Monday, May 12, 2014

Indie Ink Runs Deep: Tim Chapman

Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....

Today's ink story comes from Tim Chapman. 

Tim is a former forensic scientist for the Chicago police department who currently teaches English composition and Chinese martial arts. He holds a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Northwestern University. His fiction has been published in The Southeast Review, the Chicago Reader, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and the anthology, "The Rich and the Dead." His first novel, "Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold," was recently released by Allium Press. In his spare time he paints pretty pictures and makes an annoying noise with his saxophone that he claims is music. He lives in Chicago with his lovely and patient wife, Ellen and Mia, the squirrel-chasingest dog in town.

I have a tattoo of a dragon wrapped around a yin/yang symbol on my shoulder. Why I have any tattoo, and this tattoo in particular, is a bit convoluted. Back in the late 1970s a woman I loved was killed in a car accident. This kind of pulled the rug out from under me, both emotionally and intellectually. I sort of drifted around the country for a while, and I was angry—really angry. I was like a clenched fist looking for someone to hit. Whenever I walked anywhere I punched street signs and parking meters. Other pedestrians crossed the street to avoid me. Once a cop yelled at me for punching a no parking sign.

One hot day I drifted into a movie theatre in downtown Los Angeles. I think I went in just because it was air conditioned. There was a Bruce Lee movie showing. As soon as I saw his balletic, stylized violence, I was hooked. I started a lifelong practice of martial arts in order to rid myself of my anger. The martial arts led me to a study of Buddhism. Buddhism is what helped me understand and eventually extinguish my rage. Life isn't fair? Loss is painful? I get it.

The other thing I got from my martial arts training was kung fu. Kung fu translates as effort or hard work. I had been a terrible student in high school, but eighteen years later I earned a degree in forensic science and went to work for a crime lab. Ten years after that I decided I wanted to write, so I went back for an MA in writing and have since produced a novel, Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold, and an upcoming short story collection. I currently teach writing and tai chi chuan at a Chicago city college. My wife and I have been together for over twenty years, and we couldn't be happier.

I designed the tattoo as a reminder of my personal philosophy. The dragon reminds me that, though I am not naturally talented, I can accomplish goals that are important to me through hard work and perseverance. The yin/yang symbol reminds me that nature and circumstance will often play a part in changing those goals and, rather than whine about the changes, I will be happier if I embrace them.

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