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Monday, October 26, 2015

Pieces Like Pottery by Dan Buri - Interview and Excerpt

Stories of Loss and Redemption

About the Book
The first collection of short fiction from Dan Buri, Pieces Like Pottery is an exploration of heartbreak and redemption that announces the arrival of a new American author. In this distinct selection of stories marked by struggle and compassion, Pieces Like Pottery is a powerful examination of the sorrows of life, the strength of character, the steadfast of courage, and the resiliency of love requisite to find redemption.

Filled with graceful insight into the human condition, each linked story presents a tale of loss and love. In Expect Dragons, James Hinri learns that his old high school teacher is dying. Wanting to tell Mr. Smith one last time how much his teaching impacted him, James drives across the country revisiting past encounters with his father's rejection and the pain of his youth. Disillusioned and losing hope, little did James know that Mr. Smith had one final lesson for him.

In The Gravesite, Lisa and Mike's marriage hangs in the balance after the disappearance of their only son while backpacking in Thailand. Mike thinks the authorities are right—that Chris fell to his death in a hiking accident—but Lisa has her doubts. Her son was too strong to die this young, and no one can explain to her why new posts continue to appear on her son's blog.
Twenty-Two looks in on the lives of a dock worker suffering from the guilt of a life not lived and a bartender making the best of each day, even though he can see clearly how his life should have been different. The two find their worlds collide when a past tragedy shockingly connects them.

A collection of nine stories, each exquisitely written and charged with merciful insight into the trials of life, Pieces Like Pottery reminds us of the sorrows we all encounter in life and the kindness we receive, oftentimes from the unlikeliest of places.
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From the short story "Expect Dragons"

Between the two notebooks was a sheet of paper. At the top it read: “40 Tips for College and Life.” On the last week of high school, Mr. Smith handed out his college advice, the same college advice I was now holding. I sat and read through each of them.

            40 Tips for College and Life

1.     Life's too short to not seize the opportunities with which we are presented. Always take the chance to do what you love when it comes along.

2.     Question authority. 
3.     Question those who question authority.
4.     Don’t be afraid to see dinosaurs even when everyone else around you doesn’t.
5.     Be kind. Kindness can change things far beyond your wildest dreams. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it's kindness that makes the heart grow softer.
6.     Walk barefoot through grass.
7.     Be quick to show compassion and empathy.
8.     Don’t dress like a bum all day long.
9.     Have a routine, but avoid being routine.
10.  Smile.
11.  We are all intelligent, thoughtful individuals. Don't let others tell you something has to be that way. It doesn't. The world is far too complex for it to have to be that way.
12.  Be conscious of the present. Time is your most valuable asset.
13.  It’s easy to doubt. Don’t be easy. Hold on to faith and hope.
14.  Love a little more. You can always love more.
15.  Don’t jump at the first chance to go out. There will always be another party. It’s college.
16.  Live with purpose.
17.  Not everything you do has to have a purpose. Folly can be quite satisfying.
18.  Don’t act like you know more than you actually do. There’s no shame in admitting you don’t know the answer.
19.  Remember that the things you do know are of value. Don’t act like you know less than you do. Share your knowledge.
20.  Don’t spend each day only staring at a screen. Put down your phone. Close your laptop. Turn off your TV. 
21.  Share laughter. There's far too much that's funny out there to take yourself too seriously. 
22.  Share tears. There's far too much pain and hurt out there not to take others’ struggles seriously.
23.  Enjoy music.
24.  Remember to get lost in your mind from time to time. 
25.  Breathe slowly.
26.  Don’t be afraid to be alone. Everyone knows: “Not all who wander are lost.” Few realize: Not all who are alone are lonely.
27.  Take in the beauty of nature. Look around you. Don’t take it for granted.
28.  Take in the beauty of mankind. Look around you and see how wonderful your neighbor can be.
29.  Dance in the rain.
30.  There will come a time in college, and in life, when you are presented with decisions that compromise your values. Know how you will respond to those times before they ever happen.
31.  Have resolve.
32.  Share excitement when you’re excited. People that hold that against you are most likely projecting their own feelings of inadequacy.
33.  Remember to read, and something more than a blog. Pick up a book from time to time.
34.  There is only one you.
35.  Laugh hard, kiss softly, disparage slowly, and forgive quickly.  
36.  Eat fully, drink deeply, and always remember to give often.
37.  Decide what you believe, know who you are and live accordingly. Don't apologize to anyone for that.
38.  But if you realize later on that you were wrong, admit it. Ask forgiveness.
39.  Maya Angelou has a great quote: "If I'd known better, I'd have done better." We can only do the best we know how, but there's no excuse for not striving to attain the know-how. And there's certainly no excuse for not doing better once we have it.
40.  Expect Dragons.
           I stared at the list thinking about how influential Mr. Smith was in my life. At a time late in my high school career when I felt lost and alone, he inspired me to believe life was full of wonder and hope. Now, just two hours before, I found out he was dying. I placed the list back into its box and slid into the front seat of my borrowed car. It was 4:25 in the afternoon and I eased the car onto the I-84 heading east, on my way to say goodbye to my beloved teacher one last time.

Author Bio
Dan Buri's first collection of short fiction, Pieces Like Pottery, is an exploration of heartbreak and redemption that announces the arrival of a new American author. His writing is uniquely heartfelt and explores the depths of the human struggle and the human search for meaning in life.

Mr. Buri's non-fiction works have been distributed online and in print, including publications in Pundit Press, Tree, Summit Avenue Review, American Discovery, and TC Huddle. The defunct and very well regarded Buris On The Couch, was a He-Says/She-Says blog musing on the ups and downs of marriage with his wife.

Mr. Buri is an active attorney in the Pacific Northwest and has been recognized by Intellectual Asset Magazine as one of the World's Top 300 Intellectual Property Strategists every year since 2010. He lives in Oregon with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

Author NameDan Buri

Book TitlePieces Like Pottery


Welcome to my Blog Dan 
Tell us about your latest worktitle, genre, etc. and why you wrote it?

Pieces Like Pottery is literary fiction. It’s a collection of short stories that explores the sorrows of life, the strength of character, the steadfast of courage, and the resiliency of love requisite to find redemption. Each story touches on very real and very human emotions and experiences.

I am moved and inspired by people’s real life stories of overcoming tragedy. Every person has trials in life. Life always presents obstacles and disappointments. I wanted to examine how individuals overcome these obstacles in a variety of characters. I toyed with the idea of each of these stories being its own novel, and I still may expand a couple of them into full length novels, but I settled in on a collection of linked short stories because it presented the opportunity to have a range of characters and display that despite how different each character’s life experience is, we are all connected as human beings. We all suffer and laugh just the same. My hope is that readers recognize that and are inspired or moved to compassion through the book.

What draws you to your genre(s)? Why is this type of story compelling to you?

I am a firm believer that it’s not what happens to us in life that determines our happiness, but what we do with what happens to us. There’s a famous college basketball coach here in the states, John Wooden, who passed away a few years ago. He had a quote I love: “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” That’s a beautiful sentiment to live by.

I guess even though it is a very difficult genre to explore with authenticity, I hope these are stories to which we can all relate and find empowering in some way. That’s meaningful to me.

What is your writing process like? Do you map the whole thing out or do you just let it unfold?

A little bit of both. I keep a journal of notes and ideas that strike me throughout the day. We all have what an old teacher of mine liked to call pristine moments of coherence—those moments when an idea strikes us so profoundly and clearly. I don’t want to lose those thoughts when I have them, so I try to write them down. But I typically have an idea or framework for a story before I begin. Once I have that and I am writing, then I will pull concepts or paragraphs from my journals or other notebooks. In fact, one of the paragraphs in The Gravesite (from Pieces Like Pottery) was actually written back when I was a teenager, if you can believe that.

In one of the stories the ending I had planned just didn’t work. It felt dishonest to take the reader on the journey and then finish with the original ending. I just knew the reader would feel betrayed, so I had to rework it. So sometimes the original plan just doesn’t work and the story unfolds on it’s own.

How much of YOU makes it into your characters?

I think every character an author creates is based on a real person or an amalgamation of real people. I also think an author will drop a little piece of himself or herself into every character they create. It is just too difficult to not let experiences and biases seep into one’s writing. There is certainly a piece of me in each character throughout Pieces Like Pottery. This made it particularly difficult to finish the book at times. I had to tap into both a sorrowful and a hopeful part of myself for these stories, which took an emotional toll at times. That being said, I didn’t create any of the characters in Pieces Like Pottery to represent me or to be a caricature of myself.

How do you balance the need to have time to write with the needs of family, society, etc.?

This is a great question. I can’t remember the last time I was asked this question. Thank you for asking it.

Balancing writing with the other areas of my life is a difficult task. I am an attorney in a demanding job. I ghost write non-fiction regularly for a couple of websites. I have an amazing wife and wonderful 2-year-old daughter with whom I love to spend time. All of these things take considerable time away from my fiction writing and, to be honest, all these commitments are why it took me years to complete Pieces Like Pottery.

But balance is incredibly important, so I strive to find a good balance. I have an amazing family on whom I can rely. I pray and meditate as well. Mindfulness is important to me—focusing on staying present. I try to be active and exercise regularly. I think we are all communicative beings and life is intended to be shared with those around us, but a deep interior life is paramount to finding personal peace and satisfaction. I try to foster a deep interior life as much as I can, which, I hope, allows me to offer more to those I encounter in my life and into my writing. Then, on the flip side, I try to create deadlines for myself in my writing. Without deadlines, my writing tends to drift and I don’t create the time to just sit and write.

Have there been any authors in particular, that inspired your writing?

I feel like this is the question that readers and writers always ask in a judgmental way. It’s as if your readers are going to judge me by the authors I enjoy. “Oh no, I don’t agree with that at all. John Grisham? This guy clearly isn’t serious about his writing.” (I’m smiling if that’s not showing through your computer screen.)

I am constantly inspired by writers, but I made a decision a long time ago not to try to duplicate any other author’s style. I wanted to fine my own voice and have worked diligently at that. I have a lot of authors that I love, though. A few, in no particular order: Gertrude Warner, Shell Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Grisham, Malcolm Gladwell, John Buri, Cormac McCarthy, Bill Bryson and Mark Twain. I could probably list another hundred who’s writing I enjoy with wonderment.

What would be the top three things you would tell aspiring authors?

Over the years I have been lucky enough to be offered abundant feedback and to hear excellent commentary from a few creative people that I admire greatly. There are three comments/ideas that have stuck with me throughout all my writing endeavors. (Each of these is summarized in my own words.)

1.      When asked about the fears and doubts that she had with her writing, Elizabeth Gilbert (best selling author of Eat, Pray, Love) said she finally had an epiphany that her “writing muse” was telling her that this isn’t her story. If she doesn’t tell it, she said, then the muse would move on to someone else who will. Ms. Gilbert discussed how freeing this was for her. She was no longer declaring to the reader: “Listen to me. I have something to say.” It was almost as if she had no other choice but to write. This opened her up to write every day without fear of the result.

2.      Ira Glass is an American public radio personality and the host and producer of the radio and television show This American Life. He has a great quote for young creatives. In short, he encourages that your work is not going to be good when you’re first starting out. We may have an excitement for our craft and a killer taste for what’s good, but our execution is poor. The only way to improve your work, the only way to close the gap so that your work is as good as your ambitions, is to do a lot of work. Write. Every day. Every week put yourself on a deadline to write something new. It’s going to take awhile, but that’s normal. Good writing doesn’t come the first time you sit down.

3.      Louis C.K. is one of the most thoughtful and innovative comics alive right now. I heard him once speak about his HBO show, Lucky Louie, which was cancelled after one season in 2006. He was asked if he was disappointed with that and if he looked back at it as a failure. His answer was unequivocally: “No.” For him it was just another experience that taught him how to hone his craft, which was invaluable.

So those would be my three pieces of (long-winded) advice. One, don’t worry about whether you have anything important to say. If you are inspired, say it. Two, write constantly. You won’t become a good writer unless you’re writing all the time. Three, take every writing experience and use it to hone your craft. Something is not a failure simply because the public doesn’t receive it the way you would like.
 Thank you for sharing your book Pieces Like Pottery and your interesting interview with my readers Dan.  Good Luck!

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