idea that had been flitting around in my head, it wasn't that I had thought of a story that just needed to be written, or created a character so real and so original it just had to be fleshed out on paper. Rather, I realized I missed the process of developing a story and creating characters by writing words down on paper. And so I got back on the horse and started writing what has now become my third novel, which I have tentatively named The Intern.

Soon, Liz will be shopping The Intern to editors and publishing houses, some of them being the same ones that rejected me four years ago. To be honest, I'm nervous about it. There's nothing quite like the feeling of having someone say they are not interested in something you have spent four years writing. 

Why do I continue? You know the answer. I enjoy the process of writing. The only piece of advice I have for people who are considering taking up writing is just that: By all means do write, but write because you enjoy the process of writing (and editing and re-writing etc.). Don't write because you think you need to, or because you have to tell a certain story, or because your style is so original or unique, or any other reason than you enjoy the process. 
Think of it this way: If you really, truly enjoy the process, you can never be unhappy with the outcome. Was I over-joyed that my last manuscript didn't clear the last hurdle prior to being published? No, I wasn't; but was I glad I spent countless hours creating it? You bet, and I would do it again. (In point of fact, I am doing it again.)

"Did you finish?"

My friend has awoken; she's staring at me with the same look, the one I can't tell if it's a smile or a sneer.

"Yup."

"Good, I'm getting tired of the same old authors."

Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.






Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Top 38 Twitter Hashtags for Readers and Authors (And how to use them.)


Twitter is a great medium for readers and authors... as long as you know how to use it. As you know, hashtags are a useful tool to direct your tweets to like-minded people, or to find information about a topic in which you are interested. If you are a reader looking for suggestions for your next book, there are a variety of #s to look for, and the same is true for authors looking to market their books to readers. Here are the most commonly used 38 such #s:

#book
#books
#bookriot
#BookWorm
#BookLover
#booksaremagic
#booknerd
#bookporn
#booktrailer
#bookblogger
#bookclub
#bookshelf
#bookstagram
#bookblog
#bookaholic
#bookaddict
#bookboost
#bookclubreviews
#bookhoarding
#read
#amreading
#reader
#readingrocks
#readers4life
#readmore
#mustread
#novel
#bibliophile
#reviews
#KindleUnlimited
#kindlescout
#BYNR
#TBR
#ebooks
#storytime
#thriller
#romance
#freereads


Now comes the hard part: How to use them. Here are the five things you need to know:

1) Never use more than 2 #s per Tweet. Nothing screams shameless promotion like 8 #s on a single tweet. Research has shown (and yes, they do research these things) that people skip over these tweets.

2) Include some content. There is nothing worse than a tweet that is all hashtags! (What, exactly, is the purpose?)

3) No one reads plain promotional propaganda. If you are trying to get your book out there, be creative about it. Write a blog about your main character's past; attach a third-party review; tell a story. Do anything but shamelessly hawk your book. If people like the way you write, they will find your book (include a link and attach a short bio underneath with a link.)

4) Everyone hates a Spammer!!!! Be judicious about your tweeting. You can really turn people off.

5) Write (and post) book reviews. If you liked a book, tell people about it. This remains the best way to get the word out.

Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)  





Tuesday, April 11, 2017

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, A Book Review


It isn't easy to follow up on a debut novel which won many of the biggest awards in literature (including the Pulitzer Prize), but Junot Diaz manages just fine thank you with This Is How You Lose Her, a collection of stories that reads like a collage of post-traumatic flashbacks. Fans of Diaz will be reassured that the master of electric prose hasn't lost a step; readers unfamiliar with him will be blown-outta-the-water by the turbocharged language that drips like poetry from the pages. True to form, Diaz doesn't hold back on any front; This Is How You Lose Her is honest well past the point of bluntness, real to the edge of surreal, and novel to the I've-never-seen-anything-like-this-before extreme. In short, This Is How You Lose Her is Diaz at his best, vulgar yet noble, streetwise and book-wise both at once:

"You, Yunior, have a girlfriend named Alma, who has a long tender horse neck and a big Dominican ass that seems to exist in a fourth dimension beyond jeans. An ass that could drag the moon out of orbit."

It is easy to get lost in Diaz' writing; he strings words together in such a way they seem to pop right off the page. But don't get the impression This Is How You Lose Her is all style and no substance. True to the title, This Is How You Lose Her is about longing and the weaknesses and vagaries of the human heart, but it's also clearly autobiographical, especially as far as the stories relating to Yunior--Diaz's doppleganger--are concerned. As with all Junot Diaz fiction, the immigrant experience is the matrix in which the story is constructed. No reader could finish this book without gaining insight into how it feels to be the outsider, the immigrant, the one who doesn't belong:

"White people pull up at traffic lights and scream at you with a hideous rage, like you nearly ran over their mothers. It's fucking scary. Before you can figure out what the fuck is going on they flip you the bird and peel out. It happens again and again. Security follows you in stores and every time you step on Harvard property you're asked for ID. Three times, drunk whitedudes try to pick fights with you in different parts of the city."

I will say that reading this collection made me long for the much-awaited next Diaz novel, in that there is no better way to showcase Diaz's immense talent than a full-length work of fiction. Diaz doesn't need the extra room to create characters that sizzle (he can do that in a paragraph) but a cohesive story in the setting of his prose and his memorable characters is really something to read--again and again.


Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)