The Writer’s Life

February 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

If you’ve ever dreamt of living the fast-paced life of a self-published author, you should join me at Hamline University’s Writer’s Life Lecture Series, where you to can learn how to go into debt and then pester your friends, family, and the internet at large into helping you break even!

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In all seriousness, it will be a great event with lots to learn for authors of all levels. I’ll be covering the self-published angle, but a traditionally published author will be there, as well—along with a professional book marketer and web designer. Here’s a full description:

SESSION III:
BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL WEB PRESENCE & SOCIAL MEDIA FOR WRITERS

SATURDAY, MARCH 14. 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM
(NOTE: THIS IS A 1 DAY SESSION WITH 2 PARTS)

Part I: Social Media Demystified
Have you been wondering about Facebook? Does Twitter leave you cold? Do you wonder where you would find the time for social media? Don’t miss out on this exploding avenue for connecting with your fans. This session will help writers, author sand others sort through social media options. We will discuss the most popular social media platforms, what they are best used for, and what kind of time it takes. You will get tips, tricks and ideas for content and interaction to make your social media presence a conversation with your fans. It’s all about building relationships, and it doesn’t have to bbe hard. Note: This is not a tech session; you do not need to have any social media profiles set up and we will not be doing that during this time. Instructor:Linda White, BookMania!

Part II: Building a Successful Web Presence:Panel Presentation
Evan Kingston (MFA ’11) will discuss what worked and what didn’t while promoting his seven-part self-published serial novel, including how to sell your work online without annoying your friends, and maybe even finding an audience outside of them. Addie Zierman (MFA ’11) will talk about her journey in publishing her thesis-turned-memoir, When We Were on Fire, including the need for an author to cultivate an internet presence and how that realization turned into her successful blog, “How to Talk Evangelical.” Christine Rousu (CWP staff/freelance web designer) will highlight the options for creating author sites, from fast and cheap DIY to fully designed and paid-for, including what to look for and what to look out for when building/hiring for an author site.

While it is a real honor to be invited back to my alma mater to speak, I’m equally excited by the chance to learn from the other presenters. It should be a really great event, so if you are in the Minnesota area, you should definitely attend. Plus, if you are thinking about an MFA, it is a great chance to sample one of the best programs in the country! Registration is cheaper before March 6th, so click on over here ASAP.

There’s Nothing More Flattering Than Seeing Your Name Spelled Out In Bacon

February 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

I recently hooked back up with my old pals Josh Wodarz and Robert Algeo at their new podcast, the impeccably named The Kingston Legacy. You may remember me co-hosting the Film Strip Heroes podcast with them last year. Since I retired from podcasting to focus on a new big writing project for 2015,  Josh and Robert relaunched with a looser format that allows them to discuss whatever they want, whenever they want—as opposed to the old format, which required building fragile bridges of tangents, precariously linking some Marvel Studios Press Release to whatever Weird Al was up to that week.

They also want to start bringing in guests every week, so I was happy to be the test subject in their latest episode. For the interview, we talked about the experience of writing and self-publishing Slash, The Oldest Jokes in the World‘s new partnership with Autoannata, as well as my plans for future projects. Then we slid pleasantly back into our old habit of bullshitting about the latest comic book related news: Marvel and DC’s big shake-up plan’s, as well as Spider-Man’s release into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Josh and Robert also like to talk tech, so I brought an article about archiving the internet I found in print media. After a good laugh about what a backward boob I am, we talked a bit about how this added element of nostalgia has made me excited about the internet in a way I haven’t been for sometime.

I am incredibly nostalgic by nature, so it was really fun going back to Josh’s and recording again. Even just getting the links together for this post, I was briefly enraptured clicking through the links for our old podcasts. I’m already looking forward to looking back on this episode if they ever invite me back again in the future.

Carol Mae

February 10, 2015 § 3 Comments

My grandma, Carol Van Deusen, passed away last week, so I want to share some of my favorite memories of her, and this blog seems like the right place for several reasons: first, I learned the value of a sense of humor from her (and my mother, who learned it from her), so these anecdotes are definitely on-topic for The Oldest Jokes in the World; second, they are too crass for a eulogy, so where the hell else am I going to share them?

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My grandma traveled up to Canada to visit a few times when I was young, but it was only once I was seven, when we moved to Minnesota to be closer to my mom’s family after my dad died, that I came to spend time enough with her to know who she was besides my mom’s mom. We moved in with her for the summer and, while my mom was out job- and house-hunting, Grandma watched and entertained my brother and me.

And we needed entertainment: still devastated from losing our father, we were confused and afraid, not knowing what it really meant; and as we gradually figured it out, each new revelation was a fresh source of anxiety, grief, or anger; and then on top of it all, we moved to America, which seemed like a louder, meaner version of Canada, all the worse because it was away from every memory we had of our father.

So my grandma taught us German curses while we played board games. She must have learned them from her German-speaking parents, cursing in earnest at their own card games, but we learned to do it in jest. Whenever something bad happened to her in the game, she’d cuss with glee. A favorite was “shist auf der loof,” which I’m sure, if I’m even remembering it perfectly, isn’t proper German. Regardless, we were told it meant “poo on the roof”—a phrase whose meaning is every bit as obvious and mysterious to me today as it was then. My grandma made it clear that saying it was the funest way to lose, though, so soon we were joining in and learning new ones for variety. Being boys, “schwantz”—meaning penis, or as we said then “wiener” or “goo goo”—was soon our favorite, and it quickly became family tradition to say it, not when loosing, but before every dice roll for good luck.

When I think of why I love my grandma, past the general reasons we all love our grandmas, I think of that transformation: back then I was so scared of life that I used to stay awake in bed for as long as I could, as silently as I could, listening to my heartbeat so that, if it stopped, I could tell my mom before I died; but while with grandma, I was jumping out of my chair to joyfully scream German penis at the top of my lungs.

I’m sure that is where I learned to joke my way through tough times, an instinct that has helped me ever since. So as things got harder for my grandma with age, it was heartening to see that she always held on to her humor. Even this last Thanksgiving, when getting around was becoming more and more difficult, painful, and exhausting, she had us all laughing on several occasions. Carol had always been proficient with non sequiturs, so it was sometimes hard over the past few years to tell if she was changing the subject to be funny, because she couldn’t hear what was just said, or if she’d just gotten bored of sober conversation. Regardless of why, as conversation flagged towards the end of dessert, she announced to the whole room: “I have a confession to make.”

We all stopped to listen, and she started telling a story about a night shift she’d once worked in the hospital. She’d been a nurse her whole life, but this took place back when she was still a young woman. Mr. Wilkinson, one of her patients, however, was old.

“Oh Lord, he was old,” she explained. “Old as dirt: he was older than I am now. So old he could hardly do anything. Couldn’t walk around, or push his own wheel chair, couldn’t even sit up in bed without some help. He was old, old, old—but at night, he slept as a young man…”

I think we were all a little confused by this turn of phrase, but a mischievous glimmer in her eyes gave me a clue as to what it might mean. Still, I could barely believe she was talking about what I thought she was talking about, even as she continued.

“Every night, making the rounds, I’d walk by his room to check on him, and there old Mr. Wilkinson would be: sleeping as a young man. All us nurses joked about it. It was terrible, one of those things you didn’t want to look at but couldn’t help it: there he was, every night, tenting the sheet.”

She was! She was talking about Mr. Wilkinson’s schwantz!

“And then one night, it was worse than ever before. It had tipped the sheet onto the floor and even parted his gown. And I couldn’t help it: I ran out to the break room, peeled a sticker off a Chiquita banana, and snuck back into his room to put it on him. Then I told Eileen to go check on Mr. Wilkinson. She laughed so hard she could barely make it out of the room before she doubled over onto the floor.”

In addition to raising some fine jokers, Carol raised some incredible health care professionals, so there was a bit of an outcry in the family about losing your license for playing the same prank today, but I just laughed. Or laughed and thought, as I usually do, about why we joke. This wasn’t just some crass anecdote, but a chance to talk about what we were all afraid to talk about, a way to simultaneously look at and let go of that which had been haunting the whole evening: the pains and humiliations of aging.

Whether you’re missing your dad or worried about your health, while laughing, all your sufferings and anxieties are briefly obliterated. Joking is a way for us to look at what we don’t want to see but know we can’t ignore; it is a way to put a bright sticker on the wrinkled schwantz we have to stare down every night. Joking keeps us whole. So thank you, Grandma, for teaching me how.

Through nearly a century of loss, pain, disappointment, and conflict, Carol Mae managed to not just keep a smile on her face, but put one on the faces of nearly everyone she met. So, if you’ll excuse the turn of phrase, I’ll end by saying that though she is now at rest, I know she rests as a young woman: full of love, hope, compassion, and mischief.

*For another remembrance of this lovely woman who touched so many people’s lives, read my cousin, Toussaint Morrison’s beautiful essay on his blog.

**A brief search of the internet has made me question whether the curses discussed are actually German. Maybe I am remembering/spelling them wrong, or maybe Carol, not wanting to actually teach us to curse, made up nonsense words? Any insight from foul-mouthed Germans would be greatly appreciated.

Newest Home for The Oldest Jokes

February 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’m excited to announce thatthe-oldest-joke-in-the-world-cover-pic-254x300 The Oldest Jokes in the World is starting a new partnership with AutoAnatta, the freshest web zine on the net. Featuring work of diverse sorts from daring young writers, the first full issue went up a few days ago, and it features a piece of mine imagining what the reading-group discussion questions might be like in the back of a copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Cormac’s McCarthy’s The Road, published post-apocalypse.

Under the The Odest Jokes in the World banner, I’ll be contributing a new humor piece every month, so I hope it means I’ll be posting more here than I have been recently as well. They are also looking for more contributors, so you should definitely click the banner below to check it out. You can read my piece, along with the other great poems and essays included in this edition, then you can find out how to submit something of your own to the next.

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AutoAnatta

 

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