This is Daniel Lamb – a member of the literati in Atlanta, and a contributor over at The Five-Hundred! He’ll be reading at the next Vouched Presents at the Goatfarm on April 10th. (The reading that was delayed by an epic ice storm) in the spirit of that reading, he let me interview him waaaaaaaay back in February. It went pretty well. We talked about bars a lot. Come see him read, yeah?
Vouched: So Daniel, you work at Manuel’s Tavern, right? What’s it like to work with a chicken coop over your head?
Yes, I’m one of the weekend day-time bartenders; I’ve been there for a few years now. It’s a really different kind of bar- there are always actors and musicians and writers hanging out there, as well as a really eclectic older crowd of politicians, business folk, lawyers, and crazies. It’s a pretty good place to work if you want to collect ideas for fiction work. At first, I had my doubts about the chicken coop. When the owner, Brian announced to the staff that we were building a roof-top chicken coop, people started looking bewildered and, quite frankly, a little grossed out. I wasn’t sure if this was a serious deal or just a crackpot notion. I was very, very wrong- obviously, you can see the coop today from the street. That project took about six or eight months to come to fruition. A few months back, Brian brought in some baby chicks when the coop was yet in its infancy, and I was sold. Those little birds brought a sense of hope and wonder to the place. I get to tell the chicken story a lot these days while I’m working, and people have a really childlike curiosity in their voices when they ask the chicken question. Now, if you’re lucky enough to stop by when Brian is around, he’ll talk you into going up on the roof and visiting the hens and the super green sustainable luxury coop they live in. They are very social and like the attention. They will peck your feet and untie your shoelaces. Their eggs have been helping business, too. We use the eggs during brunch, and they’re quite tasty- we sold out last week. If you really want to read more about the chickens, the coop, and the eggs, there’s a lengthy post on the Manuel’s Tavern Facebook page.
Vouched: Who are some of your favorite regulars? How does working at the bar influence your writing work?
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some really interesting people. It’s always really nice to see my friends come in to the bar. Having said that, some of my favorite regular customers are people who I probably wouldn’t cross paths with socially, by circumstance, not virtue. There’s this guy we call Angry Dan. He’s in the construction business, and sometimes he’s angry- but he’s a really interesting guy who loves to talk about music, especially classic blues and rock, and likes sharing his knowledge. There’s a couple, Harriet and Doug, who some of us call the Tavern grandparents. They’re residents of Candler Park and they’ve been patrons since the 1950’s. Harriet likes to order a “grandma beer,” which is a Yuengling in a short glass. Her husband prefers pints. My very favorite customers always have a story to tell. Author Charles McNair frequents the Tavern and is always very encouraging. I wait on GIE (Government in Exile) and the Seed-N-Feed Marching Abominable most Tuesday nights- both of these groups are comprised of some of the most intense personalities in Atlanta, and the keep me on my toes. I really like waiting on the Metro Atlanta Task Force For The Homeless- Jim and Anita are two of my favorite people in Atlanta- Anita always brings me a hug when she stops by. I also love the literary crowd that inevitably comes in after Write Club or Scene Missing- there’s always hullabaloo when Nick Tecosky, Myke Johns, Jason Mallory and their posse come by. I know I’m probably forgetting some key people here, but there are just so damn many of them!
I don’t write much about the Tavern in my fiction or about the people I’ve met through work, but working behind the bar has made me a much better listener. I think, as a writer, listening is definitely more important that talking. As a writer, I have all the time in the world to think about what I am going to say, but I don’t know how much time I’ll have to hear what others have to say. People in bars are very generous in telling their stories, and when I have the time to really listen, it’s like reading some of my favorite authors- it can be a transcendent experience, and ultimately, it’s part of how I make a living.
Vouched: Man, I need to hang around Manuel’s more often. Sounds like you have some incredible folks there. What are you working on these days?
I’m still feeling the effects of Write Club victory euphoria at the moment. I’m wearing a few different hats right now, writing-wise. I’m in the Rhetoric & Composition undergrad program at Georgia State, so I’m writing lots of papers, and I’m the ads and specials items that go up on Manuel’s Facebook page on the weekends. I have a some writing assignments I am working on for a couple of live lit events that are coming up: a book review for an online magazine, Scene Missing (The Show) in February and the Vouched Books reading next month. I am writing primarily short stories, some fiction and some creative non fiction. Ideally, I’d like to find a home for some of these pieces. Some of the stuff I’ve done is over at Scene Missing and some at The Five Hundred. For a while I was tossing everything I wrote up on my blog, but maybe it’s not the safest bet to throw everything up there, all willy-nilly. Back in November, I attempted NanoWriMo, and “lost” pretty bad, but I mined a lot of ideas. I’m still sifting through what’s there to mold more short stories, and composing a little music (for fun) on the side. I have a vague idea for a web-based chapbook that would pair flash fiction stories with soundtrack-like audio via soundcloud, but I’m still meditating on that one. All in all, I’m keeping busy and trying to find the stories and tell them in the best way I know how.
Vouched: Sounds like a lot of good stuff in the works, then. Tell us – what are you most looking forward to about the reading?
I think what’s really exciting is the interest people are taking in the literary community in Atlanta. It’s really exciting to become a part of this body of creators that really is very supportive- everyone I come in contact with is really engaged in the discovery of new, good writing. People have a lot of options as to how they spend their limited free time, and it’s awesome to see crowds patronizing these readings around town. About The Five Hundred: I really like a lot of the stories that I read there, and I’ve really enjoyed writing the pieces I’ve done for the publication. What’s interesting about the whole thing is that it’s kind of an online writer’s workshop. Everyone comments on one another’s work, offering suggestions on how to make these pieces into stronger, clearer works of fiction. Flash fiction is a genre I really enjoy reading, partially because of my exceedingly short attention span, and partially because of the intensity that a 500 word story brings. There’s a sense of urgency with flash fiction that longer work doesn’t necessarily lack, but the flash narrative really captures. I’m excited to meet some of these writers (very good ones) that I’ve been reading and with whom I’ve corresponded. Some of these folks are quite accomplished writers, and I’m humbled to be invited to read along side them.