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the fast and the frumious
four years of columns; four years of writing; four years of words
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)
12.10.03
writing

Well, it's official. This December marks the end of the first month of my fifth year with Intrepid Media. I know that seems like furry math (yes, furry), but it's true. My first column came out in November 1999. I'd post a link to it, but a) it wasn't all that good and b) I can't be doing everything for you, you know.

Anyway, it gives me pause to think - I've really been writing a monthly column for over 4 years? Every month, coming up with a topic, new jokes, a clever title, and, with luck, some sort of wisdom to impart. I'm like Calvin Trillin without all the groupies and bling-bling.

And I'd like to think that my love for words comes through in everything I write. Because I really do love the language, for all its faults (I always thought the past tense of "snow" should be "snew"). I love being able to mold a sentence to my will, to pick just the right nuanced word that will impart the exact meaning I'm trying to convey. I'm all articulate and stuff.

I know that my last two columns, at least, were sort of looks back on the past, both mine and, in a larger sense, yours: childhood, memories, hometowns, etc. So maybe I'm on that kick, too, but my love of words and writing has to stem from childhood, as well, I think. I was trying the other day to pinpoint that moment when I first fell in love with language.

There's a very good chance that it started with Lewis Carroll. When I was little my dad, while tucking me in, would recite the poem Jabberwocky to me. Now keep in mind that a number of the words in the poem are made up, often as a combination of two words - as Humpty Dumpty puts it: "Well, 'slithy' means 'lithe and slimy.' 'Lithe' is the same as 'active.' You see it's like a portmanteau -- there are two meanings packed up into one word." So my love for the language started with many words that aren't even in the language. (*See below for the full text of the poem.)

I think on some level, though, I've always wanted to be able to do that - to invent a word, to coin a phrase, to insert something into the popular vernacular that would outlast my lifetime. There's a "Simpsons" episode where Homer does a terrible job with the Christmas lights, and when he turns them on for the family, Bart's reaction is "It's craptacular." I now hear this word being used by the public on a general basis, possibly even by some people who don't know its genesis. That's the kind of mark I'd like to leave.

But I guess I've always felt that in order to play with the language, one must first know how to use it correctly. So I actually paid attention during 7th grade grammar lessons - not because I had some grand plan at the age of 13 to invent new words or even to become a writer - but because it seemed important to me to know these things. And these days I'm finding that you can't deliberately break a rule if you don't know that the rule exists.

I'm sure another push towards writing was my love for reading. I've always been a voracious reader. The thing about reading other people's work, though, is that my own reaction is often either "I wish I could write like that," or "I can write so much better than that." As George Fowler once said, "The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from." So you learn what works and what doesn't; you take inspiration from others and find your own voice. And by "you" I mean "me."

I won't chronicle my entire writing career for you; hell, it would bore me and it's my life. I like to think that I've evolved as a writer, especially here at Intrepid Media. I've taken some chances; I've tried different styles; I've written some columns that have been absolute crap; I've written some that I'm terribly proud of; I've fended off some interesting offers from exotic dancers.

Well, maybe not that last one. In fact, if there are any exotic dancers with interesting offers reading my column, I can be contacted through this site.

But I digress. As I read through my nearly 50 columns (this one is number 49, for those of you keeping score at home), I also can't help but notice a distinct trend in my writing from topic to topic to topic (to bad topic to no topic to topic again). When I first started writing for Intrepid Media, nearly all of my columns were about writing. I was in journalism school; it was a media site. As my life changed, so, too, did my focus. There were relationship columns, silly columns, birthday columns, nostalgic columns, columns made of jam, two columns named Sid, a column that was really more of a pedestal, and, well, this one.

In fact, a short list of my top 5, with annotation in reference to the following regarding:
5) "Damn, I'm good," where I wrote about why all women should worship me and want to sleep with me. Actually, there was more than one of these, but I didn't like "Yeah, Try to Stop Thinking About Me" or "That's How I Do" quite as much.
4) "Quit Your Bitchin'," when I interviewed prison inmates about what it was truly like to know the love of another man.
3) "Out of Body; Out of Tampons," where I died and reported what it felt like to be floating above my body, watching the paramedics pretend to work on me while in reality they were in the employ of my arch-enemy who had paid them off to allow me to die. That was a good one.
2) "It's a Roy, Roy, Roy, Roy World," where I just listed my favorite moments in television in which the name "Roy" was referenced.
1) "The Fast and the Frumious," where I wrote and edited the column at, like, four different times, so that I wound up with four different distinct voices throughout - one thoughtful, one nostalgic, one dry, and one a little nutty. It had as much cohesiveness as would adding a back porch and a castle onto a Ferris wheel. Probably the best thing I ever wrote.

Wow. I'm tearing up now. Can I please have a moment?

Thanks.

I can't help but wonder how much better my writing is going to get in the next 4 years. Unless I've hit a plateau; we'll see. But as long as people out there keep reading my stuff and as long as I'm not my only fan (I'll know I'm in trouble when my grandparents start saying things like, "We read your column. At least you kept it short"), then I'll keep writing.

Or, to quote another of my favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth, "All the great books of the past and all the ones yet to come are made with these words. With them there is no obstacle you cannot overcome. All you must learn to do is to use them well and in the right places." I can't think of a better goal.

*Jabberwocky

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


ABOUT ADAM KRAEMER

A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

more about adam kraemer

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COMMENTS

sandra thompson
12.10.03 @ 9:08a

Self-absorption is NOT a sin, and I don't care who knows it! "Know thyself" should still be the first priority of allus with ambitions for (or even pretensions to) writing. (I have a feeling I didn't get those prepositions right. As a member of the grammar mafia on selected message boards and email round robins I need to watch that.)

I, I, I, I: see what I mean?

adam kraemer
12.10.03 @ 11:27a

Actually, I think your prepositions were fine. Except it's "I, I, I, me, me, me."

Maybe next month I'll pick a topic that isn't me.

adam kraemer
12.10.03 @ 1:05p

Okay, fine. I'll start off a conversation - a) who else here has found themselves growing as a writer because of Intrepid Media. b) Is there a better poem out there than Jabberwocky? Not in my mind.

russ carr
12.10.03 @ 2:17p

You forget:

Oh Freddled Gruntbuggly
Thy nacturations are to me
as plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee
Groop! I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes
And hooptiously drangle with me, crinkly Bindlewirdles,
or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon
See if I don't!

As for growing as a writer...perhaps in the niche of writing columns for Intrepid, but that's all, if only because that's practically all I get to write these days. Perhaps I should try my hand at "Intrepid! The Musical" and see if I can grow in a new genre.

adam kraemer
12.10.03 @ 2:24p

What rhymes with "Procopio"?

sarah ficke
12.10.03 @ 10:04p

Stethescopio?

robert melos
12.11.03 @ 1:19a

Scorpio.

robert melos
12.11.03 @ 1:33a

I like the idea of Intrepid! The Musical. Of course I liked Xena! The Musical, and Buffy! The Musical. Hell, I liked Titanic! The Musical.

Now you've got me thinking. You're opening number should be called An Average Joe. It would be a kind of average man wanting to make a difference in the world and his creating Intrepid. I see it as a Vegas number with a guy surrounded by beautiful women carrying pink feathered boas.

Um, now on to Adam, who is the star of this column. 1: I love Jabberwocky. It is one of my favorites. 2: You keep me entertained each month. 3: IM has given me a place to gain more notice, and to get more feedback. I tend to enjoy wrting more slightly off the wall fiction, with a slight hint of reality creeping around in the background to annoy the reader. I also like way out parody. Yet aside from the very good advice of Sandra Thompson to "Know thyself!", for me the most important rule in life used to be, and will one day again be, "make people laugh." If you can make them laugh you distract them long enough to escape or at least get yourself in a more defendable position.

[edited]

adam kraemer
12.11.03 @ 10:01a

Well, that was, I think, the original problem with this column. The friends I had read the first draft all felt that it was weak and boring. So what's the fix? Dazzle 'em with humor. Plenty of jokes added, an entire section of fictional columns, replete with titles I wish I'd come up with for my real ones.

It's not that the column has no substance, but rather that to interest the reader (or my readers, generally, anyway), it's sometimes necessary to add the glitz so people will even bother getting to the actual point. Or so it seems. I have a cold; I might not know what I'm talking about right now.

robert melos
12.11.03 @ 10:33p

Cold, schmold! When all else fails, razzle dazzle 'em with words and hope they don't see through the glitz until you're far enough away to avoid the proverbial tomato throwing.

adam kraemer
12.12.03 @ 9:48a

Proverbial? Apparently you don't know my readers. For some strange reason, they carry produce.



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