Archive for February, 2011

Random Round-up

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15, 2011 by nikkorpon

This is what pops up when I google 'random picture.' I think it's fitting.

There’s been a bunch of stuff posted recently that I’ve been slow to collect, so this is an odds-and-ends type of deal, some of it self-aggrandizing, some not.

-I’m reading this Saturday at the 510 reading series in Baltimore. I’ll be joining Pat King, Jessica Anya Blau and Tara Laskowski. I can’t wait.

-Crime writers Dennis Tafoya, Kieran Shea, Don Lafferty and Eric D Goodman will be pillaging Last Rites on 27 February. One of them has already snuck in under the cover of night and stolen Pat’s beard! Bios and more deets are available here.

-I just got ARCs of my novella Old Ghosts, which was pretty awesome, and then received this beautiful blurb from Paul Tremblay, author of The Little Sleep and In the Mean Time: “Nik Korpon’s OLD GHOSTS is about old friends and older dreams getting in the way of your present, and then totally kicking the shit out of your future. Plus rebar. If there’s such a thing as neo-noir, this is it. Moody, smart, sexy, and tension-filled, OLD GHOSTS is a whip crack of a crime novella.” Needless to say, I’m pretty damn stoked.

-The Live Nude Words! reading from the Velvet Lounge is live and available via the Velvet Podcast site, as well as Caleb’s Social Networking panel.

-I’m getting all noir and stuff at with an excerpt from Stay God. As always, big thanks to Palms Daddy and Podcast sifu Seth Harwood for letting me into the joint.

-My review of Lindsay Hunter’s stellar collection Daddy’s is now live in Issue 19 of The Collagist. It’s a killer collection, as you can tell form the review, and I’m flattered to have been able to review it, especially for a place like The Collagist. Thanks to Matt Bell, Gabriel Blackwell and Lindsay. Too, The Collagist just opened up submissions for their 2011 Chapbook Contest. The winner will be published by Dzanc. Yeah, exactly. I desperately wish I had something to submit. Maybe inspiration will strike hard and with a fury. And soon.

-My other review of Shya Scanlon‘s Forecast is now live at Cow Heavy Press. There’s another review of Forecast there by Troy Urquhart and it’s always interesting to read contrasting reviews, seeing what stuck out to other people. Thanks to Molly Gaudry, Erika Moya and Shya.

The Kindle version of Stay God is now available for you techy people.

I think that’s it for now. I know there will be more news regarding Old Ghosts, the Velvet Anthology (featuring a mind-blowing line-up I’m not allowed to talk about yet) and–finally–the second half of that Books I Read in 2010 list. Thank you, patient people.


Through the Rearview Drunkenly, Part Four

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9, 2011 by nikkorpon

A Brief Recapitulation of the Dramatic Events as They Transpired at AWP 2011

Day Three

Disappear Here. Photo by Caleb.

The sun rises sluggish and hazy, sluicing through the thick fog. I have a Lucero whiskey ballad in my head and it feels appropriate. We wander around the room for a while, not really packing but not really getting ready for panels, either. It’s sort of like a kid who doesn’t want to eat dinner and cuts his food into tiny pieces, shuffling it around the plate, avoiding. Caleb plays back some of the podcast from Bourbon. I check my email on his phone and feel like I’m in the future. I also want to meet Mel Bosworth in person, and not just to tell him that I insulted his hearlded Celtics only in jest (you can hear it on the podcast.) It also occurs to me that I should’ve taken more pictures so I don’t have to steal utilize Brandon and Caleb’s photographic talents when I write up a recap.

I go across the street to get coffee and a muffin and run into Justin Sirois on the way. Judging by the size of his coffee and the sandpaper in his throat, the Literature Party was a success. If you’ve never seen the Understanding Campaign gig that he runs, I highly, highly suggest it. Part of me wishes we’d gone to the party, but the part that is still able to stand upright is glad we didn’t.

Stay God promo matches.

Back in the hotel, we gather our crap and head down to the book fair. I’m rather proud of myself. Prior years, I’d be weighed down with 15 pounds of books by the end of Day One. This year I give my back a rest and buy stuff on the last day. Milling around the bookfair, I add the following to my to-be-read shelf (and I still haven’t finished my haul from NoirCon in November):

-You Can Make Him Like You (Ben Tanzer)
-The Never Enders (Michael Sonbert)
-The Colony (Jillian Weise)
Big Lucks #3 (Mark Cugini’s great mag I just discovered)
-The Wavering Knife (Brian Evenson)
-Baby Leg (Brian Evenson)
-In the Devil’s Territory (Kyle Minor)
-Ledfeather (Stephen Graham Jones)
-Rejection (Thomas K Matthews)
-The Jiri Chronicles and Other Fictions (Debra Di Blasi)

I have no idea what I'm doing in this picture, but Brandon's reading The Situ's book.

A lot of these I’d been meaning to buy for a while, or bought and lost or loaned out to never be returned, and it felt like a good time. I can’t find the Magic Helicopter Press table and order Less Shiny (Mary Miller) when I get home. Behind the Otherworld table, Brandon’s hocking books. I join him, hand out the free matchbooks from my novel and try to soak in the overwhelming atmosphere. It makes my head buzz at the moment, but I know the air will be depressingly still when I close my car door.

After an hour at the table, we say goodbye to Lynn and Eric and get lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant across the street, one I wish we’d found earlier. I eat an awesome shrimp gyro-type thing. Brandon has chicken tenders. Conversation is sparse, a few ideas for a panel proposal next year, some comments about what we’re working on and deadlines for those projects. Mostly, everyone is sunk inside their head, as is usual at this point.

We finish up and say goodbye before they ride the escalator down into the Metro station. I walk through the rain back to the bookfair to stop by a friend’s signing, only to find her flight cancelled three days prior. The bookfair proper is too daunting and I’ve already made my peace with it so I get into my car and start home. There’s nothing on the radio and my tape player is jacked up. I hit traffic coming out of the hotel, so I cut through neighborhoods to Calvert Street. At the intersection, there’s an anti-Mubarak demostration marching down Connecticut Avenue. People are chanting something I don’t understand, holding signs written in Arabic (I think) and English. Most of them are smiling, like they haven’t done something this fun in months. I catch a bit on the radio that says there is a protest march going all the way to the White House. I don’t know DC very well, but that seems like a pretty far walk, especially in the drizzle. They have flags wrapped around their shoulders instead of raincoats. Their country will keep them dry.  I turn off the radio and watch.

Through the Rearview Drunkenly, Part Three

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2011 by nikkorpon

A Brief Recapitulation of the Dramatic Events as They Transpired at AWP 2011

Day Two

Ironic post header. Photo by Caleb


The buzzing has returned and coffee evaporated. I blame Michael Sonbert and his affinity for Jack Daniels. At 9.00, there is a panel on the small press keeping short story collections afloat, but that’s not really happening at the moment. We mull around the room for a while, Caleb editing sound from the Live Nude Words reading, Brandon snoring, me sipping lukewarm cranberry juice and generally staring out the window. At one point, it occurs to us that perhaps people thought the reading was an actual strip show, or took place at a strip club. We laugh it off but the room falls oddly silent afterward.

Our first panel is Authors and Agents Falling in Literary Love, or something to that effect. Although we don’t really learn anything in particular, it’s a good contextual panel, in that they outline the agent-author relationship. This is great for those of us trying to keep our desperation for representation under control, for providing guidelines as to what to seek in an agent. In a weird bit of Smalltimore, one of the agents on the panel represents Rebecca Rasmussen, whose mother Betsy I worked with at Whole Foods in Massachusetts. When Betsy found out that I wrote, she asked for advice to give her daughter, Rebecca, because she was on the hunt for an agent. It appears I should have asked Rebecca for advice.

What I learn from this panel: The author-agent relationship is similar to  a marriage. As trite and cliche as it is, this is a revelation for me, and reassuring that there is someone out there who likes what I do. An agent should not make the author feel uncomfortable or belittled. An author should have realistic expectation of the agent. Simple, but important.

I forget to eat lunch again and we hurry to the next panel about authors and publishing in a transmedia world.

This treads similar ground with the social media panel from the prior day, and shares two panelists in Jane Friedman and The Writer Mama, but veers in a different direction. They talk more about the application and delivery of literature than the publicizing of said literature. The publisher of Electric Literature speaks about the various media to find his magazine, including a pretty amazing app. When you download the issue, you’re able to highlight passages you like, and it will automatically post them to your Facespace page, which provides a link for other people to read/buy the issue. Crazy, yeah? The panel speaks more about Twitter, iPhone/iPad apps and other services that help to deliver your material. A lot of it blends together inside my skull, as information at AWP tends to do, but I leave the room as invigorated at the prior day. Caleb makes a comment after the panel about how we are becoming content producers alongside writing stories. This concept is interesting and a bit scary, as I’m new at the whole social networking/technology thing. He also mentions something about writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) but he’ll talk about that during his blog tour, so I won’t ruin it.

What I learn from this panel: Many of the same concepts I picked up during the social media panel, but relating more to getting my work and others’ out through a number of channels. The most important thing, according to the panel, is consistency of voice and frequency with the channel. This is good because I can’t do anything without a deadline.

I know I had a point in there somewhere. Photo by Brandon

We head back to the room for a few. I grab a granola bar and Caleb and I leave to do a follow-up podcast with Jane Friedman, related to the two panels she moderated. I’ve never met her before, and am surprised (given my own preconceptions of editors at large houses, not by anything she’s done) at how giving she is. She’s a very intelligent woman, and it’s fascinating to see people talk about a subject that completely enthralls them. You can actually watch the person recede into themselves as they get more excited. This podcast will be posted soon at The Velvet, so I’ll provide a link then.

After Jane’s podcast. we grab Brandon and walk to Bourbon, a bar in Adam’s Morgan. Brandon is constantly pointing out McDonald’s. I drop not-so-subtle hints about Ethiopian food. Neither of us win. The plan for the evening is to meet Ben Tanzer and Ryan W. Bradley (Artistically Declined Press) get a drink and do a podcast, then head to the Vermin on the Mount reading, then follow that with Literature Party at the Black Cat.

On getting to Bourbon, we realize there is an Atticus reading happening upstairs. I also realize that a granola bar is not an adequate lunch nor dinner nor both. After a bit, we track down Ben and Ryan and find that they are part of the aforementioned reading. We go upstairs, get some food and drink several cans tasty Moo Thunder Stouts. Good beer in a can is a delicacy. In another occurrence of Smalltimore, I meet Eric D. Goodman, a crime writer from Baltimore. He actually lives five minutes from me, and will be reading at the February edition of Last Sunday, Last Rites. Weird, yeah? Ben gets to read but then there’s some kind of miscommunication with bar management. The music turns loud, the people come in and the reading is pretty much over. Unfortunately, five or six readers–including Ryan–get bumped. Also unfortunate is how often these things happen at readings.

We find a nice little cove upstairs to do the podcast, appropriately about live readings. This will be posted at The Velvet, too. The main point is to make readings entertaining. I compare it to the CD versus show idea: When I see a band, I want them to be drunk and flailing and breaking strings and hitting wrong notes and making me sweat. If I wanted to see them play the songs properly, I’d listen to the CD in my living room, where the drinks are free and I can sit with my wife. The same applies to readings, for me. Jesus Angel Garcia is a great example of this, though he memorizes everything, making it all the more impressive. Brandon makes a great point: ‘Offend me, disgust me, piss me off, make me laugh, just don’t bore me.’ I’ll post a link to the podcast when it’s live.

Charming men or Vermin? Photo by Brandon

Two cabs later, we’re walking into the in-progress Vermin reading, at Mie n Yu, one of the swanky Thai bars that are sprouting throughout Georgetown. I wish I would’ve booked a reading on The Exorcist steps. The first reader we catch is Nicolette Kittinger, who reads a haunting story about losing your virginity. The losing isn’t the haunting part, but the context surrounding it. Next is Al Heathcock, who reads from his collection Volt. I write this down on the back of my hand so I can buy it the next day. I don’t remember the order from here out, but Roy Kesey dispels more greatness as he is wont to do, Amber Sparks reads something I can’t remember, but I know that it made me wistful in a good way, Mary Miller–filling in for the snow-bound Kim Chinquee–airs her grievances in letters to the editors of McSweeney’s and Lindsay Hunter is the perfect example of our podcast come to life. She owns the stage for the few minutes she’s up, and levels the place. Her collection, Daddy’s (Featherproof Books) is astounding. I reviewed it for The Collagist, which should be up shortly. For me, the real high point of the evening, which is saying a gigantic amount, is Scott McClanahan. Ben Tanzer talked about him earlier in the night. Scott writes words that are meant to be read aloud. He performs a piece about a small boy and his mother, who has just been diagnosed with cancer. Incorporated are singing, magic tricks, and some type of koan. I need to ask him to read at Last Rites. Need.

We are tired after the reading and decide to forego the Literature Party. Mary Miller is standing on the sidewalk beside us. It’s always nice to meet someone whose work you adore and find that they are just as lovely in person. Stephen Graham Jones is like this, too. Mary asks to come with us and we tuck into a restaurant that is one part pub, one part fine-dining and one part middle-age coke party. Lower-case c. Yeah. Anyway, the night passes in fits and starts. If we were thinking, we probably should’ve podcasted our dinner because there is some really insightful conversation bandied about. I leave thinking that I really want to have something published with Artistically Declined.

Outside, we part ways, Ben and Ryan to their hotel, though they can’t remember where it is, and Caleb, Brandon, Mary and me in a cab back to the hotel. We discuss depressing singer-songwriters and country music and it all feels like I’m watching the scene from above, like our evening has been directed by Zach Braff. I mean this in a good way, though. We don’t close out the night at Murphy’s because we realize we didn’t tip the waitress enough the prior night and feel very guilty about this. In the room, we’re quieter than earlier nights, knowing that flights and drives home loom before us. If we whisper, maybe they won’t hear and real life will forget about us for another day or two.

Tomorrow: Day Three and home.

Through the Rearview Drunkenly, Part Two

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2011 by nikkorpon

A Brief Recapitulation of the Dramatic Events as They Transpired at AWP 2011

Pre-reading drinks. Photo by Caleb.

Day One

My head is full of soggy cotton and there’s a strange buzzing circling my ears. It’s more the lack of sleep than the couple drinks, but they’re not helping. The hotel coffee isn’t very good, nor is there enough in one room to supply three writers. Some stereotypes are just accurate, okay? I drag on some clothes and descend.

The first panel is about writing monsters and myths with Laura van den Berg and Hannah Tinti and two others I can’t remember. The two were very well-spoken and had excellent points, but I have an awful memory and left the program book at the hotel so they remain nameless. Laura lives in Baltimore too, and I’d normally expect someone with her massive amount of talent to be a massive jerk. She is a very sweet person, though, and her book, What the World Will Look Like When all the Water Leaves Us, is stunning. I’ve never heard of Hannah but the name of her book–The Good Thief–makes it to my ‘I need to buy this’ list. Hannah reads a great anecdote of a childhood experience in a graveyard in Salem, MA, illustrated on post-it notes. Laura talks about reading Murakami and it opening her eyes to a whole new experience of writing. I love listening to people intelligently discuss things like monsters and shapeshifters, not in the way that Tarantino dissects things but how our–people’s–shortcomings manifest in monsters. I raise my hand to expand on their points and ask about Matt Bell’s Wolf Parts, but am never called on.

What I learn from this panel: We as writers should keep our souls open to all experiences in order to be honest with ourselves as writers. It’s one of those things that seems obvious in hindsight, yet revelatory at the moment. I think I write this down.

I head down to the bookfair, to the Otherworld Publications table for my first book signing. I don’t sign any books but I meet another label-mate, Thomas K Matthews, as well as the publishers, Lynn and Eric Calvert. As I’m shaking their hands, it occurs to me how odd an age it is that we live in, that I entrusted two years of my life (my book) to two people I’ve never met. A bunch of people come by the table, some I see in Baltimore a lot, some I haven’t seen for a while, some I’m meeting for the first time. Sitting behind a table, I realize for the first time how many wide-eyed people there are milling about. I wonder if I look the same way to the others behind tables, then tell myself to shut up because I don’t really know what I’m doing anyway.

Caleb on the social media panel

I catch up with Caleb and Brandon who fill me in on the Book Review panel. One of the panelists (BOMB, maybe?) made a comment about ignoring the parts of books she doesn’t like. Someone in the audience takes issue with that. Apparently he smelled of old vodka. She said she misspoke, that what she was saying was she sees no point in reviewing books she doesn’t like, that bad books won’t be talked about and will in turn die their own death. I agree with her sentiment and try to follow suit in my own reviews. The time spent trashing bad books could be better spent praising good books. We do something after this but I can’t remember what it is, maybe eat lunch. I saw a bunch of Ethiopian restaurants driving in and have been craving it. Caleb is convinced all Ethiopian food has raisins in it and he hates raisins. Brandon is a big advocate of chicken tenders. My crave goes untended.

Due to a last-minute cancellation, Caleb was asked to sit in on a social media panel with Jane Friedman, TheBookMaven and TheWriterMama. This is one of those random things I love about AWP, that all these random occurrences add up into a serendipitous scenario. Technology has, frankly, always scared the crap out of me. My phone does little more than turn on and off and take crappy pictures. I don’t like e-readers, I don’t like Twitter, I’m not much for Facebook. I did them mainly in the name of my book. Then I sat in on this panel. Two days later, I’m eating dinner with my wife (who is equally as tech-phobic as I) and mention smartphones and she agrees that yes, they are pretty amazing and we might want to look into them. This reinforces my belief that she is my soulmate. Back to the panel: I can easily dig in my heels and ignore all the technology that is infiltrating literature and I will probably be fine. Equally as much, I can embrace this technology (by the way, I hate that phrase, but it is so apt a description) and, as Caleb said, ‘make it easier for potential readers to find our work.’ This panel, coupled with the Transmedia one I’ll talk about tomorrow, are easily the two most influential I’ve attended. Caleb also talks about the advantages of Twittering while on the toilet and does us proud. As he makes excellent points, Brandon tweets about @CalebJRoss and his ass, which displays on the large screen behind the panel. This also makes us proud.

What I learn from this panel: Technology is not a dirty word and, similar to the monster panel, we will gain nothing by remaining closed to experience that does not fit into our box of what is acceptable or normal. There is more to speak about this panel, but it will be posted on The Velvet’s podcast soon. They do a better job than I do, so I’ll let them do the talking.

Social media gone awry (bottom tweet)

We get pizza from across the street. Mine has roasted eggplant, goat cheese and rocket (arugula) on it. It is exceptional. Brandon and Caleb tweet and Facespace while waiting for food and I feel a bit behind the times. I find it interesting that I can remember the handles of the panelists, but not their names. I feel like I’m watching the implications of the panel unfold over me.

Back in the room, I nurse a drink while melting into the armchair. AWP is growing every year, which is fantastic–assuming that growth in attendance is indicative of the growth of interest in literature–but it also means that there are 7,284 readings, most of which we want to see. Three other events are scheduled at the same time as ours. I plot out the locations, seeing if we can cab between them. We gather our stuff then hail a taxi to The Velvet Lounge for our reading.

915 U Street. NW. 7PM. Photo by Caleb.

The Velvet Lounge is full dark, no stars. Caleb and Brandon use their phones for recon while I have a heart attack and throw up in my mouth a bit. Turns out the place normally opens at 8PM and was opening early for use, negating the heart attack. Michael Sonbert, his girlfriend Gina, Jesus Angel Garcia, Jillian Weise and her parents arrive in a flurry of taxis. Brandon’s agent shows up for support. We have pints in the bar next door and catch up. This is the first time many of us have met in real life but the conversation never lags, another testament to the weird way that social media is bridging our lonely peninsulas. I take a picture of our glasses and send it to Richard Thomas, our friend who had to cancel at the last minute.

Brandon starts with story from his upcoming collection about a cold sore with luxurious tastes who has the misfortune of being stuck with a loser pilot. It’s funny and gross and satirical and he reads the shit out of it. I follow him and mumble some stuff into the microphone. Michael owns it with a selection from We Are Oblivion, his novel about an ex-boxer and his disease-ridden, pregnant hooker girlfriend. Caleb gives us the first chapter of his novel Stranger Will, then revises it for humor, replacing the bums Will sees everywhere for horses. Will ends up in bed with a horse. Yeah, it’s that great. Jillian Weise does a poem that features Skype, Lucero and Bruce Springsteen and the opening of her novel The Colony. She’s only the second person I’ve met that equates Lucero and Bruce Springsteen. This makes me happy. Jesus Angel Garcia destroys the joint with You’ve Got to Get Naked to be Clothed in the Lord: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Reverend’s Wife, a selection from his upcoming novel Bad, Bad, Bad. His performance is what every reading should be (more on that later, too.)

These readings are available here as part of the Velvet Podcast.

After the reading we retire to a gay sports bar, which is as awesome as it sounds, for a while. We never make it to the other reading but a few hours pass without any quiet. I find that Michael used to get pierced with the singer of a band I loved when I was sixteen. It is a small, small world. We take cabs back to the hotel and close out the night at Murphy’s again. Tomorrow will come too soon.

Tomorrow: Day Two

Through the Rearview Drunkenly, Part One

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2011 by nikkorpon

Through the Rearview Drunkenly: A Brief Recapitulation of the Dramatic Events as They Transpired at AWP 2011.

Day Zero

The AWP conference is a lot of things to a lot of different people. To some wide-eyed optimists, it’s the chance to happen upon an agent/publisher who didn’t know they were madly in love with your work (me at AWP09 in Chicago.) To those with glowing cathode-ray tans, it’s a chance to put eyes, ears and a distinct laugh to those @names and forum handles and book covers (me at AWP10 in Denver.) To those who think they have a fragile grasp on a tiny bit of this whole writing thing, only to discover there’s are fields and fields of concepts growing at severe angles, it’s a nice refresher that you’re not as smart as you think you are but there is hope (me at AWP11 in Washington, DC.) For reasons that I’ll talk about later, this was a transformative conference for me, akin to NoirCon last November, where I realized that there were other people who geeked out just as hard about crime fiction (and most times harder) as I did. I didn’t attend as many panels as in previous years, but the ones I saw were concentrated awesomeness I’m still wrapping my head around.

I’m not a gigantic conference-goer, but I’m getting there. What always amazes me about the AWP conference is the breadth of groups that converge on one poor city and their neighboring cafes and bars. From Creative Writing PhDs to hand-stapled chapbooks, from repeat Pulitzer winners to authors of said hand-stapled chapbooks, they’re all there. The bookfair itself is enough to send me into an ecstatic fit of agoraphobia. I could go on for a while about this, so instead, I’ll try and sift through the debris and carbonation in my skull and come out with some cohesive narrative.

It’s an odd experience going to a conference in your backyard (or close enough.) I’ve always loved that disconnect between my real life and my writing life that a plane ride affords me. Add in that romantic notion of flying to talk about books with other word-nerds and it’s pretty damn awesome all around. Nonetheless, my little Hyundai death-trap works just fine. I don’t get down to DC until later in the evening, about four drinks behind my roommates, Caleb J Ross and Brandon Tietz. I’ve known Caleb for a few years and Brandon’s been an interweb friend for a while, but this was the first time we met in real life. Both of them are damn fine writers and we all have books on Otherworld Publications.

After the introductions, we head out to Murphy’s Pub for a few. I order cottage chips and a Mooney’s stout. My chips are two large potatoes cross-sectioned and fried. I pour on half a bottle of malt vinegar and bring home a takeaway box that I’ll eat for breakfast two days later.


Tomorrow: Day One