Sunday, December 22, 2013

The memories of Christmas past.... The Saturday Evening blog Post, edition#12

It is three days to Christmas and time to think about Christmas's past (and greatly embellish them.) So, today, for your reading pleasure, here are some highlights (and lowlights) from the last forty years of Hogenkamp family Christmas celebrations.

The year without a Santa Claus (circa 1978): I was ten or so, and I had a hankering for a BB gun you wouldn't believe--unless you are a ten year-old boy. I can still remember the make and model, a Crosman Model 760. I made sure to show my mother the exact gun I wanted at our local sporting goods store, and recollect that she said, 'We'll see,' a sure sign I wasn't getting it. And sure enough, when Christmas morning dawned there was no Crossman 760 under the tree--on the positive side, I did get a pair of Levi's corduroy pants in a mauve color. In protest, I refused to put clothes on, and spent the next three days in my long underwear. (Ok, ok, but I was ten--or twelve maybe, who can remember?)

Christmas in Austria (1986): I was living in Salzburg, Austria and my father had the great idea to rent an alpine chalet in Sant Anton for the whole week. So, I took the train to Zurich, Switzerland as soon as school let out for the term, and my parents and I rented a car and drove north to Essen, Germany, where lived our friends, die familie Mock. We had a great couple of days celebrating Weihnacten and then returned to Austria to claim our chalet halfway up the mountain, and ready ourselves for the arrival of my brothers (both unmarried and untamed in those days). Fortunately, my sister and my BIL were on the same flight, as those two had consumed most of Swiss Air's yearly quota of champagne. Their arrival was co-incident with the biggest snowstorm to hit the Alps in twenty years, and the agenda for the week was set: skiing in fresh powder, big family meals three times per day, and Bier vom Fass by the kegsful. Our chalet came with an attendant, Franz, who saw to such things as making sure our ski boots were warm and dry in the morning, and that the pastry table never ran out of Apfelstuedel. It was the mother of all Christmas weeks: thanks again, Pops.

Multicultural Christmas Eve (1994): My wife and I were both resident physicians at the time, living in Syracuse, NY. We both had to be on call on Christmas (and yes, spending the entire day, the entire night, and half the next day in the hospital is not a great way to celebrate Christmas) so we decided to have a dinner party on Christmas Eve for all the other residents who were in town. It is a testament to how much it stinks to spend any holiday alone that all the invitees showed up--despite my reputation as a horrible cook. And we had a lovely time--testament to the fact that top shelf alcohol trumps bad food every time. And though we may not have celebrated Christmas in a traditional sense (half the attendees were not Christian) we celebrated friendship and the fact that we had all survived half of our residency. The night was such a success (again, Tanqueray) that we made a tradition of having guests on Christmas Eve that lasts till today.

I could go on, but I can hear your stomach gurgling from here. I wish you all Happy Holidays, and hope you are celebrating with family and friends. As always, thanks for reading. peter

Thursday, December 19, 2013

#december in #vermont, a pictorial essay on the Thursday afternoon #MINI post

Welcome, #MINI fans. Due to the success (remember, success is a relative term) of my #november in #vermont post last month, I have decided to dedicate the 3rd #MINI of every month to a pictorial essay featuring #vermont scenes I have captured on my iPhone, so those of you who don't live in the #greenmountainstate can get a sense of what it is like the whole year round. (And, yes, there are lots of cows.) Just a quick plug before we get started: if you haven't read #theintern, the serialized novel I am writing on #wattpad, I am posting the links below. If you have, note that segment 3 is published and also posted below:

The Intern; Chapter 1, The Boy in Room 12

The Intern, Chapter 1, segment 2

The Intern, Chapter 1, segment 3

The ubiquitous red barn

#burdock (also ubiquitous)


Penguins are native to Vermont

A fern in winter

blackberries gone by

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The best made plans.... Introducing serial fiction on The Saturday Evening Blog Post.

I had great blogging plans for today... I swear it. But then it started to snow.... and snow... and snow. I suspect you are guessing how weather disrupted my blogging plans--blogging being an indoor sport and all--but it did indeed. My son's flight from Boston was cancelled and I was dispatched to retrieve him, that's how. So, having accomplished my mission, and come back from a nice snowshoe in 18 inches of fresh powder, I am going to try something new. And that something new is serial fiction, but with a twist. Rather than finish the whole work and then publish it, one chapter at a time, I am posting each 3-4 page segment as I write it. The challenge presented is that the author (me) loses the significant power of revision. For example, when I wrote my first manuscript, I needed to re-write the first chapter three times to make it fit as the rest of the novel evolved. In my current predicament, I get one shot at it and one shot only. If I create a character I don't like, I am stuck with him/her. If I write something I later hate, I have to live with it.

All I needed was a basic premise and a basic character, and I was ready to go. To make it even easier for myself I combined the two prerequisites, creating a nameless medical intern to be both character and premise. I have so many visceral memories of my year as an intern, and I am banking that they create visceral scenes. So, without further ado and in tribute to all the kings of scut past, present and future, here is #TheIntern. (ok, so not quite yet: At the end of the segment, I am posting the link to the second segment on #WattPad, where the entire work will ultimately be published. Please click on the link, read segment 2, and follow me on #WattPad if you are interested in seeing more.) Thank you.

            When she was later asked about it—at the Morbidity and Mortality conference that followed every death—the intern answered that she wasn’t sure what had brought her to Room 12, other than a ‘vague uneasiness’ about the welfare of her patient.
            ‘Uneasy?’ the attending physician would inquire. ‘About a dying patient? What did you expect to go wrong?’
            ‘He was twelve,’ would be her response, ‘Twelve year old boys shouldn’t die.’
            But she was not privy to this future conversation as she descended the back stairway to the pediatrics floor and pushed open the creaky metal door that let out onto the dimly lit ward. Room 12 was at the end of the hall and to the right, at the far side of an alcove which few patients ever entered—and none left. She padded down the hall as quietly as she could in her plastic clogs, hoping not to wake the pyelo in Room 2 or the appy in 4. Passing Room 6 she was pleased to hear nothing other than the soft hiss of oxygen, indicating that the wheezer she had admitted yesterday was responding to the treatments she had ordered.
            The main ward stopped abruptly at this point—as if the builders had suddenly realized they had neither the space nor the funding to continue—and the alcove began, jutting out from the hallway like the afterthought it was. She paused at the corner, reaching into the recess where the nurses stowed the food cart, and tucked away a couple packages of graham crackers into the pocket of her long white coat. She had never cared for graham crackers, but Bobby loved them and there were few things—none actually—she wouldn’t do to see a smile on his pale, drawn face.
            The door to Room 12 was ajar, and she squeezed through, ignoring the signs that Disease Control had plastered all over the door. The room was dark save for the reading light she had fixed to the headboard of Bobby’s bed so he could read the latest edition of the X-men for the 100th time. To her lack of surprise Bobby was curled up in a ball underneath the light, clutching the beaten magazine in the only hand that cancer hadn’t stolen from him.
            “You shouldn’t be in here,” Bobby said without looking up. “Didn’t you see the signs?”
            “How did you know it was me?” she asked.
            “Nobody else ever comes in.”
            She didn’t doubt it: there was no family listed on his chart and the chief resident and attending physician seemed happy to let her run the case on her own. Several clever replies—No one else deserves you or Try being less sarcastic—flitted through her head but she just nodded and sat down in the hard plastic chair next to the bed.
            “Why don’t you try reading something else?”
            He rolled up the comic book and swatted the pocket of her lab coat, stuffed with medical manuals and small notebooks overflowing with her neat script. “I could say the same about you.”
            “I have my boards tomorrow morning,” she replied, rubbing the knot in her neck where the collar of the coat dug into her trapezius.
            “Why aren’t you studying then?”
            “I wanted a break.”
            “Where’s Toothy?” he asked, referring to her boyfriend who had rotated through Pediatrics last month.
            He was studying, of course, and detested any kind of interruption or distraction, especially on the night before such an important exam.
            “No clue,” she said.
            “He’s not good enough for you” Bobby said bluntly. It was one of the things she loved about him, his bluntness. As he had told her many times before, ‘When you don’t have long to live, there isn’t time not to get right to the point.’
            “I think you’re jealous,” she said, deflecting.
            “I’m jealous of people who buy green tomatoes,” he replied. “Stop changing the subject.”
            “You don’t even know him,” she replied, flinching at the realization that she had said the same thing to her mother.
            “Ha!” he croaked, barely able to muster the volume necessary to sound triumphant. “Whose place do you think you took?”
            “Ah, yes,” she said. “You two didn’t get on well?”
            “Pppppffffhhhhhhh,” he answered.
            “You better pipe down or I’ll go back to the library.”
            “See if I care,” he said, but dropped the comic book and reached out for her arm with his shriveled hand. Bobby weighed only 50 pounds soaking wet and stood only four-and-a-half feet high—when he had the strength to stand—living proof that mustard gas and rat poison should never be given to growing boys. 

Well, I hope you liked it and please click on the link for Segment 2. Also, if you have a suggestion you can make a comment (or just tell me that you would rather put a pen in your eye than read any more.) Thanks again, and segment 3 should be ready Tuesday.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

All I want for #Christmas2013 The Thursday Afternoon #MINI Post, Edition #10

Yup, you guessed it, I've finally resorted to tricks, gimmickry and #trending #hashtags. (What did you expect: good content?) For this Thursday's #MINI I am posting my Christmas list. And while this might seem somewhat self-serving (ummm, it seems very self-serving...) please read it before you come to any rash judgements. (What's that? Already too late?) Let me preface by saying, having just redone the kitchen, my stocking will be empty this year, so I have been thinking about gifts the world needs--like for #MylieCyrus to move to Siberia. Ok, so that was cheap, but you get the point--and #Mylie deserved it. In no particular order:

#1 An end to #RealityTV as we know it. If I want reality, I will just open up my eyes in the morning and go about my day. When I sit down and watch TV (and #RealityTV has given new meaning to the term, #BoobTube) I want some damn good writing. And I don't think I am alone, hence the popularity of #BreakingBad #DowntonAbbey #TheWire #GameofThrones #TheBigBangTheory and many others. Case in point, I was watching some inane show the other night and asked my daughter who this person was, named #thecommotion or something like that, she responded 'he's a #RealityTV star.' Let me see; no talent, no training, no (good) personal traits, no (good) looks, and you're a star? Yup, but only on #RealityTV, and that's why it needs to go.

#2 An end to the #BillyGoatCurse. Yup, that's right, I want the #ChicagoCubs to win the #WorldSeries. And if you don't, you have to question what kind of person you are--1908 for heaven's sake, give these people a break.

#3 A one-way ticket for A-Rod to Siberia, where he can pal around with #Mylie. (No explanation needed.)

#4 A ban on all 'indoor' venues for baseball and football teams. I was enjoying the #Eagles v #Lions last week in a blizzard at #TheLink when it hit me: How may times had I played football in the snow when I was a kid? Baseball and football are outdoor games--play them outdoors. The weather is supposed to be a factor. What next? Indoor golf courses so there won't be any wind?

#5 A full-out sacking of every member of Congress. Yup, you heard me, pink slips for every single congressman, congresswoman and senator, with no termination pay, and elections in the new year with the following rule: no person who has spent more than 5 days in Washington, D.C. will be allowed to run. (Also, no one can run if he/she has smoked crack in the past 10 years, unless he/she was drunk at the time, because 'then it's okay.')

Alright, alright, that's enough. I could rant forever, but the #MINI is the #MINI and I need another line for--yet another--#shamelesspromotion. I am writing a serialized novel called The Intern on #WattPad, and publishing it as I write it (to get out of the difficult editing part.) I would appreciate it if you would click on the link coming up, and give it a read. Thanks again. The Intern

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone, a guest blog on the Saturday Evening blog Post.

                                                                 Hold Your Breath

Good evening Post fans. We have--yet another--treat for you; a guest blog written by my brother-in-law, Tim Sayles. But, before you read the post, be aware of three things about Tim.
1) If charisma were worth money, he would be in a higher tax bracket that Bill Gates.
2) He is the best natural born actor I know, which is the reason I always find myself in trouble whenever he's around. (Go ahead and click on the link I have provided to see his award-winning short film)
3) He brings the thunder. (Don't ask--you are better off not knowing... plausible deniability and all that.) Ok, here's Tim.

First, I want to thank Peter for asking me to share on his forum.  Those that have been following his posts should know by now what I have known for years.  He is a modern day Renaissance Man.  His constant testing of his boundaries amaze and inspire me.
I recently acted in a movie for a film festival.  Our film was fortunate enough to win the Best Film Award.  Also, I was lucky enough to win Best Lead Male Actor.  A local Film Community had us out shortly after to honor our film.  They played it for other filmmakers, actors, directors, and producers to see.  Then they had us come up for a Q & A session.  I was so proud to be a part of this group.  We were all so excited going into this night that we had this opportunity.  Our chests were pumped up and maybe our heads a little big for the night.   I am a smell the roses kind of guy, so I was going to soak in every second of a night like this. 

Life has a way of throwing curveballs at you though.  I went there with one purpose, but I left with a far greater one.  This group tries to keep most meetings themed to what time of year we are in.  So, seeing as we were in October they played a few locally made short horror films.  One in particular held my attention the whole time.  The story line was very gripping, and the acting was superb.   The writer/actor/director came up for a Q& A session afterwards.  The first question was, “How did you come up with the storyline?”  His answer was that he had been in the worst place mentally of his life.  He had considered killing himself.  Instead of doing that he wrote.  The next quote set off a huge chain of events for me.  He said,” Often times our deepest and darkest hurts will turn into the most beautiful art if we let them.”  Let that sink in for a minute.  I had always thought that most people that write do so to escape their hurts and transgressions.  This guy is saying, stay there in the hurt and create.
A few days later I sat there lamenting a situation in my life.  Anger, fear, depression, sadness, and loss all a part of what was running through my head.  It was a bad place to be mentally.  Then that guy and his statement ran through my head.  I decided that rather than wallow in it, I would try to create.  I pulled out a pad of paper and just started writing.  I came up with a concept for a story pretty quickly.  I am not a writer so I was surprised how quickly it came.   I pitched the idea to the production company I had worked with on the film.  They jumped on board immediately and said write it.
I have never been to a writing workshop.  I have never studied how to write a movie.  I just have paid attention to what has moved my needle about a story and I ran with it.  I stepped out of my box and created.  I did not write a story to mirror the real life story of what bothered me.  Rather, I wrote a story to make the potential viewer come away feeling the frustration that I carry around with me.  A story that encapsulates the messiness that life oftentimes is.  There are not a lot of Hallmark endings. I created these characters that seem so real to me and yet I have never met them.
The production company allowed me to cast it out.  I pitched the ideas to a bunch of actors, and they all jumped on board quickly.  Not one of them said no.  They bought on.  There was a lot of fear for me to step out and share my idea with them.  What if they said no, or they just didn’t like my idea?  Rejection is an awful part of this business and I deplore it.  They didn’t however.  They all jumped at it.  It gave me more and more energy towards this project. 
The script is done.  The cast is set.  Production starts in a month.  There is a lesson for you to learn here.  Maybe a couple.  I hope you heard the words of that writer above.  It might turn out to be the best therapy for you….to turn pain into art.   It is tough to stay there mentally, but you probably are anyway, so use it.  Also, stop worrying about what seems impossible to do.  If you have a desire to write or create, then do so.  Pour your heart into it.  Listen to those with experience when they give you suggestions.  But, never let it derail you from what you want to do.  My film will be in nothing more than festivals.  It will never make me rich and famous.  But let me tell you this….never have I learned more about myself than when I was willing to step outside of my comfort zone and create. God Bless and good luck to all you wanna be writers out there!

Thanks again for your attention and support and thanks again Tim for a) contributing and b) being a great brother-in-law. If you have a few minutes, here's that link again to Tim's short film.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Publish or Perish: The Thursday Afternoon #MINI post, Edition #9

I have been getting a lot of questions lately about where I am in the publishing process right now (Ok, mostly from my mother, but still....) so I thought I would devote the #MINI to an update on my progress. Warning: I am feeling a strong desire for self-deprication, so if your stomach is a little queasy, you may want to skip to the end. (But please leave a comment anyway--good comments only, of course.)

> First things first, I do not have a book contract yet, but my ueber-agent, Liz Kracht, and I are working on it. Publishing is a slow business, and patience is not a virtue--it is a necessity. So I am practicing patience and humility (##gggrrrrr!) and Lord knows I need the practice.

>In the meantime, I am working on other projects and blogging. And I have to be honest; I started my blog because Liz 'suggested' that a blog might be a good way to build an audience, but I have found that I enjoy the process. Blogging--at least the way I do it--is quite a bit different than writing a novel, which tends to be anxiety provoking. If someone doesn't like my post (you know who you are) I just shrug my shoulders and move along. Contrast this to the gnashing of teeth and soul-searching that accompanies any kind of negativity towards my novel or short stories. I keep hoping that the thick skin that Peter Hogenkamp, Blogger has developed will rub off on Peter Hogenkamp, Author, but no luck thus far.

>As I just mentioned, I have been writing short stories and serial fiction. Most of the non-fiction short stories have been published in this blog, and you all have been kind enough to read them without too many complaints (and those were mostly from my family.) The serial fiction is something I have long wanted to do, and have just recently started. The idea goes back to the radio programs that were popular in the glory days of radio, such as The Shadow (The shadow knows....). I am not sure how other--more legitimate--approach this, but I write each approximately 800-word segment just prior to publishing it on WattPad and ReadWave. I am sure you could write the whole book and then publish it later, a segment at a time, but what fun would that be? If you haven't done so already, I would appreciate it if you would check out the first part of The Intern and let me know what you think. Also, as I mentioned above, I am trying to build an audience, so share the link if you made it through the 800-words without wishing you were illiterate or (gulp) follow me on WattPad. Thank you!

>I am approaching the known limits of the #MINI, and bad things happen if I go over. (What's Bad? Imagine all life as we know it ceasing to exist.) The first person to tell me what movie that comes from gets a signed copy of ABSOLUTION when it--finally--comes out, as well as a small box of Junior Mints. (The fun size.) By way of announcements, I am pleased to say that I will be collaborating with Peter Huntoon--in my mind, the preeminent Vermont artist--this coming January on a project to be posted on his blog, A Day in Vermont. Peter and I do have a lot of shared traits, we both are named Peter and we both love living in Vermont, but one does wonder why he agreed to work with me; I mean, he has talent. (And lots of it!) Thanks again for your support.