The latest:

For the Love of Books

funny, documentary film, Nick Hornby

This documentary film is about Kathy Patrick, and the Pulpwood Queens Book Club. Featuring the work of musician Jeremy Vogt and photographer Natalie Brasington, you can watch the trailer here.  If you’d like to order the film, it’s $10 and you can write to me at <William.Torgerson@gmail.com>.

Love on the Big Screen

Eighties music and movies themed novelMeet Zuke, a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies such as Say Anything and Sixteen CandlesRead the first chapter of Love on the Big Screen as a (downloadable pdf). Listen to a sample from the audio book. Read a sample and purchase from Amazon or purchase a signed copy from me.

Horseshoe

Midwestern Gothic, after Flannery O'Connor, Updike, Empire Falls, Winamac, IndianaThis Midwestern Gothic novel explores themes related to sin, guilt, redemption, and belief in God.  Read a Horseshoe story “Sanctuary” as a (downloadable pdf) or listen to it here.  There are also sample pages where you can purchase from Amazon or a signed copy from me.

The Twilight Rate

Flushing Queens golf sports New York

I’ve got a story in this sports anthology. Six years ago when I first moved to Queens, I worked at the cash register in the pro shop of a golf course. The events of this story are fictionalized but certainly were inspired by some of the cultural tension I sensed working at the course. You can purchase the collection from me here or through the website of the Main Street Rag.

 

 

Smyth or Smith? Patti Smith’s JUST KIDS

William Torgerson Love on the Big Screen St. John's University

Patti Smith and her friend Robert Mapplethorpe

When I began reading Just Kids by Patti Smith, I sort of thought I was reading the work of Patty Smyth, former lead singer of Scandal, performer of “The Warrior,” and now wife to tennis star John McEnroe.  My excuses for such ignorance include that I’m straight out of the decade of the eighties, from the Midwest, and was likely under a Hoosier basketball spell during the time Smith came to prominence as an artist.  Saying that, you might wonder how it is that I ended up reading Just Kids. I do a Music and Movies book club and pressed by the community relations director for a selection for the month of March, I browsed the store looking for a text that might fit our theme.  The clincher for me were the jacket blurbs written by Joan Didion and Johnny Depp.  Not that Didtion’s “true rapture” or Depp’s “treasure” do much to tell you what the book is about, but in the work of those two there are several books and movies that I love.  I trusted Depp and Didion and so off I went to reading.

I became re-inspired as a writer in the pages of Just Kids. Smith begins her story with the meeting of her lifelong friend Robert Mapplethorpe and by sharing how they both wanted to be artists.  Between the first pages and the last, you see Smith transform from someone who hangs around art—she draws a little, writes poetry, begins to move toward singing—and who eventually strolls down 5th Avenue  and hears her song (that she co-wrote with Bruce Springsteen) on the radio.  Her buddy Robert tells her that she got famous first.

What I mean by inspiration is that as a writer I feel sparked to work even harder to tap into what I care about, to tap into what matters most.  Smith writes, “I wanted to be an artist but I wanted my work to matter” (153).  I feel determined to give myself over to whatever it is that I’m working on.  What else might I do?  What sometimes gets in the way?  I can think too much about what readers might want to read, about the craft of the lines, and about trying to do something especially smart or funny.  These are goals—sideline concerns—but not at the top of the list of what I’m after.  Faced with less than enthusiastic audiences (perhaps with less than soaring book sales) Smith’s friend tells her, “When you hit a wall, just kick it in”  (170).  Not bad to remember facing an audience full of people checking their cell phones.

William Torgerson Love on the Big Screen St. John's University Patti Smith

The National Book Award Winner: Just Kids

Life at my house often feels more Midwestern or Southern than it does Northeastern, but in reading Just Kids, I felt for the first time a bit more like a New Yorker, or at least more interested in what it might be to live in New York City.  Perhaps this is what Depp meant when he says Smith gives us an “invitation to unlatch a treasure chest never before breached.”  In Depps treasure chest (hey, does he mean Pirates of the Caribbean?) I found an interest in The Hotel Chelsea, Max’s Kansas City, The Factory, Fillmore East, Reno Sweeny’s, and Electric Lady Studios.   It used to be that I didn’t care to know about the Velvet Underground.  Now I do.

Adaptation of Love on the Big Screen selected for grand prize at Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival

Love on the Big Screen tells the story of a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies.  The novel is forthcoming from Cherokee McGhee Press in early 2011 and the script adaptation has been selected for the Grand Prize in the Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival Screenplay Competition.  Click the picture below to read more about the festival and the selection of Love on the Big Screen.
William Torgerson's Love on the Big Screen adaptation selected for Grand Prize at Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival

Love on the Big Screen adaptation selected for Grand Prize at Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival

A DRAFT (get it?) of my poem, “Love Is Like a Fart”

The Breakfast Club does their thing

Some of you have asked a fair enough question:  why am I working on a poem about gas?  Today, I was in touch with a man named Jerry Finley who promotes a great eighties cover band called “The Breakfast Club.” In fact, my wife Megan and I had our second ever date, on New Year’s Eve, listening to the band at Amos’s in Charlotte.  Jerry and I discussed the possibility of me opening up for the band on a couple of their concert dates in the spring.   It is a little intimidating to think about opening up for a band with a book in hand rather than a guitar.

I wrote another draft of this, long gone, back in college when my love life wasn’t as blissfully happy (thank you Megan) as it is now.

If you think any part of this structure is genius, credit Langston Hughes.  I have closely followed the structure of his “Dreams Deferred.”  That’s a poem I love and read with many middle school students back when I taught in Charlotte.  Thank you to that poet’s work who helped me tap into some laughs when I wasn’t feeling so spirited.

Love is Like a Fart

What happens to love passed?

Does it stink up

Like a port-o-let in the heat?

Or stain your shorts

With a big brown streak?

Does it ribbit-ribbit like a frog?

Or cloud the future—

Like a dangerous fog?

Maybe it just cuts

Like a big fat lie.

Or does it just die?

Literary Agent Queries

I’m writing you not as someone who has an agent, but as someone who worked as a reader for an agency, has queried a lot of agents and received requests for full manuscripts, and as someone who now has a forthcoming novel with an independent press.

What’s my background?  After I earned an MFA in creative writing from Georgia College and State University, I got a job teaching in the Institute For Writing Studies at St. John’s University.  The summer before I began my job, I contacted Folio Literary Management in Manhattan and inquired about being a reader for them.  This meant that I attended a weekly editorial meeting where I was given manuscripts to read and the next week I’d let the agent who ran the meeting know if I saw anything I thought they might be looking for.  After a summer of doing that, I developed my own strategy for sending queries.

I look for agents on the Publishers Marketplace website.  I limit my search to pages that have been updated in the past ten days.  To me, this means I’m only querying agents who have recently said they are accepting queries.  I read about the agent to see if they represent anything “like” I have written.  The agents receive many queries a day, and so I know I only have a couple of words, if that, to get them interested. I have the title of my book and my last name as the subject line.  I have a 2-3 sentence hook.  For example, for the novel I have forthcoming with Cherokee McGhee Press, I said that Love on the Big Screen is set in 1990 and tells the story of a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies.  Then I give a little bit about me:  my degrees, my current job, and my short list of publications.  After that, I copy the first two pages into the text of the email.  I don’t send attachments.  All this makes me think very hard about my title, the two-sentence pitch, and the first couple of pages. I think it’s good for me to think about those things a lot even before I first begin to write.

If there are any specific instructions, not too elaborate, I follow those.  In general, that just means that an agent might want a synopsis or a different length of sample.  Sometimes I hear back from agents the same day.  They want the full manuscript or they’re not interested.  Other times, sometimes six months later, I’d get a short note that the agent isn’t interested.

Keep in mind, this is only my perspective.  Agents get a lot of emails from writers wanting them to represent their work.  This means that you only have a few words, if that many, to get their attention.  You should try to find out a little bit about the agent