About James Maxwell

James Maxwell is an author, artist, and actor. He has published over 500 articles (mostly theatre reviews) and approx. 350 cartoons. For the stage, he founded Actor's Ensemble, Director's Theatre, Playwright's, Inc., and Dark Night Theatre. His last three roles were Sade (2006), Tartuffe (2007), and King John (2010. James paints large canvas abstract exressionist paintings,. He is also a phootographer, and a digital artist. He is currently learning how to self-publish a series of e-books for the 9300 jokes, 500 scripts, and 150 short stories he wrote since 2010.

Working on Volume One of Dialogue Jokes

Dialogue Jokes intended for the writers of scenes.

Dateline Boulder:

Here’s what I like about dialogue jokes:

  • Each dialogue joke is a complete story
  • Each story contains a plot imitating the action of the agents of the story
  • The agents of the story tell the entire story without the assistance of a narrator

Here’s what I don’t like about dialogue jokes:

  • All jokes teach people it’s better to be the oppressor
  • All jokes are painful or cruel on some level
  • Jokes are embedded onto the agents of the story making it sometimes difficult to “see” the original character – try to remove the joke and the character disappears too.

I write only about compassion, so I chose jokes to have something to work against.

Here’s a sample from my Penny-a-Joke cartoon:

  • I’d like a Boulder 420 Breakfast, please.
  • What’s that?
  • A bowl packed with your finest cannabis, a Rib Eye Steak, and a bulldog.
  • What’s the bulldog for?
  • Somebody’s got to eat that steak.


James Maxwell

Volume Four Completes Up the Alley

What began as a writing exercise is now a published four-volume epic novel written entirely in flash fiction.

Dateline Boulder: June 18, 2014

It’s done, it’s done, it’s done!

Here’ s my Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L3L1EW8

And here is my book’s fan page: https://www.facebook.com/UptheAlley (likes are always appreciated on the fan page)

Although the story is about a seedy coffee shop catering to the homeless, it experiments with an over-arching non-didactic structure that I believe creates community.


James Maxwell

A Fable Deconstructed

Turgenev provides the structure

Dateline: Boulder

I seem to be creating a new methodology. I am sequentially writing stories based on the fables I find in Laura Gibbs translation titled, Aesop’s Fables.

Aristotle said when you change the structure of a story, you change its purpose, implying the purpose of any story is defined by its structure.

So, what does this have to do with the new “purpose” of the story?

I haven’t a clue – which means it’s probably staring me right in the face.

At any rate, since I approach all my writing as the next era in my learning to write by writing exercise book (created as i go), I’m finding immense satisfaction with the source material in the fables.

For example, each is tightly constructed to maximize meaning within a well-structured format. Nothing is wasted and typically each sentence has multiple meanings. The paragraphs, when deconstructed, take on additional significance at each turn.

Also, since I’m learning to write in the super intimate first-person eye-witness account style, my thought process is also beginning to change to match that voice and that way of observation.

This voice has one incredible rule (it probably has many, but only one that always requires observation: the story must be told by a survivor – if a character dies in the story, he can’t be telling the story.

Stories are told by survivors in an eye-witness perspective – in a historical account shared intimately with a single reader.

Here is the first draft of the rewrite of Fable 6 (Gibbs, Pg. 6): The Donkey, the Priests, and the Tambourines:

Begging for Alms


James Maxwell

Learning about the power of literary influence

I’m writing these days to Learn how to Read

Dateline Boulder:

I thought I was learning how to write by writing and then criticizing what I wrote and trying to write better the next time.

What I was actually doing, though, was learning how to read again – this time by analyzing what I was reading. I wrote hundreds of stories without much other influence – Up the Alley is based on my own source material – I was influenced by what I’d already written.

Now, I’m trying a few new things:

Instead of third-person, I now write in the first person – and in an attempt to provide an eye-witness account of an incident or a series of events and always told out loud to a single reader.

I’m also including a description of the environment surrounding my characters (believing that a person and his environment are inseparable) and after today’s experience, trying to tell the environment’s story as well.

I’m also “translating” Aesop’s Fables into a narrative-fiction, eyewitness-account of the incidents of the fable.

Prior to the translation, I’m also trying to learn how to deconstruct, so I’m deconstructing each of the fables prior to analyzing it (to determine whose story it is for focaliization purposes). The deconstruction is most critical thinking, but always leads to unexpected imaginative solutions.

So, here is the latest fable rewritten as a short story. In this case, flash fiction:

The Donkey the Onager and the Lion


James Maxwell

Continuing to Learn Deconstruction Techniques

Creativity Explodes Following the Destruction of Deconstruction

Dateline Boulder:

They say the Phoenix rises from its own ashes.

So do fables.

I seem to be developing a new writing “process.”

Before I actually sit down to rewrite the fable, I destroy it by analyzing each sentence and word within the sentence.

Then, when I have a new “structure” created, I start writing from a first-person, eyewitness position. My analysis tells me which character to focalize – whose story is being told.

Here is the link to the story I wrote over the last couple of days.

It’s no longer flash fiction – it’s a short story

The Onager


James Maxwell

A Structuralist Invents His Life

Metamorphosis is a high goal for many writers.

Dateline Boulder:

As many people can tell, I use my blog to record the little changes I go through from day-to-day.

Currently, I’m reinventing myself as a writer.

My approach is to read Turgenev in the morning, then translate a fable into an eyewitness story told in the first person – Oh! And written as though to a single reader!

I’ve put several samples in the Flash Fiction section and here is a first draft of one I wrote earlier this morning (I may not rewrite this one until I begin collecting this series for publication.)

The Wolf, the Dog and the Collar


James Maxwell

Update: Aesop fables continue to Appeal

Aesop’s Fables Not the Durge Once Thought:

Dateline Boulder:

Although I encourage anyone reading a fable to delete the moral at the bottom of the story, they are an excellent source of material should one choose to learn deconstruction techniques.

My technique:

  1. I break the entire story into sentences
  2. Within each sentence is its purpose – I try to imagine it (accuracy is irrelevant)
  3. I then imagine the story told in a different form (thus changing the purpose).
  4. Then, with my sentence by sentence deconstruct (as an outline), I retell the story in its new form (Always with a new voice, of course.)

Here are examples of stories I’ve written this week:

The Goddess, the Eel and the Blue Jay

The Wolf and the Lamb


James Maxwell


Rewrite Time!

Why write when you can rewrite?

Dateline Boulder:

I didn’t like the ending of the fable I wrote a couple of days ago (after my wife told me it was unsatisfactory).

I suspected I hadn’t allowed my reader (notice that it’s singular) to achieve the proper amount of empathy.

Here is a second attempt at it:

The Goddess, the Eel and the Blue Jay

I can’t believe I actually have a chance to write to you. It is literally the first available moment I’ve had in months. My Internet class, the one I began teaching two years ago, continues to grow. At last count there were over 10,000 students enrolled! Yes, you were correct to chide me and I’m finally pleased!

I am sad to report that fluffy is gone. Her time finally came. We miss her dearly, but she had a long life.

In a year I’ll be on sabbatical, but I’m ready for it now. Two classes last semester and one grueling early morning class this term. I know that probably doesn’t sound like much to you, but my editor is pressing me for rewrites and my dean insists on community service too. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll even come back from sabbatical. Then I remember how anxious I get when I’m not working.

But before I forget, I wanted to give you a blow-by-blow account of what happened in class yesterday.

Do you remember me telling you about my composition class? The one from hell?

“Come to order, please,” I told them fifteen minutes into class (it was that bad.) I’d been trying without success to motivate them to use their writing skills to address the growing political climate of fear and intimidation in this country, but all my students wanted to talk about was some stupid Internet fantasy series.

I tried everything I could think of – all my best tricks acquired from a lifetime of teaching – but to no avail. Yesterday, for some reason, my entire class refused to cooperate. I was about to walk out – they probably wouldn’t even notice – when I had an idea that led me in a different direction.

“Today, class, I am going to begin reading Aesop’s fables,” I told them. I expected the same discourteous responses, but instead the room fell silent. Maybe they thought a fable and a fantasy were the same thing. It didn’t matter to me why though, I was encouraged and so I continued.

“A goddess, an eel and a blue jay are walking down a country path when they come across a river now bursting its banks with spring run-off,” I recited from memory. The class remained silent and I observed the kind of rapt attention I only wish they held for me. I wasn’t going to dwell on it, however.

“The eel jumped into the water without hesitation and disappeared from view. Then the blue jay took wing and I watched him fly to the other shore,” I told the class. “Not long after the eel emerged from the river and joined the bird.”

“But what about the Goddess?” Marjorie asked as she sat on the edge of her seat. Do you remember me talking about Marjorie? She’s the one who grew up here in Boulder. What a character!

“Yeah,” piped in Leslie who sat next to Marjorie, “what happened next?”

I turned my back to the students and waited (this was the part I liked the best – I’m so bad!).

Other students were now piping in, “Did she swim?” one student asked. Another said, “Enough with the suspense, already!” Yet another said, “I’ll bet she made herself invisible and then reappeared on the other side – Goddesses can do that you know.” (I’m pretty sure he just wanted to impress Marjorie because he never took his eyes off her the whole time he spoke.)

Finally, when I thought they were about as tense as they could possibly get (Do I know how to build suspense, or what?) I turned to them and said, “The Goddess would prefer you to focus your attention on your compositional skills instead of fooling around with cheap entertainments like Aesop’s Fables.”

It was a kind of crowning achievement, but I’m guessing they’ll get even with me next week – they always do.

Call me when you get a chance, even if it’s only a text message.


James Maxwell