A Great Yes: The Camera Man

Ten years ago a  young man was beaten almost to death in his high school bathroom. The kids who jumped him broke his jaw. The police caught the kids who jumped him because a friend of theirs had filmed the beating and posted it online. The news announced that the police were still looking for the camera man.

Online beatings are a thing now (i.e. WORLDSTARHIPHOP), but ten years ago this was a newsworthy event. Talk radio shows invited psychologists to talk about the kind of young person who could take video of a victim’s beating and not do anything to help him. People were more interested in the camera man than they were in the kids who had committed the violence. What kind of kid gets off on filming another kid’s humiliation and pain?

My short story The Camera Man was my answer to the question.

When I heard from the extraordinary editor and curator Tod Lippy that he liked The Camera Man for Esopus magazine, I couldn’t believe it. In 2008, acceptances were few and far between. In fact, Tod Lippy was the first editor to accept my fiction. He asked if I was willing to do edits and I replied immediately yes.

My yes began a several week editing process that stands as one of the most satisfying creative and learning experiences of my writing career. Tod Lippy got my story. He understood the work better than I did. Our long conversation produced an edited version that was the best work I’d ever done.

My story appeared in Esopus Fall 2008 Issue 11. It’s a wonderful issue in a breathtaking magazine that consistently breaks through the limits of possibility in art, words, photography, archives, and publishing. Tod Lippy has a rare integrity of vision. If you’re smart, you’ll subscribe.

Tod Lippy’s yes continues to tell me to keep going. Early in my fiction career I got a clear message that I was on the right track. I learned from this editor craft advice specific to me that serves me every time I sit down to write.

I spent hours drawing and writing Tod Lippy a thank you note that almost captured my gratitude and delight at being included.  The yes from Esopus remains an important encouragement to me as I write stories about the uncomfortable real, even when most would rather ignore it. If a publication with Esopus’ high level of integrity thinks I’m doing the right work, then I can continue to write today.

I’m in this.

The Camera Man is now a novel.  I’ve kept the Esopus vision with me in the work as I’ve revised and developed the main character’s journey through grief, addiction, violence and finally redemption. Whatever happens with this yet-unpublished work, I am proud that its beginnings were rooted in Esopus. For the hundredth time, for all you do for readers and writers and artists and musicians and lovers of art and music and lovers of archives and papers and form, Tod Lippy, thank you.

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