Category Archives: Uncategorized

I Be All Up in AWP

Friends! Oh, friends! Such fun times happening right now and in the near future. I’ll be at AWP in Los Angeles this week. What does that stand for? There are many different interpretations but I think it means Awesome Writer Party.

Here’s where I will be when I’m not at the Future Tense booth (table #106–come say hark!)…

Thursday morning Future Tense anniversary reading

Friday morning panel on getting your first book to print

Saturday night reading at The Redwood Bar

I have so many friends that live in L.A. It’s going to be beautiful to see Zoe Ruiz, Meredith Alling, Melissa Chadburn, Davy Rothbart, Ariel Maccarone, Myriam Gurba, Wendy C. Ortiz, Amelia Gray, Justin Maurer, Stephen Kurowski, Michelle Tea, and all the rest of you warm weather angels .

See y’all at the hotel pool!

Splash Up

Thank You

I’m extremely excited to be one of the recipients of the James Patterson Bookseller Holiday Bonuses for this year. I was one of 87 folks to get one (out of 2,848 nominations) and I realize how lucky I am to be recognized in the vast, impressive landscape of book lovers working at independent stores everywhere. I wanted to take a moment to talk about how important this job is to me.

I started at Powell’s in November of 1997. But just a few years before that, I was just a dude who never went to a real college, was barely interested in books as a kid, and probably thought Tennessee Williams was a baseball player. I had finally picked up the habit (the addiction!) of reading when I was 22 years old. I would choose books by the covers, their reputations in history (banned books were of particular interest), the stories of their troubled authors. I didn’t know many readers when I started reading. I didn’t know who to ask for recommendations.

It’s funny how your trajectory as a reader can be forever determined by one book or one author. I recall particular booksellers in Spokane, Seattle, Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Portland that put books into my hands that would alter my brain and my life. In Spokane, that book was The Abortion by Richard Brautigan. In Seattle, it was Jesse Bernstein’s Personal Effects and Dennis Cooper’s Closer. In Fort Smith, it was Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior. In Portland, it was Gordon Lish’s Dear Mr. Capote, Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School.

When I started at Powell’s, I would observe how other booksellers would help customers with such kindness and intelligence. Specifically, those customers who asked us, with all the trust in the world, “What book should I read next?” Throughout the years, these have been my favorite sort of customers, especially if they say things like, “I just got into southern fiction” or “I want something funny” or “I want to know more about Portland poets” or “I like heartbreaking Mennonite authors.” These kind of statements make my heart pitter-patter. For them I offer: Barry Hannah, William Gay…Jonathan Ames, Myriam Gurba…Emily Kendal Frey, James Gendron…Miriam Toews! And I could go on.

When you do something for eighteen years, you’ll probably get good at it. Especially if you watch and learn from those around you. Some of the best booksellers I’ve known starts with Vanessa Renwick, who as the mother of the legendary small press section, showed me the value of helping out tiny presses, the self-publishers, the scrappy zinesters, and the industrious literary weirdos of Portland and beyond. I’ve written elsewhere on Vanessa’s importance to where I am today. There’s also the late Marty Kruse (who also ran the small press section before me), and other fantastic ex-cohorts like Steffen Silvis, Meredith Schreiber, Elizabeth Miller, Aaron Gilbreath, Joseph Lappie, Jessica Patton, Nicolette Lind, and Liz Olufson. Currently, I work with bookselling superstars like Gin Enguehard, Jason Chan, Jacob Schraer, McKenzie Workman, Chris Faatz, Dianah Hughley, Liz Vogan, Linda Watson, Mark Savage, Chris Hagen, Tove Holmberg, Santi Elijah Holley, Ryan Hall, and so many others that could fill several blog posts.

Anyone who loves books and places books into readers’ hands is a person whose value is beyond measure. Our position–as recommenders, taste-makers, readers, sellers, book displayers, etc.–is important to culture. Heck, it’s important to the whole world! It’s maybe the most important thing I do in my life. When I meet people outside of work and they ask what I do, I don’t start off by saying I’m a writer or publisher or collage artist or whatever. I always start by saying, “I work at Powell’s.”

Here’s a photo of me with Carol Easter, another member of the Powell’s bookseller family, standing in front of the James Patterson books at the store. Mr. Patterson seems to know the importance of books, readers, and bookstores. His website shows not just his mammoth bibliography but also his inspiring array of community service. Thanks to everyone who voted for me for this award. Come in any time and I’ll help you find a book.


Eating Paste and Sniffing Glue

Hey. Happy Fall!

I have a new collage show up at Radio Room in Portland right now. It’s up until Nov 25th. Come hang out and say hi at my “Paste Eater” reception on Tuesday, Nov 3rd. I worked really hard just in the past couple of weeks on this show. I stayed up until 4am two nights in a row this past week to make sure I had lot of fresh, new pieces to show. Even Simba helped.


Gratuitous shot of Simba’s manx tail.


I suddenly have a few other collage things in the coming days as well. I’m teaching a collage workshop at this year’s Wordstock at the Portland Art Museum on Saturday, November 7th. And then there’s always the Open Collage Night at the IPRC (every 2nd Wednesday of the month)–so much fun!

"Shirley" from Paste Eater, at Radio Room, November 2015

“Shirley” from Paste Eater, at Radio Room, November 2015

In writing news, I’ve been taking a novel writing class the past several weeks (you can take it too!). Which means I’m back into a writing groove as well. I’m very excited about the book I’m working on and can’t wait to see how it all comes together. I’m only about 1/4 of the way through right now though, so it may be a while.

In the meantime, I have two poems in the new issue of Pouch Magazine! And I wrote a piece in the new Poets & Writers Magazine about Andrew Proctor at Literary Arts Inc.

Thanks for checking in, friends. Hope to see you soon! xo

A Fast ’15

Oh, wow. Is it really Fall now? Like practically Halloween! This year is going by really fast. Here’s some quick update action for you. Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for reading. Hope you’re having a great year.


Summer is a time when I try to be with friends as much as possible and enjoy the small window of sunny Portland weather. We just kicked off the season with a few hundred friends here in Portland at LitHop, which was a hot and memorable night of readings all over downtown.

Jeff Alessandrelli and I thank the crowd at the LitHop after-party at Dante's before Brownish Black takes the stage.

Jeff Alessandrelli and I thank the crowd at the LitHop after-party at Dante’s before Brownish Black takes the stage.

Jay sets up some music for his reading that closed the night at Ash Street Saloon and LitHop 2015.

Jay Ponteri sets up some My Bloody Valentine music for his reading that closed the night at Ash Street Saloon and LitHop 2015.

In other friend news, my pal Lidia Yuknavitch has a new book out this week. I had fun recording a snippet of the first chapter of it for this video, produced by Meg Tuite and Ken Robidoux for Connotation Press. Many other friends are also in the video: Paula Bomer, Margaret Malone, Amelia Gray, and many more.


Some of my favorite books this year are by friends and the newest one in my heart is Kevin Maloney’s Cult of Loretta. He’s reading with my other friends (and Future Tense authors) Chelsea Hodson (Pity the Animal) and Elissa Washuta (the new Instant Future eBook Starvation Mode) at Colonel Summers Park Saturday, July 11th at 7:30pm.

Elissa, Chelsea, and Kevin M

Elissa, Chelsea, and Kevin M

Other friends with new books you should get: Wendy C. Ortiz, Jamie Iredell, Lisa Cicarello, Myriam Gurba, Sean H. Doyle, Troy James Weaver, and Amy Fusselman.

And these stellar new essays by Zach Ellis and Zoe Ruiz.

In other friend news, Frayn and I adopted a new kitty. His name is Simba and he is quickly becoming an all-star cuddler and furry pal around here. Just look at this loving friend!

Photo by B Frayn Masters

Simba (aka Mr. Simms) Photo by B Frayn Masters

I hope everyone’s having a great summer so far. Stay cool, buddies.

May Flowers

It’s May already! This year is going by fast. Some great things are brewing. Look!

I am doing a workshop TOMORROW at Clackamas Community College at their very cool COMPOSE event. You can still sign up but you have to do it today.


Other collage news!

I have a Tumblr now. It’s specifically to highlight my collage life. Check it out and follow me. So far it’s been super fun!

Matador Ali TMBLR

The new Kolaj Magzine (#12) features a story I did about Portland collage artist Kurtiss Lofstrom. He’s one of my favorites.

And look–there’s even some poetry news!

My poem, Anti-Extinct, is featured in the first issue of Backwords, a new T-shirt press. You heard that right. Instead of being printed on a website or in a journal, they put their stuff on T-shirts. Really excited to be part of this new venture. Here’s a really nice thing they wrote about me. Also featured are poets Ocean Vuong (poem pictured) and Elaina Ellis.


Thanks for looking. Thanks for reading! xo


Good Old Fashioned Letters (Or: I Thought Reading Was Boring)

This past weekend, I was part of a panel discussion on zines at the downtown Portland library, which was super fun and informative (Fun facts: Nicole Georges’s first zines were about ska music and Chloe Eudaly’s idea for Reading Frenzy started outside of a Nation of Ulysses show she couldn’t afford to get into).

During the Q&A, people asked us about the future of zines, what our favorites were, and if podcasts were “the new zines.” But one of the questions that got a lot of us talking was about postal mail. As in, do people still just write personal letters any more? Of course, the answer is yes, though not as much as pre-Internet days. It made me think of The Rumpus Letters In The Mail, the awesome subscription idea brainstormed by Stephen Elliot three years ago. If you sign up you’ll get actual POSTAL mail from a different author every two weeks. I highly recommend it. You can even sign up for letters for your kids.


Anyway, last year I wrote a letter for subscribers and it was really fun and I thought I’d share it here. I even got a bunch of letters back (including one from a death row inmate).

So pretend you’re opening an envelope and pulling out this folded missive. Here’s the letter I wrote (I added some pics for this Internet version). Enjoy!


Rumpus Letter in the Mail (January 2014) 

Dear Reader,

I did not turn out the way I expected to. I mean, I probably grew up thinking I wanted to be a football player or a radio DJ or a cheesy pop star like Donnie Osmond. I don’t remember reading when I was a kid. I don’t remember being read to at all. I don’t remember learning how to read or write. But I do remember drawing fake football cards of my favorite players, complete with factoids about each one. I would steal football cards at the store and try to copy them.

But I was not an artist.

I think I wanted to be a reader. I wanted to absorb, if it were as easy as absorbing. But reading is not. I joined a book club thing out of the back of a magazine. I ordered fantasy books because I liked the covers—the strange creatures and mysterious landscapes. The bronze bodies rippled and set in heroic poses. This club was like those record clubs where you could order ten albums for a penny if you bought five more at regular price the next three years. I did that club too—I listened to the cassettes or eight-tracks or albums and I memorized every bad song. The books I set around the house, unopened. Maybe I showed them to friends, or possibly my older brothers read them. I’m not sure. I thought reading was boring. I’m embarrassed to say that now. I thought reading was fucking boring.

I remember seventh grade being the worst. What year was that? I guess that would be like 1980-81. Was that a good year for anyone? The thrill of the 1980 USA hockey team’s Cinderella story had worn off and people all around me seemed confused about the disco vs punk debate. I was probably listening to Fleetwood Mac or The Bay City Rollers. A Reagan-esque malaise had set in, though at first I kind of liked the president’s stern cowboy demeanor, his hostage-freeing power. My skin and hair seemed to be spouting grease and sweat and general grossness the whole year. Maybe I was afraid to take a shower.


I remember not wanting to shower after gym class even though we were supposed to. I didn’t want anyone looking at me or my penis, which I had become very intimate with around that time. I would sometimes get quick looks at other boys’ penises. Ugly snails, all of us. There was one fat kid who appeared to not have a penis. I felt mortified for him. No one would talk to him. I felt like I should be his friend, but I was afraid. (for some reason, whenever I write about this time period I have a feeling of déjà vu, like I’m about to remember something traumatic or important. I can’t put my finger on what it could be.)

It was the summer after that school year when I suddenly went through my one and only teen reading phase. I’m not sure what started it, but I read Brian’s Song in one day. I was in my parents’ bed for some reason and (spoiler alert!) I cried when Brian Piccolo died at the end.


After that, I read a couple of horror books that titillated me in some strange way. One of those books was called The Funhouse or something like that—it was set at a carnival. I recall a scene where a guy feels up a girl, maybe in a haunted house. I wonder if that was the first time I’d been “turned on” by words.

But despite reading books that inspired tears as well as boners (sorry, but teen slang probably works best right there), I didn’t really keep on with the reading bug. It wasn’t until a girlfriend of mine made fun of me (when I was twenty-one) for not reading books that I started reading—probably two months after breaking up with her. Still unsure if I felt like that was revenge or something. Like I’d see her out somewhere and say, “Hey, I’ve read ten books so far this summer. How many have you read?”

When I did start reading books (and therefore writing more seriously) I entered a sort of Phase Two of my life.

I taught myself a lot through books. I learned that we all build ourselves through them. I learned that they make me want to write. I never understood people who say they don’t read other books while they’re working on their own. I call bullshit on that. If you’re a writer who becomes so easily influenced by other writers’ books and worry about “starting to write like them” than you must not have found your own voice yet. You must not be confident in yourself.

I’m sorry. I don’t want to turn mean here. But it is kind of a cop-out. You must never stop reading.

So, I’d like to end this letter by asking YOU what book was the first to make you cry and what book first sent warm sexy waves through your blood.

Right now, as I write this, it is nearly Halloween (2013). In Portland, where I write and read and work (at Powell’s Books as luck would have it) it has become the gray season. This may last a few months. I’ll spend the season listening to music, watching football, doing some readings for my book (obligatory plug: This Is Between Us, Tin House Books), editing the next book on my press (another plug: Excavation: A Memoir by Wendy C. Ortiz, summer 2014, Future Tense Books), hanging out with my wife and going to her shows (she produces an awesome storytelling show called Back Fence PDX), reading, and eating a lot of fine food (In Portland, the foodie scene is as big as the book scene).

I didn’t become a football player or a pop star. I was a DJ for a while but that’s another story. What I became was a reader and a writer and that’s something that will last, something entirely satisfying. I’ve made my life what it is and it’s pretty great. I hope you’re as happy as I am. Thanks for reading.


Jason Katims Is My Spirit Animal

I was home alone on a Friday night a couple of years ago, clicking through TV stations, bored and skeptical about my viewing choices, when I happened upon something that seemed pretty intimate and serious. It was the show, Friday Night Lights, which I didn’t really know much about. The particular scene was one with Connie Britton, playing Tami Taylor, talking to her fifteen-year-old daughter, Julie, played by Aimee Teegarden. Perfectly capturing the awkward and tense sex-discussion vibe, Julie shrugged off her mom’s concern about losing her virginity. But Miss Taylor pressed on, and in one beautifully revealing voice-breaking moment, as she fears her daughter slipping away, she snaps, “Don’t you do that! Don’t you smirk at me right now. I am very upset. You’re not allowed to have sex. You’re fifteen years old.” It was one of the most startling and urgent pieces of acting I’ve ever seen. As a parent, this was a “holy shit” moment, or an instance that seemed too real to be on TV–a view of a parent trying to talk to their kid about real life. It was also the moment that made me go crush-crazy on Connie Britton, the perfect coach’s wife (and currently, the sexiest country music legend on ABC’s Nashville).

When my wife got home that night I made her watch that scene too. And then we binge-watched as much Friday Night Lights as possible.

It become one of our can’t-miss shows. Jason Katims was the producer and writer behind FNL and it became, even through ratings struggles and schedule shifts, one of the best, most realistic dramas on TV. Katims is a master at evoking the struggles and emotional lives of regular people and his Dillon, Texas was a place so full of life (shot Dogme 95-style, using natural light and real locations, sometimes accompanied by swelling ambient guitar), it exuded a small-town Americana vibe, and even though it was about a high school football team, the sport merely felt like a device to get into the characters’ emotional lives. It felt like a lot of the films I like. Kind of slow, quiet, reflective, but with a funny (sometimes laugh-out-loud) charm.

Aimee Teegarden and Connie Britton in Friday Night Lights

Aimee Teegarden and Connie Britton in Friday Night Lights

While doing FNL, Katims started up another show, also on NBC, an updated (semi-inspired by the movie) version of Parenthood. I also fell in love with this show because of the way it portrayed people speaking to each other in a way that showed their humanity, their need to be understood and loved by their family. In fact, the clincher for me–the special detail that made me want to watch every episode–was probably one of the scenes where a parent spoke to their child about something serious. Maybe it was a scene where the Braverman parents talked to their autistic son, Max, or maybe it was when Jasmine (played by Joy Bryant) introduces her ex-boyfriend Crosby (Dax Shepard) to the son he didn’t know he had (played by Tyree Brown). Or maybe it was one of the scenes where Sarah (Lauren Graham) tries (probably haltingly and with too much single parent guilt) to reason with her moody teens (the fantastic, adorable duo of Miles Heizer and Mae Whitman).

Joy Bryant, who plays Jasmine on Parenthood, with my wife, B. Frayn Masters, after appearing on her show, Back Fence PDX, in 2013.

Joy Bryant, who plays Jasmine on Parenthood, with my wife, B. Frayn Masters, after appearing on her show, Back Fence PDX, in 2013.

The thing about these two shows–the kind of surprisingly mature (un-patronizing) mood that they establish–is that their beauty is in how they portray people trying to communicate with people. In honest, sometimes clumsy, sometimes sad, sometimes accidentally poetic ways. Through six seasons, Parenthood has tackled cancer, PTSD, breaking up and getting back together, failed careers, stalled dreams, birth, death, and so much more. Katims somehow reaches such an emotional height with nearly every show, that my wife and I don’t even try to hide our tears any more. We know for sure there’ll be some crying tonight, when Parenthood‘s last episode ends, we’ll probably be soggy messes. We loved watching Parenthood‘s large cast of characters through the years as they did what we all do–tried to create a life to be happy in, with the people they care for. I also find it totally endearing how much the casts of Katims’s shows obviously love each other in real life. If you follow any of the actors on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll often see them post photos of them goofing around off-set or in the studio. And many of the actors who were on Friday Night Lights have also been on Parenthood. Two beautiful worlds collide.

Mae Whitman and her TV mom, Lauren Graham

Mae Whitman and her TV mom, Lauren Graham

If I ever wrote or produced a TV show, I would strive for a level as high as Jason Katims. I found it interesting to see on his IMDB page, that Katims also wrote some episodes of a much-older TV favorite of mine, My So-Called Life (1994). In some ways, Jason Katims feels like my spirit animal.

In fact, I even like his sometimes corny but very funny TV adaptation of Nick Hornby’s About a Boy.

If you haven’t seen Parenthood and you want to dive into a great drama-comedy (yes, it was often very funny as well), better go find this treasure as soon as you can, and you better get some tissue as well. There’s a lot of TV shows out there these days but I’m not sure when another one as real and as emotionally engulfing as Parenthood will come along again. This was a very special show and it will be missed.

Jason Katims and his Emmy

Jason Katims and his Emmy

Rookie Season

I never thought I’d give up writing for anything, but as 2014 winds down, I look back on all the stuff I did in the name of collage and I get the same excitable newcomer rush that I did when I started writing and publishing over twenty years ago. Like my first (often naive) forays into the world of making books, I have jumped head-first into this passionate exploration of a new form.


So, when I put up my first solo collage show at the Basil Hallward Gallery at Powell’s on New Year’s Day, it will be to celebrate the past twelve months of making over 100 collages, getting a few of them published, slowly putting together a Society 6 page, taking an on-line collage class, discovering (and befriending) as many collage artists as possible, launching a new collage column for The Rumpus, and co-hosting the lively new “Open Collage Nights” at the IPRC in Portland (every 2nd Wednesday of the month).


The show will be up for the whole month of January and it’s called “Rookie Season.” I have about forty pieces framed and ready to go on the walls. I’ve picked out pieces that will hopefully show some of the growth and changes I made through the year. It’s funny to look at collages I made last January and February and think, “Oh, those are my early works.”


First Thursday lands on January 1st this year, so come out and see my collages in person (I think they look much cooler that way as opposed to a flat jpeg). I may even have a surprise or two for you. Plus, you know–probably some snacks and cheese and stuff. I’ll be hanging out from 6:30pm til about 8:00. Hope to see you!


My Year End List of Books I Didn’t Get To

It happens every year. I want to read so many books and I uncontrollably start stacking towers of them all around my desk at work, my desk at home, and even in my Future Tense closet and on top of the washer and dryer. I NEED MORE BOOKSHELVES! Plus, more time to read! Also, a faster brain! Maybe I should read one of those speed reading books. Do people actually speed read books for enjoyment?

I confess that I’m kind of a slow reader, plus, you know, there’s been a lot of good TV this year (Hello, Nashville! Hi, Transparent. I’m going to miss you, Parenthood!). Also, there has been collaging (I ❤ you so much, collaging!!!). But I’ve still been able to read almost fifty books this year somehow (helps to read short books). However, it’s never enough. Here is my list of the top ten books I meant to read this year that I’ll definitely read in 2015.

The Free by Willy Vlautin

I have read every other Vlautin book and loved them all so much. But I somehow developed a slight disinterest in reading novels this year (in favor of poetry, memoir, and hybrid weirdness). But still: What is taking me so long to get to this one.

Revolution of Every Day by Cari Luna

Cari and I are label-mates (I think that’s what you call other writers on the same press as you, right?). She is an awesome friend and often smart and funny at the same time. Sometimes I avoid fiction that feels political or message-y but CL has assured me that her book is essentially about people–because she knows I’m a sucker for stories about people–especially underdogs! OK OK–I’m moving this up the list right away!


The Other Side by Lacy M. Johnson

Really enjoyed meeting Lacy this past summer and her reading at Powell’s was super powerful. I love the fragmented format of this memoir and it was edited by my awesome editor at Tin House, Masie Cochran.

What’s Important Is Feeling by Adam Wilson

Another guy I hosted at Powell’s who rocked the crowd with his funny, Sam Lipsyte-ish prose style. I’ve read about half of the book and need to slurp down the rest of this delicious brew.


If I Don’t Breathe How Do I Sleep by Joe Wenderoth

I worship Wenderoth’s classic, Letters to Wendy’s, but sometimes have a hard time getting into his poetry. Still, he’s such an enigma, I will always look at anything he writes.

Backup Singers by Sommer Browning

Another friend and someone I’ve even published, Sommer is someone who writes really funny, often surprising poems of wit and sass. Birds, LLC is one of my favorite poetry presses. I’m just going to read one poem really quick… oh, that was great.


The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Longtime Portland writer Denfeld has written some powerful nonfiction in the past and a couple of my Powell’s co-workers have raved incessantly about this book, so I better check it out…someday, damnit!

Who Can Make It by Mike Young

This is a freaking chapbook. Why don’t I have time to read thirty magical pages of freaky poem action from one of my favorite young writers? WHY!?


Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag by Sigrid Nunez

I’ve been wanting to read more about Sontag (I actually met her with Annie Leibovitz in 1999) and this book has a really interesting angle. Nunez was Sontag’s son’s girlfriend and saw the author of Against Interpretation as a mentor.

Sugar Skull by Charles Burns

Graphic novels are wonderful things and the ones by Mr. Burns are quick and weird and deliciously fucked up. I’m going to cross this baby off my list very soon.

Okay, so here’s to 2015! Now give me more reading time and wish me luck!