Writing & Process & Blog Tour! Oh My!

September 4th, 2014 — 3:13pm

So, I don’t usually jump on these bandwagons—even though I love learning how writers work and think—but I figured it was time to do my part. A hearty thanks to Brent Rydin for nominating me. He’s an absolutely tremendous writer and runs a new-but-already-killer journal called Wyvern Lit—and he’s just a really great guy in general (and in person, too!). You can find his writing process blog tour post here.

Away we go:

1. What are you working on? Finishing a secret project, and also different secret project—neither of which I can talk about—but I’m also entrenched in research for a new novel that takes place on a fictional island in Lake Superior. Been drawing made-up maps, creating fake local histories…it’s a blast.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre? Because it’s from me? That’s sort of a loaded question, I guess, and maybe it’s a cop-out, but I’ve had my own experiences in life, my own interests, so obviously, whatever I write will differ completely from anyone else, yeah? The non-smarmy answer, I suppose, is that I have a serious love of place and space—specifically the reverence of space, how we react to and treat certain places, how we interact with the environment and how the environment interacts with us. I’m also interested in this same way with the space between people—our interactions, what forms our relationships and how we act. So I approach most everything I do—not everything, of course—with this in mind, I think. And I’m always looking for stories and books and projects and art that also deals with space in this way, our interaction with it—films dripping with moody atmospheres, for example.

3. Why do you write what you do? Kind of already answered that above. BUT…I have an attraction to place, to space. I find it utterly mesmerizing. Part of this is due to my love of regionalist literature—how writing can differ so much depending on where you’re from; how the mythologies and stories from these places create uniqueness that a lot of folks aren’t aware of. What each person can bring to the table, hat’s made them who they are, how they see things, and the work they produce because of these factors, is part of the reason Midwestern Gothic exists—an exploration of the Midwest and the writers and writing that takes place here and who we are and the things we think and talk about. So all of that is jumbled up in my head and when I write, it’s almost always in my mind, these things. Can’t escape it.

4. How does your writing process work? Depends. For short stories I get an idea, can’t get it out of my head, and I just write. I don’t really outline shorter works, I work it out in my head as I go and then revise revise revise until I’m happy with it. For longer stuff, like the new book, I spend time researching—weeks, months, whatever it takes—until I feel totally immersed in that world. This new book, the map-making, the faux-histories, all of that helps me get in character, so to speak, and then when I feel ready, when it all clicks into place, I start going. When I was working on my novel Sea of Trees, I researched the forest, Aokigahara, general culture and suicide in Japan for months, outlined the book, and then put it all together. As for physically, how does it work, I have to write on a computer, I take notes as I go, I brainstorm beforehand and outline, too, but when I’m actually writing I need to be at a coffee shop or library. I can do almost no work at home, no matter how great the space is. I have to be out among people, which I find fantastically inspiring. Sucks, sometimes, when I want to go write but I’m stuck somewhere, so I’ll take notes and do what I can, but to get into the total writer mode I have to be out.

And thar she blows. Oh, and I cordially nominate the following talented folks:

Schuler Benson’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Kudzu Review, Hobart, The Idle Class, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for a Sundress Publications Best of the Net Award, a storySouth Million Writers Award, and three Pushcart Prizes, and he placed second in The Fallen Sky Review’s 2013 Speculative Fiction Launch Contest. He completed his undergraduate studies at University of Arkansas and is currently enrolled in the MA program at Coastal Carolina University. The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide is his first book. You can find him on Twitter at @schulerbenson and on Facebook at /schulerbenson.

Lee L. Krecklow is a fiction writer living outside of Milwaukee. His work has appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Cheap Pop, Pantheon Magazine and The Madison Review. Find him at www.leelkrecklow.com.

Elizabeth Schmuhl is a writer, dance maker, and mover whose work appears or is forthcoming in [PANK], theNewerYork, Birkensnake, Paper Darts and elsewhere. Find her online at www.elizabethschmuhl.com.

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The City that Knows How

September 2nd, 2014 — 2:57pm

First: that might be the greatest nickname of any city, so well done, San Francisco.

Second: I loved this city far more than I thought I would. It’s interesting, I hadn’t really ever given SF much of a thought…it’s just that big city with the bridge on the west coast, you know? But boy howdy did it charm me. Great food, tremendous coffee, wine (obviously), and just really chill, happy people.

Anyway, here’s some weird/awesome stuff that happened. Better than the usual photos you see, I think.

1. I made a pilgrimage to the Full House house. The only one on the street with a gate…to keep the riff-raff like me out.

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2. A woman was vacuuming the leaves on the sidewalk. I don’t get it, I don’t want to get it, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

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3. A fish-headed man…grilling fish. Again, I don’t know what the inspiration was, but I sorta love this.

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4. One of the oldest California state flags still in existence. The bear looks like a wart hog, but that’s okay. We get it, we get it.

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Interview at Cartridge Lit

August 21st, 2014 — 7:05am

Cartridge Lit was kind enough to ask me to participate in their contributor Q&A where I talk video games and literature:

Cartridge Lit: What novel would you like to see turned into a game? What genre would it be? How would it play?

Russell: As I Lay Dying as an 8-bit side-scroller where you play as Cash and have to gather supplies at the end of each level to make Addie’s coffin. Level bosses include: a psychotic Darl, the thick dark river, Anse, and the ghost of Addie. Seriously: I want to play this game.

You can also read my Cartridge Lit story “Get Over Here” too.

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New story “Doing the Thing” in Wyvern Lit

August 16th, 2014 — 12:00pm

My story “Doing the Thing” is in Issue Two of the fantastic new(-ish) journal Wyvern Lit:

She digs back in and I down my beer as Jason Mraz’s ‘The Remedy’ begins burping through the speakers, half of the place singing along and all I can do is regret buying that fedora a few months back that I’ve never worn. The hat she said I looked stupid in as soon as I tried it on for her at home.

It’s a jam-packed issue, and I’m excited to be included. Check it out.

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Enemy / Under the Skin

August 15th, 2014 — 12:27pm

Been on a movie-watching tear of late, and watched these admittedly “weird” films back-to-back. However, found them to be two of the most gorgeously shot, well-written and -acted films I’ve seen all year.

Enemy (dir. Denis Villeneuve; starring Jake Gyllenhaal)

To discuss the plot of this film is mostly pointless, and I do think this is the sort that’s best experienced with no prior knowledge. But believe me: the yellow haziness the film’s shot in, the mystery and intrigue of it all, the strong duel performances by Gyllenhaal…it’s a stunner. And the ending, which I’ve some apparently have called “the scariest of any film ever,” is phenomenal.

Under the Skin (dir. Jonathan Glazer; starring Scarlett Johansson)

Directed by the man who gave the world one of my favorite films of all time, Sexy Beast, this film’s a real mystery, but you can’t look away from it. You need to know where it’s going, need to keep watching. And, I dare say it wouldn’t hurt to have a bit more knowledge of the plot before you go in. Do you absolutely need it? No, not really. On its own it’s a gorgeous film, well acted with a soundtrack that’ll knock you back, and, by the ending, it reveals itself to be far more than it seems at first. Again, don’t want to give it away, but I do think, perhaps, a few too many liberties were taken with the source material (novel of the same name, written by Michel Faber), and a bit too much was withheld from the viewer. But that’s a small point, nit-picky at best, and this should be on your radar.

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New story “An Immense Desert” in Mojave River Review

July 14th, 2014 — 3:53pm

Excited to have my story “An Immense Desert” in the Summer 2014 issue of Mojave River Review:

“I tried to kill myself,” I told her. We were holding hands drinking expensive juices made with wheatgrass and she didn’t look over at me, just kept sipping hers. “I’m serious.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say to that,” she said. “What can I even say?”

“I just wanted you to know.”

MRR’s a great journal, and this is a jam-packed-full-of-goodness issue. Check it out.

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MG Issue 14 + The Lake Prize

July 2nd, 2014 — 12:57pm

Two cool things:

Midwestern Gothic Issue 14 (Summer 2014) has arrived and it is a cornucopia of goodness. Or whatever the summer equivalent of a cornucopia is. A picnic basket, maybe? Anyway, I’m really proud of this one, and I am madly, deeply in love with the cover.

Next, MG’s next endeavor: The Lake Prize.

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Basically, this is a way for us to give back to everyone who’s supported us. I love the Midwest—like, a lot…I try to champion it wherever I go and I’m sure people get sick of it, but this is who I am—and the idea of supporting writing and writers from the region in this whole other way is electrifying.

Also, some cool prizes: Grand prizes include $500 and publication in Issue 16 of Midwestern Gothic (one grand prize each for fiction and poetry), and runners-up will receive $100 and publication in the same issue (two prizes each for fiction and poetry). On top of that we have some rockstar judges for our inaugural year (Fiction: Ander Monson; Poetry: Mary Biddinger)—and yes, this will be yearly, so lots to be excited about.

We’re looking for the same sorts of things we do for the journal, but one step further: authors need to have a direct (and noticeable) connection to the Midwest, and pieces need to be set here.

Check out the main Lake Prize page for all the info—and please do read all guidelines and whatnot before submitting (just in case).

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Chicago

June 23rd, 2014 — 5:26pm

You know, sometimes I forget how much I love Chicago. Two blocks from Lake Shore Drive and you’d never know it. You’d be hard-pressed to find another city like that.

Plus: Watching rainstorms on a porch in a metropolis? Pretty spectacular.

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New story “Claude” at Luna Luna Magazine

June 19th, 2014 — 12:44pm

I’m delighted to have my story “Claude” up at Luna Luna Magazine as part of their fiction series:

She had a copy of the Paris Review sitting on her coffee table and told me George Plimpton had once tried to pick her mother up in a bar on President’s Day. She had turned him down, of course.

“I mean, she knew who he was,” she said twirling her hair in her fingers, coiling and uncoiling her blonde curls as if they were nothing more than amusements. “She just wasn’t attracted to him.”

A hearty thanks to the edtiors, especially Amanda Miska, for including it. This is a piece I’ve been working on for years, and I have a real soft spot for it. And it really means a lot to be a part of what they’re doing.

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New story “Get Over Here” at Cartridge Lit

June 11th, 2014 — 9:34am

 

Check out my story “Get Over Here”—a nostalgic trip into the golden age of video games—over at the wonderful Cartridge Lit:

“Are you kidding? Have you played Mortal Kombat  without blood? It’s…” I stopped, thought of the right word. “It’s pointless.”

Thanks to the editors of this fine journal for including my piece. Really love what they’re doing. I mean, video games + literature just go together, you know? They have a gorgeous aesthetic and some unbelievably good content, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Plus: Love this graphic they put together. Yes.

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