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Ordinary Tales – An Introduction and Call for Submissions

Starting today, Ordinary Times is pleased to announce a new regular sub-blog category, Ordinary Tales.  Ordinary Tales will feature fiction, poetry, personal essays, original music, and visual art submissions.

As longtime readers know (but would be forgiven for having forgotten), we have always welcomed those creative and artistic submissions that stray from our usual realm of commentary. In fact, our most popular post ever was an amazingly deft piece of humorous fiction by Russell Saunders, Patient BW, DOB 2/16/1971.  As we continue to expand our overall content, however, we decided to make more formal our love for original art and writing.  Our first official Ordinary Tale will be a short story by our own Burt Likko, and will go up in the next few hours.

We will also be populating the Ordinary Tales with content previously published on The League of Ordinary Gentlemen and its sub-blogs.  However, because we had no category/sub-blog to capture these posts previously, we’re indentifying them on institutional memory alone.  If you have had a piece of fiction, personal essay, poetry, original music or visual art published in the past and do not see it in Ordinary Tales, know that the omission was not intentional.  Please shoot us a link and we’ll get it over to it’s new home.

And of course, you should consider this an open call to writers, poets, musicians and artists everywhere.  The League may not the most widely read site on the web, but it does have a good reputation with publishers.  The Atlantic, Daily Beast, Newsweek, the Washington Post, Forbes, Salon, Mother Jones and many other major players publish writers from Ordinary Times on a regular basis.  We may not bring you the most eyeballs, but I believe we’ll bring you the best.  As with any guest post, writers and artists who submit material will maintain ownership of their original material.  We won’t publish all submissions, of course, but we’re happy to take a look at any quality works you think deserve a bigger audience.

Thanks in advance for welcoming Ordinary Tales and its future writers and artists to OT.


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24 thoughts on “Ordinary Tales – An Introduction and Call for Submissions

  1. Looking forward to it. The only halfway poetic thing I’ve written lately is a coffee maker review at Amazon. Hamlet obviously suffered from caffeine psychosis.


    • Well, I’m a bit tipsy and bored, so I’ll talk a bit about writing such things.

      Out of unimaginable boredom on remote ob sites, I memorized about the first 30 minutes of Fagle’s translation of the Iliad (“Rage, Goddess sing the rage of Peleus’s son, Achilles, murderous, doomed —– Yes, I am like a wind-up toy).

      Years later I wrote a bunch of spoofs of Beatles’ songs in a span of a few weeks. Years after than I wrote a Battlestar Galactica spoof in Shakespearean English (still unfinished) that was already longer than Hamlet when I abandoned it because the show blew out my plot line.

      But during that exercise (basically cut and paste some random Shakespeare into your favorite word processor) and re-write the words to obey rhyme and meter (I still count them out on my knuckles) I learned to speak the language a bit. It’s not remotely a foreign language, it’s just an odd and beautiful way of speaking, not really difficult to execute.

      As you get better at it you pay more attention to vowels and consonants (sounds) as much as possible, even if you sit with a thesaurus in your lap and game the possibilities. If you get bested you just move on to another passage from Shakespeare, or another, and just keep on going.

      After about the first week, maybe less, I consulted a book by Edwin Abbott, who wrote “Flatland” in the 1880’s and a book on Shakespeare’s English, still considered the authoritative source. A few days with Abbott (which is free online with a simple Google), and a week or so of light and very interesting reading, and your brain will be brimming with period language rules. You just start sucking up more and more interesting caveats, history, bizarre facts about things like bisyllabic words, and other nonsense that can let you talk any Harvard graduate under a table and make them rue the day they chose English as a major.

      So one night many years ago, after a bad breakup, I was inspired to turn Shakespeare’s “to be or not be” soliloquy into a spoof about coffee, to amuse a Facebook friendl I started around 11:00 and stayed up till 6:00 AM or so to finish it, and the result is the jewel in the Amazon review I posted.

      A few months ago (the date on the review would tell you exactly) I ran across an article about funny Amazon reviews and thought “I have that funny coffee soliloquy. I should post it somewhere.” So I downed some beers on the patio and started hammering away. I think I have about five hours in the entire rest of the act, for maybe 12 hours total.

      Frankly (and obviously), large parts of the act pretty much suck. Stiff, wooden, a bit forced, or don’t quite fit or make sense, sentence by sentence. But it was filler to fluff out the soliloquy to make a review worth posting, so that at least a few people would read it. What most amazes me about the filler is that it actually sort of makes sense as a plot, and in fact probably as much as what Shakespeare went with.

      As an aside, that particular Hamlet soliloquy doesn’t make a lick of sense in the play. If no one returns from “blah blah blah” who the frack was the ghost Hamlet talking to in Act I, scene I? Scholars think he probably wrote the soliloquy years prior to the rest of the play, and just stuck it in, writing an act around it so it didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, because he was enamored of the speech. That’s exactly the same way I wrote my review. One good speech that needed an outlet, and then pack it years later with filler to make it presentable in a particular context.

      Another thing I will say is that such passages might take you three hours or three years, depending on if you’re on a roll or not. I look on it as a reservoir of writing, where you can draw deep or play short and trump anyone who wants to play that game. It’s a useful skill, if one that doesn’t see much use.

      And in closing, most everyone here can not only write Shakespeare, they can best him. It takes a few weeks of practice, but nobody ever practices.

      Take lots of Shakespeare passages, cutting and pasting them, playing games with rhyme and meter; It’s not only fun, it’s addictive. Pound out some crap. Rework it. Play with it. Save the gems. At some point you’ll see some crap at Amazon and be inspired to spend five or six hours to write an epic act even if parts of it are forced and wooden because you’re making up dialog about a coffee maker.

      Basically, what I’m saying is that almost everyone who writes here is probably intimidated by Shakespeare, but I think they mistake that for his eloquence rather than his insights into the human soul (he was almost certainly a conservative). Becoming as eloquent isn’t actually that hard. It takes a few weeks or months, and you’ll throw away a lot of attempts, but I’m confident that anyone here can write some breathtaking passages.

      And yes, I’m as tipsy at the end of this comment as I was at the beginning, but probably not as tipsy as I was when I wrote that entire Amazon review minus the soliloquy (maybe five hours total), which is really the only part worth reading. It’s perhaps a bit odd, but when you write something like his soliloquy are a good parody of it, you cannot not use it somewhere, even if the market is nothing but crap about coffee makers.

      Another thing that interests me is that all politics aside, as writers we can dance around greatness, come up with phrases that cut to the core and live for generations, and redefine how people think, and we can make it rhyme. At times you touch it, and most times you just flail. But it is fascinating and, with the right writers, often beautiful.


  2. If they’re considered “on brand” enough for the subblog, I’d love to see Jason’s Dialogues reprinted.

    In particular, I’m very fond of the one where the true (hindu) gods discuss the war on christmas.


      • You keep writin’ me poetry, I’m gonna start thankin’ you’re sweet on me. ;)

        (I hear “sweet on me in my Grandmother’s ol’ Georgia accent. She used to tell me all the time that girls were sweet on me. “That Jana down the street? I think she’s sweet on you, honey.”)


      • a mistaken assumption. Rhyme is the driving force of limerick, your name creates the options.

        George’s would be all fury disgorged from the forge.
        Tod’s would be odd.
        Art Deco’s would be a protection racket of Gekos.
        Michelle’s would be swell.
        Rufus’ a dufus (not).
        New Dealer’s the healer.
        Russel Saunders ponders.
        And zic’s sick.


  3. What a nice invitation!

    I have been working hard. (Just released a design, Tod know’s something of it, I do believe! Thanks, Niki.) Many more in the works. Some surprising commercial success in the market of knitting patterns. And if the you’re just dying to see what the fashion hubbub is all about, you might look here.

    This has meant not much time for the internet, and my pleasures there, except for the internet interactions with knitters venturing the design. (I have been reading, however.)

    When the flurry of activity that summer has turned into settles down. . .


  4. Hmmm…. I have been working on a story that seems to be turning into a novel. I could post the first chapter here. I’m just a bit apprehensive about becoming one of those poor suckers that ends up self-publishing a novel on the Internet because, well, money is better! Burt’s story is great. I wish I could have bought a magazine with that in it. Actually, that’s true of plenty of things published here. Ah, the eternal quandary of the net.


      • Nose to the grindstone.
        Unfortunately, not much gets done by ignoring it. Believe me, I’ve tried.
        Had to take a little time off for some Very Important Goofing Off, but it’s back to the grind these days.

        I think it’s pretty much a guarantee that someone’s been banned since I’ve been gone.
        Everything interesting always happens as soon as I turn my back for just a moment.

        Oddly enough, I hadn’t thought of that Ned’s tune until writing this comment.
        Any other tunes you care to get stuck in my head? I need a B-side to go with that . . .


  5. I wrote a short story a while back that was only shared among a few close friends. This might be a good opportunity to share with a wider audience.


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