Field Trips with Exceptional People by Andrew Bode-Lang

December 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

While weeks without nothing new is nothing new here at TOJitW, I have been letting more things than usual fall through the cracks since the election. For weeks now, I’ve been meaning to post about the latest offering that I helped edit from Red Bird Chapbooks: Field Trips with Exceptional People by Andrew Bode-Lang.

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I say “helped edit”, but one of the things that first drew me to the manuscript was Bode-Lang’s impeccable prose; clean and clear enough to allow for bright moments of striking beauty and sharp humor, it wasn’t just easy to edit, but also incredibly pleasurable to read. As a result, I probably would have loved it no matter what it was about, but then it also hit my fan-fiction/pop-culture button with it’s content: real person fiction about celebrities, politicians, and other public figures.

Each of the shorts in this collection finds our intrepid narrator engaging in a different activity with a different famous person, and the juxtaposition allows us to see the world through fresh eyes while seeing these celebrities as fleshed out human characters. My favorite might be “Riding a Waterslide with Rob Reiner” but lately I’ve been thinking about the short that ends the collection: “Washing Skyscraper Windows with Janet Reno”.

When we lost Janet Reno, our first female Attorney General, it was the eve of the election and, as a result, I feel like she didn’t get the attention she deserved. Growing up in the 90’s, I remember thinking it was cool that she was a woman in a position of power and had a real sense that she must be a strong person to stay decent and positive despite often being the target of mockery and criticism, some of it undue. It takes real character and a confidence that you are doing the right thing to laugh along with jokes about you like she did with SNL’s portrayal of her, and Bode-Lang hits those character notes perfectly as she teaches his narrator how to clean the windows of an office full of ass-holes. I won’t spoil it for you, but will say it ends better than his attempts to rock climb with George H.W. Bush.

Click this link to order this gorgeous, handmade chapbook.

Fiction
48 pages
8.5″ x 5.5″ single signature with hand sewn binding
Published October 2016

Have you ever dreamed of meeting Frank Sinatra or Mr. Rogers? How about riding in a hot-air balloon with Robert Downey Jr? Squeegeeing skyscrapers with Janet Reno? You’ll be treated to all this and more in Field Trips with Exceptional People. Each of the dozen dreamy shorts in this book centers around conducting an interesting activity–record shopping, riding a waterslide, baking scones–with a person of note, such as Helen Mirren, Arnold Palmer, or George W. Bush, among others. As a whole, the collection questions our celebrity culture, examining what makes someone exceptional and how the rest of us relate. But to read this debut collection is ultimately a chance to go on a quick trip with an exceptional writer: every scene showcases Bode-Lang’s sharp eye for character and ability to craft prose that is pure pleasure to read.

 

Twin Cities Book Festival

October 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

Coming to the Twin Cities Book Festival this weekend? You should drop by and say, “hi,” while I’m working at the Red Bird Chapbooks booth! We’ll have lots of chapbooks, old and new, for sale, as well as info about how to get involved with the press as a volunteer or author.

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Not coming to the Twin Cities Book Festival? What’s a matter, brainless–don’t you know it is the best literary fun you can have in Minnesota all year long?

There’ll be lots of presses if you’re interested in finding a publisher and lots of schools, workshops, and MFA programs if you’re looking to improve your craft.

Plus, the place will be lousy with awesome authors: TOJitW favorite Mark Rapacz will have a table for his new book Boondoggle (there will be a review here shortly after I get my copy at the fest) and a new favorite of mine,Andre Alexis, will be talking and signing–his Fifteen Dogs has, so far, been the funniest and most surprising book I’ve read this year (I can’t wait to see him at 2:30, so just don’t drop by the booth then).

And if you just want books, there’s no better way place to get your hands on both the hottest and most obscure tomes out there! You can get all the details and the full schedule here.

Possibilities

July 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Got some great short stories that form a cohesive unit? A dozen flash fiction pieces that explore a theme? Or just one, gorgeous longer short story?

I hope so, because we’ve just opened our 2016 Possibilities Period at Red Bird Chapbooks! For the duration of July and August, we’ll be accepting collections of fiction, poetry, CNF, and everything in between, so send us your best. You can find the full guidelines here.1435580753

Didn’t think chapbooks were for fiction? We’ve been trying to combat that misconception for years, and I think we’re finally getting some traction. When I started with Red Bird, we had a handful of brave authors sending their manuscripts, while last year there were nearly a hundred fiction chapbooks to choose from, and even with Beth Mayer joining the team, I felt like there was more good work in the pool than we were able to choose for publication. Though I know how awful it feels to hear that as a writer, it is a great problem to have as an editor! We’re publishing six incredible and diverse collections of fiction in 2016, whereas we didn’t even have six submissions that first year. This year we’ve added a third fiction editor, so we will be publishing nine fiction chapbooks in 2016!

Interested in knowing more? Here’s an interview I gave to Bonnie ZoBell at Everyday Fiction a few years ago, detailing what I’m looking for in a chapbook and what makes them such a great format for a fiction writer.

Phenomenology of Superhero by Jason Magabo Perez

June 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

We’ve got some great books coming out from Red Bird this year, first and foremost on my list is Phenomenology of Superhero by Jason Magabo Perez, a perfect book for the summer blockbuster and comic book reboot season. With Steve Rogers hailing Hydra and so many white male superheroes on the silver screen, questions about representation in popular culture are more important than ever, and in this book Jason Magabo Perez explores these issues with wit and passion.

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I was a little scared of this collection on first read: Jason has writing chops–a veteran performance poet, you can hear his voice in every line–but he also has an academic’s intelligence, and I was intimidated by his genre-jumping throughout the manuscript, as well as his Michel Focault and Sara Ahmed references. Luckily, he was applying these intellectual frameworks to rap music and comic books, so I had points of reference too familiar to resist. I’m really proud to have helped Jason bring this book into the world; I feel it is one of the more important books we’ve published at Red Bird, and am happy it is already finding an audience. You can buy it here, and while you’re at the Red Bird website, read up on how your work could end up in a chapbook next year–our reading period opens up soon!

Multi Genre
52 pages
7″ x 7″ single signature chapbook with hand sewn binding
Published March 2016

An eclectic and energizing collection of poems, essays, and experimental fiction, Jason Magabo Perez’s Phenomenology of Superhero explores the Filipino-American experience with a voracious intelligence and an indelible voice. Fiercely interdisciplinary, Perez’s work explores the relationship between power and otherness in American life, focusing here especially on the relationship between discipline and art, ultimately coming to an “anti-disciplinary” vision of creativity. Touching on such diverse enthusiasms as Michel Foucault, Wolverine of the X-Men, Jorge Luis Borges, Eazy-E, Sara Ahmed, and Buzz Lightyear, every reader is bound to find something to relate to and be challenged by in this brave chapbook.

Best When Read from the Gutter

May 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

Open up those Google calendars, guys, because after almost a year off the stage, I’ve got several readings coming up, and I’d love to see you there.

First, on June 3rd, I’ll be opening up for my more talented, charismatic cousin, Toussaint Morrison at the Bryant Lake Bowl. An incredible musician and talented actor, Toussaint is debuting a short film of spoken word performances earlier in the week and will be releasing an accompanying chapbook at the show. I’m honestly really nervous for this one, as I’m used to being in the corner of a book store or coffee shop for my readings, sharing the stage with writers who are as awkward as me. But Toussaint has dazzled crowds at most of the major clubs around town and performed on large stages around the country. Did I mention that he’s also a model? I am hoping to bring my best to this one, but some familiar faces in the crowd would really help. You can find all the details here and get more info on the project at Toussaint’s blog.

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I’ll also be taking part in the Cracked Walnut Reading Series again this year. They’re doing sixteen readings this spring in honor of 2016, and I’ll be appearing at the DAWN themed reading on June 16th at Groundswell Coffee. I’ll be sharing the stage with Sherrie Fernandez-Williams, Mike Hazard, Jeanne Lutz, Kate Lucas, Sarah Hayes and Lisa Yankton—a talented cohort, only slightly less intimidating than Kid Fresh himself…

 

 

Instagram

April 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

In keeping with my habit of joining social media programs only after I am sure they are no longer cool, I recently started an Instagram. Check me out at @evskingston!

Actually, with Cedar coming up on six months and settling into a good sleeping schedule, I’ve managed to get into a bit better writing routine, and I am hoping to get my literary social media going again. That said, I’m feeling like I have time to work on fiction or blogging but not both, so posts here will still be sporadic. I initially thought of reviving my twitter, but I just can’t seem to fit anything I want to say into the format (and I rarely find anything that engages me at that length either). Since all I ever seemed to do with Twitter was post pictures of what I am reading while walking around town, I decided to just switch over and make an Instagram dedicated to books in the world. I’ve always been skeptical of the saying that pictures are worth 1,000 words, but they are definitely worth at least 140 characters. I’ll have pics of books in the locations I read them, my favorite Little Free Libraries around town, any sweet comics I pick up, and book art projects I have going on–maybe even a few cats and baby pics while I’m at it.

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So please follow me, because I’d love to have a conversation about whatever book is in my hands if you’ve read it, too–and I’d love to see what you’re reading, eating, or just plain pointing your phone at…

The Lawless River by Shaun Turner

February 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

Having recently started editing the chapbooks I’m working on for 2016’s production schedule, I’ve been reflecting on the chapbooks Red Bird put out during 2015. They are definitely the best we’ve put out yet, and as such, I’m a little ashamed I didn’t do more to promote them. No doubt, it was a busy year for me and my family, but I am hoping to make up for it now by highlighting the books I helped put together now. I recently wrote up a piece about Christina Olsen’s Law & Order obsessed The Rook and the M.E. as part of the fan-fic recommendation section over at slashserial.com, and but here I want to highlight Shaun Turner’s The Lawless River.

The first thing that grabbed me when I read the collection was the prose: the clear and simple music of it that beautifully evoked its rural southern setting without descending into overwrought twangs and g-less gerunds. It was that setting that kept me in the collection, though, and had me coming back for multiple reads, finally getting me to pick it for publication.

In the nine shorts that comprise this debut collection, we’re treated to a lively look at Turner’s native Kentucky. Setting comes to life in these stories as we tour a land where folk are as likely to pass the time waiting to capture a snake in a noose as they are to be caught up in a great flooding river. Readers, similarly, will find themselves ensnared by Turner’s gorgeously simple prose, wanting to inhabit these small towns, rural creeks, pumpkin growing contests, and church revivals for as long as possible.

So click on over to Bartelby Snopes to read “Everything Blooms”, one of my favorites from the collection, and if you like it, click on over to Red Bird and get your very own copy of the hand-sewn The Lawless River by Shaun Turner.

The Lawless River