Thursday, January 27, 2005

my old roommate

So I was wandering around the alumni database site for Northwestern University yesterday. Found the email for my Sophomore year roommate. He and I were both in the same acting class, among other things. We also had an entrance to Narnia in our closet, although we could never find our way there, alas.

It's interesting to note what we've both ended up doing. I wrote only very occasionally in college--acting was my main thing. And Bill had a double major in Theater and Comparative Religions. I wonder if the Comp. Religions stuff came later, because I don't remember him being all that into it. Of course, I was stoned an awful lot of the time.

Anyway... I wrote him asking if he remembered Meg Boscov. She was also in our acting class, and is now married to (small world) Randall Brown, who is the Features Editor for SmokeLong. He emailed back quickly telling me that of course he remembered Meg and to say hi for him (which I've since relayed along to Randall). At the end of his email, in his sig line, was the address for his website: I knew that Bill was working as a storyteller, but I'd never really seen much of the details of it. And there they are.

Know the thing that's really annoying about his site, though? He hasn't aged a single freaking day. If anything, he looks younger than when we were roommates. Grrrrr. Isn't he just cute as a button? Grrrrrr.

Ah, well. Having seen him perform Shel Silverstein's "The Smoke-Off" on a couple of occasions, I can tell you that Bill knows how to tell a story. So if you happen to live sorta generally in the Philadelphia area, keep your eyes peeled for the chance to go see Bill at a library or school.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Zygote in My Coffee

Had another story accepted for publication yesterday. "Candles" will appear in the Feb. 7 issue of Zygote in My Coffee. Yay!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

flash-a-thon #6

a silly little timed writing exercise. but it was fun. :)

“Junie, stop licking the television.”

“Can’t help it. I’m fucking hungry.”

“It’s a god damn Denny’s commercial. It’s not even good food.”

“Well, the fridge is empty and I’m starving. You have any better ideas?”

“You are the weirdest chick ever, you know that?”



“Yeah, I got shocked.”

“I’m not surprised. The way you scuff around the place in those wool socks.”

“Fuck you.”

“Eat me.”

“Don’t tempt me. Oh, look. Red Lobster!”



“Shocked again?”

“No, the fucking thing closed its claws around my tongue.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

where have I been?

I love Kindergarten. I love all the excitement and new knowledge that my son brings home on a daily basis. It's infectious. Know what else is infectious? The part of Kindergarten that I hate. He brings home every virus known to man, it seems. So I've been fighting off a nasty cold, swilling orange juice and popping Advil Cold and Sinus.

Well, that's part of where I've been. The other part? I've been busily working on a complete overhaul and re-design of SmokeLong. It's purrrrrrrrrty. Wanna sneaky-sneak preview? Okay. Here ya go.

Friday, January 14, 2005


FRiGG Magazine, quite possibly the most beautiful lit mag on the net, has a new issue live today. Ellen Parker, Sean Farragher, Al Faraone, and Daphne Buter have done a beautiful job as always, presenting amazing content surrounded by seas of visual beauty. This issue features, among others, a few of my faves in Bob Arter, Randall Brown, and Jeff Landon. Go check it out. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Why is everything in New York?

Another recommendation for all y'all New Yawkers out there. One of the guys I moved to Seattle with is gonna be doing some reading/performance art type stuff at Galapagos on Monday. I used to catch his act pretty regularly, back when he was still fresher out of college, and still a little more apt to be referred to as "a nice Jewish boy." Well, the nice Jewish boy had chops, then, and he's matured (I would assume). Before he moved from Seattle to New York, he a) came out of the closet, and b) went through a pretty crazy drug period, including (I do believe) the ever-popular-in-Seattle heroin phase. So my boy's got some stories.

Now, let's review what we're looking at here:
1) Jewish guy with a very strong historical knowledge and love of his culture.
2) Gay, after having been either a) unaware of his sexuality or b) closeted.
3) Strong performance art training at Northwestern University.
4) A poet's mind. Any writes some beautiful beautiful and beautiful ugly words.
5) Personal history in various hip cultures, Chicago, Seattle, New York.
6) Funny as hell. And smart, in case that didn't come across in #4.
7) Oh, and experience touring with MTV's Spoken Word Tour.

The guy's gifted. And, if that's not enough to convince you, he's the only male I've ever known personally that I actually considered hitting on. Had I known he was gonna come out of the closet anyway, I might well have.

So, yeah. Andy Horwitz. Go see him. He'll scramble your brain. (And you can also visit him online at Andy's Chest. And the title of this post, as often is the case, is a linky-poo.)


Watched this last night. Everyone told me how sexy this was, and it is. But nobody told me how incredibly sad it is. What an incredible performance by Diane Lane. Really remarkable. I wasn't expecting much out of this film at all, but it's absolutely beautiful. And I enjoyed watching the interview by Charlie Rose of Adrian Lyne, Richard Gere, and Diane Lane that was included in the extras. Charlie Rose is annoying, quite frankly, but there were some great comments made by Lyne, Gere, and Lane. I love their references to the Pinteresque moments and how much of the film is the silence between words. Oh! And the scene where she turns off the light! Brilliant. Yeah. Really good movie.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Alien Loves Predator

I know I've blogged about this strip before, but I think there might actually be a few more people reading here now than there were at the time. Read this strip. He updates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And it cracks me the hell up. Click the title, as usual.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall...

This will only work for IE users. But click on the title of this post. Yikes!

Journal of Modern Post

Journal of Modern Post has accepted "Dear Coca-Cola" for publication. Yay! No word yet on when it'll be published, but I'll certainly post here when it is. In the meantime, click the post title and go read some fun letters. Oh, and kudos to Jensen Whelan for his quick turn-around time.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Hey, New Yorkers!

Mark your calendars for February 2. SLQ's Features Editor, Randall Brown, will be reading live at the Cornelia Street Cafe, as will super-writer Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz. Seriously, all y'all should go, because they're both terrific writers. And hosted by Carol Novack, herself a very talented writer whom we once published. You can click the title of this post for details. I mean it! Go! You'll have a blast.

flash-a-thon #5


The police are down there. Lots of them, trampling down the blackberry brambles. Something reeks. I started to smell it a couple of days ago, but I convinced myself I was imagining things. It was in the 70’s, then. Now, the thermometer is pushing ninety degrees and there’s no mistaking the smell of decay.

Jack has been gone for eleven days this time. He’s never been gone longer than three. I never called the police, though. Every night, on returning from my shift at Wal-Mart, I expected, or perhaps only hoped, to hear his stereo blaring.

The thorny vines are much too thick for the uniformed men to wade through. They’ve started hacking away at the mass with electric hedge trimmers. In response to the whine of the motors, the two German Shepherds strain harder at their leashes.

Jack often disappears for a day or two. During the summer, it’s not as obvious—the school doesn’t call to report an unexcused absence. Last time, he turned up at his father’s. It would have been nice for Scott to have called me when he first arrived, but he assumed I knew Jack was there.

The men are getting close to the center of the thicket. Several of them are holding their hands over their mouths, I’d assume to filter out the smell.

I pick up the phone and dial Scott’s number. Holding the receiver, I walk out onto my deck to watch the men’s progress. The phone rings six times, seven. No answer.

They have created a small clearing now. There’s definitely something on the ground. Four of the men have donned gloves and masks. Each takes a hold of something. They trudge out of the vines, bearing their load.

The dogs are frantic, and I can barely hear one of the cops yell to another outside the clearing, “It’s a deer!”

A deer. I release the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. I remove my red vest from the kitchen chair where I draped it last night, and get ready for my shift.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

great quote

Thanks to Kelly Flanigan for this:
A book, with its neat lines of print and its well-organized pages, looks civilized, but if it’s any good, a book will have a scent of wildness about it. It will have a wild heart. A good children’s book is itself like a child who’s been called home by his or her parents from the darkness outside. It sits in a well-lit living room and looks all calm, but its eyes glow, its skin tingles, and its heart quickens at the memory of what it’s seen and experienced out there in the wild and dark. - David Almond, author of various children's books

True of all books, don't you think?

about flash-a-thonning and writing in general

I love flash-a-thons. There's an amazing amount of terrific material that comes out of them as people feed off of one another's writing. I've been really touched by several people's writing during the current one. And I love that it puts me into writing mode when I might not otherwise be. There's a lot of material that I generate that I don't really care much about, but that material helps to get me moving. The problem I'm having right now, oddly, is that the last piece I wrote put me into a place that I'm having trouble getting away from.

It's not an emotional place, per se. Rather, it took me to a point where I said, "Ah. Good. This is good. I like this. So what the hell do I do now?" Because the problem with writing something good (and lord knows we'd all like to have this problem more often) is that I feel like I can't match it. Or maybe that I don't quite want to match it. I imagine that, all too quickly, I'll start trying to force my characters to be just as beautiful as previous characters were, even if, perhaps, they want to be just silly people.

I also find myself looking around at the world asking it for pieces to use. This is pretty typical of my writing all the time--snippets of conversation, natural scenes, etc. play into my writing. For example: for the Picasso piece, a number of things fell into my lap:

1) The weather. I'd been reading about this once-in-a-generation weather cycle over lunch before coming into work. And one of my co-workers is a weather geek. He loves to check out weather maps. So he and I were discussing the bizarro weather that's hitting the entire US, and the Pacific Northwest in particular.
2) The building I work in has a low income health clinic a few doors down. Outside the door during one of my cigarette breaks was a little girl spinning in circles saying, "Look, Mommy. I'm a tornado."
3) On a later cigarette break, I heard from the rush hour traffic on the street about half a block from our office someone screaming, "Asshole! You're an asshole!"
4) Rusty Barnes has an office on Zoetrope where there are monthly "flash floods," which are much shorter versions of flash-a-thons. He provided a prompt of blue guitar and snow. Blue guitar made me think of Picasso's guitar paintings and blue period.

Toss all of those into a blender and you can see where "Picasso Burns" came from. But now, for the moment anyway, my puzzle box is empty. And even if it were full, I'd worry that I was forcing the pieces together. Looking for characters and stories sometimes reminds me of looking for love. Love always seems to strike when you aren't particularly expecting it. Stories are often the same way. My favorite moments of writing are what Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. refers to as "taking dictation from God." In those moments, I'm little more than a conduit for a story that the universe already wants told. I just happen to be there as the story's medium. In between those glorious times, I keep slamming words at the page, hoping that something sticks. But to be good enough to be that conduit for the universe's stories, I have to keep writing at the times that the universe is silent. Or rather, I have to keep writing at the times when my ears are, for some reason, plugged to the universe's noise.

Sounds new-agey, I suppose. But think of it again in terms of looking for love and it makes sense. Stories, like love, find us when we're ready, not necessarily when we think we're ready.

Friday, January 07, 2005

New Murakami!

Sweet Jesus, it's true. A new Murakami novel, Kafka on the Shore is coming out January 18. Found out about this on Moorish Girl. The article in The Guardian freaked me out a bit on a few levels. First off, the title of the article is "How to have sex with a ghost." Um... for anyone who actually has read the chapters of Cacophony here, does this sound familiar? Oddly, though, the article makes no mention of screwing ghosts at all. Hmm.

But here's something that grabbed me for a completely different reason:
He has talked often in interviews of allowing his stories to lead him where they want to go, from one sentence to the next. It is a risky, jazz-like strategy and it leads to dead ends as well as open roads.

Yikes! And cool! I don't trust outlines when I write. I find that if I know where a story is leading, or how it ends, I get bored. And when I get bored with my writing, it really, really shows. Especially if I'm forcing the characters in a direction that I thought they wanted to go, but really don't. So it was great to see that someone I deeply admire writes similarly.

That said... a couple of Murakami's novels nearly get done in by this. They meander off on paths that, truth be told, aren't all that interesting. "South of the Border, West of the Sun" comes to mind. Most of the time, it works really well, like in "Norwegian Wood" (one of my all-time favorite books by anyone). But there are those times that, as a reader, I've thought, "What happened to the story?" Characters who were instrumental to plots have tendencies to disappear without warning, never to reappear, or to come back without explanation. "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," for example, did this rather a lot. And reading The Guardian's write-up here, it sounds like this may be most similar, of all Murakami's books, to that one.

Regardless, I can't wait to read it.

SmokeLong plugged by So New Media

Gotta love this. So New Media searches out great writing online and hypes it up. Today, they've plugged Bob Thurber's Not the Real Jesus Christ, from the December issue of SLQ. Yay!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Flash-a-thon #4

Picasso Burns

Outside the pharmacy, a girl spins in circles with her arms outstretched. "Look, Mommy. I’m a tornado," she says. I look up at the sky. She could be--clouds are churning like time-lapse animation. I smile a centimeter and she keeps spinning.

I begin the walk home with the stapled bag clutched in my bare hands. I’ve long since sold the Saab. Jesus, it’s cold. It’s only quarter to four but it’s dark and the streets look like rush hour as commuters try to beat the snow. "You’re an asshole!" screams one out his window at a woman on her cell phone--she took more than half a second to realize the light had turned green.

The mucous in my nose is starting to freeze and my breath is hugely visible. I remember smoking, miss it.

I turn onto my street just as a gray BMW rolls by. It stops about twenty feet ahead and the window powers down.

"Hi, Mrs. Andrews," I say, as I reach her.

"Hi, James. How’s Shelly?" she asks.

"Not so good," I reply.

"If you ever need anything..." She lets the sentence dangle.

"Thanks, Mrs. Andrews. I appreciate it."

"Well," she says, and pauses. "You take care, okay?"

"Okay, you, too."

She waits a few seconds longer, watching me for some sign that I don’t know. I raise my hand in a brief wave. She nods hesitantly before disappearing behind the tinted window and driving slowly away.

Inside, the house is frigid.

"Shel?" I call, shutting the door behind me.

"Back here," she says. Her voice is faint.

I find her on the living room couch under several blankets.

"Why is it so cold?" I ask.

"Gas shut off today," she says.

"Oh." I scratch the back of my neck. I toss the bag on the coffee table and press my lips gently to her forehead. "Let me get you some water."


The pipes clank as I fill a glass at the kitchen sink. I let the faucet drip so the pipes won’t freeze. From the other room, I hear her coughing. It sounds a lot worse, and I think of a night filled with blood-soaked tissues. We need a fire.

I spent the last of the payday loan on the medicine. There’s little left to sell, and, even assuming I can make it there before they close, the pawn shop is a two-mile walk.

The wood from the coffee table lasts about an hour. I don’t sleep. She sleeps fitfully, as I feed the fire with broken furniture. The sight of the used Kleenex makes my eyes burn and I set each one ablaze, a quick poof.

I’ve run out of furniture. The lacquer belched black smoke, which increased the supply of stained tissues. I wish we hadn’t sold all our books.

The fire starts to die around dawn. She is sleeping. I pace the house, looking for flammable objects, and my eyes alight on my guitar. If only the fire would last a few more hours, I could pawn the guitar. I haven’t played it in years.

She gave it to me on our first anniversary. It’s not an expensive guitar, a Takamine Jasmine. On its body, though, is a reproduction she did of Picasso’s "Old Man With Guitar." I suddenly feel ancient.

I pick it up and strum an open E. It’s badly out of tune. I pluck harmonics and twist pegs as I walk to the fireplace. The E is still not quite right as I set the guitar in a bed of embers.

Through the window, I see the first snowflakes fall. Strings pop and blue-black smoke rises as Picasso burns. Shelly’s breathing stills.

what a delight

You know the feeling when you read an amazing new book by an author you'd never read before? And how excited you get to realize that this writer probably has an entire body of work just waiting for you? Are you like me, that you either log onto your library's site and reserve everything written by that author or, if you have money, go on an Amazon spending spree?

Well. That's one of the truly wonderful parts of editing a literary magazine. In addition to submissions from the folks whose writing I've already come to know and love, we receive submissions from a number of people that are entirely new to me. And once in a while, one of them just dazzles me. We've had a couple submissions like that lately. This makes me swoon and sigh contentedly.

To give you an idea of what it takes to make me swoon, of the 108 submissions for our March issue that we've decided on, we've accepted 4. Wow. We sure have gotten picky. Our ratio used to be closer to 1 in 20. When we started out, it was about 1 in 10. So you just know that the stuff we accept is completely swoon-worthy.

And that's why the past week or so has been especially sweet: there's been some great stuff that's come in. And some of it has been from authors I'd never read before, so I have whole new worlds of words opened up to me. Yay!

Kerry voters are smarter.

Is this really surprising? Nah. But it's fun anyway. Click on the title of this post for more info.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Flash-a-thon #3


Are you awake? Hey, are you awake?


I had a bad dream.

Uh huh.

I dreamt that all my teeth fell out.

You know what that means.

I don’t care what it means. Could you just hold me?

The Chinese say—

I don’t give a fuck about the Chinese. Could you please just hold me?

Okay, okay.

Thank you.

They think that it’s an indication that someone is hiding something or that they’re lying.

Fuck you.

Shit. My hand really hurts.

You thouldn’t hab hit be.

Obviously, I was worried about the wrong person’s teeth.

Three Days in New York City

Another novel by one of SLQ's writers is out! Click on the title above to check out Robin Slick's Three Days in New York City. You can read the first chapter there, and the book is available as a download for a mere three bucks!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Flash-a-thon #2

Dear Coca-Cola

Dear Coca-Cola,

I’d like a million dollars, please. I honestly don’t think this is too much to ask. I’m not asking for it in a litigious way. Rather, I think it’s a suitable reward for someone who has been a loyal consumer of your product for decades.

I understand that there are frequently contests on the insides of bottle caps. I suspect, however, that the people who win the big prizes in these contests are just as likely to be, God forbid, Pepsi drinkers. They saw that there was a contest, or that Coke happened to be on sale, and decided to buy Coke on that occasion. In fact, I fear it’s likely that this is the reason the contests are run in the first place—to entice people to buy your product who wouldn’t normally do so.

I have to tell you, though, that I’m tired of seeing the message, “Drink Coke. Play again.” I drink Coke whether there is a game or not. I drink Coke, in fact, at times when I absolutely should not drink Coke.

In 8th grade, I soaked my retainer overnight in Coke to destroy the germs that had built up over the course of the day. In college, when pulling all-nighters to write my term papers, it would have been more logical to drink Jolt for double the caffeine, but no, I barricaded myself in my room with a typewriter and four two-liter bottles of Coke. (To be fair, one of those bottles did offer me a free 16 ounce bottle of Coke.). When taking my children to a fast food place, I choose the location based on whether or not the soda fountain is accessible for free refills and whether it serves Coke, not on whether said restaurant has cool toys or playgrounds for the kids. I have endured no less than eleven kidney stones; my doctor assures me this is due to my consumption of, on average, 96 ounces of Coke per day. Several of my teeth have been replaced. My blood sugar count is alarmingly high, and it’s likely I’ll soon face early onset of Diabetes.

I tell you these things not to complain, but rather to illustrate what a loyal consumer of Coke I have been over the years, even through the disastrous New Coke experiment. (And tell the truth: that was really just a ploy to illustrate to your complacent public just how addicted they all were to the real Coke before bringing it back as Coca-Cola Classic.)

In light of all this, isn’t it time, rather than awarding prizes by the luck of the draw to someone who may or may not have any product loyalty whatsoever, to reward one who happily evangelizes your product by way of example?

I thank you for your consideration (and hopefully, one million dollars; I have dental bills coming due shortly).


Dave Clapper.

Monday, January 03, 2005

George Clooney and Other Secret Longings of the Applewood PTA

Ellen Meister has recently left the staff of SLQ to concentrate more fully on her writing and, more excitingly, her debut novel coming out. Wheeeeeeeeeee! So I'd like for everyone to click on the title of this post. The more clicks she's getting, the more likely she is to get better budgeting, etc. And she's a terrific writer. So go! Click! Now! And keep an eye out for the release of her debut novel early in 2006.

Flash-a-thon #1

Lover's Bed

You sit up in your lover’s bed and glance out the window. The crescent moon is sharp and clear. Ducking your head lower beneath the blinds, you survey the stars. One shoots across the sky and you wish you didn’t have to go home to your wife.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


Ugh. I changed my mind. I'm already sucking ass. I started composing right here in this window, and it was some of the worst dreck I'd ever written. I really want some scotch, but we seem to be out of everything but assorted liquers, cinammon Schnapps and the like, stuff that nobody ever drinks outside a cup of hot chocolate. What's the point of having stuff like that? Oh, and some tequilla and some margarita mix... Hmm... maybe...

a quick note

I know I said my next post would be writing, and this isn't. The next one will be. For prompts, I'm using photographs taken by a co-worker's girlfriend. She's frankly pretty brilliant. Professionally, she's an undertaker. But she's a very gifted photographer. So I'm going to be posting thumbnails of the photos that I'm using. The thumbnails will be clickable to go see full-sized copies of the photos. And I encourage people to check out more of her work.


Argh! So frustrating! Maybe I should take it as a sign. I wasn't able to get online til about 11pm tonight, and once I did, I found that Zoetrope was having issues again. Occasionally, something happens that prohibits users from seeing any offices but their own or from accessing any other parts of the site (mail, etc.). This is one of those nights. Maybe it's a sign that I wasn't meant to undertake the dreaded "write 50 pieces in a day" experiment. Hmm.

Well... I may try anyway, although I doubt I'll get far. Fighting the onset of a head cold and not feeling very creative. Nevertheless, I'll see how many pieces o' crap I can crank out before hitting the wall. Starting with the next post...