I'll be doing two readings next week. If anyone has a notion, I'd love for you to stop by and say howdy.
The first reading will be Tuesday, January 28th at 2:00 PM, on the second floor of the Kennedy-King College Library, which is located at 6300 S. Halsted Street. I'm extremely excited about this event because Kennedy-King is the college where I teach, so there's the added benefit of the home-field advantage.
The second reading will be Friday, January 31st at 7:00 PM, at The Book Cellar, which is located at 4736 N. Lincoln Avenue. The advantages of this reading are that I'll be teaming up with some pretty awesome writers (Ben Tanzer, Mark Brand, and Joseph Peterson), plus The Book Cellar is a super kick-ass book store. So, really, no reason not to join in the festivities.
It's been a great and fun year, one that started off at a pretty low point, but continually picked up steam as the months passed. Of course, the biggest news was the publication of my first novel, The Last Good Halloween. Through that project, I've had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of great, new people in the publishing world and for that I'm incredibly grateful.
Before we kiss 2013 good-bye, I wanted to mention a few fun items that came up at the last minute this year.
First off, I had the chance to participate in a Sun-Times blog series on hot writers in Chicago. This was an opportunity that definitely fell into the push-your-comfort-zone category -- especially since the point was to provide a "pin-up" style photo. After a bunch of bad ideas that didn't turn out well, I ended up embracing the concept and, well, you can see the results for yourself. Turns out the pic that worked best was a selfie. (And, for the record, this is the first time I'm typing that word.)
Second of all, I got asked by the good folks at The Next Best Book Club's Blog to give my top three reads of 2013. I'm proud to have been asked to participate and even more proud of how indie-press-centric the entire list is. If you want to find some reads that might be a little off the beaten path, check it out!
As for 2014, well, I've got some readings coming up in January and February, plus some more writing projects lined up, so stay tuned. I'll let you know more when I know.
Just a quick note to all the Chicago Folks:
My publisher, Tortoise Books, is sponsoring a table at the Chicago Book Expo this Sunday, November 24th. I'll be there signing copies of my new novel The Last Good Halloween. If you're interested in getting a signed copy, or just want to keep me company, I'd love to see you there!
The Expo is going from 11 AM to 5 PM. The address is 1345 W. Argyle.
Seeing all your bright faces will help take the edge off missing the Cowboys game, which, let's be honest, it's probably better if I don't watch it anyway.
A gigantic package arrived this week, and the world's most amazing birthday gift has made its debut on the Southside of Chicago. No matter how well I try to photograph this thing, the images will never quite do it justice. Still, I wanted to try to share it with the rest of the world because keeping it on a wall in here seems like it would somehow be an injustice.
The painting was done by Minnesota artist Scott West. He painted it after reading the manuscript for my forthcoming novel, The Last Good Halloween. For me, hearing about the inspiration for a piece of art is almost as important as the art itself, so I was curious to hear what he had to say about this piece. Here's the note he sent me:
"This painting was very different for me... usually my compositions are cluttered and busy and overbearing with color. The void was important. Knowing Izzy through your writing I felt an absence in her character, almost a separation from her surroundings because she knew she would one day leave. She became a metaphor for the connection we all have with loved ones that all too often leave our immediate life. They gift us life lessons for our future relationships and the strength to understand reasons why they leave. This is why I chose to paint just Izzy. She was the underlying current of the story for me. Thanks again for the opportunity and for sharing your wonderful work."
Obviously, I was touched and moved by his thought and sensitivity in the way he treated my characters. It's strange, I was pretty nervous to see what he'd come up with because it felt like some kind of judgment on these characters I'd come to know and love. In the end, I couldn't be happier with the result.
As the publication date for my novel approaches, things are starting to snap into fast-motion, where once they seemed to mosey along without a care in the world. The biggest item thus far has been settling on a cover. We've gone through many iterations and had some great suggestions, but I think we're finally zeroing in on a coherent idea. There are still a few changes that'll need to happen, but here is the prototype:
From here on out, the rest of the work will center around launching and promotion. Stay tuned for an announcement regarding the launch party and for upcoming interviews/reviews. For now, I can tell you that I've already recorded an interview with the good folks at WordPlaySound. They'll be coming out with a special episode close to our publication date which will also include a recording of me reading an excerpt of The Last Good Halloween.
That's all for now. Surely more to come soon.
Just having a little fun here today. I've posted the first chapter of my novel The Last Good Halloween on my novel page. If you're curious to find out what it's all about, go the bottom of the page and click on the "Read Chapter One" link.
It's been a tough year, publishing-wise. It started out with high hopes and
a swirl of good news, only for it to slowly evaporate as the months dragged
on. Dark times call for soul-searching. As I was wandering through the foggy corridors of the interior, I came eyeball-to-eyeball with a surprising (to me) fact: I have been submitting stories, essays and novels to literary journals and agents and contests on a consistent basis for almost twenty years. That means for nearly half my life I've been on tenterhooks, awaiting responses on submissions -- trapped in a perpetual state of hope.
I'm starting to wonder if hope might not be an addictive substance, as damaging as the most seductive narcotic. Does that sound cynical? Perhaps. But bear with me as I examine some side effects of hope. I find myself constantly checking email, waiting for a response. Good news, when it comes, is inevitably buried under drifts of bad news. And even when there is good news, the high it produces is never as strong as I imagine it should be. Through it all, what does hope imbue me with most? Paralysis -- a sense of constantly waiting for things to change. I'm a hope-junky.
So it's time to go cold turkey. My resolution, if that's what you want to call it, is to go for an entire year without submitting one piece of writing. No contests, no lit journals, no queries. There's still a backlog of submitted pieces, which should take a few months to work its way out of the submission process bloodstream -- so it probably won't be until this summer that hope will be officially purged from my system. Then I'll be able to experience life without hope. I'm calling this experiment a submission-fast. (My freelance work is exempt from this fast due to the fact that I'm not subjecting those pieces to judgment. They're already commissioned, so the people paying me for them don't really have a choice. And I don't have to hope that they'll get accepted.)
What do I expect to accomplish from this? Aesceticism aside, the expectation is that by spending some time with absolutely no thoughts of submission, of purging the notion of hope from my psyche, I'll see if in fact it's better to live without it. Do I feel better day-to-day, not needing to check my email? Do I sleep better at night, not thinking if I should have put something else in a cover letter? Most importantly, will I be more productive with my time, not having to spend hour upon hour looking for submission sites and preparing the submissions? A positive side effect might also be to get back to writing for the sheer thrill of it. After all, if you don't expect anyone to ever see what you're writing, that can be liberating to write whatever the hell you want.
That's why I'm doing this. I'll report back as the year unfolds.
It's been a while in the making, but I've finally gotten my latest short story polished to the point where it's ready for submissions.
This story's been interesting from a process standpoint, in the sense that almost all the key elements of it have been on the page from the first draft, but the order and emphasis of those points were what I had to toy with in revisions. Which secondary characters do I need to play up or play down? At what point should this character do X? It's been the kind of story that plays to my sense of experimentation and tinkering. Probably the biggest change has been the title. From fairly early on I was calling it "Parachutist," which was a title I like for its obliqueness and originality. But very near the end of my revising, I realized that that title reflected a facet of the story that had long been revised out and to keep it would only serve to confuse. Thus, I switched to "The Tourist." Not as bold, perhaps, as my earlier title, but it definitely reflects what the story is now about.
Funnily enough, in my Tumblr blog a long while back I posted the opening paragraph of this story and was all braggy about how good I thought it was. Turns out I've kept only a fraction of the language in that original intro and it's now buried somewhere on page 3. Just goes to show that you have to be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of your stories.
Anyway, the first sortie is now away! (Gotta love electronic submissions!) Now, for me, it's back to the freelancing. Stay tuned for responses.
I recently picked up a freelancing opportunity where I'll be writing introductory essays for literary anthologies. One of them is the Literature of Propaganda and the other is the Literature of Manifesto. The essays themselves are heavily proscribed pieces, in which every paragraph has a specific thesis and strict word count. Writing them ends up being more of a puzzle-building exercise than any kind of creative process. But the challenge is fairly enjoyable so far.
Of course, the fiction has had to take a backseat because of this project. Which is turning out to be a bit of a sacrifice because I've got a new short story working its way through the pipeline and I'm itching to get it wrapped up. Fortunately, most of the big short story outlets seem to be closed to submissions until the fall, so I'm hoping to get the time to put the finishing touches on it this August and start sending it out in September.
I'm happy to report that my new audio-fiction story is live on the WordPlaySound website. You can now go there and listen to it through your web browser, or you can download it as a free podcast from the iTunes store. The story, My Beloved Monster, is an old one that I originally wrote back in graduate school. Over the years, I'd open it up, take a look at it and tinker for a bit. It wasn't until this past winter that I felt like I finally got it to a semi-finished state. Then, when Ryan Singleton, the editor of WordPlaySound, contacted me about recording a story, I figured this would be a good candidate. The results… well, you can listen to them now.
This is a repository for all my semi-filtered thoughts on... blah, blah, blah.