I got so many good questions that I can’t focus on anything but answering them.
ro of FarOVale asks: “Do you read blogs written in other languages?”
I would love to read blogs in other languages. The problem is that, outside of some broken French and a few lines of Latin, I don’t speak anything but English. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life studying and trying to master my mother tongue, which didn’t leave me much mental space for the beauty and lilting grace of the myriad other languages out there. I know that I could use something like Google Translate, but then I’d lose all the nuance of the writing, which is just sad.
Melody of Melody and Words asks: “How do you use non-writing activities (such as photography) to jump-start the creative process?”
I think there are two ways, psychologically, to stir your brain into creative motion: sensory deprivation and sensory overload. It’s the difference between seeing the future in a crystal ball or seeing it in the colorful ornate drawings of Tarot cards. My brain likes overload; the more colors and textures and mental speed bumps for me to crawl over, the more stuff I have to hold onto and build from. I think that’s why I love Lego so much.
Using something like photography to jump-start the process is easy, because you’re forced to spend more time with whatever you’re taking pictures of, and as a result, building a mental relationship with that object. I’ll often get an idea for a beer short story just based on how I position a beer for a picture, or how the colors contrast between glass and background. I also then have this vivid reminder of all those ideas in the form of a picture, which almost always helps fuel the creative process down the line.
Josh of ShortOnBeer asks: “When was the first time you were proud of your writing?”
No one has ever asked me this before. I’m not sure I can find the GPS coordinates in my brain for that exact moment where I was first proud of my grammatical creations, but it was probably sometime around December 2011, when I got accepted into the Masters of Writing program at Johns Hopkins. I suddenly felt like real writers thought my writing was good enough to be compared to theirs. I’m proud of my words whenever someone says they’ve helped them or taught them something. That, to me, is the whole reason I type, to understand or help others understand.
Melanie of melanielynngriffin asks: “What is the best argument, in your mind, for each side of the question about bombing Syria in response to chemical weapons use?”
As a general rule, I remain as politically neutral as possible. I don’t like the conflict that comes with choosing a side, especially when neither side really reflects how I feel. That said, I see no best arguments for either side of this situation. It sucks, and will continue to suck, for pretty much everyone involved. While I appreciate the US trying to help out those countries who seem to desperately need it, I think the “chemical weapon” line is arbitrary, and if we really meant to help in a humanitarian way, we’d have intervened a long time ago when people were being beaten and shot to death. I’d be more inclined to support helping out the oppressed citizenry of another nation if our own country was a bliss-filled utopia, but obviously, we’ve got some serious problems of our own without sailing ships into the Mediterranean. If my vote mattered (which I’m more and more convinced it doesn’t) I’d suggest we stay home and put the money and energy towards fixing our own issues.
I’m going to lump two similar questions together here. Ryan of mouldsbeerblog, and Ginny ask: “Who is your favorite author/writer? -and- What is your favourite book/author’s work that you’ve ever read?”
This is like asking me to pick my favorite beer. There are so many options available, so many styles, so many writers who’ve written heartrendingly gorgeous prose, that it becomes nearly impossible to narrow it down to just one. So instead of picking a favorite, I’ll list some of those authors that have influenced me the most (in no particular order): Issac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, HP Lovecraft, Edgar Alan Poe, John Donne, Alexander Pope, Alice McDermott, Michael Pollan, Jennifer Egan, and, as much as I hate to admit it, Shakespeare. As far as the single piece that influenced me the most, I’ll have to go with “Walden” by Thoreau.
TheMadHopper of The Mad Hopper’s Blog asks: “When writing about beer and beer culture do you have a certain format you follow?”
Not really, but I may be a terrible person to ask, since I rarely follow any kind of format for anything. I think the most important thing, in general, is to do in-depth research on your topic (beyond a few Google searches, I mean) and make sure you’re respectful of the writers and people who came before you. Know what you’re talking about, and give credit where credit is due. Also, have fun. You’re writing about beer after all. As Scott at beerbecue said recently, “One can only read so many serious dissertations on beer.”
Penney of My Journey to Live an Authentic Life asks (slightly paraphrased): “How do you write about someone who has created conflict and drama (like a divorce or a bad breakup), without sounding whiny, when the experience made you become a better person?”
There is a fine line between bitter resentment and teary-eyed sentimentality, and it’s the writer’s job to walk it, carefully. I think it’s hard to approach something so raw and close to you directly. I almost always try to find some other vehicle to get into the story; something tangentially related or coming from a different perspective. By not having to just flat out tell the story and details of what happened, you can get the best ideas and insights into the piece without any of the personal baggage. The essay I wrote about my father’s passing is a good example of this “redirection.” I know I couldn’t have written that just about him and his death, so I used the star and his energy as the vehicle for something that would otherwise be far too emotional for me.
One half of Tammy and CJ of The Great Jollyhoombah asks: “What are the greatest craft beer US cities you’ve been to or know of?”
I’ve really just started my Homeric journey into the travel side of craft beer, but I’ve certainly been to enough cities to answer this question. I’m going to go with Boulder, Colorado (or really, just anywhere in Colorado) because of Boulevard Brewing, Great Divide Brewing, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, and Avery Brewing. I mean, that’s an incredible line up, and you can’t go wrong when choosing from any of these guys. Colorado is a veritable Mecca for craft beer people, so make sure you all face towards the Rockies when lifting your next pint.
Phillip McCollum asks: “If fear had a flavor, what would it taste like?”
Have you ever put a 9-volt battery on your tongue? Ever tasted that mix of metal and acid and energy that can only come from completing a circuit, using your body as the ground? Fear tastes like that.
theclocktowersunset asks: “If you ruled the world, what would you change and how would that playout?”
I would refuse to let anyone take life too seriously. It would be punishable by tickles. I’d like to think that a bit of enforced, widespread levity would make the planet much easier to live with, and on.
JHMae of byjhmae asks: “Who is your favorite Game of Thrones character?”
Beric Dondarrion closely followed by Sandor Clegane.
Thanks to everyone who asked a question. I hope I answered them to your satisfaction 🙂