More readers celebrating Halloween/Fall with Hagridden

Hagridden‘s publisher, Columbus Press, has put the call out for photos of my novel out in the world for Fall/Halloween — readers in costume with the book, or the book in scary locations, or the book in Fall scenery . . . . Whatever you fans (they’ve started calling y’all “Hagriddenians”!) come up with.

And so far, the response has been cool as an autumn day!

Reader Angie S. is making fast progress in the novel!

Reader Angie S. is making fast progress in the novel!

Hannah D. took Hagridden into the deep, dark woods.

Hannah D. in Columbus, Ohio, took Hagridden into the deep, dark woods.

As a reader in Columbus, Ohio, noted on this photo, "Turns out #Hagridden pairs well with fall!"

As another reader in Columbus noted on this photo, “Turns out #Hagridden pairs well with fall!”

One more Columbus reader -- this one went for "spooktacular" and NAILED it!

One more Columbus reader — this one went for “spooktacular” and NAILED it!

Oregon writer Emily Grosvenor finished Hagridden aver coffee at Chrysalis Coffeehouse in McMinnville.

Oregon writer Emily Grosvenor finished Hagridden over coffee at Chrysalis Coffeehouse in McMinnville, Oregon.

My own mother sent this photo in. Yes, that's a very young me next to my mom's copy of Hagridden.

My own mother sent this photo in. Yes, that’s a very young me next to my mom’s copy of Hagridden.

And finally:

ROUGAROU!

Texas writer Dan Cooper and his daughter (who took the photo) sent in this pic, which is composed out of PURE AWESOME!

Texas writer Dan Cooper and his daughter (who took the photo) sent in this pic, which is composed out of PURE AWESOME!

Want to play along but don’t own a copy of Hagridden? Head down to your local library and see if it’s on the shelf there! Take a photo of it in the library! Or borrow a friend’s copy! Or enter the Goodreads giveaway! (Of course, the giveaway runs til late November, so you wouldn’t get your signed copy until closer to Thanksgiving, but hey, Fall-themed photos of Hagridden are proving popular!)

If you want to share a photo, you can add one to the comments, or you can message me on Facebook.

(I’ll try to ask permission from everyone to share the photo on Facebook, on Twitter, and/or on my blog, but in case I get inundated and don’t have time to get back to each person individually, let’s all just assume that if you’re sending the photo to me, you’re giving me permission to share it.)

Looking forward to more pix, gang!

Free ebook on self-publishing

Last week, I met with a creative writing class in Salem, Oregon, to talk writing and publishing and Hagridden. A few of the students were interested in my experience with “traditional publishing” (short answer: sunnyoutside press and Columbus Press have been GREAT to me!), but I began my reply by explaining that, actually, “traditional publishing” is self-publishing.

This industry that we call “traditional publishing” today is really only a couple hundred years old — and the way it works today is younger than that, maybe a hundred years old. Traditionally, I explained, loads of authors and poets actually self-published, some to begin with and some forever, some as a matter of expedience and some as a matter of principle — in fact, publishing a century or two ago looked very much the way publishing looks today. The difference today is that self-publishing is much cheaper and easier to do in our digital world. And it’s that ease, really, that maintains the old (actually, new) stigma against self-publishing.

But writers can still self-publish today with the same quality and the same principles as folks like Walk Whitman and Beatirx Potter and James Joyce (all self-published). The trick is to skip the modern ease and speed of tossing a typed story onto Kindle and calling it a day and, instead, do everything the “traditional” publishers do when they publish a book.

(What you’re about to read is a lengthy buzzkill, so if you want to just skip to the good news and the free book, click here.)

After you write the book (or perhaps even as you’re writing), you’ll need to hire an editor, which won’t be cheap because an editor isn’t a proofreader, she’s a story wizard who will go through a book and coach you through story development, character details, plot holes, theme, concept . . . . And so on.

And then you have to hire a copyeditor, which is a different job and which requires a different skillset from an editor. Ideally, you’ll hire two or three copyeditors, because no one set of eyes will catch everything.

And then you have to hire a designer. If you’re doing things right, you’ll hire two: one to design the book, and another to design the cover. But sometimes you can get lucky and find someone who can do both. If you’re doing both print and ebook, you’ll have to look long and hard to find someone who can design for both formats, because, again, those are different skill sets.

While you’re at it, you might want to hire a web designer, too, because you’ll want a web presence. This is the thing most authors assume they can do themselves and, frankly, fair enough — I made this website. I’m happy with it. But it’s clearly a DIY job and isn’t as clean or as cool as the novel site that Columbus Press made for Hagridden, so if you want something like that and you’re self-publishing, you’ll have to pay for it.

But with or without a DIY website, you’ll have to hire a marketer (or, more likely, a whole marketing firm) who can promote the book, help you set up readings, find reviewers, create advertising, and manage a whole range of social media. Don’t think you can do all of that yourself, even if your book is your full-time job. Trust me. I’m not doing it myself — my publishers have done a lot of work on my behalf — and I still barely manage to keep on top of things. There literally aren’t enough hours in a day for one human being to do all the marketing work a book requires.

And then, of course, you’ll have to print and distribute the thing. If you’re doing an ebook, printing and distribution are relatively cheap, though of course you don’t want to limit yourself to Amazon’s Kindle (much as Amazon works to make you limit yourself), so you’ll have to figure out and promote multiple platforms. If you’re doing a print book, you can find printers that can also handle distribution, but it won’t be cheap.

In other words, there’s a reason this industry we call “traditional publishing” exists — publishing is expensive and grueling work.

But here’s the good news!

self-pub-cover-210x300Brad Pauquette, the founder of Columbus Press as well as the guy behind the Columbus Creative Cooperative and the Columbus Publishing Lab, has put out an ebook on self-publishing that takes all those grueling, anxiety-inducing headaches I just described and breaks it down into simple steps, a kind of instruction manual that can walk you through the self-publishing process.

And this week, his book is free!

Download your copy today.

Readers celebrating Halloween/Fall with Hagridden

As regular readers already know, I like to share photos of folks reading my books, or my books on folks’ shelves, etc, and now Hagridden‘s publisher, Columbus Press, wants to see those pix, too! They’ve had the fun idea to solicit more photos of Hagridden out in the world — you in costume with my book or my book in scary locations, as well as the traditional you-sans-costume with the novel or the novel on a bookshelf somewhere. Like these:

An unnamed Columbus reader likes to drink beer with Hagridden. And look: COLOR TABS!

An unnamed Columbus reader likes to drink beer with Hagridden. And look: COLOR TABS!

Columbus reader Schyler M's copy of Hagridden, in a lovely fall-themed photo!

Columbus reader Schyler M’s copy of Hagridden, in a lovely fall-themed photo!

Or maybe you don’t own a copy of Hagridden yet, but you still want to play along. Head down to your local library and see if it’s on the shelf there! Take a photo of it in the library!

Here's Hagridden in the library of the Pacific Northwest College of Art, alongside my fellow Portland authors Monica Drake and Trevor Dodge and a whole slew of other great writers!

Here’s Hagridden in the library of the Pacific Northwest College of Art, alongside my fellow Portland authors Monica Drake and Trevor Dodge and a whole slew of other great writers!

Or borrow a friend’s copy! Or enter the Goodreads giveaway! (Of course, the giveaway runs til late November, so you wouldn’t get your signed copy until closer to Thanksgiving, but hey, Fall-themed photos of Hagridden are cool, too!)

If you want to share a photo, you can add one to the comments, or you can message me on Facebook.

(I’ll try to ask permission from everyone to share the photo on Facebook, on Twitter, and/or on my blog, but in case I get inundated and don’t have time to get back to each person individually, let’s all just assume that if you’re sending the photo to me, you’re giving me permission to share it.)

Looking forward to the pix, gang! And stay tuned for my Hagridden-related Halloween costume later this week!

Reading from Hagridden at Chemeketa Writes

Yesterday, I drove down I-5 in the rain to Salem, Oregon, where I joined students, faculty, and community members at Chemeketa Community College for their Chemeketa Writes program. They’d invited me to read from my novel Hagridden.

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Almost a year ago, on November 12, I did almost exactly the same thing, except at the time, Hagridden was not a published novel, and I wasn’t in Salem — I was the first Chemeketa Writes reader on the Yamhill campus in McMinnville, where I normally teach composition and creative writing.

Last year, we’d picked the date of November 12 because it was the release date for my first book, the flash-fiction chapbook Box Cutters. But I was reading from Hagridden because last year was when I’d won an Oregon Literary Fellowship, and my home campus wanted to celebrate that achievement and support my creative work.

What no one knew at the time, almost a year ago, was that literally ten minutes before I was due to begin my reading in McMinnville, I’d received an email from my agent, John Sibley Williams, telling me we’d had some interest from a publisher. The publisher wanted to talk to me first, but they indicated they might be ready to make on offer on Hagridden.

That publisher was Columbus Press, who published Hagridden two months ago.

So yesterday’s reading in Salem was exciting for me for a whole range of reasons: I was repeating the Chemeketa Writes program, but I was going whole hog and doing the reading, the classroom visit, and (on Saturday) the workshop, all at the main campus in Salem; my first reading at the branch campus was the moment I met my publisher; it’s been nearly a year between those events, and each one celebrated the publication of a book, first Box Cutters and now Hagridden.

The turnout at the reading was amazing, especially considering it was in the middle of the day. I feel honored that so many folks gave up their lunch hour to listen to fiction.

Chemeketa selfie!

Chemeketa selfie!

After the reading, I joined Tammy Jabin’s creative writing class for a lengthy discussion of Hagridden (which they’d all been reading for the class!) and writing habits and publication.The students all asked great questions — writerly questions! — and I loved some of their comments about and insights on Hagridden. And I got to deflate everyone’s dream of making a decent living as a writer — actually, I told them the story of how my undergrad mentor, poet and novelist David Breeden, had burst my bubble, and how grateful I was that he did because it taught me to focus on writing for the sake of writing and to take pleasure in the process, not the product. Someone made of joke of needing to marry someone rich, which gave me the chance to tell the story of how, while we’ve never been rich and probably never will be, my wife did pay the bills for a year or so while I wrote full time, including the first draft of Hagridden, and how lucky I was to have that. (Thanks again, Jennifer!) I also gave them my often-repeated charge to find other writers and engage in the writing community, and I explained how fortunate we all are to live in Oregon, which is rich with small presses, writers, writing workshops, and an intimately connected writing community.

Which is what I felt a part of yesterday, sitting in a classroom with all the new writers, talking about our dreams and the realities we all face, discussing fiction and publishing and punk rock (yeah, that came up). It was a wonderful experience.

I know many of those students are planning to also take my workshop tomorrow at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, and I look forward to talking with them again!

NaNoWriMo and my first published novel

Five years ago, I embarked on my first real attempt at National Novel Writing Month. I signed up, planned my schedule, roughed out an outline, and buckled down. November 1, 2009, I began writing.

Two weeks later, I raced past the 50,000-word mark. The ending was rushed and the details were hazy and the characters felt rather flat and the writing was messy, but I’d put together a pretty decent story and landed at just over 53,000 words. And I’d done it in half the allotted time (my wife and I were going on vacation for Thanksgiving, so I had to finish early.)

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That first attempt at NaNoWriMo those five years ago wound up being the first draft of Hagridden, which, after years of revision and shopping around, came out from Columbus Press two months ago. (It’s listed in the page of “Published WriMos”! They’re organized by publisher, so scroll through the “Traditionally Published” list until you find Columbus Press.)

While drafting Hagridden back in 2009, I kept a running commentary on my process by posting regular updates here on the blog. It’s a habit I kept up every year since then, even setting up a special NaNoWriMo page here on my website, with links to all my posts from all the years I’ve participated (including my “tips for new WriMos“). But writing those update posts also gave me a chance to more deeply examine my writing practices and process, and when I wasn’t writing my novel or updates on my progress, I wrote a lengthy post on the myth of writers block and the first in what became a whole series of posts about researching for fiction.

It was a rich and instructive period for me, that first NaNoWriMo experience. Of course, it helped that I was away from the classroom that year and, for the first time in my life, was able to devote my entire schedule to writing full time. Balancing two jobs — writing and whatever else you do — is tremendously difficult.

But this is one of the things NaNoWriMo taught me how to do. That first November, monitoring daily word counts and tracking my progress along an outline and setting aside designated writing times, these tasks were how I learned who I am as a writer and how I need to work in order to write something as prolonged and as intense as a novel. I learned how to organize the work, how to sustain it over time, how to impose deadlines on myself and then meet them.

I’ve gone back to some of those early posts from that first year, and I’ve noticed some interesting things. In my first post, from my second day of writing, I went back to my outline and my schedule, and I predicted some things: “I’ve had a very clear vision for this novel for about four years now,” I wrote in 2009, “so at the outset of this project I set myself up a relatively detailed outline. Then I upped the page count (NaNoWriMo requires about 175 pages, but I was shooting for 210) and divided it as well as the word count by the 30 days of November, and then I synchronized the whole thing to my outline [. . .]. Strangely, I’ve already fallen a handful of pages behind my outline, yet I’m more than a thousand words ahead on my word count. Conclusion: This is going to be a longer novel than I’d planned, and I might wind up completing NaNoWriMo without having finished the novel.”

I was right, it turned out. Not only did I finish NaNoWriMo without fully finishing the book (as I’ve said, the ending was rushed and incomplete), but I also was spot-on about the page count: I was shooting for 210 but realized it would probably be longer; Hagridden, as published, is 241 pages.

But just two days later, I’d changed my mind: “I’m moving through my outline faster than I’d thought, and today I realized I’d finished a third of the story I’ve set out to write. That means I’m going to run out of novel before I hit 50,000 words.” That, too, wound up being true, because while I did finish the book, or at least wrote an ending to the book, I had skipped over quite a bit of story, and in my later revisions of the novel, I had to do a lot of work to add in character background, plot points, and world-building detail. In my first crack at revision, I threw out a lot of text and cut the initial 53,000 words down to around 49,000, but then I developed, and edited, and developed, and edited, and the final, published version comes in just shy of 69,000 words. That’s almost 13,000 words more than my first draft — 20,000 words more, if you consider what I cut.

The final discovery for me, in my last post about the process of that first year, was how important doing NaNoWriMo was for my sense of community. “I knew I needed to do [NaNoWriMo] publicly,” I wrote just after finishing the book, “not because what I’m writing matters but because I needed to trick myself into thinking it mattered to someone, I needed the illusion of some impatient audience out there in the world tapping their fingers and saying, ‘All right, dude, show what you did today.'”

I’m a terribly undisciplined person, really, and I often have to trick myself into doing the work, and no trick has worked better than the friends or colleagues or editors waiting expectantly for me to finish. Even if they’re an illusion I conjure or their expectation is one I asked them to have.

This is something I’d long known about myself and had used before in college and grad school. But NaNoWriMo taught me how to manufacture that experience outside of school, digitally, across the planet.

That first year was my most successful year. I wrote other books each November from 2010 to 2013. Some I finished, some I haven’t finished yet. Some were irredeemably terrible, some still hold great promise. Then, last year, I returned to historical fiction — and found my next book.

The new novel (tentatively titled The Devil Don’t Die, though I’m not yet married to that) never quite came together last year, and for the second time, I didn’t make it to 50k. But I fell in love with the story, and I’ve spent much of the past year thinking about it and tinkering with it in the background. Which is why, this year, though I will be writing, I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo, because I want to return to a book I’ve already started. The work will be the same — and I’ll be chronicling it here as I usually do during NaNoWriMo — but since it’s technically against the rules to work on a book you’ve already started, I won’t be entering it on the NaNoWriMo site.

Which is to say, keep tabs on my progress here on the blog (and on Facebook, and on Twitter). And check out what I got up to each November in years past, including how I went about writing the first draft of Hagridden.

A new review of Hagridden, and FREE BOOKS!

Today has been a good-news day: I woke up this morning, silenced the alarm on my phone, and saw a Twitter notification that The Austin Review (a fantastic literary magazine, by the way!) had published Paul Adams’s review of my novel, Hagridden.

And what a review! Adams does an amazing close-reading of the text, picking apart characters and themes and motivations in ways that felt revelatory even to me, and I wrote the novel! (Word of warning, his review does contain some detailed plot analysis and therefore has a few minor spoilers, though he doesn’t ruin anything, I promise).

There is a strain of Gothic dread running through 20th century Southern literature, and it is clearly visible in Hagridden. Stylistically, the novel owes something to Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy: oppressively lush landscapes, dialogue lacking all punctuation, and sometimes jarring contrast between characters’ rich inner lives and their spare, gnomic utterances. When novelists use this style poorly, the result can be almost unreadably dense. When done well, as it is here, it creates a sense that the reader is looking into a separate and complete world, eerily similar to our own but tilted slightly toward the abstract. The characters’ actions become inevitable and weighed down by the burdens of past and future. Things become symbols of themselves.

Whoa. Faulkner and McCarthy? I’m overwhelmed by the favorable comparisons! And Adam’s isn’t done with them. Regarding the main antagonist, Lt. Whelan:

Whelan is in many ways the character who is most eloquent in speaking for himself, and some of the best passages involve menacing conversations he carries on with strangers during his hunt for Buford. His deliberate and dispassionate will to violence brings to mind the fatalistic killer Anton Chigurh from Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men.

Holy shit! My character just got compared to “the ultimate badass”!

And finally:

There are details of almost hallucinatory vividness, and marvelous turns of phrase are everywhere (opening the book at random twice led to “he gored the muck from beneath his fingernail” and “he asked if any recognized the items or knew where he might find their like.”) Despite the desperation and menace that pervade this novel, a dry humor often seeps through in unexpected ways. With radical empathy towards deeply flawed characters and an ability to find the exquisite in the mundane, Snoek-Brown has created a complex and brilliant novel. Though its themes are dark and horrifying, there is a great deal of beauty in this book.

Adams himself is a more than capable wordsmith. I loved some of the sentences in his review just as sentences — the imagery he evokes, the rhythms of his language. “We are told that this takes place in Western Louisiana in the waning days of the Civil War,” Adams writes, “but it might as well be happening in the Middle Ages or on the moon. This is not a complaint; this book’s sense of timeless and universal horror is one of the things that makes it such a powerful work.”

I’ve heard so many people refer to what is supposed to be a historical novel as “post-apocalyptic,” which sounds odd until you realize they’re referring to the apocalypse that is all war, but Adams does a beautiful job of conveying that idea in the broadest and yet most explicit terms I’ve seen so far.

Elsewhere, describing the characters and the early intrusion of Buford, he writes, “The murderous peace of the two women [. . .] is shattered by the return of their neighbor Buford from the war.” I love that phrase! “The murderous peace.”

And, later, referring to the legends of the rougarou and the (fictional) Civil War group of the Rougarou Corps: “Since the protagonists of the story are serial killers (albeit motivated by hunger and despair), the villains must be literally monstrous.”

I cannot convey how wonderful this review is. And to literally wake up to it, to have this be the thing that introduces me to my day, was one of the best things that’s happened to me related to Hagridden since the book was published. Gang, I’m over the moon about this.

Thanks SO MUCH to Paul Adams (may I meet him someday and buy him many beers) and The Austin Review!

But wait! Today has more in store, and this bit’s for you, friends and fans!

Columbus Press has decided to launch another giveaway on Goodreads, just in time for your Halloween reading needs. So follow the link to the giveaway page and enter for your chance to win one of three signed copies of Hagridden! Giveaway ends on November 20, so you have time to get your name in the digital hat. And don’t think you can’t enter if you already have a copy — get yourself an extra book in late November, and you can give it to someone else as a Hanukkah or Christmas gift! ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book that made me a writer

The other day on Facebook, as a fun twist on Throwback Thursday, author and publisher Michael Seidlinger asked a “throwback” question: “The first book you read that blew your mind?”

The question elicited a few hundred responses, many of which felt nostalgic for me: Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” which remains one of my favorite long stories ever; Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which taught me that my casual love of books was much more important that I’d realized; Shelley’s Frankenstein and Stoker’s Dracula, which were revelations of literary horror; various Hemingway novels (I reread For Whom the Bells Tolls every few years); various Vonnegut books (my first was Breakfast of Champions and it changed everything) . . . .

But while all these books blew my mind, none was the first.

When I was doing my blog tour and book tour for Hagridden, several people asked me how I got into writing, and I told stories about reading Stephen King novels and my dad’s old Phoenix Force books and how I had stories I wanted to tell, too, and I realized I could tell them. I started writing my first book (a terrible action novel) in seventh grade. But those Phoenix Force action novels didn’t come anywhere close to “blowing my mind,” and even Stephen King, who was a fast favorite, didn’t do anything for me that Poe and Hawthorne and Lovecraft hadn’t already done.

Thinking about Seidlinger’s question, I realize there’s an earlier book, a single novel that changed the way I viewed the world and myself.

This was the cover my edition had.

This was the cover my edition had.

I was in the fourth grade, and I don’t remember where I got my copy or how I came to read it, but I became utterly engrossed with Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy. It was the first novel I’d read that felt like a novel, something more sophisticated and complex than the chapter books I’d read as a younger kid.

But the real reason it stands out in my memory is Harriet’s notebooks. Sure, she wanted to be a spy, and her notebooks full of her critical observations of the lives around her were in pursuit of what she perceived as espionage. And they were, let’s face it, a terrible invasion on other people’s privacy.

But for me, at nine years old, they were also notebooks full of stories, and while I didn’t quite have the language to explain this at the time, I realize now that I wasn’t reading Harriet as a spy-in-training — I was reading her as a writer-in-training.

My habit of carrying notebooks around with me, my love of people-watching, of scribbling character details and bits of dialogue, of describing the things around me and recording my impressions — these are things I learned from Harriet. It would be a few more years before I thought to apply those habits to the craft of fiction, and many many years before I knew anything about what all those notebooks were actually good for — before I knew how to do anything but imitate a stereotype of writers everywhere — but when I look back now, I realize how transformative Harriet the Spy was for me.

She taught me not only how to observe but also how to respond, how to tell stories about the lives of others (in my case, I tell fictional stories about fictional people), and, most importantly, how to tell those stories responsibly. Because Harriet gets herself in trouble with the stories she writes down, and rightly so. But with the help of some important mentors, she finds a productive outlet for her talents — in her case, journalism, a great producer of writers and a field I occasionally practiced in school myself. Following in Harriet’s footsteps, even if by then I’d moved on to other novels, other exemplars of the life I planned to lead as a writer.

But it was Harriet who helped me take my first steps as a writer.

EJ Runyon’s new book, A House of Light and Stone

My friend EJ Runyon published a book last month and I’ve been meaning to tell you about it! It’s called A House of Light and Stone:

EJ Runyon Jo&D

Told in uncompromising clarity through the eyes of a child, A House of Light and Stone is at once full of heartbreak and hope, offering respites of warmth in the coldest of places.

You might remember EJ from the interview she did with me two years ago this month. You can find the first of the three-part series on her blog.

Congratulations to EJ on her new book!

New publication

A pre-columbian Chatino stela depicting a nagu...

A pre-columbian Chatino stela depicting a nagual transforming into a jaguar. His name is inscribed in Zapotec glyphs on his abdomen and translates to “5 Alligator”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the past few months, I’ve been writing new short stories related to my Civil War novel, Hagridden. Each story involves a minor character or two from the novel, people who have some important moments in the book but are definitely supporting characters to the main narrative; in these stories, those folks get their own narrative.

Today, SOL: English Writing in Mexico published the third of those stories, “Jarabe.”

This one addresses the Jimenez brothers, Mexican men who operate a tent shop in a poor section of Leesburg. In the novel, they interact with both the women and the Confederate soldier hunting for Buford, but in the short story, the Jimenez brothers have not yet moved to Louisiana — they’re still in Mexico, fighting in a border war known as The Cortina Troubles.

This means that, unlike the other two stories related to Hagridden (“What Have You Done to Deserve Such a Halo,” in Bartleby Snopes; and “The Voices Captain Brewster Heard,” in WhiskeyPaper), there’s no mention of the Cajun werewolf legend of the rougarou. But don’t worry, fans of the quasi-supernatural: “Jarabe” does play with Brujería and with indigenous Mexican legends of the shapeshifting naguals. :)

Meanwhile, Hagridden is still going strong — I keep getting positive feedback! Don’t own a copy yet? Find one in a bookstore near you! Or order one online!

An appointment with loads of amazing writers

A couple of evenings ago, I went over to The Jade Lounge in Portland to hang out with Dena Rash GuzmanYuvi Zalkow, Julia Clare Tillinghast, and Parker Tettleton as part of Timothy Gager‘s book tour for his new novel, The Thursday Appointments of Bill Sloan.

We had a grand time. Despite the noise in the kitchen and the uncharacteristically limited beer options that night, I do dig The Jade Lounge as a reading spot — it’s so wonderfully dark and intimate and kind of jazz-loungy — and the company was terrific. Everyone there is a talented poet or fictioneer (that’s not a word but it ought to be), and I sold a few books and got loads of kind compliments on Hagridden. And in a weird coincidence, the guy who walked in during my reading, just looking for a beer in one of his favorite bars, turned out to be one of my former students! He hung around afterward to tell me how his degree is coming along (he’s nearly finished, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next, because he’s a talented artist).

As is usually the case in dark bars, it would have been pointless trying to get a selfie with the audience, but my wife managed to snap a couple of decent photos of me, as well as Timothy Gager and Parker Tettleton (who, I discovered, studied with Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin, two of my favorite writers — and favorite human beings — and Tom Franklin blurbed my novel, so I feel like Parker and I are practically related).

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Parker blogged about the reading and added one of the goofy group photos we did afterward. Timothy also blogged about the event, where you can find even more photos of our shenanigans (including his napkin-note telling the noisy kitchen staff to shut it!) as well as some genuine praise for my beloved hometown. (Thanks, Timothy!)

Stay tuned for news of more Hagridden events, gang! I’ll be down in Salem, OR, in a couple of weeks. But that, as they say, is another story post. :)