Where’s Walden?

23 Aug

By Mark Saunders

In the pre-Malcolm Gladwell days, a tipping point was the moment at which you had one too many during happy hour.  As a part-time writer trying to squeeze in my words or pictures before going to work in the morning, late at night after Arlene had gone to bed, or over the weekend in hourly chunks, I reached a tipping point, Gladwell style, after winning a Walden fellowship, which was awarded to three Oregon writers or artists each year. 

Arlene encouraged me to accept the fellowship.  My manager at work also told me to accept it and said my job would be waiting for me.  I did and it was.

In 2002, the fellowship gave me six weeks in a small cabin in the Southern Oregon woods, where I was to do nothing but write, eat when hungry, look for Bigfoot, and walk the dog several times a day.

The experience was liberating.  For the first time in my life, my job, the entire point of my day, if you will, was to write whatever I wanted to write. How cool was that?  . 

Post-college my resume read like a good-grief of odd jobs: military journalist, medical librarian, college instructor, book packer, mill worker, business owner, technical writer, software documentation manager, marketing manager.  If I could have thrown in gold prospector and hobo, I would have been Jack London, except the only fire I can build in the great outdoors involves a Weber grill and propane tank.  Between and during those jobs, I always worked on creative projects, mostly writing and cartooning.

I even tried standup comedy for a couple of years to get over my shyness and really sucked at it—the standup part, not the shyness.  Bits about working in hi-tech and lines like, “What do you say we go up to my place and exchange bilabial fricatives?” did not exactly kill in biker bars.

So I began writing plays, short plays befitting my height and attention span.  I soon discovered writing plays to be far more rewarding than doing standup.  At least I didn’t sprint to the bathroom and flash the hash every time I worked on the opening scene of a play.  I left that to the actors.

As a movie nut, it was only natural for me to start writing screenplays next.  So I did.  One of my scripts, “Poodle Call,” was optioned by Hollywood but never filmed.  It’s a story about a divorced dad who teams up with his son to coach a bunch of poodles in a dog sled race.  I had a short script filmed once (please don’t ask about the movie) and I once owned a Yugo (please don’t ask about the car).    

Then Arlene and I moved to Mexico and I wrote a book about our experiences as inept expats.  It’s titled Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak and is scheduled for publication by FUZE in October.  I’ll talk more about the book in future blogs.  Mostly in my blog entries, though, I want to dangle the occasional modifier, split an infinitive or two, mix a batch of metaphors, and chat.  I hope you’ll stick around.  Vaya con nachos!  

Questions, suggestions, objections?  Feel free to contact me at:


Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “Where’s Walden?

  1. Anna

    August 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    A poodle sled dog team – you know, I think there was one once in the Iditarod many years ago. Don’t quote me on that though.

    • FUZE Publishing

      August 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

      Hi Anna,
      There was, indeed. The man who put together the team and drove it was John Suter. His first team consisted of mostly standard poodles and a few other musher dogs. I think his team did well, finishing something like 38 out of 52, in a contest where just finishing is admirable. He was the inspiration for my screenplay. The twist in my story is that there’s an annual musher run in the sand dunes along the Oregon coast, something of a memorial fund raiser; it’s been running for 25-30 years, I think. So in my story, the poodles compete in the Oregon race. (Btw, the sand dunes along parts of the Oregon coast are stunning; they filmed part of the movie “Dune” in the area where they hold the musher run). My script is about not judging a book by its cover. As I recall, a few years after Suter competed in the Iditarod with standard poodles, they changed the rules so that only northern breeds could compete. It was a smart move. I love standards but they’re not built to compete in races like the Iditarod, even though Mr. Suter ran poodles and did well, even winning at times, in other northern dog sled races. Thanks for asking!

  2. Laurie

    August 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I can’t wait to hear more about your adventures!

    • Anna

      August 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      That is really fascinating. You’d think, what with the race going right by here not so far away, I’d be more involved or at least remember these sorts of things. And Dune, I love that movie. I didn’t know it was filmed in Oregon. Then again, I didn’t know Oregon had those kinds of sand dunes. awesome

      It’s kinda funny though, the name ‘poodle’ just doesn’t seem to go with ‘race dog’ haha I hear ‘poodle’ and I think ‘little white fuzzy lap-dog’ haha


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