Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Barrelhouse Mixtape: Indie Lit in Charm City

Barrelhouse Magazine just put up its first Mixtape, which focuses on indie lit in Baltimore. I talk with them about Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard), kind of the long version of the NPR interview. There's also Publishing Genius, Adam Robinson, on IsReads. Plus, there's a Josh Maday poem and there's Mike Ingram reading the postcard life story of Barrelhouse Magazine, which is also here. Nice.

#215 Barrelhouse Magazine Is All About Great Writing, Pop Culture, and Cuddling

Barrelhouse Magazine had 4 fathers—Dave Housley, Joe Killiany, Mike Ingram, Aaron Pease—and no mother, which some people say is impossible but it’s not. Barrelhouse is proof of that. The fathers were in a writing class together and they kept getting together after the class for beers and writerly talk (which tended to devolve into random pop-culture talk—Snoop Dogg, David Lee Roth v. Sammy Hagar, etc.). One of those beer nights, Dave started talking about starting a journal and they were all into it. That’s how Barrelhouse was born in 2004 in Washington, D.C. Barrelhouse’s first words were “We worship power chords” (Matt Kirkpatrick) and it hasn’t stopped talking since. Now Barrelhouse is 5 years old, but if you ask Barrelhouse its age, it will probably tell you it’s #7 and soon to be #8. Barrelhouse ages irregularly. Also, Barrelhouse’s childhood was a bit drunken, but that didn’t seem to hinder its development. Early on, Barrelhouse had to ask writers for their words, but now Barrelhouse mostly relies on the slush pile (and it likes it that way). Early on, Barrelhouse had a thing for dodgeball, which was way before the movie and way before everybody started playing the game in a semi-ironic fashion. Sometimes, Barrelhouse wonders about its ink, thinks about the tattoos of its fathers—Matt’s tattoo of Pennsylvania on the inside of his wrist, say, or Dave’s Grateful Dead tattoo. For a while, Barrelhouse was all about Patrick Swayze, which was a strange time for Barrelhouse. Also, the time that Barrelhouse had those four poems in it about giving Ed Asner a spongebath, that felt a little weird. A while back, Barrelhouse’s parents were excited about the pieces that were chosen for one of those “Best” anthologies—an essay from Lee Klein on Barry Bonds and those poems about Ed Asner. Gradually, Barrelhouse staked out a voice in fiction, but it’s its nonfiction that sets it apart, especially the way it all relates to pop culture. Also, Barrelhouse always tries to maintain a sense of humor. Barrelhouse has a refreshing lack of pretense. They would, for instance, probably publish a 7K-word essay on Bring It On if somebody sent it to them. One thing you should know: None of Barrelhouse’s parents ride fixed-gear bikes or wear skinny jeans. They aren’t hipsters. They’re semi-cool, at best, but, once, one of Barrelhouse’s fathers (Aaron) got into an AWP dance-off with one of OneStory’s mothers that was pretty amazing. Aaron is the Justin Timberlake of Barrelhouse. Barrelhouse isn’t married, but it is interested in other magazines, especially if they’re about great writing, pop culture and cuddling—also if they play guitar or sing or maybe paint. All that stuff is totally hot. But, really, Barrelhouse is just proud to still be alive. Most magazines die young. Also, Barrelhouse is proud of everybody that it has ever had inside it. Writers are great. One of the best things that happens to Barrelhouse is when they meet one of the writers and the writer says, "I wrote this crazy thing about [insert crazy thing], but nobody would take it, and then I sent it to you, and, man, you guys seemed to really love it." Barrelhouse loves that. Barrelhouse hopes that keeps happening.

More Barrelhouse

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Ribbon of Language: Blake Butler and Michael Kimball Talk About Acoustics

Blake Butler and I talk about acoustics--how we think about acoustics, how we use acoustics, and where we feel acoustics. We called the talk A Ribbon of Language. It originally appeared in Unsaid #4. Now it's posted in my interview column at The Faster Times, along with a Gary Lutz interview.

Full of Crow Interview Series

The good Peter Schwartz interviewed me for the Full of Crow Interview Series. We talk about other people, their stories, things to do with sledgehammers, and being honest. Thanks, Peter.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Baltimore Book Festival & Baltimore Hostel

I have two readings this weekend. The first is a 510 Reading on Saturday, the 26th. It's from 5-630pm in the CityLit Tent at the Baltimore Book Festival (near east side of the monument). And I'm reading with an great bunch of writers: Terese Svoboda, Dan Fesperman, Shanthi Sekaran, John Dermot Woods, Justin Sirois, Savannah Schroll Guz, and Jen Michalski. There is a lot more information here.

The second reading is Last Sunday, Last Rites. That's Sunday, the 27th, at 7pm at the Baltimore Hostel. There I'm reading with Sarah Miller, Joseph Crespo, & Emily Peterson. There is a little more info here.

I hope to see you there or there.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I WILL SMASH YOU @ PPOW GALLERY in NYC September 24--Doors @ 630--Screening @ 730

The first screening of I WILL SMASH YOU is September 24th at the PPOW Gallery in New York City. If you're interested in setting up a screening of I WILL SMASH YOU in your city, leave a comment or email me and I'll send you a DVD. We have screenings set up in NYC, Baltimore, Toronto, and are working out dates for Detroit and Los Angeles. There's more info, as well as stills and trailers, at the new website for Little Burn Films.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

City Paper's Best Literary Agent of Change

Every year, City Paper hands out the Best of Baltimore (BoB) awards. And sometimes they make up a category like Best Literary Agent of Change just so they can give somebody like me a BoB. City Paper can be so sweet sometimes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

#214 How Jenny-Anne Dexter and Dave Hobbs Came to Be Married

Jenny-Anne Dexter and Dave Hobbs might not have met in 2006 if they hadn’t both been working at Norden Farm, an arts center where Jenny-Anne ran the marketing and Dave ran the restaurant. Jenny-Anne remembers a giant walking into her office—headfirst because he had to bend down to get through the door. The giant turned out to be Dave and Jenny-Anne definitely thinks it is a plus that he is so huge. Dave remembers that Jenny-Anne was wearing a low-cut top, and he also thought she was funny and friendly, but he didn’t realize that until later. For their first date, they were supposed to go to a shady boxing match somewhere in East London, but the police got there first, so Jenny-Anne and Dave drove around most of the night before ending up at a lap dancing club. Their second date was in Newbury—at a hotel that Jenny-Anne was supposed to be reviewing; Dave came along and ordered a bottle of champagne for them, which was against the review rules, but they got away with it, and that made their relationship feel inevitable. Jenny-Anne knew that she was in love with Dave when he organized a party for his parents and made it perfect for them. That’s how Jenny-Anne knew that Dave was much more than just a big bloke with an attitude. Dave knew that Jenny-Anne was the one for him when he realized that she likes his crap sense of humor. But Dave was the first one to say, “I love you.” It happened one night when Jenny-Anne was sitting on him and Dave waited for her to say thank you, but she said it back instead. Dave loves how violent Jenny-Anne is—that she loves boxing, MMA, and martial arts even more than he does—and Jenny-Anne thinks that Dave makes a pretty good punching bag. One of the things that makes them such a good couple is that Jenny-Anne makes Dave get out more and Dave makes it tempting to stay in sometimes. They balance each other. Also, Dave does as he’s told. And Dave does things that Jenny-Anne loves—like the time that he put together a massive food fight for her birthday. Jenny-Anne gave up her job to move in with Dave, but she didn’t like her job or her home. Besides, there are times when life should come before job. They are going to get married abroad, on a little lake in Northern Italy, which was the only way they could ignore everybody else's wedding ideas. And they will honeymoon in Rutland in Leicestershire, which will complete their plan to visit a unique hotel in every county in the UK. Only two things will change after Jenny-Anne and Dave get married on September 5, 2009: (1) they will get a puppy and (2) they will find ways to like each other even more than they already do. Then, Jenny-Anne and Dave plan to grow old together slowly and with as little fuss as possible.

Friday, September 11, 2009

#212 Now She Is Rebecca Lin

Jamie Lin’s grandmother was sold to her grandfather’s family when she was 8 and she worked until she was old enough to be a bride (16yo). Jamie was born in China and her family moved to NYC when she was 8. The biggest difference was the snow. Jamie did not see her dad much and her mom worked at the sweat factory—where Jamie used to play, thinking it a magical place. Once, her dad told her to do the dishes, but she didn’t because she didn’t know him that well. Sometimes, she still feels bad about that. Her dad is the sweetest person. At first, Jamie was oblivious to American culture and she didn’t have friends outside of her ESL class. At 10, Jamie’s family relocated to the suburbs of New York. The first apartment they lived in had one bedroom, a storage room where Jamie slept, and a living room where her brother slept. She read lots of books and her favorites were The Boxcar Children where the kids controlled their own lives. After middle school, her English got a lot better and she joined the high school newspaper and literary magazine (she started out writing supernatural novels). At the time, she was infatuated with a Russian boy with a mischievous smile, but he was shorter than her so she never expressed her feelings. Jamie had body image issues. For two years, she wore the same two vests over and over again to cover her bulge. Her mom would tell her that she needed to lose weight and she would tell herself that her nose was too big for her face. Jamie did not feel invincible when she was a teenager. During high school, her two closest friends were white and Jamie learned to become more American from them. Now people can hardy distinguish her from other Americans, just a slight Chinese accent. In 2005, Jamie was introduced to Zoetrope and the online literary community—and everything changed. She learned about flash fiction and how to write stories that didn’t suck. Jamie thought she would become a completely different person once she got to college, but she didn’t. She was quite depressed during her first year, but was comforted by the idea of starting over. Now at almost 20, Jamie has found her two passions—writing and promoting social justice. She is deliriously happy, for once in her life, to be different from everybody else. She weighs more than she did in high school, but she has never felt so perfect and so proud to be exactly who she is.

[Update #1: She is returning back to her former college in Georgia to major in political science.]

[Update #2. She is legally changing her name to Rebecca J. Lin. She has always wanted a long first name, a meaningful middle name, and a chance to start over.]

[Update #3: She adopted a two-year-old pit bull and named her Madison (Maddie). Maddie is the first member of Rebecca's very own family.]

[Update #4: She has been accurately diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, though she is still unconvinced that she is not borderline.]

[Update #5: She was involved in a disastrous fling that made her realize that she has to take care of herself and know what her limits are.]

Rebecca Lin's website, with lots of links to her writing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All Kinds of Nice Things About Everyday Genius

So I was guest-editing Everyday Genius for the month of August and I ended up with so much genius that the genius himself, Adam Robinson, has let me stay on through a good part of September. And then Matt Bell went and said all kinds of nice things about said editing, including this: "Together, these stories, poems, and Venn diagrams comprise what is certainly one of the best stretches of publication by any magazine, online or off."

Of course, the real genius is constituted by the writers: Stephen Graham Jones, David McLendon, Sean Lovelace, Peter Markus, Gregory Luce, Sherrie Flick, Giancarlo DiTrapano, Stacy Muszynski, Randall Brown, Ken Baumann, Robert Lopez, Gena Mohwish, Elizabeth Ellen, Blake Butler, Ingrid Burrington, Adam Robison, Barry Graham, Jane Hammons, Luca Dipierro, Sasha Fletcher, Matt Bell, Kim Chinquee, Catherine Moran, Andy Devine, J.A. Pak, Tria Andrews, Aaron Burch, Amelia Gray, and Sam Pink.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I Feel Very Urgent About This Film

I Feel Very Urgent About This Film is an outtake from I WILL SMASH YOU, where I talk a little bit about the genesis of the film. Sure, something is going on with my hair that makes me look a little crazy, but the filmmaker never tells the person in front of the camera that.

In other film news, I WILL SMASH YOU is finally ready to show. We have a screening set up for September 24th at the PPOW Gallery in New York City. If you're interested in setting up a screening of I WILL SMASH YOU in your city, email me leave a comment or email me and I'll send you a DVD.

Also, please check out the new website of Little Burn Films (courtesy of the incomparable Tita Chico) with stills and trailers and other stuff.

#66 We're Lucky There's Blake Butler

Blake Butler’s two older brothers were miscarriages. Blake was almost a miscarriage too. He was blue and not breathing. He scored 1 out of 10 on the Apgar scale, which is almost not alive, and lived under the lights in the ICU for days. When he went home, he was his mother’s miracle. Understandably, she was overprotective with Blake when he was an infant, but that turned into permissiveness as he grew older, which gave him a sense of freedom that continues to inform his writing today. By 4 years old, Blake was performing considered monologues, crazy dances, music videos, and both sides of talk shows. It’s all on video (his mother will show you, if you want). Despite these performances, Blake was a fat child by the 4th grade. He liked comic books and video games. By 10th grade, he weighed 250 pounds and felt disregarded. His bedroom walls were covered with pictures of women that he tore out of magazines at the grocery store. He started playing bass in a band and started to feel better. By 11th grade, he weighed 170 pounds and people were nicer to him. He lost all the weight for a girl named Jen. He thought his weight was the only thing keeping her from him. It wasn’t, but Blake stopped being shy and started talking to girls. He played in lots of different rock bands—15, eventually. The first time Blake was on stage, under the lights, it reminded him of when he was in the ICU. Eventually, writing replaced music, though Blake brought the rhythm of the bass with him to the page. Blake still thinks of himself as the fat kid and he writes to find out what is inside him. This is one explanation for his tremendous written output. Another explanation is his insomnia, which allows him more conscious hours than most people are allowed. Blake is never fully awake or fully asleep, though, and the normal often becomes strange. But Blake keeps giving us everything that is inside him. It’s not pounds, but it’s a different kind of weight.

[New Update: Today is the official release date of Blake Butler's second book, Scorch Atlas, which is an obliteration. There are links to reviews and lots of other stuff at Blake's blog.

[Old Update: Blake Butler's first book has just been released. I've already bought my copy and you can buy your copy of EVER by clicking on EVER. There are blurbs from Brian Evenson and Gary Lutz. There are excerpts. There is an official trailer. There is an unofficial trailer.]

Dear Everybody, One of the Incredibles

Nik Perring has a category for books that he loves beyond other books, The Incredibles. I love that he has that category and I love that he added Dear Everybody to that list with books like Slaughterhouse 5 and Frankenstein. Nik says Dear Everybody "is right up there with the best I've read. Ever. It's clever, sensitive, heartbreaking, moving, funny and many, many other wonderful things." And then we did an interview where we talk about what is essential to great fiction and sympathy for those suffering from mental illness.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

#51 Gina Myers: Ice Skating on the Page

Gina Myers was born, grew up, and went to school in and around Saginaw, Michigan. Despite its cold winters and depressed economy, she is a warm and happy person. As a young girl, Gina was a tomboy who followed her older brother around and did the things that he did. This is why she played hockey for three years before her parents switched her to ice skating lessons. (It should be noted that Gina might have won a gold medal with the first USA Olympics women’s hockey team if she had kept playing hockey.) She doesn’t talk much about figure skating anymore, though this was the focus of her life through high school and college. During this time, Gina was also a photographer and a poet, but she stopped shooting photos after her camera’s battery went dead and she never bought a new one. After college, she took a road trip to NYC with a friend and visited the New School. After returning to Michigan, she dreamed of NYC and knew that she had to move there. She couldn’t stop thinking about all those pairs of feet walking on the sidewalks. Gina took her ice skates to NYC, but only skated once in Central Park. She attended the New School and became a poet with a natural, playful style (think of the ice rink as the page). Unfortunately, she became unhappy in NYC. She tried to fix the unhappiness by changing parts of her life—her job, her apartment, certain people—but she eventually had to change cities and moved back home. In a few years, she will leave Saginaw for another city where she will continue to write poems. She is feeling optimistic.

Gina Myer's first full-length collection of poetry, A Model Year, was just published by Coconut Books. David Shapiro says, "The poetry seems to have taken a polygraph test and has the truthfulness of an injured voice."

Here is Gina's blog, A Sad Day for Sad Birds.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Faster Times: Writers on Writing

The Faster Times has been laying down a ton of nice coverage of books and everything and I've just started an interview column there called Writers on Writing. The first interview is with Gary Lutz and it's called I Am Not a Camera. It's pretty incredible.

Little Burn Films: I Will Smash You

Luca Dipierro and I have been working on I WILL SMASH YOU for a while now and it's finally ready to show. We previewed part of it at the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore (which was followed by a smashing). And we have screenings set up for September 24th at the PPOW Gallery in New York City and October 3 at the Windup Space in Baltimore. We also have a new website for Little Burn Films with stills and trailers and other stuff, plus a second film, 60 Writers/60 Places in the works.