Category Archives: Book excerpt

WordTango Cross-Genre Deep Dive

I’m teaching a weekend online workshop April 28-20, called Cross-Genre Deep Dive, hosted by WordTango, the online writing community. I had the terrific pleasure of meeting Liz Pettie and Jen Kircher- Carr at the AWP Conference in Washington D.C. recently.

We didn’t go swimming, or even diving. But life can take you into deep waters, or leaping, plummeting from various heights, for innumerable other reasons: debt, accidents, secretive meetings. The list is endless!

If you are unfamiliar with my writing, I’ve just published my 5th book, FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press). It’s a good example of cross-genre work in one book: flash fiction, prose poetry, and longer short stories. (See the tab “My Books” for more information.)

I hope you will consider taking the WORDTANGO course. More information is here: http://us11.campaign-archive1.com/?u=fc8698610dd752def107a548c&id=72030255b0

Please let us know if you have any questions. And thanks, Kathy Fish, for the solid recommendation.

Happy Writing!

Happy Holidays 2016

Hello friends! We are coming up on Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Family, terrific food, nice wine, and over-eating. Can’t beat that combo.

I wanted to extend some gratitude for these events in which I’ve participated:

On October 20th, Kim Suhr of Red Oak Writing hosted a terrific Writer’s Showcase:

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(L): Sharon Foley reads poetry; (R) Christine Baerbock reads a haunting short story

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In New York City, at the venerable KGB Bar, I read in two events: F-BOMB on Friday, Oct. 21 hosted by Bud Smith, and Best Small Fictions on Saturday, Oct. 22,  hosted by Paul Beckman:

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(L) me reading “Mother/ Father/ Clown”; (R) Karen Stefano reading Secret Games of Words      (F-BOMB Reading)

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Top: (L) Meg Tuite reading from lined up like scars; (C) Len Kuntz reading I’m Not Supposed To Be Here and Neither Are You; me reading “A Box” (Best Small Fictions). Bottom: (L to R): me, Dawn Raffel, Dianca London Potts, Eliel Lucero, Tina Barry, Paul Beckman, Nancy Ludmerer, Britt Haraway, Anne Elizabeth Weisgarber, and Courtney Sender.

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November 10th, Jonnie Guernsey and Laurel Landis launched A Picture And A Thousand Words. I read “Behind the 8-Ball” and we all used their excellent photography as prompts, hosted at Sugar Maple in Bay View, WI:

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On November 14th, I was featured in the Traveling Mollys, hosted by Nina Corwin at Buzz Cafe in Oak Park, Chicago. The other featured reader was Bill Yarrow:

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(L) Buzz Cafe, Oak Park; (R) Bill Yarrow reading from The Vig of Love

Bottom: Daniel Weinberg reads his letters to MAD Magazine

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On November 19th, I attended Robin Chapman’s course for Red Oak Writing: “What Poetry Can Teach Writers of Any Genre.” It was terrific, and thanks, Kim Suhr, for setting up so many great Saturday workshops throughout 2016. More information here: http://redoakwriting.com.

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Update on FUN HOUSE: my fifth book! Publisher and I hope to get FUN HOUSE to you by December, 2016! We have an astounding cover (thanks artist Ron Kibble), and almost all blurbs are accounted for. FUN HOUSE has four sections: micro/ flash fiction; 26 kids in a classroom with kickass art by Bob Schofield; prose poems assembled by master crafter Eryk Wenziak, and longer short stories. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

New York, New York: Big City of Dreams

Last weekend I had the great fortune of visiting my old haunts. Staying downtown in New York City, and reading at the venerable KGB, in their relatively new third floor “Red Room.” Friday night was hosted by Bud Smith, for the roving F-BOMB flash fiction event. Readers included Bud, Meg Tuite, Len Kuntz, Karen Stefano, Michael Gillan Maxwell, Gay Degani and me. I read an assortment of stories: “Mother/Father/Clown” from Diptychs + Triptychs; “Recruitment” from Addicts & Basements; and “Sweet Surrender is all I Have Left To Give” included in the newly published States of Terror, Volume 3 (at Amazon).

states-of-terror

On Saturday night, Paul Beckman hosted the Best Small Fictions 2016 reading! Same spot, KGB. This reading included mostly authors selected for the recently published anthology, expertly edited by Stuart Dybek and Tara Masih. Including, but not limited to: Britt Haraway, Anne Weisgerber, Dawn Raffel, Nancy Ludmerer, Courtney Sender, Ilana Masad, Dianca London Potts, Tina Barry, Eliel Lucero, Michael G. Maxwell, Karen Stefano, Paul Beckman, Len Kuntz, Meg Tuite, Bud Smith and me. I read my piece, “A Box,” which was chosen for the Best Small Fictions, 2016 (originally in RIFT, my co-authored book with Kathy Fish).

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And then, there was the general pizazz of being in in a city I love more than any other, with writer pals/ friends I adore, admire, revere, love:

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Overall, I would do this again, and again. Soulful, inspiring. Deeply satisfying. Please, sir, may I have some more?

 

Blog Talk Radio’s Kayla Greenwell: Robert Vaughan & Kathy Fish talk about RIFT with theliteraryunderground

BLOG TALK RADIO interviews Kathy Fish & Robert Vaughan about RIFT, their new collaboration:

Cover with blurbs

TURN THE PAGE Host Kayla Greenwell interviews the literati and oddball creative-types with a focus on DIY and grassroots initiatives. This week, Kayla interviews Robert Vaughan and Kathy Fish about RIFT, their new collaboration of flash fiction from UNKNOWN PRESS.

Source: Turn the Page with Kayla Greenwell: Focus on Robert Vaughan & Kathy Fish 12/02 by theliteraryunderground | Writing Podcasts

RIFT and more

Hello friends!

We are nearly there. Here is the latest images of my new book, RIFT, short fiction co-authored by Kathy Fish:

Cover with blurbs

Thanks for the cover image, Casey McSpadden! : www.caseymcspadden.com.

Also the creative blurbs from Ron Carlson, Daniel Handler, Lidia Yuknavitch, Michael Martone, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Robert Lopez, Michael Seidlinger, Ryan Ridge, Jensen Beach, xTx, and Luke Goebel.

Odd to think, I was just in Denver (again!!) for the F-BOMB Flash Fiction reading event. Here are some images from that magical evening

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KF RIFTLeah Rogin-RoperRV Rift

Our fearless host, Meg “Marge” Tuite, and featured readers: Len Kuntz, Kathy Fish, Leah Rogin-Roper and me. Kathy and I read new pieces from RIFT!!! Thanks to Nancy Stohlman, and the Denver Flash community for a great night!

Then rushed back to Milwaukee, to a busy Thursday, shipping over 150 copies of RIFT to the Nervous Breakdown Book Club:

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Thanks Bud Smith, publisher at Unknown Press, and Brad Listi founder of Nervous Breakdown, and Jonathan Evison, book club selection guy!

And finally, both Kathy Fish, and my first stories in RIFT were published, in perfect “teaser” timing, for the arrival of RIFT. Here is Kathy’s “A Room With Many Small Beds at Threadcount Magazine: http://threadcountmag.com/issue-5-fall-15/kathy-fish/.

And here is my “Galloping Into The Future” at The Airgonaut: https://theairgonautblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/21/galloping-into-the-future/

I hope you enjoy them! More information forthcoming about RIFT, how to order, and also about the fiction writing course that Kathy and I are teaching at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, August 20-26, 2016.

 

 

 

 

RIFT cover and more

Hello Friends!

Fall is in full bloom, the leaves danced off the trees all day yesterday!

My next book, RIFT, co-written with Kathy Fish, is nearly here. We have a new cover:

RIFT cover

Thanks designer, Casey McSpadden: http://www.caseymcspadden.com

Also, here is what some writer folks are kindly saying about RIFT (so far):

“RIFT made me laugh my face off, cry my guts out, and remember why writing matters: stories save us from our idiotic but lovable selves.”- Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Small Backs of Children (HarperCollins, 2015)

“These stories made me not sit still. They turned me around and turned me around.” –xTx, author of Today I am a Book (CCM, 2015)

“The stories in RIFT are peculiar and exciting and riveting and mournful and veer into places I hadn’t noticed in my peripheral vision. You know, like life.” Daniel Handler, author of We Are Pirates (Bloomsbury, 2015)

“These stories by Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan are rich, textured, and physical – they smart with tension and possibility. RIFT is peppered with appealing, complex characters and atmospheric details.” – Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Almost Famous Women (Scribner, 2015)

“Each vivid piece in RIFT, this sharp collection, clutches the reader suddenly — needing to offer its secret with the urgent elegance of the very best short short fiction.” Ron Carlson, author of Return to Oakpine (Penguin Books, 2014)

 

If you are interested in receiving an Advanced Review Copy of RIFT, please contact our publisher, Bud Smith at Unknown Press.

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I am also getting all the last minute information together for my upcoming week long workshop called Poetry & Fiction: Writing from the Well of Diverse Genres, October 18- 25 at The Clearing in Door County. I am gaining so much excitement as the week draws closer.

Any pumpkin picking plans in your Fall schedule? Hay rides? Bonfires? Star-gazing?

 

Robert G. Vaughan Recognized by Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide Publication – PR.com

What a terrific surprise to wake up to this news yesterday:

Source: Robert G. Vaughan Recognized by Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide Publication – PR.com

Happy Weekend everyone!

The Small Prestivus Festival: Readings, Workshops, and More

Hi friends!

Tomorrow I leave for Griffith, Indiana for the first Small Prestivus (Small Presses) Event!

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Here is the tentative schedule for the entire weekend:

Saturday, August 1–Book Fair 12-5; Workshops 1-3 or 3-5 (my workshop, “The Art of Fiction and Witty Dialogue” is 3-5 p.m). Featured Reading & Participant Open Mic 8 PM (my reading slot is 9 PM).

August 2–11:30 a.m. Q & A with Joani Reese on Submissions and Publishing. Readings 12-5 sponsored by Lit Fest Press.

Where: Griffith, Indiana–Broad Street, Franklin Center, and Pokro Brewery (all in the same block)

The festival will include writing workshops; an outdoor book fair with singer/songwriters, open air readings, and visual art demonstrations; a Saturday evening event featuring performances by Bud Smith, Laura Madeline Wiseman, Joani Reese, Michele McDannold, Bill Gainer, Sarah A. Chavez, Rachel Bell, Lois Berg and Robert Vaughan.  Also a one-shot open mic where participants will have a chance to read, and an all day Festival of Language where all participants will again have a chance to read on Sunday sponsored by Lit Fest Press.

Producer Julie says this festival is to showcase writers in the small press. If you would like to reserve a table please message Blotterature Lit Mag or Lit Fest Press. Tables are $10 for individual writers and $20 for presses.

Sounds like a blast! Plus, I get to hang out with some of my favorite writers!

 

Three for Tuesday: Bill Yarrow, Darryl Price and Alex Pruteanu

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was super, and that you have some peace among the upcoming hectic holiday season. Because I travelled last week, we have three fantastic writers who selected two books each this week. Enjoy!

TWO FOR TUESDAY- BILL YARROW

Seven Dada Manifestos- Tristan Tzara

Picasso said his art was “a sum of destructions.” I love that phrase for the way it cracks opens up a world we think we know. Some of my favorite reading is S.O.D. literature—think Tristram Shandy, Jacques the Fatalist and his Master, The Marriage and Heaven and Hell, Crotchet Castle, Max Havelaar, The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, Ulysses, Tropic of Cancer, How It Is, The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld, Flaubert’s Parrot….

So my first choice for Robert’s blog this week is Tristram Tzara’s “Seven Dada Manifestos,” a fabulous work difficult to find. I first came across it in Robert Motherwell’s outstanding anthology The Dada Painters and Poets and I still remember how shaken with excitement I was after I read it. It is to poetry what stock is to soup. Fun, experimental, shocking, unsettling, unreasonable, innovative, suggestive, and cleansing . Or, as Tzara explains, “A manifesto is a communication made to the whole world, whose only pretensions is to the discovery of an instant cure for political, astronomical, artistic, parliamentary, agronomical and literary syphilis.”

I love explication, exegesis—the art of making things clear. Brown’s Life Against Death, Herrnstein Smith’s Poetic Closure, Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, Booth’s The Rhetoric of Fiction, Hirsch’s Validity in Interpretation, Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Sacks’ Musicophilia, Grandin’s Animals in Translation, among others, have opened my eyes. For me, education is about making connections, so works that help me make connections are the works I most revere.

http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Dada-Manifestos-Tristan-Tzara/dp/B0037VIAP6/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1416673075&sr=8-4&keywords=Tristan+Tzara+Seven+Dada+Manifestos

Paperback: Riverrun (1981)

Tristan Tsara

Understanding Comics- Scott McCloud

My second choice is Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics (with his Making Comics a close second). This is a book about comic books in the form of a comic book, but it is so much more. You want to read the best book on comic art? This is it. You want to read the best book on art in general? This is it. You want to read the best book on the nature and potential of film? This is it. You want to read the best book on how to write fiction? How to write poetry? This is it. A book in which manifold connections abound and explode. ESSENTIAL reading.

http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Comics-Invisible-Scott-McCloud/dp/006097625X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416673203&sr=8-1&keywords=scott+mccloud+understanding+comics

Paperback: 224 pages (William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition April 27, 1994)

Scott McCloud

Bill’s Bio: Bill Yarrow is the author of The Lice of Christ (MadHat Press, 2014), Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku (Červená Barva Press, 2013) and Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX, 2012). His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry International, RHINO, Contrary, DIAGRAM, Gargoyle, and PANK.

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TWO FOR TUESDAY: DARRYL PRICE

Colorless Tsuruku and His Years of Pilgrimage- Haruki Murakami

The best book I have had the immense pleasure of reading recently, and one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life, is the new Haruki Murakami novel called, Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage. Murakami elevates this profound work of literature into the rarefied realm of true and beautiful works of art. It is brilliant. It is at once a fascinating, interesting and moving story, but beyond that it is an experience that reverberates deeply into both your heart and mind always. A masterful work of word genius on every level.

http://www.amazon.com/Colorless-Tsukuru-Tazaki-Years-Pilgrimage/dp/0385352107/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416352390&sr=8-1&keywords=colorless+tsukuru+tazaki+and+his+years+of+pilgrimage

Paperback (Kindle, Hardcover): 400 pages (Knopf, August 12, 2014)

Murakami

 

Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years- Volume 1- Mark Lewinsohn

The other book I’d like to make your readers aware of is Mark Lewisohn’s terrific new book on the Beatles, simply called Tune In–All these Years-Volume 1. It is simply the best book out there about the Beatles written to date, and by that I mean it has the most accurate information available in it. It is beautifully told and written and deeply researched. There are so many boxes of books about this band that a book should be written on all the glut of books, the good, the bad and the ugly. But to get back to the point, this particular book does what so many other books and authors have failed to do, that is to talk about the music, and to make that the centerpiece of any conversation first. So many of the other books leave out the fact of the music or just gloss over it in an offhand kind of way. This of course is highly insulting to the band, its fans and to readers of every stripe. We would not be having a conversation about the Beatles still if the music didn’t warrant it. In so many of the older books they are so very quick to point out how humanly fallible the four Beatles were, but then fail to mention, oh yeah, and while this or that thing was happening to them in their lives they just happened to write a few masterpieces to go along with it all–which the whole world seemed to embrace to such a degree that it (their songs, their music) became a part of everyone’s daily approach to life. Beatle music sound-tracked us (those who were there) as we all grew and changed- for decades at a time. So I was happy to discover that Mark’s approach was all about getting the facts right, and inserting the musical main reasons that these facts are even worth being told again now. Can’t wait for Volume Two!

http://www.amazon.com/Tune-Beatles-All-These-Years/dp/1400083052/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416424214&sr=8-1&keywords=Mark+Lewinson

Paperback: 944 pages (Crown Archetype: First U.S. Edition- Oct. 29, 2013)

The Beatles

Darryl’s Bio: Darryl Price has published dozens of chapbooks, and his poems have appeared in many journals.

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TWO FOR TUESDAY: ALEX PRUTEANU

Gravity’s Rainbow- Thomas Pinchon

This is the most difficult book I’ve read in my life. Pynchon’s heavy work here is also the most polarizing I’ve ever known a book to be. People either give him up within the first 30 pages, labeling him a hack/lunatic/incomprehensible scheister, or work through the novel (like me) and are rewarded along the 800-page life-changing saga with the most remarkable and complex set of ideas, digressions, characters, and narrative ever they’ve come upon. I hesitate to even call this a novel. It is…at times an advanced course in engineering, propulsion, guidance, and physics. It is a slapstick silent comedy film along the lines of Buster Keaton’s or Harold Lloyd’s work. It is a philosophical meditation on humanity and war, a rhyming, naughty limerick, a drug-fueled hallucination marked by outrageous acts such as coprophagia and an unforgettable trip via a filthy toilet into the sewage pipes long before Trainspotting stole the idea outright and brought it to a new generation of readers. Listen, Pynchon was “edgy” a good 27 years before Irvine Welsh and Danny Boyle impressed you. Gravity’s Rainbow is a profound, brilliant, immense journey transgressing boundaries between high and low culture, literary propriety and profanity, and between hard science and metaphysics. This book was so important to me and affected me in such a heavy, great fashion that during the two months I read this work, I rearranged my daily life in order that I could come home and engage myself in Pynchon’s world. There were many times when ordinary details and daily chores were neglected in favour of reading this brilliant work. When I finished, I came away not only an inspired writer but a more complete (if astounded) human being.

Amazon.com: Gravity’s Rainbow (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (9780143039945): Thomas Pynchon, Frank Miller: Books

Paperback, 776 pages; Penguin Classics, Deluxe Edition (Oct. 31, 2006)

Pynchon

2666- Roberto Bolano

Bolano’s imagination has always reminded me of our quickly ever-expanding universe. There are no limits to what this great writer can conjure, no boundaries—physical or metaphorical. This massive, posthumously released work redefines the idea of The Novel and its form. In his usual, self-interrogating way, Bolano’s 2666 is an ambitious, landmark master statement to, for, and on humanity. The novel consists of five sections, each with an autonomous life and form. These five long sequences—each a book’s length in itself—interlock to form an astonishing whole, in the same manner that fruits, vegetables, meats, flowers, and books connect in the amazing paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo to form a human face. “The Part About the Crimes” (pt. 4) is a massive display of genial, blunt power of documentary compilation. It’s grinding. It’s crushing. It’s harrowing. And it’s pure and beautiful. After nearly 300 pages of brutal, lyrical, poetic gravity in this section, the reader is rewarded with the oasis-like final part. I felt a sort of physical lift reading part 5…something I’ve only felt once in my life, in a state of trance almost, while listening for the first time to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” With this novel, Bolano has proven what literature can do, how much it can discover, and how purely it can indict our often disastrous, violent footprint left on this world. In fact, Bolano has proven it can do anything, including giving a name to the un-nameable, un-speakable, transgressive acts committed by human beings.

2666: A Novel: Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer: 9780312429218: Amazon.com: Books

Paperback, 912 pages, Picador; reprint edition (Sept. 1, 2009)

Bolano

Alex’s Bio:  Alex is author of novella Short Lean Cuts: Alex M. Pruteanuavailable at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, and So & So Books (Raleigh, NC). He is also author of Gears, a collection of stories from Independent Talent Group, Inc. (Gears: A Collection: Alex M. Pruteanu). He has published fiction in NY Arts Magazine, Guernica Magazine, [PANK], Specter Literary Magazine, and others. He recently finished his first novel, The Sun Eaters.

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There are two books I read during Thanksgiving week, and really enjoyed both. One is Lauren Haldeman’s Calenday (poetry). I had the great fortune of reading with Lauren in the recent MONSTERS of Poetry event in Madison. The other book is Our Secret Life in the Movies by Michael McGriff and J.M. Tyree (stories). What did you read Thanksgiving week? What are you reading now? Both of these books, and being with so much family made me feel extremely grateful for everyone who is in my life. So, thanks!

HaldemanOur Secret Life in the Movies

Two for Tuesday: Michael Seidlinger and Mike Joyce

Ready for another fun, informative Two for Tuesday? This week, check out the choices made by two of the hardest working young guns in the entire indie lit scene, impacting various aspects of new and established writers’ on their paths.

TWO FOR TUESDAY: Michael Seidlinger

The Novel: A Biography- Michael Schmidt

Man, this one’s a tome. Quite literally the biography of how the novel, as a literary long-form, evolved through the various eras, Michael Schmidt also managed to write in a way that invigorates the (maybe) ailing/uninspired novelist into remembering why s/he got into writing novels in the first place: the innovation, the freedom, the exploratory eye of letting free both storytelling and structure. It’s a hell of a book to read and savor. I’ve been reading it in small, ten to fifteen page, doses and intend on keeping this one in rotation for months to come.

http://www.amazon.com/Novel-Biography-Michael-Schmidt/dp/0674724739/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415713815&sr=1-1&keywords=the+novel+a+biography

Hardcover: 1200 pages, Belknap Press (May 12, 2014)

The Novel

Dept of Speculation- Jenny Offill

I was a little late to the party with this one but I’m glad I gave it a shot when the paperback version dropped. From a distance, I expected it to be something quite similar, predictable fare from the major New York publishing houses, but upon inspecting the book up close and seeing how it is structured (spare, small snippets of language with plenty of white space), I quickly took to it as a novel that could have easily fit as an indie conquering and finding a home with the majors. Structurally, it’s a lot like an early novel of mine, The Sky Conducting, where the small nuggets of language propel the narrative in a somewhat anomalous yet remarkably poignant and on-point prose. It’s the sort of novel that stays with you for a long time after reading it.

http://www.amazon.com/Dept-Speculation-Vintage-Contemporaries-Offill/dp/0345806875/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415713914&sr=1-1&keywords=dept+of+speculation

Paperback: 192 pages, Vintage Contemporaries (October 7, 2014)

Dept of Speculation

Michael Seidlinger’s Bio: Michael is the author of a number of novels including The Laughter of StrangersMy Pet Serial Killer and The Sky Conducting. He serves as Electric Literature‘s Book Reviews Editor as well as Publisher-in-Chief of Civil Coping Mechanisms, an indie press specializing in unclassifiable/innovative fiction and poetry. Check him out here: THE FEATURE S P A C E _ | File under: author/designer Michael J Seidlinger.

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TWO FOR TUESDAY: Mike Joyce

Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose- Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil

Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose is a nonfiction book. It’s epistolary. Diary entries spanning a three year period written by a young teenage girl who was a drug addict; who was fatherless; who had cystic fibrosis, the killing disease; who spent years in and out of rehab facilities for her condition, suicide attempts, and drug use. Who was going through love and loss all the same as any teen. It’s a true story about a girl who died in the year 1999. The book was compiled/edited by the famed authors Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil (the authors of the definitive Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk).

I heard about it first from a Poetry Editor of the journal I edit, Literary Orphans (thanks, Katie). The press [Sourcebook Fire, out of Naperville, IL] was kind enough to send myself and the Managing Editor press copies. We were skeptical–nonfiction like this isn’t really my bag and to be honest I was mostly just taken with the idea of getting the free book from these two pivotal authors. Man, I didn’t know what I was in for. For about a month as we each read it, it was all we could talk about.

I’m constantly telling anyone who will listen that if you want to be a writer, just write honest and unfiltered. Write when you have something to say, even if you can’t yet see what it is you’re trying to say but still have that lump in your throat. I can appreciate the iambic pentameter and the delicate merger of Faulknerian and Joycean stream-of-consciousness as much as the next guy, but that stuff is just the icing. At best. At worst it’s the boring 20 minute guitar solo in every lame heavy metal album ever made. That stuff shouldn’t be what you set out to write–at least in this Editor’s opinion. It should be more about heart.

My role as Editor and my ridiculously long hours snuggled up with the aluminum railings of the Chicago Transit Authority allows me to read quite a bit. I read a lot of books with heart, but nothing with as big of a heart as this book, not in the past few months, not in the entire year. Mary Rose writes and she doodles and the heart she pounds on the page swells and is filled with tension–even when she writes about boredom. She falls in love and desperately seeks friends and is abused and fills herself with sex and is hit again and again and she finds new love and when it’s all on the brink of the end, when she’s writing on the stationary of the room she’s about to die in, and she looks back at her youth as a little girl, sneaking out in the hospital hallways with the older kids who are there to die at 17–rolling their IVs as they laugh and play–just to feel alive with a tube stuck in ‘em–well that heart swells and it breaks. Yours will to. For me reading this book was a return to what it means to be anybody worth anything, to write fearlessly. To remember where I come from. Don’t let the Lifetime-channel vibes stop you from experiencing this book and remembering what it’s like to be brave.

http://www.amazon.com/Dear-Nobody-True-Diary-Mary/dp/1402287585/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415713586&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Nobody

Paperback: 336 pages: Sourcebooks Fire (April 1, 2014)

Dear Nobody

Nonconformity- Nelson Algren

My second choice for a book will also remind you how to write, how to write with heart, but in a very deliberate way. It’s also a nonfiction book. What is going on with that? I must be getting old. Nonconformity by Nelson Algren is a short thing. Inside of 100 square pages, with the little pages not even stacking up against a dimestore trade paperback. The book was only recently published (i.e., the 90s), and is essentially the right-hook of the great depression-era Chicago writer that you probably don’t know about. It’s a tad more academic than my other recommendation, if you can ever call Algren academic and not be rightfully crucified for the sin.

Algren writes poetry and awkward lines and he does it better than me, and probably better than you.  He is amazing as a writer and has a style immediately identifiable—his book on writing has no shortage of the prose he is known for. The Chicagoan had a love affair with Simone de Beauvoir, and there is a lot of speculation in the annotations of this book that he was trying to raise his fists up at Sartre, take him at his own game, win the girl. The socially conscious writer. The ethical imperative of the artist.

But let us not forget. This book, Nonconformity? It’s Algren. This is all Algren. Confrontational. American. In danger of censorship. He’s a proletarian writer, fighting for the masses, pegged by McCarthy and pursued as a communist. He’s attacked and challenged and while he may complain about it every chance, you know he wouldn’t have it any other way. Nelson reminds you that the only writing worth writing is writing that spends you and leaves you dry. He quotes and pulls in references and destroys and supports and makes this wonderful manifesto for what it means to be a writer.

A breath of fresh air.

Needed now more than ever.

Sometimes I feel like we are in a stagnate cave where the only writers who are serious, who are hard at work , who are in the papers or being interviewed by Crest-Whitestrip news anchors—are out there doing what they do just make a fast buck. I guess Algren felt the same back then. They’ll write a novel about the sexiness of a man who stalks you with GPS beacons and a TV script about the danger of underwear-bombs. They’ll write anything at all to get your cash. It’s like a braincell bank. Insert 10 brain cells here: receive double-d cup entertainment.

So you want to make a million? That’s all fine and good, writer, if that is what you want to do, just don’t lose your heart along the way. Algren has a word of advice for you:

“You don’t write a novel out of sheer pity any more than blow a safe out of a vague longing to be rich. / A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery.”

To Algren, and to me, the writer is that constant whetstone–there to grind away ceaselessly against the axe that has become the American mind, to keep it sharp. This book is a plea not to let that role be forgotten. Written during his prime, his leanest, his fighting weight–before the depression won and he ran away from this city, he wrote a book on writing. This is the book. It’s unlike any book on writing you’ll ever read. It’s a lot like any clarion call to arms you will ever read.

http://www.amazon.com/Nonconformity-Writing-Nelson-Algren/dp/1888363053/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415713697&sr=1-2&keywords=nonconformity

Paperback: 142 pages: Seven Stories Press (September 10, 1996)

Nonconformity

Mike Joyce’s Bio: Mike Joyce edits Literary Orphans Journal and writes in the underground.

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There are books we read purely for enjoyment, books recommended by family or dear friends. Also there are books we read that re-arrange our lives, make our approach to writing, as writers, seem uniquely, markedly different. I nod to both Michael and Mike this week for mentioning books that are craft focused. And so, I also would like to mention two more books, recently read, that altered the way I write, or formerly perceived writing. One is non-fiction (interviews) and the other is poetry (Ellen Bass):

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