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…

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The story I read was an unpublished story called “The Baby and The Apple Bell”–it’s narrated by an 18-month-old baby.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

So…

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)

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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…

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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)

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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My favorite literary journal.

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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.

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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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Movies in 2013: A Weakness For Drama

This was a pretty good year for movies and there were surely a lot of good ones I didn’t see or haven’t seen yet. But these are the ones I liked the most from the past twelve months. I guess I had a weakness for dramas this year…

1. The Place Beyond the Pines: I loved how ambitious this movie was with its multi-generational tragedy. A fully realized and thrilling story told with a blood-pumping tempo.

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes in The Place Beyond the Pines.

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes in The Place Beyond the Pines.

2. Fruitvale Station: Michael B. Jordan owns this heartbreaking true story of Oscar Grant’s death at the hands of BART police on New Year’s Eve night in 2009.

Michael B. Jordan and young star Ariana Neal.

Michael B. Jordan and young star Ariana Neal.

3. Dallas Buyers Club: If Matthew McConaughey doesn’t win the Oscar for this (he may lose to Leo–see #5 below) then I hope Jared Leto wins for Best Supporting. Amazing performances and a very moving film.

Leto and McConaughey transformed themselves for their roles in Dallas Buyers Club.

Leto and McConaughey transformed themselves for their roles in Dallas Buyers Club.

4. Prisoners: I was blown away by how tight this story was. The tension is turned up way high and emotions boil over, so proceed with caution if you’re sensitive to kidnapping, violence, and revenge.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street: This movie is abrasive, decadent, satirical, and brilliant. A lot of people are upset by it but I think it’s a pretty strong cautionary tale. Leonardo DiCaprio is spectacular.

6. Before Midnight: One of the best talkie movies in a while. So good and real and gritty and beautiful. Moral: Relationships are messy!

7. Frances Ha: It has the feel of a classic. A great meditation on friendship and how a person becomes the person they need to be. The opening screening I went to included a wonderful Skype Q&A with Gerwig after the film.

Mickey Sumner and Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha.

Mickey Sumner and Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha.

8. The Motel Life: Based on the Willy Vlautin novel, this movie captured a lot of the bittersweet melancholy of two brothers on the run after a tragic accident. Beautiful performance by Stephen Dorff.

9. Alien Boy: A grueling but enlightening documentary about the tragic death of James Chasse at the hands of the Portland police, directed by Brian Lindstrom.

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10. The Spectacular Now: A profound story about a high school senior facing adult life and the disconnection between parents and their kids.

***

Also great: The Punk Singer, Blue Is the Warmest Color, Nebraska, Prince Avalanche, Captain Phillips

Prince Avalanche, directed by one of my favorites, David Gordon Green

Prince Avalanche, directed by one of my favorites, David Gordon Green

Movies I’d still like to see: 12 Years a Slave, The Act of Killing, Spring Breakers, Only God Forgives, Her

Movies that got hyped up that I think were just okay…or less than okay: To the Wonder (one long perfume commercial), American Hustle (Good female characters and bad hair cancel each other out in this one), Inside Llewyn Davis (the best parts were the cat and John Goodman’s character), The Way Way Back (like someone who wants to be Noah Baumbach directed a Lifetime movie), The Conjuring (sometimes creepy, but mostly laughable).

Better than expected: Mud, This Is the End, The To Do List (which was probably the funniest movie of the year).

Oh, hey. Happy New Year!

East Coast Regrets

Like any author who tours for a book, I realize now that I did not do a few important things while I was out in New York and Baltimore last week. Here is a list of my regrets.

  • I regret not getting a T-shirt from BookCourt or Word (or McNally Jackson–a store that carries Future Tense titles and therefore gets extra love and admiration from me). I was at The Strand on my last day there and thought about getting a T-shirt from there, but I prefer the other stores much more.
  • I regret not having another “cronut” at Crumbs (The famous croissant doughnut hybrid. I guess they call them “Crumbnuts”).
All the cupcakes looked pretty damn good too.

All the cupcakes looked pretty damn good too.

  • I regret not getting a 2nd slice of pizza at My Little Pizzeria in Brooklyn before my BookCourt reading.
  • I regret not taking pics with some of my friends like Sean H. Doyle, Jeffrey Yamaguchi, Joseph Riippi, Chelsea Hodson, Jason Diamond, Julia Fierro, Marc Odo, Beth Lisick, David Moscovich, and Leah Umansky.
  • I regret not checking out more of the grungy side of New York.
The New York Cup & Saucer is pretty different from the Portland Cup & Saucer.

The New York Cup & Saucer is pretty different from the Portland Cup & Saucer.

  • I regret not bringing home some UTZ Cheese Curls. I tasted some of these goodies after my reading there and was instantly addicted. Kind of like Cheetos, yes, but with a seemingly sharper cheddar taste.

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  • I regret not seeking out some Old Bay, which is “a Baltimore thing” I was told. I was also told that it’s tied for first (with John Waters’s mustache) for the best thing from Baltimore.
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JOHN WATERS

  • I regret not bringing a razor to shave with. I probably looked like a hobo  by the end of my trip.
  • I regret not spending more time in Baltimore.
Sharing cell phone cat photos with Adam Robinson, Amy McDaniel, and Michael Kimball (out of frame).

Sharing cell phone cat photos with Adam Robinson, Amy McDaniel, and Michael Kimball (out of frame).

  • I regret not doing Karaoke with Adam Robinson and Amy McDaniel.

I guess there’s always next time.

Stocking Stuffing

I’m back from the east coast and hunkering down in the Portland chill for the rest of the year. My touring time was great. I always hear authors complain about book tours and how they don’t like them, but I love it. I don’t get a chance to travel much, so touring gives me a chance to see friends from all over the place in their own environments. Thanks to everyone who came out to see me, hung out, gave me subway directions, showed me their cat pics, and had me sign their books!

I have a few copies of This Is Between Us left in my personal possession and I would love to send them to you, signed, for your gift giving needs. Just Paypal me $15 by Monday, December 16th, 9am Pacific time, and I’ll get them into the mail to you (or I could even send it straight to whoever you’re giving it to). kevin@futuretensebooks.com

I love signing this book because the title page sort of looks like I wrote out the whole thing and I can doodle around the words, like so…

20131209_101840So if you want to give the gift of TIBU (the gift that keeps on giving!), there you go (let me know if you’d like me to inscribe something specific).

Also, if you order any Future Tense books by next Monday, I’ll make sure they get out to you as well. The new Lutz and Iredell books and the Scout Books trio are all highly recommended! Thanks, everyone. Now go heat up some nog!

In the Thick of It!

My book has been out for almost a month now. It’s kind of a whirlwind right now. But a fun whirlwind. Or maybe a blizzard. Like a Dairy Queen blizzard. Yeah–that’s it. I’m in the thick of a sweet blended ice cream treat with chunks of peanut butter cups and Oreo cookies.

I’m currently in NY for a few days. I had a great reading at BookCourt last night. Here are a few pics from this tour so far.

With Zoe Ruiz, editor of The Rumpus and doughnut expert. Also, translator of French restaurant names.

With Zoe Ruiz, editor of The Rumpus and doughnut expert. Also, translator of French restaurant names.

Post-reading get-together after Skylight Books event. With amazing trio (from left): Melissa Chadburn, Wendy C. Ortiz, and Ariel Maccarone.

Post-reading get-together after Skylight Books event. With amazing trio (from left): Melissa Chadburn, Wendy C. Ortiz, and Ariel Maccarone.

Myriam Gurba and I went to the Church of Scientology in L.A. but they weren't interested in us doing a reading there.

Myriam Gurba and I went to the Church of Scientology in L.A. but they weren’t interested in us doing a reading there.

This is from my reading at Vacation in San Francisco. Maybe my best reading of the tour I think. I must have gained super powers from my Dan Clowes shirt.

This is from my reading at Vacation in San Francisco. Maybe my best reading of the tour I think. I must have gained super powers from my Dan Clowes shirt.

Janey Smith's kitten, named "Cat" which I think is short for Catastrophic Feline Monster.

Janey Smith’s kitten, named “Cat” which I think is short for Catastrophic Feline Monster.

 

While in Seattle, I got to see a bunch of friends including Matthew Simmons who instigated this group photo of TIBU lips action and some University Bookstore employees.

While in Seattle, I got to see a bunch of friends including Matthew Simmons who instigated this group photo of TIBU lips action and some University Bookstore employees.

Off to Baltimore tomorrow and back in NY at Word on Friday. Check my events page to see the details. Bye for now!

Busy Weekend!

I have a crazy weekend/week coming up. It would be awesome to see some of you out. I want to hug you!

This Saturday I’m participating in Indies First, the event born out of the genius idea of Sherman Alexie, who spent last year’s “Small Business Saturday” hanging out and giving book recommendations at his neighborhood store in Seattle (Queen Anne Book Company). He had so much fun doing so, that he’s spread the word and started this event with some help from American Booksellers Association and many other authors and bookstores.

As you know, I already pretty much do exactly that (hang out and make book recommendations) almost every day at Powell’s. So I’m excited to try out some new scenery and work a couple of hours at Broadway Books from 2:00-4:00. I’ll be joined by the fabulous Cheryl Strayed, Cari Luna, and Karen Karbo during that time.

On Sunday, I’m spending 12:00 to 4pm at the Oregon Historical Society for their Holiday Cheer event. I’ll be there hanging out with a ton of writers and we’ll all be drinking coffee (mimosas? eggnog? cider!?) and signing books for people (signed books=good gifts). Admission is free. Check it out!

After that, I’m off to NY and Baltimore. It’s like non-stop action right now. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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This and This and This Is Between Us

Psssst. My new book snuck* into stores a few days ago and peoples be talking about it! Here are some of the fun places to read up about it…

*A cool interview with Los Angeles arts blog, Yay! LA. This was a phone interview and I spoke with Daniel for about an hour while doing while walking around the SE Hawthorne neighborhoods of Portland. I felt self-conscious whenever people walked by and I was saying something like, “I want all 234 pages to feel like they’re stuck to your skin.”

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*A really thoughtful review on Bustle. I like how the reviewer focuses on the aspect of loneliness and imperfection in the book.

*HTMLGIANT’s 25 Points takes on TIBU, written by the fantastic Nicolle Elizabeth, who says the book is “upsetting” once and “comforting” twice. So I think “comforting” wins!!

My mom and me at Powell's this past week.

My mom and me at Powell’s this past week.

*I talked about sex writing and sexy words with the sexy PDXX Collective. (“I used to have a friend who had sex with a lot of her friends because she said it made her feel less guarded with them, closer and intimate. In a weird hippie-ish free love kind of way, I can see where she’s coming from. Sex is an ice-breaker in real life and in books.”)

*A really cool review of the book that breaks it down by each of the five year sections. The reviewer says “You will feel grateful for the brutal honesty and lovely secrets that you were allowed to know.”

*The Portland Mercury ran some excerpts (with a very nice intro) of the book. The illustrations are super cool and kind of hot (they move!!).

My name is on the cover, with naked butts!!

My name is on the cover, with naked butts!!

One of the other exciting things for me is seeing people taking photos with the book covers. Every day there seems to be a new one on Facebook or Instagram. I love seeing those lips on other people!

And I sure hope to see everyone next Friday for the Portland reading of the book, at Powell’s at 7:30pm (after-party at Bunk Bar on SE Water Avenue!).

Dena Rash Guzman and the TIBU lips

Dena Rash Guzman and the TIBU lips

Holly from Tin House and the TIBU lips, out in nature!

Holly from Tin House and the TIBU lips, out in nature!

*when I say “snuck” I mean that the official release date is 11/12/13, a very numerically pleasing date. I’m probably still going to celebrate that day, maybe with a trip to Fire On the Mountain for some drinks and a barbecue chicken sandwich.

The Birth of Death (A Brief History of Dead Star)

Twenty years ago, on Halloween night in Los Angeles, the charismatic young film star River Phoenix died on a sidewalk outside of The Viper Room. It was a strange and shocking drug-fueled ending to an amazing young man’s life. I was about the same age as River and I had sincerely loved a couple of his movies (Running On Empty, Stand By Me, Dogfight). I thought he was cool and vulnerable, much deeper than a lot of his acting contemporaries. My friends did too. We were living in a big house in SE Portland, down the street from Dot’s Cafe–a rotating mix of me, Martha, Stephen, Vince, Laural, Michael, and maybe one or two others. I remember a record player in the front room with a bunch of records nearby, though we mostly played Nirvana, Unwound, Gang of Four, Crackerbash, and Galaxie 500.

When we heard that River had died, we wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. At the time, there were two open mics in Portland where we hung out–Cafe Lena and Jiffy Squid. Sometimes we would sign up for the open mic and then read each others poems–shenanigans like that. So we decided to write poems about River. But we didn’t read them at an open mic. We wanted to print them up and distribute them. I was a couple of years into doing Future Tense at the time, so I thought it would be cool to mark this death as the start of a new publication. A zine called Dead Star.

The first issue of Dead Star (for River). Notice the original layout underneath.

The first issue of Dead Star (for River). Notice the original layout underneath.

Here’s how it would work: When someone interesting and famous died, I would call a bunch of poet/writer friends and ask them if they wanted to write something. If they were able to write something THAT DAY they would call me back and I’d run over to their house and pick it up.

Yes, this was before the Internet and email (and cell phones) were everywhere. I had to drive to get stuff!

Then I would cut and paste the layout (1 page–front and back, folded) and go print up about 200 copies. I’d cruise around and drop off stacks at places like Ozone Records, Cinema 21, Powell’s, X-Ray Cafe, and Umbra Penumbra. Issues of the zine would be out before many people even knew the person had died. It was like breaking news.

Even before Internet buzz, Dead Star was noticed quickly. It was mentioned in Factsheet Five and a couple of other places and I started getting mail. In the next couple of years, we put out subsequent issues for John Candy (issue #2)*, Charles Bukowski (#3), John Wayne Gacy (#4), and Elizabeth Montgomery (#5)**. I eventually got too busy to keep doing it (the arrival of baby Zach, other things to publish, working at the espresso cart my girlfriend and I owned). My friend, Jeff Meyers, resurrected it for one issue (for Princess Diana) in 1997 before fading away.

John Candy died on the day that Kurt Cobain had first attempted suicide (and nearly succeeded). As a bad joke, we put his name on this issue as well, but crossed it out... when he came back alive!

John Candy died on the day that Kurt Cobain had first attempted suicide (and nearly succeeded). As a bad joke, we put his name on this issue as well, but crossed it out… when he came back alive!

The comeback that didn't last.

The comeback that didn’t last.

Dead Star was an interesting thing to do. Some of the poems (or flash fictions or mini essay things) were sweet, sometimes a little sour. Even sarcastic at times. If I didn’t care for a piece that was submitted, I didn’t use it, but mostly I didn’t really enforce any editorial bias or mood. Dead Star was an open forum. While some people thought it was distasteful (I recall Walt Curtis, of all people, giving me grief about it), many others were entertained. I probably got more mail about Dead Star than anything else I was doing at the time. I think I met Melody Owen through Dead Star, and also Sean Tejaratchi (who invited me to his office to scavenge for clip art, a year before he published the first issue of his famous zine, Craphound).

The John Wayne Gacy issue was pretty creepy (and sort of a cheat, since we knew he was about to executed).

The John Wayne Gacy issue was pretty creepy (and sort of a cheat, since we knew he was about to executed).

For a while now, I have thought about restarting it again, as a web site. It seems like it would be a good timely thing. For instance, right now people could be submitting poems about Lou Reed (loved that dude). If anyone wants to design a site and help me restart it, get in touch with me.

As if I didn’t have enough to do.

Have a happy Halloween and glorious Day of the Dead.

*I was pretty proud of the story I wrote for the John Candy issue. It was a flash fiction called “Candy John” and it reappeared in my first collection, How to Lose Your Mind With the Lights On.

**I couldn’t find any copies of the Bukowski or Montgomery issues, or I would have shown images of those as well.