Tuesday, November 30, 2010

#155 Jason Stumpf Loves It All

Jason Stumpf was born in Cookeville, Tennessee. When Jason was 6, his father died, which was as hard as one might think and it shaped, consciously and unconsciously, all of his relationships and his sense of who he is. Jason’s mother did a wonderful job raising his sister and him. She tried to make sure that whatever limitations she faced did not keep Jason from being himself and pursuing his interests. The family house was not a sad place. It was very ordinary, which was all due to his mother. At 10, he began studying music—classical guitar and renaissance lute. Music seemed like a kind of magic, a secret language with its own form of writing. For high school, Jason went to McCallie, a boarding school on a scholarship, an all-male school that offered Jason incredible academic opportunities. He’s really grateful for that. It was a very different social atmosphere than what Jason came from. Kids were socially and politically very conservative and they had a lot of money. Within this environment, Jason had to figure out who he was. Being at McCallie forced him to grow up some. Jason started writing in high school and was immediately taken by the idea of writing as a process. In college, he realized that he was better suited to writing than music (writing is a creative process; musical performance doesn’t offer the same opportunities for revision). After college, Jason worked a variety of jobs: graveyard-shift employee at a Russell Stover’s factory (2 days), library assistant in a music library (1 year), library assistant in a rare book and manuscript collection (a little more than 1 year), graduate student at an MFA program (2 years), and adjunct professor of English at Providence College (4 years). In 2001, while Jason was working in the rare books collection, the library put on an exhibition to celebrate the release of James Merrill’s collected poems. Graduate students wrote catalogue articles for the exhibition and Margaret Avery Funkhouser co-wrote a piece on some wallpaper that Merrill had designed. Very soon after, Jason and Margaret both realized that they might be in love. One day, Jason kissed Margaret and they have been together ever since. Margaret is an incredibly serious person, but also goofy, creative, caring, talented, quiet, and spirited. Jason loves that Margaret is so many things. Being around her, he has fun. He learns a lot. Now Jason teaches English at the Walnut Hill School, an arts high school outside of Boston that is almost nothing like the boarding school he attended growing up. He feels fortunate to be teaching there. He feels fortunate to be the father of his one-year-old son, Jonas (an anagram of Jason). Everything about being a father is really tough, but Jason loves it all, even how hard it is.

[Update: Jason Stumpf just published his first book, A Cloud of Witnesses, which "is a verse-novel that is not in verse and isn't a novel."]

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kim Chinquee Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #248 Shya Scanlon

Shya Scanlon was born on July 29, 1975 in Augusta, Maine, and spent the first ten years of his life on a rural commune. This was the happiest time of his life: sheltered, idyllic, with nothing but fond memories. When he was ten, his family moved to Seattle, which was surreal and shocking, and he wasn’t prepared for the reality; he felt betrayed, and began to take it out on his brother Colin, these acts becoming his biggest regret. He was always very physical, until a mountain bike accident at 15, when he suffered a concussion and tests found a birth defect in his vertebrae. Surgery failed to correct the problem, and he wore a neck brace. He became more bookish, falling into an alternative crowd and writing, reading, doing drugs and smoking, petty crime: leading to a path of self-destruction. He felt above-the-law and kept spiraling. He dropped out of high school at the beginning of junior year, and when his parents were away on vacation, he broke into their car and drove to San Francisco, bought drugs, then drove to Rhode Island to sell them and make enough to fix the car, the excursion landing him in a juvenile detention center in Wisconsin. His parents’ response was a wake up call—Shya wasn’t in trouble, and he realized the impact he had on people he cared about, especially his brother, and he wanted to turn himself around. He eventually attended an alternative school, which provided him with the kind of opportunity he needed. He attended college in Indiana, but felt isolated and moved back to Seattle, where he studied German. He spent six months in Germany, but felt depressed and isolated, so eventually went back to Indiana and finished his degree at Earlham College. He picked up writing to be part of a girlfriend’s world, mostly poetry. At the end of college, he moved back to Seattle, stopped writing, then quit his job to write a book. He decided to move to New York, which meant for him a commitment to writing. He applied to Brown, lived in NY for a while, then met his girlfriend, Erin, who worked for Jane magazine. He was accepted to Brown, moved to Providence, and when Jane folded, Erin moved to Providence with him. He couldn’t deny the truth: her “amazing force of good,” her joy, and the vitality in everything she does. He lives with her now, and in NY again, where he writes and does freelance editing. He’s most proud of his decision to reorient his life path, and of his book Forecast, and hopes to someday make a living from his writing.

[Update: Shya Scanlon’s book of poems, In this alone impulse, is now available from Noemi Press and his first novel, Forecast, has officially launched. Plus, Shya is now co-editing Monkeybicycle and is the Fiction Reviews Editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Also, here's his YouTube channel.]

[Note: You can read Kim Chinquee's postcard life story here.]

Friday, November 12, 2010

Smile Politely, Andy Devine

There's a nice conversation with and around Andy Devine and his national tour, Being Andy Devine, at Smile Politely. It includes his publisher, Adam Robinson, his editor (me), as well as writer Aaron Burch, the host of Stories & Beer, where Andy Devine will be reading on November 14th. At the same time on the same day, November 14th, Andy Devine will also be reading at the Soda Series in NYC, with Mairéad Byrne, Daniel Groves, Stephanie Barber, and Adam Robinson.

Plus, there's a really nice post by Tom DeBeauchamp about reading Andy Devine's novel, Apartment City, over at Htmlgiant.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Four Years of Genius

November marks the four year anniversary of Publishing Genius. To celebrate the head genius, Adam Robinson, has posted a selection from Andy Devine's "A Grammar for Fiction Writers" at Everyday Genius.

#129 Matt Bell Is One of the Coolest Things Ever

Matt Bell mostly grew up in a house outside of Hemlock, MI, where there was enough isolation to grow up odd, but not too odd. In 3rd grade, Matt won a certificate for writing the best pirate story set in outerspace, which is part of how he became the writer he is today. For the longest time, he wore Velcro shoes because he thought they were the coolest things ever and because that is what the astronauts did. That’s how he was 12 before he learned how to tie his shoes. That is, Matt was a nerdy kid. He read D&D rulebooks on the school bus, played lots of computer games, and read tons of science fiction and fantasy books. In 7th or 8th grade, Matt wrote a 200-page fantasy novel, but then he stopped writing in high school. After that, Matt went to Saginaw Valley State University and dropped out. After all, he had only been tying his shoes for 6 years and he didn’t know what he wanted to do yet. He went to Delta Community College, a 2-year school, where he had the distinction of placing 3 years in a row in a writing contest. Then Matt went to Oakland University, which was the closest university he could drive to, and received his English degree. Over this time, Matt worked as a bartender (he may have gotten the first internet-posted job anybody got) and then as a restaurant manager. These jobs were good for him personality-wise. He lost his shyness. He met characters and had experiences that he wouldn’t have met or had otherwise. Then Matt met Jessica on Valentine’s Day, which was a kind of sign. She was the roommate of two women he worked with at the restaurant, and, as soon as they started dating, Matt wanted to spend all his time with her. Instead, Matt went on a camping trip by himself. He drove across the country, which gave him a sense of scale and changed his perspective. After that, Matt and Jessica were engaged within a year, got married on the beach in Port Austin, and had one of the best weddings ever. It was amazing to stand up in front of all those family and friends, and for everybody to be so happy for them. Then everybody cried. By the time Matt finishes his MFA at Bowling Green State University (2010), he will have finished writing a short story collection and a novel. He will also have an even happier marriage and remember even less of what his life was like before he met Jessica.

[Update: Matt Bell completed his MFA last spring and now first full-length collection, How They Were Found, is now out from Keyhole. Besides all that, he is now the editor The Collagist and is finishing work on a novel.]

Friday, November 5, 2010


My contributor copies of trnsfr #3 arrived the other day and it is an amazing-looking book-thing. Six of the postcard life stories are reproduced as postcard tear-outs. Plus, there's a broadside fold-out from Paul Maliszewski. Plus, there is great work for J.A. Tyler, Robert Hinderliter, Blake Butler, Janet Freeman, Ryan Bradley, Mark Gluth, Chelsea Martin, Matthew Simmons, Sutherland Douglass, James Greer, Paul Kavanagh, Thomas Michael McDade, Michael Stutz, Catherine Lacey, Molly Gaudry, and Scott Bradfield. Many thanks to Alban Fisher.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Electric Literature

There's a great piece on Andy Devine and WORDS and the national book tour for WORDS, Being Andy Devine (BAD), over at Electric Literature. Andy would like to thank Julia Jackson and Adam Robinson -- who talk about pseudonyms, Andentity, and Andy Kaufman.

#175 Michael Hemmingson: He Is Not That Person

Michael Hemmingson was born in Los Angeles and his childhood was like a bad young adult novel—teen parents, his father missing the first 5 years before returning to marry his mother. When Michael was 11, he wrote a Star Wars novel, 300 pages in pencil. At 14, he had his first poem published. As a freshman, he was editor of the high school literary magazine. When he was a sophomore, he discovered drugs—LSD, pot. By 17, Michael had published 200 poems, a dozen stories, and his own zine, Another Fucken Review. By 18, he had published three chapbooks of poetry and flash fiction. Michael has had many painful relationships end badly. When he was 23, his girlfriend Trudi died in a car accident. She was 10-weeks pregnant and Michael fell apart after that. He couldn't get out of bed, couldn’t work, and found himself homeless. He lived in his car or in shelters. He did not care what happened to him. The person he was died with her. Michael is not that person. When he was 27, Michael published his first book (The Naughty Yard, Permeable Press). It changed his life and people in the literary community took him more seriously. Another thing that changed Michael’s life was leaving Los Angeles and then again going back home to chase Hollywood, which he wishes he hadn’t done. He was in love with a woman, though, an actress. He wishes that he would have realized the heartache there would be in that. He has been lied to, cheated, and screwed over by producers in Hollywood. Still, one of the best things in Michael’s life was making a feature film (The Watermelon, LightSong Films) in Los Angeles, having that experience that few get. Michael has left L.A. many times and returned many times. One time, Michael was a journalist in Rwanda, but he wishes that he hadn’t taken that assignment. He is still haunted by the thousands of dead bodies and the smell in summer heat. One particular image that sticks in his mind is a hungry albino black child sitting alone in the dirt and crying, and no one paying attention. People should pay attention. Michael has accomplished so much—screenplays, movies, journalism, editing books, ghost-writing books, writing his own books (all kinds—literary, erotica, biographies, ethnographies, etc.). Through 2008, Michael had published 48 books under his name, plus a dozen more under various pen names. In the next few years, Michael will publish many more books— some under new pen names and some under his own name (particularly his first collection of literary fiction and academic books on Carver, Hemingway, and Vollmann). Michael also plans to finish his biography of Carver, write a big literary novel, make a studio-budget movie, and write for a TV series that will last no fewer than 3 seasons. Further, he will buy a house and move into it with his two cats, Worf and Poe (who are the reincarnated cats he had 12 years ago, Surfette and ArtBell) and the family he has always wanted to have.

[Update: Michael Hemmingson's new collection of stories, Pictures of Houses with Water Damage, is now available from Dzanc. His collection, The Other Eden, was published in May by Dybbuk and his book of poems, Ourselves or Nothing, was published by Olympia Press in March. Also, The Watermelon is now available at Turner Classic Movies.]

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Being Andy Devine

Being Andy Devine (BAD), the national book tour for Andy Devine's first book, WORDS, is underway. The next stop is Atlanta for the Solar Anus reading series. That's with Gabe Durham and Todd Dills and music. That's November 5th, 8pm, at the Beep Beep Gallery. Then it's Champaign for the Stories & Beer reading series on November 14th and NYC for the Soda Series on November 14th -- yes, Andy Devine will be in two places at once.