Do I contradict myself? Very well, then …

17 May

The Liebster Award

In my About page I made the following statement:

2. As much as they are appreciated for the thought behind them, I don’t respond to nominations — unless, of course, it’s for an Oscar, Tony, Grammy or the Pulitzer. I don’t understand most of the online “awards.” Plus I’m a curmudgeon.

My writing friend Clara Bush —with a bunch of other names in between — has nominated me for the distinction of The Liebster Award. She sent me an email. Said,

Hi Skip,
I nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award. If you don’t know about it, you can check it out here: 
Sounds like a cool thing. Hope you think so. 
I’ve seen the award name about on WordPress. I responded to Clara’s email: Liebster? Is that Maine or Maryland liebster? 
I once ate a huge lobster at Flutie’s down in the canal area of New York City. I mean, HUGE! The animal must have been about a hundred years old or something. The black intestinal vein ran like a thick cord from fore to aft. I had quite a few glasses of wine to drink, and the trip was chauffeured in a limousine, so I don’t remember how it tasted. Wonderful, I’m sure.
So I’ve been on WordPress going on — what? — four years? And along the way there have been those people who have sent me announcements that they had nominated me for this or that award. Don’t get me wrong, I am always flattered at the notion that what I write and post is actually read by anyone, or that after reading my stuff, they like it enough to give me a badge.
But then Clara does it! I mean — CLARA! I don’t remember how we crossed paths … probably a WordPress thing … but she writes these creepy tales that combine my memories of growing up with aliens and Indians and the West. You couldn’t have a better mix. Unless you throw a court scene and Abraham Lincoln into the recipe. I took a screenwriting course at NYU one summer and the instructor said Lincoln and a court scene were paramount inclusions that guaranteed success.
What could I do? I couldn’t say, No, Clara — I won’t accept the award. Well, I probably could. But then Clara would never speak to me again, and when she becomes a recognized best-seller … see what I mean?
There have been a few times during my rather mundane existence that I’ve been surprised by recognition — other than my mugshot showing up in the local post office.
The first was when I was in my teens and was still young enough to be a Boy Scout. I loved Scouting! Nearly killed myself on several camping occasions, but boy did we ever have fun! One of theuwharriecanoing_edited-1
highlights of Scouting was summer camp. This particular summer, I literally stayed the entire summer at Camp Uwharrie, located just outside High Point, NC. I worked on earning my four aquatics merit badges: swimming, life saving, rowing and canoeing. Toward the end of my last scheduled week at camp at dinner in the Mess Hall, the camp director stood and announced a Scout had distinguished himself during his time in camp so much that he was being promoted to camp staff. And not only that — but to the Waterfront Staff!
And he called my name! Wow!
I was overwhelmed with surprise mixed with a little pride, I must say. That summer I was also tapped out into the Order of the Arrow, but that didn’t even approach the impact of being called up to camp staff!
The second surprise came when I was a junior at a Virginia boarding school. A prestigious and exclusive southern prep school, I never felt a part of the tradition. My mom and dad were immigrants to the south from Minnesota after the war. My dialect was influenced by my Midwestern parentage. Yankees, we were called. If my older sister hadn’t been such a looker, I never would have made it.
We juniors were required to attend the graduation of the seniors at the end of school. With a total student population of slightly more than 300, if we hadn’t attended, the event would have been almost a nonevent. During graduation foreplay, many awards and recognitions were handed out. Things like yearbook and newspaper honors and more. The master who headed up the history department stepped to the dais and announced the recipient of the History Award. It was me! Ironic, that. I had been kicked out of my history class for goofing with my pencil, which flew through lincolnassassination_edited-1the air and hit the instructor. Don’t ask me how I managed that. But also, I had for the first time really gotten into a term paper on the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. This was before the internet — when you actually had to go through the stacks of a library to research a topic.
I got sucked into that process, read everything our school library contained and then my home library and other near-home libraries as well. I loved the process. And I wrote. Typed, actually. On an old Royal manual typewriter. And I drew maps, and illustrations — the whole nine yards. When my name was called I was once again floored. But proud. Neither of my parents were at the ceremony because I wasn’t graduating. They gave me a hardbound book with a wonderful color dust jacket about American Indians. I wish I knew where that book was.
The most recent surprise — other than Clara’s — came a few months after I had performed in a local community theater production of the musical My Fair Lady. I auditioned for and landed the role of Alfred P. Doolittle, the garish and drunkenly father of Liza Doolittle, one of the musical’s main characters. Years before I landed the same role for another community theater in the western mountains of North Carolina, but refused it when my then wife was not cast as Liza. It was a heroic response on my part, I thought.  This time my then-wife was a bit too old to get the role, although she auditioned for it, and accepted a part in the chorus.
My Fair Lady was one of my parents’ favorite musicals. They saw it in New York with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, and bought the cast album, as well as movie album. One of Dad’s favorite tunes was Get Me to the Church On Time, sung by Alfred. Sad to say, my dad had died before I played the role.
Dressing room chatter — as with all community theaters (I recommend the mocumentary Waiting for Guffman, by the way) — included gossip about the North Carolina Community Theatre AlfredPDoolittle_insetRegional Awards. One veteran board-stomper who assessed himself far more highly than others did, said no one from our particular theater would ever win anything. We might be nominated, but because of the politics and high competition in our particular region, he basically advised us “don’t hold your breath.”
The wonderful thing about live theater is you never know how things will be from one night to the next. And with several weekend performances, we had more than our share of not knowing. People drop lines — stare vacuously towards the audience hoping someone will cue them. So happened to me on more than one occasion. On one particular night, I forgot a line, and substituted some political remark instead which fit just as well. The audience howled. And it happened on the night the regional theater reviewer was in the house.
A few weeks after our run, the actor who played Henry Higgins emailed me a congratulatory message. I had been nominated for a Cameo Role recognition. I was one of I think eight nominees. So I checked a few months later, and to my surprise, I had won the category! Kind of a blah way of discovering it, I admit, but I was too cheap to buy tickets and rent a tux and make the drive down to Charlotte and sit and eat with dozens of people I didn’t know.
In his book Surprised by Joy! C.S. Lewis talks about those rare instances in life when something so serendipitous, so unexpected and so wonderful happens that we are elevated well above our common state of emotion. The specialness of these particular intrusions on otherwise common lives, sort of makes the living worth it.
So, Clara Bush, I accept your nomination. I am humbled and grateful you thought well enough of my work to include me in your list of nominees.
On to the administrative duties of being a Liebster Award nominee:

The rules for the award …

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

Check … did that.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

Here it is: LiebsterRed

3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

So Clara asked that I answer the following questions:

1. In the world of literary fiction, who is your hero? Hero=he or she.

Okay, I’m not sure if you mean character or author? If it’s character, then Tess of D’Ubervilles. A strong and compelling character. If author — gosh. Kurt Vonnegut ranks right up there, as does Roald Dahl.

2. The song you listen to in order to get motivated to write? Song= one only, please.

I typically do not listen to music for motivation. Normally I itch to sit down at my keyboard because all these crazy ideas and thoughts and scenarios and conversations have been playing in my mind, and if they don’t get out I’M GOING TO GO MAD!!! Maybe Adagio for Strings.

3. What quote keeps you set on go to complete your goals?

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
— A. Lincoln.

Yeah. Good question. I tend to hop from one lily pad to the other. So focusing on and completing one project at a time is not my tendency. It’s like how I cook. I’ve got something on this burner, and something on that burner, and something mixed in a bowl and the oven warming and something thawing.

4. What animal is your spirit guide?

Hadn’t thought about that. Spirit guide. If you mean my muse, I would have to say it is the Past. While some of my inspirations come from current events, much or most derives from memories of people, places and events. Even a smell can trigger a story. In my newest project, The Typewriter, the physical spiritual guide is a Royal KMM typewriter built sometime in the late 1940s.

5. If you were in a Fahrenheit 451 scenario, which one book would you hide to keep it from being thrown into the fire? Other than the Bible.

You assume a lot with the Bible comment. Well, Fahrenheit 451 might be on the list. Bradbury is definitely a favorite author. And it would make perfect ironic sense.

6. What preparations have you made for the Zombie Apocalypse? List at least 2. And don’t lie. You know you’ve made some.

Not really. And I’m not lying.

7. If you could choose, would you be a vampire, werewolf, or zombie? Why, briefly?

Werewolf. Cause vampires can’t kill you, and I’ve never seen a werewolf with a bad case of fleas. Now if I could be the werewolf in Bouchard’s short story, The Compleat Werewolf, so much the better.

8. What is your pick for the greatest science fiction movie ever?

Not a fair question. The 1956 version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is right up there. Anything filmed in black and white pre 1960 was far more innovative and scary that what gets to the screen these days. In my opinion.

9. What scares you? I mean really creeps you out in the creepy way like look under the bed or in the closet way— not like car wrecks, or serial killers, or death of loved ones, but like aliens or alien abduction, or ghosts, or dinosaurs, or…

More than fantasy, the reality of things like microorganisms that reside in our bodies, or the thought that my next-door-neighbor might be making pipe bombs with the intent of visiting the schools my children attend. Or a government that seems okay to back down to foreign intimidation.

10. Your first kiss, would you give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

Down, definitely. It was just a brushing of the outer lip skins. And she was like a zombie.

11. If you could time travel, would you? Where to? Past? Future? Would you go back and repeat and/or improve your first kiss?

The past intrigues me more than the future. I’d like to be able to sit down with some of the great names of the past — Twain and Jonathan Swift and Poe and Thomas Hardy. Eleanor Roosevelt. Some of my ancestors.

The kiss thing? Naw. That was then.

4. Nominate other bloggers that you feel deserve the award.

Jots From a Small Apartment. A lovely blog that combines two forms of art: watercolor (typically) and prose.

Ray Ferrer’s Urban Wall Art. Ray illustrated my first self-published collection of short-stories, Through the Glass Darkly. His work was ideal for my purposes.

Sheila Sea’s poetry blog. Concise, sensual and intriguing are the words that consistently come to my mind when I read this poet’s work.

The Outlier Babe’s The Last Half. An oliophonic compendium of various stuff, anyone with enough sense to recognize herself and her life as fitting that of an outlier — and even using the word if you haven’t read Cold Mountain — is an opportunity for something special. Go dip a toe.

5. Create a new list of questions for the bloggers to answer.

Revenge is best served cold …

1. When did you come to realize you are an artist?

2. What did you overcome in order to reach that conclusion?

3. Would you prefer to be famous or infamous … and why?

4. What will your legacy be?

5. What would you like for your epitaph?

6. What are your currently working on?

7. Dinner with any two people, alive or dead, and why?

8. Name and describe one surprise event in your life.

9. If there were do-overs, which one would you?

10. Is literature improving or not? Why do you think so?

11. What is the difference between a stove?

6. List these rules in your post.


7. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it.(They may have never heard of it.)

 Alllllllllll-righty, then! Doing so now.

2 Responses to “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then …”

  1. Clara Bush May 21, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    How fun, Skip! Love it. Just now reading your post in full detail—I’ve been away from my computer since Sunday—wilderness camping! Much fun but no WiFi. (The reason for my misinterpretation earlier. I could never retrieve your entire post.)

    I loved the backstory, all about your scouting and acting awards. That was such a great way to introduce the post on your Liebster nomination. See, I knew what I was doing when I nominated you.

    The Abe Lincoln quote is perfect and I would choose to be a werewolf as well. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five rates high in my all time favorite book category right beside Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable. I wished my first kiss would have been just a brushing of lips! Invasion of the Body Snatchers a definite classic and yes, we must save Bradbury’s Fahrenheit. It was fun getting a more in-depth look at the talented writer, Skip Marsden!

    Thank you for the shout-out about my novellas, for accepting the nomination, and for doing all the work. Keep blogging, because it’s awesome.


  2. Outlier Babe May 25, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    Thank you again for your kindness, sir. Though your questions are wicked-hard. I’ll have to think about this…

    Twain and Vonnegut and Bradbury–All favs of mine, too.


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