Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Foggy Notion

I would not be exaggerating by saying Lou Reed, in all his incarnations, was the soundtrack to my college years. Mostly, we listened to this album (or tape) over and over and over again. I can't remember who owned it - maybe Diane, my roommate, or RW, down the hall, but the thing just played day and night.

KCRW DJ Henry Rollins said it best over the weekend while paying tribute to Reed - he said we tend to personalize legends like Lou Reed because the act of listening to music is so intimate and comes with so many memories, therefore we entwine our memories with the musician, who also becomes "ours". When we lose that person, the loss becomes personal. I couldn't agree more.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rest Les

I was saddened to hear of the death of my wonderful writing teacher, Les Plesko. I met Les in 2003 and took a series of classes with him at UCLA extension, workshopping my first novel, "Swimming Upstream, Slowly." 

We were asked to bring only one page weekly to read aloud and get workshopped, and I was extremely put off by this technique... at first. I soon realized that perfecting that one page was an exercise of epic proportions. It forced the writer to tell the story, create the scene, in as succinct a way as possible.

Les threw little chocolate candies at us over the break, introduced us to literature we may not have heard of otherwise, and helped us all craft our novels with his generous and prescient feedback. It was also through his classes that I made some lifelong friends in David, Mary and Irene.

A beautiful memorial was held at Beyond Baroque last week, where countless writers eulogized our teacher, mentor and friend. In fact, I "borrowed" this blog title from his ex-student Jamie Schaffner, who ended her remembrance with a poignant, "Rest, rest, rest Les".

Here is what I contributed to his memorial book: 

Les Plesko was integral to my growth as a writer. After taking 3 classes with him, I completed my first novel and found a publisher soon after. Les focussed on the page, the paragraph, the sentence, the word. I have yet to meet a better editor. After one of his readings, I went to get my book signed. He asked me, "How do you spell your name again?" I said, "Hey, that's code for you don't remember my name!" and we both had a good laugh. "I'm so sorry," he said. "There are so many people here I'm just drawing blanks on everyone!"  Les was authentic, generous and supportive, and I will miss him.

Les will live on through his novels which can be found here

Janet Fitch, his friend, has also started a website to memorialize him, which can be found here.