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Lit Scene Austin for May 17-24

16 May

So, a lot of literary awesomeness is about to occur, and we’re pretty darn giddy about it.  Let us break it down for y’all.

First of all, if you still haven’t heard (maybe, say, via CultureMap, or Facebook?), we’re hosting the brilliant Kevin Wilson for a reading and signing of his debut novel The Family Fang this Tuesday, May 22, at BookPeople.  The novel is bizarre, beautiful, and utterly compelling, and judging from his conversation with ASF’s Outreach Coordinator Liz Wyckoff, Wilson himself is just as compelling as his stories.

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 17, at 7 pm, the lovely and local Elizabeth Crane , who writes rockin’ short stories and whose debut novel We Only Know So Much is out this July, will be at Domy for Make in TEXAS, an evening of readings and presentations.  Katie Geha, Taco, and others are joining Crane, and you probably should too.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Robert Caro  will be in town at the Bullock Texas History Museum next Tuesday, May 22, at 7 pm for a signing and conversation with Texas Monthly’s Brian Sweany on the The Passage of Power, Caro’s fourth installment in his series The Years of Lyndon Johnson, a work that everyone, including Bill Clinton, can’t stop talking about.

Another Austinite author has reason to celebrate: Owen Egerton’s novel The Book of Harold is out in paperback from Soft Skull, and he’ll be celebrating with a reading at BookPeople.  Help kick off his book tour next Thursday, May 24, at 7 pm with local beer and cheap box wine.


ASF Presents: Jess Stoner, Justin Sirois, War, Memory, Fiction

17 Apr

We’re super stoked about what’s happening tomorrow, April 18, at 7 p.m. at Domy, y’all—Jess Stoner and Justin Sirois are reading from their new books, neither of which we could put down. Jess’s I Have Blinded Myself Writing This is a striking work of fiction that explores memory, telling the story of a woman who loses part of her past each time her body needs to heal a wound in the present.  Justin’s Falcons on the Floor is a war story that “rehumanizes everyone involved,”says Dahr Jamail. The novel follows Salim and Khalil on the eve of the first siege of Fallujah—and we see why their decision to flee up the Euphrates river may not have been the best one.

We talked to both authors about their readings so far, and the experience doing the indie lit book tour, which has included overwhelming generosity, tearing pages from books, and a Pez factory. Read all about it below, and see you on Wednesday?!

 Jess, on the intersection of text and image and how she tries to convey that during her readings:

 ASF: You have said that one of the (many) things that inspired I Have Blinded Myself Writing This was a fascination with the tension between text and image. In what ways is I Have Blinded Myself Writing This a result of exploring that tension?

Jess: I think memory was my way into that tension. Our memories are so dependent on our senses; we translate the images we’ve burned onto our various cortexes into manageable, understandable, chunks. That process seems very much connected to how we read text, how we make sense in general. But still, the primer is the visual. The image will always big-daddy—will always demand more attention than text. But I’m hypnotized by the way an image can be encouraged to cast a shadow. How it might, pages later, linger–on top of, through, underneath–text. Instead of trying to make image and text compete, I wanted the images in the book to warp, to infect, to influence how a reader understands the text.

 ASF: Are there ways in which it is hard to translate or convey the visual aspects of the book through a reading?

Jess: Definitely.  I have to bring my trusty, ancient overhead projector to each reading, because I think that a performance of the book without certain visuals does a kind of disservice to the experience of the book. It’s not just the images that I think need to be projected though; I use transparencies of pages in the book that only feature text during readings as well, because I want the audience to have that disrupted experience: of “looking” at something, while they’re processing something else (the words I’m reading). In some ways, I guess I also want the audience, even if they don’t buy the book, well, I want to change how they remember it. It matters very much to me, the idea that the narrator wrote this book. I don’t want the audience’s memory of the reading to be me. I want what they see and hear to leave an impression, like the engram, the shadow the memory leaves in your brain. I want that to be an amalgam of what they’ve heard and what they’ve seen and to imprint their memory.

ASF: Along the same vein, you recently wrote a blog post about selectively buying certain books on your Kindle versus in print, and vice versa. Do you think there are certain books, like I Have Blinded Myself Writing This, which need to be read in print form to be fully appreciated?

Jess: I love my Kindle, like I want to french kiss it. I mean, I no longer have to stop reading while I’m changing a tampon.  But I also hoard book-books. I don’t love the books less that I’ve only read on the Kindle. The difference is, as I read book-books, I write all over them; I’m marginalia obsessed. I want to remember what it was like the first time I read them. So when I go back to them, I can see who I was when I read them. My earnest hope is that readers of my book rip the pages; and if they go back to the book afterwards, they can’t read the book the same way again. That’s what’s meant to happen. That’s what happens when memories are lost.

I feel sad in some ways that this book can’t be for the Kindle—the potential energy, knowing you’re instructed to rip pages, couldn’t exist in the e-version. A version of that might be if the book was an editable PDF; like you could delete that page. I would love that. But the problem with that is, where’s the record? But that’s as close as it gets to losing your memory, I suppose.

ASF: What kind of reception have you received at your readings/elsewhere for your work, what have been the most surprising and exciting moments of your book tour so far?

Jess: My favorite reaction so far has been when I ask people to rip pages in the book. I find their hesitancy beautiful and wondrous and it breaks my heart and uplifts it simultaneously as they do what I ask them, publicly, to do: destroy the book.

 Justin, on his favorite book tour moments, reading without his collaborator, and if Texans see Falcons on the Floor differently than Marylanders:

ASF: Falcons on the Floor was a collaborative effort with Iraqi refugee Haneen Alshujairy. Since she is unable to participate directly in the experience of readings and promoting the novel, in what ways do you try to include her presence or show her contribution at your readings?

Justin: Haneen really can’t participate in the readings, but we do have a page named “ask Haneen” where we’ve asked writers to ask her a question of their own. Authors from Michael Kimball to Lily Hoang to Paula Bomer have participated. We’re going to run the Q&A throughout the month of April and into May.

ASF: Do you feel as if the questions and reactions your novel has inspired have been different based on where you are in the country—for example, Texas versus Maryland?

Justin: Not really. Falcons on the Floor doesn’t take sides, or at least, in writing the novel, I tried my hardest not to pass judgment on the conflict. I do expect to get some negative reactions sooner or later; Khalil, one of the two main characters, helps members of the uprising bury IEDs. Although he is just doing this for the money, it is a profoundly criminal act in the eyes of the Coalition. I can imagine someone might be offended by that. Understandably so.

ASF: What kind of reception have you received at your readings/elsewhere for your work, what have been the most surprising and exciting moments of your book tour so far?

Justin: The tour has been great, really. One of the best things about the indie lit world is you can travel to pretty much any major city and have a network of support. So I guess I’ve been surprised by the generosity of everyone—how much they are willing to help with setting up readings and places for me to sleep. Oh, there was this Pez factory and museum that my pal and I stumbled upon driving back from Northampton. That was a great surprise.

Springtime means wildflowers, hilarious punctuation and a honey badger

29 Mar

Get up and get out, y’all! As always, there’s plenty going on the next few weeks in the Austin lit scene.  We put together a quick round up of all the literary beauty, prose, hilarity and hip happenings coming up that you don’t wanna miss.

Hear excerpts and pick up a copy of the book NPR called “one of the bravest, most memorable novels in years” from the renowned novelist, playwright and frequent Michener Center visiting professor himself, Anthony Giardina, at his reading on Thursday, March 29th at 7 PM at BookPeople.

No better way to indulge yourself in spring goodness than with poetry and wildflowers; bask in the lovely words of the Michener Center’s visiting poets  Brigit Pegeen Kelly and Gabrielle Calvocoressi for a reading on the beautiful grounds of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in South Austin on Thursday, April 12th at 7:30 PM.

Then head East to the ND@501 Studios for some sentence-level shenanigans, where local writers will be hilariously dishing on their favorite marks starting promptly at 8:13 PM for the April 12th Encyclopedia Show Austin dedicated to PUNCTUATION!

Speaking of laughs, you know Randall, narrator of the famous YouTube “Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger” video? Bet ya didn’t know that that sweet, sweet voice is also a published author! Yup, that’s right.  Randall will be at BookPeople on April 11th at 7 PM for a reading and signing from his book Honey Badger Don’t Care: Randall’s Guide to Crazy, Nastyass Animals.

And if Randall’s success inspires you to pick up your pen and hone your own craft, then check out Write By Night’s monthly “Craft Consortium”; this month the focus is “Don DeLillo and perspectives on novel writing” and the first of two meet-ups is April 11th at 6:30 at Rio Rita.  Make sure to sign up online.

Whiskey, fiction, poetry, and literary goodness at Delilah’s tonight

2 Mar

Y’all, we’re in Chicago for AWP. Tonight we’re getting together with our friends from New England Review to host a happy hour reading at Delilah’s in Lincoln Park. Join us?

We’re thrilled to present fictionauts Eugene Cross, Jamie Quatro, and Laura van den Berg. Some facts (just knowing these will enhance your evening): Eugene’s first book of stories, Fires of Our Choosing, is hot off the press. Jamie Quatro won our Short Story Contest last year. And Laura van den Berg’s work has just been anthologized in the very cool Monsters: A Collection of Literary Sightings.

NER brings the poets. This will be good.


29 Feb

American Short Fiction is driving our herd up to the big city of Chicago for the writing conference AWP.

Starting today, Wednesday, February 29, through Saturday, March 3, we’ll be sharing a table in the book fair (E6, in the Southwest Hall of the Chicago Hilton) with fellow Austinites Bat City Review—so come by and see us! We will have the new issue for sale, the details on a new cool Chicago-based class, and various enticing freebies (let’s just say that you can finally let your fiction flag fly).

Oh, also—we’d love to chat with you. Bring us gossip and cookies, please. Or bourbon is also perfectly acceptable.

p.s. Coming to Chicago? Consider joining us at this on Friday.


Spring Issue Launch Tomorrow!

24 Feb

We couldn’t be more excited about our new issue, and we’re celebrating its beauty tomorrow night at the Highball. CultureMap and the Statesman think you should be there, and we do, too.

Featuring poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi, actor and writer Elena Pasarello, and writer Neal Pollack! Featuring local band Hello Caller!

RSVP on Facebook to let us know that we’ll see you there!

Join Us for Lit Crawl Tomorrow!

21 Oct

Y’all. It’s finally here. The Austin Lit Crawl. Everything kicks off tomorrow, Saturday, October 22, at 8 pm.

The Austin Lit Crawl is a new collaboration among literary magazine American Short Fiction, the Texas Book Festival, and the Austin’s East Side. Inspired by the San Francisco literary festival Litquake’s long-running Lit Crawl (and produced with Litquake’s participation), our Lit Crawl will feature some of America’s most groundbreaking and beloved writers (along with equally beloved local literati) onstage and in conversation. The Crawl will host 11 events over the course of the evening.

Catch Susan Orlean screening clips of canine hero Rin Tin Tin. Brace yourself for a heady cocktail at Cheer Up Charlie’s–and take in performances from Erin Morgenstern, Hillary Jordan, and Mat Johnson. Match wits with Lev Grossman and Chad Harbach at Shangri-La. Converge with twenty YA authors in a cemetery.* Watch Ernie Cline bust some stereotypes wide open–probably while geeking out. There’s a lot more–including Chuck KlostermanChuck PalahniukSharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and Meg Wolitzer. Perhaps you’d like to look at our comprehensive schedule** or our very pretty map and start plotting your Crawl strategy?

Put on your Crawling shoes.

*You’ll need to BYOF. Bring your own flashlight.

** We’ve had to move Adam Mansbach’s Lit Crawl event from the Scoot Inn to Public School (1021 E. 7th St.). It’ll take place from 9 to 9:45 pm. His event, like other Lit Crawl events, is free. Donald Ray Pollock will still be opening for Chuck Palahniuk the Scoot Inn (1308 E. 4th St.)–but they’re now appearing from 9 to 9:45 pm instead of 8 to 8:45 pm.

Help Send ASF to SXSW

16 Aug

Hey, there. We’re looking to make the journey down to the Austin Convention Center this coming March for the orgy of ideas (and product promotion) that is SXSW Interactive. It’s not too far of a journey, in terms of mileage: 3.9 miles from the ASF offices. But we still need your help to get there!

You see, we’ve put together a panel on fiction  (and why it  matters), and we’re hoping that folks will like our panel via the SXSW PanelPicker. Basically, the panel idea is: we’ll bring in some fresh, just-caught fiction,  and highlight the incredible moves the writers are making. . . and then get into how you can make some pretty killer moves yourself. It’s about stealing the strategies of great fiction writers. Or adapting them, if you prefer.

If we get enough love through the PanelPicker, SXSW staff may be more inclined to include our panel in SXSW programming. Would you please like our panel proposal? Just click the thumbs-up button, please. Thanks. We’ll save you a seat on the karaoke bus.

Weekend Goodness

13 Apr

Hey, there. We’re pretty excited about this weekend. So many great things:

1. George Saunders reads at the Katherine Anne Porter House in Kyle on Friday night.
2. In Austin, also on April 15, the Harry Ransom Center hosts a Pale King reading with an excellent mix of local and visiting writers. (I’m itching to get my hands on a copy of this novel, but I’m waiting to buy my copy on Tax Day.)
3. On Saturday, American Short Fiction and the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation cosponsor a reading with innovators Kevin Brockmeier and Amelia Gray at this beautiful library. This is part of a series of events called the New Fiction Confab. Hooray! (Coming? Let us know here.)

Win a Pair of Tickets to “Wild at Heart” at the Ransom Center

28 Jan

Will you be in Austin on February 4? If so, we’ve got a great evening all planned out for you.

We’re giving away a pair of tickets to “Wild at Heart,” the opening reception for two exhibitions at the Harry Ransom Center—Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century and Becoming Tennessee Williams.

ASF has partnered with the Ransom Center several times in the past year, and we’re super excited about these new exhibitions. Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century commemorates the Ransom Center’s tireless hunt for archives that will capture the imagination and invigorate scholarly research. The exhibition includes work from the archives of David Mamet, David Foster Wallace, and Don DeLillo, just to name a few.

“Wild at Heart” takes place on Friday, February 4, from 6 to 8 p.m. Guests will enjoy a first glimpse at the exhibitions, light hors d’oeuvres, a New Orleans-inspired cocktail created by Balcones Distilling, and more. Details here.

Comment on this post with your name and email address to be entered to win the pair! Oh, and once again—remember the event’s in Austin.