We’re getting ready

If you’ve managed to forget that the second volume of Interfictions is being released later this fall, I certainly haven’t.  We’re getting ready to start posting our Annex stories online, as we lead up to the publication date of the book itself, but today, over at the Interstitial Arts Foundation’s website, you can already take a look at the introduction to the book, written by Henry Jenkins, the Provost’s Professor of Communications, Journalism, and Cinematic Art at the University of Southern California.  Previously, and very recently, he served at the co-founder of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT.  Henry’s written a really great intro to the book, which I will excerpt here:

“Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”

– Groucho Marx

Let’s start with some basic premises:

  1. I do not belong in this book.
  2. The contributors also do not belong.
  3. You, like Groucho Marx, wouldn’t want to belong even if you could. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t have picked up this book in the first place.

Let me explain. The editors of most anthologies seek stories which “fit” within prescribed themes, genres, and topics; the editors of this book have gone the opposite direction – seeking stories that don’t fit anywhere else, stories that are as different from each other as possible. And that’s really cool if the interstitial is the kind of thing you are into.

At the heart of the interstitial arts movement (too formal), community (too exclusive), idea (too idealistic?), there is the simple search for stories that don’t rest comfortably in the cubbyholes we traditionally use to organize our cultural experiences.”

Why not go over to the website to read the rest of it, and see if you don’t belong either?

Away and all…

Yes, I’ve not been blogging for a while.  I’ve been in Pittsburgh for the past week, taking a very cool Pittsburgh Field Seminar.  The classes are every day, and long, but I’ve quickly gotten to know my way around the place because of all the traveling and touring we’re doing, and not just getting to know its layout, but its history and an understanding of the various neighborhoods, of which there are many.  It’s a cool city, but even cooler knowing it better than on the surface.  I’m developing a bit of a crush on it, actually, and already predict that I’ll be making a somewhat long-distance relationship with it because of all this.  Monthly or perhaps bi-monthly visits in the future.  It’s got far too many good things to offer.

Not much more to report for now.  Except that this past Friday, I went down to Kentuck Knob, a Frank Lloyd Wright house south of Pittsburgh.  Here’s the Wikipedia entry, which has some good info on it.  And here’s a little something I wrote after coming home from seeing it:


     A house that fits into the side of a mountain like a key fits into a lock, or maybe more a house that grows out of the side of a mountain the way a leaf grows out of a tree.  Stone and wood that will never rot, hauled up from the swamps of Tidewater.  Octagons of light slowly drifting along the floors, keeping time.  The kitchen is the woman, the woman is the kitchen, so says a far too practiced and perhaps overused tour guide, Dolores.  We are at Kentuck Knob, where Frank Lloyd Wright meant to never visit, but did, just once, and was showed up by a seventy-one year old building contractor who had initially refused to build a Frank Lloyd Wright house, and then did it anyway.

     It’s not a space in which a person keeps house, it is a space one exists in, the way the blade of grass exists in the wind, bending with it.  Windows are walls looking out on an old forest, groomed to some extent, enough to make it look as if it is not groomed at all, simply naturally tidy.  A triptych of boulders here, for instance, a pond round back of the master bedroom’s window so that one falls asleep to and wakes to the sound of a stream gurgling nearby.  If it weren’t for the vintage stovetops that pull down from the walls of the kitchen to be cooked upon, and the matching oven, remnant of my parents’ childhoods, though certainly a product their families never would have afforded, and if it weren’t for the art—Native American bridles and bits, a desk with a stone Buddha, placed down next to the owner’s picture alongside Princess Diana—you would think it, the house itself, a natural product of its environment.  Which is the point, of course.

    Who were the people who had such a place built, and on such a piece of land as that, high up on a mountain, so that when you walk through the lane round back and pass under a thin stretch of trees onto a hill that looks out and down upon a vista of rolling hills and mountainsides folding into one another for miles and miles?  Dairy famers, apparently.  Though it must have been quite a dairy to have placed them in such circumstances. 

     Lord Peter Palumbo is the current owner, International Somebody.  Collector of eclectic sculpture.  So much sculpture that he’s made the meadow just down the side of the mountain into an open-air museum.  A red army of cut-outs, tribal in posture and lined up like good soldiers, own one corner of the meadow, which is groomed lovingly to look, like the house and the land above, as if it has not been groomed so thoroughly.  A piece of the Berlin Wall, tattooed with graffiti.  A church steeple.  An Andy Goldsworthy cairn.  Edwardian mailboxes and telephone booths lined up here and there.  A touch of England on a mostly untouched Pennsylvania mountainside, a hidden shrine in the woods.  Lord Palumbo will soon be coming to enjoy all of this for the next two months, according to Dolores.

     What is it about such places that they are able to inspire and to awe, but to also feel, to many, too remote, too artificial in their desire to be organic and natural, too different from what is considered normal to finally seal the deal?  None of this my feelings but that of fellow travelers, who crave the civilized world and society enough to mention missing it during a tour.

     If only the strange sculpture of the eaten apple weren’t so absurd, its core remaindered on the back lawn among the antique plows, the sort you would need to hitch to a horse, like the one my grandfather kept in his front yard for a long period of my childhood, propped next to a gigantic maple tree, unused, unable to get rid of it even though he has a practical, utilitarian nature, and it had not been used for decades.  Is that art?  Not really.  Maybe it is actually an extreme form of practicality.  One never knows when one may have need of it.  Depression-era syndrome:  refusal to cast anything aside, to waste.

     On the drive back to Pittsburgh, I watch the mountains and their thick canopies of trees rising and falling across the horizon.  There is so much green here, which is something with which I am familiar, but not in these shapes and sizes, the land holding you within its folds of green the further down the mountain you drive, making you feel smaller and ant-like. 

     Back up on the ridge, on Kentuck Knob, in the Frank Lloyd Wright house, the feeling of being ant-like, a creature, is in the details of the inside-out house, but you are given perspective, a way of seeing everything at once, not feeling enclosed.  Are his houses art?  They must be, not because they provide perspective, as almost any house will do almost by default of the form of making something to live within, but because the perspective is so consciously planned to lift you outside of the ordinary.

Alex Myers selected for Interfictions 2 cover art

Here’s the lowdown on the cover art for Interfictions 2.  It’s going to be a weird and wonderful look, I think:


We got a fantastic array of work from artists who responded to our searchfor interstitial images for the cover for our upcoming anthology,Interfictions 2:  over 300 images showed up at the new IAF Pool at Flickr.

Many of them were seriously considered, but we can only do one cover, and in the end editors Delia Sherman & Christopher Barzak, along with publisher Gavin Grant & the first Interfictions volume’s cover artist Connie Toebe, agreed to agree on this one.

 Alex Myers‘ “e” is part of a series he made “as a response to my growing awareness of art as commodity.


These paintings will not last.

They will fade.

They will curl.

They will eat themselves.

They will not make a good investment.

They are beautiful.

All are mixed media on cereal boxes.”

We asked Alex Myers why he thought this painting was a good fit forInterfictions 2, and he replied:

” . . .  because this series has always dwelt in a place between comfortable categories.  Not quite traditional painting, nor traditional throw-away package design, they instead, hybridize the two, creating a space for themselves.  This to me is the very essenc

e of Interstitial Art.  Art that lives in the cracks, between the spaces of the well-defined.”

Part of what attracted the editors to “e” was that some of its images, weirdly, can be found in the stories they’d already chosen for the anthology . . . . I guess we’ll see when Interfictions 2 appears this fall!  Meanwhile, watch this space for a mockup of the cover, coming soon.

Congratulations to Alex, and thanks to everyone whose art appears on the IAF Flickr page for all to see and comment on . . . and new work appears on the IAF homepage (in the blue column, to the right).  Please don’t forget that while the search is closed, the Flickr group is still open:  please keep posting your interstitial work, and keep in touch!

Long live art

A really interesting article about the changes in the art world over the past decade or two, mirroring the movement away from global awareness that multiculturalism had been brewing in the late 80s to 90s as the country moved politically towards greater conservatism, and how that has, in the end, handicapped American art as it became too localized and exclusive, not to mention product oriented over vision/quality/knowledge for the sake of knowledge oriented.  I wonder if there is any correlation in the publishing world as well.

Seeking Cover Art

Seeking Cover Art for Interfictions II!

 The IAF has thrown open its doors (via a Flickr group) to artists who might like to have their work considered for the cover of Interfictions 2. Won’t you take a moment to throw your hat into the ring?  The official call for art is as follows.

The Interstitial Arts Foundation is searching for cover art for our second literary anthology, Interfictions II. All visual artists are invited to submit images for possible use as the cover art of the anthology. 

From February 2 – 16, artists are invited to post images on our Flickr group athttp://www.flickr.com/groups/interstitialarts for all to enjoy. At the end of that time, the editors ofInterfictions II, Delia Sherman and Christopher Barzak, along with Small Beer Press publisher Gavin Grant and Interfictions I cover artist Connie Toebe, will choose an image for the cover of this exciting original anthology, to be published in November, 2009.

What are we looking for? Any visual image that might look good on the cover of a book. It could be a painting, a computer image, collage, sculpture or maybe even a piece of clothing. The first volume’s cover was actually a photo of a 3-dimensional diorama box, so a photo of a sculpture or craft piece is not out of the question. Contributing artists should be sure to consider their art in the context of a book cover. A book cover isn’t simply a pretty picture but part of a complete design. If you’re photographing a 3-dimensional piece (especially something that isn’t rectangular) please remember that the quality of the photo counts as well. A nicely composed photo is as important as the quality of the artwork in the image. The book cover will be 5.5″ wide and 8.5″ tall so a horizontal or square image might not work as well as a vertically oriented one. That being said, we’d love to be surprised. Show us something we’ve never seen before!

The details:

  1. The final image will have to be available as a JPG, at least 5.75″ x 8.75″ at 300dpi. For the Flickr group, artists need only post low-resolution versions of their images. If your image is selected, we will contact you and request that you send us the high-resolution version for printing. 

  3. The deadline is February 16, 2009. The Interfictions II Flickr site is the same as the IAF Flickr site:http://www.flickr.com/groups/interstitialarts

  5. Artists are limited to posting 3 images for consideration. If we like your art but not the images you chose, we may write and ask you for more. 

  7. Although interstitial art is by definition wonderfully wide-ranging and experimental, we retain the right to remove anything from the pool that we deem inappropriate. 

  9. The artist whose work is chosen will receive a $500 fee from the IAF for the use of their image on theInterfictions II cover along with the rights to use the image in any publicity for the book and for the IAF. Artist retains the original artwork and the copyright on the piece. 

  11. The editors reserve the right to use art from another source for the cover. However, we are holding this search not only to choose a cover for our anthology, but also to make more artists aware of the work of the IAF and to give everyone a chance to see more really good interstitial art. In that spirit, we will spotlight the cover art as well as five runners up on the IAF blog at http://www.interstitialarts.org . In addition, the most recent entries to the Flickr group will be syndicated into a section of the IAF homepage for the duration of the search, and quite possibly beyond.


Questions? Post as comments here, and we’ll answer them as soon as possible.

Good luck! We look forward to seeing your artwork!

And P.S.  If you’re an artist who would like to aim your work for this cover towards the general idea of interstital art, please do look into the idea of what interstitial art is at the website:  www.interstitialarts.org.  And better yet, take a look at the first volume of Interfictions, which can be purchased online at most booksellers (or at least browsed online at most booksellers).

The Oasis Video

Okay, so this video is now officially making the rounds in the blogosphere.  It’s a song by Amanda Palmer, of the Dresden Dolls, whom I love, and before I say anything else, I’ll say I love this song and the video.  But I have a sort of critique of it, too.  So far I’ve read a lot of posts online that are defending this video because over in Britain, where Amanda is launching her tour for her new album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, the BBC was possibly going to censor this song/video, spoiling Amanda’s marketing team’s ambitions to have it be a radio/music channel release, which would totally have been depressing, I agree.  But in fact, if you ask me, Amanda has nothing to complain about.  If someone was going to censor one of my books, I would be totally down for it.  Everyone knows that censored material actually gains more audience than art that does not spark a nerve with the culture.

Which brings me to my other aspect of this semi-critique.  As much as I love this video, I don’t think it’s being contextualized correctly.  Even Amanda has sort of talked about it as a sarcastic, ironic and sad critique of the sort of girl she’s portraying in this video, but really I think it’s less a critique of that sort of girl so much as it is the culture that’s produced her.  And in my mind, she’s sort of a hero, adamantly denying not just the Fundamentalist Christians who tell her Jesus hates her, but all of the other ridiculous elements of American society that inspire a sort of blithe disregard for anything but self and now and fun in her.  She seems more angry to me than stupid, acting like a caricatured version of the most normative roles we outline for kids to grow into at this juncture.  Whatever.  It doesn’t really matter in the end how it’s interpreted.  In the end, it’s sad and funny, the sort of thing I like in any kind of art, whether it be story, song, painting, film or persona, which is an art form in and of itself.  You can take Amanda Palmer as an example of that last form, really.  She’s sort of interstitial that way, the music and the persona itself both being integral to what she’s doing, and what she’s doing is an angry, funny, sad, beautiful thing.

On Reading

I spent today on a date with my laptop that lasted hours and hours, ranging from the home writing room, living room, bedroom, to the coffee shop and a restaurant downtown, then back again.  Reading stories for Interfictions 2.0 is what I’ve been doing, really.  It’s a really pleasurable yet difficult task.  There are all these stories, so many of them, and so many good ones, great ones, brilliant ones, and so many charming ones, which isn’t always a descriptor for the good, great, brilliant ones–charming is a quality that stands alone.  It indicates magic above and beyond technical ability and sturdy wordcraft, a vision or spell that wipes out the world around you for the length of its enchantment, from sentence one to the last word…and then beyond that, even, into the white space outside the page that we return to after reading, the world sketching itself back in around us, determined to be the predominant dream in our lives, the master narrative, us its bedazzled slaves.  

This is what the sort of story I’m always looking for does–don’t think of it as an editor but as a reader, anytime, anywhere–the story or poem or play or film or song that creates its own reality for a period of time, establishes its own rules and regulations, yet somehow tells me things about the world it’s taken me away from for a while, then returns me to it, either roughed up a bit or gently.

The more you consistently read in such great quantities, though, the harder it is to be caught in a story’s spell.  You learn the tricks and see the hands moving…this is also one of the signs of a story that gets its spell off and holds its reader:  you never see what’s coming, the trick retains its secrecy and mystery, it remains magical despite your best explanations.

Party, party, party

Dear All You Youngstowners and those who will be hereabouts come this weekend,  

This Saturday will be one big party downtown.  Why?  Because I’m throwing a party for the release of my new book, which comes out tomorrow, The Love We Share Without Knowing.  There will be food (cross-cultural selections, since the book is set in Japan) and drink (wine and sake), and art (from the Artists of the Mahoning Commons), and though last year we also had music, this year we will be directing you down to the Cedars Lounge, where my favorite local band, The Zou, will be celebrating the release of their first CD, Archeopteryx.  Together, it will be a celebration of the local talent that inhabits this little Rust Belt city.  

The Love We Share Without Knowing Release Party will be held at the Oakland Center for the Arts, on Boardman Street downtown, from 7-10 PM.  Come drink, be merry, listen to me read a section of the novel. Then head down two blocks to Cedars for the Zou’s New CD Release Party from 10 to 2 PM (23 N. Hazel).


It’s going to be a fun evening.  I hope to see you out.