Tag Archives: Mary Miller

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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Wife Beaters, Cut-Offs, Flip-Flops, Sunscreen

I don’t think I’ve ever worn flip flops in my life. And I know that driving through the south in July is going to be sweltery (I’ve done it before). I know I won’t be wearing army boots or anything. But I probably won’t wear cut-offs either. Maybe a wife beater, though, you know, I’ll call it a tank top (still sounds kinda aggro though, right?).

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. First I need you to help me and the wild women I’ll be appearing with to get some gas money for our summer adventure. I promise not to spend any at Whataburger. I’m talking about the Southern Summer Comfort Book Tour, which I’ve helped organize for my friends Elizabeth Ellen, Chloe Caldwell, Mary Miller, Brandi Wells, and Donora Hillard.


Domy Books will host the ladies in Austin and Houston.

Help us raise some moolah on their Kickstarter page. There’s some cool stuff to be had–books, Polaroids, private editing sessions. Hair pulling? If you’re into that sort of thing.

What else is happening?

I’m teaching another class on personal essays. This time with young hotshot, Chloe Caldwell. CC, as you may know, is the author of Legs Get Led Astray, the latest release from Future Tense Books, It’s on June 23rd at the Crow Arts Manor. I think there may just be one or two spots left in the class, so act fast! It’s only $40 for three hours of hard work.

If it’s warm out, we’ll be doing it outside. I won’t be wearing flip-flops.

Who Is B. Frayn Masters?

B. Frayn Masters is reading at the Smalldoggies reading series tomorrow night at the Blue Monk. It’s been a while since she’s done a reading, what with all her time being occupied as producer of the super-popular live shows, Entertainment For People and Back Fence (which she also co-hosts), freelance writing, and getting married to me earlier this year. I told her that I wanted to interview her for my blog, to catch people up on what she’s doing, and to also excavate some of her personal secrets myself. Here’s what the smokin’ blonde bombshell had to say for herself.

What is it that you do all day while I’m at work?

It depends.

If I get really anxious about something I might suddenly watch three episodes of Project Runway in a row, making a deal with myself to work extra hard to get what is on my list done, quickly. Slowly I get up from the couch and have the show on in the background until I can fully engage in work. Then I mute the show. Then I turn it off. It is a form of weaning myself away from my anxiety. I usually do get it done. Also, I’m really embarrassed about this practice and often think of you and think, Shit, if he knew I did this…like I’m some kind of coke whore or something.

If I’m decently motivated I sit at my computer and work in my underwear with unwashed hair, maybe some food in my teeth. The tabs I have open while I work are various email accounts, Facebook, twitter, Gawker/CNN/Jezebel/Forever21/McSweeney’s/This American Life, and toggl.com. The latter because when I stop working on my scriptwriting/copywriting project I can easily stop counting my freelance writing time. It wouldn’t be fair to make my clients pay for my voracious surfing appetite. Usually in the middle of the day I open Photobooth and horrify myself with how I look. I pose several different ways and take pictures. Sometimes I let out little screams because I’m scared.

Then I put my hair in a bun and put a hydrating mask on my face. Whenever I work at home I make tons of lemonade. Juicing four lemons at a time, adding cayenne pepper or ginger and always stevia. I suck down glass after glass with a straw so as not to damage the enamel on my teeth. You know how much the dentist loves my teeth. I think, if he could, he might like to unload on them. That’s gross. I’m gross and dirty, but you knew that when you married me. You like it.

If I’m feeling really motivated (read: there is a deadline looming that I have procrastinated) I get up really early and go to a coffee shop to write. The coffee shop across the street—this comes in handy because I usually forget some very important document/research I need to complete my writing. I leave my purse and my laptop at the coffee shop and walk back to our place to retrieve whatever I’m missing. I leave them there, these valuable things, like a total bitch dumbass. I need to stop doing that. Recently I’ve adopted a strange workout behavior. I call it ‘cumulative bathroom exercise.’ I read some article in Glamour Magazine in like 2001 about some similar practice. It really stuck with me I guess. Though I guarantee you I’ve made it my own. When I go into the large unisex bathrooms at coffee shops around town, after I’ve done my business, I either do 25 wall push ups or 25 full-on squats. This has been great and I do feel stronger. I end up doing about 125 of each before the end of the day. Sometimes I do both exercises and typically more than 25…I *really* focus on form…I only do both if there is no one waiting. When I say both, I mean both exercises. Not both 1 and 2.

I also clean a lot to avoid work. And I try clothes on in hopes that they fit. I play with the cat a lot too, but that’s no surprise.

What are some other jobs you’ve had?

Ima try to think about stuff I’ve done I’ve never told you that much about.

I had a job for a half day where I was selling something like the Chinook Book over the phone. Most of the people who worked there were in their 30’s and 40’s, the place smelled like the fumes from people circling the cul-de-sac of their lives. I went to lunch and never came back.

I had a job at a juice bar for two days. I just couldn’t care less about memorizing what went into each drink, so I applied for and found a job at an art gallery.

The gallery was owned by a fucking crazy lady. She was married to a man who was 16 years her junior. He was 27 at the time and far more mature than her. They would scream at each other across the Chihuly glass sculptures. It was ridiculous and she was MEAN. They would actually drive customers (agog people actually herded their children) out of the store. I took notes thinking they made for good characters. I quit after three months. I had taken a study guide about the art home with me when I was hired. Totally forgot I had it. A week after I quit, the owner sent a notified letter to me from her attorney saying that if I didn’t return the notebook filled with Kinko’s-copied pages immediately she would file a notice with the police that I was in possession of stolen property. This was her first attempt to contact me about returning it. Her methodology worked: I returned it, in person, with a big smile, post-haste. I had that letter for a long time. Wish I still had it.

I worked at the reception desk at the hoity toity San Francisco Press club as a fill-in for two weeks. I was in town visiting friends and ran out of money. My friend found me the job. It was a fancy place with dark wood and the lilting fabrics of the Brat Pack. Rich, old people went there. I read Writing in Restaurants by David Mamet while I sat there doing very little, but getting paid a lot. There was an essay in that book that made me cry. I still think about it. It nailed a huge flaw I had/have so perfectly, so pointedly, I could no longer be in denial. I read it over and over and cried over and over.

What was the Mamet essay about?

It was about performance. The thing that stuck out was a passage about how if you get all pissy when you perceive yourself to have done a bad performance, or get a bad review and, conversely, soak up the glory when you perceive yourself to have done a good performance or get a review then you’re headed for a life of trouble. You have to, he says, take account of what you set out to improve on, like say, ‘did I hit my marks, not lose my British accent, and make my partner onstage/screen look good’? Whether you did or did not do those things is the only thing you need be concerned about. This is the only way, he suggests, for you to become a better artist—to look at the tangibles. Petulance will get you nowhere, you will build no character, and you’ll be unhappy.

I was a really petulant 21 yr old. Not surprising, I’m sure. I loved to sulk and to supplicate compliments. “I’m so bad. I suck. Bad. Did you *really* like my performance? Really? Can you sign this document saying you *liked* it? Blah, blah, blah.” I don’t react to that shit as much now, but those synapses still fire with little silencers on.

What are you working on, writing-wise?

These projects are in all states of progress.

1. A novel called, HUGE.
2. An untitled screenplay.
3. An untitled video short series.
4. 2 personal essays
5. A short screenplay based on a Mary Miller short story for Spork magazine. It is way more work and pages than I anticipated.
6. Stuff for different websites I’d like to get published on.
7. Pitches for a magazine I’d like write for.
8. A couple of animation scripts for corporations. They even have a little humor in them.
9. A pitch for a radio show I’d like to be on.
10. Other flotsam and jetsam.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations?

For various reasons…
1. You. And Zach.
Then, in no particular order…

  • 2. Jenny Lewis
  • 3. Wes Anderson
  • 4. Alexander Payne
  • 5. Jason Bateman
  • 6. Preston Sturges
  • 7. Ray Bradbury
  • 8. Dorothy Parker
  • 9. Drew Barrymore
  • 10. Lidia Yuknavitch
  • 11. Jack Black
  • 12. Nikoli Gogol
  • 13. Jim Thompson
  • 14. Katherine Dunn
  • 15. Dolly Parton
  • 16. Miranda July
  • 17. Cheryl Strayed
  • 18. Joel McHale
  • 19. Louis CK
  • 20. John Hodgman
  • 21. John Moe
  • 22. Arthur Bradford
  • 23. Chris Ballew
  • 24. Judy Blume
  • 25. Chris Ware
  • 26. Daniel Clowes
  • 27. Eric Spitznagel
  • 28. Charlize Theron
  • 29. The Guppy’s
  • 30. Dan Kennedy
  • 31. Rothko
  • 32. Sam Lipsyte
  • 33. Barbra Stanwyck

So many more…these are off the top of my head.

Who were your childhood heroes?

I really didn’t have any childhood heroes, I guess. If anyone was they’d be on the list above. Is that sad? It’s not sad to me.

Here’s a stab at it. STAB.

Ray Bradbury because he could see the future. Katherine Dunn because Geek Love showed me a kind of writing that absolutely marked my brain. And Nancy Drew because she had the cool job of detective.

What are five of your favorite things to do in Portland?

1. Go to Ringside Steakhouse happy hour. I especially like it when we order three orders of steak bites and they pile them all on one plate. Every time I’m surprised that we eat them all. Every time. (There are about six or eight small bites in each order. That didn’t help. It still seem glutenous.)

2. Read/write at a coffee shop with my feet touching yours.

3. Hang out with friends. Hiking, eating, drinking.

4. See friends kill on stage

5. Curate and co-host Back Fence. I meet really cool people who tell me intimate details about their lives. Also, Entertainment for People. I like doing things that I can bring my massively talented friends into.

What’s it like to live with me?

It is the absolute best. We can really let our indoor selves come out to play. Not to mention a hot cup of coffee is handed to me each morning with a smile. I like the running jokes and stories we weave out of the blue, we make up lots of stuff about our kitty, Boo. I like that we blame any spillage or dirt pile on him. Maybe we could shoot an episode of Hoarders where he has a bunch of humans running, sleeping in, and pooping around his house. Boo just takes them in off the street. It is hard for him to keep the place clean because paws just ain’t hands, you know? And he has a bit of a shopping problem. He buys clothes, but never wears them. They just sit in piles, piles that grow like the Matterhorn out of the carpet. What I like about you is that you would go along with the story and simply add to it.  I often think about how many people would  be perplexed by this sort of antics. But, you get it, baby. You get it. According to the ideology of hack stand-up comics I ‘ve got it real good when it comes to the “Men are like this….” stuff. You are super tidy and you are the opposite of an asshole. You are the whole ass baby, the whole ass that has no hole whatsoever. 

Tell me something that I don’t know about you?

I’m trying to think of something positive. I need to end this by painting a better picture of myself than I did with the answers to question one.

I have at least 50 items in various shopping carts all over the internet. Wait, that’s not positive.

When I was an ice skater I could skate perfect figure 8’s. I would skate them forwards and backwards over and over. I don’t know why but it filled me with immense joy to do this. It must have been my 7-year-old version of mediation. I still think about skating them. Whenever we’re in Lloyd Center I always want to go to the rink, rent skates and see if I can still do it. Maybe that’s just cheeseballs, but I don’t think you know that? Do you?

Tour Diary: New Orleans and Oxford

Frayn and me at Rowan Oak

It’s been a few days since I blogged about our travels and a lot has happened. If you’re on Facebook you can see some photos there too if you’re curious.

Right now, we’re in Memphis, hanging out at the Peabody Hotel checking our Internet stuff (free wi-fi) and watching the ducks get escorted from the famous lobby fountain to the roof (a beautiful and comic spectacle).

Here is what has been happening the past couple of days/cities:

We got into New Orleans on Saturday and checked into the Hilton by the French Quarter (Thanks, Rupert Murdoch!). We had just enough energy to go for a quick stroll through the quarter. It was pretty rainy that day so the streets were wet but spirits were still hot and high. It was the first time Frayn had ever been there and we got dinner and drinks to celebrate.

The next morning, our friend Pia Z. Ehrhardt picked us up and gave us a tour of her city. It really is one of the best cities in the country, even with the struggles and aftermath of Katrina and the levee disaster. We drove through the lower 9th ward and saw some of the destroyed homes and trashed lots nuzzled right next to the new (and odd) “Brad Pitt houses” that he’s had built down there. We drove through the beautiful city park, next to the museum and by the school where Pia teaches. Then she took us to her super sweet home and fed us red beans and rice.

frayn, me, and Pia

From there we went to the Maple Street Bookstore. My agent, New Orleans superhero Michael Murphy, met us there and I read a few chapters of ACP to a small crowd (Houston–you no longer hold the record for smallest turnout!).

We spent some time with Michael and went to Octavia Books and signed a stack of books there too (if you live in NOLA, go to either of those stores to get your signed copy!). We went (of course) to Cafe Du Monde and later we stumbled on a place called Marigny Brasserie for a delicious dinner.

The next night we made it just in time for my 5:00 event at Square Books with Claudia Smith and Mary Miller. They do a cool thing there, where they have drinks (wine, whiskey, and ginger ale!) and snacks out for people before the readings start at 5:30, so it was nice to relax a little and catch up with Mary and Claudia and meet the super cool folks at Square Books, Michael Bible and David Swider. Not to mention, Lynn Roberts, the store manager.

Claudia started things off with a few stories from Put Your Head In My Lap and then Mary Miller read a great story from Big World. We took a quick drink break before I was to read and then before I went up to the podium–I shit you not!–John Grisham walked out with store owner and former mayor, Richard Howarth (who is also a legend around Mississippi). “He doesn’t usually do this,” Howarth started. “But John Grisham wanted to share some words with y’all.” It was a pretty odd moment, a lot of people looked at each other, thinking it was some sort of prank. But then we realized it really was John Grisham and he stood up there and read for ten minutes from his new book, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. This whole experience was also strange because I had, just an hour or so beforehand, been trying to point out Grisham’s giant house off the side of the highway to Frayn as we entered Oxford.

When Grisham was done reading, Howarth invited Mary and Claudia and I up for a photo op. “So people will believe you when you say you read with John Grisham,” he said. The bestselling autho did stick around til the end of the reading, but I’m not sure if he bought any of our books. 🙂

Miller, Sampsell, Grisham, Smith

When I got up to read after that, I joked, “I called John earlier today to see if he wanted to open up for me but I didn’t think he’d show up.”

The whole experience of reading at Square Books was great. Local writers like the awesome Tom Franklin and the hilarious Jack Pendarvis were also there, along with a nice (and surprisingly big) crowd made up of younger student types. I guess summer school still packs them in at Ole Miss.

After the reading we went with a gang of folks to City Grocery for drinks and then Ajax, one of the great eateries in the Square. After dinner, we loaded straws up with toothpicks and shot them into the ceiling, as the tradition allows. I got about six toothpicks embedded in that sucker.

We stayed for two night with Tom Fanklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, in their luxurious guest house. Breakfast was had at Big Bad Breakfast, a place where all the food are named after southern writers and books. We had dinner at another great place next door to that called Snackbar. And we visited Faulkner’s place, Rowan Oak. All in all, it was a GREAT time in Oxford and probably the highlight of this trip so far.

My breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast

We’re now here in Memphis for a quick stop and then off to Atlanta tomorrow to hang with Blake Butler, Jamie Iredell, Amy McDaniel, and our friends there. More travel adventures and pics to come. Thanks for reading!