This is the YA author you need to keep an eye on

Michelle author photoA handful of years ago, I met Michelle Modesto right here on this blog: she left some comments, I left some replies, and pretty soon we were swapping ideas about writing. She was just starting out as a writer, and we talked craft quite a bit, both here and via email. Michelle has a ton of talent and some fascinating ideas, and I enjoyed the hell out of our early discussions. Email turned into Facebook and eventually Twitter, and I’m proud to say we’re digital friends now.

Which is why I’m so excited to share this news with you:

A few weeks ago, Michelle sold her debut YA novel, Machine and the Wild, to Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins! 

The novel is a mad mashup of weird fiction and Westerns, set in an alt-history California Gold Rush, with a bit of steampunk (the heroine has a mechanical arm) and a bit of horror (she’s hunting down roving gangs of cannibals) and a bit of fantasy (through magic and fantastical creatures). It’s basically everything everyone would ever want in one novel, and I can’t imagine a cooler book — when I was a teen, I’d have been ALL OVER this thing, and as an adult, I can’t wait to read it!

As with all good things, of course, I will have to wait; Machine and the Wild isn’t due out until 2016. But in the meantime, you can find out a bit more about the author via a new interview over at YA Misfits. You can also see her agent-nabbing query letter and an interview about her querying process in the Kickass Queries series.

And keep an eye out for Michelle’s new website — it’s in development now, but as soon as it’s live, I’ll link to it here.

So welcome an exciting new author, gang, and start following Michelle Modesto through every digital means possible, because come 2016, she’s going to own YA fiction!

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This weekend in literature: Terroir Creative Writing Festival and Ink Noise Review

This weekend, I’ll be at a couple of writing-related events in Oregon, if you’re in the area and want to say hi.

terroir-2014-for-fb-hi-res-ver-4On Saturday, April 19, I’ll be down in McMinnville at the Terroir Creative Writing Festival, held on the Yamhill campus of Chemeketa Community College. I went last year in support of my friend Monica Drake and as a geekboy fan of Nicole J. Georges, and I loved the whole event. (It’s also where I met Lynda Phillippi, who later interviewed me for her TV program Arts Alive.)

At this year’s festival, I’m not a panelist, but I’ll be attending all day, and I do plan on reading at the open mic that wraps up the festival. I’ll also be bringing copies of my chapbook, Box Cutters, so if you still haven’t bought a copy or would like to get one signed, come find me.


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The next evening, on April 20, I’ll be rejoining the Ink Noise Review reading series. This time, I’m serving as an “appetizer” to the main event, a kind of pre-reading warm-up, so my bit will be brief. But stick around, because after me, you’ll get to enjoy my friend Jenny Forrester, as well as my new friend Adam Strong, and a whole crew of other talented folks.

This is all going down at the Jade Lounge in SE Portland. My bit starts at 7 pm, so don’t be late! Oh, and I’ll have copies of Box Cutters there, too, if you want to buy one.

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Gabriel García Márquez has died . . .

. . . Long live Gabriel García Márquez.

I was a late-comer to García Márquez, having never been assigned his seminal One Hundred Years of Solitude in high school, as so many others had been. I first picked him up a handful of years ago when I was browsing a bookstore in a fit of indecision, unsure what to read next but yearning for something new. I’d recently finished Dostoyevsky’s House of the Dead, and while I was too exhausted to try more Russian fiction, I felt like I still needed something both non-American and classic. Which is when I found the García Márquez shelf. That store didn’t have his most famous work, but they did have Of Love and Other Demons, so I bought it and took it home and curled up in bed on a hot afternoon to see what all the fuss was about.

I fell in love.

I don’t mean that in the conventional sense of “I love this writer” or “I love that book.” I mean I felt connected to the book, as though the text and I were in communion with one another, some secret bond of unspoken understanding. Reading the book felt like the beginning of a romance. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why this translated prose was impacting me this way, why I was so consumed by it, but later I came to realize that it was about the density of the work, the precision of García Márquez’s images and characterizations and insights that transcend translation. In many ways, it reminded me of Chekhov, another non-English writer whose work I love in almost any translation, except García Márquez was writing in much longer form.

Faulkner (another dense and florid writer) once quipped in an interview that the difference between short fiction and novels is that short fiction must be precise, whereas in novels the writer can get away with all sorts of sloppy experimentation. I’ve often used that line to criticize the worst of Faulkner’s novels — he really was at his best in short form — but it was hard to argue with him when you look at novelists who also write short stories: sure enough, most novels do start to feel drawn out, lazy, and indulgent, though I love novels anyway. And yet I continued to argue with Faulkner, because I had the examples of short-story writers like Chekhov or Alice Munro, writers who, in relatively short works, managed to build whole novels worth of character and setting and backstory. I read writers like that and I feel like a story that spans 20 or 30 pages took years of my life to experience. Why couldn’t a novel have that same degree of compression and depth?

But in García Márquez, I’d discovered the true potential of long-form fiction. García Márquez does with the novel what Munro or Chekhov does with the short story — that same degree of intensity and compression — so that when I finish reading a García Márquez novel, I felt as if I’ve lived lifetimes. The last novel of his I read, Love in the Time of Cholera, is utterly epic in scope, recounting generations of family and national histories, sending characters on grand voyages and profound self-discoveries and life-changing romances . . . and when I first set the book aside to catch my breath and collect my thoughts, I realized I’d only read about 60 pages. I still had almost four-fifths of the novel to go!

This is how absorbing García Márquez’s prose is, and, I think, it’s why his death has given me such pause. If you read even one book, you become so possessed by García Márquez’s vision that you feel he’s become a relative, someone you know and grew up with even if you only just met him. If you read more than one García Márquez book, you start to become his lover, your soul embracing his soul, your vision becoming his vision.

And now he is gone from this world.

But our greatest comfort — the greatest comfort any reader could hope for — is that he is not gone from this world. His works remain, and if we can manage to read them all, their time will unfold before us, within us, and with García Márquez, we will live forever.

It was a memorable death, and not without reason.

~ Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

19/03/2009 La Ministra de Cultuta de Colombia ...

19/03/2009 La Ministra de Cultuta de Colombia Paula Moreno y el escritor colombiano Gabriel García Marquez fueron los encargados de entregar el Mayahuel de Plata a Victor Gaviria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Dream journal: Meryl Streep in the mall

I sometimes have dreams so vivid I have to write them down when I wake up. Sometimes those things wind up in notebooks, other times they wind up on Facebook (and sometimes they wind up as fiction), but except for a couple of old Writer’s Notebook entries (this one, and this one), I haven’t really written up any of those dreams here on the blog. I think that’s mostly because I don’t actually keep a formal dream journal — I just scribble ideas that feel fully formed enough and narrative enough to merit a little storytelling, even if only casually — so I hadn’t thought to include those here on the blog.

But the dream I had last night was so much fun (and has gotten such a fun reaction on Facebook) that I figured I might as well share it here. And maybe I’ll keep doing so from time to time. I don’t anticipate this becoming a regular feature on the blog, but once in a while, if a dream seems share-worthy, I’ll go ahead and toss it up for everyone to enjoy.


Last night I dreamed that my wife, Jennifer, sent me out for fast food breakfast, which for some reason I could only find in the mall, but as I was walking through the mall to the food court, I got stuck behind a slow walker. After a few minutes, the slow woman turned around and joked, “Are you stalking me?” And it was Meryl Streep.

By Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

By Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

I swore to her that I wasn’t stalking her, and she laughed and said it was okay. For some reason, I mentioned the Oregon Book Awards, and she said, “Oh, are you a writer?” And then she invited me to sit on the floor of the mall, right there in the corridor, to chat with her for a bit. I said, “Won’t people mind?” But she said, “Oh, I do this all the time.”

I told her all about my novel, and she asked if there was a part in it for her, and at first I said not really, but then I said, “Well, there’s a lot of accent work, Southern and Cajun, and you know you and accents. You could probably play anyone you wanted.” We talked for maybe half an hour, and I kept thinking, I’m late getting Jennifer’s breakfast, but then I thought, it’s Meryl Streep! Jennifer is going to be thrilled! Later, my friend Karma Dorje walked by and spotted us, and after I introduced him to Streep, he said, “No one is ever going to believe this.”

When we got up from the floor to go our separate ways, Streep asked if I had a business card, and I did, but as I rooted in my satchel, I remembered I’d cut them all up into little paper horses and Batman symbols. I don’t know why. But finally I found a whole card and Streep took it and I thought, I wonder if she’d let me call her Meryl now, but I was still too intimidated to ask.

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New review of Box Cutters

I am so, so happy to announce that Danny M. Hoey, Jr, author of the novel The Butterfly Lady, has written a review of my chapbook, Box Cutters! The review is up at Heavy Feather Review, and it’s beautifully kind!

In language that is poetic, evocative, and lean, Snoek-Brown has managed to create a world that is authentic and laced with pain that lingers long after you have finished the book.

He offers some fascinating readings of a few of the stories in the book (I love when people break down my work this way, showing me not only things I hoped people would get but also things I never realized were in there!), and then he finishes with some heartwarming praise:

The complexity in these tiny stories is large and voracious and it swallows you and forces you to reckon with what can cut you, harm you, if you are not careful. Samuel Snoek-Brown, an Oregon Literary Fellow, will continue to amaze you and haunt you with his lyricism and critique of human nature. I look forward to reading his debut novel to see how he expands on his talent.

(That novel, Hagridden, will be out this August, by the way. So stay tuned, gang!)

Thanks so much to Danny Hoey and to Heavy Feather Review! It’s not even 9 am here, and already my whole day is made.

Wanna talk writing? Get possessed by the Lit Demon

1966064_1435953959985329_5969882273842050095_oThe very cool folks over at Cease, Cows have branched out into a new venture and launched a literary community called Lit Demon. Part resource for writers and part online workshop, the site provides “connection, instruction, information, and maybe other -tions we aren’t able to list.” Their workshops include live webinars, one-on-one instruction, and self-paced writing courses, and the rest of the website offers writers discussion forums, a blog on literary issues, editing and book design services, and otherwise general awesomeness.

They already have two workshops available for enrollment: a fabulism workshop (Waving at the Fabulous: How to Write New Wave Fabulism; begins May 10) and a bizarro workshop (A Talking Eyeball Walks into a Bar: An Introduction to Writing Bizarro Fiction; begins June 7).

If neither of these workshops float your boat, sign up at the website anyway and keep an eye on it, because there’s plenty more coming down the pike. In fact, I’ll be running a course of my own later this year.

The whole venture sounds awesome (I know the gang behind all this), and they’re just getting started, so sign up at the website now to get in on the ground floor and watch this thing take off.

And for all you pros out there, they’re still accepting applications for instructors! Fill out an application here.

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New publication

Narghile

The new issue of Red Fez, one of the coolest literary magazines online, is out today, and I have a new story in it. It’s called “To Smoke the Hookahs,” and I think you’ll dig it.

But don’t just check out my story; this whole issue is awesome, including more fiction, articles on everything from food to autism, comics, videos, poems from Misti Rainwater and Tara Rose, and a book review from Bud Smith.

So settle in, put the coal on the shisha, and have fun, gang.

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A minor rearranging

Reading at the release of the Portland Review Winter 2014 issue, at the East End in Portland, OR, April 2014.

Reading at the release of the Portland Review Winter 2014 issue, at the East End in Portland, OR, April 2014.

Not that this is newsworthy, but I tweaked the website a bit today: now, under the About tab, you’ll find a link to my “Teaching & literary photos” page, which is really just a slideshow. The pix are mostly of me teaching or me at readings, but they’re kind of fun in that some are of recent readings, so you can see what I’ve been up to lately, and some are hilariously old (there’s even a photo of me in high school, teaching 2nd-graders about ancient Japan).

That’s right: there’s a photo of me before I had the long hair and goatee.

You’re welcome, Internet.

New publication

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I’ve written about this before, from time to time, but now it’s out in the world, waiting for you to buy it: the Revenge of the Scammed anthology, a benefit book to help out writer Edward J Rathke, is now available for purchase at Amazon.

In it, you’ll find my story, “What Scholars Study They Strive to Kill,” along with fantastic fiction by David S. Atkinson, Douglas Hackle, Ben Tanzer, William Lemon, and a slew of other great writers.

Check it out, support Eddy Rathke and publisher Bartleby Snopes and all the other writers who chipped in to help our colleague. And enjoy some great writing.

Smells like springtime to the Jersey Devil

JDP april14 coverAnd by “smells like springtime,” we mean it smells like oranges that make you want to eat people. Because what else says “spring” like birth and death and roaming corpses and killer oranges and voracious cannibalistic appetites and companion slugs?

Corpses and slugs, folks. Happy freaking Spring!

Plus some deceptively haunting cover art by photographer Isabella Petty!