Midwest tour wrap-up (& how awesome Columbus Press is)

Gang, I’m done. I’m home again in Portland.

I have had an amazing time on tour in the Midwest — in Ohio, Indiana, and even a quick trip through northern Kentucky. The readers and audience members and students and colleagues have been fabulous — so supportive, so enthusiastic for my novel! — and seeing old friends and making new friends has been exhilarating.

And then there’s Columbus Press. You guys! You need to do whatever you can to support these folks. Buy my book, obviously, but don’t stop there — BUY ALL THE BOOKS!

The gang at Columbus Press, as well as the literary community in Columbus and the writers resource group Columbus Creative Cooperative, have been outstanding. They wined and dined me (by which I mean whiskeyed and veggie hot-dogged me), and they introduced me to a lot of great venues, and they  set up amazing book-related events that also benefit the community, and they shared their lives with me . . . .

This is what a small press relationship is supposed to be like. Or at least it’s what I always hoped it would be like.

So, in short, the folks at Columbus Press are just all-around beautiful human beings. Writers, I hope that someday you’re lucky enough to get to do business with them. And readers, you can already do business with them and support their work.

Huge thanks, too, to a whole bunch of other folks:

But we’re not done yet, gang. Next Monday, October 6, I’m reading with author Eva Hunter at Annie Bloom’s Books here in Portland, and then on October 10 I’ll be joining Timothy Gager and a whole crew of other writers at the Jade Lounge in Portland. And there’s more on the way, so stay tuned!

Fiction and friends in three states

This book tour has been a wonderful whirlwind, gang, and I’m still playing catch-up on all the fun events I’ve been involved in! So allow me to take you on the fantastic finale of my tour of the Midwest, from Indiana through Kentucky and back into Ohio:

After my Indianapolis gig, I drove south to New Albany, Indiana, where I met up with poet Steve Bowman and theatre costume designer and professor Natalie Brown Bowman. They introduced me to Indiana University Southeast, where I met professors and librarians, chatted with students, checked out Natalie’s costume workshop (which was seriously impressive!), and finally settled in for my reading and craft discussion with the English club and anyone else who turned up.

Just a reminder from the IUS English club that it's Banned Books Week.

Just a reminder from the IUS English club that it’s Banned Books Week.

As it happened, a LOT of “anyone else” turned up! I don’t know the final tally, but there was a sign-up sheet for students, and that thing ran to nearly 30. Plus professors and community members. It was an amazing turnout!

In fact, there were so many folks I had to resort to two selfies (and I still didn’t squeeze everyone in):

Later, my friends took me to the New Albanian Brewing Company, where I was delighted to find a wheat beer called the “Houndmouth,” complete with a poster of a shadowy figure in old-fashioned clothes in a darkened, wood-floored room. What a terrific complement to Hagridden! (And it was a decent beer, too!)

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The next day, I was on my way to Cincinnati, but because the route took me through Louisville anyway, I had the tremendous good fortune to stop off on the way and meet — in real life!!! — the amazing Leesa Cross-Smith!

I'm in the same photo with one of my favorite authors!

I’m in the same photo with one of my favorite authors!

From there, it was onward along the Ohio River. FYI, the Ohio River Valley through northern Kentucky isn’t quite as beautiful as my own beloved Columbia River Gorge, but man, it was stunning. Kudos, Ohio River Valley, and thanks for the scenery!

In Cincinnati, I had a few hours to kill and wound up roaming a few parks and cemeteries, and of course I visited the public library, but that’s for another post. What’s important here is my destination: The Listing Loon in Northside, where, surrounding sets by Ben Walpole of The Minor Leagues, I read with author and Hobart founder Aaron Burch and my publisher, Brad Pauquette. (Brad and I had fun noticing that the bar had misspelled both our names, but the Listing Loon was a great venue with an excellent beer list!)

The event was the monthly Folk & Fiction series, organized by Brooks Rexroat, who also played MC and snapped photos and was all-round awesome.

My phone takes terrible photos in low light, but that's Brooks in the red cardigan.

My phone takes terrible photos in low light, but that’s Brooks in the red cardigan.

The bar was cool, but it was a BAR, which meant it was dim inside except for up at the mic, where we had lights trained on us — which meant there was no way to get a good reading selfie with the crowd. The upside is that, from the audience, I was able to get some decent photos of my fellow performers!

A rougarou poem

Did you know my Dad, Jim Snoek, is a poet? Actually, he’s a storyteller, too — it runs in the blood — but the last several years he’s been writing poems and songs as they come to him, and (in what might be the best compliment to my novel yet) the other night he was up late thinking about my book and decided he couldn’t sleep til he’d written this down.

And now I have his permission to share it with you:

Down on the bayou
Johnson Bayou

Sneaking in the night
By the murky moonlight

To a lustful meet
In the humid heat

Through the foggy haze
You’re seeing things

Red glaring eyes
Blood dripping fangs

Is that a wolf?
On its hind legs?

The panting you hear
Is that your fear?

Your rendezvous?
Is it with a Rougarou?

A rougarou? A rougarou? A rougarou?

Down on the bayou
Johnson Bayou

If you haven’t read Hagridden yet, you might not get all the references. But if you have read the novel, HOW FUN IS THIS!?

I am getting the biggest kick out of how much my dad has enjoyed my novel, and I love this poem/song. (I’m calling it a song, with the lyrics set to a zydeco rhythm, or maybe a cowpunk tune like Holy Moly’s “Werewolf Hardcore”):

Thanks for the words, Dad! =D

Discussing writing and werewolves at Ivy Tech

Today I had the great privilege to visit not one but two creative writing classes taught by my grad school friend, the wonderful poet Brianna Pike. I’ve always loved Bri’s approach to teaching writing as much as I love her poetry (and folks, she’s a hell of a poet!), so I knew I was in for a good time. But what neither of us realized — because Bri had set her syllabus up several weeks ago, and long before we’d finalized my visit — was how easily I slotted into her lessons today.

The classes were addressing setting. Hagridden is heavily dependent on setting, and setting is a subject I’ve written on before. Bri also mentioned the importance of research, including interviews with locals and actual boots-on-the-ground field research, to get a setting right. And, of course, I’ve done all that too. But then it gets weird: the story she’d selected for today was Angela Carter’s “The Werewolf”!

ROUGAROU!

So, it goes without saying that I had a lot to discuss with her students. But more to the point: her students are amazing. Their insights into the works they were reading and, even better, their seriousness about the craft of writing was invigorating, and I loved getting to talk to them!

Then this evening, I did a formal reading and another Q&A, and Bri’s students — as well as her fellow faculty and some other audience members — asked more hard, insightful questions! It felt great, hearing their ideas and offering up a few of my own, and I had a grand time.

Reading selfie!

Reading selfie!

Afterward, Bri and I joined another good friend of ours, writer and editor Will Tyler, for dinner, where we talked about basically everything: professors we still love, the unsung lucrativeness of ghost writing, the joys and frustrations of the classroom, the epic — now legendary — night Tom Franklin came to our alma mater, the University of North Texas.

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And to cap it all off, I drove south to New Albany, where I met with my good grad school friend, poet Steve Bowman — tomorrow I’m at Indiana University Southeast, where tomorrow, I give a reading from Hagridden and talk more about my 14 Principles for Creative Writers!

 

Writing advice from the very beginning

Today, I was on the campus of Columbus State Community College, where I led a workshop over the life of a writer and my Fourteen Principles for Creative Writers. As with most of my workshops, we had a nice, intimate group, which meant we could have a conversation, and I got to do one of my favorite things: learn from others.

At the beginning, I asked everyone to write down one rule they had for themselves as writers. It was a good mix, because the group in the room included fellow creative writing teachers, at least one professional writer, and a lot of students and beginning writers. And I told them I wanted to know where they’re starting from, what they think is important to them in their writing.

The workshop discussion developed from there as I then walked them through some of the guidelines I’d made for myself.

Photo by Brad Pauquette.

Photo by Brad Pauquette.

At the end, I asked them to write down one writing rule they wanted me to know — what did they have to teach me? And they had such great ideas that I asked if I could share them here on the blog. Not everyone was brave enough to give me their note card, but the ones I got are terrific.


Never discard a character that you create. They could always serve you later if you don’t need them today. ~ Luke Harris

I like this advice because it gives me permission to be the packrat that I am. I think we all ought to follow the usual advice to “kill your darlings,” which applies as much to characters as to whole works. But I like this idea of hanging onto discarded characters and using them later in a story better suited to them.


Entertain, or ‘don’t be boring.’ (It’s what I’m shooting for.) ~ Norris Forte

I’m very interested in writing as art, but I don’t see that and writing as entertainment as being mutually exclusive. I spent a lot of time today talking about how important it is to write things you yourself would most want to read, and that’s definitely about entertainment as much as artistry.


Take risks and trust my gut. ~ Denise Fisher

I love this twin bit of advice: combining the daring of risk-taking in writing with the comfort of trusting oneself. They seem contradictory, but each is so important to the other!


Write a poem every day. ~ Caitlin Garrity

I talked to several people today about how much I have learned about my prose style from reading poetry and talking to poets. Though I’m not much of a poet, this is good advice for me personally.


Discuss the commercial considerations (profitability — the money that can be made) as a professional. ~ Harold

I got it drilled into my head pretty early that I’m not going to get rich off my writing. Very, VERY few people do. So I’ve abandoned those expectations (though not those desires) a long time ago. But there is still money to be made in writing — for some people, perhaps even a living — and the nuts of bolts of writing as a job, of paying your bills with words, is something I need to give more attention to.


In the beginning, the only opinion that matters is yours. In writing, there are no boundaries. It’s just words. ~ Brittany Howard

When Brittany handed me this, I pointed to the note card she’d written it on and said, “Yes! Trust yourself, absolutely, but I like that you begin that advice with ‘in the beginning.’ Seek the opinions of others, absolutely, but start with yourself. This is great.”

Rougarous in Columbus!

So, I’ve been in Columbus, Ohio, for a couple days now and Ohioans, you people know how to party!

My first night in town I was part of the Indianola Stroll, a community business/art walk on Indianola Avenue. I hung out at the offices of Columbus Creative Cooperative, a writers resource business, where I met folks coming by and chatted about writing. Later, I did a Q&A about Hagridden and my experience with my agent and with Columbus Press.

A community member chats with my publisher.

A community member chats with my publisher.

The book table display.

The book table display.

We also set out props from our upcoming Rougarou: Journey to the End of the Night event:

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Rougarou masks and hands!

Yesterday, at the Bexley Public Library, I held a small workshop on writing fiction, in which I talked about creating a broad, connective fictional universe and how to beat writer’s block:

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Workshop selfie!

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The group was small, which made for great conversation with each person in the room, and the writers asked great questions!

After the workshop,  we spent the day setting up for the rougarou chase.

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The Columbus Press interns rode to the site with the cage — dressed as rougarous, of course!

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And I had to get in on the fun, too.

The JEN event was huge. Long before we were set to begin, people had begun turning up in the dozens upon dozens!

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Those people called other people, or shared the news on Tumblr and Reddit, or just wandered by and got swept in by the excitement! By the time we’d gotten set up and ready to start, we had something like 150 people!

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Crowd selfie!

Crowd selfie!

Meanwhile, we had the rougarou locked safely in a cage nearby:

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Giving everyone directions for the chase/scavenger hunt went smoothly enough…

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But then the rougarou bit my publisher and broke loose from the cage — and the race was on!

I’m old and slow, so I passed on the chase and headed straight for the afterparty, where we had special drinks based on Hagridden.

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I tried all four drinks — I even made up a story for the order I drank them in: I started in the bayou, where I received a wolf bite, suffered a dark and stormy night, and ended up a rougarou!

Meanwhile, we were setting up for the after-race party, complete with the repaired rougarou cage, the tshirt company Outfit Good on hand to screenprint brand new rougarou tshirts, and my book display near the bar:

We had a lot of people who made it through the race still human, but many, many more got turned into rougarous along the route. Everyone seemed to have a great time, though, and I met a lot of great people and signed a lot of books. And otherwise we all just hung out, drank drinks, talked about the race or the novel, watched a werewolf movie, and finally, in the theater, gave away prizes!

A rougarou is loose in Columbus, Ohio!

black_rougarouThere are rumors. Stories of a strange creatures roaming the nighttime streets of Columbus, Ohio. At least one appears to be doglike — some say it resembles a wolf — but it walks upright like a man.

But there are also reports of a second creature, the rougarou, a swamp werewolf of Cajun legend. And yet here it is, lurking in the Ohio dark.

Readers of Hagridden will, of course, be familiar with the rougarou. But how did a Cajun werewolf get from the bayou of Louisiana all the way up to Columbus, Ohio?

I wrote the answer.


For other stories related to the events and characters in Hagridden, see “The Voices Captain Brewster Heard” in WhiskeyPaper and “What Have You Done to Deserve Such a Halo” in Bartleby Snopes. And stay tuned for at least one more story later this fall!

The Midwest Tour is one week away!

Second verse, same as the first!

After my Southern book tour for Hagridden, I came home to Portland for a release party here, but since then I’ve been enjoying a little breather. But gang, vacation’s over!

A week from now, I’ll be in Ohio to start the Midwest leg of the Hagridden book tour!

Rougarou_PosterWe’re talking meet-and-greets, workshops, readings, book signings — even a game of tag with werewolves! Seven events over six days in five cities in two states!

In Columbus, I’ll hang out with the locals during the Indianola Stroll, hold workshops at Columbus State Community College and the public library in the nearby town of Bexley, and run from werewolves (recently sighted in town!) before signing books, watching werewolf movies, and drinking with fans.

I’m also joining some other Ohio writers for a hip reading down in Cincinnati.

And over in Indiana, I’ll be hanging out with college students and doing readings at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis and at Indiana University Southeast down in New Albany.

All the details are on the Book Tour page of the Hagridden website.

It’s going to be a wild ride, friends, and I’m going to need all the help I can get to keep my energy up, so if you’re in the area from September 19 through September 25, come out to something, bring three friends, and let’s party!

Thirteen years ago today

I was driving a two-hour commute to teach a college class. I listened to the news on the radio. At one point I had to pull over on the side of the road just to catch my breath. Later, I passed others who had done the same. When I got to school, I spent half an hour trying to figure out how to break the news to my students, because none of them had heard yet. I canceled the day’s lessons. I told them they could leave to call family or friends if they needed to, or they could stay and talk about how they were feeling. I asked them to try and not react with anger, because it was almost certainly anger that caused the attacks in the first place. Thirteen years later, I am still asking people to remember that.

People eating and drinking and snuggling with cats while reading Hagridden

More Hagridden pix! This edition features coffee and burgers and bells and cats — and the first-ever photo of the Hagridden e-book!:

Bri P

From Brianna P

FYI: I’ll be seeing my friend Bri in a couple of weeks, when I visit her creative writing classes and give a reading at Ivy Tech Community College. Hope to see you all there!

Trevor D

From Trevor D

PS: Trevor and I swapped books — his book, The Laws of Average, came out this year, too, and I encourage you all to buy a copy!

From the Franklin County Genealogical Society in Mt. Vernon, TX (photo by Sue Bolin)

From the Franklin County Genealogical Society in Mt. Vernon, TX (photo by Sue Bolin)

The Franklin County Genealogical Society, where my mother-in-law volunteers and for which my wife is webmaster, has set up a cool display of the novel — and if you’re in northeast Texas, you can actually stop by and order a copy through them!

Heather W (and Sparkle)

From Heather W (and Sparkle, the cat)

Hagridden on a Kindle on a cat! I think your day is now complete.

Have you ordered Hagridden? Take a photo of it and share it with me! And I’m still happy to share photos of Box Cutters, too!