Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Author Interview w/ Austin Kleon

World, meet Austin Kleon. Author of Newspaper Blackout - a creative new look at the morning newspaper. By blacking out the words he doesn't need, Austin creates poetry with the words he leaves behind. No topic is off limits - from aliens, to teenage love, to Texas, to bugs... Austin stirs the soul.

But that's not the only thing he can do with a marker.. check out some of his other creative work on his blog.

He very graciously took the time to answer a few questions. Have a look at what he had to say:

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to be Shel Silverstein. I remember seeing his photo and his bio on the back of Where The Sidewalk Ends. It said he writes books but he also "writes songs, draws cartoons, sings, plays the guitar, and has a good time." A Renaissance man. That's who I wanted to be.

The way I see it, you are a triple threat – a writer, a poet, and an artist. Which are you most comfortable as? Which do you have to work the hardest at?

Saul Steinberg said, "I am a writer who draws," so that's what I go with. There are tons of folks who can write better than me, there are tons of folks who can draw better than me, but when it comes to folks who can put the two together, well, it's a smaller pool of competition, anyways. I have to work hard at both, because I'm not naturally gifted at either.

Who and what have been the biggest influences in your life?

My parents. My friends. My wife. Books. Music. The southern Ohio landscape. John Lennon. Bob Dylan. Saul Steinberg. Lynda Barry. Kurt Vonnegut. LucasArts adventure games. A lovely letter from the artist Winston Smith that I received when I was 13. David Hockney. Edward Tufte. Bill Callahan. Raymond Carver. Back to the Future. Ghostbusters. Indiana Jones. Punk rock. Collage. I could go on and on...

What’s a day in the life of Austin Kleon like?

It's not glamorous. I get up at 7:30 and go to work in a cubicle. I work on a college campus here in Texas, so I'll spend my hour lunch break reading, making poems, or browsing one of the good university libraries. I get back home a little before 6, have dinner with my wife, walk the dog, and try to get some drawing and writing done. I get into bed at 10PM and read until I fall asleep. Rinse and repeat.

How long have you been touring, and speaking on panels? What are those experiences like?

I've only been speaking publicly for a year or two. I love it. I love getting up in front of a crowd, giving slideshows, signing books for people. Usually artists are really introverted, but I get a lot of energy from other people. I'm terrified of being boring, so I'm always putting as much as I can into live events. At the Newspaper Blackout "readings" I don't even read from the book: I just do a quick slideshow, and then pass out newspapers and markers and the audience goes to town, making their own poems.

Are you writing anything now? What can we expect next from you?

I'm still making new poems and publishing them online. I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. They've become a kind of weird magic ritual. Every time I go to that paper, I never know what I'm going to pull out of it. It's a bit addictive.

I have an idea for a graphic novel that would be a collaboration with my wife about art and marriage, but it's not quite ready to be talked about yet.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Joe Brainard's I Remember, which just shot up to one of my favorite books of all time. I also recently read David Shields' Reality Hunger, which, despite the author, is a good book. I'm currently reading a biography of the poet Frank O'Hara called City Poet that my friend Jen Bekman recommended to me. So far so good.

Which 5 books would you save if your house was on fire?

If the house is on fire, I'm grabbing my wife and dog and going out the window. Forget the books.

But if I could save 5 books on my bookshelf from eternal damnation and hellfire obscurity:

1) Ed Emberley's Make A World Drawing Book

2) Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five

3) Everything by Lynda Barry, especially Cruddy, One! Hundred! Demons! and What It Is

4) Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung

5) So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

What is your take on eBooks and eReaders, both as a writer and as a reader?

My biggest issue is the resolution and the graphics capability. The iPad is good enough that Newspaper Blackout could work on it, but it could never work on a Kindle.

The best part about eReaders is the instant access--one press of the button and you have what you want.

Personally, I'd rather have a bag of paperbacks and decorate the house with them.

What authors/novels/websites would you like to share with our audience?

You can get the best sense of what I like by checking out my Tumblr, which is where I post all the things I'm looking at / reading / listening to on the net:

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