Category Archives: nonfiction

Architecting the Possibilities

I’m bummed I can’t be in Chicago right now for the AWP conference, but I’m beyond excited that my freshly-printed textbook collaboration with Lance Olsen, Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Fiction, is making its debut there.

AoP is a re-versioning/visioning and rebirth of Lance’s 1998 Rebel Yell: A Short Guide to Fiction Writingmy involvement with the project was something of a Be Careful What You Ask For story, wherein I had taught Rebel Yell for many years in my fiction writing workshops. About five years ago I started badgering Lance to update the book every chance I got, and at &NOW Buffalo he finally got sick of me asking. “Okay, okay, okay already,” he relented. “But you are going to help me.”

We started strategizing the project in the summer of 2010. I began deliberately working on it in spring of 2011 as my sabbatical project and spent most of the summer conducting and polishing over 60 brand spankin new interviews and writing small sections on social networking and DIY publishing. It was such a pleasure to reconnect with old friends for this project and also to finally have a legitimate excuse to reach out to writers, artists and theorists I’ve always admired but was just a little too schoolboy shy to bother beforehand (for the record, yes: Katherine Dunn is the most generous, pleasant and insightful person alive today, if not pretty much ever; Stephen Graham Jones is capable of slamming out 1,500 words of razor-sharp prose in as much time as it takes to pop the top of a soda can;  Scott McCloud is just as brilliant talking into a cell phone as he is giving his sexy slide presentation). When it came time to edit the final draft of the manuscript, Lance and I found ourselves quite literally with an embarrassment of riches, wherein we simply didn’t have room in the print edition to include all of the amazing interviews we had conducted. We are delighted to collect all of the interviews that we couldn’t fit in the book on the AoP website, and to archive them alongside legacy interviews from Rebel Yell.

It goes without saying how inspirational and just downright fun it is to work with Lance in any capacity, but it definitely needs said again here how inspirational and just downright fun it is to work with Lance.  I was honored when he asked me to work on this with him and and truly blessed to have had the experience.

If you are on Facebook or Twitter, I hope you’ll check us out there. Also please check out our blog on the main AoP site.

But most of all, please accept my eternal gratitude for caring as much as you do, even if it’s just a little itty bitty bit. This project in no small measure kept me focused, inspired and motivated through some of the toughest and darkest times I’ve had professionally, personally and creatively. I know that I am a better writer, teacher, colleague and human being because of it.


Memory, Lies, Neuroscience

“The more a person recalls a memory, the more they change it. Each time they put it into language, it shifts. The more you describe a memory, the more likely it is that you are making a story that fits your life, resolves the past, creates a fiction you can live with…Once you open your mouth, you are moving away from the truth of things. According to neuroscience.” –Lidia Yuknavitch

Comics & Lit 2009: Ep 05

Today we discussed Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and found interesting ways to work politics, aesthetics and more than a few soapbox moments into the conversation.  Lots of name-dropping in this discussion: Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel, Harvey Pekar, Joe Sacco, Dr. Seuss and even Barack Obama all made brief appearances.  And as an extra special added bonus, if you listen carefully, you’ll get to hear me go totally Grumpy Professor on a student for text-messaging on her phone right in front of me as I tried to keep the conversation from becoming an Epic Fail.

Help Save In Other Words Bookstore

In Other Words is an amazing independent (and *non-profit*) bookstore here in Portland specializing in writing by/for/about women, and is truly one of a kind.  The economic depression has hit publishers and bookstores especially hard, and In Other Words is no exception; if they are not able to raise $11,000 by the end of January, the store will be forced to close its doors.  Here are the particulars from their website:

In Other Words, like so many of our fellow independent bookstores, has fallen upon incredibly hard financial times. If we are unable to raise $11,000 by the end of December, In Other Words will have to close its doors in early March. Many of you may have already heard about this financial crisis and in an effort to be as transparent as possible, we want to let you all know about the specifics of the situation and to update you on our progress.

The $11,000 is needed to pay back a short-term loan that is expiring in January. We have been unable to come up with the funds on our own due to significantly decreased store and textbook sales, likely the result of the economy’s recession. Unfortunately, our financial troubles will not be over once we pay back this loan. Like many others, we’re affected by the recent decrease in availability of bank loans and we’re going to need to raise an additional $10,000 by March to pay off our expiring line of credit.

We know it sounds crazy that a small bookstore in Portland could raise this much money in such a short time, however our community of locals, out of town family and friends, as well as feminists nationwide have responded in full force to our plea. They are making online donations, swarming through our doors to support the store by doing their shopping and attending events, and by getting the word out to their own communities that we need help. And its working. We’ve made nearly $7,000 in the 5 days since we announced our financial crisis! Clearly, In Other Words is an institution that our community will not let go under.

As promising as this looks, we still have a long way to go to reach our goal. In addition to urging people to make tax-deductible donations, there are a number of other ways we’re asking people to support us.

• Come to the Dance Party Fundraiser for In Other Words, this Sunday, December 21st from 7-11pm at Zaytoon.
• Do your holiday shopping at In Other Words and receive 10% off feminist gift packages
• Mark your calendars for our After Solstice Book Sale which will run the month of January. 50% off selected titles
• Get involved in our community by attending one of our many in-store events and discussion groups or sign up to volunteer

Here are some things we’re doing on our end to promote In Other Words’ long-term sustainability:

• Restructuring and rebuilding our board of directors to promote increased functionality and fundraising ability
• Applying for external funding in the form of 2 grants
• Expanding volunteer-driven grassroots fundraising efforts to include multiple fundraising events throughout the year, the first of which is scheduled for Saturday, February 7th at 7pm
• Appealing to major donors and promoting our revamped monthly sustainer giving program, Every Woman Strong
• Restructuring our store’s inventory to reflect current buying trends

We are optimistic that with our community’s continued support we can achieve our goals and continue to be a vital resource for this community that sustains us. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions or if you’d like to follow up.

Our community cannot afford to lose In Other Words, please help us save her!

The Staff and Board of In Other Words

The easiest way to help, of course, is to do some of your holiday shopping at In Other Words either in person or online.  They’ve also made it very easy to donate in-kind, tax-deductible contributions.  Help a sister out already, won’t ya?

KCRW considers DFW

KCRW is arguably the greatest English language public radio station in existence, and I’ve been a big fan of their pioneering efforts in podcasting for many years now; a Friday afternoon just isn’t the same without my Left, Right and Center fix.

Bookworm is another must-listen, hosted by the always-insightful Michael Silverblatt.  Silverblatt recently joined book critic Anthony Miller for a special edition of Politics of Culture to discuss the death of David Foster Wallace, particularly his  “impact on fiction, his generation and American culture…[and why] many feel that the death of Wallace is to literature what the death of Kurt Cobain was to rock music.”  KCRW has also created a special archive page for their past shows featuring/about DFW.

Kevin Sampsell removes himself

Kevin Sampsell has a new essay up over at Memoirville, “I Removed Myself,” in which he narrates cruising the streets of Pasco, WA looking to score with the ladies:

One night I decided I’d had enough of my virginity. I hit the gloomy streets of Pasco, my Malibu crawling at a steady twenty miles per hour. There was no one out. I stopped at a taco stand and ate something disgusting, killing more time and shaking with nerves. That’s when I saw her, coming around a corner a block away. I jumped back in the car and drove over. For some reason, I couldn’t just walk down there. I had to have something to hide behind, a getaway. The car would make me feel like I was in a position of power.

As I got closer to her, I realized I didn’t have a choice. She was the one. I wasn’t going to wait any longer. I rolled my window down and asked her the question. She gave me a couple of options, like a menu or a list of the nightly specials. Fifteen dollars for a handjob, twenty-five for straight sex, and fifty bucks for a suck and fuck. Apparently, it was a bargain night.

Click here to read the full piece.