Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Day Marathon at Creative Alliance

I'm reading at the New Year's Day Marathon at Creative Alliance with 50+ other writers, performers, musicians. Everybody gets 7 minutes. I'm on 2:45-2:52.

Here's the promo paragraph: Celebrate the New Year with a wildly diverse day of spoken word and music. Join Baltimore son and writer for The Wire Rafael Alvarez, Charm City Kitty Club star Rahne Alexander, Underground Poetry Godfather Blaster Al Ackerman, Yao, Aware and Outraged (Ron Kipling Williams and Moziah), and local literary luminaries Chezia Thompson Cager, Mary Azrael, Kendra Kopelke, and Michael Kimball. Other musical guests include Liz Downing, John Berndt, Cliff and Rocky, and award-winning classical guitarist Zane Forshee. Throw in Maryland's Poetry Out Loud Champion Will Poxon, the Baltimore Improv Group, poetry animations (and many more fabulous people/acts we can't list them here) and you've got one awesome creative community all gathered under the Patterson's roof for an epic day of poetry, in the spirit of the annual marathon festival at St. Mark's Church in NYC. PLUS: write a verse on our poetry wall, put your New Years Resolutions in the hat to be read from the stage! Special thanks to Laurie Flannery for bringing us this cool idea! Hot, delicious Southern Style Brunch buffet (Black Eyed Peas!) and full cash bar (bloodies and mimosas!) Benefits CA’s Open Minds kids art ed. programs.

New Year's Day, 11am-5pm. $5.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Seven Things

The wonderful Gena Mohwish tagged me and I am glad to have been chosen. I am supposed to say 7 things about myself and then tag 7 other people to do the same thing.

1. I was born in 1967 in the days after the Great Midwest Blizzard.
2. Once, when I was looking up at the ceiling, a piece of plaster fell in my eye (it really hurts).
3. I don’t have a favorite color.
4. One of my nephews told me that I still hold the record for the 600-yard run at Meryl S. Colt Elementary School, which I probably set in 1978. It was part of the Presidential Physical Fitness program, but I never got the patch because I could never do enough pull-ups.
5. I like it when old classmates get in touch through Facebook.
6. Sometimes I am afraid to tell people what my favorite movies are.
7. I know that none of these things actually says much about me.

I'm going to tag 7 people who recently left me blog comments: Shane Jones, Anonymous, Peter Cole, Katrina Denza, Shanti Perez, Karen Lillis, Jen Michalski.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm Guest Editing Lamination Colony

I'm guest editing Blake Butler's online journal Lamination Colony and thought you might want to send something for it. I'm looking for the dark, the beautiful, the strange, the formally inventive, etc. Also, since it's online, and reading is different online than offline, I'm looking for the very short. There are guidelines here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

#50 The Farsightedness of Peter Cole

When Peter Cole was in the womb, his early-teens mother and 20-something father were on the run from the FBI, presumably because of statutory rape charges, and escaped to Mexico, which has often made Peter feel special but wrong. As an infant, Peter often stared at light sources, especially lamps, and his first spoken word was light, which his mother (who can hear the voice of God) believed to be a sign of his enlightenment. This also may have been the source of his crooked eyes and the reason he needed glasses early in life. Peter grew up in the church, watched The 700 Club, and prayed for his eyes to be healed. But his eyes didn’t heal and he couldn’t hear the voice that his mother heard either, which made him feel evil. In school, Peter was a chunky loner, so he started a punk band. He played music for years, but now that part of his life is over. Peter didn’t think that he would ever get married until he met the woman who would become his wife. Her name was Annie Dillard and they met, in part, because a mutual friend saw him reading a book by an author named Annie Dillard who is a different Annie Dillard. Peter doesn’t know much about cars, but he is the parts manager at an auto shop, a job he keeps because he hates shaving and cutting his hair. Recently, he stopped wearing regular clothes and only wears his work uniforms. He doesn’t know if he will ever go back to Mexico, but through his farsightedness Peter knows he will have a great, domesticated life with Annie, their beautiful beagle, Lilly, and their kids who are not yet born.

Keyhole Magazine, which Peter edits

[Note: Peter lives in Nashville and I live in Baltimore, but we're having dinner tonight, so I'm reposting his postcard life story.]

The Bookgeeks Interview

There is a nice interview over @ BOOKGEEKS where one of my answers is: "I am surprised by how many people die in my novels."

There is also a wonderful review of DEAR EVERYBODY @ BOOKGEEKS that appropriates the epistolary form and ends like this: "Thank you, Jonathon, for taking the trouble to write to everyone before you left a world in which you never felt truly at home. Thank you, Michael, for this wonderful book."

Thank you, Simon Appleby.

P.S. BOOKGEEKS is giving away a free copy of DEAR EVERYBODY; see the link with the review or the link with the interview.

Friday, December 19, 2008

119 Rejections @ Lucy Magazine

There's a nice little interview about Dear Everybody and other other things over at Lucy Magazine where I talk a little bit about the difficulty of publishing. Thank you, Susan Gray.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

#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.

More Matt Bell

[Note #2: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]

Monday, December 15, 2008

#128 Michael Kimball Feels Like He Can Do Anything

Michael Kimball was born two weeks late, during the Great Midwest Blizzard of 1967. His father was huge, weighing as much as 450 pounds, and could be very scary—he had fast hands and nobody ever knew when he would go into a rage. But Michael’s mother was incredibly giving, often doing without so that her three children could have clothes for school, shoes for the basketball team. The family didn't have much money, but Michael didn’t realize this until later. For a long time, he was the shortest, skinniest kid in class or on the basketball team. Sometimes he still feels this way, even though he’s 6'2'', 200 pounds. He hit .853 one year in little league, and holds the Meryl S. Colt Elementary School record for the 600-yard dash. But he gave up all other sports for running—was all-state cross-country in high school—until he had a stress fracture in his left foot and never competed again. After that, he didn't have anything he felt great at anymore. He floundered through his early years at Michigan State, changing majors, flunking classes. Then he started reading a lot and became serious about writing. He can't believe he grew up identifying as an athlete and that now he’s a novelist. Some people think he channels voices in his novels, which is unsettling because of his family history concerning spiritualism. His great-great-great uncle was a noted medium in the early 20th century, conducting popular readings and séances. A dead Irishman was his connection to the other side. Michael learned from his grandfather little ways to supposedly communicate with the other side—knocks, slips of paper one carries until an answer is received, that kind of thing. After college, Michael moved to Chicago and then New York to attend graduate school. It wasn't until he arrived in NYC that he felt he belonged somewhere. If he had stayed in the Midwest, he probably wouldn't have become a writer. He’d probably be a high school teacher and unhappy. Dropping out of NYU was just as important, because he’d realized he wanted to write fiction, not anything academic. The other great thing about NYU is that Michael met his wife there, Tita Chico, who is smart and beautiful and kind and supportive in all the right ways. They’ve been together over 15 years, and have four cats and no children, and they like it that way. Michael had a huge struggle with his second novel, How Much of Us There Was, and almost gave up writing. The same thing happened with his third novel, Dear Everybody, but he somehow reached a point where he stopped caring what anybody else thought about his writing and that released him to finish Dear Everybody and to write Friday, Saturday, Sunday, which he recently finished. He never would have started Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) without that feeling. Even though he loves Baltimore, he sometimes misses NYC. But he’s glad he left. He likes who he is now better than who he was then. He feels like he can do anything.

[Note #1: This postcard life story was written by Sam Ligon after he interviewed me as I have interviewed so many others for this project. Thanks, Sam.]

[Note #2: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Keyhole Magazine Nominates "Sara's Eulogy for Jonathon" for a Pushcart

Thank you to Peter Cole and the other wonderful editors at Keyhole Magazine for nominating "Sara's Eulogy to Jonathon" for a Pushcart. You can read the story in Keyhole #2 or hear the podcast here (scroll down a little; it's #6).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

#127 Samuel Ligon Cannot Be Beaten

When Samuel Ligon was growing up, his family moved every 3-4 years (his father was transferred or offered a better job somewhere else). This never seemed strange, but Sam is unusually close to his three siblings as a result. After his childhood, Sam moved away to Urbana-Champaign to attend the University of Illinois, which turned out to be a great place to be because that’s where Kim was too. Back then, at first, they were both in these toxic relationships and friends with each other's toxic boyfriend/girlfriend, but they got together before their senior year. Everybody loves Kim (for example, she's never applied for a job and not gotten it). Sam knew that he wanted to marry Kim the minute they got together and she felt the same way, so they did that when they were 22. A week later, they left the country to teach English in Japan. Sam wanted to be a writer and he thought writers should leave the country. In Japan, they found a dead body, a guy who had hung himself up in the mountains east of Kyoto. The dead man was blue and they called him Blueboy and he was exactly what Sam had been looking for. They left Japan and Sam wrote a story called “Blueboy”—about some expatriates in Japan who find a dead body. It was published in The Quarterly—Sam’s first published story (1988). During three weeks in 2001, 9/11 happened 50 miles upwind from Sam and Kim, his first book was accepted for publication (Safe in Heaven Dead, 2003), and his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer treatment sucked, and it was hard with a Paul and Jane (at the time, just 3 and 5, respectively), but their friends came from all over the country to help. Sam lived on Long Island for over 10 years—by far the longest he has ever lived anywhere. (Sam has lived in most states north of the Mason-Dixon and east of the Mississippi.) Then he moved the family to Spokane 4 years ago, for his teaching job at Eastern Washington University. In the West, people think Sam is a New Yorker, and, most oddly to Sam, Jewish, which he’s happy to let them think. Now that the family has settled in Spokane, he doesn't want to move them again. Sam wants to raise Jane and Paul in one place, even though he claims to like the fact that he’s from everywhere. Jane is an incredible artist and Paul is the funniest person Sam knows. What else? Both of the kids are really nice people, probably because they have such nice parents. What else? Sam’s first story collection, Drift and Swerve, will come out in 2009. More? Sam doesn't play golf or have a boat, but he does edit Willow Springs. The last bit that recurs through the whole life? Kim is fine now, and Sam and Kim have been married 23 years. They're happy. They think their kids are happy. None of them has ever been beaten.

More Sam Ligon

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Podcast Reading @ Apostrophe Cast

I read with Sam Lipsyte at Word Books in Brooklyn in October. Luca Dipierro recorded the readings and now Apostophe Cast has made the podcasts available. It was, I believe, the "yellow" reading--for those of you who have seen my tabbed copy of DEAR EVERYBODY. My reading is up now and Sam's will be in a couple of weeks. Thank you, John and Guy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

#123 Sherrie Flick Is Fully Formed

Sherrie Flick was born without a fully-formed hip socket and had to wear a brace the first two years of her life, during which she cried every single day. She insisted on having a pacifier in each hand and one in her mouth. Sherrie grew up in a Pennsylvania mill town and had an Americana kind of childhood. There was a penny candy store within walking distance of her house. In high school, she was a cheerleader and dated the captain of the football team her freshman year. She was also a good student, editor of the yearbook, and into new wave music—so by her junior year, her group of friends was called the Scoobs (after Scooby-Doo) and they were tormented endlessly. It was difficult to be different in any way. After high school, Sherrie bolted for UNH, because she wanted to be a poet and she thought all poets were from New England. During her college years, she worked in a bakery and started writing short-short fiction. After that, she traveled through Europe with her then-lover. Then she moved to San Francisco with her then-boyfriend. Things start overlapping here. Actually, Sherrie had a string of non-stop, overlapping boyfriends from age 14-26. She had a complicated relationship theory at the time, but can't remember what it is now. When she thinks about it, she envisions a lot of spinning plates. During this time, Sherrie would work until she saved enough money to travel. It was a pretty regular cycle. She kept on writing and traveling and baking and living the slightly unreal life of a 20-something until she felt like her life was about to float off into oblivion. Then she applied to grad schools. The University of Nebraska gave her funding, so off she went, site unseen. It was great for her writing, even if it felt like a nervous breakdown, which it actually was after a man there broke her heart. Nobody had broken up with her before and she went on a 9-month binge of serious interior thought, pool playing (8 ball), Jack Daniels, fiction writing, and gender studies. After that, there was a new guy in her fiction workshop, Rick Schweikert. They met in August, moved in together in December, were married two years later, and have been together for 11 years. He was the answer to everything, every single question. They moved to Pittsburgh, an hour from where she grew up, and where Sherrie now cobbles together a living writing/editing/teaching. Along the way, Sherrie published many stories in literary journals, and, in 2009, she will publish her her first novel, Reconsidering Happiness. Sherrie is still super into baking and Rick is super into eating. They have a big garden, which Sherrie embraced with her first real long-term relationship. The two go together for her. Pesto equals commitment. Fresh garlic equals devotion. Sherrie and Rick feel lucky in the life they have together.

More Sherrie Flick

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]

Friday, December 5, 2008

Australian Review of DEAR EVERYBODY

There's a very nice Australian review of DEAR EVERYBODY up at Just Listen Book Reviews: "I’m giving this novel five out of five, it was so dark (though not disturbing) yet touching, I loved reading this novel and would recommend it to anyone." Thank you, Allie.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Maybe You're In DEAR EVERYBODY Too

I always get a strange jolt of something in the back of my brain whenever I see J.M. Coetzee's THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MICHAEL K in a bookstore. That's one thing.

Then this other thing happened at a party. I was eating cake and this woman walked up to me and said, I'm Debbie Miller. I said something to her that indicated that I was willing to accept the fact that she was Debbie Miller and I ate some more cake. She said that she was her name again and emphasized the syllables. I realized that I was supposed to understand something, but I didn't. Then she said, Page 147? Then she said, The yearbook quotes? I still couldn't remember, but I tried to pretend as if I did. She knew I was pretending and said, I don't think you wrote DEAR EVERYBODY. I shrugged and she walked away. I went to get some more cake.

Here are all the names of all the characters:

Allison Adler, Mr. Akers, Mrs. Akers, Lisa Asher, Lisa Baer, Paul Barnett, Professor Bartoli, Michael Brody, Alice Bender, Jonathon Bender, Grandma Bender, Grandpa Bender, Robert Bender, Sara Bender, Thomas Bender, Professor Boyette, Coach Brackett, Cole Brooks, Diane Brunson, Jane Brunson, Sam Caginello, Simone Chute, Sheri Collucci, Mary Craftman, Joleen Curtis, Terrence Darnell, Veronica Dixon, Mr. Driscoll, Mrs. Driscoll, Mr. Evers, Mrs. Evers, Heather Fairing, Mrs. Farmington, Megan Fitzgerald, Dr. Fritch, Jennie Fuentes, Mr. Gardner, Mark Gibbons, Candace Graham, Kathy Granger, Lisa Green, Dr. Gregory, Kelly Hagan, Mr. Hall, Mrs. Hall, Maxine Haller, Coach Hawkins, Meredith Henderson, Thomas Hernandez, Greg Holiday, Henry Howard, Kay Huebler, Jimmy Ickiss, Al Johnson, Robin Johnson, Jimmy Kaspar, Bill Kendrick, Brian Knott, Francine Kuehn, Charles Leckel, Professor Lindstrom, Professor Lipaski, Ellen Lipsyte, Professor Martine, Catherine Mason, Sharon May, Carol McAnallan, Mr. McComb, Mrs. McCoy, Paula McDowell, Barbara Mertz, Debbie Miller, Leo Moore, Thomas Morris, Professor Moubray, Dr. Newman, Mark Nichols, Mr. O’Brien, Mrs. O’Brien, Megan O’Malley, Carol Olson, Grandma Olson, Harold Olson, Sara Olson, Joe Pennington, Angela Pirelli, Scott Poor, Bob Potterman, Marie Purdy, Chris Rathburn, Piper Reichman, Steve Rigowski, David Rissman, Mr. Roberts, Dr. Ross, Blinky Rush, Mr. Ryan, Lesley Samaras, Dan Schneider, Claire Sherman, Maud Siegel, Molly Simmons, Cheryl Smith, Tammy Spencer, Debbie Stornant, Rose Stringer, Mrs. Sussex, Mr. Taft, Jane Thompson, Laura Thorp, Mrs. Thorp, Dana Tucker, Ginny Twichell, Amanda VanderMere, David Vaughn, Elizabeth Vogel, Rosa Vostella, Danny Wakowski, Jim Washburn, Dana West, Ted Whipple, Lisa Wilcox, Steven Wilson, Alice Winters, Grandma Winters, Grandpa Winters, Maggie Winters, Miss Workman.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

#122 Peter Conners: Growing Up Dead

Peter Conners was born September 11, 1970 in a small town called America. He grew up in the suburbs with his three siblings. His dad put on a tie and went to work while his Mom stayed home. The family house was on a cul de sac. Peter started writing on his own in high school. He started doing it one day and never stopped. After he finishes a project, he switches genres and writing becomes new again, which means he’s also experiencing the world differently. Peter met Karen in high school and they first dated when they were 15. They dated off-and-on for the next 13 years. They went to different schools and sometimes lived in different cities, but they were never truly apart. In addition to Karen, Peter fell in love with the Grateful Dead. He went from being a fan to a Deadhead and followed the Grateful Dead on tour, selling sundry, and traveling around wherever. The music still gets him off every time he listens to it. Peter and Karen got married 10 years ago. She is a clinical psychologist specializing in children and now they have three children of their own: Whitman (after Walt), Max (just because), and Kane (after Karen’s mother’s maiden name). Peter lives in Rochester, NY, where he works as an editor and is in charge of marketing for BOA Editions. Next spring, he will publish his third book, a memoir—Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead.

More Peter Conners

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

J.A. Tyler Is Making Some Great Chapbooks at Mud Luscious Press

J.A. Tyler is making some great chapbooks at Mud Luscious Press. The first six are sold out (officially; there are still ways to get them); I especially loved the Blake Butler and the Brandi Wells and the Shane Jones. You can buy them individually or get a 6-month subscription--here's who you would get:

MISERABLE FISH by colin bassett
DON'T GIVE UP & DIE by james chapman
A HEAVEN GONE by jac jemc
LIKE IT WAS HER PLACE by kim chinquee
& THE UNIVERSE OF THE BODY by norman lock
WHAT I SAW by randall brown
THEY by brian evenson
BLUEBEARD by michael stewart
(forthcoming) by peter markus
THOSE BONES by david ohle
MOLTING by aaron burch
ALTRUISM by matthew savoca
(forthcoming) by johannes göransson

Monday, December 1, 2008

#119 The Comfort and Joy of Andrea Trindade Belo

Andrea Trindade Belo grew up on a campsite in Portugal where people from all over the world spent their vacations—which was great because there were always happy people around. When she was 17, she fell in love with a German boy. Andrea saw him summer after summer, but was so shy that she couldn’t say much to him. For university, Andrea moved to Lisbon, where she decided on philosophy, instead of literature, because she’s especially fond of aesthetics and symbology. When she was 23, that was last time Andrea saw the German. 8 years have passed, and there have been a few relationships, but she is still in love with the German boy. Now Andrea works in a museum, an interactive science and technology centre. It is in a beautiful location, just the place for a life-changing experience! 6 months ago, Andrea joined a Facebook application, Six Degrees of Separation, and the German boy’s face was the first one that showed up. He remembered her and now they talk through Facebook. He is still Andrea’s dream boy, but she doesn’t have the nerve for more right. She will soon, though. She realizes that she needs to let her teenage crush know how she still feels all these years later, that she has to make that relationship real or move on with that part of her life. Andrea is a very peaceful person. She lives in Lagos, Portugal—in a beautiful flat near the beach-- with her 5 dogs—Zu, Misha, Chica, Scruffy, and Ollie. Her best friend is her downstairs neighbor, John. They share the dogs and meals, the garden and wholesome free time. She adores her niece, Lara, and also her dogs. Zu, Misha, Chica, Scruffy, and Ollie want all her attention and love and Andrea is happy to give it all to them, all the time. They always give her back more. She feels blessed for finding each one of them. They are her comfort and joy.