The Author Website: The Importance of Owning Your Home Base

I gave a talk titled "The Author Website: The Importance of Owning Your Home Base" today at Lesley University's MFA in Creative Writing residency, and I think it went pretty well. The attendees asked me if I would share my presentation and notes, and I said sure, so here they are:

They're a bit rough, but I think they'll be instructive anyway (and maybe there's a budding instructor out there who will feel better about their lesson plans when they see how loose and messy my notes are).

We didn't get to critique the author Websites as I'd planned, but we did have a very productive conversation about best practices that veered off on tangents as any good conversation will.

Leaving Logan

Work continues on the piece that I began sharing last week, and I've got to say that it's been a weird process. This is the longest thing I've written in a while, in that it felt like it was going to be long from the get-go (as opposed to something that grows longer in the telling), and that's been intimidating me. I've been trying to be patient and give the story room to breathe and develop, but every night that I return to it I find myself wondering if this is the night that I'm finally going to reach the turning point. It's been a lot of build-up and the flash fiction devotee in me has grown impatient with it more often than I'd care to admit.

At any rate, I think it's going better now, and I hope you enjoy this next little excerpt.

It is not until we have made our way back to my car and stowed his bags in the trunk that Michael asks me about the script. We have, the two of us, been collaborating on a limited series about the seven wives of our great-grandfather. And it has been six months since I sent him the penultimate chapter.

As we stand behind my car, Michael hunched into the ratty black pea coat I know he only has occasion to wear when he flies back here, home, to the bosom of his family — as we stand there in the cold, in an airport, talking about words that I owe him, the line falls out of my skull like a book tumbling from a too-high shelf. The line. The excuse. The lie.

“It’s fine,” I tell him, stumbling over my words on purpose, hoping my performance is convincing. “It’s done,” I say in a mumble. “Well, basically. I got a little tinkering I’ve still gotta do.”

I stare at a stain on one lapel of Michael’s coat, a Rorschach of discoloration haloing his middle button, waiting for him to respond, hoping he’ll play along. But when he doesn’t, I look him in the eye again, sheepish behind unkempt locks in desperate need of a trim. He is squinting at me, nibbling on his lower lip.

“What?” I say.

“You’re quoting something.”

I gesture with my keys toward the front of the car, but he doesn’t move.

All of a sudden, he pulls his right hand from his pocket, snaps, and then waves an accusatory finger at me. “Was the silver-hair my Miss Sloviak?” he asks.

I smile, loving that he’s finally picked up what I was putting down. “I don’t know,” I say. “You tell me. You’re the one who had your hand down her pants.”

Let me know what you think. And, as always, if you'd like to read more, throw a buck into my tip jar at Patreon.

Airport Bookstores

This week, I got to work on a piece I've been meaning to start for a while now. It's really early days, but I know you enjoy my works in progress, so here's a snippet of what I have so far.

There’s a newsstand just outside the gate, so I check the arrivals monitor one more time, let fly as heavy a sigh as I can muster in the direction of anyone who might be listening, and I trudge my way over to the spinning rack of paperbacks by the register.

The last time I bought a book at an airport was on my honeymoon, which was so many moons ago now that I’ve lost count. We were in San Francisco, stopped over for an hour on our way to visit my cousin and his wife in Kauai, and I’d spent so much time doubled over inside the tiny in-flight lavatory that surviving the second leg of the trip without a super-sized bottle of Pepto just wasn’t going to be an option.

As I stood in line, my flask of fluorescent pink salvation clutched tightly to my chest, I scanned the paperbacks on offer and found among them a most unexpected sight: a collection of short fiction, that Cousin Oliver of the book store Brady Bunch. And it was not just any collection. No, it was the selected stories of the bearded old fellow who had a made a name for himself writing about and teaching for the quirky college back east that had, in its attempt to keep up with the Joneses (not to mention the Emersons and the Benningtons), recently tenured my sorry funnybook-slinging ass. I picked the book up and flipped through its gray pages, trying to remember if I had a copy back home in some box we’d yet to unpack in the dilapidated old colonial we’d just put a down payment on. Perhaps the codger himself had given me a copy during his latter days, maybe on the occasion of my arrival on campus as a student some years prior, me the much heralded savior of the languishing department he’d founded an age or two before. But my brain was addled — I wondered suddenly if I’d shit part of that overworked organ out, along with everything else — and anyway I had cash to spare now, so I decided to live a little. When the clerk asked if there was anything else she could help me with today, I even splurged on a genuine bottle of Jamestown Ginger Ale to chase away the chalky taste of my medicine.

Let me know what you think. And, as always, if you'd like to read more, throw a buck into my tip jar at Patreon.

Top 25 Songs of 2016

Snow carpets the ground outside my window, orange juice sloshes around my anxiety-ridden belly, and the end of this horrible year is upon us. So, it’s time once again for me to embarrass myself by rattling off the list of the 25 songs I listened to the most during the year.

It might be surprising, given the losses of David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and George Michael that there’s not much of a nostalgia trip on this year’s list. But I think the thing to keep in mind there is that I, like many people I’m sure, turned to music as an escape this year. There was so much terribleness in 2016 that my eardrums didn’t seek out reminders of all those we’d lost.

At any rate, here are songs your favorite pop bubblegum whore listened to the most in this annus horribilis:

  1. “I Want It All” by Bonnie McKee
  2. “Don’t You Give Up on Me” by Lissie
  3. “Make Me Like You” by Gwen Stefani
  4. “Talking Body” by Tove Lo
  5. “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato
  6. “Hey Hi Hello (feat. Fran Hall)” by Hollywood Wildlife
  7. “Cry” by Carly Rae Jepsen
  8. “No (90s Mashup)” by Kina Grannis & Nataly Dawn
  9. “Boyfriend” by Tegan and Sara
  10. “Too Young” by Dagny
  11. “On My Mind” by Ellie Goulding
  12. “Easy Money” by Karmin
  13. “Part of Me (Jacques Lu Cont's Thin White Duke Mix)” by Katy Perry
  14. “New Romantics” by Nataly Dawn & KHS
  15. “Good for You (feat. A$AP Rocky)” by Selena Gomez
  16. “One Last Time” by Ariana Grande
  17. “Blow (Deconstructed Mix)” by Ke$ha
  18. “All the Rage” by Allie X
  19. “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” by LCD Soundsystem
  20. “Wait For It” by Leslie Odom, Jr.
  21. “Running On Empty (Live)” by Jackson Browne
  22. “Monolith” by p.g.lost
  23. “Closer (feat. Halsey)” by The Chainsmokers
  24. “El Barrio” by Eden xo
  25. “Somebody Else” by Vérité

I kept in place my occasional rule that no more than one song per artist may appear on the list (thus preventing a Hamilton-dominated back half) and I reinstated a rule I’ve used here and there that no song that appeared on a prior year’s list may appear again (thus preventing last year’s 25th song, “Sleepwalker” by Bonnie McKee, from being this year’s #1).

The resulting list is a pretty accurate portrayal of what I listened to the most, though if I allowed myself more freedom to rearrange song order then I think I would have a list that flowed better. There are a couple of songs further down the order that feel more emblematic of what I was feeling and what I enjoyed listening to most this year. “Wait For It” by Leslie Odom, Jr., for instance, was my anthem. I remain convinced that iTunes isn’t keeping careful enough track of what listen to, especially when I’m mobile, given how low on the list that song appears. And then there’s “Too Young” by Dagny, which is one of my favorite discoveries in years — which came to me thanks to Apple Music’s weekly “New Music Mix,” one of the reasons I stick by the much lamented iTunes (still and always my favorite Apple product, given that it was my first). I’m too old to like “Too Young” as much as I do, but I feel too young in my heart, and I swear that song should be much further up the list as a result.

To look back on the Top 25 lists from previous years, give these links a clickety-click: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.

Vacation Week for the Kids

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Dear Readers,

I have nothing new for you this week, on account of my kids being on winter break from school. Though it had been my intention to write something collaboratively with them for posting this week, we got carried away with book-art projects that I gave them for Christmas and with LEGO sets that Santa brought for me this year.

I hope to be back next week with more stories.

In the meantime, enjoy this photo of the girls at work and stay tuned for my annual Top 25 Songs List on New Year's Eve.

All best, Chris