So You Wrote a Book? Robert Vaughan

Robert Vaughan’s latest book Funhouse is a wild ride–he starts us off in the kiddy rides and before we know it we’re doing double loops on the Scrambler and full speed on the Centrifuge, the floor dropping away and we’re spinning and stuck to the wall, hair full of static like crazy cotton candy.

robert

Nancy Stohlman: Describe this book in 6 words:

Robert Vaughan:

Harrowing

Neglected

Frightening

Hilarious

Oddball

FUN

NS: You have authored multiple books including Addicts and Basements and Rift, which you co-authored with Kathy Fish. How is Funhouse different from your other books?

RV: Funhouse is a varied collection and contains four diverse sections. There is the opening flash and micro pieces. Then the two middle collaborative sections, “Hall of Mirrors” which I like to refer to as the “Kids in the Classroom”; and “Tunnel of Love” which is my nod to the numerous musical Divas. It also is my first book to contain my short stories in the fourth and last section of FUNHOUSE (unlike only flash or prose poetry in previous collections).

NS: I loved this tiny story, “Corn Maze”: 

“I got lost in a corn maze this morning. I know you’re not supposed to panic, but this happened in Soho. I met a lot of other people in there. Many of them were in the arts. One girl told me she’d been in there since Labor Day. I think she said this out of shame. She was wearing white shoes.”

For me this is the perfect example of a micro—lots of implication and white space for the reader to fill in the rest of the story. How you decide what becomes a micro and what becomes a poem?

RV: First of all, thanks for liking this tiny piece. I never really know what something I write is, prose or poetry or whatever. I often like to say that categories of writing were made for libraries and bookstores! I know there are all of these defining “rules,” etc. But I do feel like I tend more toward the gray areas, or middle ground, then the “defining areas” of what others tell us are a micro or a poem. It’s probably what drove me to start Bending Genres journal and workshops/ retreats. Who knows?

NS: Your “Hall of Mirrors” section (2) is somehow both sweet and chilling at the same time, like Shel Silverstein crossed with Tim Burton. I could totally see this as a stand alone (freaky) children’s book. Talk about your inspiration for this. Would you ever consider publishing it as a stand-alone?

RV: One of my favorite book collections as a kid was a gift from my grandfather. It was The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey. I was fascinated by the poem lure (it’s all Iambic pentameter), completely entrancing gore and horror. Each kid dies (“A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B was for Ben who was bitten by bears…”) So, my “Halls of Mirrors” is a nod to Gorey, and grandpa, but also in my own way, I decided to twist it, make it my own. And it’s a great idea to possibly make this into its own chapbook. Any takers?

NS: Loved your choice of “divas”—I approve of all of them! Explain your process: did you pick the line from their song and then break it apart or how did you use it as a starting point?

RV: This section began in 2013 when my friend Joseph Quintela started a project while at Sarah Lawrence, called The Word Poeticizer. He asked 15- 20 of his poet friends to re-assign their own definitions of words. Then you could feed anything into his Word Poeticizer and pop a new version of the lyric or poem out. Then I decided to do the nod to divas, or female singers who have meant everything to me. I chose a line, and it evolved into these prose poems. My last part was asking Eryk Wenziak to do the layout, and he laid each poem on the page so uniquely, many with much white, and symbolic space.

NS: In your “Tunnel of Love” section (3) you literally doubled your alphabet, using pretty much every symbol available on the keyboard. If I were to name this section I would have named it The Scrambler! There is a lot going on in this section and it’s definitely your most avant-garde. Talk about your inspiration here.

RV: Again, because we used the Word Poeticizer, it became quite odd, more abstraction. I wavered with editing these “too much,” and then decided to go back to the originals, which became the “Tunnel of Love.” I felt like I wanted one entire chunk of the book that left people sort of “huh?” And yet, many times, I’m told it is a reader’s favorite part of Funhouse. I also think because it was a collaborative project at the onset, asking Eryk to add his brilliant touches really made it all the more wondrously strange.

NS: You are a writer that really embraces (and promotes) the hybrid form. Gun to your head: Prose or poetry for the rest of your life—what do you choose?

RV: I’d take the bullet! HA. Actually, I have to choose poetry. It’s my go to, again and again. With all of the bullshit going on the world, poetry helps me to balance, to feel more deeply. And my mentors are all poets: Dorianne Laux, Ellen Bass, Marie Howe, Nick Flynn. But then there are all these amazing contemporary writers who effuse hybrid forms: I’m thinking Sabrina Orah Mark, Alina Stefanescu, Kaj Tanaka, Len Kuntz, Maggie Nelson, Meg Tuite, Steven Dunn, and so many more. Deep Gratitude to them all!

NS: You seem inspired by visuals—both the drawings in Hall of Mirrors (amazing artistry by Bob Schofield) and the use of white space in Tunnel of Love are very visual. How important are visuals to your creation process?

RV: Of course, I am a very visual person. And Bob did great renderings for the Hall Of Mirrors. Almost like he was in my head it is so terrific! I’d love to think I am a sensory person (all senses firing). I like to write from visual prompts, and I am also inspired by how words look on a page. How the author thinks about this (or in more cases, not). So, visuals are very important to me. And then, also, what is going on BELOW/ BENEATH/ UNDER.

NS: What is your favorite story in this book?

RV: ______________?

NS: This is your second book with Unknown Press. Talk about your publishing process.

RV: My fortune started with Gloria Mindock and Cervena Barva Press, she published “Microtones” in 2012.  Joseph Quintela published “Diptychs, Triptychs, Lipsticks & Dipshits” (Deadly Chaps). My first full collection, “Addicts & Basements” was published by Civil Coping Mechanisms. Michael Seidlinger cold- called me after hearing me read and host a reading at the Boston AWP in 2013. (can you say HOLY FUCK?!!) In 2015, Bud Smith (Unknown Press) suggested Kathy Fish and I to do a collaborative book. I thought: she’s never going to do this! Turns out, Kathy was in a tough writing spot. We work-shopped that entire year (Fish, Smith, Michael Maxwell and me) online in the Night Owl Café. This made RIFT a possibility, which became a book! Bud and I also chatted about FUNHOUSE along the way. It came out almost one year later (December, 2017). Every single publisher I have worked with has been beyond my wildest dreams. So professional, beyond qualified, and brilliant.

NS: Advice to writers?

RV: Write as often as possible. PAY ATTENTION! Believe in yourself. Be curious. Meet other writers and greet your family. Make love often. Take suggestions with an open mind. Travel whenever possible. Cook with others. Read, read, read…

NS: Anything else you want to add?

RV: Have I mentioned how much I adore and revere you? Truly, I do. I’m so grateful to anyone who gives back to our writing community, and you always do in such a huge way.

NS: BLUSHING!! Thank YOU so much, Robert. I am honored to call you a friend. xoxoxo

Links to books or other promo links:

www.robert-vaughan.com

www.bendinggenres.com

Robert Vaughan teaches workshops in hybrid writing, poetry, fiction at locations like The Clearing, Synergia Ranch, Mabel Dodge Luhan House. He leads roundtables in Milwaukee, WI. He was a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award for Fiction (2013, 2014). His flash fiction, ‘A Box’ was selected for Best Small Fictions 2016 and his flash, “Six Glimpses of the Uncouth” was chosen for Best Small Fictions 2019 (Queen’s Ferry Press).  He is the Editor-in-Chief at Bending Genres, LLC.

Vaughan is the author of five books: Microtones(Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs+ Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits(Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements(CCM), RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press) and FUNHOUSE(Unknown Press). His blog: www.robert-vaughan.com.

Advertisements

25 Books by Friends (just in time for Jólabókaflóð)

icelandI’m not Icelandic, but if there is one reason why I wish I was it would be to celebrate Jólabókaflóð, the Icelandic Christmas Book Flood where books–yes, books!–are exchanged on Christmas Eve. Then everyone goes home and reads. Doesn’t that sound amazing? And did you know that Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world?

Regardless of whether you are Icelandic or not, giving books–especially signed books–during the holidays is a super thoughtful gift. It says “I care about your intellectual and creative health” so much more than that bottle of wine–and lasts longer too! Plus you’re supporting artists and that’s always a good thing.

So what books will you give and receive this Winter’s Eve (and beyond)? I have some suggestions! For several years I have done an end of the year “Top 10 Books By Friends List”, and since I was a slacker last year you get double the pleasure, double the fun!

25 Books by Friends 2018

(in no particular order: most published in 2017/2018)

books

The Realty Traveler by Jonathan Montgomery
Read my interview with Jonathan here:
“Jonathan “Bluebird” Montgomery has just released his new book, The Reality Traveler, a pop culture allegorical/philosophical tale with Jonny “Bluebird” as its picaresque narrator and Reality Traveling tour guide! Think Don Quixote meets the Alchemist meets the Guardians of the Galaxy.” Read more

Water and Power by Steven Dunn
Read my interview with Steven here
“Steven Dunn has just released his new book, Water and Power! This book is a literary mosaic, collaging the two contradictory faces of the military: the official face of the recruiting posters and the real faces of the people, including Steven’s.” Read more

Meet My Haze by Meg Tuite
Interview coming!

Kiss, Kiss by Paul Beckman
Read Kathy Fish’s review on the Flash Fiction Retreats website here

New Micro: Exceptionally Short Stories edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro
My stories “Death Row Hugger” and “I Found Your Voodoo Doll on the Dance Floor After Last Call” appear in this amazing anthology
Read a review from the Los Angeles Review of Books here

Alligators at Night by Meg Pokrass
Interview coming!

Gather the Night: Poems by Katherine DiBella Seluja
Read my interview with Katherine here
“Katherine DiBella Seluja has just released her new book, Gather the Night, which is largely an investigation into the complex emotions around mental illness and addiction, particularly as it affects the narrator’s brother, Lou. While much literature has been devoted to the stories of people suffering with these and other illnesses, there are fewer stories that speak to the experience of the bystander, those caught in the orbit of the illnesses and getting the midnight ER phone calls. Read more

Funhouse by Robert Vaughan
Interview coming!

Other Household Toxins by Christopher Allen
Interview coming!

Flash Fiction Festival Two edited by Bath Flash Fiction Award
My story “Loch Ness” appears in this great compilation of writers who gathered in the UK in 2018.

On the Bitch by Matt Potter
Interview coming!

One of These Days by Trent Hudley
From my book blurb:
“Trent Hudley is unafraid to look at the underbelly of despair, taking us on an existential unraveling through the landscapes of loneliness, deftly weaving the crisis of humanity between the real and the surreal like a strange premonition. “This is a story without hope” says one of his characters, but One of These Days is a book striving for redemption.”

Roses are Red, Violets are Stealing Loose Change from My Pockets While I Sleep by David S. Atkinson
From my book blurb:
“David S. Atkinson’s imagination is a beast unleashed! The stories in Roses are Red, Violets are Stealing Loose Change from My Pockets While I Sleep are bizarre and hilarious, taking us into a highly peculiar landscape with scenarios that leave me wondering: Where does he come up with this stuff? Narrated with his signature intellectual deadpan (think “straight man”) and featuring labyrinthian titles that unroll all the way to near slapstick, Atkinson leads us from one outlandish situation to the next without flinching, apologizing, or justifying.”

Ripening: 2018 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology edited by Santino Prinzi and Allison Powell
My story “The Pilgrimage” appears in this tasty anthology!

Ideal Suggestions: Essays in Divinatory Poetics by Selah Saterstrom
Selah is awesome!

Nothing Short Of: Selected Tales from One Hundred Word Story edited by Grant Faulkner, Lynn Mundell and Beret Olsen
My story “Naked” appears in this great collection of tiny stories!

I’m Not Supposed to Be Here and Neither are You by Len Kuntz
Interview coming!

Glimmerglass Girl by Holly Lyn Walrath
“Bold yet delicate, sharp, intricate, and woven with fragile strength, there are many things to like in Glimmerglass Girl. The first a reader might notice is the interplay of words and images, something many writers attempt but not always with such success. Glimmerglass Girl uses classic and vintage fairy tale images to give the book an aura of innocence and nostalgia…”
Read more here

Rattle of Want by Gay Degani
Read Kathy Fish’s interview with Gay Degani here

The Plankton Collector: A Novella by Cath Barton
Read Kathy Fish’s blurb about Cath’s book here

Bad Motel: 100 Word Stories by Robert Scotellaro
From my book blurb:
“Like perfectly crafted dioramas, Robert Scotellaro’s micro stores are tiny keyholes, tableau glimpses into fully formed worlds, entire lives implied with the barest swipe of words said, and more importantly, not said.”

How to Make a Window Snake: Three Novellas in Flash by Charmaine Wilkerson, Joanna Campbell and Ingrid Jendrzejewski 
Three great writers for the price of one!

Musalaheen: A War Memoir by Jason Arment
Veteran Jason Arment’s debut book!

The Crazed Wind by Nod Ghosh
This collection began in my Flash Books class in February–Nod is awesome!

The Boneyard, The Birth Manual, A Burial: Investigations into the Heartland by Julia Madsen
Julia is also a great multi-media artist!

Funny Bone: Flashing for Comic Relief edited by Peter Blair and Ash Chantler
My story “Clown Car” from Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities was first published in this collection of humorous flashes
Profits go to Comic Relief, a major charity based in the UK, with a vision of a just world, free from poverty.

Nothing to Worry About by Vanessa Gebbie
This is a weird little book that speaks to my weird heart!

PS: Okay, I know that was more than 25. I can’t stop!
PSS: My goal is to interview all the authors listed here in my So You Wrote a Book Series in 2019, so stay tuned!

Regardless of what you celebrate, and whether you celebrate anything at all, I celebrate the many ways that we support one another on this crazy creative life journey.
Wishing you love, rest, and inspiration this winter season.
See you in 2019!
xoxo

mad V performance.jpg

Top 15 Books by Friends 2015

icey booksJust in time to celebrate Jólabókaflóð, the Icelandic Christmas Book Flood, I was forced to expand my annual Top 10 Books by Friends to the Top 15 Books by Friends List! This is a good problem to have.

Did you know: In Iceland new books are exchanged and read on Christmas Eve with a cup of hot chocolate? Did you know that Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country?

My Top 15 List is in no particular order and the books were only read by me in 2015, not necessarily published in 2015 (though this year most of them were).

TOP 15 BOOKS BY FRIENDS 2015

Slab by Selah Saterstromslab

From my Amazon review: “Selah Saterstrom is a visionary and her latest book, Slab, takes us to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina where our narrator, Tiger, waits to be rescued from the concrete slab where a house might have once stood.”

Buy it now!

*

511bryadi5l-_sx331_bo1204203200_Peek by Paul Beckman

From my Amazon review: “It’s as if Woody Allen and Charles Bukowski got your favorite uncle hammered all weekend and made him spill the family dirt in perfect, flash fiction sized bites.”

Buy it now!

*

*

kuntzcoverweb-500jpg_388x600_60b1f7acda693ca74e1b6bd8076c8a96-194x300Dark Sunshine by Len Kuntz

From my Goodreads review: “Dark Sunshine is the perfect name for Len Kuntz’ haunting collection of flash fiction. Equal parts despair and hope, this combination creates a cocktail that will leave you heartsick and Kuntz is the kind of writer who knows how to break your heart gently.”

Buy it now!

*

Flash Fiction International pbk mech.inddFlash Fiction International by eds James Thomas, Robert Shapard and Christopher Merrill

From my Boston Literary Magazine review: “The writers and stories included come from diverse corners of the globe, and the Table of Contents reads like a meeting of the United Nations”

*I will be joining James Thomas, Robert Shapard, Tom Hazuka and Lynn Mundell on an AWP Panel in 2016 entitled: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re going: Five Editors Talk about the History and Future of Flash Fiction Anthologies. Friday April 1 at 3 pm. Join us!   Buy it now

*

51phaopzygl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Addicts and Basements by Robert Vaughan

The front yard screams at you.
And the car.
And the buttons on your shirt.
Leaving: Yes, I am leaving.
Still, you might have the chance to get there before me.
–from “Leaving” 

Buy it now

*

51cy5hoqoel-_sx331_bo1204203200_What We Know So Far by Robert Scotellaro

From my Amazon review:  “…writers such as Robert Scotellero learn to say more with less, no longer needing the extra foliage. His work takes the leap into true maturity, mastering the silences, zooming in on the subtle moment at hand and letting that one drop of water tell the story of the entire world.”

Buy it now

*

51l8jlwgxsl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Grace Notes by Meg Tuite and David Tomaloff

From Unknown Press: “A stunning collaboration from Meg Tuite (prose), David Tomaloff (poetry), and Keith Higginbotham (collages), who’ve blended their work together in a powerful display that is all of these things:  crushing, mind altering, odd in the ways that shine.”

Buy it now 

*

26796177Hamburgers and Berliners by Matt Potter

From my Amazon review: “Generously peppered with dry wit and historical tidbits, Hamburgers and Berliners is less a guidebook and more a window into both the loneliness and celebrations of following one’s heart.”

Buy it now

*


together-we-can-bury-it
Together We Can Bury It by Kathy Fish

From my Goodreads review: “Her stories are elegant, atmospheric, nostalgic, but never trite or sentimental. She shows the irony of childhood as deftly as the confusion and difficult beauty of adulthood: loving, losing, longing, and breathing the daily poetry that is the ordinary, but always extraordinary, life.”

Buy it now

*

dicksonAll Points Radiant by Brian Dickson

From my Amazon review: “A thumbprint, a pulse, a sunflower, a missing sock, Dickson is able to imply large meaning in small details; these moments acknowledge grief, certainly, but more importantly create a mosaic of a life. A beautiful eulogy in poetry, a poignant but radiant celebration of relationships passed but never forgotten.”

Buy it now

*

51jpc6-pdil-_sx331_bo1204203200_The Secret Games of Words by Karen Stefano

From my Amazon review: “The stories in Karen Stefano’s debut collection are vulnerable to the point of making me blush with recognition. Like reading someone’s emails, I, too, feel the madness and unraveling of her character(s) as I eavesdrop on her most raw and intimate thoughts. Like a voyeur, I can’t look away.”

Buy it now

*

51hvg0obxbl I Saw a Zulu Woman Once by Jeffrey Spahr-Summers

Until Their Bellies Bulge and Shine by Jeffrey Spahr-Summers

Companion books of poems on living in Apartheid South Africa

Buy it now

*

51mpnr9e17l-_sx344_bo1204203200_1Harrison by Nate Jordon

From Arcadia’s website: “Nestled in the heart of the Ozarks of north central Arkansas, Harrison is a small city that embodies an intriguing history within the state…Nate Jordon worked extensively with the genealogy department of the Boone County Library to bring Harrison’s early history to life.”

Buy it now

*

img_3032Two Truths and a Lie by Leah Rogin-Roper

Leah Rogin-Roper’s chapbook Two Truths and a Lie was the winner of Horseless Press’s Poetry and a Pint chapbook series in 2015 and was released in September.

Buy it now

*


ctjilukusaahaba
A Very F**cked Up Christmas Tale by J.A. Kazimer

From my Amazon review: “Even while giving the heimlich to the Ghost of Villainous Presents, Kazimer does what she does best—swipes her finger through the too-perfect frosting of our childhood stories and redelivers them with just the right touch of raunch, humor and irony.”

Buy it now

*

9781938633676-Perfect (1).inddGlassMusic by Rebecca Snow

From Conundrum Press’ website:Glassmusic explores the sometimes devastating realities of loyalty and jealousy, with philosophy, music, and love serving as guides.”

Shortlisted for the International Rubery Award!

Buy it now

*

Were you counting?? I know that’s 16…sue me!

Happy  Jólabókaflóð Everyone!