Family, Friends and Writing

Today is August 18th. That’s a big deal because 21 years ago, after more than 24 laborious hours, my first nephew, Robert Jarvis, was born. And today, he is now officially “legal,” and therefore has all sorts of new options open to him. I love you, Rob, and am very proud of the man you’ve become, and are becoming:

Heidi and baby Rob Christmas Hiram Lake, 1993

Also, today is my dearest friend Andrea’s birthday. It is not polite to mention a lady’s age, but we’ve been friends for more than half of our lives. Besties. Roomies. Through thick and thin. Through drink and smoke. Through concerts by the dozens. And through it all, we’ve maneuvered our relationship with grace, with ease, supple support. I love you, Andrea! Thanks for so much laughter and our depth.

My story, “Bacon and Eggs, 1977″ is published today at Everyday Genius. This is from my upcoming story collection, Departures Or Arrivals. Michael Seidlinger chose it as he curates the month of August at EG, and wanted to represent writers’ works from a current project:

Everyday Genius: Robert Vaughan

Also, another short fiction piece, “No Face World Champ” was published recently at theNewer York, by Josh Raab and Chuck Young: No Face World Champ – theNewerYorkThanks, guys!

Last weekend, I was in the city of my youth, Rochester, and was simultaneously reading a memoir by Sonja Livingston called Ghostbread. What a breathtaking book! Through her use of poetic prose and short chapters, structured like brilliant flashes, this book made me feel as if I’d learned something completely new about a city and region in which I was raised. I highly recommend it.

I also suggest gathering siblings and loved ones on a frequent basis. Telling stories, various opinions on why this one got that name, or how grandpa fell into his potato soup. Or why it matters to have intelligent and diverse discussions! Thanks Mikel (Mike), Julia, Cheryl (Aldo), Satchi, Heidi, Jeff, Rob (Anna) and Trevor for being my family. And grateful for all of the friends who turned out for Trevor’s going-off-to-college party…thanks! Kick some serious butt: Rob, Anna and Trevor this fall.

My music playlist at LargeHearted Boy

David Gutkowski, the editor at LargeHearted Boy wrote this about Addicts & Basements:

“Robert Vaughan’s collection brilliantly straddles the line between prose poetry and flash fiction, defying categorization while impressing with its unlikable characters that repeatedly earn the compassion of readers.”

Thanks, David! Also a nod to John Madera at Rhizomatic Publishing: LARGEHEARTED BOY Publishes Robert Vaughan’s “Book Notes” for ADDICTS & BASEMENTS | Rhizomatic

Check out my playlist: Largehearted Boy: Book Notes – Robert Vaughan “Addicts & Basements”

Also, congratulations to mentor and friend Roxane Gay, her publication day of Bad Feminist, a collection of her Essays, is out now. Get your copy, you won’t be disappointed:

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Enjoy the week! Happy Birthday to my room-mate Gregory from college.

 

 

Room with a View: The Clearing, part 2

Hi friends!

I returned yesterday from a week in paradise, my first visit to Door County! From July 20- 26, I taught a new course that I designed for The Clearing called Mixing Genres. Upon my arrival at the campus, I accidentally went to the Jens Jensen Center, which is where they house wonderful gifts, the bookstore, handmade cards, etc. I was greeted by lovely volunteers, told I had made a common mistake: I took the wrong entrance! Back on to Garrett Bay Road, and I found the entrance to The (actual) Clearing workshop space:campusentrance1

Upon arriving at the Lodge, I was greeted warmly by Tammy, and shown my Loft room in the Professor’s Quarters building (same building, different entrances). Although the stairs to my room were possibly lethal, I had the best view on the planet!

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The first morning, I had a taste of our entire week: five writers showed up to take the Mixing Genres course: Nancy, Pete, Jami, Siobhan, and Cate (would have been six, but one had a last minute family commitment). After a hearty breakfast, I worked my way through the woods to the Schoolhouse where we hosted the entire week of Mixing Genres in the Weaver Room:

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The workshop went great; here is a brief outline, some of what we covered:

Monday: We opened with a quote by Steve Jobs. Talked elements of Poetry,  including poems by Marie Howe, Li-Young Lee, Stanley Kunitz, Dorianne Laux, David Wojnarwicz, and Ocean Vuong. We also tried a prompt called Making the Ordinary into the Extraordinary. And in the afternoon, we roundtable the new work. Handout from Ray Carver’s “On Writing.” Also, every day I met with one writer one-on-one so we could discuss whatever they desired.

Tuesday: Discussed Mark Twain’s concept about Truth is Stranger than Fiction. Five Elements of a Story. “Read” by Kathy Fish, Russell Edson, Evelyn Hampton, Elizabeth Ellen, Len Kuntz, William Goyen, Brandi Wells, and returned to Kathy Fish. We did an in-house prompt on character, using photographs. In the afternoon, after a filling lunch, another roundtable.

Wednesday: We chatted about the ever-evolving landscape of Memoir. Read and discussed Anais Nin’s prologue to House of Incest. Samuel Delaney, Lidia Yuknavitch, Kate Braverman, Mark Doty. Then we read the entire Yiyun Li’s “Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life”, published at A Public Space. We did another in-house writing prompt. And we round-tabled after lunch.

Thursday: Biography: we read the forward of Shadows and Light, by Joni Mitchell’s biographer Karen O’ Brien, talked about D.T. Max’s Every Story is a Ghost Story: David Foster Wallace; Diane Arbus by Patricia Bosworth; Raymond Carver by Carol Sklenicka, and Cynthia Carr’s Fire in the Belly about David Wojnarowicz. 5 writing prompts on the board. Afternoon free. And so, I used the opportunity to do a couple of things I’d wanted to do:

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I walked the entire labyrinth, and then soared through the breath-taking Homestead Meadow, following the footpath through deep woods to the Cliff House, Jens Jensen’s original private retreat:

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This is Jens, the founder of The Clearing, sitting on his Cliff House bed. I spent time inside of this small but incredibly special place on the campus. I really felt Jens’ presence more than once during the week, but no place more than here.

Back in class, Friday, we discussed the essay, beginning with Bob Hicok’s “Prose Poem essay on the Prose Poem” which is the forward of the Rose Metal Press’s Field Guide to Prose Poetry. We also discussed Kate Zembrano, Ben Tanzer, Hilton Als, and Roxane Gay. We talked about all sorts of other things you might do with a writing career: radio, television, travel writing, literary journalism, plays, writers on craft (like Judy Bridges’ Shut Up and Write) We practiced our pieces for the Friday evening Camp night! Then we did one last exercise to honor one another and the great week we’d spent together.

After Friday’s supper, all the workshops performed: first my writers read their original works, then a Jeopardy game by the Touring Door County group; the Wood Working workshop explained their shed they’d built, and finally the Novel Discussion group performed an impromptu performance. Afterwards we had refreshments and I joked “don’t drink the Kool-Aid!” When I returned to my sleeping quarters, there was a group of new friends drinking wine: Marilyn and John, Mary, Pat, Joan, Russ and Corky. A nice way to round out the week!

What a wonderful week! Thanks Judy Bridges for this amazing opportunity. Thanks Mike Schneider, Kathy Swanson, Eric Rinkleff, Tammy Musiel, and Melinda Schaufer for not only making me feel welcome, but taking interest in what we are all there to accomplish. To everyone I met, and spoke with, laughed and cried, risked and debated: I cherish you. I will return.

 

 

 

 

The Clearing

Hi friends!

I’m leaving tomorrow for Door County, one of Wisconsin’s favorite playgrounds. I’ve lived in this state for the past decade, and never made it that far north. So, you can imagine how excited I am. Also, I have been working away, preparing a new course to teach at The Clearing called Mixing Genres: The Clearing Folk School::Classes. This idea came to me over the past few publications I’ve had, and reading reviews for Addicts & Basements. One of the repetitive comments is ‘I’m not sure if Vaughan is writing poetry? Or fiction? Or something in between!’ Clearly, I’m not sure either!

And so, I began to dig around and investigate the actual “rules of genres” and how much current writing blurs the lines of (for instance) memoir and poetry, or fiction and essay, etc.

Thus, the class. It’s a full week at camp, in some of the most luxurious environs. Just take a gander at those photos at their website. Here’s one of the building in which I’ll be staying:

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I’ll return with plenty more. I want to thank Judy Bridges, my mentor and friend, for the suggestion. Also, the team at The Clearing, especially Mike and Kathy who are so pleasant and professional. And to you, writers who have registered: Let’s have a ball!

See you in a week…take a risk! Do the unexpected.

Holidays

Happy July 4th everyone!

It’s been quite a week…Hard to decide whether to watch Wimbledon or the World Cup. Oddly, the lack of Americans in the entire second week of Wimbledon, and the elimination of the USA team to the hardy Belgium team in the knockout round of the World Cup brought up an interesting point: does it make a sport that I enjoy more or less intriguing to watch if an American player is not on the court or field?

Then this brought me to the actual holiday today: the fourth of July. Independence Day. And any American knows what this, and the American flag both symbolize. But, it lead me back to holidays. The sentiments (or lack of), and like sports, the expectations, let downs; the outcomes or results.

In early 2012, I went to Boston to read in Timothy Gager’s Dire Literary Series, and Gloria Mindock, editor of Cervena Barva Press offered me publication of my first chapbook (eventually to become Microtones) it all took place over Easter holiday weekend. That Easter Sunday, I sat at the closest Starbucks to my hotel, and wrote the first draft of one of the 24 poems that comprise Microtones:

Microtones book cover

Turbidity

Holidays are hard:

I’m going to take

a walk, escape the

silence of this house

 

I was never home,

home on the range

hospital corners are still

“beats me?”

 

Invisible, unlike driftwood

tossed ashore, under pewter

skies, elephantine clouds

where seldom is hear

an encouraging word

 

no slow cookpot solutions

while you’re no longer talking

and I’m no longer hearing

there’s nothing cooking here

 

There’s something I forgot

 

I hope you all have a lovely 4th of July. Fireworks, barbecues, or silence. Whatever your choice(s) might be, revel in them!

Microtones is at Cervena Barva Press: The Lost Bookshelf-Poetry chapbooks

Two for Tuesday

As the saying goes, “when it rains, it pours,” and the summer storms have been no let-down this summer thus far. I’m stocked with candles (our power has already gone out twice) and plenty of pantry items! Who knows… perhaps the basement might be a refuge after all?

Some great news regarding my new book, Addicts & Basements:

Many of you already know about AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs), the annual conference attended by more than 10,000 writers. In February 2014, it was held in Seattle. Mike Joyce, writer and editor-in-chief at Literary Orphans| Analog dream in a digital world, and I sat down in the Seattle Westin lobby and chatted about writing, my new book (it launched in Seattle), my publisher, Civil Coping Mechanisms, and Michael Seidlinger, the man behind the logo. You can listen here: Impromptu Interview with Robert Vaughan, at A.W.P 2014 | The Tavern LanternThe Tavern Lantern. Thanks Mike, for the great times, and also co-editor at LO, Scott Waldyn, who masterfully edited the final product.

Also, Addicts & Basements is the Book Club pick at Dr. T.J. Eckleberg Review and this from the editors:

Miscommunication and misunderstanding can be an addiction, an albatross dictating the invisible creeds we often cling to. Age, time, desire, lust, and a cacophony of suppressed urges are intimated at in, “The Lost and Erasable Parts of Us: “My identity tied up in a bottle. I craved my smell back, my decency, my shameless will. I grew gills, slithered up the stairs, fettered away, toward some desert city, in undulating waves.” When identity is so intertwined with a bottle, an addiction, or a basement, it’s easy to get lost. In Vaughan’s symphony, those weaknesses are a path back to self-discovery, a melody, however distorted, to guide listeners up into revelation. This isn’t a AAA meeting though as addictions lead to other addictions and there’s no permanent egress, only leaps into oblivion. I’m a Robert Vaughan junkie now. You can find me drowning in his basement.

Here is the remainder of the information: The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review | DC, Baltimore, NY » ECKLEBURG BOOK CLUB | Addicts & Basements By Robert Vaughan

And, yesterday I heard from bookstore manager at OMEGA INSTITUTE, Jean LaPlante, that Addicts & Basements is now available in the bookstore! Another dream come true!

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Are you living your dreams? Do you know what they are?

HOME

No place like it, really. But who am I kidding? It can be more than a place, of course.

I just spent five days in New York, another sort of home. My childhood sense of place, as well as college and twice I lived in The Big Apple, for a blink of the mid- 1980s and again, for larger chunk of the 1990s. I left just before we looped Prince’s “1999″ until we thought we might lose our minds.

So here is what my most recent trip to NYC was all about (recap): A reading at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn. Amy King and Bud Smith both slayed it, I met friend Andrea for dinner prior and Bud’s wife Rae and there was a nice turn-out, and the evening was windy but chill:

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After the reading, a smaller group of about ten of us headed to a local watering hole in Brooklyn, and sat at outdoor picnic tables. I had a blast (reminiscing, mostly) with Cindy List, Valentin Ortolaza, Michael Thompson, Andrea Falkenstein, Gessy Alvarez (and her sister), Jamez Chang, Bud Smith, Rae (Spout) Buleri, Julie, Robb Todd and Emily, and Russell Dillon. What a cool mix of writers and artists:

Andrea Cindy List and me, June 13, 2014

 

On Thursday, my pal David and I went to Jones Beach for the 1,000,000th time. It never gets old. Nor do we:

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On Friday, we left for Omega Institute, where we made a detour for lunch and Bee Cake! Intoxicated by sugar:

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Friday evening until Sunday I took a course called Spirit and Craft of Poetry with Richard Blanco. He is the fifth inaugural poet, Obama selected him for his 2012 inauguration where he read his poem, “For All of Us, One Today.”

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Richard is smart, insightful, sensitive, funny. He lead us mostly through workshop, each of the 25 poets chose one poem, and received feedback. The bulk of the weekend was taken up by this exercise. My pal, Michael Gillan Maxwell was there, and another writer Gloria who we’d both met at Omega in 2010 (another workshop, another time). We discussed some craft tools like Imagery and Figurative Language, Show Don’t Tell, Rhythm and Iambic Pentameter, and were guided to two writing exercises at night: Why I Write (prompted by Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones) and also My Obsessions. Both were very effective. And we read some excellent poems like “A Blessing,” by James Wright, “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, and “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop. My favorite moments of the workshop came at the very end. We witnessed Richard reading three of his monumental pieces: “Betting on America,” “Looking for the Gulf Motel,” and “For All of Us, One Today.”

The return to the city was swift and fun. I was off to LaGuardia, David off to a life-altering surgery (he’s healing magnificently!) Then, home again, home again, jiggety jig:

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What does HOME mean to you?

Addicts & Basements at 2paragraphs

Hi friends!

I’m so excited for my upcoming trip to New York City! The reading at Unnameable Books on June 11 with Amy King and Bud Smith, and the Richard Blanco workshop at Omega: The Spirit and Craft of Poetry, June 13-15. And of course, reunions with Andrea, David, MGM and numerous other friends. If you are on facebook, the invitation to our reading is here:

Amy King, Bud Smith, and Robert Vaughan Reading at Unnameable Books

I’ve been inviting everyone I know (and their illegitimate cousins and poolboys), and imagine how honored I was when one Facebook invite responded with a possibility for Addicts & Basements to gain more exposure! Joseph Mackin runs a site called 2 paragraphs, and defines it as “Short. Smart. Shareable.” Basically, articles are compressed, wetting one’s thirst for the current sound-bite of news, culture, etc. If curious, please check out my Addicts & Basements publication at the site here: Addicts & Basements — by Robert Vaughan

I hope to see you in NYC! Until then go get some vitamin D!

 

A Reading, a new magazine, and an acceptance or two!

Hi friends!

Tonight at 7 p.m. I will be reading at Downtown Books for their Hidden Tap monthly featured series. I plan to read from Addicts & Basements, as well as some newer poems. Look under my Coming Events tab (at top) to get all of the information and please come! The more the merrier…

Our new issue of Lost in Thought # 6 has arrived. My co-editor and publisher Kyle Schruder has done another exceptional job with the art, and layout, and it looks so fantastic (I’m the fiction and poetry editor so I line up writers for each issue). This issue includes work from Justin Bond, Matthew Sherling, Megan Lent, Sharon Foley, Erin Parker, Aaron Dietz, Lucas Crawford, Emily Bertholf, Karen Stefano, and Sam Rasnake:

Lost in Thought | Lost in Thought: Issue 6 | MagCloud

Kyle and I have decided to scale back to three annual Lost in Thought issues in 2014, so we will re-open submissions in September.

Also, I had the great fortune of an “acceptance” (versus a “rejection”) for the next issue of Literary Orphans (thanks, Mike Joyce), and will have another of my stranger pieces featured in the anthology EXCESS (poems and stories about overdoing it), edited by Bud Smith. More forthcoming!

See you soon!

Reading at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn, NY on June 11

 

 

 

On June 11, Amy King, Bud Smith and I will be reading at Unnameable Books: 600 Vanderbuilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238. Please join us at 7:00 p.m. for a great night of innovative prose and poetry!

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There is a Facebook Event Page here: Amy King, Bud Smith, and Robert Vaughan Reading at Unnameable Books

Let’s have a party!

Thanks, John Madera of Rhizomatic Publishing for setting up this event!