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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
February 15, 2016 § Leave a comment
I used to hate salespeople. You go into the cell-phone store for a new phone, and someone swoops in to try and convince you to get the same phone he has, a more expensive one than you had in mind. The store could have made money off the phone you wanted, but since they have this glorified con-man on their pay-roll, he has to find a way to justify his wage by pressuring you into something you don’t want.
As a grocery buyer, I had to deal with them all the time, dropping into the store just when I was least expecting it, to see if I was interested in carrying their new line of sprouted nuts or artisinal jams, talking too quickly to give me a chance to cut them off with a, “no thanks, not interested.” They’d fill my mouth with samples and tell me to think about it, they’d be emailing soon. I always felt like chasing them out of the store–“Really just no! Not maybe! No need to send your pricing structure. We are not interested, never will be.”–but politeness always stopped me. Then the call came a week later, “Remember me? I fed you ginger peach jam from my jar with a tiny spoon: now you owe me! How many cases can I put you down for?” Even after that no, they had to find a way to keep it open ended and check back to see if anything changes in a few months.
After one guy’s fourth call-back, it hit me: these weren’t the slick talking, smooth operators I was hating them for being; they were desperate losers–they reminded me of myself in high-school and college, trying to ask out girls, pitching my pathetic, inexperienced self in way that avoided the chance of ultimate rejection to keep hope, however slim alive. In addition to making me finally realize why I was always left feeling led-on when girls were as clear with me as I could be, I came to recognize that at the heart of every salesman, there is a sad, scared, and lonely man.
Patrick Robertson is probably the purest example of that sad, scared, lonely bastard since Willy Loman. The title character of Brian Hennigan’s slim novel, Patrick is a divorced and friendless alcoholic stumbling from Asian hotel to machine parts sales meeting without ever making a real connection with anyone.
Don’t let that description and the Willy Loman comparison fool you, though: Patrick Robertson: A Tale of Adventure is not some somber elegy but a raucous farce full of more ups and downs than a regional sales graph. Though a barechested special-ops comando may be the more obvious choice to take on the terrorists, jungle elements, and mistaken identity that pop up in this book, as a salesman, Patrick is a perfect protagonist for an adventure: used to pushing forward towards a deal against all odds, as he falls deeper into trouble, he never gives up, always persevering even in the face of certain death; and as an alcoholic, he is ready to make the sort of brash, split second decisions needed in high-pressure situations. As he explains, “Alcohol is not the answer to all our problems. But if one removes from one’s life those problems that cannot be solved with alcohol, the path is clear.”
Patrick makes a perfect narrator, too, as he’s always dispensing terrible wisdom like the above lines. Interspersed with the action, advice like, “There is a time and a place for the truth, and the conclusion of a sales pitch is not it”, is funny, in part, because readers are left wondering why Patrick would think any of us would want to follow the steps to ending up as sad and lonely as him. Only a narcissist as cut off from others as himself could think that he’s in an admirable position–especially as things keep going from bad to worse for him. And that’s the other reason they are funny: Patrick’s grand schemes for survival keep taking him further and further from life, until he is finally floating on the ocean in hot-air balloon basket, being roasted to death by the sun.
And that’s why I wholeheartedly recommend this book: it fits in with our program here at The Oldest Jokes in the World, with the humor working as another literary device to reinforce and deepen the subtext. If the life of a salesman is a large and already bullet riddled target for a satire, this book gets by for being a quick, energetic read, full of other surprises, the somehow warm without being schmaltzy ending chief among them. Previously published by Cape in the UK, it is now available for the first time in America. You can get it at Amazon or head on over to ataleofadventure.com for more info… and wisdom.
Full disclosure: a friend sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
February 9, 2016 § Leave a comment
Book Fight, one of my favorite literary podcasts, is having a listener drive right now, so I thought I’d write up a quick note about how great a program it is. Their tagline is “Tough love for literature”, but there’s really nothing difficult about the show, a smart yet accessible weekly discussion of literature. The tagline here at TOJitW, “About what other subjects can one make jokes except serious subjects?”, could fit for Book Fight as well, as they have that great mix of irreverence and reverence, where every topic discussed is subject to both intelligent discussion and (sometimes infantile) humor.
Tom and Mike, the hosts, are both writer/academics, but the tone is less classroom lecture than professors letting loose at the bar after work. Every week, they discuss one book, essay, or story, and then veer wildly off course, touching on anything from the politics of the literary journal scene to notable raccoon sightings. If you enjoyed my metafictional erotic thriller / comedic murder mystery / romantic slasher about fan fiction, Slash, you’ll love Tom’s periodic fan fiction readings on the show–but truly anyone who is serious enough about literature to see the value in taking the piss out of it every once in a while should head on over to bookfightpod.com, because they’ll love the show.