Archive for June, 2011

The Dzanc Books Write-A-Thon

It’s that time of year again. Dzanc Books is hosting its annual write-a-thon fundraising event from July 21-24.

If you’re not familiar with the write-a-thon, it’s a four-day event where participants find sponsors and create new work based on a prompt provided by Dzanc Books. It raises money for the company’s nonprofit endeavors, including the Writer-In-Residence program, which places professional writers into classrooms to provide creative writing instructions to public school students, and the Dzanc Prize, an annual award recognizing one writer for both literary excellence and community service.

There are prizes, too, including free ebooks and paperbacks for those who raise the most money. Everybody wins!

For more information on this great event, including how to become a sponsor and how to participate, please visit the Dzanc site here.


St. Lawrence Book Award (save $10)

c/o Diane Goettel, Executive Editor, Black Lawrence Press:

Black Lawrence Press is offering a reduced entry fee for the St. Lawrence Book Award. The entry fee for the prize is $25 and the deadline is August 31, but, if you send them your submission by June 30th, you only have to pay $15. Get all the details here:

Laura McCullough + “A Descent” = MB8

Laura McCullough + “A Descent” = MB8:

The rhythm and pacing in ‘A Descent’ are so deliberate and well-crafted– how much time did you spend focusing on just that element of this piece?

Music and rhythm in rhetorical structures and syntax interest me. I have an MFA in fiction, and increasingly writing prose or poetry feels very similar. In this piece in particular, the pacing and line length underscore the tension and anxiety of the mother, and her mounting fear about what she will discover.

The mother is in her 80s, which puts the son somewhere in the 30-50 age range (presumably) – is there a reason that you chose this route as opposed to the more oft used adolescent angle?

Actually, according to, white males, and especially older ones, are the most at risk for suicide. The statistics are really stunning (what is up with Florida?) and can be seen here.

Does this subject hold any personal significance for you (i.e. write what you know, etc.)?

Suicide touched me early when my college boy friend killed himself by gun and then my girlfriend hung herself not long after. And I’ve known several other people – students, family members – who have committed suicide. Survivorship has its own problems, and it’s taken me a long time to write about what I know of it. This poem is one in a series, and I have a novella in process about the subject.

Is this a poem? If so, how so? If not, how come?

Yes, it’s a poem. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s prose. How to tell? For me, it’s about compaction and compression and attention to rhythm, but perhaps I would say that about prose.

Can you tell us a little about Mead, the journal where you are editor in chief?

I edit Mead: the Magazine of Literature and Libations. We pair poems with libations (offering to the gods): with a Guinness? Cold tequila? A Turkish Coffee? Is it an after dinner drink or an aperitif? Does it have ropes and leg or peat and smoke? The focus is on texture and tone. We also have a section on translation and offer beverage related essays as well as “short shot” book reviews.

Read “A Descent” and 21 other great pieces in Monkeybicycle8, available here.

MB Makes an Appearance on Craig Ferguson

I meant to post this a while back, but completely forgot. Comedian Marc Maron made an appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and was–much to our surprise–sporting one of our old Sam Lipsyte lapel buttons.

These buttons were illustrated by the brilliant illustrator and fellow Seattleite, Ellen Forney (in addition to Lipsyte, there was also Diane Williams and Gary Lutz) and paired with bookmarks that featured short write-ups by Kevin Sampsell about each author. They seemed to be pretty popular (and still are, apparently), so we’re toying with the idea of making new ones. If we do, hopefully they’ll end up on television too.

Here is Marc Maron’s appearance, button and all:


Ben Loory + “The Monster” = MB8

Ben Loory + “The Monster” = MB8:

First off, how intentional is the cleanliness of ‘The Monster’ in terms of its simplified phrasing and vocabulary?

The cleanliness is intentional; I think things should be clear. I object to the word “simplified,” though. I prefer to think I don’t over-complexify. I write the way I talk.

Why did you choose to leave the characters unnamed even as they are naming the world around them?

When you name a character it puts the character in front, out there, away from the reader. When you don’t name a character, the emphasis is on action, and the reader is more directly involved.

That’s the theory, anyway. I like to think it works.

If the characters in ‘The Monster’ are symbolic, what do (or might) the boy and the monster each represent?

Nothing I write is ever symbolic. At least not in the grand sense. Characters and objects in my stories are like whirls and eddies in the crosscurrents of the stories’ desires. (As to what those desires are in this story, I’d feel like I was cheating if I said.)

Can you tell us a little more about your forthcoming story collection from Penguin – what are we to expect in its pages?

It’s a collection of forty stories like this one– some funny, some sad, some romantic, some scary, some that are just plain weird. It has an octopus arm and a UFO on the cover. It’s called Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day.

Read “The Monster” and 21 other great pieces in Monkeybicycle8, available here.

Ten Everywhere: Natalia Yanchak, The Dears, Degeneration Street, and Final Fridays

In 10 words (no more, no less), Describe Degeneration Street.

(NY) Journey into the cultural apocalypse we all know is coming.

Describe the path from Missiles to Degeneration Street.

(NY) The path started off clumsily enough. When we finished recording Missiles the band was at it’s lowest – and we still had to tour on it. We kept that touring period civil and brief. When it came time to make Degeneration Street it was like the clouds parted: this was a new band that wanted to write and create music together. I think this is the essence of The Dears. As I’ve said in many interviews before, these internal shifts have helped me gain this perspective. We were a band ensnarled by egos and now that that is long gone, we are blessed with focus, purity and the future.

‘Omega Dog’ – can you describe what the “it” is? Or, can you tell us what Murray is the only one of?

(NY) You should check out the History Channel series called “Armageddon.” The Omega Dog makes an appearance in that.

‘Thrones’ – the billion pieces that are left behind to share, can I have one?

(NY) Absolutely. They are for sharing.

‘Torches’ – In a few words, what is this song about?

(NY) Well, to me, it’s a sonic interpretation of an ascent into space, of floating away from the Galactic Tides and into the unknown. Holding the torch for humanity as you are cast off, into an abyss.

‘Galactic Tide’ – Assume I know nothing about space. How could a galactic tide end my life?

(NY)  Well, couldn’t it? If the moon’s gravity shifts the oceanic tides here on Earth, wouldn’t a sub-space or possibly massive gravitational shift be kind of a big deal?

‘Tiny Man’ – when I first heard this song, It seemed like the perfect response to Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road.’ Thoughts?

(NY) Hmm. Interesting. Possible.

‘Thrones’ and ‘Degeneration Street’ – So, which illustrates The Dears best, a cross or a switchblade?

(NY) For a period, this book cover was an influence.

In 10 words (no more, no less), Describe Final Fridays.

(NY) Half Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, half The Office (US).

How is writing a story like playing the piano?

(NY) Oh, I would say it they are totally unlike each other in many ways. Playing the piano, like learning Chopin “Raindrop” prelude, is an exercise in perfection, memorization and an absolute command of motor control. Similar to sports. Writing is almost the opposite. Writing is like a purging process, trying to get the ideas out and composing the thoughts with laser-like precision.

Describe your last Elton Barnes moment.

(NY) The other day I saw a man waiting at a crosswalk for the light to change. His face was tilted upwards to the sun, eyes closed, his hands held out palms up and thumbs touched to index fingers in a meditative moment. He was wearing a green army camouflage t-shirt that has the words: “You can’t see me,” printed across the chest. I imagined a passerby unflinchingly punching that guy in the stomach with all his force. The idea made me giggle, and also inspired the “SerenityBot,” a definite future adversary for Elton.

Have you ever written lyrics for music?

(NY) When I was 16, yes. I also have years of experience editing other people’s lyrics.

In 10 words (no more, no less), Describe your next project.

(NY) A sci-fi story about isolation, solitary confinement and responsibility.

bl pawelek, Ten Everywhere

Natalia Yanchak, member of The Dears, Degeneration Street, Dangerbird Records.

Annam Manthiram + “Variations on a Blossoming Marriage” = MB8

Annam Manthiram + “Variations on a Blossoming Marriage” = MB8:

Can you talk to us a little about your decision in ‘Variations on a Blossoming Marriage’ to pair the beauty of flowers with the sad and ugly elements of divorce and adultery?

There seems to be an expectation in our society that those we love should demonstrate their care for us through flower-giving.  Regardless of whether the cause is commercial or cultural, I find it problematic because flowers are beautiful, but impermanent.  Why would you want something that will die in a few days to represent all of what is good in your, hopefully, more permanent relationship?

So I decided to turn this expectation on its head, so to speak, and alter the reader’s sense of order by juxtaposing the beauty of flowers (and their social significance) with the ugliness that can be relationships and the dismal quality of a union with no true romance.

In this piece, both parties seem to be implicated in the problems of their marriage – how did you come to this approach as opposed to placing the blame solely on one or the other?

Any marriage or relationship, whether romantic or platonic, exists because two people make it work.  Equally, it takes two people to make it not work.

How much research did you need to do to reference the flowers used here?

I logged on to several gardening sites for research and also looked up some of the Latin meanings of the various classifications.  I am also an avid gardener, so I knew in some examples which specific flowers I wanted to use and why.

Do you have a green thumb?

I do.  I love to garden.  Our backyard is overflowing with flowers, trees, and bushes, and though we live in the desert, we also have a vegetable garden where we are growing beets, peas, peppers, and mint this year.

There is something divine about working with your hands in this capacity, and I liken it to creating magic through words.

Can you give us a little preview of your forthcoming novel, After the Tsunami?

The novel’s protagonist, Siddhartha, is a tortured Indian man who cannot stop reliving the harrowing childhood he endured in an orphanage in India.

I wanted to write about the reality of brutality – not sugar-coat it in any way whatsoever – and how it can change people for the better or worse.  I also wanted to comment on the nature of memory: how it has the power to transform, burden, or release.  In Siddhartha’s case, it does all three.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a tough story to read, but it was equally tough to write.  Having overcome several obstacles myself, I am a firm believer in the ability to find optimism and hope no matter what the situation.  And I think this novel epitomizes that.  Even in the bleakest moments of his life, Siddhartha not only finds his own light, but he creates it.  And through his creation, he survives his ordeal, which in and of itself is another reminder of the resourcefulness of the human spirit.

Read “Variations on a Blossoming Marriage” and 21 other great pieces in Monkeybicycle8, available here.

Curtis Smith + “Lenin!” = MB8

Curtis Smith + “Lenin!” = MB8:

‘Lenin!’ is a pretty sprawling story, as it covers a large expanse of time and carries a multitude of characters throughout its passages. Can you talk to us a little about this approach, about how you allow the work spread out and become large, but still contain it as a short story?

The idea of the worldwide Lenin tour came first. I thought that while it was weird, it was also strangely plausible. As long as I was going to cart the old guy around, I decided I might as well do it on a global scale, so I started thinking about a number of different lives that could all intersect at the end. I usually avoid putting so many characters into a story, but this structure allowed me to introduce each of them in their own setting and context.

This piece has so many connections with film, both in the subject matter and in the descriptive direction – is this owed to any association you have with film or theater?

I love film. About twenty-five years ago, I took a grad school elective in making 8mm films. For a while I thought I wanted to go that route—I had a few cameras and a splicer and viewer. But that’s about the time I also discovered writing. So I wrote. But I still dig watching movies.

A typical piece of advice to young writers is ‘pretend you only get three exclamation points for your entire life’ – how important is the exclamation point in ‘Lenin!’?

I’ve never heard that advice—but it’s good. I think the exclamation in the title works as a joke—the knowing that it’s based not on the director’s artistic intent but on some marketing angle. I think that speaks to the money-centered theme that underlies much of the story.

You have several books, including a recent collection of essays and a novel from Casperian. If our readers want more Curtis Smith, where is the best place to start?

I guess that depends on what they like to read. Press 53 has done my last two story collections; Casperian has done my last two novels. Recently I’ve been promoting my latest, an essay collection from Sunnyoutside. All three are wonderful lit press folks.

Read “Lenin!” and 21 other great pieces in Monkeybicycle8, available here.

Andrew James Weatherhead + “Something That Happened in Brooklyn” = MB8

Andrew James Weatherhead + “Something That Happened in Brooklyn” = MB8:

Instead of meta-fiction that glorifies the author, ‘Something That Happened in Brooklyn’ deconstructs writing with its negative spin – how did the approach for this piece come about?

Well I had a lot of trouble finding a job last summer – I was hooked up with a temp agency but they weren’t calling much – so I set about making writing my job, usually going 9 to 5 at the library, as if it were real, and I was very excited about the world I was discovering at the time – the blogs, the readings, the journals, all that DIY, small press stuff.  Then in September I started my MFA program and was thrust back into an academic workshop setting with people who perhaps had more traditional notions of what a poem should look like, and where I was forced to write these extremely laborious responses (like 10-12 pages a week) concerning poems that often didn’t excite me very much, many of which seemed to fit this stereotype I had of “the relationship poem.”  One day I cracked and instead of writing the response I was supposed to, a bunch of these “deconstructive” poems came out.  In retrospect, I was just frustrated and intolerant.

So if I were judging you solely on this one poem, I might guess that you were a disgruntled MFA student – how wrong am I?

For me, the first semester was rough, but I’ve chilled out quite a bit.  I don’t stress as much about things I don’t have the power to change.  Overall, I think the MFA program has been beneficial in that it’s expanded my reading interests tremendously.  I don’t think I’d like Gertrude Stein had she not been taught to me.  She sort of requires context.  That’s just one example.  Also, I’ve made some great friends that I like talking to and hanging out with.

Is ‘Something That Happened in Brooklyn’ a poem? If so, how so?

I don’t know.  I don’t think I know what a poem is, but I think that’s the fun.

Here is something we’ve asked all the MB8 poets: Why poetry and not prose?

Oh.  I don’t know.  I like to read and write both.

Read “Something That Happened in Brooklyn” and 21 other great pieces in Monkeybicycle8, available here.

Three books you’ll want to get:

HEAVY PETTING by Gregory Sherl (YesYes Books)

FREIGHT by Mel Bosworth (Folded Word Press)