Category Archives: Journal

Omega Institute: Nick Flynn

Hi friends!

I recently attended a week long writer’s retreat at Omega Institute called Memoir as Bewilderment. I think what attracted me, aside from stellar writer and teacher Nick Flynn, was the bewilderment factor. I feel as if life presents itself in this manner often, and my writing most certainly contains an element of the unknown, or the mysterious.

I arrived after car, plane, cab, train, and shuttle. I met my first writer taking the same course at the Rhinecliff train station, Anne. We immediately bonded over books, family similarities, New York and there was an immediacy that writers tend to have.

Prior to the workshop we were asked to bring with us: 10-20 pages of our own writing (and to choose one page to make copies for everyone), one page from a published book),  a science article (copies for everyone). All of these were to hopefully contain elements of what we define as bewilderment. I’d just completed Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, his new memoir about his mother. Plenty of bewilderment!

The workshop was held in the Creekside cottage, which was a tight space for 25 writers! After selecting a word from the white board (I chose “to Lose”) we were given a postcard image. We meditated for seven minutes (a welcome recurring theme before our writing prompts) and then wrote “descriptive writing”- trying to stick with details. We repeated this exercise with slight suggested revisions, so that eventually we had written four or five different prompts. We also read Larry Levis’s lyric poem, “Sensationalism.” My small group was Laura, Kathryn and Carrie. I also partnered with Sean on a couple of exercises.

Teacher Nick Flynn, author of several books, including his memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which I read during our Omega workshop. (http://www.nickflynn.org)

One evening, we saw Aja Monet read from her stellar poetry collection, My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter at the Omega Library. She was amazing.

In class we also drew maps of a specific location, and a map of our body (placing both trauma and joys on the body). These were used for prompts. We did a movement exercise with Omega staff and writer JoJo that helped us to identify a place in which we might go deeper into a writing piece. Then we wrote a piece toward a direction on our maps. We also visualized our ‘home direction,’ and figured out a gift to give to our “person,” (used from our original postcards) and wrote a fairy tale prompted piece to a younger self in a deep woods.

Stanley Kunitz, a mentor of Nick’s said: “You have to become the person that can write the poem.” (of compassion, of anger, of solace, etc.)

On Wednesday, Nick’s friend and music collaborator, Guy Barash visited the Omega campus. We did an afternoon workshop with Guy, directing us with non-musical instruments, graphed and designed on paper. We did a silent meditation just listening to local ambient sounds (heater, planes, crickets, etc.) and “recorded” them, then attempted to translate them to the class (from our papers). Then, in groups, we performed our pieces. Then Guy directed the entire class as an aural orchestra. We dubbed ourselves the Unstable Atomic Pigs! Nick was so kind, he invited us to open for Nick and Guy’s performance in the Lake Theater that evening. Also Lucas, another collaborator, provided video footage. Their show was beyond inspiring!

On Thursday our class occupied the Lake Theater at Omega. This was an entire day devoted to our “working project.” We went through our various collected pages, new writing and brought pieces, and various favorites from the group. We marked the “resonant parts,” and Nick coached us to be generous- not one or two words, mark “whole passages.” From there, we literally cut out those parts, and placed them onto 30 blank sheets of white paper. I sort of figured out that I had three or four threads for my project. And I had organized them all in these groupings. Then Nick came over, listened as I described my chaos, and said, “okay, now you can switch them all up- move them around, etc.” I literally felt nauseous! But so did everyone else. Chaos… opposite of organized.

The last morning, Nick fielded a quick question and answer. Because I had to leave early on Friday, I was the first in order for the final reading. I read “Tributaries,” and “When He Left it all to Me.” I was only able to stay for the first four or five other readers. I felt so badly when I slipped out, but I had to catch the train, to the cab, to the plane, to the car ride home. My dear friend David Carter (who incidentally was the first friend I workshopped with at Omega in 1994), came and spent an overnight on Thursday, and transported me to the Rhinecliff train station. Bless his heart.

What a week. So grateful to Nick Flynn, teacher extra-ordinaire, my co-writers and creators, to Omega for hosting this amazing workshop. To friends, new and old. And always to my honey, who makes life seem more technicolor than ever.

August Recap

Hi Friends!

It’s been a busy month. My biggest news is that FUNHOUSE had a mention in The New York Review of Books- The August 17th edition. Pinch me now!!! This is a pretty major accomplishment. They’d read my FUNHOUSE Kirkus Review and contacted me. FUNHOUSE is happy, and my family/ friends are happy. I am over the moon!

Also, I recently read at Boswell Books with local writers, novelist Lee Kreckwell (The Expanse Between), poet Caitlin Scarano (Do Not Bring Him Water), and Chicago author Ben Tanzer (Be Cool– Essays/ Memoir). The evening was referred to as a mix of Micro, Poetry, Fiction and Memoir (a blend of genres):

There was a nice write-up in our local Sheperd Express about the reading:

http://shepherdexpress.com/article-30227-midwest-writers-gather-at-boswell-for-micro-memoir-poetry-prose.html

And a couple of great things happened at (b)OINK, where I am the Managing Editor. First of all, we announced our nominees for Best of the Net. This was quite difficult because we were limited in terms of how many pieces, and so many terrific ones to select from. Please head over to (b)OINK and read these phenomenal nominations (www.boinkzine.com):

And then, we announced the TOP 20 finalists in our very first Flash Fiction Contest. We had over 150 entries!!! And our vetters did a fantastic job: Len Kuntz, Dianca London, and Nicholas Cook. Then our guest judge, Kathy Fish, selected the top three winners- they will be announced on September 1st. Here are the top 20 stories, without the authors’ names:

(b)OINK’s Flash Fiction Contest: The Top 20 Finalists

And finally, the Hurricane Harvey scared us so much, with precious family who live in the Corpus Christi area. Everyone is safe, and fortunately the rain damage is not over yet. Please think positive thoughts for all those in Hurricane Harvey’s plight.

I leave on Tuesday for Bending Genres, a workshop at Synergia Ranch, outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’m hosting with the kickass, and brilliant Meg Tuite. We have 17 writers aligned to arrive on Friday, September 1. I’m beyond thrilled and ready to have a stimulating and eye-opening week-long experience.

 

 

Summer is Here!

Happy Summer!

As it’s been a while since my last blog, I have some things to mention.

First of all, FUNHOUSE had a very lovely KIRKUS review:

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/robert-vaughan/funhousex/

I want to thank the editors at KIRKUS, and also all of your lovely compliments after reading the review.

Also, at the international online magazine, Levure Litteraire, my dear friend Helene Cardona published three of my FUNHOUSE pieces:

Robert Vaughan

Then, at the LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS, there was a fine essay called Protean Miniatures: The Adaptability and Sustainability of Flash Fiction by Sean Hooks, in which he mentions RIFT, my last book with Kathy Fish (about halfway through the article). This was a shock, and a very pleasant one!

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/protean-miniatures-adaptability-sustainability-flash-fiction/

And many of you already know I am the Managing Editor at (b)OINK. Well, many things are happening with our magazine, including our Inaugural Flash Fiction Contest with guest judge Kathy Fish:

https://boinkzine.submittable.com/submit/87025/boink-flash-fiction-contest-with-guest-judge-kathy-fish

And we have a new (b)OINK poetry editor, Jamal, and an intern, Corey, as well as a new office in Walker’s Point, a diverse and fun neighborhood in Milwaukee. More new things forthcoming!

Our first (b)OINK presents reading will be on Thursday, June 29th, at Sugar Maple in Bay View, WI. 7-9 p.m. Emceed by Dora Diamond. Surprises and gifts abound!

I had the great fortune of attending Marjorie Pagel’s book launch (The Romance of Anna Smith and other stories) at Anodyne yesterday. I was so thrilled she had standing-room-only crowd and her book is available at Amazon here:

https://www.amazon.com/Romance-Anna-Smith-Other-Stories/dp/1545412413/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498235510&sr=8-1&keywords=Marjorie+Pagel.

Enjoy summer. Read as much as possible. Looking for a workshop? Check this out:

http://bendinggenres.com.

 

Interview at Midwestern Gothic

Thanks for editor Audrey Meyers for her salient and insightful questions, my interview was published today at Midwestern Gothic magazine:

http://midwestgothic.com/2017/03/interview-robert-vaughan/

I also want to thank editors-in-chief and founders Jeff Phaller and Robert James Russell. I had the honor of my work appearing at MG in two of their early print journals, and also Kathy Fish and I were interviewed for our book, RIFT, at the MG website in 2016. Midwestern Gothic has expanded into the book business (MG Press) and offer “The Lake Prize” for Midwestern authors to enter. Be sure to check them out, especially if you live in the VAST MIDWEST!!!

I’m reading Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. Love it so far!

What are you reading? Any words about it?

Also, an image from last night’s Red Oak reading at Comedy Sports (which was fantastic). Me wearing my all-new Ron L. Kibble wearable art hoodie (Ron painted the amazing cover of FUNHOUSE). Thanks RON, and thanks Jonnie for the shot:

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!

I Got The Boot

Hi friends…

Post- AWP bottom has set in! And it doesn’t even take bottomless mimosas to make it happen. I swear, every year the Monday after is the lowest low. And today, in Milwaukee, the sunny blue skies and near 50 degree temperatures are doing their best to make me smile. So, I’ll try. Despite the, well, challenges, that came up during the conference.

SO NICE TO FINALLY MEET YOU– so many new faces at the AWP Conference this year. Among them, Windy Lynn Harris, Jennifer Kircher Carr, Liz Pettie, Maureen Langloss, Levis Keltner, Diem White, Jan Elman Stout, Grant Faulkner, Christine Texeira, Jensen Beach, Sherrie Flick, David Galef, and too many others to count.

OH, IT’S YOU AGAIN? Reunions are always the best, and most of mine in D.C. began with “WHAT HAPPENED?” Still, always terrific to see Kyle Semmel, Angela Woodward, Bill Yarrow, Roxane Gay, Lori Brody, Gay Degani, April Bradley, Dorianne Laux, Christopher Allen, Kathy Fish, Nancy Stohlman, Jeff Landon, James Thomas, T.L. Sherwood, Matt Bell, Mary Akers, Joe Millar, Nita Noveno, Matt Lewis, Michael Seidlinger, Janice Lee, Rae Bryant, Ben Tanzer, Joseph Lawrence Dougherty, Anna March, Robert Russell, Lee Krecklow, Jeffrey Phaller, David Atkinson, John Wentworth Chapin, Wendy Ortiz, Brandon Hobson, Gloria Mindock, Annie Pluto, Pamela Painter, and numerous others.

FROM A DISTANCE… I saw you, but there was no way I could run to you… or I might have…   Sara Lippmann (pictured above), Lidia Yuknavitch, D. Foy, Kim Suhr, Stephen Gowin, Joani Reese, Chiwan Choi, Joanna Valente, Alex Kalamaroff, Chelsea Hodson, Joshua Mohr, Alice Anderson, Alexander Chee, Jeff Jackson, John Madera, Garth Greenwell, J. Bradley, Michele Filgate, Amber Sparks, Chelsea Bondolillo, Sarah Rose Etter, Mark Doten, Julia Fiero, Henry Hoke, Amelia Gray, Michael Kimball, and too many others. It’s always such a delicate balancing act, that AWP.

WHERE WERE YOU? It felt like you were there the entire time. Dream or otherwise. Meg Tuite, Bud Smith, Michael Gillan Maxwell, Meredith Alling, Gabino Iglesias, Josh Denslow, Brandi Wells, Michael Taekens, xTx, Ben Loory, Jules Archer, Seth Berg, Katherine Seluja, Sheila Hanrahan, Cyrus Cassells, Mark Doty, Marie Howe, Aaron Apps, etc.

WHAT I LEARNED: Don’t use the bathroom in the middle of the first night, ever. If you trip, you just might break your ankle. (Could have been my neck). Hairline fracture, right fibula. Never ever would have imagined this. I have to thank my gracious Physician’s Assistant, Clarence M. Chan, at the George Washington University Hospital for his tender, consistent care and my splint.

GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM: Len Kuntz, Karen Stefano, Robert P. Kaye- you saviors, I love you all! And Meg, your constant online support and love was (is) stellar, and Andrea & David, you always make me laugh- love you both. And Satchi, who offered to air lift me home- my heart, my soul, always.

I I

RECAP: My favorite panel was From Flash Fiction to Micro Fiction and included luminaries Pamela Painter, Grant Faulkner, Nancy Stohlman, Sherrie Flick and James Thomas. I sincerely apologize to Joani and my Hot Pillow compadres- I was there in spirit! Also to host John Madera whose reading I had to cancel. And to WordTango: Jennifer and Elizabeth, for sponsoring my Saturday FUNHOUSE signing, you guys ROCK! 

Thanks, everyone, or anyone who said a version of “SPEEDY RECOVERY!!!” I am obeying your wishes.

See you all in Tampa for AWP18. NO wheelchairs.

The Arrival of FUNHOUSE, my 5th book

My new book, FUNHOUSE, has emerged from the dark recesses of a playground. Unknown Press, and Bud Smith made this wonderful experience possible.

I want to deeply thank Ron L. Kibble for his tremendously powerful cover art!(www.ronkibbleart.com).

FUNHOUSE has four sections: Balloon Darts pierces short fiction; Hall of Mirrors “Another Brick in the Wall, part 4” delights with 26 kids in a classroom, and art sketches by Bob Schofield; Tunnel of Love Divas, “And the Winters Cannot Fade Her” proposes prose poems, layout, and graphic design by Eryk Wenziak; and  Ferris Wheel churns short stories of a more traditional length.

I want to thank Michael Gillan Maxwell and Rob Parrish for their extensive edits. And to Robert Scotellaro, Megan Giddings, and Len Kuntz, three writers whose work always brings me awe and joy- your blurbs are exquisite! Many thanks to you all!

Mostly I have to thank Bud Smith, who’s UNKNOWN PRESS also published RIFT and many other amazing books during its run. Thanks Bud. So honored to create another book together.

From Bud Smith: “You can PayPal me $14 at budsmithwrites@gmail.com and I’ll mail you the book direct. Otherwise FUNHOUSE is available on Amazon, for a couple extra dollars. Thank ya over the moon.”

Amazon direct link: https://www.amazon.com/Funhouse-Robert-Vaughan/dp/099830901X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486394686&sr=8-1&keywords=funhouse+robert+vaughan

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John Madera of Rhizomatic Public Relations assembled an extensive list of “The Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2017” and FUNHOUSE was mentioned by John. He also asked me, and several other independent writers for their own lists at Big Other. Thanks, John: https://bigother.com/2017/02/04/most-anticipated-small-press-books-of-2017/

(B)OINK zine

I’m over the moon excited to announce the all-new January issue of (b)OINK. Flash Fiction! Poetry! Creative Non-Fiction! Art! And “Voices,” from the literary world-at-large. Thanks fellow editors Rob Parrish and Chelsea Laine Wells. Thanks Al Fuelling for your web skillz! Thanks to Meg Tuite for “Voices,” and David Carter and Rob Kibble for “Art.” And every single person who sent us over 150 submissions for this issue: we loved your work, we did our best, we had a blast. Please read this issue, and share it. Then send us a (b)OINK submission for February. We’ll be eating.

Home

2016 Reading List

As a writer, it’s a given that one reads. Some of my favorite childhood memories are discovering new books. That excitement has never gone away. And, so although it’s not quite the year end, I wanted to post my annual 2016 reads here:

My 2016 reading list:

I’m Not Supposed To Be Here and Neither Are You- Len Kuntz

Kinda Sorta American Dream- Steve Karas

The New York Stories- Ben Tanzer

A Fractured Mind- Robert B. Oxnam

Bone Black- Bell Hooks

Robert Altman- Mitchell Zuckhoff

Haints Stay- Colin Winette

Mira Corpora- Jeff Jackson

Lithium for Medea- Kate Braverman

In Paran- Larissa Shmailo

lined up like scars- Meg Tuite

The Sound of Gravel- Ruth Wariner

Hotels of North America- Rick Moody

The Astonished Universe- Helene Cardona

Literary Outlaw: William S. Burroughs- Ted Morgan

Keith Haring Journals

Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art- Nancy Princenthal

The Gods Are Dead- Joanna Valente

Sex and Death- Ben Tanzer

Dear Mr. You- Mary-Louise Parker

Your Sick- Elizabeth Colen

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh- Michael Chabon

Did you Ever Have a Family- Bill Clegg

Portrait of An Addict- Bill Clegg

Atlas of Remote Islands- Judith Shalansky

Short Cuts- Raymond Carver (re-read)

Ordinary People- Judith Guest (re-read)

The Art of Memoir- Mary Karr

Updike- Adam Begley

This Must Be The Place- Sean Doyle

Rimbaud- Edmund White

Secret Historian- Justin Spring

Space, in Chains- Laura Kasischke

No Stopping Train- Les Plesko

What Belongs to You- Garth Greenwell

The Narrow Door- Paul Liscky

I’m From Electric Peak- Bud Smith

The Queen of the Night- Alexander Chee

It Starts With Trouble: William Goyen and the Art of Writing- Clark Davis

Lynch on Lynch, edited by Chris Rodley

Purity- Jonathan Franzen

Life on the Loose- Cari Taylor-Carlson

Not Nothing- Ray Johnson

Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery- Richard Selzer

A Manual for Cleaning Women- Lucia Berlin

Ninety-Nine Stories of God- Joy Williams

Potted Meat- Stephen Dunn

The Argonauts- Maggie Nelson

Communion & Other Stories- Curtis Smith

The Girls- Emma Cline

Cowboys and East Indians- Nina McConigly

Grief is the Thing with Feathers- Max Porter

Night Sky With Exit Wounds- Ocean Vuong

The Professor’s Quarters- Albert Degenova

Porcelain- Moby

Be Cool- Ben Tanzer

Rain Check- Levi Andrew Noe

Notes on my Dunce Cap- Jesse Ball

Cronenberg on Cronenberg- David Cronenberg

Life in Suspension- Helene Cardona

The Vig of Love- Bill Yarrow

Trier on Von Trier- ed. by Stig Bjorkman

Intersex- Aaron Apps

What we Know So Far- Robert Scotellaro

Ozone Journal- Peter Balakian

The Vegetarian- Han Kang

Measuring the Distance- Robert Scotellaro

Compression Scars- Kellie Wells

Joe Gould’s Secret- Joseph Mitchell

Bukowski in a Sundress- Kim Addonazio

The Reactive- Masande Ntshanga

Floating- Anne Pierson Wiese

The Loved Ones- Sonya Chung

New Jersey Me- Rich Ferguson

Bad Motel- Robert Scotellaro

Salute the Wreckage- Clint Margrave

Find Me- Laura Vandenberg

The Consumation of Dirk- Jonathan Callahan

Rhapsody of Fallen Objects- Robert Scotellaro

Sing the Song- Meredith Alling

Deer Michigan- Jack C. Buck

Here Comes The Sun- Nicole Dennis- Benn

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you have a chance to “hole up” with a good book during these last weeks of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

kgb-riftbrooosbsf-group-shot

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:

yesr-l-s-kwestvillemeg-mgm-me

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