Feeling Gookie

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.

Big News

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.

Come see me read!

June 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hey guys! Assuming you’re tired of my dry, academic ramblings, I want to invite you to hear me read from my (much more juicy and immature) fiction work.

My friends at two incredible Twin Cities literary organizations, The Cracked Walnut Reading Series and Red Bird Chapbooks, have recently teamed up to form a literary-community-building powerhouse called Innocent Offerings–and they’ve invited me to read at their event this Wednesday, June 20th!

To celebrate the summer solstice, Krisanne Dattir will host a reading featuring Colin Mcdonald, John Medeiros, Kathryn Kysar, John Vick, and myself.  Best of all, it is outside, in St. Paul’s lovely Midway Green Spirit Community Garden, with a potluck to follow.  The event starts at 6pm (the readings at 7), and afterwards, in addition to feasting, there will be a chapbook of the evening’s entertainment for sale; Redbird’s chapbooks are always gorgeous, and I’m excited to finally see my work in one.

Full details and directions, as well as future Innocent Offerings events, can be found here.  I hope all of my Twin Cities friends can make it.

UPDATE (6/20):

It’s fixing to be a stormy day here in MN, so we’ve relocated to a space with some protection from the elements, the Newell Park picnic shelter, at Fairview and Hewitt in St. Paul.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with red bird chapbooks at The Oldest Jokes in the World.