Category Archives: writing

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.


Respect a Fucking Killer

David Foster Wallace would have been 50 years old today. When he was 33, he wrote this letter to Don Delillo, and inside that letter he wrote these two sentences that pretty much nail the whole writing/publication for validation thing:

I hope that in the course of your decades writing you’ve done and been subject to stuff that’s helped make you a more Respectful writer. I would like to be a Respectful writer, I believe…though I know I’d far prefer finding out some way to become that w/o time and pain and the war of LOOK AT ME v. RESPECT A FUCKING KILLER.

Dave: that you worried about the Look At Me part as much as you did even further underscores the Respect so many of us have for you, always had for you, always will.

Happy birthday, Killer.

Today Is Tomorrow

Hi. I don’t know who you are or why you are reading this but I want to tell you two things. First, I love you. Second, thank you. And actually I want to tell you a third thing, and I want to embarrass myself doing it. Completely and shamelessly embarrass myself. Here goes.

The past 16 months have been both the most painful and blessed in my life. It’s hard to describe how such deep despair and such high hope can coexist, and at some point I’ll be ready to try doing that; so much has happened since Oct 2010 that I know I’ll need to write a lot of it down in order to be able to fully understand it, and if you’re reading this and are in any way nodding your head, I want to repeat real quick here the first two things I told you: I love you, and thank you.

Over the past few weeks I’ve felt myself finally lifting away from much of the hurt, disappointment and fear that has been a pretty regular constant for me for about as long as I can remember. If you were just nodding your head a moment ago, there’s a really good chance you know enough of The Story because I shared pieces of it with you. You don’t know how much your listening and support has meant to me.

I’m typing this from my campus office on a Saturday night, by the way. Everything is cool-air quiet here. This morning I went to my youngest son’s basketball game and immediately after he was finished he ran straight over to me and gave me a big hug. I want to thank him here. On Thursday, my middle son jumped off the school bus to fetch his hamster from my little apartment because he’d let the little furry dude spend the night with me the evening before so I wouldn’t feel lonely. I want to thank him here as well. And last night my oldest son gently informed me that he was way ahead of me on the Epic Rap Battles meme but he appreciated my interest nonetheless. He needs thanked here, too. These three boys have been amazing throughout everything, and I am in awe of their fortitude. They are my heroes, all of them.

But so are you. I want you to know you are so very much appreciated, whomever you are. I am in the process of not only reclaiming my life because of you, but beginning a whole new chapter in a whole new book of it that I didn’t even know I would write. I had been emotionally bankrupt for the longest time, just barely floating through my professional life, and my creative production had totally bottomed out. All of that is different today; where I am now has a lot to do with you, whomever you are. So I’m very pleased to meet you. And I love you. And I thank you.

At the beginning of this new year, I finally made good on a promise I’d made to myself several years ago, when my middle son uttered a phrase out of confusion as to where he was on a school activity calendar. He repeated it two and three times and with more than a little indignance. I didn’t know why but I had to write it down because I knew at some point I would understand why he was so insistent that what he was saying was exactly what he meant. The promise I made back then was at some point in the future I would tattoo that phrase into my skin once I understood its profundity and began applying it to my worldview and daily routine. This is that promise:

The past 16 months have largely been about confronting and exorcising my yesterdays. But today is tomorrow. And today is full of love and promise and dreams coming true.  Thank you, whomever you are, for waiting for me to arrive here today. And for all future todays.

Everyone I Know Lives on Kindle

My last collection of short stories, Everyone I Know Lives on Roads, is now available for the Kindle for only 99 cents. You can afford that.

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

Life After Suicide

“What do you do when your husband’s autopsy report is on the internet and is deemed a subject worthy of fucking literary criticism?” –Karen Green

What We Talk About When We Talk About The Wire

Last fall, PopMatters published my essay on American noir as reflected in The Wire. The piece was written as my personal/critical capstone to an entire class dedicated to the television series; I taught it last spring at PNCA.