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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.

Fall! Issue! Launch! Exclamation Point!

4 Nov

It’s fall, people. Seriously. We haven’t seen the temperature hit 80 in almost five straight days! You know what that means. We’re launching the fall issue, high into the air!

Come revel in jackets, leaves, books, beer, and important voices with us next weekend. American Short Fiction celebrates the release of our fall issue on November 13, 2010, at 7 pm at Domy Books. We’re rocking the right side of I-35 in conjunction with East Austin Studio Tour. The event will feature the first (ever!) reading by musician and author Bill Callahan from his novel Letters to Emma Bowlcut.

Other readers include Timothy Willis Sanders, author and Eastsider extraordinaire, reading from his forthcoming collection Orange Juice and Other Stories, and Austinites Mary Miller and Dalia Azim, who will read from their work in the new issue of the magazine.

Matt Hines of the Eastern Sea will open the event; the music of Bugskull will send us out into the night. Domy’s Monster Show Five, featuring more artists than we previously thought possible, is up in the gallery. Naturally, we’ll have a keg o’ free beer.

The event is free and open to you and all your friends. Domy will be selling ASF, books by our readers, and the rest of their beautiful stock all evening.

More details coming soon in the E.A.S.T. catalog and on Domy’s website.

Don’t miss this one, folks. Head over to Facebook and let us know you’re coming.

Pencil It In

13 Oct

Get out your pencils (or iPhones, or whatever you kids are using these days), because there’s a mess of exciting lit events on the horizon, starting with the Texas Book Festival coming up this weekend.

At the festival, be sure to catch ASF’s own Jill Meyers moderating a panel (“The Short and the Sublime”) on the craft of the short story. She’ll be joined by Doug Dorst, David Means, and Andrew Porter who’ll answer questions and read from their brilliant new collections. That’s on Sunday, October 17, at 2:30 pm in the Capitol Extension Room E2.016. Check out our Facebook invite for more info.

Also! Teleportal 2.1, a spectacular spectacular of literary awesomeness, is on Saturday night. Featuring Jennifer Egan, Maira Kalman, Doug Dorst, and more—you don’t want to miss this one.
 It’s at 8 pm, Saturday, October 16, at The ND at 501 Studios.

If that’s not enough for you, you may also want to make the drive down to San Marcos in the coming weeks, with Annie Proulx reading at the Katherine Anne Porter House on October 22. Check out the Texas State website for more info.

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We’ll continue to post upcoming literary events every other Monday on the blog. If you have an event you’d like us to include, email us at marian [at] americanshortfiction.org.

New Issue and New Issue Launch!

3 Aug

Buried treasure. Tar and feathering. Small yellow oblong stones that emit light and visions. Fiery revivals. The violent face-off of a father and his daughter’s suitor. . .  and all of that in our first story. You could say our Summer 2010 issue is action-packed.

As is American Short Fiction’s Indian Summer Party, coming soon to the Mohawk. Come party with us—your faithful local literary magazine.

Danny Malone, local folk rocker and SXSW favorite, will play a set to kick off the evening. Tomás Morin will dazzle you with his nationally renowned poetic verse (check out his recent interview with KUT here). Austin actors Elizabeth Bigger and Chris Gibson will knock the August lethargy right out of you with readings from the new issue. You’ll have drinks. (Hello, happy hour specials!) You’ll pose for photos. You’ll experience the most creative Thursday night this summer. And you’ll support emerging authors and artists. Why wouldn’t you be there?

American Short Fiction’s Indian Summer Party launches off the ground on the inside stage at the Mohawk at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 12. That’s 912 Red River.

You’re coming, aren’t you? Please let us know you’re in via our Facebook invite.

And you can pre-order your copy here.

Introducing the ASF Podcast!

5 May

We’re thrilled to announce that, starting today, American Short Fiction will be offering podcasts. Every other week, we’ll be chatting with contributors and digging into their stories.

Here’s our first one. It features an interview with Marie-Helene Bertino and an excerpt of her hilarious and moving “Carry Me Home, Sisters of Saint Joseph,” which is in our Spring 2010 issue.

You can subscribe to our podcasts via iTunes for free. (Visit the iTunes store and search for American Short Fiction. We’ll come up under the heading Podcasts. Or just follow this link.) We’ll be bringing new stories and insights from writers every other week. Upcoming episodes will feature Jeff Parker, Matt Bell, and Laura van den Berg.

April 26-May 2: PEN-apalooza Takes over NYC

21 Apr

Here’s the least of it: If you’re looking for a wild literary ride, get to New York City’s West Village on May 1 for the PEN Cabaret.

Natalie Merchant will perform from her new album, Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch), which features interpretations of classic poetry from Ogden Nash, Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, and others. Stick around and meet Booker Prize-winning novelist Ben Okri, and Georgian novelist, poet, and performance artist Irakli Kakabadze. Later, get spooked by cyber ghost story writer Ariel Dorfman. Special global guests will be announced. The entire event will be emceed by editor, author, and jazz singer Rakesh Satyal.

Got more time and energy to spare? Stay for the week-long party leading up to the Cabaret, when PEN World Voices, a festival of international literature, takes over NYC.

From April 26 to May 2, PEN plans for a stellar lineup of emerging and established authors to take to stage and panel  across New York City (and several satellite locations from San Francisco to Washington D.C. to Portland) for their Sixth Annual World Voices Festival.

Check out more participants after the jump.

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This Weekend! New Fiction Confab!

16 Apr

Doug Dorst, Nell Freudenberger, ZZ Packer, Angela Pneuman, Wells Tower. In a panel discussion that includes American Short Fiction’s own Jill Meyers.

The Austin Public Library Friends Foundation presents the New Fiction Confab, featuring some of America’s most prominent emerging writers. On the agenda for this Saturday, April 17: a 3:45 pm panel discussion as mentioned above, moderated by Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein. Arrive at 1 pm for a series of short readings and Q&A with the writers.

This confab is free and open to the public. It happens at Faulk Central Library (800 Guadalupe Street). Need more info? Grab it here.

Also on this day from 10 to 11:15am at libraries throughout Austin: fiction workshops for elementary, junior high, and high school students led by Nell Freudenberger, Angela Pneuman, and Wells Tower. Check it.

About the authors… (more…)

Elizabeth Crane on Awesome! Greatness!

3 Feb

The Awesome! and Great! Reading Show!If you’re in Austin tonight, get thee to Momo’s Club (618 W. 6th Street) at 7 pm sharp for the awesome! greatness! of Elizabeth Crane’s second go-round of the Awesome and Great Reading Show!

On the stage: Amanda Eyre Ward, Southpaw Jones, and ASF author Owen Egerton.

Crane breaks all the awesome! greatness! down for us: “Each month will feature three writers and one songwriter. Each writer will create a new work inspired by a song I choose for them. Each songwriter will create a new song inspired by a story I choose for them”

The first event in January included Amelia Gray, Jill Alexander Essbaum, and Tod Goldberg, with musical guest Kacy Crowley. Amelia, Jill, and Tod covered songs by the New Pornographers, Kiss, and Beyonce, while Kacy shared a song based off Grace Paley’s “Wants.” Sounds awesome and great, right?

Find out for yourself tonight at 7 pm sharp.

Tonight: Five Things Show at USAA

29 Jan

Amelia Gray and Stacy Muszynski are the cohosts of Austin’s Five Things. The Austin Chronicle describes the series as “a scrappy, freewheeling multimedia show.” Amelia and Stacy put it this way: “Five Things inspires five brave (or is that brazen?) and talented artist-people to concoct a new and intriguing five-minute piece (from prose to poem to performance, or a tantalizing mixture to each’s taste) using humor and a central theme.”

Today, Five Things will host the winners of its first writing contest in a show that includes music by Cartographers, Morris Orchids, and the Baker Family Band. The show begins at 7:30 pm at the U.S. Art Authority (510 West 29th Street). With music before the show by Bethany Bauman. Admission is $1.

ASF asked five questions of Five Things.

1. How (and when) did you get started? What inspired Five Things?

AG: Zach Dodson and Jonathan Messenger, my publishers at Featherproof Books, each have great shows in Chicago–The Show ‘n Tell Show and The Dollar Store, respectively. The Dollar Store show in particular grabbed my attention. The idea of getting writers to create something new and interesting to fit a theme made sense to me as a writer. The most interesting readings happen when the work is fresh. Also I had only been in Austin a year and I wanted to know more local writers.

SM: I got involved as soon as [Amelia’s] initial query for writers came through the email for that first show. I emailed back so fast.That first show happened in September 2008. Beyond the nerves and excitement it was true love for me. I was honored to be the inaugural performer. As soon as I got off “stage” (it was a slab of concrete parking lot in front of do512 offices, I told Amelia I was in it for the long haul if she was up for it. It’s been magic ever since.

2. Tell us about the concept of Five Things. How do you choose each show’s theme?

SM: Each show’s theme is a magical thing. There are potions and elixirs and thoughtful back-and-forth emails or middle-of-the night text messages when an idea strikes. Or, just discussion over dinner. There’s that, too. Good ol’ fashioned carb-fueled talk.

AG: We go back and forth, ask friends, send each other huge lists. The goal is to think up the most interesting or provocative or rich or funny concept that can be split into five different ideas. The contest was Stacy’s idea.

3. Five Things was listed in the Austin Chronicle‘s Best of Austin 2009 issue. They described you as “Literary Salon 2.0.” In addition to Five Things being a critics’ pick, it’s also enormously popular. Why do you think your series has struck such a chord? What do you think draws people in and keeps them coming back?

AG: I’m still figuring this stuff out, but the key to running a good show is in responding to the audience mood. Reading hosts in other cities are sometimes surprised that I book so many bands, but music is too good to ignore in Austin. Another part comes from my personal taste, which leans towards flash fiction, funny stuff, weird stuff. People tend to go along with that here in Austin, and I’m lucky for that.

SM: Austin is surprising, talented, eclectic, literary, musical, fun-loving and serious when it’s time to be, and just enough “weird” to help us feel comfortable in our own skin. So’s Five Things. We’re a little microcosm of Austin. Plus, a fabulous night out on a Friday night for as little as a buck! Dang!

Seriously, though: That’s how Five Things takes its responsibility to showcase emerging Austin artists. Amelia and I know how it is to emerge. We write. It can very lonely out there. So we make Five Things a great, safe place where it’s not lonely. It’s all kinds of things, but it’s not lonely. We’re passionate about that.

4. Y’all just ran your first writing contest on the theme of “A New Year.” The winners will be reading tonight. What’s in store for the audience?

SM: For our New Year celebration we’ll witness life! On an illegal dumping ground, in a garden with gnomes, under Congress Avenue Bridge, when your father wants you to believe he’s dead, and via the teachings of “I of the Tiger” about Chinese New Year!

AG: I think Stacy summed it up pretty well! I can’t wait to meet the people that wrote these stories.

5. What’s next for Five Things?

SM: You’ll definitely find out on March 5!

After that, we hope to keep the magic alive and even bring in some folk who know all about “emerging artists”–as they were there once.

AG: I’d love to get a little grant so I don’t need to worry about incidental costs and paying my sound guy and website and whatnot. Maybe we could get an intern on that? Maybe we could get an intern. Regardless, we’re going to drive this truck into the sun. Our next show is January 29 and the one after that is March 5.

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If you’re interested in an internship with Five Things, get in touch with Amelia and Stacy at fivethingsaustin[at]gmail.com.

Beam Me Up, Scotty…to Austin’s Hotel San Jose, January 19

18 Jan

Monofonus Press has figured out teleportation.

Here’s how they did it:

Step 1: They became an Austin-based record label.

Step 2: They added multimedia organization that specializes in the physical and digital distribution of Austin music, literature, and visual art.

Result: IF Series (literary, musical, and visual artist collaborations of “curated” book-and-album packages kicked off by former ASF editorial assistant and singer/songwriter and writer Morgan Coy, and featuring ASF contributing editor Rebecca Bengal, among others).

Step 3: Run eight iterations of IF.

Step 4: Rest for just a sec.

Step 5: Do all the elegant math, physics, and PR (probably over drinks at Hotel San Jose) necessary to get “live” renowned authors and videos transmissions from this country’s coolest literary magazines and small presses, beamed to Austin’s own Hotel San Jose every month, until the end of time.

And so it was born: the Teleportal Reading Series.

The first Teleportal Reading happens on January 19, and features “curated” live appearances—by poet Jill Alexander-Essbaum, “a cross between Dorothy Parker and a lap dance”; ASF editorial advisory board member Dan Chaon, whose Await Your Reply tops the Ten of 2009 lists of the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Salon, among others; and Electric Literature, who will contribute videos from their Single Sentence Animation series.

As Monofonus Press says, It’s a multimedia reading series for those who love reading but hate readings.

Stay tuned for Teleportal Readings to expand to other cities. Example: The Rumpus will be screening Monofonus videos at its anniversary party in New York on January 21.

The U.S.S. Enterprise staffers wish they had it this good.