Happy Things

1. One of the things I love lately is that when you do a search on “Christopher Barzak” at Amazon.com, 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.

BJ OMalley

BJ OMalley was one of the performers at the Stage last night.  Her songs were amazing.  I’d classify her as Alt Country in the vein of singers like Neko Case.  But there’s a touch of Janis Joplin in her as well, at least there was last night.  Go to her myspace page and listen to her songs, then buy her cd.  You won’t regret it.  I’ve been listening to it over and over all day long.

Ytown on Stage

Last night at the Stage was just the most wonderful experience.  There were so many people there, so much talent and creativity and expression, and so much of it just really really good.  My friend Brooke does the most amazing things for this city and I sometimes wonder if enough people actually understand it.  I hope so.  She’s created a space where people can gather together and feel like a strong family, supporting each other in creative endeavors of every kind:  acting, music, visual art and design, literature, dancing, musicals and filmmaking.  Youngstown has so much talent it makes me not sick but deliriously appreciative of being here and being a part of making this city into something good.  My mom came to the Stage with me last night, and before and after the show we walked around in the downtown together.  She hadn’t been there in years, and commented on how there were actually people walking the streets again, and storefronts with actual stores open inside them, and how things just felt so much different, more like what she remembered from decades ago, before the steel mills pulled up and out of here, before government officials started using the town and the people for their own personal benefit and gain rather than being responsible community officials.  It’s true, too, because in my lifetime I’ve never seen Youngstown so alive and full of a hopeful wind blowing through it, I’ve never seen so many people coming together before to take the city back into their hands and make it into home again.  We’d been cut off from doing that for so long because of the corruption in the government.  I can’t wait to see what happens here in the coming years.  There was a great video montage of moments from the past year of Stage events at the Oakland Center for the Arts shown last night, too, and I want to get it up on Youtube so other people can see it too.  Youngstown’s a place with a lot of potential because it is so undefined, and I can see it as a place that people of the right spirit and inclination to create will come to because of that in the future.  Artists of all sorts, after all, want a blank canvas.  And this city has more than enough room to make room for new life.

I’ll be there.

Stop by and have some fun this Friday at The Stage at the Oakland Center for the Arts. I’ll be reading a short short story called “The Flood” (which is being published in Foundation’s 100th issue this August), and there’ll be comedians, dramatic monologues, crazy improvised hallucinogenic music-video imitations, tap dancing, independent film trailer releases, poetry, song and art. Watch or get up and strut your stuff. It’ll be a blast, as usual, in downtown Ytown.

Monkey Majik

I ran across this song of the day at NPR’s website today.  It’s a song by a band in Sendai, Japan called “Monkey Majik”, two white brothers from Canada who went to Japan to teach English and stayed, and two Japanese members.  They’re apparently getting pretty popular in Japan.  It’s a blend of pop and hip hop, this particularly song.  But I’ve downloaded another one that feels just pop.  I like both, but the pop/hip hop blend feels fresher.  I love that the brothers write and sing in Japanese.  Have a listen at NPR.