Flatmancrooked Calls It Quits

So word officially came out this week that Sacramento-based independent publisher Flatmancrooked is no more. This is really too bad, as FMC did quite a few innovative projects in their three years of existence. They’re probably best known for the Zero Emission Book Project, what with the front page coverage provided by Poets & Writers. It was a nice bit of success that took on a life of its own, although the excitement seemed to fizzle a bit once the book actually came out, and to not so great reviews. The LAUNCH program was, and is, a good idea, and excelled at hooking talented young writers into FMC’s effective promotions network. Their off-site events at AWPs Denver and Washington DC were very well done and were highlights for me both years. The Literati Gong Show this February was particularly awesome.

You can read Elijah Jenkins’ farewell note here. Here’s the main thrust of it:

You’ve might’ve heard the rumors by now and, unfortunately, the rumors are true. Flatmancrooked is closing its doors. The reasons for this are varied but are largely due to my decision to leave publishing in order to focus on my family and health. Various editors, including our illustrious Senior Editor Deena Drewis and Associate Editor Steve Owen shall remain in the game, producing good work with new entities. Deena will be continuing with a novella press much in keeping with LAUNCH and the novellas we put out at FMC–stay tuned here: nouvellabooks.com; Steve is starting a journal and press called Mixer, which promises all the whimsy and brains of a mixed-genre, experimental endeavor; details TBA, so keep your eyes peeled.

I’m glad Deena is keeping LAUNCH going. It’s a worthwhile venture and something that will fill a need in the marketplace. In my experience at conferences, there always seem to be a really good fiction writer who writes very long stories, and subsequently has trouble getting them published in large part because of their length. Nouvella Books would seem to be perfect for folks like this. So be sure to mention it if the opportunity arises.

Two of my short stories were published by FMC. Impatiens (Pt. 1 & Pt. 2) was featured on their website and in Flatmancrooked’s Anthology of Great Writing Done During an Economic Depression. The anthology is for sale at a deep discount ($3) at their online store. If anyone’s interested, you can find it here. (The saucy cover art is featured above.) A second story, The Housekeeper, was on the website in January and was slated to appear in Flatmancrooked 4, but that isn’t going to happen now. Steve Owen (Mixer Publishing) is trying to keep the anthology together and publish it as Mixer’s first offering. I hope he can work it out, as it was something a lot of us were looking forward to.

I mentioned this on Facebook, but it bears repeating. I feel very blessed to have been able to work with Flatmancrooked these past few years, and am saddened that they won’t be able to continue on. Everyone knows that independent publishing is a particularly difficult endeavor and no excuse is required for hanging it up when the time comes. I wish nothing but the best for Elijah, Deena, and all the others.

My AWP: 2011

The National Christmas Tree, with the Washington Monument in the background.

So the giant writers, editors, and publishers trade show, otherwise known as AWP, was last week in Washington D.C. It’s kind of hard to pull together anything too coherent regarding a constant stream of cocktails, skipped lunches, reunions, readings, casual encounters, and events, so I’ll go after this in bullet point fashion.

-I really had no idea that DC was such a fun city. My preconception was mostly made up of tour groups, packs of roving lobbyists, and motorcades. (I did see two motorcades, which was kind of exciting.) However, the Adams Morgan neighborhood was pretty awesome, as nights at Madam’s Organ Blues Bar and the Black Squirrel proved. Elijah Jenkins and Flatmancrooked put on an awesome event with the Literati Gong Show at Madam’s Organ on Thursday night. The place was absolutely packed and the attention was warranted. Here’s hoping the LGS becomes a mainstay. It’s a great twist on literary readings.

-It was somewhat curious how many street people accused me of “running game.” So that means I look like an easy mark, right?

Detail from the World War II Memorial.

-I heard the Jhumpa Lahiri keynote was kind of disappointing—I couldn’t make it back for it—but the Junot Díaz reading on Friday night was really something special. He spoke with lucidity and freshness about so many writerly issues that it kind of felt like an important, albeit informal, commencement address. His comments on Robert Smithson’s Somewheres and Elsewheres and the essay “The Monuments of Passaic” made it clear to me why—as a writer from a backwaters—Díaz’ work resonates with me. And his response to the question about profanity was really heartfelt and fascinating as well.

-The Benjamin Percy, Rick Moody, Joshua Ferris, Jennifer Egan reading was a highlight as well. You would expect a reading with such big names to be good, but this was as mind-blowing awesome as something can be right after lunch on a Saturday afternoon. It exceeded high expectations.

-There were only a few panels I made it to, and none of those were all that interesting. Much of the problem is that I pigeon-holed myself a little too much, picking panels that were similar to those I’ve seen in the past. That was pretty much the problem. It was too much of an echo from last year. Going outside the box will be important for next year.

-The Book Fair was pretty good though. It seemed really crowded, which is a good thing. More than that, most everyone was pretty enthusiastic and friendly, and only a few people came up to the Prairie Schooner table to sell us something. Awkward. It was great to meet some new people, to animate some Facebook faces, and to reconnect with a few friends. All of which is pretty much how it’s supposed to be. It was especially nice to meet the journal editors I’ve been working with over the past year.

Madam's Organ Blues Bar, host to the Literati Gong Show, Episode 1.

-The conference can be kind of exhausting, particularly in that you’re constantly talking about your own writing and reading and thinking. For someone who doesn’t get that much stimulation along these lines, it takes a bit of stretching out. This, however, was one of the best parts of the week. After all, you can’t feel too bad about being asked to talk about yourself. Anyway, it’s a great self-reflective exercise, as you’re forced to distill the components that express what your work is about down to a few cogent sentences. If you’re not sure what your book is about, or what the core conflict is, or what the basis of your main characters are, trying to explain these things a dozen times a day is a great way to find out if you have something going, or if you’re full of shit. (It’s okay to be full of shit, of course. But you should know you are, and then be able to do something about it.) It helped refresh my conception of my own work and showed me what ideas had dropped by the wayside. These kinds of oral exams can be painful to go through, but I think they’re important.

-Look out Chicago 2012!