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A MELTING: Vouched Presents (+ The Rumpus + Omni Commons!)

19 Mar

 

 Our favorite literary angels, Mike Young and Luke Bloomfield are in town for their Western Snowmelt Tour!

In a related story: TONIGHT Vouched,  The Rumpus, and Omni Commons are throwing them a party! Featuring readings from people we love, a Vouched table full of new goodies, and a Very Serious Contest, wherein you stand to win a book-prize from the Rumpus! As usual, there will be donuts.

Behemoth

 

This is a FREE event with readings by:

Mike Young

Jayinee Basu

Na’amen Tilahun

Leora Fridman

Luke Bloomfield

We can’t wait to see your faces at 7pm! Confetti!

The Rumpus is a place where people come to be themselves through their writing, to tell their stories or speak their minds in the most artful and authentic way they know how, and to invite each of you, as readers, commenters or future contributors, to do the same. What we have in common is a passion for fantastic writing that’s brave, passionate and true (and sometimes very, very funny).

The Omni Commons is comprised of several Bay Area collectives with a shared political vision—one that privileges a more equitable commoning of resources and meeting of human needs over private interests or corporate profit. We invite you to join us in establishing a safe, productive place to pool resources for the collective use and stewardship of the greater community. A space that fosters an ethic of radical collaboration across disciplines and between individual collectives, creating a living model for future radical spaces.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1558927211044106/

Pop Quiz: The Book of Joshua by Zach Schomburg

17 Mar

The Book of Joshua 02j

Answer the following for Zach Schomburg’s The Book of Joshua.

The experience of reading the poems in the first section of The Book of Joshua, “Earth” feels like:

  • It’s hard to know what’s hell or not
  • Hearing the hum of refrigerators when none are present
  • Listening to your voice on an answering machine
  • Realizing words are tiny blue swans you can only hold awhile before they melt

While reading The Book of Joshua it’s most important to know:

  • The years are not really years
  • “I am not/ you you/ are not me” is the “message” of language
  • This is only further proof of your badness
  • Blood will float a boat as well as water

In “Mars,” the second section of Zach Schomburg’s The Book of Joshua, we see which theme explored?

  • Estrangement
  • Estrangement
  • Estrangement
  • Estrangement

Reading The Book of Joshua feels like:

  • Being called the wrong name for your entire life
  • Listening to a recording of yourself sleep
  • There will soon be a difference between sadness and suffering
  • Scrubbing blood off a horse

The significance of titling the final section of The Book of Joshua “Blood” is:

  • The blood of a poem is words
  • There is no such thing as a “body”
  • The difference between correlation and causation is language
  • A telephone ringing behind a locked door

Review: Everything Was Fine Until Whatever by Chelsea Martin

15 Jan

covertestastronautpink

 

Everything Was Fine Until Whatever is a whacky and bizarre collection of poetry/flash fiction, artwork, and footnotes by Chelsea Martin. Martin writes about: a baby’s first words, which were “Obviously imported from China,” acronyms, a to-do list, and the reasons Martin writes poetry. I am amazed by the amount of content that Martin is able to fit in only 111 pages. On top of that, she starts her collection off with a letter to the reader where she states that she wants the reader’s life to become consumed with the idea of her. She ends it with a bold, and I mean bold, statement:

“I want this love for me to be our only talent, and I want you to eventually realize that it isn’t even adequate, and that I really deserve better.”

That line got me fired up for this collection. Martin isn’t afraid to push the reader around, and that’s absolutely wonderful. If her writing is any indication of the direction where new literature is headed, I am beyond excited. With just that one line Martin gives the reader the lens to the rest of the pieces. It heightened the stakes of everything. There were times where I felt like I shouldn’t be reading this collection because of that letter. I felt guilty for reading and enjoying it. I felt guilty because with that letter Martin creates a very delicate relationship between herself and the reader. I felt bad for loving the poems that I did because I felt like it would never be enough for her. It reminded me of a dysfunctional relationship between a disappointed parent and their child. No matter what the child did, no matter how much love the child professes it would never be enough for the parent. Martin plays with this relationship throughout her collection.

Throughout the collection Martin sprinkles in these microscopic footnotes that are treats for the reader. They can range from extreme emotional vulnerability to something like this: “I accidentally shat on a person once. There I said it.” Not only did the absurd footnotes balance what was happening on the page, but they feel like secrets being whispered to the reader. It creates a stronger connection to the pieces because the reader feels as if they knew something that wasn’t completely out in the open for everyone to see. Sort of like a sneak peek for a movie you’re really excited for. That strange battle over the emotions of the reader sealed my love for this collection.

The titles of her pieces just get stuck in your head and refuse to leave. Not only are they a bit wacky and funny, but they provide an additional lens for the reader. Some of my favorite titles include: “I’m writing about love because no one else ever has and because I’m wearing jeans that made my butt look good,” “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I shouldn’t work in customer service,” and “Manipulation, Energy Drinks, and Time Travel.” Martin uses these titles to spark interest, but she also uses them as a way to mask a deeper takeaway through absurdity. In “Manipulation, Energy Drinks, and Time Travel,” the narrator talks about all of the things she is willing to do for someone:

“I’ll buy chocolate covered cherries and drop them into your mouth from skyscrapers as you unknowingly walk by. I’ll put my name on them somehow, so you know they’re from me. I’ll teach you Braille. Tongue Braille.”

That is a strong commitment to teach some person Tongue Braille. This piece talks about the hoops someone would go through for the person they loved. It was touching. The story goes on to talk about how the narrator would destroy other guys for the entertainment of the guy she’s talking about. She even makes the final leap and says:

“I’ll cancel Netflix, I don’t know why, but I swear to god I’ll do it.”

Martin does a fantastic job of masking these strong emotions of love behind absurd acts like canceling Netflix and dropping cherries from skyscrapers. That is one of the biggest strengths in her writing. She just takes these towering subjects like love, and breaks them down into these bite-sized chunks that she stitches into her own Frankenstein creature. Her voice is strong and sounds like someone in their early twenties going through life. To me her voice is becoming the brand for twenty something’s making their way through life. She is sporadic, heartfelt, sincere, and not afraid to spill herself for any and all to see. Something anyone struggling through their twenties would understand and connect with.

Everything Was Fine Until Whatever is Chelsea Martin’s debut collection. Through this collection she has asserted herself at the forefront of indie literature. She shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Her most recent collection Even Though I Don’t Miss You published through Short Flight/Long Drive can be purchased through Hobart.

Everything Was Fine Until Whatever can be purchased on Chelsea Martin’s website or the publishers’ Future Tense Books.

Strange Things Have Happened Here: Vouched Presents ( + The Rumpus + Fiction Advocate!)

3 Jan

We’re so excited to team up with The Rumpus, 826 Valencia, and Fiction Advocate TOMORROW for a night of fun readings from our favorite writers! It’s all your literary dreams come true, packed into San Francisco’s foremost Independent Pirate Supply Store.

Plus: a Vouched table full of new goodies (including freebies!) and a GUARANTEED ACCEPTANCE table. What does that mean? Come find out! It’s like the exact opposite of going home for the holidays!

Strange Things Flier image

Readings by:

Vladimir Kozlov
http://www.cosmonautsavenue.com/vladimir-kozlov.html

Maisha Z. Johnson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Be_EhfCeV7w

Siamak Vossoughi
http://www.riverandsoundreview.org/Fiction/Issue5/Vossoughi.htm

Joshua Merchant
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDoK2HA40wo

The Rumpus is a place where people come to be themselves through their writing, to tell their stories or speak their minds in the most artful and authentic way they know how, and to invite each of you, as readers, commenters or future contributors, to do the same. What we have in common is a passion for fantastic writing that’s brave, passionate and true (and sometimes very, very funny). http://therumpus.net/

Fiction Advocate is a litblog and micropress founded in 2009. http://fictionadvocate.com/

826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. http://826valencia.org/

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/682658425184925/

“The Hat” by Sam Wilson

16 Oct

Posted by Theresa J. Beckhusen

Written by Zachary Lee

“The Hat” by Sam Wilson is a quirky travel story with that turns the ordinary to the unordinary. Wilson snags the reader and gently pulls them through. “The Hat” is the tale of an unnamed male protagonist on his flight back home, and ends up following his wife into a Pendleton wool shop, and he ends up finding his perfect hat.

As soon as the story started, I fell for the characters. I felt pity that they got too hungover to enjoy their vacations, I felt a bit of excitement when the flight was delayed, I felt a bit of adventure wandering into the Pendleton shop. Wilson writes characters that seem to be real actual people that he just watched and copied:

“I knew I couldn’t buy the shirts I’d envied because wool makes me itch, but I kept trying them on anyway, soaking up the saleswoman’s compliments and not looking too closely in the mirrors.”

Wilson also subtly threads in the idea of getting old, and how that affects how we see ourselves. He demonstrates this by having his protagonist constantly question how he compares to his counterparts, and struggle with the look of the sweaters. Combined with his attention to the microscopic details, this really adds another layer to the story. They emphasize the human element that the protagonist brings to the story, and explain a driving force behind the protagonist. In this passage we see the protagonist wrestling with age:

“There is nothing good about being prematurely bald. My head gets cold and wet in the winter, and sunburned in the summer. Plus, it makes me look older and more staid than I actually am.”

And with the passage below we see where the microscopic details come into play:

“She was a young flight attendant wearing a navy blue skirt and white blazer. Her hair was pulled into a wet ponytail, and her lipstick was brighter than I imagined could look good on a person.”

With that being said, I felt the protagonist’s wife, Sherri-Anne, was a flat, 2D character. At times I forgot she was in the story. Her character just seemed to be a way to get the protagonist in the shop, and not something to help drive character development, or add anything to the story. It was a bit disappointing to see that, but Wilson’s writing made up for it ten-fold.

Overall, “The Hat” is an interesting read helped by Wilson’s amazing characters, and his ability to play with details. I believe that Wilson’s career as a writer is on the up and up. This story is something that readers will be talking about for some time.

Zachary Lee is a Vouched Books Indy intern and senior Creative Writing student at the University of Indianapolis. He hopes to attend an MFA program after graduation. He can be reached on Twitter @_Zach_Lee.

“Horrible Things Happen” by Adam Lefton

15 Oct

Posted by Theresa J. Beckhusen

Written by Zachary Lee

Adam Lefton’s short story “Horrible Things Happen” is a wonderfully dark but difficult read. There is no issue with plot or character, not even an issue with the word choice. What makes this a difficult read is Lefton’s head-on approach to what it means to suffer, and the effects that come from suffering. The first thing that strikes the reader is the size of the story. The story itself barely fills two paragraphs, but sends shivers down the readers’ spine by breaking down walls. Once those walls are down, Lefton turns what we know about suffering upside down with the precision of a surgeon. Lefton’s writing style is quick and to the point, and refuses to let go of readers until the very end.

The main plot of the story is rather straightforward. There’s a fascination with turning suffering into fame and teaching suffering to teenagers. The theme of the story is dissected to the most basic building blocks, and then built into a beautiful nightmare. Throughout the story Lefton talks about issues with funding with collegiate studies, the religious idea that we are born suffering, and what happens to those who see and understand their suffering. I particularly love the way he plays with the idea that the Midwest is a vacuum of suffering, and then juxtaposes that with the irony that most of the graduates move to the heavily influential coastal areas.

One of the major things I enjoyed about reading “Horrible Things Happen” is Lefton’s ability to bypass any defense the reader has and attacks their emotional core directly at the source. As seen with:

“For these students, the horrible things that happened to them were too obvious to miss, too visceral. They’d cried or wanted to cry or taught themselves not to cry at some point in their lives.”

Near the end of the piece, Lefton challenges the idea that through suffering we grow, by writing: “Only the rare and talented pupil arrives on campus cognizant of his or her suffering.” By the end of the story Lefton has the reader on the edge of their seat and throws in the most powerful sentence in the entire story: “The feeling has been described as close to a nightmare.”

Overall, this story left me numb and left me questioning what it means to suffer. This story was a wonderful rollercoaster ride that every reader should struggle with.

Zachary Lee is a Vouched Books Indy intern and senior Creative Writing student at the University of Indianapolis. He hopes to attend an MFA program after graduation. He can be reached on Twitter @_Zach_Lee.

“In the House of Flying Words” by Juan Carlos Reyes

13 Oct

Posted by Theresa J. Beckhusen

Written by Mirna Palacio Ornelas

When I finish reading something, I usually talk about the piece for days. The thing is, though, Juan Carlos Reyes’ “In the House of Flying Words” in Used Furniture Review has left me at a loss of, well, words. He’s taken them all and carefully sculpted a dizzying image that leeches the air from your lungs. I was only left with “holy shit.”

It starts out with a pretty gruesome description of what words can and will do to your infant daughter, attacking her in her cradle until there’s only a little skeleton with a bib left. That’s the entire first paragraph. Reyes makes words out to be these living things, while still referring to them in a metaphorical sense. These words are very much a real threat to the sleeping baby, something that will physically harm her when given the chance. They lie in the shadows, waiting for their chance to pounce. They plan their attacks, and throw themselves at the house to get to the sleeping child. That being said, the flying words in this piece are still only words. How much can words possibly hurt, right?

Reyes continues to use words in this sense for the rest of the piece, coming back time and again to demonstrate how much they will mutilate your daughter throughout her life.

“They’re coming as the always do, they arrive, and you will do everything to protect her but they will leave a mark.”

Aside from the vast vocabulary Reyes uses, his sentences also have the effect that is often seen in poetry. It’s essentially a poem, but it’s not a poem. He blends his phrases together, stretching the sentences to just below their breaking points in order to make them house raw emotions. The words meld into each other, and you don’t realize how the words weigh against your sternum until you see that period at the end.

“You watch her sleep, the night passing quickly and measuring evening and words still unborn, those moons carrying slurs suggestions and ridicules, all those jabbing words looming huddled down street, primed by the garden, crowding parking spaces like impending tanks on the night of shattered glass.”

All fancy words and form aside, Reyes uses this piece to reach the bone-biting truth. Words do hurt. And they’re not something you can control, not like physical violence. We have no defense against words, no matter how hard we try. We have to stand by as words hurt our loved ones, or worse yet, while they distance themselves.

Reyes’ grammatically incorrect sentences work for the humanity of the piece, but they also make it hard for the reader keep up. It might be a minor issue, but it is also the only one. Even then, it can be easily solved by reading the piece out loud. Reyes’ words anchor themselves in your gut, leaving your head light from panic, and making it more than worth the trouble.

The distanced tone in this piece is often found in his other pieces. Reyes keeps readers on edge with this creepy little trick. The gruesome details that he embeds in them help achieve that ambiance as well. There’s always an off-putting event amidst a seemingly normal setting; this is almost a branch of magical realism. Almost.

 

Mirna Palacio Ornelas is a Vouched Indy intern and is currently a junior at the University of Indianapolis. She’s a poetry writer that dabbles in the publishing world. Mirna spends most of her time in the dark with Captain America looping in the background on the lowest volume and light settings while collecting boxes of steakhouse dinner rolls on her desk.

VouchedATL (& friends) at the Decatur Book Festival!

26 Aug

2013 DBF Logo Hor

It’s Labor Day weekend which in Atlanta means the Decatur Book Festival is taking the city by storm! Once again, the Vouched table will be set up at the festival all weekend, this time we’ll be sharing a booth with the 421 and Publishing Genius in the ART | DBF pavilion, and in really good company there, neighbored by arts organizations such as our pals at BURNAWAYDad’s Garage, Deer Bear Wolf, Mike Germon & John Carroll, Lily & the Tigers, and more! You’ll find us in BOOTH 324 – 325. 

Here’s a map!

2014-map

(it’ll get bigger when you click on it, promise.)

As always though, there will be plenty of other things to do and see at the festival. I’ve compiled a list of events below that may help, but I heartily suggest you take a peak at the full schedule of events here. For updates on events throughout the weekend you can check out VouchedATL’s twitter page, and of course, the Decatur Book Festival’s twitter page!

Here are some highlights from the weekend’s schedule for you!

Saturday, August 30th

10 a.m.: Labor of Love: Running a Small Press – (Marriott Conference Center Ballroom C) moderated by Amy McDaniel with panelists Bruce Covey, Matt DeBenedictis, Amanda Mills, and Adam Robinson

10 a.m.: The Wren’s Nest Scribes (The Decatur Recreation Center Studio) listen to the works of the students of the Wren’s Nest KIPP Strive Academy 1

3 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.: Best American Poetry Book Launch (The Decatur Recreation Center Gym) featuring Jericho Brown and Patricia Lockwood!

5:30 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.: Worth A Thousand(At the Decatur High School Stage) a collaboration between Vouched Books and #WeLoveATL. Readings from Thomas Wheatley, Christina Lee, Alex Gallo-Brown, and Amy McDaniel, inspired by the photographs of David Voggenthaler, Wes Quarles, Jennifer Schwartz and Stephanie Calabrese.

5:30 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.: The Wren’s Nest High School Publishing Co. (The Decatur Recreation Center Studio)

5:3o p.m. – 6:15 p.m.: Yells & Oats: Write Club Atlanta tackles the classics (the Decatur Recreation Center Gym)

 

Sunday, August 31

12 p.m.: LGBT Poetry (Eddie’s Attic Stage) Megan Volpert, Matthea Harvey, and Mark Wunderlich

2:30 p.m.: The Collected Works of Lucille Clifton (The Decatur Conference Center Ballroom) Jericho Brown, Kevin Young, Sharan Strange, and Dana Greene

4:15 p.m.:  Emory University (Local Poetry Stage) Bruce Covey, Jericho Brown, Gina Myers, Dana Sokolowski

A Very Vouched San Francisco Birthday Party FAQ

22 Aug

After blitzing the internet with Raffle Prize Announcements, Awful Interviews, and other promotional things, I realize you may have some questions about the upcoming Vouched San Francisco festivities. So here’s our third ever Vouched Presents FAQ for our first ever Vouched SF birthday.

vouched_SF_birthday_4x6

When does this shin-dig start?  

6pm, approximately. I estimate readings to begin between 6:15 and 6:30.

Is there a cost for admission?

Nope, you can attend for free! That being said, there will be things for sale: merchandise from 826 Valencia (the world’s Premiere Independent Pirate Supply Store), books from Vouched and our readers, and of course, drinks and more drinks at the bar. Every $5 you spend at the birthday party (on Vouched or 826 Merchandise) gets you an raffle ticket for one of our sweet prizes! And a portion of drink and book sales (and 100% of 826 merch sales) goes to support community programs at 826 Valencia!

What are the totally sweet raffle prizes?

Oh, you want a list? Fine. Here you go:

  • Ticket vouchers for you and a friend to Literary Death Match, plus five (5) Cyrano-de-Bergerac-style texts from world-renowned love and dating expert Adrian Todd Zuniga for you to send to someone you like (or whoever you want–we aren’t here to boss you around)
  • An 826 Valencia gift pack!
  • Everything our intern found on the streets of the Mission in one day!
  • A gift certificate for a free haircut at Edo Salon
  • A sweet gift pack from Litography
  • Surprise gift pack from famed comedy bad boy and/or family man Scott Simpson!
  • A book gift pack from The Rumpus!
  • [Get stood up on] a date with Dave Eggers!
  • Vouched Books gift pack!
  • A year-long book-of-the-month membership to Vouched Books!

How do I win those totally sweet raffle prizes?

Great question! Participants in our raffle will receive 1 raffle ticket for every $5 donated or spent on 826 Valencia or Vouched merchandise. (So say, for instance, you buy a book from me that costs $10. For that you will receive not only your book, but 2 raffle tickets! Which could win you all sorts of amazing prizes!)

Wait, so who is reading?

The evening will start out with the re-launch of Portuguese Artists Colony, so as you come in, you will vote on writing prompts to give to the four live writers. Then, you watch (and Michael Mullen, songwriter for Pocket Shelley and The Size Queens, will make beautiful music) as they have 10 minutes to turn out a beautiful response to that prompt. They read what they wrote, and you get to vote on the piece you like best!

Our live writers:

Jenny Bitner

Heather Bourbeau

Kwan Booth

Casey Childers

Our featured readers:

Maisha Z. Johnson

Scott Simpson

Maw Shein Win

Sarah Griff

Tim Toaster Henderson

Jelal Huyler

Amy Berkowitz

Where do my donations go?

All donations will go to the 826 Valencia. Vouched Books will not receive any of the money donated.

Where can I learn more about 826 Valencia?  

You can learn more about 826 Valencia here!

I heard there will be a chapbook-making station and a pile of donuts. Is this true?

Our chapbook-making station will be run by the delightful Jason Schenheit! We will also have a poetry station and a photobooth for taking wedding portraits with the sea (we are talking about pirates, after all). Every rumor you have heard about the donuts is true.

What’s the Milk Bar, is there milk?

The Milk Bar is a beautiful bar and event venue in the Haight. This event is BYOM.

The poster has a lot of balloons. Will there be balloons?

Yes, there will be balloons. There will also be a bear, though he is unlikely to harm you.

Are we going to party? Really?

Yes. DUH.

Best Thing I’ve Read This Month: Everyday Genius

13 Aug

Michael Seidlinger is at the helm of Everyday Genius this month and he’s been posting excerpts from works-in-progress by some really fantastic folks. Below are a few of clips from my favorites so far:

An excerpt from What Have You Lost? by Cari Luna

It would be pretty, wouldn’t it, to say I walked along the river, but I-5 cuts the east side of Portland off from the Willamette and so I would find myself walking parallel to the highway. But the highway had its own appeal, and then there was also the hard rusted beauty of the train yards and the cargo trains gone still and cold, waiting, and the occasional train in motion, wending its slow robot-driven way through town, its mournful whistle cutting through the air, the gray heaviness of Portland morning even heavier with the weight of that train song.

An excerpt from Jim’s Daughter by Alexandra Naughton

We send letters back and forth for two years, each letter revealing more than the last, with promises to see each other soon repeated unfulfilled, except for one time when your friend had to be in Philly for a family reunion and you tagged along, but after three months and no response, no letters and no emails, I feel defeated, sending one last letter. Your mother writes back, a short note and newspaper clipping with your wedding announcement.

An excerpt from Wichita Stories by Troy Weaver

I go into my best friend’s bedroom and lay down on his bed. I close my eyes. I wait. I start counting sheep to alleviate the boredom—not really sheep, just aloud to myself in the dark. I open my eyes, I close them, I open them, and I wait. I count. I wonder what could possibly be taking so long. I count some more. I think about Claudia Schiffer’s perfect boobs, stop thinking about them, start again, stop again, decide to lay on my stomach so I don’t start jacking off on instinct in my best friend’s bed.

An excerpt from Seeing Other People by Megan Lent

If I ever get a tattoo, it will be of a rose, in white ink, on my left shoulder. Except if you have a tattoo you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Which doesn’t really affect me, because I will never die.

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