Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Longform Changes

Today is the last day of Longform Fiction. Back in 2011, during a stint of unemployment, my former professor/current friend-confidante Jeremy P. Bushnell asked me to join him in a new venture. He launched a small website/social media feed called Instafiction, modeled after Longform and Longreads, but devoted to fiction, since there didn't appear to be a site of that nature.

Our following was small, but received attention from Max Linsky and Aaron Lammer, the founders of Longform, and after some talks, Jeremy and I agreed to be the first fiction editors for their site. It's been two years, and we felt it was time to step away. Jeremy had his first novel published earlier this year, and he's in the process of working on a new book. I'm officially starting my thesis hours (!) in the spring semester, which is a fancy, technical way of saying: I'm writing a novel as well. The time devoted to curating daily fiction is too much to handle, since I'll need to devote as much free time as possible to writing and editing, in addition to my class and graduate assistant requirements. Even though Longform Fiction is going away, I didn't want to leave Longform entirely.

Therefore, starting in January, I'm starting a new role as a contributing editor to the site. My focus will be the same, but not as time-consuming. I'll still have to do lots of reading, but I do that anyway; as someone in the literary community, I feel it's my obligation to read, support, and engage with other artists, regardless of whether it's for a website or for my own learning.

I'm grateful that Max and Aaron are excited to keep me on. And at the risk of sounding sappy, I simply cannot thank Jeremy enough. He's been one of the biggest influences in my growth as a writer and reader. He read my embarrassing, awful first attempts at fiction when I was 18, has always been ready with a quick text message of support if I'm ever down about something, and I hope he and I can work together in the future on a similar project. So thanks, Jeremy. For everything.

The countless hours I've spent reading for Instafiction and Longform have put me in touch with some amazing artists and journals, many of whom I'm honored to call friends, even if we only know each other through social media. Every part of these projects has been essential in my growth as a writer and a reader, and I wouldn't be in an MFA program if this engagement with great, contemporary artists hadn't happened.

Here's to a great 2015 for everyone. I can't wait to see new work appear in the world. Onward.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I can't thank Beth Gilstrap enough for sending this invitation my way. She's an extremely talented writer ("A Girl and a Civil War Dress" is so moving and beautifully written/spaced), and her Twitter feed has pointed me to other great writers and literary organizations. She's working on a book, and I can't wait until it's ready to be put out into the world.

What Are You Working On?

Right now, as in this week, I'm editing an old story that I've had in my files for over a year. It's a weird little story about a second (and last) date and a partner's confession to a strange fetish. In the long run, I'm working on a novel for my Master's thesis. It's still in the planning stages (He's thinking about writing a novel? Roll your eyes...now!). It's a dark family drama about fractured identities with a father's evolving obsession with various forms of reality TV and social media outlets. Once that's done, I plan to turn my attention to a short story collection. It wasn't until recently that I noticed slight common threads in some of my published fiction, and reflecting on the latest collections by Leesa Cross-Smith (Every Kiss a War) and Aaron Burch (Backswing), I'm eager to see if I can eventually produce a collection that, upon reading, has a collective meaning. That might sound like a stretch, but really, my favorite story collections leave me with a feeling that is a sum of the individual stories, even if the stories aren't explicitly related.

How Does Your Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

Right now, that's a complicated question. With maybe one or two exceptions, I don't write fiction that adheres to a genre (I refer to genre as most would assume--sci-fi, mystery, etc.). Then again, while literary fiction is a genre, it's far too vague for me. And some of my latest pieces are experimental, for lack of a better word. I don't think my fiction is unique in the sense of doing things that nobody else is doing. I've had a long, seething hatred for the advice "write what you know." I've always worried it could limit writers, especially young or beginning ones, from taking a larger worldview into account. I have projects that try to take points of view into account that I wouldn't know firsthand. Writing from the point of view of a gay person, a woman, or someone of a different cultural background than myself is risky, but sometimes I try to imagine myself in those shoes and what it's like. Of course, a female writer is going to have more to say about her experience than me imagining a woman's point of view. But I like it, because instead of assuming that I have all the answers, thinking in different ways allows me to consider multiple avenues for my work. Getting back to "write what you know," I've now taken that in my own way. I've gone through my experiences in life, some of them painful, and tried to write work that uses these experiences as a foundation. Therefore, nothing is so much "veiled autobiography" as it is taking a singular moment or thought and seeing the unexpected places it can do within fiction. None of this is edgy or unique, but for the sake of this question, this is how my process works. Sometimes, that is.

Why Do You Write What You Do?

During my English major undergrad years (I graduated in 2006), I was in love with the idea of being a writer. I loved the idea of seeing my name in print, I loved drinking multiple cups of coffee in cafes with a notebook at hand. I cranked out tons of 2-3 page stories with no idea about editing or craft. I thought the mere act of creation was enough. It was because of those early years that I still have trouble calling myself a writer, and I sometimes become uncomfortable if someone introduces me as a writer. Sometimes, I feel like an impostor, like I'm not an artist working on his craft, but still that weird 22 year-old who wanted to be a writer without having to put in the serious work, hours, and editing that goes along with it.

I was absolutely slaughtered in undergraduate workshops. During my first workshop, my professor (Rone Shavers, to whom I'll always be grateful) held up my piece and said "Don't ever hand in any shit like this again." For a lot of people, this would be the end. But I kept trying. After I graduated, I partied a lot, worked a dead-end job at Borders, and still clung to the designation of "writer." My life was slowly crumbling in 2008, and I moved to Seattle to live with my brother. I was unemployed for six months, and I started reading much more. This renewed focus on books then turned into a renewed focus on my own writing. That's where this blog came about: I wanted it to be a travelogue about Seattle, but right away, it turned into a blog for literary essays and book reviews. Another professor, Jeremy P. Bushnell, started a daily fiction archive called Instafiction, and he invited me to join as a co-editor to help him post daily links for stories from around the web (this then led to our positions as Fiction Editors for Longform.org). With this position, I had to read daily. Jeremy introduced me to some staggeringly good fiction. I'll never forget reading Matt Bell's "His Last Great Gift," a long story about history, religion, and mysterious creations. It was this story that really hit home and showed me what writing could do. So while I still seek out publications and I'm excited to see my own fiction published, I started writing what I do not for the sake of writing, but because art and writing can really change people. Good writing can make someone laugh, cry, or see things differently. That sounds like a terrible cliche, but it's true. "His Last Great Gift" was such a great work of art to encounter, and following Matt's Twitter feed led me to The Collagist and other writers/organizations producing amazing work that I was unaware of at the time.

How Does Your Writing Process Work?

Coffee and cigarettes. But seriously, it varies. I sometimes work in my apartment, I sometimes work in coffee shops, and I sometimes work in campus offices. Once I have an idea, it sometimes takes me a little while to get it going. I'm still my own worst critic, so sometimes I'll write two pages and get bored or abandon it because I don't think it has merit. A lot of my fiction ends up being very different than what I originally intended. I don't have any magic formula for my process, and really, it's boring. I sit with a computer, or a notebook, and a cup of coffee. I have a baseball and glove in the office, and sometimes tossing the ball up to the ceiling and catching it for fifteen minutes puts me in some weird Zen place that allows me to overcome some blocks. My girlfriend and I have two cats who keep me company.

I do a lot of my own editing, but I'm very grateful to people who read my work in its first draft stages. My girlfriend Patti isn't afraid to tell me if something isn't working in one of my drafts. She's a poet, but her eye for fiction is vastly superior to my eye for poetic forms. That goes for my MFA classmates as well. We're all very encouraging of each other, but we all have thick skin and can take critiques, because we all know that nothing is said out of negativity, but for the ultimate goal of helping each other become better artists.

Thank you for reading! I've nominated the following people to post their Writing Process Tours on August 29, 2014:

CLAIRE LOMBARDO (@ClaireLombardo) is a fiction writer from the Chicago area. She has a story forthcoming in an anthology from Fiction Attic Press ​and was recently named a finalist in ​the Cupboard Pamphlet's short fiction contest. ​She​ is currently at work on her first novel. More information and writing samples can be found at www.clairelombardo.com.

PAUL LUIKART (@PaulLuikart) Bio coming soon

BRENT RYDIN (@brntrydn) lives and works in Boston. He is the founding editor of Wyvern Lit, and has pieces published or forthcoming in Pithead Chapel, The Island Review, Cartridge Lit, WhiskeyPaper, and CHEAP POP. He has a website at brntrydn.com.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"Artists in Residence" in Pithead Chapel

Hiya.

I had a new short story published in the July issue of Pithead Chapel, a lovely online magazine/press based in Michigan.

"Artists in Residence" is a story that I've struggled with for years. Its origins are embarrassing, with some details I'd rather not explore here (but I'll gladly share over a beer). It took several drafts, several wrong turns, and one big workshop push to get it to a state that I liked. I'm really proud of my work on this story, and I hope you'll check it out. It's also an honor to be featured with some great writers: Katherine Gehan, Erin Pienaar, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Kevin O'Rourke, and Rob Alexander.

Here's a paragraph from the story. Click here for the whole piece.

"Andy had full reign of the courtyard in front of his apartment, thanks to a landlord who enjoyed his installations and fancied himself a supporter of the arts. As long as he did it while the rest of the tenants were at work, he had freedom to chop wood and weld scrap metal to fasten together collages in his rotating outside gallery. Melanie sat on the front steps, jotting notes in her case book while Andy, shirtless, swung sledgehammers and caulked vases to broken down end tables he’d found in alleys and dumpsters. Whenever someone walked by, he’d stop momentarily mid swing to let them admire his clenched back before heaving and breaking down a pipe or a piece of plywood. The landlord sipped his coffee and peeked through the blinds."

As always, support literary magazines (print/online/both). Seriously. In fact, I'm taking a few weeks off from reading books to catch up on my pile of journal back issues. I may do some reporting about what I unearth, since the back issues date from 2009-2013/14. I'm sure I'll discover some little treasures. I can't wait.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

July 29th Reading at City Lit Books!


I'm trying my hardest not to annoy the shit out of people on Facebook and Twitter with this, but I'm so very excited. I'll be reading this July with a lineup of some of my favorite writers; how the hell I was invited is beyond me. Anyway, mark your calendars, come out, and listen to some words by me, Leesa Cross-Smith, Paul Luikart, Ben Tanzer, Megan Stielstra, and Steve Karas.

I haven't the faintest idea what I'll be reading. I'll have about ten minutes, and I'm torn between a longer work or a collection of smaller pieces. I still have time to decide, but I don't want to wait until the day before, for obvious reasons.

All of this will be in support of Leesa Cross-Smith's Every Kiss a War, her recent story collection from Mojave River Press. You can order it here, and you should. I finished it about a month ago, and it's such a great collection of fiction. There is great prose galore, and the stories are sexy, moving, and honest. I can't wait to see Leesa perform, and I'm eternally grateful for her asking me to join her in her Chicago debut. I'm sure there will be many hugs and Instagram selfies.

But seriously: buy the book. It's received praise from Roxane Gay and Kathy Fish. What else do you need to know?

Leesa designed the bear poster, which should contain all the relevant information. I'll post links or updates if they become available.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"Renter"

My best friend Edward Williams wrote and directed a short film about a writer, a misleading landlord, and a diabolical demon. He plays the landlord and demon; I play the writer. It's a horror/comedy. You should watch it.

Renter from William Eddy on Vimeo.


My "film debut." Not quitting my day job anytime soon. This was so much fun to make, and I hope my bald spot isn't too blinding.

Friday, May 16, 2014

"The Fun We've Had" Review Live on The Fanzine

Happy Friday!

Yesterday, the seriously awesome people behind The Fanzine published another one of my book reviews: I wrote about Michael J. Seidlinger's The Fun We've Had, now out from Lazy Facist Press.

It's a novel that very few people could pull of successfully: it concerns the relationship, identities, and interactions of two people floating in a coffin, with memories, sharks, and alternating genders/ages among their problems and perceptions. Pre-publication blurbs likened the novel to Italo Calvino; I mentioned Amelia Gray and Salvador Plascencia as potential literary siblings to this work.

Click here to read my review. And thank to you to Michael for writing such a challenging work. Also, thank to you to Casey McKinney and Sarah Rose Etter for giving me the opportunity to discuss this work.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"The Heart is the Size of a Fist" Now Live on CHEAP POP

I'm a couple days late, but I have a new story online. It's a piece of micro fiction titled "The Heart is the Size of a Fist," available via the awesome new literary journal CHEAP POP.

My story is here.

The editors of CHEAP POP (Robert James Russell and Elizabeth Schmuhl) post new stories every Tuesday and Thursday. And, for a journal that's only been around since January, they've published some staggering work by some seriously talented artists. Matt Bell, Amanda Miska, Leesa Cross-Smith, Jared Yates Sexton, and others.

I'm proud to have my work available with them, and I'm really, fantastically humbled to have my words in such great company. Thanks, Rob and Elizabeth!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Until the Light is Off" Now Live on Hobart

Oops, I'm two days late, but I have a new short story publication: Hobart, the home of my first publication last year, graciously published a new fiction installment for their annual baseball series. My piece is called "Until the Light is Off," a short about family, looming loss, and time as filtered through a batting cage. So as one typically says about a baseball story: it's about more than baseball, so if the idea of the game makes you fall asleep, I hope my piece does the opposite.

Thanks a ton to Aaron Burch (his latest story collection will be published in June) and the rest of the stellar Hobart editors and writers for giving my work a home, again. Click here for "Until the Light is Off."

I have another story being published in just under two weeks, plus I'm working on a couple book reviews that I'm hoping will be published in the not too distant future. I'm so grateful for these opportunities to create my own work and reflect on the creativity of others.

My semester is nearly finished, so, while I don't make specific promises, I'll be updating here more frequently over the summer.

Happy writing, all.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Praying Drunk" Review at Necessary Fiction; Forthcoming Fiction (!)

Whoops, I'm a couple days late: the fine folks at Necessary Fiction published my review of Praying Drunk, Kyle Minor's astounding collection. I also had the good fortune of meeting him tonight as part of Roosevelt University's spring reading series. His rendition of "There Is Nothing But Sadness in Nashville" was complex and moving. It's one of my favorite pieces in the book, and I was grateful to hear it and experience it in a different form. And he provided some good feedback and suggestions on one of my essays. So, good night all around, I'd say.

Oh yeah: to read my review, click here.

I'm also proud to announce that I have a piece of flash fiction forthcoming from CHEAP POP this May; my first fiction publication of 2014! CHEAP POP is a (relatively) new online literary journal specializing in flash fiction and essays. Robert James Russell and Elizabeth Schmuhl have published some terrific pieces from established and beginning writers. To have my work alongside people like Leesa Cross-Smith, Amanda Miska, and Jared Yates Sexton is humbling and exciting. I don't want to get too ahead of myself: "The Heart Is the Size Of a Fist" is tentatively scheduled to be published at the beginning of May. Thank you, Robert and Elizabeth! I hope people respond to my work half as much as I've responded to CHEAP POP's art thus far.

Check them out here. Read some great work.

That's all for now. Happy reading/writing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

MIRA CORPORA Review at Necessary Fiction

I have another review up today. The awesome folks at Necessary Fiction have published my review of Mira Corpora, Jeff Jackson's 2013 debut novel from Two Dollar Radio.

I've long admired the consistent quality of fiction and reviews that come out of Necessary Fiction, and I'm really honored and thrilled to have a new home for a review of a terrific novel. I'll hopefully have another review published there next month (I don't want to share any details until the editing process is complete, and I never want to be presumptuous).

Michelle Bailat-Jones is a terrific editor, even if we communicate solely via e-mail. She's enthusiastic about independent literature and is always glad to answer my most inane queries and questions.

My review is here. Thanks, Necessary Fiction. Thanks, Michelle. And thanks, Jeff Jackson, for a terrific reading experience.




Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Desert Places" Review at Fanzine

Yes, it's been awhile. And no, no grand promises of more consistent updates, BUT: I have another nonfiction publication, my first since 2011:

I reviewed The Desert Places for the excellent, often overlooked Fanzine (I just misspelled it as Franzine, which could be the name of a pretty good curmudgeonly Jonathan Franzen appreciation site, but I digress). The Desert Places is a wonderful, creepy collaboration between Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss, with some stunning illustrations by artist Matt Kish. It was published by Curbside Splendor last year, and I'm honored to review it for such a terrific literary publication.

The link is here.

I want to thank the awesome, talented Sarah Rose Etter for being open to my review, providing me with some great editing, and for being a terrific human being and writer. Visit her site. Read her fantastic writing (I highly recommend "Tongue Party." I read it a couple years ago, and it's one of those pieces that has stayed with me since my first reading). And support Fanzine. Not because they published me today (I could create an awesome list of great publications that have rejected my work more than once). But because they have such a great mix of literary reviews and original stories.

More to come! I have at least one if not two more book reviews forthcoming. The spring semester has been manageable, but I know it'll get very busy before too long, so I'm attempting to get these pieces ready before I'm delightfully swamped.

Happy Thursday to all.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 Readings, 2014 Goals

And it's time for my first post of 2014. I'm kicking things off in the same way I started 2013: by recapping my book readings for the year and setting some new goals. My MFA candidacy has been a necessary, delightful impediment to this blog, hence my not having posted anything for almost two months. I'm not going to apologize or make any grand promises. I'm updating when necessary. But on the bright side, some of my long overdue book reviews might be appearing on other literary magazine websites; I'll immediately update when they go live, if they do (this isn't false modesty: I've been doing a lot of inquiries, with one review scheduled and another possibly forthcoming).

In 2012, I read 56 books, which was my highest total in quite some time. Even with graduate school taking up a good chunk of my year, I managed to beat that total in 2013, finishing with 65 total titles completed. I was very happy with this, and for the most part, I highly enjoyed the books I chose. I was careful with my readings. I wouldn't go into any book expecting to dislike it, but a lot of my choices were based on recommendations from writers and readers whom I trust and admire. Therefore, I was rarely disappointed, if at all. Last year, I took a page from my friend/mentor Jeremy P. Bushnell and ranked my readings under the headers of "Masterpiece," "Great," "Very Good," "Good with Reservations," and "Disappointments." I'm modifying this list for 2013. Ranking or tallying vastly different books is futile and begs a lot more discussion than I'll give. Therefore, I'm giving two vague rankings: "Very good" and "good." That's not to say that my opinions are set in stone. I might have given glowing reviews to books that are ranked in the "merely" good category, and vice versa. It's akin to giving star ratings on Goodreads. What does it mean, really, to give two, three, four, or five stars? How does that take into account a slim poetry collection vs. a long, epic novel? I'm not concerned with distinctions right now. Here my list, and after, I'll recap what my goals were, and what my goals will be for this new year.

VERY GOOD

Winter Hours by Mary Oliver

AM/PM by Amelia Gray

Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace

May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Tenth of December by George Saunders

The Diegesis by Chase Hoppe and Joshua Young

To the Chapel of Light by Joshua Young

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrisson

I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro

Indiana, Indiana by Laird Hunt

Leaving Saturn by Major Jackson

Suicide by Edouard Leve

Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

JR by William Gaddis

A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel

Spectacle by Susan Steinberg

Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead

Angry Candy by Harlan Ellison

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

The Awful Possibilities by Christian TeBordo

The Avian Gospels by Adam Novy

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

In the Devil's Territory by Kyle Minor

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

Going Clear: Hollywood, Scientology, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

This Is Water by David Foster Wallace

The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor

The Slide by Kyle Beachy

I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman

How To Predict the Weather by Aaron Burch

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor

Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

High Rise Stories: Voices From Chicago Public Housing Edited by Audrey Petty

The People Of Paper by Salvador Plascencia

Mira Corpora by Jeff Jackson

Vanishing Point by David Markson

No Man's Land by Eula Biss

Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan

Hill William by Scott McClanahan

Don't Kiss Me by Lindsay Hunter

Even Though I Don't Miss You by Chelsea Martin

Short Takes: Brief Encounters With Contemporary Nonfiction Edited by Judith Kitchen

The Desert Places by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss; illustrations by Matt Kish

Friend.Follow.Text: Stories From Living Online Edited by Shawn Syms

Hush Hushby Steven Barthelme

Gentleman Junkie by Harlan Ellison


GOOD

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Under the Jaguar Sun by Italo Calvino

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt

The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart

Detroit City Is the Place To Be by Mark Binelli

How Literature Saved My Life by David Shields

Merchants Of Culture by John B. Thompson

24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends Of Sleep by Jonathan Crary

OKAY, FINE, THERE'S ONE UTTER DISAPPOINTMENT. HOW IN THE HELL IS THIS SO REVERED?

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Whew. Okay, here's what I wrote in early 2013 for my goals:

"What are my remaining goals? I'm going to shoot for 60-65 books. Again, it's a conservative increase, but maybe, just maybe, I'll look back and see myself near 70. As far as topics, I'm still deciding. I want to read more science fiction, classics, and graphic novels. And while I like to mix up what I read, I might spend a month or two devoted to a specific writer, to see how his/her books change through the years. But whatever I end up doing, the focus will be on quality."

I read multiple books by Flannery O'Connor (and fell in love with her writing after being ambivalent in high school) and two by Harlan Ellison. That's not exactly burning up a given canon. I did reach my original goal for book totals, which was a pleasant surprise. I'm taking a literature course this spring that will have a heavy reading list, so I hope to keep pace and maintain the same reading schedule. So I'll be conservative in my number goals: in 2014, I want to read 65-70 books. I'm currently halfway through Ben Tanzer's Orphans (a science fiction novel, something I didn't touch upon last year, depending on one's definition) and I'm starting NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names, which starts me off on an ongoing goal to read more minority and women writers. So yeah, I'm pleased. My focus is more on writing, but reading is essential to that balance.

As I said before and I'll continue to say: I love hearing other people's reading summaries and goals. Send 'em my way. Please! Happy 2014 to all.