Category Archives: Featured

How to Be an Anti-Muse

ARTIST’S NOTE: So it looks like I still have some venom I need to squeeze out of system before I can get back to our regularly scheduled program. I like giving writing advice, but sometimes when I look at the state of things in online artistic arenas I want to burn it all down. I realize I owe my readers a debt of sincerity, but if you allow me one more sarcastic tantrum I promise I’ll make it up to you soon.

The Subtle Art of Extinguishing Creative Sparks

Don’t you hate how some people hold onto their artistic ambitions long after they’ve gotten laid for the first time? I mean, come on. They should’ve set that guitar down the moment their backs hit the mattress. You put a sock on the doorknob, strum out a little Wonder Wall, and cast that shit aside. Mission accomplished. Am I right? If someone is still plucking that thing into his thirties there’s something wrong with him.

The same goes for people staggering into coffee houses calling themselves writers, sitting there scribbling into leather bound journals, looking as pensive as possible, hoping some college girl will ask, “What are you writing?” I mean talk about a long con, and the thing I don’t get is why these dumbs schmucks go back to scribbling once they’ve gotten a girl’s attention. It’s like they’re backtracking the wrong way across the finish line.

The worst is when you’re friends with one of these rhyme-scheming stanza stacking wordsmiths, walking around wielding a notepad like a weapon that could go off at the first recitation. You’re a captive audience to their cry for help, forced to give an impromptu theory session under the guise of feedback. The indulgence is exhausting.

You float the idea: What if you channeled all that creative energy into writing a cover letter or technical copy?

Despite all your interventions your friend doesn’t know when to put away childish things. Everyone’s got paintbrushes in their attic, film equipment in their closet, and drum kits in their basement, but he’s still clinging to his hobby like it defines him.

He’s still dreaming about inspiring people with his creations, despite all the grey coming into his hairline. It’s really starting to bum you out.

Well, don’t fret. I’ve developed some tactics to neg your artistic associate into submission. Continue reading How to Be an Anti-Muse

How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method

So your writing is flowing too fast. The spark of inspiration has set your mind ablaze and your fingers hurt from typing. Stephen King says you should write 3,000 words a day and you’re lapping him: 6,000 words a day, 9,000 words a day. You’re so prolific your beta readers feel like you’re swamping them with homework and your inbox is teeming with acceptance letters. Even your coffee table is overflowing with magazines and collections you’ve been featured in. Everybody is buying what you’re selling. Hollywood has optioned so many of your stories that all your liquid assets are tied up in forthcoming films.

Your writer’s workshop has added nights to discuss your work. You to try pump the breaks, to give the other writers around you a chance to catch up, but you finish stories in line at Chipotle. You’re frequently asked; “Are you typing right now?” while you’re appearing on podcasts.

Worse still you’re burdened with an excess of self-satisfaction. People often tell you that you need to glower more. They say you’re one of those writers who is just too damn chipper. The sheer glee you get from walking up every morning is becoming a problem.

Don’t worry. I can help make you tolerable to your less accomplished peers. Just follow my advice for derailing your train of thought and you’ll be writing just as slow as them. Continue reading How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method

What if Depression Was a Guest Star?

Depression kicks the door in, struts onto the set in his popped collar leather jacket, and faces the studio audience. He spreads his legs like he’s mounting a horse, gives the air a one two punch and shouts, “Hee-yaw!” He punctuates that with a high kick, puts one leg over the other and spins 360 degrees.

Depression runs a comb through his hair, moonwalks back and forth, until the audience’s applause dies down. He snaps, points at me in the booth, and delivers his signature catchphrase, “Shouldn’t you be at home contemplating the meaninglessness of existence?”

Like Steve Urkel saying, “Did I do that?” or Bart Simpson saying, “Eat my shorts” or Arthur Fonzarelli saying “Ayyyyy!” the crowd can’t help but lap this line up. They know it’s coming, but they love the repetition, even if it’s bad for them.

Depression follows his catchphrase with this episodes subtle variance. “Those personal failures aren’t going to remember themselves.” That’s his way of clueing the audience into this week’s theme (in this instance it’s past failures).

“It’s cool Big D I’ve got a photographic memory.” This is where I’m supposed to make a space for his leather chaps in the booth.

“The psychiatric community seems pretty quick to dismiss photographic memory as a myth.” Depression slides a chair over and sits on it backward, ignoring the stage directions completely. “I’d say if you really want to recount your failures you need to do a deep dive. Try to find the moment when it all went wrong and Quantum Leap that shit. Your last string of bad luck didn’t happen in a vacuum. You’ve got to find out what set you on that path.” Continue reading What if Depression Was a Guest Star?

How to Write Blog Spam

So You Want to be a Writer in the Information Age

Everyone thinks they have a million-dollar novel in them, something they’ll option to the premium cable companies once they get it started, but you’ve transcended those theoretical thinkers and become a doer. You’ve put in your time at the coffee shop, gritted your teeth through bad dub-step, and put your magnum opus on paper. Now you’re thinking of shopping it around.

The problem is you’re just now reading articles that tell you you’ve done it all backwards. You put the cart before the horse. You were supposed to build a website first, develop a strong social media presence, and then get your novel published. You spent all your time honing your writing skills when you should’ve been practicing selling, so saith the social media gurus you’ve found and they speak with authority.

Build Thy Brand

These social media gurus, these masters of marketing, these grand clerics of the click-through insist writers build a brand before they do anything. A brand is an online presence that represents your unique perspective, beliefs, and voice, and by unique, of course, they mean nothing so emotionally vulnerable that someone might find it depressing, nothing so quirky that people without a sense of humor won’t get it, nothing so seedy it couldn’t be read in classroom, nothing with references your grand parents won’t catch, and nothing remotely political. Continue reading How to Write Blog Spam

Specters of Summer: Creepy Real Life Encounters

Flash Non-Fiction from a Frightened Pedestrian

I live in a part of Minneapolis where I can walk most everywhere I go. While other city dwellers live in food deserts, far from healthy produce, I live in a food oasis with four grocers just blocks from my apartment. Minneapolis has a greenway where cyclists and pedestrians can travel without having to worry about oncoming traffic. Everyday I walk that way to work. I have my choice of four lakes to hike around to find my calm. I walk to the coffee shop where I write. I walk to my Twin Peaks viewing party. I walk to karaoke.

I grind the heels of my boots down flat. I go through one set of insoles a month, and my jeans always have a shortened lifespan, but I can get away with eating donuts and maintain the same frame I’ve had since I was eighteen.

I like walking, despite all the gravel I track into the apartment or the fact that I have to carry an umbrella at all times.

The only real drawback to traversing the city on foot is that it leaves me much more vulnerable than if I were in a vehicle.

There are always wolves looking to prey on anyone they perceive to be lagging behind the heard. Sometimes it’s the red cup wielding frat brothers picking fights on street corners while onlookers yell “World Star.” Sometimes it’s the sidewalk trolls, panhandling for a toll, following me for blocks until I give them a hard, “No.”

Sometimes it’s the people spotting me over their shoulder, ducking into entryways, thinking I can’t see their breath spiraling out in the cold. These are the people who leap out of the shadows, follow me between buildings, and chase me into gas stations. These are the predators I don’t always see coming.

I’ve been jumped before, laid out, full on woke up in a hospital with no clue what happened, missing a phone and a lot of time. The experience puts me on edge at night. It’s made me hyper aware of my surroundings. When I see a shady character standing in my path I check the bushes for silhouettes. Attackers are like Velociraptors if you see one in front of you odds are there are two swooping up from your sides. Continue reading Specters of Summer: Creepy Real Life Encounters

Why Artists need to Pay Their Collaborators

So you’ve finished a novel. You’ve birthed a semi-autobiographical baby and you want to show it off to the world. You’re going to self publish and you have some idea of how to reach an audience.

You follow other authors on social media. You see a lot of book banners in your newsfeed. You’re oblivious to most advertisements, but you know how effective a clever design can be.

You’ve clicked thumbnails for novels because they reminded you of the hand drawn collages that once dominated VHS tapes, back in the heyday of horror. Others that reminded you of the black light posters for bands your parents would never let you listen to, and others that looked like Banksy Graffiti, mutated corporate logos repurposed to stick it to the man.

You’ve judged books by their covers and read many a blurb just because of the art. You want a design that compels readers to do the same. Lucky for you you know a guy. Continue reading Why Artists need to Pay Their Collaborators

Speak of the Devil: A Creepy Poem

3 a.m.
Another glass
A crisis of conscience
This too will pass
The bathroom tiles
Are doing that thing
Where they sink into the dark
Leaving only the towel rings
Gaze into the abyss
Like a lover unblinking
The abyss wants to know
“What are you thinking?”
So tell it
Go on proclaim
Lean into the void
And say my name

Speak of the devil
And I shall appear
I’m up on the ladder
With the ground to my ear
You’re just one Bloody Mary shy
One Candy Man from kingdom come
One Beetlejuice from party time
One name away from

Just say, “When”

4 a.m.
Pop another bottle open
Now is not the time
To be making good decisions
The kitchen walls
Are doing that thing
Where a gash cuts through them
And they bleed all over everything
Thank God you got someone
Who cleans these sorts of messes
Who gets you out of jams
Who gets you out of dresses
Someone who never sleeps
Who catches you when you fall
Who answers to so many names
Who comes when you call

Speak of the devil
And I shall appear
I’m up on the ladder
With the ground to my ear
You’re just one Bloody Mary shy
One Candy Man from kingdom come
One Beetlejuice from party time
One name away from

Just say, “When”

(Knock-knock)
Let me in

Poetry Today: On Bestselling Poetry

I will not write poems on the shitter
For Tumblr or Twitter
For Instagram views
Or ribcage tattoos
I will not write quirky quotables
For scroll bar vegetables
For boards on Pinterest
Where fonts speak loudest

I will not write limericks
For Hallmark sunsets
Too many tranquil oceans
Are littered with devotions
I will not spread good vibes
For up-votes and fast subscribes
For thumbs or hearts
Or Emoji art

I will not break platitudes into parts
With rhythms of fits and starts
Or throw out the metronome
To pass a sentence as a poem
I will not hide behind positive messaging
When I find reviews threating
Or ask you to grade intentions
When I’m lacking inspiration

I will not use “whispered” liberally
For a cheap sense of intimacy
Or say, “All the angels came together
To forge me the perfect lover”
I will not push more gooey snacks
Sugary sweets in shiny packs
And junk food entertainment
On brains craving nourishment

The words that speak to me
Are surges of telepathy
They dig like hungry dogs
Into my internal monologue
They’re not hackneyed hashtags
Or designs for your splash page
They’re not shareable or wearable
Or I don’t fucking care-able

I keep telling myself not to pander
To the lowest common denominator
Not to sellout my principles
To get a click-bait book deal
I keep telling myself persist
Get on that bestsellers list
Milk and Honey earned its rank
And that book is mostly blank

A Fair Price: A Poem About Underselling Your Art

I drop a pocket watch
Into the collection plate
Because I’ve got
All this time to donate
I pay to play
Live at a loss
Tick off the days
And shrug off the cost

I’m a giving tree
Money grows on me
I make it rain gold
Roll in my debris
I work for free
Free space, free time
Free rein, free mind
Free verse, free rhyme

“But how do you get by?”
She has the nerve to ask
Artists really only need
Some ink and a flask
You’re the one getting
Something for nothing
The least you could do
Is pay attention

I got prizes inside
I’m spitting diamonds
Holster your checkbook
And open your hands
Who cares how these jewels
Came unstuck
For all you know
They fell off a truck Continue reading A Fair Price: A Poem About Underselling Your Art

How Not to Hold an Author Event

Insight from a bookseller who has seen these things go very badly.

Congrats on Your Book

So you’ve written a novel, better yet you’ve found a modest publisher who can get it into stores. Sure it might not have priority placement on the front table, but it’s available to customers who think to order it.

Seems like life is on the upswing, but before you forget your humble roots you might want to do something to bring yourself back down to earth, something to let the air out of your ego before it gets too inflated. Why not host an author event? Why that’s just the kind of degrading experience you need to kick your heart in the balls, but how to prepare for one in a way that guarantees maximum humiliation?

I have just the strategy. Continue reading How Not to Hold an Author Event