did the idea for The Paperwork Rebuttal
The initial idea came from
credit reports. Years ago, prior to the
housing bubble popping, I was working for a major mortgage company. I was required to analyze people’s credit to
determine if loans met company guidelines.
As I looked over credit reports I realized there was personality in
expenditures. How people spent their
money gave a hint of who they were and the drama in their lives – child
support, medical bills, student loans, etc.
I was fascinated by the contrast of an otherwise dull document
containing glimpses of intense emotions and stories – separation, cancer,
graduation. Unfortunately back then
little came to fruition as far as writing was concerned. It was an idea, nothing more, nothing
less. It wasn’t until I started working
for a small accounting firm in San Francisco while attending graduate school
that the idea finally blossomed. The
accounting firm was older, the average age was 70, and the president was a WWII
veteran. I used a typewriter on a
regular basis. In looking over tax
returns I noticed ‘DECEASED’ was written on more and more Form 1040s. The firm’s client base was passing away due
to old age. And when I was given a
return of a deceased client who had been with the firm for 30+ years, I sensed
a sadness amongst the accountants. These
clients were more than just a social security number and receipts. The archives felt like a tomb. In addition, in looking over a return, I
found people filed jointly one year, separately the next, a new dependent was
born, or an exciting business started and then failed years later. Hundreds and hundreds of stories were
processed by this small firm. Millions
when you consider the IRS as a whole. I
wrote ‘Anatomy of a Broken CPA’ to hopefully encapsulate one of these
stories. From there I sought other
On a side note, I’m happy to
say the accounting firm in San Francisco is still running strong, including the
WWII veteran and president of the company at 91 years young.
you call yourself an ‘experimental’ writer?
I’m afraid it depends on the
project, the characters, and the story.
As far as The Paperwork Rebuttal
is concerned there are several narratives/poems I would consider ‘experimental’. The words rely on a precise placement on the
form in order exemplify a specific emotion or necessary pause. Often boxed-in by sections, some words
purposely appear trapped and alone, which I believe deviates from a more
typical free-verse poem or short story.
However, ‘Anatomy of a Broken CPA,’ ‘Jury Duty Summons,’ even ‘S.E.C.
Love’ follow a fairly traditional story arch.
The physical shape of the story is unique, with necessary pauses and
breaks placed throughout the forms, however the overall content would make
are your influences?
I would like to think every
poem, play, and story I’ve read has left some kind of residue in my writing, in
addition to watching theater, listening to opera, and viewing art. However, Woolf, Joyce, Blake, Williams, and
Emerson have been writers I always return to.
would you describe your writing process?
This may sound a bit off, but
I try to remember new unwritten projects.
Prior to writing a single word, I convince myself the entire project is
already complete. I imagine seeing the
poem finalized, the actors on stage in full costume, or being able to see the
last page of a story. Of course each new
project is blurry at best, as if I read the words or saw the play years
ago. Regardless, the project is
finished, I only need to remember how it was written, what was said. I’m not sure where this technique came from,
but it instills confidence knowing my job as a writer is already done, I simply
need to recreate it from scratch. Beyond
that, I treat writing as a job. It’s no
different from working in the mortgage industry, accounting, or education.
any of the book based on your own experiences?
Some, but not all. ‘Army Sworn Statement’, for example, is about
sexual abuse in the military. I’ve never served in the military nor have I been
sexually abused, in which case I constantly asked the question, “What right do
I have to address this heavy issue?” The
result, I kept a great distance between myself as the writer and the subject
matter. I did this by keeping the exact
number of letters in my interpretation as found on the original form. Each letter, word, was simply replaced. In contrast, ‘Divorcee’ is incredibly
personal, in particular the last paragraph under ‘WARNING – IMPORTANT
INFORMATION.’ Overall, ‘Paperwork’ it’s
a mixture of personal experience and complete fiction.
there a story behind the cover art?
The cover is the work of the
talented artist and illustrator, Eric Piatkowski. I’ve had the fortune of knowing Eric for
nearly two decades. We met in middle
school, were on stage together in high school, we lived together in college,
and I had the pleasure of reciting a poem at his wedding. Needless to say when I approached him with
this opportunity I had the utmost trust in his work. While he was reading ‘Paperwork’ the image on
the cover repeatedly came to mind.
do you feel about non-profit publishing?
Non-profit publishing is an
opportunity to showcase raw expression and art that may otherwise be overlooked
by the larger more traditional for-profit publishers. It provides writers a wonderful platform to
share their work without any inkling of salesmanship or commercialization. In addition, the reader is comforted in
knowing the only demand placed on them is the written work itself. However, most importantly, non-profit
publishing (as well as small for-profit publishers who rarely, if ever, turn a
profit) exemplify the passion and devotion people have to pushing the written
word to new heights.
you working on anything new at the moment?
As far as writing is
concerned, I’m working on a collection of stories tentatively entitled ‘Detox
in Chini Town.’ They’re written in
first and third person depending on my comfort in addressing certain
issues. Each story stands on its own,
however there is an overlying arch.
Essentially it’s a collection of short stories as a novel. Alcoholism, China, and reincarnation are
recurring themes. Beyond that, I’m
currently developing and teaching the first creative writing classes offered at
a small college near Huadu, China. The
latter keeps me fairly busy, but it’s also fascinating and fulfilling.