Map for a Forgotten Valley and 631

Dear Locals (and those traveling nearby) who will be around Youngstown on February 15th.  I am giving a reading from my series of creative nonfiction vignettes called “Map for a Forgotten Valley”, along with a showing of Derek Jones’ short film “631”.  Here is a blurb of what the evening will look like.  Please click on the image to make it larger.


Please come, listen, watch, speak.

Also, the image of the feral house on this flyer was taken by Tony Romandetti, photographer extraordinaire. 😉

Attention Seattle (once more)

For those readers out and about in Seattle, I recently mentioned I’ll be reading at University Bookstore on March 12th at 7PM and hosting a one-day workshop at Richard Hugo House on March 14th from 10-5. If you click the link below, you can find a pdf flyer for the events. Please feel free to distribute it to anyone you think may be interested in attending the reading or the workshop. I’d love to meet Seattle, so please come out!

Reading and Workshop Information

Attention Seattle

Attention Seattle readers/writers.  In March, I’ll be in the city in conjunction with Northwest MediaArts to give a reading at University Bookstore on March 12th at 7PM, and a day-long writing workshop at Richard Hugo House from 10-5 on the 14th.  It’s all part of Northwest MediaArts’ Fantastic Fiction Workshops & Salons series.  If you’re interested in the reading, in the workshop, or both, please visit their website for more information.

This will be my first time in Seattle.  Looking forward to seeing the city and meeting cool people.


I’m thinking about this tonight, before a reading I’m doing here at Chatham University in another hour:


In my youth
I was opposed to school.
And now, again,
I’m opposed to work.

Above all it is health
And righteousness that I hate the most.
There’s nothing so cruel to man
As health and honesty.

Of course I’m opposed to the Japanese spirit
And duty and human feeling make me vomit.
I’m against any government anywhere
And show my bum to authors and artists circles.

When I’m asked for what I was born,
Without scruple, I’ll reply, To oppose.
When I’m in the east
I want to go to the west.

I fasten my coat at the left, my shoes right and left.
My hakama I wear back to front and I ride a horse facing its buttocks.
What everyone else hates I like
And my greatest hate of all is people feeling the same.

This I believe: to oppose
Is the only fine thing in life.
To oppose is to live.
To oppose is to get a grip on the very self.

Kaneko Mitsuharu

Translated by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite

Reading at Thurber House

Last week was a big week for me.  Three nice things happened.

1. It was my birthday.  Fun times, growing old.

2. I got to reconnect with an old friend from college.  Fun times, rehashing when I was a youngster.

3. I read at Thurber House, In Columbus, Ohio, where the writer Jamese Thurber is from.  They run a summer series of literary picnics, and the most recent one was aimed at featuring three emerging voices in Ohio, in three forms: creative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction.  Memoirist David Giffels was invited as the creative nonfiction writer, James. J. Siegal was there for poetry, and I was the emerging voice in Ohio fiction writing.

What was really cool about this reading is not just the reading itself, which is well-attended by a wonderful audience of people who clearly like to not only read books but to listen to authors read from their work, but what happens before and around the reading itself.  A great interview session at Ohio State University that will be podcasted later this summer (I’ll let you know), and a tour of Thurber’s house, where a portrait of each author who has read there will be hung (that’s me next to Anna Quindlen! well, I don’t know where they’ll hang mine, but it’ll be up there!), as well as a ritual signing of Thurber’s closet, among all the names of all the other writers who have read at Thurber House as well.  In addition, my books will be added to the library in Thurber House.  It’s all very traditional and very quaint and the people who hosted the event were lovely and kind and accomodating.  If you’re ever in Columbus, check out their website to see if they have an event coming up.  It would be well worth it to attend one.

And if you’ve never read any James Thurber, you should start here.

Discussion in America means dissent.”

–James Thurber

Next Week

If anyone out there will be nearby to Columbus next Wednesday on July 22nd, you should totally come out and see me read along with David Giffels and James J. Siegel at Thurber House’s literary picnic evening for emerging voices in Ohio writing.  It’ll be fun, and the menu looks great.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to read, though.  I hate choosing materials to read.  It’s always like choosing what clothes to put on each day.  T-shirt and jeans?  Or something a little more put-together.  You know? 😉

Media mashup

Last week I was suddenly being followed by a lot of people on my Twitter site than made any logical sense to me, until my friend Gwenda twittered/tweeted/whatever-ed me to ask if I knew I was one of’s 100+ Best Authors Twittering.  Here’s a link to the article.  The authors are broken up into they category of fiction they write.  I’m in General Fiction, though most of my homeboys and girls are in the Scifi/Fantasy section.  

8396078-15dc35e36bf517fd2604bdee1d15a099.4a08adea-fullAnd then today, also via Twitter, my friend Jem linked to a picture she took of Outlook Magazine (a Columbus, Ohio magazine) with a HUGE picture of me on a full page, blocked by a listing of what I think might be an article about the Thurber House literary picnics that occur over the summer months.  I’ll be reading there this July 22nd, so if you are in or around Columbus then, come over and visit.  

The funny thing about both of these items is that several months ago when I finally opened a Twitter account, it was with great reluctance, as I sometimes feel more sapped of energy by the variety of social networking devices that continue to crop up in internet-land every year.  And I’ve certainly been twittering since opening the account, but hadn’t realized I was doing anything of particular interest (I find myself to be a pretty boring broken record sort of person, at least for the past year, grumble grumble, complain complain).  It seems it’s always the things one doesn’t want to do that turn out to surprise you with how surprisingly fun and connecting they can be.  

In fact, I’ve even added a Twitter box to the sidebar of this website.

Days like today

Today was a good day.  Three really nice things happened, and I’ll go backwards in the order of their appearance.

Tonight I went to Kent State’s Trumbull County campus, a satellite of the main campus which is actually in Kent, Ohio.  The Trumbull campus is a place where a lot of students in this region get a start, and tends to function, in its own way, hovering somewhere between community college and full-on university.  I began my own undergraduate studies there back in 1993, staying for a year before moving on to Youngstown State University.  It’s a place where small town-y people like myself go for a variety of reasons:  tied to the region out of inability to access resources to take them to a different university, tied to a marriage or children or a job they can’t afford to leave or don’t want to leave.  I was the sort of kid who had grown up in so small a rural community that my graduating class was around 50 people.  The prospect of going far away to school was really frightening to me, but aside from that I didn’t really have a lot of people around me that could help me figure out how to get funding to go away in the first place.  So I started my education beyond high school at this little campus.  This afternoon I went back to meet students in classes who have been reading my first novel, set of course in and around their own home places, and to give a reading.  It felt like a bit of a homecoming (as Youngstown, which I write about as a setting often, is sometimes mistakenly thought of as the place where I grew up–it’s not, it’s where I came to eventually complete college, and is my second home, really; Ami, Japan being my third after that), and I saw people I hadn’t expected to ever see again (an old schoolmate from kindergarten through senior year’s mother) and people who knew me when I was a child, though my recollection of them, like a child’s, was a bit fuzzy.  I love this sort of thing.

Secondly, I was asked by The James Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio to come this summer, the day after my birthday in July, to participate in a reading by New Voices in Ohio for their literary summer picnic series.  I’ve added it to my list of appearances on the site, and am incredibly excited to go and do this, even though it’s months away.

And last (or first, since I’m listing backwards) I came across the most beautiful review of The Love We Share Without Knowing at Bookspot Central, posted just today.  Here’s a clip from it:

Indeed, I don’t know if people who have grown up in the post-Cold War years have a stronger literary advocate than Christopher Barzak. Half of this is that Barzak gets it: it’s not that Barzak’s young characters are apathetic, it’s that they desire to feel strongly and truly in a time when all existing cultural systems of thought and action have been revealed as simplistic, confining, and false. Too often cultural traditions seem at war with a desire for self-awareness and self-expression, sharing and intimacy. Magic and the supernatural in Barzak’s writing become a way of articulating the disconnect between what characters are told of the world and their own intuition of its possibilities. So many of Barzak’s characters are ghosts because they are unable to instantiate themselves, unable to find anyone able to listen to what they need to say. So many of his characters are able to speak only through impulse decisions and actions that break with norms and traditions—his characters reflect a sense that the only choices that are truly ours, are our impulses: to fall in love, to leave, to remain; a lover, a nation, a life.

And there’s plenty more lovely review writing where that came from, courtesy of one Matt Denault, who has provided a really amazing perspective on some of the aspects of my novel.  Stuff like this, too, I love.  It’s one of the things about writing that makes it hit all the right spots for me.  Sending out messages in a bottle, getting messages back in return.  

I’d say I wish every day could be as nice and good a day as today was, but then, if that were so, I’m sure days like today wouldn’t feel at all special.

Pics from KGB

Okay, so here’s a little break into the interlude I’d claimed would be the standard over the holidays.  Ellen Datlow put up photos from the evening I read with Alaya Dawn Johnson at the KGB bar last week.  It was a packed house, a fun night, a great audience.  Here are several of my favorite pics from the night, but you can see all of them by clicking here.

Me and Meghan McCarron, all smiles










Me and my editor, Juliet Ulman, listening intently










Me and Juliet, in living color










Me and my valiant agent, Chris Schelling