The Blue Girl

Like writing, collaging is about making choices. Recently, I was working on a very simple collage involving a young girl in a blue bonnet placed over a peaceful lake and as I looked for other pieces to add, I found myself faced with multiple choices. This is one of the thrills of making collages–the infinite possibilities. I took some photos of the various stages and ideas. Here’s how it went…


First, here’s our star: The Blue Girl, as I call her. I decided to flip the lake over behind her, giving it an otherworldly sort of vibe.


Now, when I say I call her The Blue Girl, I don’t want you to think I was sitting there, moving paper pieces around and muttering in a weird voice, “Well, Blue Girl, let’s see what you look like with this building on your head.”

Well, okay. If you think it’s funny, go ahead.


“Okay, Blue Girl, don’t be alarmed, but I’m going to put a ginormous camera with a flash bulb behind you. What’s a flash bulb, you ask? It’s like a very slow strobe light.”


One of the coolest things that sometimes happens in collaging is when you get something that works like a weird optical illusion. One of my main collage heroes, John Stezaker, has mad skills when it comes to this. This Mars Bar, like Blue Girl, comes from an advertisement out of a 1950s-era Life Magazine (or it may be Saturday Evening Post, I can’t remember). Placed at just the right angle, the nuts in the candy become her eyes. Mmmmm, eyes.


Okay, so this is weird. But I like weird.

“Blue Girl, this is Butterfinger Ghost Boy. He wants to float around behind your head. I don’t know why his eye-holes are so big.”


I like how Tuxedo Dude can so easily just lean on her shoulder like that. But, I don’t know. They don’t really look like a good pairing. Moving her over to the right kind of screws up the balance of the whole thing too.


Emerging like a leaping shark behind her is this sweaty boxer guy. His aggressive vibe is kind of a fun juxtaposition (sorry to throw in these advanced art terms). I ended up using him for another collage just a few days later. He was too good to languish in the scrap pile.


“Blue Girl! Paparazzi alert! Don’t turn around! And watch out for his pointy elbow!”

I’m a sucker for hands coming into the frame. I mean, that shit looks crazy cool, doesn’t it? And it’s going to squeeze some toothpaste into the sky/lake. Is this some kind of political statement about fluoride in the water?! “Watch out, Blue Girl! Keep those lips sealed!”



Oh, look how charming that phone is. It matches Blue Girl so well, not to mention the lake/sky. And there seems to be a small flower arrangement attached to the phone, because pretty. I also like the idea that this girl could be thinking of a phone, as in daydreaming about calling some far away friend or flame.



And finally, the official scan (sorry about the non-pro camera phone quality of the previous images)! The newspaper words are fairly minimal and poetic. I like to imagine what Blue Girl would sound like singing by this lake/sky/forest. Yodel-y maybe? Perhaps Enya-ish? Singing is just levitating breathing, right? I think this end result makes the best sense (or nonsense, which is often better). Also–paper cutter! Such nice straight lines.

“Blue Girl, welcome to the Internet. I’ve grown quite fond of you.”

Uh Oh NaPoWriMo!

This month is all about poems. The foxy folks at Bloof Books are letting me join in their fun for National Poetry Writing Month, which I guess is in tribute to National Poetry Month and also a nod to National Novel Writing Month. So, go check it out every day. I’m going to write (or at least rough draft) a new poem every day. (NOTE TO SELF: NOW THAT I’VE SAID IT, I HAVE TO DO IT!)

I’m also going to listen to Future Islands a lot probably. This performance on Letterman has turned me into a rabid fan.

Smatterings That Turn to Spring

It’s been a super-fun month so far. First, AWP was a blast. I got to see a bunch of great friends and share a table with Adam Robinson, Mike Young, Bryan Coffelt, and Gabe Durham. I did a panel, a few readings, and even got to meet one of my next Future Tense authors for the first time: The fantastic May-Lan Tan, who came all the way over from the UK.

May-Lan and I work the "Magic Mammoth Future Genius" table.

May-Lan and I work the “Magic Mammoth Future Genius” table.

Richard Chiem, Adam Robinson, and Matthew Simmons

Richard Chiem, Adam Robinson, and Matthew Simmons

I also got to see another upcoming Future Tense writer, Chelsea Hodson!

That's not my hand. That's not my basketball.

That’s not my hand. That’s not my basketball.

After AWP weekend, I got to indulge in my collage-mania some more. I interviewed Seattle collage artist Jesse Treece for Nailed Magazine.

And then I got to meet the fantastic Cory Peeke at his Gallery 6 show in Portland. I also bought my first copy (of many) of Kolaj Magazine.

Holy shit, it's Cory Peeke!

Holy shit, it’s me with Cory Peeke!

I also had a couple of collages published on The NewerYork website, which is super cool. I have more collage work appearing elsewhere soonish but I have to be hush hush about it.

What else?

I was part of this cool story on Flavorwire about how to deal with bad reviews.

I was part of this cool book club for the Johns Hopkins University literary journal, Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review.

I’ve been doing a lot of work on the next three Future Tense releases: Scout Book chapbooks from the aforementioned May-Lan and Chelsea, as well as Jay Ponteri, who just won an Oregon Book Award for his last book, Wedlocked. These three books are so good. I can’t wait to show you.

I was also on a cool podcast talking about This Is Between Us, but it’s not up yet, so until next time… Happy first day of Spring!

My AWP Schedule

I’m posting this as much for my own memory’s benefit as I am for anyone who wants to see me at the AWP Conference next weekend in Seattle. Here’s what I’m up to and where I will be. I’m so excited to see everyone!


* denotes off-site events

The rest of it happens at the Washington State Convention Center & Sheraton Hotel (which is across the street from the Convention Center and where the panels will be)

*Thursday night, February 27th, 9pm: Reading with others for Similar Peaks. Vermillion (1508 11th Ave.) with Rauan Klassnik, Donald Dunbar, Kate Durbin, Leah Umansky, and others.

Friday, 12 noon: Panel on publishing with small presses and bigger presses, with Amelia Gray, Peter Mountford, Tara Ison, and Matt Bell. Willow Room @ The Sheraton

Friday, 1:30: Book signing at the Tin House table. Booth 1704

Friday, 4:00: Booth signing for Third Place Books. Booth 830

*Friday, 6-8pm: Performing in Newer York Literary Carnival. Caffe Umbria, (320 Occidental Ave. South) (Note to self: go to this immediately after)

*Friday, 10pm: Ink Node reading at Left Bank Books at Pike Place Market. With Mathias Svalina, Dena Rash Guzman, and others. (also, Friday night is The Literature Party–dancing!–co-sponsored by Future Tense Books)


Saturday, March 1st, 1:00: Booth signing for The Independent Publishing Resource Center. Booth G7

*Saturday, March 1st, 5pm-6:30pm: Co-hosting this Six Press Reading, which features Future Tense author May-Lan Tan. Rendezvous Jewelbox Theater (2322 2nd Avenue)

*Saturday, March 1st, 10pm: Co-hosting the Sweet Fanny AWP wrap-up reading, which features Future Tense author Chelsea Hodson. Georgetown Liquor Company (5501 Airport Way South)

Future Future Tense author Chelsea Hodson

Future Future Tense author Chelsea Hodson

When I’m not doing all this other stuff, I will be at the Future Tense/Magic Helicopter/Publishing Genius/Mammoth Editions booth, which is #Q24, by the North Hall. We’ll be right between Night Train and Factory Hollow Press. Also pretty close to The Austin Review and Sunnyoutside.


See you there!

The Last Two Nights

Some fantastic times were had the past two evenings.

On Tuesday night, I read at The Soft Show, a great reading series here in Portland where a trio of illustrators draw cartoons to go with your story. I read with fellow writers Martha Grover, Jason Squamata, Alissa Nielsen, and Justin Hocking. Here’s the panel of illustrations (by Pete Soloway, Emily Randazzo, and Becky Hawking) for my story…


The story I read was an unpublished story called “The Baby and The Apple Bell”–it’s narrated by an 18-month-old baby. Here’s a few lines from it…

My mom told me about volcanoes once because that’s my middle name. Tony Volcano Martinez. My mom’s name is Jennie or Baby or Mom. Not all of them at once though. You just pick one and say it. I am always confused when people call my mom “Baby.” I’m the baby. Not her. We don’t look anything alike. I say the word baby and she adds it to my list of words. B-A-B-Y.

Then last night, I was on the YouTube show The Casserole, with one of my favorite poets and dearest friends, Emily Kendal Frey. It was a fun show, hosted by Chelsea Kurnick, who runs the show via the Interwebs at her place in Seattle. You can watch it here…

Also, a couple of fun things popped up this week:

This crazy interview for Propeller Magazine.

This interesting essay on the subject of marriage and how it’s portrayed in This Is Between Us.

And oh, you may have noticed I added a tab on top for COLLAGE. Because I’m going to be doing a lot of it this year. Believe dat!

So Many of ME

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately and how I wish there was more of it. Or maybe what’s more likely (with the advancements of science) is that there would be more MEs.


One of me would sit around and read all day (because I have so much to read and I love it all)

One of me would make collages all day (because seriously, collage is my life–in the same way that I thought at eighteen: Dancing is my life!)

One of me would write poems all day (because I have a secret dream of publishing a book of poems someday)

One of me would work on my next novel (because I know that shit’s gonna be good but I can barely get started right now because I’m obsessed with collaging)

One of me would run errands (because Future Tense books need to be mailed, groceries needs bought, oil needs to be changed, magazines for collaging need to be bought)


One of me would have a day of fun with my wife (because there are breakfast places to go to, movies to see, parks to walk through, and couches to snuggle on)

One of me would hang out with my son and do something fun (because I don’t see him much since he moved out and started college and he’s kind of in that phase where he acts like he’s the busy one and doesn’t have time for me!)

One of me would actually spend quality time with friends (because most of the time I just see friends on my lunch break at work and then spent the rest of my “free time” collaging*)

One of me would sit around and relax/recharge and catch up on music (because if there’s anything more overwhelming than all the cool books, movies, and LIFE there is out there, you also have to deal with so much cool music being made every damn week!)

And maybe like three or four more of me would go to all the various literary events that happen on those clusterfuck Portland nights where there is so much to see and do!

*I know there is a lot of references to collaging in this post. I am sorry, but it is my THING right now. I’ve even been sending fan messages to other collagists I’ve discovered. A few of my own collages are going to be appearing soon in some cool places and I’m interviewing one of my favorite collage artists soon too. I also want to take a class on it. And maybe even teach one later this year. Anyone know of any such thing? Here are two of the first ones I’ve done…



Giant stack of words (and a few images) that I use for my collages.

Giant stack of words (and a few images) that I use for my collages.

Also–hey, I have a couple of readings coming up. One on Tuesday at the Soft Show at the Blue Monk in Portland (reading a new short story), and one on Feb 15th at Crush for the Burnt Tongue series (probably stuff from This Is Between Us). Not to mention a special Internet YouTube show you can watch live called The Casserole on Wednesday the 5th at 6:30 Pacific Time. I’ll be on the show (hosted by Chelsea Kurnick) with one of my best poet pals, Emily Kendal Frey. Chelsea said she wanted to pair me with a poet on her show because of how much I gabbed about poetry being an influence on This Is Between Us at my Seattle reading in December. I cannot wait to do this–and you can even send in questions to us during the show.

Thanks, everyone, for your continued enthusiasm about my book and my adventures in words! XO

Shelf Talker Shelf Talker Shelf Talker…

What the heck is a Shelf Talker you ask?

It’s one of those pieces of cardstock paper you see on a bookstore’s shelf that tells you when an employee really loves a book and wants to draw attention to it. I think the best bookstores are the ones full of passionate readers always willing to share their literary discoveries while also cultivating a sense of community. You can learn a lot about a bookstore’s collective personality by scanning what they choose to give shelf talkers to. I have been to a couple of bookstores where there are NO shelf talkers at all and it always jars me a little, like the store is saying: “You’re on your own here. We are not excited about anything and we have no opinions.”

Oof. What a downer.

Bookstores: Show us your shelf talkers!!

Last year, at work, we introduced a whole line of new shelf talker designs to freshen up the look of the store. That’s cool and everything, but (like a bibliophile hoarder) I am a little sad about throwing away some of my old stand-bys. I love making shelf talkers for my small press section. I think it has really helped a lot of readers discover new talent through the past fourteen years I’ve been in charge of it.

So before I tossed them in the recycling, I took photos of some of my favorites and decided I’d post them here (about 140 more are not pictured). That way, they live FOREVER! Enjoy this journey–and read these books!

(click on the pic to make it bigger)


For Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City (Dark Sky Press)


The first shelf talker I wrote for Gary Lutz, when 3rd Bed republished Stories In the Worst Way.

The first shelf talker I wrote for Gary Lutz, when 3rd Bed republished Stories In the Worst Way.

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Another book that we've sold a ton of at Powell's.

Another book that we’ve sold a ton of at Powell’s.


Zachary Lipez, Stacey Wakefield, and Nick Zinner did a great reading for this book at Powell’s back in 2010.

I was so excited to introduce Chelsea Martin's magic to the world.

I was so excited to introduce Chelsea Martin’s magic to the world.

I think this was for Greg's first book, I Have Touched You.

I think this was for Greg’s first book, I Have Touched You.


For CA Conrad

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I love Spork Books!

I love Spork Books!

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Proof of my early love of all things Iredell.

Proof of my early love of all things Iredell.


My favorite literary journal.


We've sold so many copies of Ghost Machine. One of my all-time faves.

We’ve sold so many copies of Ghost Machine. One of my all-time faves.

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Still pretty obscure, SJB was one of my first writing influences.

Still pretty obscure, SJB was one of my first writing influences.

I still think this is kind of a minimalist classic.

I still think this is kind of a minimalist classic. By Paul Fattarusso.


Like how I burned the edges?

Like how I burned the edges?

The first shelf talker for Chloe's classic.

The first shelf talker for Chloe’s classic.

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