December 22, 2012 § 6 Comments
Since I’ve always been an introvert and a slow thinker, starting The Oldest Jokes in the World back in April and keeping it updated all year has been an exercise in getting out of my comfort zone. It feels unnatural for me to share my thoughts and writing without months of consideration and polish—and even worse to shoot of a quick comment on the work of a complete strangers. I have trouble making friends with people who haven’t been introduced to me by a mutual friend, so building relationships with people I’ve never met seems impossible, but I’ve forced myself to try to take part in the awesome community of writers and thinkers out here in the internet.
There are several aspects of the blogging world, though, that I’ve often felt I would never get used to or participate in, and blog awards were chief among them. Whenever I saw a blog post about receiving an award and passing it along, I muttered grumpily to myself about how they weren’t awards for great thoughts at all, but chain-letters for the bored and lonely. Bah humbug!
That is, of course, until I received one. Earlier this week, I felt my heart grow two sizes when Eve Proofreads gave me a Reader Appreciation Award; these aren’t really awards so much as presents, not meant to sit on your mantle, but to be passed along, building and strengthening the bonds of community.
So, like Ebenezer Scrooge singing through the streets on Christmas Morning, I’d like to celebrate my miraculous conversion and name a few blogs that have made this year-long adventure more comfortable and pleasant for me, passing on this reader appreciation award.
1) First and foremost, Eve Proofreads, who gave me this awesome award. On the blog for her website, Eve reviews books and offers grammar advice with such perception and concision that I’m sure she’s an incredible editor. I’ll be in need of one before I self-publish the manuscript I’m currently working on, so I’m thankful to have found her in my blogging.
2) Sarah of Sarah in Small Doses is a friend of mine from grad school, and watching her start a humor blog on WP was one of my inspirations for finally getting over my anxiety and doing it too. She writes hilariously about her personal life and daily observations, and with a background as an incredible essayist, her jokes often have that touch of human tenderness I like best with my humor.
3) Charlie from That Girl Who Reads Books is another friend from grad school. Setting out to read all the books she’s hoarded but never read, she writes great reviews that often wander to diverse subject to make surprising connections. She has a great post about Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, which is the book that makes me think these awards are more like a gift economy.
4) Thomas, another friend from grad school, uses Walking to Bars to keep people updated on his writing and review movies. As I said above, it takes a while for me to make new friends, so blogging has been great for helping me stay in touch with a writing community even though I am out of school. Thomas’ passion is horror; mine isn’t, but I’m trying to write a horror novel at the moment, so I love keeping in touch with his blog for the sort of recommendations and challenging insight we used to share before class.
5) Even better, blogging has helped me stay in touch with people who moved away after graduating, such as C Lee over at 50 Rows Up. Although I know nowhere near as much about sports as her, I always loved workshopping her powerful sports-related fiction in class, so it has been great to keep up with her on her blog even though she isn’t in the cities anymore.
6) Right after I first started blogging and was thinking about quitting, Ross Gale reached out to me and immediately made me feel like I was part of a community, encouraging me to keep up with and participate in his incredible and inspiring Bereshit Bara Creativity Series. He seems to have taken a break from blogging after a move, but hopefully he’ll be back to it soon because I’ve never felt someone’s welcoming friendliness translate so well into through the internet.
7) I didn’t know Manoftheword before I found his blog, and I haven’t exchanged more than a few likes and comments since, but I feel like I’ve come to know him in some small way from reading it. His original vignettes are always so uniquely conceived that they inspire fresh insight into my work, so checking his blog has become part of my routine.
8) Besides missing serious craft discussion and encouraging camaraderie between writers, the thing I miss the most about school are the informed and passionate book recommendations, so I’ve been happy to find Books Speak Volumes. The reviews are astute and beautifully written, and I appreciate that Leah has good tastes and seems more excited to find good books to recommend to her readers than finding bad books to disparage.
9) As much as I’ve come to appreciate the blogosphere, there’s still no substitute for a physical community, so I’m nominating The Cracked Walnut Reading Series’ Blog, too. Satish runs the reading series, bringing literary performances to all sorts of untraditional venues such as grocery stores and funeral homes. If you’re a writer in the Twin Cities, there is no one better to know that Satish.
10) Last but not least: Versus Literary Journal. As much as I love reading everyone’s scattered thoughts, I do like blogs such as this that function as journals. Instead of seven posts a week by the same harried person, I like the idea of a blog who’s content is made by 7 people who’ve spent a week contemplating and revising what they’ve written. Plus, they published my story “Frank“.
So there it is, my holiday extravaganza of mushy thanking joyfulness. I’ll be busy celebrating at home taking down candy cane displays at work for the next few weeks but will be back in 2013 for an exciting new year of The Oldest Jokes in the World. On Friday the 4th, we’ll have another jokealong and then launch back into our discussion of the dichotomy between wit and jokes the next week.
PS: I guess there are some rules for this award, so I’ve included them down here at the bottom, like a legal disclaimer.
1. Provide a link and thank the blogger who nominated you for this award.
2. Answer 10 questions.
3. Choose 10-12 blogs that you find a joy to read.
4. Provide links to these blogs and kindly let the recipients know that they have been chosen.
5. Include the award logo within your blog post.
Your favourite colour? Green.
Your favourite animal? At a dive bar that tread the line between sketchy and scary, I met a man named “The Animal” once, who looked like Rod Stewart after a decade long bar fight. . When we asked the creepy guy who introduced us to him why they called him The Animal, he said, “Because he’s always bleeding from his face.”
He’s my favorite animal, though, because later in the night, he leaned over his booth into ours and stared at the back of one of my friends’ heads until we asked him what he was doing. “You’re energy,” he said, “I’m feeing off of it.”
Your favourite non-alcoholic drink? Alkaseltzer in water.
Facebook® or Twitter®? If the last answer didn’t make it clear, I’m a bit of a curmudgeonly worry wort and am getting sort of old. Can I choose a book instead?
Your favourite pattern? Nas’s rhyme scheme on “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”
Getting or giving presents? Can’t have one without the other or it isn’t a present—which is one of the reasons these traveling “awards” feel more like gifts than accolades.
Your favourite number? The nice long fat kind.
Your favourite day of the week? Wednesday. I have it off work, but most other people don’t, so the library is empty.
Your favourite flower? Whole wheat.
What is your passion? Blogging?
November 10, 2012 § 5 Comments
Hey all, sorry it has been over two weeks without a post around here. I’ve been quite busy in every aspect of my life… except blogging. Since my last post: I’ve been buried under a pile of tofurkies, getting ready for Thanksgiving in the Whole Foods frozen aisle; entered the home stretch of the second draft of the novel I’m working on (with my pages today, the protagonist is trapped in the house but hasn’t yet discovered murderer is in there with her); and got engaged to the lovely and talented Jenny McDougal!!!!
I’ve also been hard at work at Red Bird Chapbooks and am proud to announce Shaun Rouser’s A Family Affair will be the first project I’m overseeing as fiction editor. Mr. Rouser has a strong voice and infectious intelligence, and the three stories that will make up the chapbook all have a subtly morbid sense of irony. A Family Affair should be out some time early 2013, but in the mean time you can tease yourself with his short story “The Unfinished Letter” on Colloquium.
I hope I don’t hurt any readers’ feelings, but as crazed as I’ve been by all this work, I haven’t really even thought about The Oldest Jokes in the World much recently. I feel a bit like Harpo’s Gookie face as I sink deeper into my work, further from any consciousness of the outside world. In his (surprisingly well-worded) autobiography, Harpo Speaks!, Harpo explains the inspiration for the face that became his first turn as a comedic performer:
Gookie worked at a low table, facing the Avenue through the window. He was a lumpy little man with a complexion like the leaves he used for cigar wrappers, as if he’d turned that color from overexposure to tobacco. He always wore a dirty, striped shirt without a collar, and leather cuffs and elastic armbands. Whether he was at his table in the window or running errands for the cardplayers, Gookie was forever grunting and muttering to himself. He never smiled.
Gookie was funny enough to look at when he wasn’t working, but when he got up to full speed rolling cigars he was something to see. It was a marvel how fast his stubby fingers could move. And when he got going good he was completely lost in his work, so absorbed that he had no idea what a comic face he was making. His tongue lolled out in a fat roll, his cheeks puffed out, and his eyes popped out and crossed themselves.
I used to stand there and practice imitating Gookie’s look for fifteen, twenty minutes at a time, using the window glass as a mirror. He was too hypnotized by his own work to notice me. Then one day I decided I had him down perfect–tongue, cheeks, eyes, the whole bit.
I rapped on the window. When he looked up I yelled, “Gookie! Gookie!” and made the face. It must have been pretty good because he got sore as hell and began shaking his fist and cursing at me. I threw him the face again. I stuck my thumbs in my ears and waggled my fingers, and this really got him. Gookie barreled out of the store and chased me down the Avenue. It wasn’t hard to outrun such a pudgy little guy. But I’ll give Gookie credit. He never gave up on trying to catch me whenever I did the face through the window.
(Full account available here)
It feels good to be absorbed in my work, to lose track of everything else, self-conscious doubts included. But rest assured, come December—when this draft is done and the all the tofurkies are cooked—I will look up from my slobbery blunt to chase you guys around some more.
October 16, 2012 § 2 Comments
Sorry it’s been two weeks since I last posted. I’ve been blessed with lots of ideas for the novel I’m working on and a great bevy of literary events around town to keep me busy. Last weekend—in addition to great readings by Sheila O’Connor and Cracked Walnut—I attended the Twin Cities Book Festival. While there, I not only met Chris Ware (every bit as kind as you imagined), but also talked about opportunities with local literary friends.
I’m proud to announce that, as a result of all that hobnobbing, I’ve signed on to be the fiction editor at Red Bird Chapbooks. Publishers of beautiful broadsides and chapbooks, Red Bird has worked predominantly with poetry in the past, so I’m excited to be the first official fiction editor and hope to increase the amount of prose we bring to readers.
We are looking for chapbook material: a cohesive collection of short stories, flash fiction, or one single story; around 25 pages worth. Full guidelines for the submission process are on the website, and I encourage everyone to send us your best work. As you can see above and on the website, the broadsides and chapbooks are a gorgeous, unique way to bring your work into the world, personal and beautiful in a way that I feel still escapes e-publishing. I’m really proud to join the organization and excited to read lots of fresh work, so write hard and send it in.
In the meantime, check back here soon, because I should have another big announcement by the end of the week.
August 13, 2012 § 6 Comments
As much as I needed to relax, I’m glad to be back at the library this afternoon, updating the blog and working on the novel for the first time in several weeks. I start to feel crazy if I go too long without writing, so today I’m trying to translate the restless anxiety I’ve been feeling for the past few days into manic glee on the page.
That said, I had a great vacation , mostly spent like this, reading in a hammock with my girlfriend.
May Day by F. Scott’s Fitzgerald, which was far from his best but had some great slapstick moments.
The Ask by Sam Lipsyte, which was hilariously depressing and ugly.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff, which was beautiful and hopeful—but not that funny.
Faithful Place by Tana French, which was great and, though not meant to be funny, made me chuckle when I spoke the Irish dialogue to myself under my breath (“Fecking Jaysus, Da, you banjaxed the whole bollux!”).
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, which had great comedic characters and dialogue.
Grendel by John Gardner, which had some incredibly elucidating cerebral jokes.
Plus, I’m halfway through Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?, which is so perplexingly funny so far, I’m sure I’ll have a bunch of thoughts on it for the blog when I’m done. Several chapters have frustrated me, but other parts, such as her repeated insistence that, “all the best artists know where the funny is,” match happily with my own writing. It’s the sort of challenging book I’ll only understand once I write my way through it, so look forward to a review soon.
In addition to the fiction, I read The Pun Also Rises by John Pollack, a look at the history, biology, and psychology of puns which I’ll review in a post this Friday.
I usually do like to keep the blog on topic and try to only share my thoughts on books here if I’m able to devote enough time to them to go in depth–but I’m just so excited to be back that I couldn’t help but brag about all the books I got to read.
It’s made me realize, though, that I should post a link here to my goodreads account, in case you’re interested in keeping up with every little thing I read. I’m always interested in what everyone else is reading, so I’d love to be your friend.
July 31, 2012 § 1 Comment
Hey all, just wanted to let you know that I’ll be away for the blog for two weeks, up at my family’s cottage in NE Ontario. It’s the middle of nowhere: 20 minutes of dirt road to Oompah, the closest metropolis. My aunt and uncle across the lake have dial-up internet, but I’m not planning on using it much, instead hoping to catch up on my reading in the hammock, so please direct all inquiries to my interim associate blog supervisor, Bo-Bandy.