Modern Ruins

One of my favorite sites on the internet these days is Shaun O’Boyle’s Modern Ruins.  Full of photographic essays about places whose industries, way of life, or some other historical aspect, has fallen into ruin, it’s a beautiful way to preserve a particular swath of our cultural memory.  My favorite is the Big Steel collection, which was shot nearby, just outside of Pittsburgh, where you’ll find husks of decaying and abandoned steel mills, part of the landscape I grew up in.   I find them to be coldly beautiful and of another world, like Greek and Roman architecture, which you’ll also find in various spots here and in other parts of the rustbelt, in little cities that once dreamed of being empires.

The Gift

Ever read Lewis Hyde’s famous book The Gift? It’s in its twenty-fifth anniversary edition this year, and it’s still relevant to artists living and working in what continues to be our increasingly commercial market culture.  Hyde is a proponent for a creative commonwealth, of sharing and giving as an essential part of creation.  His ideas are radical for those who have invested heavily in a propertied culture, but they carry their own logic. Recently he’s been interviewed by KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt.  Have a listen.  It’s a great interview in which he talks about these ideas and what sorts of circumstances a young person needs in our current culture to become an artist of any sort, and what circumstances we’ve created that prohibit people from becoming artists.

Art Youngstown

Art Youngstown Inc. is pleased to announce:

Call to Artists for the The Second Exhibition
Artists (18 y.o. and older) may deliver their paintings, sculptures, films and other mediums of art for on Saturday, March 1st, 2008 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm & Sunday, March 2nd, 2008 from noon to 4:00 pm. Artists are asked to present only those items which are to be offered for sale and please do not include any items previously shown by Art Youngstown Inc.

Please visit for further details. For more information call 330-788-5678, or contact Robert Dubec at or 330-782-0346 or Judith Szabo at

The Second Exhibition
Friday, March 14, 2008
7:00 pm to 10:30 pm

The Great Room at 25 E. Boardman Street, Ohio One Bldg.
The public is invited to attend free of charge.

Independent Film Night
Local filmmakers will present productions on Friday, March 21st, 2008 from 7:00 pm to 10:30 pm.

Please Visit our Virtual Gallery courtesy of Karen Wennberg.

And thank you to The Youngstown Club, Emerine Estates Winery & attendees to make our February 16th Wine Tasting at The Youngstown Club a success!

More Happy Things


The finished copy of the book came today!


Me acting like a grade school boy with his spelling bee award or something to that effect.

And second:

guardian3.jpgThe Endicott Studio’s Journal of the Mythic Arts has its Summer YA issue live now. They’ve got fantastic stories, poetry, art and essays over there, so go take a look. My story “The Guardian of the Egg” is reprinted in the issue. It originally appeared in Salon Fantastique. Now it has artist Greg Spalenka’s work illustrating it, and it’s really fantastic. I love it. The girl with the tree growing out of her head has only been visually represented by one other artist, and that artist doesn’t actually know it. I took inspiration for the story from Leonora Carrington’s painting, “The Giantess” along with the story of Daisy Head Maisy by Dr. Suess. In any case, go take a look at the issue. It has work by Gwenda Bond, Jeffrey Ford, Holly Black, Steve Berman, Terri Windling, Midori Snyder, Will Shetterly and Catherynne Valente, among others. You can’t get a quarterly publication for free that’s better than this one, I think. So take advantage of it.

Lastly, pictures from mine and Tony’s trip to NYC this month are in my Flickr box in the sidebar. We did a lot of sightseeing. Some of the pictures are really nice, thanks to the sights we were seeing. My favorites are the ones at the Cloisters, but I love the memories of the dark piano bar we visited called Marie’s Crisis.

Happy Things

1. One of the things I love lately is that when you do a search on “Christopher Barzak” at, the number two listing is Rufus Wainwright’s new album “Release the Stars”.  This makes me ridiculously happy for some reason that, as Amazon says, customers who have pre-ordered my novel have gone on to buy the new Rufus CD.  Perhaps Rufus and I could tour together.  I could open for him, reading a story or from the book, the way Kelly Link opened for the Magnetic Fields a couple of years ago, if I remember correctly.  Rufus, can you hear me?!?  My contact info is in the sidebar.

2. I recently had the chance to spend some time with Scott Russell Sanders at Cleveland State University’s Imagination Writing Workshop.  Scott has been a writer who I’ve admired for years.  I still teach his essay “The Men We Carry in Our Minds” every semester in my composition courses.  He was the nicest guy in the world, which I’d imagined he would be from his essays and stories, which really made me happy.  He signed my copy of The Paradise of Bombs, and gave me good advice about the next stage of my writing career, and I gave him an advanced review copy of One for Sorrow, and signed it for him.  It was really one of the greatest experiences, that, to be able to give a book I wrote to a writer I’ve admired for years.  Scott has a ton of essays you can read online from links on his website, but “Defending Our Common Wealth” is one of my personal favorites.  Read it, then go buy a bunch of his books, or at least read his other that you can find online for free.

3.  The Imagination Writing Workshop at Cleveland State was just awesome.  I think I learned a lot as a teacher there, and hope I was able to teach something to the students as well.

4.  Planning the book launch party for One for Sorrow is underway, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.  Brooke and I gave a bunch of advance review copies to local artists, who have been writing me to say how much they love it, and they’re making things to display in the art gallery of the Oakland Center for the Arts, where the launch will be held.  Also, Robert Dennick is going to perform a song called “Dancing”, by the Italian singer Elisa, which he heard while reading the novel and felt that somehow it was one of those songs that, if the book were to be made into a movie, should definitely be in the soundtrack.  I can’t wait to hear it.  BJ O’Malley, too, who I wrote about the other day, fierce alt country singer from Youngstown, said she was going to work on a song for the book too.  I’m psyched.  The date is set for September 1st, beginning at 7PM, so come and celebrate and have some wine and food and hear songs and look at art and hear me read from the book, too, of course.  The book will be there to be purchased too, and I’ll be more than happy (seriously you can’t imagine how absurdly happy I will be) to sign copies.

5.  The head of the English department at YSU recently asked me to teach a fiction workshop this Fall semester.  This, too, makes me ridiculously happy.  I love workshopping stories and talking about writing, so I’m looking forward to an entire semester of getting to do that.

Summer Festival of the Arts

This weekend was Youngstown’s Summer Festival of the Arts. (Pictures in my flickr, just click on the sidebar pics to see them all). It was held on YSU’s campus. I hadn’t been to the festival in years. Last year I’d been at Readercon in Boston when it was held, and missed it. I was glad to be home to see it this summer. It’s grown so much since the last time I’d attended in 2004. There were artists from all over the states, so many vendors, tons of great food from various ethnic communities in Youngstown, and lots of music, dramatic skits and so on. My mom drove out and visited the new apartment beforehand, then we went down and spent the afternoon at the festival eating haluski and pierogis, seeing old friends and buying stuff (mostly Marcie Applegate’s jewelry, which my mom loves).


It was good to see such a huge crowd of people, and all the really beautiful things the artisans had made to sell. After my mom left, I drove back to the festival to hang out with my friends Brooke and Rob for a little longer. Brooke bought us all Hawaiian Ices and we walked around talking about the upcoming season of plays and musicals for the Oakland Center for the Arts, and my upcoming book launch party for One for Sorrow, which will be at the Oakland at the end of August, and how really nice it is to see the arts scene

coming back to life in Youngstown. Rob’s tongue turned blue from his ice. People felt the need to comment on this. Brooke wore a really big hat Rob had made for a drag queen benefit show for the Oakland, and people kept stopping to ask her which artist was making the hats. Come to the next Stage at the Oakland, which is on July 21st, my birthday, and maybe Rob will have the hat with him. Hmm, maybe you could commission him to make one for you, if tall drag queen hats that make Audrey Hepburn’s hats look

understated is the style you’re looking for. It’s my birthday, but I’ll be there. Hope to see those of you nearby people there, too. Afterwards I’m thinking birthday martinis at Imbibe. Come buy me one! 🙂

Subpopular lips

A few years back, when Christopher Rowe and Gwenda Bond were starting up their question themed zine “Say…” they asked a bunch of writers to respond to the first issue’s question, “Was that a Kiss?” I wrote a story called “Lips” and it was the anchor story for the issue. The story is my homage to Shelley Jackson’s incredible collection The Melancholy of Anatomy, stories told from the point of view of various body parts or systems or products of the body. I have nowhere near the writing ability of Shelley Jackson, but I was so high on that collection when I first read. Soon after the high wore off, I became a little pouty that there had not been a story for lips in the collection, as lips are a favorite body part of mine. So I wrote that story instead. If you missed it in “Say…was that a kiss?” you can read it now on Steven Andrew’s (best viewed with Firefox instead of IE), a new website documenting the Youngstown arts scene. If you scroll down the page a bit, you’ll see “Lips” is the special feature right now. Check it out. I really like Steven Andrew’s aesthetic sense for website design as well, so click around in there and see what’s to be seen going on all here, twenty-four hours a day seven days a week in the good old Yo of Ohio.

Interfictions give-away

Small Beer Press is giving away some free copies of the new Interfictions anthology, but the free copies are limited, and here’s the way you get one for free:  reply fast to his post on the Small Beer “Not a Journal” website, review the book online or in print, interview one of the authors in the anthology (I think my schedule is open, ahhh yes, I see it is, I can pencil you in, if this is your chosen manner of acquiring free books), or point Gavin and Kelly at Small Beer Press towards art that you think is interstitial (again, use the comments on their journal for that).

Better yet, go over there yourself and read the post.  The anthology is really beautiful, and there are some incredibly interesting stories in it.  One of the things I love about this anthology is that the editors asked writers to show them what we think of as interstitial fiction, and so really the entire anthology is an opportunity to witness so many variations on the concept of fiction that exists in some way, shape or form in the spaces in between traditional categories of reading protocols and aesthetics.  Not one story is like another, and that is a really good thing for the reader who buys it (or snags one for free).