Friday, April 11, 2014

[Staglevision] outside windows, my first book

Dear friends and readers,

It's been quite a while since I last wrote, and so much has happened. After traveling through Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan) last summer with my food-loving friend Catherine Ho, I started in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, supported by a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.

I saw my first semester at UMass through the lens of a camera. Taking photos was how I acclimated to this strange, new place, how I got to know my friends and housemates, how I hoped to capture a piece of this experience forever. The result is Outside Windows, a book of 24 photographs that documents my first semester in the program. More than anything I can say, I think this book will give you a sense of my life here: its quiet and enchanting moments, its surprising intimacies, its abounding awe.

The book is available in a handsome hardcover edition printed on Mohawk ProPhoto Lustre-Finish White photographic paper and bound with ProLine charcoal linens, protected by a laminated gloss dust jacket. I'm printing a first run of 50 limited edition, signed copies with a bindery in Agawam, MA. The ebook edition is an EPUB file viewable in iBooks on Mac or iOS devices.

I'd love your help spreading the word about Outside Windows. Here's how you can get involved:
  • Purchase a hardcover or ebook edition of the book from Square Market. Orders placed before April 21 will help to finance the first printing. With gratitude, I'll ship your book for free (and in some cases, hand deliver!).
  • Share your thoughts about the book on iTunes, Amazon, or Goodreads
  • Attend the Outside Windows Book Launch Party on April 25, 8-10 p.m. at Flying Object in Hadley, MA.
  • Visit Route Nine, the UMass Amherst MFA Program journal, to read interviews with writers featured in the photos.
Thanks for all your love and support. I hope these photos give you the same sense of wonder I felt while taking them.

Love,
Steven

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Waves

So much further to go to plumb the depths of emotion, of experience. I'm skating the surface of an ocean, describing the light that shimmers on the waves.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

[Staglevision] alumnus, pioneer

Dear friends and readers,

Last October, I flew up to Stanford to film an "It Gets Better" video for the LGBT alumni group, Stanford Pride. It was Reunion Weekend, and the group was hosting a reception to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Stanford's Gay People's Union (GPU). Founded in 1971, the GPU was one of the first LGBT campus organizations in America.

I spent the weekend interviewing twenty LGBT alumni. I interviewed Maud Nerman, founder of the GPU, who wrote articles about being a lesbian in the campus newspaper in the early 70s. I interviewed Zoe Dunning, who fought courageously against DADT. I interviewed Carly Smolak and Claire Lussier, who recently bought a house and got engaged.

Recorder of stories, listener, documentarian: this is the role I'm most comfortable in. It's rare to be given someone's confidence like this, and I felt a tremendous respect for these early pioneers. They made progress with their courage. Their Stanford was not the Stanford they left behind. Opinions shifted because of their efforts. They made things better.

Stanford Pride: It Gets Better
http://vimeo.com/steventagle/itgetsbetter

Browse all 5 Stanford Pride videos
http://vimeo.com/album/1839967

Now that this project is finished, I've returned to work on my novel. The first few days were tough. Every time I sat down to write, I felt like I was hitting my head against the rubber surface of it, my words flying back in my face. But now I feel like I'm chipping away at it, and at least some of the words I jot down stick to the page. I've been writing every day.

I'm enjoying life at home, spending time with my parents and teachers, and making my own schedule.
Here are some photos of my Room/Library/Workspace
https://plus.google.com/photos/101290050225516519994/albums/5695026967304290753?authkey=COaxrtn7zKL2wgE

Till soon,
Steven

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Monday, December 12, 2011

[Staglevision] thank you, LA

Dear friends and readers,

It's official. In two weeks, I'm leaving my job, leaving my apartment, leaving LA...to move home and finally finish my novel. Living in LA has nurtured me creatively and helped me develop my voice to a point where I feel confident that I can write the book I set out to write. I'm excited for what next year will bring as I finish this draft, begin the submission process, and apply to fiction MFA programs.

Thank you all for encouraging me to follow my dreams, for challenging me, and for helping me grow as a writer and a human being.

And for those of you in LA, how about one more round of Sprites and ammo this Saturday, December 17 at the Arsenal?
Drinks @ The Arsenal
Saturday, December 17 at 8:00pm
The Arsenal
12012 W. Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90064
https://www.facebook.com/events/131667866945971

Hope to see you there,
Steven

P.S. A friend's house recently caught on fire. Then something miraculous happened.
Here's the video: http://vimeo.com/steventagle/koran

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ladder 6 - A SpiritClips Original Film

For the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we've created this original motion comic film, Ladder 6, free to watch and share at spiritclips.com. The true story of a group of FDNY firefighters from Ladder 6 company, who miraculously survived the World Trade Center collapse because they stopped to help Josephine Harris, an elderly woman who was trapped on the staircase on September 11, 2001.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

[Staglevision] living in the tin house

Dear friends and readers,

It's been a week since I returned from the Tin House Summer Writer's Workshop, but sometimes I still catch myself wondering what afternoon lectures I'll be attending, what sugared treats await me on the dining hall dessert cart, what creative cuss words Dorothy Allison will scream out next.

Call it denial, but it feels more like a high that refuses to fade. That week in Portland, Oregon was a pure delight. Once my "ride friends" and I arrived at Reed College, it was easy to forget everything else. The green, wooded campus was a self-contained world. It was just us and the middle school math campers in their multicolored sarongs.

Our daily schedules were packed with events: morning lectures, two-hour workshops, afternoon panel discussions, agent and editor meetings (daunting at first, but surprise! they're human). Then, in the evening, we'd gather in Reed's outdoor amphitheater on the creek for cocktails and faculty readings (occasionally interrupted by intrepid joggers, and once, a saucer-eyed kid on X).

One night, a group of us explored downtown Portland. Another night, we held a guerrilla reading in our dorm's third-floor common room. At the end of the week, there was a dance party that lasted from 9pm until the airport shuttle picked us up at 4am...

My novel workshop with Jonathan Dee contained writers of diverse ages, backgrounds, and nationalities. I developed a reputation as a constant snacker, my messenger bag overflowing with napkin-wrapped baked goods. It was really productive to be in a group where everyone was working on a novel. We struggled with similar questions: Should you frame narratives set in the past? How much does a reader need to be 'grabbed' or 'hooked' on page one? What is the balance between lyricism and abstraction?

I workshopped 25 pages of my novel, beginning with the scene where Sy shapeshifts for the first time. The feedback I received was really encouraging and constructive; it not only resolved some of the stylistic doubts I had while writing those pages, but also explained why I'm having difficulty with the scene I'm currently writing. Ben's failure to react to Sy's initial transformation is, I think, what has made it so difficult to write the scene where they confront each other the next day. I've been writing backwards, trying to figure out exactly what Ben saw/heard/felt the night before.

I'm back in the real world now, fighting for time to write in a world that conspires to keep me from writing. At Jonathan's suggestion, I'm continuing my education by reading all the Paris Review interviews with famous writers from 1950 to the present. In one interview, Robert Stone said, "[Writing is] goddamn hard. Nobody really cares whether you do it or not. You have to make yourself do it." In that respect, Tin House was such a gift because everyone cared. Everyone understood how hard it was.

One important idea that our instructors reiterated throughout the week: good writing takes time. There are writers who have spent 10 to 20 years working on their novels. So take the time you need to get it right. Give yourself that permission, and don't beat yourself up about it. Don't rush the work. Agents and editors will still be interested one year, two years down the road.

I know I'll forget this later, so I wanted to say it here.

Till soon,
Steven

P.S. Here are some photos from the week!

https://picasaweb.google.com/steventagle/TinHouseWritersWorkshop?authuser=0&feat=directlink

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Friday, June 17, 2011

[Staglevision] simply teevs

Dear friends and readers,

There are many aspects of fashion that I detest: fashion as superficial culture (though I am superficial); fashion as a label parade (though I'm a certified brand whore); fashion without taste. I don't often spend money on new clothes. Unlike my sister, I prefer comfy over vogue and am content to wear socks and underwear until they unravel. Most weekends you'll find me in my coffee house grunge: gray t-shirt, glasses, hoodie, and jeans. I've been known--to Camille's horror--to still wear button-down shirts that I bought in the eighth grade.

What I do like about fashion is its craftsmanship. Fashion as history, fashion as art. Every few years the planets will realign, and an object will command my full, obsessive attention. To buy or not to buy? I'll hunt down the Platonic form of the object in question: memorizing model numbers and specs, befriending salespeople, clipping promo codes for the best possible deal. Family and friends will weigh in with exasperation as my decision making process spans weeks, months. They remember the infamous Kenneth Cole watch of 2005, the APC overcoat of 2008 (Jack!), and most recently, a pair of Persol eyeglasses and Aldo moccasins.

Persol Eyeglasses. PO2857V. 95 - 54 - 16 - 140. I imagine myself flashing this smart Persol frame (with Giuseppe Ratti's iconic, "warrior-inspired" metal arrows) at business meetings and nights at the opera. According to the Persol website, the black acetate is derived from pulverized cotton flowers, allowing the frame to maintain cotton's natural properties--allergy free and warm to the touch. Researching these glasses convinced me that I needed Trivex anti-reflective lenses rather than the standard polycarbonate. Trivex is lighter and has better optics; anti-reflective coating reduces computer glare. "They're an investment!" I told myself. "In my writing! And they really do make a difference.
Aldo Ballato Men's Moccasins. The Ballato's personality is in the details. With its hidden gray laces and metallic eyelets, it's summery yet subdued, a modern boating shoe. Its serious slate-gray canvas and leather exterior contrasts with its playful white and navy-blue checkered interior. Ballato means "danced, footed" in Italian, but when I first wore these shoes, they cut into my heels. That first week, I felt like the little mermaid, "stepping on piercing needles and sharp knives" whenever I set my foot down. My mom noticed immediately: "Why are you limping?" And Tyrrell, ever the bully, said, "Maybe they'll never fit." I endured the pain, washing bloody socks and hoping my foot would mold to the shoe. At last, Camille recommended a pair of heel liners that saved my life.

Perhaps that's the true power of fashion: every object signifies a story we wish to tell about ourselves. Fashion is how we choose to look, a reflection of our taste, not our genes. And sometimes that's worth the cost, worth the pain. To walk into a room reframed, to own something so sleek and well-designed it makes you reconsider yourself.

Till soon,
Steven

P.S. Next month I'm attending the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, a weeklong intensive of workshops, seminars, panels, and readings led by the editors of Tin House and their guests - prominent contemporary American writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I'll be workshopping the fourth chapter of my novel with Jonathan Dee, a Contributing Writer for New York Times Magazine and a former Senior Editor of the Paris Review. I can't wait!
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