We need to stop calling people with different ideas “crazy.” It let’s them off the hook. It says there’s no use in talking to them. It says they are to be ignored or written off. It doesn’t say the truth, which is that THEY ARE WRONG. DEAD WRONG. When we say “wrong” we are instantly engaged in a dialog. We are creating a conversation. They are wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong on what makes for security. Wrong on priorities. Wrong on mental health. Wrong on god (I am not talking about atheism). The NRA is wrong. The gun lobby and its supporters are wrong. The guy you’re going to have dinner with over the holidays is wrong. Now we’re talking.
This month I have the honor of being in three very different publications: Tin House Magazine, the first issue of Sarah McCary’s Guillotine, and (drumroll…) GQ Magazine. I’m not sure how I got to be in an unapologetic, feminist chapbook series and a famous men’s magazine in the same month. It is just one of many great mysteries by which I am fortunate enough to be confused.
I am also lucky to be traveling and reading in these places:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania / October 10th, 4:30 pm, 260 Baker Hall, Carnegie Mellon.
Brooklyn, New York October 11th 7 pm @ Melville House Bookstore 145 Plymouth Street Brooklyn, NY 11201–I will be reading nonfiction for the release of Guillotine w/ Karolina Waclawiak and Sarah McCary !!
Manhattan, NYC / October 16th, 7:30pm@ Dixon Place—Experiments and Disorders / 161A Chrystie St. (between Rivington & Delancey) NY, NY 10002 …I will be reading something fictitious…
Seattle, Washington October 18th, I will be reading with the Tin House Magazine folks for the first ever SEATTLE LITCRAWL! (Muppet applause)
New York, NY October 23, at 6:30 p.m. the PEN Awards ceremony @Proshansky Auditorium / The CUNY Graduate Center 365 Fifth Avenue (between 34th and 35th streets) NY, NY 10016
I am stunned and deeply honored to announce that Zazen has won the 2012 PEN Robert Bingham prize for 1stfiction.
I would like to thank the judges, all great writers, Lauren Groff, Dinaw Mengestu, and Nami Mun. I strongly suggest you buy their work (and send them chocolate and whiskey because reading the insane amount of books they read is NOT for the lighthearted).
I would also like to thank the Bingham family for offering the kind of funding needed to support me while writing my current novel. I never knew Robert Bingham, but I am extremely grateful to be a part of the legacy left in his name and will show that by writing more and getting better at it.
I would like to thank the PEN for their work here and abroad. The PEN’s conviction in the writer’s voice and staunch protection of it moves me profoundly. It evokes in me an emotion akin to patriotism, not in service to flag or country, but rather in deference of the human right to make things of beauty. I just can’t believe I have any part in something so damn noble and grand. You should all give money to the PEN, not because of people like me, but because of what they do for writers whose voices have put them in real danger. Support them because they support people like Eskinder Nega, the jailed Ethiopian journalist and blogger, and many others who need the protection of money and visibility. You can join the PEN by clicking on the image below and following the instructions…
Or you can just give them money!
Personally, I want to say that I have been so very fortunate. Many great writers never receive recognition for their work and I feel I have received so much. Winning this award is a cross between playing in the snow on Christmas and rolling down a grassy hill on the best sunny day. It’s just pure joy. But other things should also be said. The truth is, I often lack the emotional scaffolding to keep my chin up on my own. Zazen had supporters all along the way who convinced me to keep trying to get it published then get it in the hands of people who would care about it.
Here are a few of them…
Jay Babcock at Arthur Magazine for serializing Zazen on Arthur in 2009 and constantly trying to help it see the light of day. And I am so happy that Arthur is back in the world!
Richard Nash and Red Lemonade for publishing Zazenand staying behind it and me…
And most importantly, the independent booksellers who got Zazen into people’s hands. They tweeted, they talked, they wrote blog posts, they made shelf talkers, they put it in their windows—they handsold the damn thing until made it’s way into the world and found its people. Nobody would have it if it weren’t for them Here are just a few…Powells, Broadway Books, Annie Bloom’s, WORD, Bank Square Books, Skylight, McNally Jackson, RiverRun Books, and many others. I have met only some of you, but I love you all. Thank you. You have given me a career.
and so many more….
My friend Gerard Donaghy made this video about the psychogeography of Zazen. We can’t really call it a trailer because the book has been out for a year, but then trailers do generally trail behind. Either way, it was fun to make with him. Obviously, it is also a wonderfully clever tribute to Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End. Enjoy!
It’s my honor and privilege to read with Anthony Swofford and Raj Patel and other great writers at Writers With Drinks this Saturday. The show starts at 7:30 sharp and doors open at 6:30. We were going to do assigned seating like how those airlines do it, but instead went for festival seating like how The Who did it. So come early.
For real information you can go here: https://www.facebook.com/events/294361363988086/
One of the other great honors I have while visiting San Francisco is getting to play a part in Hilary Goldberg’s animated existential saga The Deer In Between.
I will be the voice of a morel mushroom that is part of a political underground. Here are some of the mushrooms that seem to be abusing their power and have lots of secret meetings:
I have to say this is one of the highlights of my career so far. If you need to get caught up on the drama here is:
Next week I start teaching an online class through LitReactor called Leading With Voice. There are still some spots open for those interested. At least I believe there are…Anyway, it made me think about what it means to teach writing. Teaching is a strange thing. There’s always something a little grandiose about saying, “Hey! I know how to do this and you should listen to me!”
And pushing aside things like making macaroni and cheese or tying your shoes, who really looks at an art form and thinks, “I know how to do this.” ??
Still, there is benefit in breaking open your own head and letting people see the inside of it. Sometimes it helps them break open their heads. And this is largely how I view teaching. If I had a philosophy, it would go a little like this:
1) Instinct is better than knowledge. Yet a little insight and some perspective can be really helpful, and those things often come through other people.
2) The more you write the quicker you get sick of your bad writing habits.
3) The writer is always boss of her own work. And sometimes firing yourself is a good idea. I do it periodically and can recommend it.
And…I’d like to thank the fine folks at LitReactor for giving me an online home. Join me there if you like.
Failing that bit of technology, click here for class info:
And so I don’t forget–
Happy Easter Bunny.
I feel just like this sometimes…