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.

 

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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

 

Book Fight!

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.

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In the Company of Animals by Luke Finsaas

February 3, 2016 § 1 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 Luke Finsaas’ In the Company of Animals.

This was the first book I selected for the 2015 season, and I knew I wanted to publish it as soon as I read it. That said, it took me a while to say yes because I wasn’t sure if I had the guts to work on it. The first story in the collection, “Gospel Boys” is a dark and brutal tale of the Wild (Mid)West, full of inventive language and gruesome scenes; like the stories of Cormac McCarthy that it reminded me of, I found myself both admiring and fearing it. Though similarly unflinching, the second story, “Char-Char’s Dark Days Without Her Brother”, set in present day, felt more comfortable, its perversities somewhat less horrendous and a little more familiar: instead of drunken murder-binges, it features drug-fueled furry porn shoots. In the end, I was amazed that two shorts stories with such intense and different voices could be by the same author: Luke Finsaas is a talent who deserves to be read. As a result, I decided to take the plunge and couldn’t be happier that I did.

I really feel Luke Finsaas’ work here is some of the best prose we have ever published at Red Bird and, further, the stories make a perfect chapbook, really speaking to each other, their similarities made that much eerier by the stark and virtuosic difference in their tones. So check out the excerpt below, then click on the cover to head on over to Red Bird’s website to get your gorgeous, hand-bound copy today.

From “Gospel Boys”

My brother Matthew drove his shoulder through the front door and the rest of us Gospel Boys plowed in to find the whole damn family kneeling down in a circle on the living room floor, some sorta singing and wailing thing transpiring, grey baby laid out on a bed of straw in the center of it all, and Matthew fired his shotgun into the ceiling and told them to all keep on the floor, and their women commenced to bowing down to us, holding white napkins fixed upon their scalps, rectifying their askew black robes, salt tears streaming through the soot and dirt been caked onto their faces. They’d managed a look up at us scared as a cow seeing a bull whose heart was full of lustful intentions. Sulfur lamps dangled down in the room. That baby’s eyes were shut up like a pair of tiny onionskin papers. Their Pa raised himself up, full of purpose and my brother Johnny shotgunned him back down to those dusty floorboards, his legs kicking out in spasms and him clutching his chest spurting up blood and he was hissing…

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Well Met in Grand Marais

January 26, 2016 § 2 Comments

I’m on a bit of a writing retreat this week: three nights at a suite in Grand Marais, MN, looking out over Lake Superior. Since Cedar’s birth, I’ve got a bit of writing done, but only by becoming that creature I’ve always pitied: the working parent who writes by getting up at some awfully early time to seize a few hours before the responsibilities of the day wake up screaming for attention. I’ve had a bit of luck at it, especially working on a few short projects during the last few months. But now that I am trying to start a new novel-length project, I am finding I’m having trouble really sinking in to the world of the book and getting a vision for it as a whole. As a result, I’m hoping to get a decent sense of the arc while up here, and get some good writing down for the first section as well.

One day in, I’ve already had to scale back my expectations. I’d hoped to finish a good draft of the first chapter but am realizing now I should be happy with a good draft of the first scene. That said, part of the reason the actual writing is going slower than at home is that the novel as a complete book is looking a whole lot realer to me, and I am filling out loose outlines, detailed character sketches, and loading up a trio of notebooks with research. As you can see from the photos, I have a lot going on and not too many distractions. At the very least, I should leave with a good plan for the coming months and a bit of momentum to start filling it in.

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View of the desk

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View from the desk

On a fun note, I am staying at the same hotel my wife and I stayed at for a romantic winter getaway last year. At the time, I was just starting the fantasy reading kick I have been on lately with a slim book I found in a little free library: Ill Met at Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber. It seemed like a fun read, but I found myself gravitating to the other book I brought instead: Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. I figured I’d focus on the longer novel, since I had the luxury of whole afternoons blocked off to read in peace; I’d have plenty of time to finish the shorter work at home in small bits. It turned out to be an ill-fated choice, though, because I forgot the book on the bedside table when we left and have been wondering what happened to Farfarhd and the Mouser ever since, checking Half Price Books at least monthly for a replacement copy.

You can imagine my joy, then, when I found the book among the free offerings in the lounge of the hotel yesterday. This year I am not going to risk it, vowing to finish before I leave.

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