Me at Better World Books

Another short post that actually points you to a longer post I wrote for Better World Books, a truly revolutionary online bookseller with an important mission. Several months ago, Better World Books featured my first novel on a list of books for readers who want to “travel around the world” via books.

 I was surprised and excited to be named on a list that also featured Steinbeck and Fitzgerald!  In this blog post at Better World Books, I meditate on why place is so important to my writing. Here’s an excerpt of the blog post:

Place, I think, is the reason why One for Sorrow might have been selected for the list.  As a writer, I’m inspired by the places I’ve lived and those I visit for any length of time that allows me to sink my roots into the soil for a bit, to draw on the stories that surround and infuse any particular patch of earth.  My second novel, for instance, The Love We Share Without Knowing, is set in Japan, where I lived for two years teaching English in rural elementary and middle schools.  If I’d never lived in Japan for that long, I might never have written a story set there.  Some writers can write about anywhere, but I don’t think they always capture the feeling or spirit of a place as a writer who has been somewhere in particular, or especially lived somewhere.  They capture a setting, but not the place, and these are two different degrees of narrative, I think.

To read the entire post, click here.

Atama Yama

Due to extreme curiosity inspired by my Japanese translator’s comments in the previous post, I sought out this amazing Japanese animated short film on YouTube, and thought it was absolutely beautiful. So of course I have to share it here.

Let them entertain you

An excerpt from the first essay in Michael Chabon’s new book of essays, Maps and Legends, which is a gorgeous book. It has three covers of varying sizes and colors, overlapping one another to make a sum that is greater than its three parts. Those people at McSweeneys know how to put together a beautiful looking book. The essays are wonderfully written, literate and entertaining on a number of subjects, but in particular they consider an issue of entertainment in literature, the value of entertainment, what it means, and how it’s become something “serious” people (which I think is a nice way of not naming the sort of reader he’s referring to) look down upon in writing, which could in fact be why so few people seem to be reading these days, if that recent poll is right: 1 in 4 Americans didn’t read a single book last year. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the value of books that entertain as well as those that enlighten. I think books can do both at the same time, and probably should.

Entertainment has a bad name. Serious people learn to mistrust and even to revile it. The word wears spandex, pasties, a leisure suit studded with blinking lights. It gives off a whiff of Coppertone and dripping Creamsicle, the fake-butter miasma of a movie-house lobby, of karaoke and Jägermeister, Jerry Bruckheimer movies, a “Street Fighter” machine grunting solipsistically in a corner of an ice-rink arcade. Entertainment trades in cliché and product placement. It engages regions of the brain far from the centers of discernment, critical thinking, ontological speculation. It skirts the black heart of life and drowns life’s lambency in a halogen glare. Intelligent people must keep a certain distance from its productions. They must handle the things that entertain them with gloves of irony and postmodern tongs. Entertainment, in short, means junk, and too much junk is bad for you — bad for your heart, your arteries, your mind, your soul.

But maybe these intelligent and serious people, my faithful straw men, are wrong. Maybe the reason for the junkiness of so much of what pretends to entertain us is that we have accepted — indeed, we have helped to articulate — such a narrow, debased concept of entertainment. The brain is an organ of entertainment, sensitive at any depth and over a wide spectrum. But we have learned to mistrust and despise our human aptitude for being entertained, and in that sense we get the entertainment we deserve.

You can read the rest of the excerpt by clicking here.

A peek at the Stage

I’m always writing about The Stage when we have one here in Ytown, about once a month, under the wild and wonky lead and people-exciting power of my friend Brooke, and my friend Karen always loves the posters and publicity images Steven Andrew is making for the Stage, but here are some lovely photos from our latest show, taken by local photographer Jaci Clark. I think they capture the spirit of the Stage and what it is we’re, in part, doing there: opening up a place and a space for the people of this area to share whatever it is they do with others, be it art, dance, song, story, poetry, comedy, monologues, skits, movies and, well, in these particular photos, how one girl transforms herself into a drag queen over the course of the evening. Quite a feat, and quite a transformation. Ah, Brookey, always going where no one else will go.

Here’s a pic of me, watching from the sidelines. Go see the rest as well as the cool slide show at Jaci’s place by clicking here.

The Year in Brief

Following the trend of posting the first line of the first day of each month from the past year’s blog:

Jan: Spring semester at the university begins next week.

Feb: News came yesterday that a hypertextual flash fiction project called “23 Small Disasters” created by myself, Elad Haber, Greg van Eekhout, Meghan McCarron, Tim Pratt, Benjamin Rosenbaum (who conceived the idea), and Kiini Ibura Salaam was sold to Ideomancer, where it will serve as an entire month’s issue.

Mar: I’ve been asked to write a short essay on “The Language of Moths” for the Nebula Awards, which has placed me in the awkward position of talking about one of my own stories, which I don’t usually do, or like to do, for various reasons.  This is my first stab at it, though.

April: As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

May: We went to Millcreek Park today, to enjoy the sun and the flowers and the people who had come out to enjoy it with each other.

June: This Saturday was Streetscape in Youngstown’s downtown. A couple of hundred volunteers from the community came out to plant flowers and to landscape the downtown together.

July: This weekend was Youngstown’s Summer Festival of the Arts.

Aug: Found this in my email from my friend Graham this morning:


and the day started off with great cheer.

Sept: Hope everyone is having a good holiday weekend.  The book release party was really awesome, and I’ll be writing about it and posting some pictures of the art and attendees sometime this week, but for now I’m going to post this link to the blog for the radio show Lincoln Avenue, hosted by Dr. Sherry Linkon.  Sherry recorded an interview with me that will air this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and you can listen to it by visiting WYSU’s homepage.

Oct: Good news came yesterday. One for Sorrow is going to be translated and published in Italy by Elliot Edizioni!

Nov: I’m back home from World Fantasy Convention. Four things I have decided:

1. Flying by airplane is my great annoyance. I wish I could teleport to wherever it is I want to go.

Dec: Just a quick note to say I’m in the final days of the fall semester, very busy, stacks of essays to grade, student fiction portfolios to read, and have been busy with preparing for the Oakland Center for the Arts annual “How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas” production.

All in all, I think it’s been one really awesome year.  Busy, but really awesome.