If you’ve been wondering exactly what the presentation/performance I’ve been developing with Darren Keen, and the workshop itself, is all about, this thesis from the post sheds some light on the matter.
Being as old as art itself, the concept of appropriation expounds and challenges crucial topics in the art world such as authorship, originality and intellectual property. With the development of digital media, new forms of communication have emerged, and sharing, exchanging and copying became an everyday operation. Akademie Schloss Solitude is taking up the controversial debate about the concepts of plagiarism and appropriation in a two-year project on the status of the author in the 21st century. Starting point will be the workshop »Quotes & Appropriation«, February 19 and 20, 2015, which will be opened by a reading/performance by former fellow Theodore Wheeler. The writer from Omaha/NE, USA will be showing his way of exercising appropriation: The presentation of his latest book On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown (Edition Solitude 2015, available as an e-book) will include historical photographs of Omaha and popular American film and music from the World War I era, illustrating the production of a novella as a combination of primary historical sources, literary influences, and original prose, »suggesting that a book is as much as about the process of its creation as it is about its content.«
We’re super excited to finally get this show on the road. It will be nice to be back at Solitude for a little while too. I’m going to get me some Afri Cola, some bretzel buns, some döner kebap mit brötchen. That, and we’re going to rock the performance.
Some exciting news to pass along this week: The Southern Review has accepted my short story “The Missing” for publication!
I’m beyond thrilled about this. First, because The Southern Review has felt like it might be my white whale as far as lit journals go. A journal that is nearly unrivaled in its strong contemporary reputation and oft-cited tradition. (Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks were famously among its first editors in 1935.) For a few years now my stories have felt like they were getting closer and closer without getting there, despite some very nice feedback and encouragement from former editor Cara Blue Adams that kept me trying. Thanks so much to fiction editor Emily Nemens for taking a chance on the story.
Second, I’m very pleased to find such a good a home for “The Missing,” a story that marks a more ambitious path for my work, begun last year with this story (after Key West) and continued while writing a new novel of a similar bent during my fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude. More episodic and fragmented, voice-driven, stylized prose used as characterization, and, in this case especially, writing candidly about the anxieties of fatherhood. There are much bigger risks to take in life than writing a new way, of course, and much bigger tragedies than having your work being poorly received. But, still, I worried, and am ecstatic to have this story on board with TSR.
A bit about the story: “The Missing” follows a young father who runs off to visit a friend in El Salvador rather than face the prospect that both his wife and daughter-to-be could die during childbirth.
Here’s an excerpt:
Worthy told him wild stories about El Salvador. Bus rides up chuck-holed alleys into ghettos where even police were afraid to go because gangs controlled that territory—that San Salvador was the murder capital of the world, no matter what claims were made by Kabul or Baghdad or Tegucigalpa. Worthy told about getting drunk on something called coco loco. And girls dancing in clubs where the Salvadoran Geddy Lee played bass with one hand and keys with the other. And girls dancing in clubs who were on the hunt for American men, for the green card, but were often left behind in San Salvador if pregnant, and there was little recourse for a woman of that kind. In long phone calls Worthy told about girls dancing in a nudie bar called Lips that had a taco bar next door that was also called Lips. Worthy was persuasive. Even the plastic baggies filled with soft, slimy cheese that Worthy bought on the street, that was called queso fresco, even that sounded attractive when Worthy talked about it. Even when the Mrs grabbed the phone and told Worthy that if anything bad happened she’d know who to hold responsible.
Do you understand? the Mrs told Worthy. If he doesn’t come back, I will come down there and fuck you up.
This will be my 26th published short story, and joins a group of forthcoming publications for 2015 that includes “Shame Cycle” in Gargoyle, “Attend the Way” in Heavy Feather Review, and “Forget Me” on Cosmonauts Avenue, along with the February release of On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown, a chapbook published by Edition Solitude. Things are going to be busy.
Special thanks to CCB, Amber Mulholland, Dave Mullins, Ryan Borchers, Drew Justice, Amy O’Reilly, Charlotte Spires, Felicity White, and everybody else who helped this story along.
This post has been sitting in post-op for quite a while but I’d still like to make a few points and share a bunch of photos from my last few weeks in Europe this summer. I’ve been back in Nebraska, more or less, since the end of August and have been kept busy readjusting, recovering, and trying to make up for lost time with the girls. So the blogging has been neglected. Hopefully nobody is too crushed by this fact.
My three months at Solitude served me and my body of work very well. Quantitatively, I wrote a whole new novel from beginning to end, sans a few scenes that didn’t quite take off that I’ll get to soon; conceived of and planned out a multimedia project and presentation (more on this in the coming months) that will illustrate a lot of the research and creative process that went into writing my first novel, the historically-set The Uninitiated; yet another small revision of The Uninitiated before sending it off to agents; and one new short story.
Thinking about these things numerically isn’t usually the best, but I think the work is pretty good too. I’m really excited about the new novel–called Safe Haven, for now, or maybe From the Files of the Chief Inspector. It’s kind of crazy thinking about how it took three years to finish a draft of my first novel (with rewrites coming in each of the two subsequent years to get to a draft that I feel is more-or-less done) and that a first draft of the second novel pretty much took about five and a half weeks to get down. The book isn’t quite done, so hopefully I’m not jinxing myself, but it’s interesting to look at the differences of the two projects. The second book is set in in 2008, so obviously there’s a big difference in the amount of time demanded by research. Also, I had a much clearer idea about what the second book would be about and how I’d structure its different parts, which is probably the biggest change. Anyway, now that the first draft is nearing completion, I’m excited to get onto the 1-10 years of revising before it’s ready to let anyone else actually see it.
Just a teaser, a literary crime novel, the book features love stories set in the context of a post-9/11 domestic spying campaign. If you’ve followed this blog for a while and are familiar with my reading obsessions the past few years (Bolaño, D. Johnson, U. Johnson) then you probably could approximate the tone and style of this new project. It’s been fun to write, I’ll say that.
Thanks so much to Mr. Joly, Silke, Marieanne, Claudia, Lu, Clara, Lotte, Sophie, Maria, the other fellows, and everyone else at Akademie Schloss Solitude for their assistance and support during my residency. Solitude is an amazing place made so much more so by the people there.
My final few weeks allowed for just a little more travel in Europe. After taking longer trips to Amman, Italy, and Paris (x2) I decided to keep my last few cities decidedly Germanic, sneaking in a few days in Hamburg, Berlin, and Vienna. Rushing through these cities didn’t do them any kind of justice, but a taste is better than nothing.
I will say that the best Mexican food I had in Europe was at Tin Tan in the Mitte area of Berlin. There were some decent burrito stands in Paris, but Tin Tan was faraway the best. This turned into a running-joke by the time I left Germany, but I was really craving good Mexican food so much. I like paprika and pimento peppers as much as the next guy–probably more–but it wasn’t so easy to go on without a steady supply of chili peppers. (I had plenty of Döner, currywurst, and schnitzl too, don’t worry. Would have liked to live on crepes a few days, but that wasn’t really in the cards.)
Pretty much right after getting home to Nebraska we set off for the Pacific NW to celebrate the weddings of a couple friends. It was a great trip. More travel for the girls–planes, trains and boats this time. Daughter 1 was pretty appalled at how slow and low-tech Amtrak trains are, having worked her way up to a college sophomore level of pretentiousness about rail-travel after summering in Europe. Not everything is the TGV, honey.
While I was definitely not in the mood to spend more time on an airplane at this point, it was great to catch up with so many old friends during my homecoming weekend.
In fact, I was pretty much awed by the reception I received in returning. From Nicole and the girls and the extended family, to the writers at Creighton, even to the security guards at the courthouses I cover for work. People are nice. It was really quite touching, like I’m George Bailey or something.
After that, October saw three trips to Kansas City to following the Royals on their historic run to the World Series. In all, I saw the madcap, 12-inning Wild Card game victory over the Oakland A’s with my brother, drove down for the ALCS rainout with Nicole, and parlayed what we sold the ALCS rainout tickets for into two seats for Game 2 of the World Series against San Francisco. What a crazy run.
Nicole and the girls stopped by for a three-week visit recently. Here are some highlights:
-We met in Paris and stayed four nights. It didn’t seem like the best idea to jump into such a bustling world metropolis right off the bat, but things actually worked out better in the end, I think. We had an apartment in Montparnasse through AirBnb–so there was a kitchen, separate rooms for adults and children, and the flat usually was home to two boys the same ages as our girls, so there were toys and appropriately sized beds that allowed for a long nap once the family arrived. Maybe I’m remembering things rosier than they actually were, but the time difference wasn’t such a massive problem as I feared it would be. For one thing, we kept finding ourselves stranded from the apartment late at night. Since we didn’t bring along car seats, this meant long walks through the city after midnight. Daughter 1 put in a lot of miles over a couple nights, with complaints that seemed to taper off as the routine of getting lost and marching, marching, marching took hold. I think she was a little excited/scared to be out so late too, even if it only felt like late afternoon to her body.
I had one night in Paris before the family arrived and also spent the night wandering around Montparnasse. As someone who’s spent a lot of time walking at night, Paris after dark was irresistible.
In general the girls got along pretty well in Paris. Everything was new and exciting. We had that on our side. Look, the Eiffel Tower! Look, Notre Dame! Look, Van Gogh’s Starry Night! Look, jugglers on a Seine quay! Only about every twenty minutes did one of us stop and ask, “What the hell were we thinking?”
Daughter 2 developed an interesting habit of shouting out dire warnings at inopportune times. Like, “Everybody get off this airplane now!” And, “Oh, no! The Eiffel Tower is falling down! It’s broken!” Luckily she doesn’t actually have the shining. None of her visions came to pass.
I was pleasantly surprised how helpful a lot of Parisians were too. Like when we kept getting trapped in Metro gates because there isn’t enough time to push through two small kids while carrying luggage, stroller, etc, so the backpack or an arm gets clamped in the gate. Or the lady at our neighborhood bakery understanding my broken Franglais, sometimes sprinkled with Latin, sometimes Spanish. The waiters in the cafes we visited were particularly helpful. Very surprising. Checking three times if, “Yes? You know steak tartare is raw meat?” before being served at Au Pied de Fouet. Getting high chairs and complimenting Nicole’s French. Always having special desserts for kids–ones that didn’t have egg wash baked on top, so daughter 2 could eat dessert too, even with her egg allergy. Not batting an eye when daughter 2 knocked a glass of water over the table. (Even though I haven’t gotten over the fact that she washed the au poivre sauce off my steak. I’d been waiting my whole life for that sauce!) I feel like most places in Paris (within our price range anyway, which maybe pointed us in the right direction) were pretty accommodating.
-Next we took the train to Stuttgart. After sweating it out in the city, the castle and surrounding forests at Solitude were perfect. We ran around the tunnels and corridors of die Schloss, hiked in the woods, went to the city for dinners, kicked a football around the lawn. We also napped.
It seems like we didn’t do a ton in Germany. As Solitude was home, we mostly tried to recover from Paris and prepare for an upcoming trip to Rome. There were a few events around the Akademie, including an exhibition of fellow Samir Harb’s comics Introduction to [Arch]comicologyabout Palestine. There was getting groceries and walking out to see the horses that live here. There was finding snails and slugs and frogs on the hiking paths. Getting stuck in rainstorms on the way to Bärenschlössle im Rotwildpark, twice! Mostly we just enjoyed Solitude. It’s an amazing place up here and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share it with my family.
-Then there was Rome. We stayed four days at Lido di Ostia, a beach resort community on the coast. This is technically part of Rome, about an hour away by train, and was the seaport of ancient Rome. More recently, the area experienced a boom in the post-war years as a tourist destination for modern middle class Romans, and apparently hasn’t been redecorated in quite some time. Everything was so wonderfully 1960s, when Federico Fellini and other Italian cinema icons transformed this stretch of beach into the Roman Riviera. Between a couple days at the beach and strolling the boardwalk, we took the train to the city and saw some sights from ancient and modern Rome.
Italy kind of surprised me. I guess I’d always thought of Italy as more-or-less the same as Western Europe, with some Southern European flair. The loud cousin, right? However, I was reminded much more of the Middle East than anything being there. This makes sense, as Italy is the gateway between Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Just walking the streets. The attitudes and postures, the way people spoke and argued. I found it very interesting.
-A few more days at Solitude followed before a return trip to Paris by train. We stayed at one of the American style hotels by the airport. The girls were besides themselves they were so happy. Room service. Big rooms with hideaway couch beds. Showers with drains that worked. Kids’ play rooms off the cafe. Daughter 1 wasn’t shy about letting me know that this was what she expected when we told her we’d be staying in some hotels in Europe. Duly noted, kid.
-Below are some more photos. (The good ones were taken by Nicole.) Just a couple more weeks before I head home.
I met up with friend-of-the-blog Country Club Bill this weekend in Jordan, where he’s been the past couple weeks. While not on the itinerary going into this summer, the opportunity to check out Jordan during the first days of Ramadan was too good to pass up. Also, with my first month at Akademie Solitude coming to a close, it was nice to reconnect with a familiar face and take a second short-notice trip to the Middle East this half decade. (See: Tel Aviv, in 2011, for the other.)
-Started off with a couple days at a Dead Sea resort. Was unable to sink myself in the salty waters, which was pretty cool. Coated up with healing mud, so I now look much younger and vitalized. Probably the coolest part about the Dead Sea was how much little kids screamed after their parents forced them into the water. If you have any cuts or scrapes, the water really burns. My nipples were so chafed after twenty minutes or so. Plus, with the high saline factor in the water, it evaporates extremely slowly–so the kids couldn’t get the burning off. Really cool though. The sea itself is pretty narrow, and shrinking rapidly, since its feeder (the River Jordan) is all sucked up by local agriculture. A guy could probably float across over to the Israel side in an afternoon if he was so inclined. In lieu of that, the lights of Jerusalem were easily seen at night beyond a ridge on the other side.
-After dominating CCB at foosball, I felt pretty good about myself and considered trying to hustle some of the German guys who were at the health spa part of the resort. It’s a good thing I didn’t. (In full disclosure, CCB did win the billiards portion of our bar sports competition with a nice comeback effort in an epic 35-minute game of eight-ball. That’s one game, 35 minutes. It was not pretty.)
-Walking around Amman was great. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, this being my first time in the Muslim world, but everyone was really cool. Sure, walking around the Old City at midnight on the first night of Ramadan carries with it a fair amount of anxiety at first. (Is it okay to walk by the Mosque? Yes. Is it okay to take pictures? Apparently. Is the secular cafe we went to that serves food during fasting times and alcohol at night going to get shot up? No.) All of this amplified by the fact that there were a couple pro-ISIS rallies in Amman [CORRECTION: the rallies were in Ma’an, a city in a southern province that is known to be less stable than Amman.] the days before I arrived; with the ISIS advance on Baghdad being the very reason CCB was relocated to Jordan in the first place. So some vigilance was in order, sure. I feel like we stuck out quite a bit, although it wasn’t really a big deal in the end. We were respectful of them and they respected us. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is known as an exception in a region of great upheaval.
-Hearing the muezzin’s first call to prayer from a minaret during Ramadan was amazing. We were out on the patio at Wild Jordan cafe, which has some of the best views of the city. Unforgettable.
-On my last night we returned to the Old City for some hummus and pickled veggies in an alleyway restaurant. I guess the big feasts don’t start until later in the month, but even the “snack” version was too much for us to finish. Jordanians sure can eat! We also stopped in at a speakeasy to watch some World Cup before I headed to the airport for my 330am flight back to Germany.
-Back to the grind here in Stuttgart now. My family is coming soon and they’re expecting a book when they get here. I’m on it!
I’ve been keeping pretty busy and working hard on a new novel–stories of love abandoned and disrupted in the context of domestic spying. It’s been an interesting project (finding the voice for this has been a lot of fun) and has taken up most of my time here, along with my two daily hikes and all the presentations and performances of the other fellows. Lots of interesting stuff going on. (Check out the Akademie Solitude blog for a taste of life at die Schloss.)
I did sneak in a couple trips the last couple weeks, however. A day trip to Mannheim and Heidelberg (cities near Stuttgart) and then a few days last weekend in Munich and just across the border in Salzburg, Austria.
More to come later, but here are some photos for now:
I’ve been settling in after arriving for my fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart.
Some things from the first week:
-First and foremost, they take their foosball very seriously here. If you’re going to step up to the futbol table, you better bring it.
-Lots of weddings at the castle. This is my sixth day here and I’ve spotted four brides so far–including two this morning. Besides all the art and music and interesting collaboration going on, this place would be a wedding crasher’s dream. Free champagne four times weekly! On the other hand, it seems like a lot of the wedding parties merely come here for pictures and have the reception elsewhere. So far, four brides, but only one beer delivery truck. Caveat emptor, wedding crashers.
-TSA took my toothpaste, so one of my first tasks in Germany was picking out a new tube of toothpaste. I probably should have made more of an effort to learn functional German. Seems to have worked out okay, on the toothpaste score at least. My teeth are intact, and only a little gritty.
-Really enjoying all the courtyard cafes. I’ve noticed a few biergarten, but haven’t stopped in yet. Mostly I’ve been getting by on bread rolls, salami, and granola bars. There’s lunch here for fellows during the week, which is something to take advantage of whenever possible. A bus runs right by the Akademie, but it’s kind of expensive to make a bunch of casual trips. Otherwise it’s at least a thirty minute hike down to the village supermarket. Maybe double that coming back, as Solitude sits at the top of a pretty heady incline. I get the feeling that not many of the other fellows are hiking as much as I’ve been, as I haven’t seen anyone else drenched in sweat all the time, huddled over with shin splints. Oh, well. With my spartan diet and all that hiking, hopefully I won’t be so doughy by the end of summer. Or I could act like a normal person and just take the bus.
-I haven’t done a ton of writing so far. One short story is drafted, a story I’ve been trying to write in some form or another for nearly a decade–I think I found the right form and voice this time around. That seems like good production for what’s been a pretty fraught week. Been doing a lot of thinking about the new novel I’m starting, while hiking, before and after napping. I’ve been reading a lot too, which usually precedes writing output. Anyway, nothing comes easy when mostly I’ve been moping around feeling bad about what an asshole I am for being here in the first place. It was very hard to leave home.
-I’m thinking of doing a little side trip, maybe next week. Friedrichshafen sounds nice. It’s the home of Zeppelin University, which I will repeatedly mispronounce as Led Zeppelin University. Imagine how different my life could have been if, when deciding on colleges while in high school, I’d known (mistakenly) there was a Led Zeppelin University. Anyway. Lake Constance is there. There’s a company that does Zeppelin elevations and rides. It’s pretty close and would be an easy way to test myself on the regional trains. I should do it, right?
After eleven days of the Key West Literary Seminar (four days of workshop with the incomparable and generous Mary Morris sandwiched between two weekend seminars) I made my way home to Omaha on Sunday night. It’s certainly nice to be home after what was quite a trip.
The theme this year was The Dark Side, which covered mostly crime and mystery novels, with some tangential works picked up along the way. While I’m not really a reader of mysteries, there were quite a few presenters who are, or might be, household names–Scott Turow, Carl Hiassen, Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Michael Connelly. The high points for me came when Percival Everett, Malla Nunn, Gillian Flynn, Attica Locke, and John Banville/Benjamin Black were on stage. There was an undercurrent of writing race in historical fiction that developed in the second session that was much more thought-provoking and touching to me, although Carl Hiassen’s Florida Freak Show standup routine in the first session was certainly a highlight too. I don’t know why I would have thought any different, but folks who write about murder all day certainly seem to have an active sense of humor.
One of the highlights was visiting the elegant home of Judy Blume for a cocktail party during the week. She’s quite a hostess. (She also tweeted me the next day.) This invite was part of winning the Marianne Russo Award, so Christine Shan Shan Hou and Liz Gordon (the other two award winners) and I could hobnob with a few of the visiting writers and benefactors of the seminar, including Peyton Evans, who selected my work for the award. It was nice to be able to thank certain people in person.
Another big feature of winning the Russo Award–along with having my bio and photo listed in the artful seminar book–was that I read from my work on stage during the seminar’s final session, a selection from “On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown.” A few years have passed since I’d last read in public, out loud, or been on a mic for that matter, but I really wasn’t all that nervous to be up on stage at the San Carlos institute. Actually, it was a lot of fun. After the cycles my writing life has taken the last five years–with a moderate high followed by a couple year lull–I really appreciated the opportunity to get up there and present my writing to an audience. I felt ready this time around, much more so than before, and am looking forward to any more success that I might luck into.
Thanks to Nathan, Christine, Dustin, Liz, Nick, Sam, and Sandy for being great house and/or roommates, and to everyone in the Mary Morris workshop, and to Amina, Carol, Mary, Melissa, Paula, Shannon, and Tim for joking around at events and between sessions. And, of course, I’m very grateful to Miles Frieden and Arlo Haskell (current and associate/future directors) for their support. This was my third trip to KWLS, so it should be obvious what I think of the community of writers and artists they’ve built down there.
[Please excuse any and all verbal cheersing-myself that may occur in the following.]
More great news to share, as I’ve been awarded the Marianne Russo Award by the Key West Literary Seminar!
Here’s the official announcement on Littoral, the seminar’s blog. (Also, you can read more about the KWLS scholarship program here if you’re interested in applying next year, and you should be. No entry fee=no worries.) As if ten days in Key West during January wasn’t enough, the prize includes tuition to both sessions of seminars and workshop programs, airfare to and lodging in Key West, and some spending cash, along with the opportunity to present a reading of my work during the conference (on Sunday, January 19, at 11:40am, to be exact, if you happen to be in the neighborhood). It’s really a very generous award and a great opportunity. I’m thrilled to be headed back, this time with a little hardware waiting for me.
I feel like I’m telling people all the time what a great experience KWLS is. It truly is the best there is and an indispensable part of our American literary culture, as far as I’m concerned. Thanks so much to Miles Frieden (Executive Director of KWLS) and Arlo Haskell (Associate Director), who do such a great job every year. This will be my third trip to KWLS. (Here’s what happened last time I was there.) My first seminar dealt with historical fiction, the second with speculative fiction. This time the theme is “The Dark Side: Mystery, Crime & the Literary Thriller.”
The schedule includes events with Robert Stone, Percival Everett, Joyce Carol Oates, William Gibson, Carl Hiaasen, John Banville, among many others. I’m not really all that familiar with crime writing, frankly, and that makes this even more exciting. I wasn’t really all that interested in historical fiction when I attended my first KWLS–and certainly didn’t anticipate ever spending half a decade writing a historical novel myself.
While odd-numbered years can often be a cruel mistress, 2013 has without a doubt been good to me. There have been contest wins, publications (here, here) and acceptances (here, here), honorable mentions (here, here, here), an international fellowship to summer abroad, travel (here, here), along with the fact that we moved into a new house and love living in Dundee. I’ve enjoyed myself quite a lot this year and am not exactly looking forward to a new calendar, knowing how things tend to turn around. The party has to end sometime, right? Luckily, some more good luck has come along that guarantees, if nothing else, my 2014 will begin in style.