Writing samples and excerpts

Bio Matter

Jason K. ChapmanJason K. Chapman, after a long absence, is finally back in his native New York City. Though he attended Georgia Tech as an electrical engineering major, he soon discovered a fondness for computers.


Poetry vs Prose

"I'm horribly illiterate when it comes to poetry. That's a terrible admission, considering my involvement with Poets & Writers, I know.

"Whereas a novel is a thousand pounds of dynamite, a poem is a tiny vial of nitroglycerin. They can both move mountains, but require very different handling."

According to Jason, this page should make it abundantly clear why he's not a poet.

Urban Haiku - The Light Side

Plaintive horns below,
Summer's promise on the wind.
Rooftop gardening.

Dogs run free, unleashed.
The park sprouts noisy color.
Coats and bonds are shed.

Spring breeze high above.
On Lady Liberty's torch,
Falcons nest in hope.

Pavement cracks with age.
Springtime calls, "Come live with me."
One brave flower heeds.

Time's Cry

(Time's Cry was written for, and is dedicated to,
all of my friends who were once part of
the Skunks group. --JKC

Time's Cry

The tavern glows from smiling panes,
Pressing at the shadowed dusk.
I know there should be voices here,
Of comrades, strangers, friends.

I know this with my every thought,
Know it as I know my name.
I should be hearing voices now
Of comrades, strangers, friends.

But nothing of the tavern's life
Reaches me across the air.
I hear no murmured whispering
Of comrades, strangers, friends.

Time's cry it is that's deafened me,
Drowning out the siren song
Of merriment and subtleties
Of comrades, strangers, friends.

Time's cry beats shrill upon my ears,
Forcing me to turn away
From spirits I would rather share,
From comrades, strangers, friends.

So lift them for me, friends, I ask.
Make the rafters shake with song.
Time's cry insists that I must stray
From comrades, strangers, friends.

Urban Haiku - The Dark Side

(Yes, I realize that traditional haiku form doesn't include titles, but it's a good way to sneak in an extra word to enhance the meaning. --JKC)


Stained glass dark at night
Gothic arch in icy winds
Beggars sleep outside

The Dealer

Shadowed alleyway
Nervous hands and shifting glance
He sells death as dreams


Morning thaws the street
People flow in torrid streams
He hopes for kindness

Life's Worth

Lightning strikes the eye
Hand-held thunder heralds death
Twenty bucks and change


Theme in Fiction

An Essay in Response to a Discussion Group Question

by Jason K. Chapman

Q: When I've tried my hand at fiction, I've always failed for one of two reasons: if I start from a great "hook" and try to let the characters show me the way to a believable ending, I run out of steam and the piece gets abandoned; if I create the ending and try to work backwards, I end up with the literary equivalent of Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs..." ...only less coherent...

This seems to be a fairly common problem. I wonder if it stems from not starting with a consistent theme in mind. In everything I write, I begin with an idea, a thought to express. It acts as the glue that bonds character, plot, and voice together into some kind of organized whole.

It works on a level above the individual elements, and affects details even as small as word choice in descriptive scenes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily talking about moralizing, here, though the difference may be small. I'm simply talking about a single idea--a one-sentence answer to the question "What am I trying to say, here?"

Since I used Les Miserables earlier, I'll use it again. It's theme might be summed up as "Dignity is a requirement for human life." This unifies the actions, and the fates, of Valjean, Javert, Fontine, and Cosette.

Valjean changes his life when he realizes that the priest has treated him with dignity in spite of Valjean's stealing from him. Javert, whose every action is bent on destroying human dignity, goes so far in his aim that he destroys his own, and himself. Fontine gives up on the very idea of dignity, by sacrificing her own in a failed attempt to win it for Cosette.

It is this kind of coherence that helps bring me back on track when I lose sight of where the story's going. Those of you who start with a good hook and characters, but can't find your way to the end might want to try it. Once you have the story's theme, you can combine it with who the characters are and what the setting is. At that point, the ending of the story becomes much clearer.

--Jason K. Chapman

(Originally appeared in alt.skunks 9/98)

"Aww, Grow Up!"-An Essay on Being Childish

by Jason K. Chapman

The day I stop acting childish is the day I die--whether my body continues or not. The phrase "grow up" is one of my pet peeves.

Children have wonderful imaginations. They aren't afraid to dream. They embrace hope and have an innate conviction that only the best and the brightest future awaits them. Children laugh with little or no provocation, finding humor and joy in the tiniest things. Children accept. They see the best in others. They trust to a fault, it's true, but they can learn the wisdom to stay safe without hating or fearing the unfamiliar for being unfamiliar.

Children look to the future without fear. They look to the past without guilt. Their expectations have not yet been dulled by those who preach that unhappiness, loneliness, and heartbreak are all the world has to offer.

Children see the world in a butterfly's hapless flight. They taste joy in the snowflakes on the tips of their tongues. They haven't learned that the nose belongs on the grindstone or that the world stops at the edges of the ruts they're supposed to dig.

They haven't learned that dreams are dangerous. They haven't fallen for the lie that hope is a futile luxury. They believe--they *know*--they can accomplish anything given time and just enough stubborn determination.

They reach for the stars over their heads, because no one has yet convinced them that they are unreachable. They listen to the wind, because they still understand what it has to say. They delight in the shape of a leaf or the sound of a horn or the sight of the sheer-sided grandeur of a skyscraper.

In their innocence, children are the masters of their world. Nothing is unreachable. Nothing is unknowable. They live to live. No other justification is necessary.

I am more a child now than I was when I met the age requirement. I had to learn to dream all over again. I had forgotten how, because I believed I had to grow up. I believed it when I was told that dreamers were fools. I accepted the chains I was told I had to wear, the blinders I was told I must accept.

The borders that hem us in, we draw ourselves. The walls that enclose us, we erect. I had to learn to tear them down, to break the chains that I, myself, had forged.

I wasted many years, but I'm past it. I won't go back. I am a child again and I will be one until I die.

--Jason K. Chapman

(originally appeared in alt.skunks 4/98)