Thursday, August 11, 2022

What I Read in July

I keep saying this but how the heck is the middle of August already? I'm not sure how time just keeps flying by me like this...

How many books did you read in July? Was it a good reading month for you? In case you were curious, here's a peek at the books I read and reviewed last month!




Danger Slater's Moonfellows
Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing


Moonfellows is an alt-historical sci-fi (without the science) story about a group of folks who are sent to the moon in the early 1900's to mine it for MacGuffinite, a precious mineral that has the potential to change the world as they currently know it. But the mission goes to shit pretty quick and the crew soon find themselves not only stranded on its dry, dusty surface, but also fighting for their lives as one of their very own begins to transform into something horrible...

I read this in nearly one sitting. You know how sometimes you pick up a book expecting to read just a few pages and before you know it, you've finished it? Well, this is one of those books, you guys. It was just. that. friggen. good! Absolutely unputdownable! Cosmic space horror goodness for the win!

And not to sound cheesy, but I believe this is his best book yet! It's been so amazing reading his work over the years and seeing how much he's grown as a writer. I cannot wait to see what he writes next. I'll be first in line to get my grubby, space-sluggy hands on it!!






Ottesa Moshfegh's Lapvona
Pengiun Press (Audio)

WTF did I just read?!

There were parts I really liked, that carried echos of books like Mammother and The Book of X, and parts that were just nasty-cringy and gross which doesn't usually don't bother me... but this kind of nasty-cringy and gross shit did.

Ottessa narrated the book and did a really nice job. It was pleasant to listen it (minus the nasty-cringy gross shit) and had a vaguely dark fairy tale feel to it.

Best not to know what you're walking into when you open this door, methinks.





T. Kingfisher's What Moves the Dead

Tor Nightfire

This book has THE most perfect title and cover, doesn't it? I mean, they both will make so much more sense once you get deeper into the story but c'mon... amiright?!

What Moves the Dead is fungal body horror at its creepiest. It's been a hell of a long time since I've read Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, so I really have no idea how close it stays to the bones of the original, but the prose feels as though it was literally pulled off those pages and spat right out onto these. It oozes victorian dread - dark and dreary setting complete with a decrepid crumbling mansion, pale and sickly residents, maids throwing themselves from the roof, and a private murky pond that gives off strange flickering green lights at night.

Madeline, the mistress of the mansion, look like she's recently joined the Undead. Her brother Roderick is as timid as a mouse and just as twitchy. The wild hares in the surrounding woods are acting incredibly odd. And there are rumors of curses and witches. But our protagonist Alex, who was summoned by Madeline when she first took ill, soon discovers there is something much more horrible at foot.

The tension and suspense is what makes the whole thing work so well! Highly recommend.




Sarah Gailey's Just Like Home
Tor Books

Is it me or does Sarah Gailey reinvent themselves in all the best ways every! single! time! they write a new book?!?!

This time we're treated to a horror-house story with Just Like Home, when Vera Crowder is called back to her childhood home to watch over her estranged mother as she lay dying. We immediately sense that there is some horrible family secret we're not yet clued into, and that the itself house holds some exhilarating, and terrifying, secrets of its very own.

As Gailey slowly wraps us in their tantalizing web, peeling back the familial trauma and gory ongoings in the basement through flashback chapters, we begin to understand that Vera and her mother are not alone in the Crowder House...

Honestly, I'm surprised to see it shelved in the regular fiction section at the bookstores because of the suspense and horror components it contains. An absolute page turner if for nothing other than the SHEER NEED TO KNOW just wtf is going on! And holy crap does it get CRAAAAZY in the last 3/4s of the book! 




Mia Moss's Mai Tais for the Lost
Underland Press

A punchy sci-fi noir novella, set 90 years in the future, that takes place in an underwater city while the now-uninhabitable surface world burns away.

In it, we find ourselves following Marrow Nightingale, the Electric Blue Moon's only private detective, as she begins to crack the case of her murdered brother. She quickly discovers there's something larger at play here, and meets up with some interesting characters along the way. There's an AI mermaid stripper, a super intelligent octopus, and of course there's lots of drugs, an orgy-wake, and some nefarious government types who will do anything to remain ahead of their competition.

It's incredibly fast paced, and I read it in nearly one sitting out on the back deck today. My only compliant is that the speed at which the story unfolds doesn't allow time for the author to flesh out the world we have found ourselves immediately plunged into. While I don't necessarily need the history on what happened to the world topside and pushed everyone to seek a life underwater, I would have loved to have a more clear picture of the underwater cities themselves.

If you're looking for what I like to call "brain candy", this book is going to be perfect for you, but if you're seeking something with more depth and a focus on world building, you'll end up disappointed.





Michael Seidlinger's Anybody Home?
Clash Books

A more intimate spin on books like A Cabin the Woods and movies like The Strangers, Michael Seidlinger's Anybody Home reads like a how-to manual for home invaders.

Told from the perspective of someone who has been at this a long time, we are pulled into the role of a fledgling invader under their tutelage. They show us how to scope out a house, break and enter undetected, how to hide among the family to learn their habits and the lay of the land, all in preparation for the terrifying and horrific invasion which is being staged and filmed in the hopes of becoming a "cult" hit.

It's unsettling and slighlty horrifying, if not as a direct result of Seidlinger's writing (which could be a little difficult to follow at times) then definitely for the niggling seeds of doubt and worry that it creates - are any of us truly safe in our homes? would we know if we were being watched? what role would we play if someone threatened our safety, our family? would we have what it takes to survive it?

If thoughts like these, and graphic depictions of bodily mutliaton, are triggers for you, consider yourself warned.



Not too shabby! I read 5 physical books and listened to 1 audiobook. (Anyone else pick up on the black and pink theme? That was totally unintentional, by the way, haha!)

I'd love to know what books you read last month!

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Goodreads Giveaway: The Prince of Infinite Space and The Autodidacts



WE'RE GOING A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY WITHOUT DOING A "GOODREADS" GIVEAWAY!


Add The Prince of Infinite Space (Giano Cromley, releasing Tuesday)

and/or

The Autodidacts (Thomas Kendall, recently released)


to your goodreads shelf by Friday 8pm EST and I'll choose a random winner to recieve a print copy of each.






Please share widely to help us celebrate both titles,
and make sure your goodreads DMs are open so we can get in touch if you're chosen!



Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Where Writers Write: Jill Stukenberg

  Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!



Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 





photo by Emma Whitman

This is Jill Stukenberg. 

Jill's first novel, NEWS OF THE AIR, is the 2021 winner of the Big Moose Prize from Black Lawrence Press and publishes in September 2022. Her short stories have appeared in Midwestern GothicThe Collagist (now The Rupture), Wisconsin People and Ideas magazine, and other literary magazines. She is a graduate of the MFA program at New Mexico State University and has received writing grants from the University of Wisconsin Colleges and has been awarded writing residencies at Shake Rag Alley and Write On, Door County. Jill is an Associate Professor of English at University of Wisconsin Stevens Point at Wausau. She grew up in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and previously taught in New Mexico and in the Pacific Northwest. She lives in Wausau with the poet Travis Brown and their eight-year-old.








Where Jill Stukenerg Writes




Don’t tell, but sometimes in the deep Wisconsin winter, after having hiked the two blocks from my house in facemask, snowpants, snowboots, and mittens, and climbed the stairs to the quiet of my on-campus office (imagine it is January, or a Sunday morning), I strip down to my socks and long underwear to write. I’m lucky to have this space, my own office on a university branch campus from which I also teach and grade papers, edit and advise student editors, and work with community writers to organize book festivals and poetry walks. In the ebb and flow of the year, with its semesters and breaks, I am grateful for the hours when the work is my work—when I am alone with my thermos and novel plot—and for those when my work is to give to others—my students, other writers. 




This desk isn’t a sacred place; unless the places owned by the taxpaying public hallow their own ground. This office isn’t a she-shed, with cute curtains I sewed from a Pinterest model. But this is the place where, in losing myself, in giving myself over on cold mornings (or hot ones, in flip-flops) I most open to the blank page and what will come through it. And on the back of the closed door, though my students don’t recognize her, I keep a poster of Janis Joplin.


Monday, June 27, 2022

Indie Spotlight: Stephen Baker | Donkey Show

 

Welcome to our Indie Spotlight series, in which TNBBC gives small press authors the floor to shed some light on their writing process, publishing experiences, or whatever else they'd like to share with you, the readers!



Today we are shining the spotlight on Stephen Baker




The Origin of Donkey Show: 

Take a real story and play with the pieces

 


I was working a while back as a general assignment reporter at the (now defunct) El Paso Herald-Post when a freelance photographer returned from a harrowing experience across the border, in Ciudad Juarez. A reputed drug lord, Gilberto Ontiveros, and his henchmen had beaten and mock-executed the photographer, Al Gutierrez, apparently mistaking him for a DEA agent. Gutierrez brought back a death threat from Ontiveros for our lead drug reporter, Terrence Poppa.

 

The newspaper, naturally, ran with this as a series of front-page stories, nothing less than a crusade. It was accompanied by editorials accusing the Mexican government of sheltering the drug lord. This pressure eventually led to Ontiveros’ arrest. Our editors viewed it as a journalistic triumph.

 

Poppa was an excellent, hard-working reporter, who later was nominated for a Pulitzer for his investigative work. In his Herald-Post series, he reported that Ontiveros traveled around Juarez in a Mercedes limousine with a carload of "pistoleros" in front or back. The drug lord’s trademark, he wrote, was a briefcase with the words "The Boss" spelled out in diamonds.

 

For my novel, Donkey Show, I started with that same story, but changed it in crucial ways. What would happen, I wondered, if everything in the story had been wrong--if the original reporting had been flawed, and if the death threat had come not from the drug lord, but by underlings who wanted to see him thrown in jail? In such a case, the newspaper would be running its crusade based on misunderstandings. And the reporter--a lazy one, in my story--would have to put the pieces together.

 

That’s the essence of Donkey Show. I placed the story in 1993, just as the United States and Mexico (and Canada) were finalizing a continental free trade agreement (NAFTA). This gives the fictional newspaper more leverage in its campaign. It’s still a time when regional newspapers carry weight. The digitalization of media is still in the future. Cell phones, huge with antennas, are luxury items for the rich. In short, information is scarcer, and the resulting ignorance drives the plot on both sides of the border.

 

My 2014 novel, The Boost, also takes place along the border, though in the future, not the past. In fact, the protagonist of The Boost, a coder named Ralf, is the great grandson of Tom Harley, the lazy death-threatened reporter of Donkey Show.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 


Stephen Baker has worked as a journalist and writer in many cities, including Paris, Mexico City, Caracas, Quito, Madrid, New York, and El Paso. His non-fiction books, including The Numerati and Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything, explore the effects of technology on society.

 His first novel, The Boost (Tor Books, 2014) is a near-future tale that, like Donkey Show, takes place along the U.S.-Mexico border. Kirkus Reviews called the book “a true delight of a techno-thriller that has deep, dark roots in the present.” Before moving to the New York area, Baker was a Paris-based European technology correspondent for BusinessWeek, where he headed up the magazine’s coverage of wireless technology and the mobile Internet. 

 He is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and earned his B.A. at the University of Wisconsin. He lives with his wife in Montclair, NJ. They have three sons.

 

Author website: https://stephenbakerbooks.com/ 

Twitter: @stevebaker

Instagram: @TheNumerati


Monday, May 16, 2022

Blog Tour: Dark Factory Interview With Kathe Koja

 


We're happy to help Meerkat Press support the release of their latest title Dark Factory by participating in their blog tour. And if you're at all into winning free stuff, they're running a giveaway where you can potentially win a $50 book shopping spree.

Click here to enter!





Dark Factory is Kathe Koja’s new immersive novel from Meerkat Press, that brings together Kathe’s award-winning fiction and her experience producing live events, to create an experience for the reader that takes place on the page (and ebook and audio), and onsite at https://darkfactory.club/ where readers are invited to be part of the party.

Marfa Carpenter is a freelance culture journalist for Blog Out, Daisychain, Excelsior, Artfetish, and Journal of Daily Pop. She interviews various Dark Factory makers and regulars, as well as a philosophy professor, a sound designer, a tattoo artist, an editor/arts journalist, and more. Recently, she interviewed Kathe Koja.

 

Q:  Can you dance?

A: I can! I love to dance. And I’m a Detroit native, so, techno.

 

Q: How long have you been wanting, or planning, to write about the club scene?

A: I never actually plan out any of my work, what I’m going to work on next, I follow my nose, my instincts and interests; for every writer, there must be a thousand possible projects out there, waiting to exist. And since everything I write starts with someone I see in my mind’s eye, that person ends up bringing the world of that story in with them. Then I start researching, then writing.

That said, the club scene, any club, is such a rich landscape to reimagine and write about, it’s nighttime, it’s playtime, everyone is trying to present their most engaging persona while the atmosphere, the drinks and drugs and whatever, open up all the inner doors. And everyone is there hoping that something amazing will happen. The dancefloor is very much like life.

 

Q: Is an immersive novel still 100% fiction, or is it closer to a creative documentary? Or is it something else?

A: The whole concept of immersion—and I learned this making all kinds of live events, in all sorts of real-world settings, in a Victorian mansion, a historic church, in art galleries—immersion means going so deeply into the story being presented to you that it becomes your minute-to-minute reality, it is the world you’re living in. And readers have been achieving that experience forever with books. So making a novel that expands its narrative into the real world seems like something that always should have existed, and now it can.

 

Q: Then how do you define reality?

A: Reality defines us, I think.

 

Q: That’s a pretty easy answer to a pretty hard question. Elaborate, if you can.

A: Reality has been operational long before human beings arrived on the scene, and will operate long after we’re gone. Asking for our definition, my definition, of reality, is like asking a word what it thinks of the dictionary.   

 

Q: Does this story have an end, then?

A: That’s for its readers to decide.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



DARK FACTORY by Kathe Koja

Out May 10, 2022

Speculative Fiction | SciFi | LGBT | Literary


Welcome to Dark Factory! You may experience strobe effects, Y reality, DJ beats, love, sex, betrayal, triple shot espresso, broken bones, broken dreams, ecstasy, self-knowledge, and the void.

Dark Factory is a dance club: three floors of DJs, drinks, and customizable reality, everything you see and hear and feel. Ari Regon is the club's wild card floor manager, Max Caspar is a stubborn DIY artist, both chasing a vision of true reality. And rogue journalist Marfa Carpenter is there to write it all down. Then a rooftop rave sets in motion a fathomless energy that may drive Ari and Max to the edge of the ultimate experience.

Dark Factory is Kathe Koja’s wholly original new novel from Meerkat Press, that combines her award-winning writing and her skill directing immersive events, to create a story that unfolds on the page, online, and in the reader's creative mind.

Join us at DarkFactory.club. The story has already begun.

 BUY LINKS:  Meerkat Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. She can be found at kathekoja.com.

 

Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Page 69: Dream Kids

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....





In this installment of Page 69, 
we put Michael Wayne Hampton's Dream Kids to the test






Set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read?

This is the last page of the third chapter of the book titled “Kids with Choices.” Each chapter of the book has a title that previews its content. This moment takes place the night after Bryce’s first day at The Dream Academy when failed get the electives he wanted to set his own path towards happiness for the upcoming semester.

More importantly, this passage highlights the frustration Bryce find as he longs to be loved by his friend Paige once again who takes him and his love of granted. It also shows his attempt to make amends with his friend Jaycee whom he had hurt despite her affection for him.

 

 

What is your book about?

 Dream Kids is on the surface a novel about a group of teens attending an experimental high school where they are never sure of what exactly they are learning or why. At its heart though it is a love song to those tender years when each decision and action feels at once unknowable and likely to mark a person for life; the time when young lives have the most passion, take the greatest risks, are battered by messaging and advice, all while possessing the least experience or wisdom, and yet somehow have to make it through.

 

 

Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the book is about? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme? 

I think this page gives a good sense of the tone of the book as a whole though doesn’t represent the humor throughout. It is a good glimpse into the most central conflicts at play, and for a single page I am proud of that.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~






Michael Wayne Hampton is the author of five books. His criticism, essays, fiction, and poetry have appeared in numerous publications such as The Southeast Review, Fiction Southeast, and Rust+Moth. His work has won an Individual Excellence Award from the OAC and been nominated for Best American Short Stories. His writing has also been named a finalist or semi-finalist for other awards such as the Iowa Short Fiction Prize and The World's Best Short Story Contest.

Michael can be reached via his homepage at michaelwaynehampton.com or on Twitter @motelheartache


Monday, April 4, 2022

Page 69: How to Adjust to the Dark

 Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....






In this installment of Page 69, 
we put Rebecca van Laer’s How to Adjust to the Dark to the test





Set up Page 69 for us. What are we about to read? 

We’re in the midst of a passage where the narrator, Charlotte, is interpreting a long poem that she wrote in a creative writing workshop. After her first episode of major depression, Charlotte is exploring the roots of her trauma through a simultaneously dark and humorous, Plath-esque poem about dolls. Here, we see some of her analysis of Part 3 of the long poem, “As a Doll,” as well as the beginning of Part 4.

 


What is the book about?

In How to Adjust to the Dark, Charlotte reflects on a string of doomed love affairs from her early 20s, as well as the poems she wrote about them. Through vignettes, poetry, and close reading, she untangles her beliefs about love and art to arrive at new theses about what it means to write about love—and what it means to love to write.


 Does this page give readers an accurate feel for the novel? Does it align itself with the book’s overarching theme?

This portion is a bit less narrative than the novella as a whole, grounded more in a moment of poetry and self-reflection than in a snapshot of Charlotte’s life. However, it is an accurate reflection of her voice, at once analytic and filled with compassion for a prior version of herself.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PAGE 69

HOW TO ADJUST TO THE DARK


Just as children listen to the sound of the ocean in seashells and mistake the rushing of blood in their own heads for it, children hold dolls to their chests hoping to feel something from the doll, when all they can feel is what is already inside themselves.

But in this poem, when the speaker holds the doll’s cool face to her own it is not that the doll is like herself (lovable, warm) but rather that she is like the doll: pleading, silent. And so she names them, all of them, after herself. This is how I begin to retell my story, and to make sense in this poem: in naming my toys Charlotte, I indicated my likeness to them. I did not imagine dolls as extensions of myself, living and breathing, but rather saw myself as decorative, mute, and helpless.

I continued breaking up these reflections on myself

and my childhood.


4. Typology

Of course, there is a difference.

Sometimes, it’s like being in a candy store.

The vibrant yellow business suits

small magenta combat boots

heels that match the leopard eyes

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~









Rebecca van Laer’s writing appears in TriQuarterly, Joyland, The Florida Review, Salamander, and elsewhere. She holds a PhD in English from Brown University, where she studied queer and feminist autobiography. She lives in the Hudson Valley. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Where Writers Write: Aaron Angello

 

 Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!



Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 



This is Aaron Angello. 


Angelo is a poet, playwright, and essayist from the Rocky Mountains who lives and feels remarkably out of place in the charming, but very Eastern, town of Frederick, MD. He received his MFA and PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder, and he currently teaches writing and theatre at Hood College. His book THE FACT OF MEMORY is being published by Rose Metal Press in April.






Where Aaron Angello Writes


About a decade ago, I put together a website called the Denver Poetry Map. It was basically a google map of Denver that was filled with marker icons, each connected to a poem. When a reader clicked on a marker, a poem would open in a pop-up box. It was a simple concept, but poets and readers loved it. It really got me thinking about the relationship between a piece of writing and the space in which it was written. I asked poets to submit a poem that, for them, was connected to a very specific location in the city, whatever that meant to them. Some poems mentioned the location in the poem itself (a bridge, a tattoo parlor), but for most, the connection was much less literal. Poets attached poems to places that they were drawn to, to places that somehow inspired them, to places where they conceived ideas, and to places where they wrote. To me, the most interesting relationships between poem and place were the least literal, the poems that the poet could not separate in their mind the poem from the place, even if the content of the poem didn’t seem to connect to the location at all. The more enigmatic the relationship, the more interesting.


I like to think of poetry and lyric essays as records of thought processes. Each of them allows a kind of expression of thought that can only be expressed in that form. Both allow for disjunction and for multiple, complex meanings. Sometimes they meander, sometimes they are concise, often they meander in a concise way. As readers, if we read well, we kind of share in the patterns of thought that are presented. In his “Defense of Poetry,” Shelley wrote that a person (not just a poet) “must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.” He goes on to specify that “poetry strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man.” He’s writing about empathy, of course, and man, I love that. The writer must have empathy for others, certainly, but also, the poem allows the reader to share an experience of thinking with the writer.

One thing that the Denver Poetry Map taught me was that the thinking that is expressed in a poem is directly connected to the place in which the poem was composed. The reader, then, can empathetically connect with the poet, and by extension the place. Once the reader has read the poem, the place it’s connected to is forever altered in their minds. There is a circular bond that connects a physical pace, a poet’s mind, a poem, a reader’s mind, and the place again.

So, place matters. A lot. Yet, I don’t know if I can entirely identify why that is. I think about it all the time. I think about the power of remembering a childhood bedroom, the feeling one gets when they drive by their old high school, the overwhelming sensation one feels when they go back to that bar where they met a lover.

I also think about what a place does to the physical body. Does it invite the body to stretch out or constrict? Is the movement in the environment around the body that can be sensed, or is it still and quiet? Are the people or animals near the body or is the body isolated? Is the physical body larger than the objects near it or is it surrounded by giant objects? Is the environment natural or built? The place affects the body which, in turn, affects patterns of thought. I am convinced that any place one chooses to write is going to have a massive impact on the work that is produced in that place.

When I wrote the first draft of The Fact of Memory, I was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Boulder. I was doing a kind of daily, meditative practice where I’d get up before the sun, sit in a straight-backed chair that was adjacent to a large, sliding glass door, meditate upon a word from Shakespeare’s 29th sonnet, and then write. It was a profound and productive practice for me. Because there are 114 words in the sonnet, it took a while. (This is a photo of the herbs from my wife’s Instagram, but that’s the chair and that’s the window.)


Late in the process of writing that first draft, my wife and I went to California to visit a friend. We stayed at a beautiful little place in Palm Springs with lots of desert light and a swimming pool. I kept up the process of getting up early each morning and writing, but the stuff I was writing was entirely different – tonally and in the treatment of the content. Instead of sitting in the dark, looking out on a Colorado winter, I took my notebook to a lounge chair in the sun by the pool. I wrote, but what I produced just wasn’t a part of the project I was working on. It didn’t fit at all. It moved differently, and the intellectual engagement was of a different kind entirely. (Actually, I don’t recommend writing poolside – there’s no struggle in it. If you find yourself in that situation, I suggest just having a cocktail.) I ended up rewriting almost all of what I wrote on that trip.

Now, I live in Maryland. I’m currently writing this little essay in my office on the campus of the college where I work. It’s small, windowless, and a bit cluttered, but it suits me well. I find myself fighting the urge to answer emails or grade papers, which is no doubt affecting what I am writing, but this is a good place to think and to write.

 


Last spring, I wrote a play at a cheap little plastic table in my backyard. I wrote every morning with a cup of coffee and Max Richter and Philip Glass in my headphones. The air was lovely in the mornings, the birds were doing their bird thing, and my imagination felt unfettered. It was easy for me to slip into that liminal space where creative stuff happens. It’s like twenty degrees outside right now, though, so that’s not in the current mix.


 I like to work on poems on a little fold-up Formica table in my kitchen. This is also where I prepare food, so it’s often messy, and there’s always a connection to food when I’m there writing, for better or worse.


Ultimately, I like to try different writing spots out. I write in cafes; I write while sitting on park benches; I write on public transportation. I mix it up a lot. What I know is this: I need to move around if I want to continue to explore new ways of thinking in my writing. If I hit on a project, though, I need to stick with a spot.