Fall Recap

The end of autumn.  It’s been a busy semester.  The student group I advise has created an awesome new online literary magazine called “jenny”.  I posted about this a little over a month ago, and now the site is live.  We had a launch party with over a hundred people in attendance at Dorian Books on the Northside this past week, and presented the site and held excerpt readings from those writers in the issue who were local or who traveled to be at the launch.  It was an awesome evening, and the magazine has been well-received so far.  We’ve received a lot of support in the local community and people from other states and even countries (!) have sent us email saying how much they like the magazine.  We have probably a 75/25 ratio of local or regional writers to writers from the wider world in this issue, and hope to bring it to a 50/50 balance as we continue to produce more issues.  One of the main goals in the magazine is to bridge the local with the global, if possible.  I keep hearing that we live in a global world–it’s all over the internet and in magazines and newspapers, right?  But I also keep hearing this call for local cultures to be lived in, embraced, encouraged, from buying locally grown food to growing a local literary culture.  Jenny will hopefully serve to be a bifocal lens, through which we can see the local and the global in one place.  Do take a look at the first issue.  It’s really beautifully designed and I think we’re going to just keep getting better.  You can read it at www.jennymag.org.  For those readers of my blog who love SF, at least three or four of the stories in this issue should ring some of your bells.

Otherwise, my fall was busy for reasons beyond launching a new magazine.  Classes, classes, and more classes.  Lots of local events to attend and support.  I remember a time in my life not long ago when I had buckets of free time to sit within and dream for hours, but that seems like another life to me right now.  I’m looking forward to the winter break to rejuvenate and replenish my well.

I was also busy, though, because I did some rewriting on the novel I’d finished a first draft of this past summer, and I started writing a new one not long after.  A young adult novel.  I’m three chapters in and really having so much fun with it.  Not going to say much about what it’s about, though, until I get further in.  Mum’s the word for now.

Soon my Map for a Forgotten Valley series of flash nonfiction or meditations or vignettes (I’m not sure what to call them) will be published by the New Haven Review and Muse (in December, I believe), so I’ll be popping back in here to point you in the right direction soon.

Last week of classes this week.  I’m pumped for the holiday break, but I’ll also, as always, be sad to not see some of these people I’ve spent the last fifteen weeks with as often or possibly ever again.  It’s weird, being a teacher, getting close to people quickly, lots of people, and then saying goodbye to the majority of them four months later.  And then, a month after that, starting up that same process all over again.

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.

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.

Hello, Goodbye

Back from New York City, which was wonderful as usual.  So many things seen and done and eaten and heard, etc.  Now I’m doing laundry and getting ready to pack, because starting tomorrow I’ll be in Cleveland for the next three days teaching at the Imagination Writing Workshop.  I attended Imagination when I was 19 and 20 years old, where Karen Fowler and Jonathan Lethem and James Patrick Kelly all worked with me as a little fledgling writer.  It was a great place to begin learning about writing, and led me to the Clarion workshop when I was 21.  It’s really weird and wonderful to be teaching as part of the workshop faculty now, ten years later.  Life is strange and interesting and, yes, really good.

This summer I’ve been incredibly busy.  I feel like I’ve been working as hard as I do when university is in session.  But after this Friday, I’ll be mostly free.  Saturday is my birthday, and also the next Stage at the Oakland Center for the Arts, where I’ll be giving a reading from One for Sorrow.  Afterwards, if you’re around, come out for birthday drinks with a bunch of us to Imbibe, and then dancing at Utopia maybe, if the mood hits us.  It will probably hit us.  It will probably hit me at least, because Saturday will be the beginning of the rest of a summer where all I’ll have to do is prepare for One for Sorrow’s book launch party and get a syllabus ready for my fall classes.  I plan on doing a lot of reading, swimming, sleeping, and worshiping the sun.

Till then, I’ll be in Cleveland, staying with the lovely Catherynne Valente, who’s gracious enough to put me up for my out of town stay.  Perhaps I will be a more regular journal keeper once my stint at Imagination is over, and as the rest of my summer becomes golden and free.

Potential blurbs?? (Updated)

I happened to stumble into myspace’s professor grading system and was laughing at some of the report cards student have given some of my old professor’s until I realized I could possibly be on this site too.  Suddenly panicked, I searched for my name, and sure enough it was listed.  I have no worries, though.  The first student’s comment had me rolling.

 Mr. Barzak’s Report Card

P.S. For my Japanese friends:  In this case “the shit” is a good thing.  It’s slang for “最高”。 (Or “saikou” if your computer doesn’t read Japanese characters.)

P.P.S.  Don’t ask me why.

On getting what we need

Today, just when I was going through a period of wondering if I’m able to reach and help my students as much as I hope to, I got an email from my supervisor in the English department, asking me to come to his office when I’m free.  So I wandered over just minutes ago to the other side of the department and knocked on his door, only to have him wave me in and pick up his phone and start dialing.  Then he motions me to sit in his chair, and gives me the phone.  He’s dialed his voice mail, and the woman who’s left a message for him is a mother whose daughter was in one of my classes last semester, wanting to tell him how grateful she was her daughter had me for a teacher.  She wasn’t sure if she liked going to college and was borderline ready to drop out, but throughout last semester talked about my class, how interested I was in what everyone was doing, how I took time out to help everyone individually, how I wrote lots of comments and actually cared about their work, and how this has decided her daughter’s mind to stay in school.  The mother then said she looked through her daughters essays and, disqualifying herself as an expert on writing, said she could tell that I went beyond the call of duty with commenting and caring about her daughter’s growth as an individual in the world, and wanted both me and my supervisors to know this. 

Sometimes we hear exactly what we need to hear exactly when we need it.