Five with Jennifer Banash

Next up in the Pilcrow Lit Fest "Five with..." interview series is our new friend who lives, works, and writes in Iowa City, Iowa. She is the co-founder and co-publisher of Impetus Press, an independent publishing house that champions serious literary fiction with a pop or urban edge. Her novel, Hollywoodland: An American Fairy Tale, is published by Impetus Press, and her Young Adult series, The Elite, will be released in June from Penguin, Berkley. Please welcome Jennifer Banash:

1. What are you working on now?

Right now I'm working on finishing the third ELITE book, and a new YA series called BITTEN, which is about an Upper East Side NY family who buys Dracula's castle in Romania, and promptly moves to Europe with their precocious twin, sixteen year old daughters. I'm also writing a work of literary fiction that takes place at the court of Versailles under the reign of Louis XIV.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

Socializing with people I haven't seen in a while, and drinking copious amounts of wine with them afterwards.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

Soft Skull Press--Richard Nash is my personal hero--Featherproof, OV Books, Dzanc Books. I'm also a big fan of Jeffrey Lependorf and the Literary Ventures Fund.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

Kate Braverman, Carole Maso, Joan Didion, Paul Auster, and Bret Easton Ellis.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

Goldfrapp's A&E.


Get your volunteer boots on!

Okay, you won't need boots to volunteer for Pilcrow Lit Fest, but we are looking for volunteers of all sorts.

Digital Volunteers
1) Photographers
2) Podcasters
3) Video peeps - do you vlog?

Service Volunteers
1) Greet and check-in authors
2) Point and direct guests to panels
3) Help us dress The Fixx up for the Rebuild Party

1) We don't even know yet, but we need you.

Drop Amy or I an email and say "I wanna get my boots on!"


Five with Elaine Soloway

Our next guest in Pilcrow Lit Fest's "Five with..." interview series is a wonderful woman I've had the pleasure of both reading with and introducing at the Fixx Reading Series (see photo-- she arrived in a "Girls Rock" t-shirt she picked up at a NOW convention and I begged her to do part of her reading bearing the gorgeous tattoo on her upper arm). If you don't now her/her work, then you, my friends, are missing out. Plus, she named one of my favorite songs ever as an ideal Pilcrow theme song, so there's that, too. Everyone, please welcome Elaine Soloway.

1. What are you working on now?

As we chat, I'm finishing up Draft 2 of a 200-page fiction (one more draft to go) titled She's Not The One. It's a coming-of-middle-age novel about a woman who's knocked off track when she encounters people and places more alluring than her husband and suburban lifestyle. It's a fictional tale that includes names and places familiar to Chicagoans, as well as others from the writer's imagination.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

Catching up with friends. In this case: Elizabeth Crane, Charles Blackstone, Leah Jones, Katie Schwartz, and The Amy Guth; as well as authors I've enjoyed but have never met in person; i.e. Wendy McClure and Jonathan Messinger. Discovering writers who are brand new to me is another bonus.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

Oops, make this an important part of #2. I'm lacking in the knowledge of small presses, and hope to use the festival as an opportunity to meet publishers, agents, and other dream-makers. And, as someone under five feet, anything related to "small" wins my heart.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not.

Could you place a call to Jill Soloway, author of Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants? Maybe she'll listen to you and hop a flight from L.A. While you're on the phone, give a ring to Faith Soloway in Boston, author of musical comedies Jesus Has Two Mommies and Miss Folk America (check out YouTube for hilarious snippets here and here, for example).

If you can't convince those two to participate, maybe some of their writing buddies, like Hillary Carlip, A La Cart, The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers; Brett Paesel, Mommies Who Drink; and Sarah Thyre, Dark At The Roots would pretend to be my daughters.

And just for me: invite the most wonderful, Anne Tyler.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

Feeling Good by Nina Simone. Says it all.


Getting Your Book Online

About a month ago, publicist Lisa Roe sent me a copy of Ronald Cutler's The Secret Scroll to review on my blog. Lisa is a new breed of publicist who helps bridge authors and online communities. She does both blogger outreach, which is how she found me, and allows bloggers to contact her to request books for review.

I think there is a lot of value in both getting your book into the hands of bloggers and getting bloggers to talk about your book. It might be book reviews, interviews like our five questions here, a blog tour, a Flickr contest, or a short film about the book. Start thinking beyond the last page of your book and traditional marketing.

We'll be doing a couple workshops on this at Pilcrow, so we'll help you get there!

Five with Jami Attenberg

Our next guest in the "Five with..." interview series holds a special place in my heart, I must admit. Not only have I spent something like a total of sixteen really (no really!) enjoyable hours in a car with her but, you see, a few years ago, she and I arrived in Omaha for the (downtown) omaha lit fest, shared a reading at a local bookstore, and within a matter of hours, got into a barfight with a complete stranger and won. How do you like that? A first for each of us, no less. It took one wrong word from this stranger and my glasses were off, her earrings were off, a darling lesbian couple jumped up to help, and it was on.

And, please note that exactly one month from today, she will be kicking off Pilcrow Lit Fest by reading at the Fixx Reading Series! Please welcome Jami Attenberg:

1. What are you working on now?

I am 2/3 of the way through a new novel, which means, basically, I need to figure out how it's going to end. If anyone has any suggestions, they should be sure to let me know.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

I like making new writer friends from all over the country. I know that makes it sound like summer camp or something, but I have met so many cool people at lit fests. There's something comforting in knowing folks from Portland or Omaha are going through the same thing I am out in Brooklyn. And even though there are so many writers in Brooklyn and NYC in general, it is still easy to fall into the trap of isolations. It's good to have something that forces you to interact and exchange ideas.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

Chiasmus Press, because they just published Kevin Sampsell's wonderful new book Creamy Bullets.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

Is Monica Drake coming? I want her to come.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

As We Go Up, We Go Down, by Guided By Voices.


Guest Blogger for Pilcrow, oh, and for the Earth

I am a guest blogger today over on The Debutante Ball and gave all of you a shout-out for Earth Day.


Five with Adam Deutsch

Our next guest in the "Five with..." interview series is none other than Adam Deutsch of Ninth Letter, man-about-the-festival here at Pilcrow HQ, two-time Fixx Reading Series veteran, and author of North Park Gallery Series at Big Game Books.

1. What are you working on now?

At the moment, a 1959 Vespa 125. I got it in pieces and have had to put the engine back together. It's coming along. Once the new kick-start with the right splines comes in, I think it'll start right up.

Did you mean writing? I've spit-shined a manuscript of poems for the MFA, will see how it holds up to getting sent out in the fall once I settle into a new job.

A chapbook JUST came out from
Big Game Books.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

Traditionally, moving a bunch of Ninth Letters, then getting drinks. You mean when I'm there to talk about writing, right? It's fun to hear about all the details everyone else is goofing with in their own writing; more stuff to play with when the fest is done, and I'm back in my studio apartment writing alone.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

Jill Alexander Essbaum (winner of the Micropress Pageant) scooped me, but I'm a total sucker for Bloof Books. I really dig everything they've put out so far, and it's nice to have confidence in an aesthetic like that.

I don't know who else. I don't know if I really know what's "small" any more. Is BOA Editions small? They're dope. And Milkweed's kicking major ass lately.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

Other than all the dead people I'm thinking of, I'd like to see Brian Lumley. I read the Necroscope Series when I was a kid, and really enjoyed the hell out of them. Maybe also Nick Flynn. And definitely Srikanth Reddy. Can I have 3 wishes?

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song from Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

"Left Side" of Kid Koala's You're Mom's Favorite DJ. Sometimes, there are reasons I'm not in change of stuff.


Five with Tim Hall

For our next "Five with..." guest, please welcome new-friend-of-Pilcrow, Tim Hall:

1. What are you working on now?

I'm finishing up a new non-fiction novel, called Full Of It: The Birth, Death, and Life of an Underground Newspaper. I've also just launched AuthorShares, which is a way for writers and small presses to issue stock to raise money for their projects.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

My favorite part of literary festivals is realizing that I'm not the only crazy dreamer out there. It's so inspiring to get out of the house and see my fellow travelers once in a while. I'm always humbled and amazed by the amount of talent and creativity at these festivals. Then I go home again for another year and my imaginary friend and I talk about it.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

I'm amazed by the Chicago literary scene, actually--the energy, wit and passion I've seen since moving out here are overwhelming. So I'd say pretty much the entire Pilcrow roster constitutes my favorite mover/shaker types right now, especially Jonathan Messinger, Jason Behrends, and Ben Tanzer, all of whom I've recently met or become acquainted with. I'm also a big fan of Maud Newton's blog, I think her output and generosity have been amazing.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

Selfishly I'd like some of my NY posse to be here, especially my fellow Blacksmiths For Literary Progress--Brian Cogan, Mike Faloon, and Ken Wohlrob. They're my homeboys and some of the coolest, smartest, funniest/weirdest people I have the honor of having restraining orders against. Also Karen Lillis, who's in Pittsburgh now, is another amazing writer and small press advocate I wish was here. My old friends, in other words.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

Well, "Tears On My Pilcrow" would be one, or anything by The Black Pilcrowes.

Actually, I'd say "Waiting Phase One" by Porcupine Tree: "Waiting for the drugs/to make it real/Waiting for the day/when I will crawl away." Pretty much sums up this whole literature gig, doesn't it?



Word Riot gave us a nice little shout-out.

Twitter this!

Twitter again, Leah?

Yes, my Pilcrow dears, Twitter again.

We are certain that Twitter is going to add a fun layer to your time with us in May, but want to make sure you have plenty of time to get used to using it. Something cool we've added is that we're now using Group Tweet for the @PilcrowLitFest Twitter account.

What does that mean? it means that if you send a direct message to @Pilcrowlitfest, it will be broadcast to all the followers. This will make it easier to talk to everyone at once, instead of having to quickly add everyone you meet after you get on site. Although, we recommend doing that too.

Not sure about this twitter thing? Check out this post to catch up.


Five with Megan Stielstra

Our next guest in Pilcrow's "Five with" interview series is Megan Stielstra. The first time I met her was the evening she came to read at the Fixx Reading Series, and when she asked me, with pink iPod in hand, if she could have a sound cue during her reading (sure!), then proceeded to underscore a fabulous story of her teenage self with Madonna's Like A Prayer, well, once all of those events transpired, I was pretty sold on her fabulousness. Ladies and gentlemen, Megan Stielstra:

1. What are you working on now?

I work story development for 2nd Story, an urban storytelling series set in wine bars where we craft stories the same way you'd tell them to your best friend over a glass of wine (or two or five). Some are confessional, some raunchy, some sad, and I've got all sorts of material from those shows. Right now I'm piecing them into a personal essay collection, rewriting to make the performance translate to the page.

I'm also kicking a novel around, but there's no light at the end of that tunnel. Just a big mess of What the Hell is happening here? and, frankly, I'm having a blast. I like the exploratory part of the process.

Most importantly, I've spent the past nine months building a human being. From scratch! And now that he's arrived, I'm working on navigating this new territory of being a writer and a mom.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

Inspiration. It's like there's a fire lit under my ass, and I have to rush home and get to work. You meet all these great people doing great things, and for me that translates into all sorts of ideas and plans and drive.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

The obvious answer for me, living in Chicago, is Quimby's, an independent bookstore that's been a home for small press for nearly two decades. They stock everything from two dollar Xeroxed zines to fifty dollar art books, plus all sorts of graphic novels and alternative work that you can't find elsewhere. Well, maybe the internet, but I still need the tactile experience of bookstores: wandering around, reading first pages, thumbing through new pages ... Quimby's is the place to go for sure.

The guys at Featherproof are doing some great things with making publishing really accessible and fun: downloadable mini-books, rock-readings, great design. I've always been a fan of Punk Planet, the magazine and now the press (they've published two of my favorite contemporary writers: Joe Meno and Elizabeth Crane). Same goes for Other Voices, whose editor, Gina Frangello, is a big role model for me. Great writer, publisher, teacher and mom. I saw her read an S&M scene from her novel My Sister's Continent when she was eight months pregnant. Totally badass.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

Heather Armstrong from dooce.com. I've read that blog for years and she's just a kick-ass writer. Also, I know she's got a book coming out, and while many of us use our blogs to promote our other projects, her blog is what scored her other projects. It'd be interesting to hear about that flip side.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). That's a damn good theme song for EVERYTHING.


Five with Larry O. Dean

For our next guest, I'm pleased to present Larry O. Dean, a very funny fellow I just recently met when he read from his "I Am Spam" at the Fixx Reading Series. He is part of a reading tonight in Chicago at the Sulzer Library, by a delightful coincidence. I'm going, and so should you. It should be noted, I suppose, that while I generally include only one photograph of the featured author, when presented with a photo of someone in rock-mode and a photo of the same person as a wee tiny, well, I'm going to post the both.

Anyway, without further ado:

1. What are you working on now?

Two collections: Brief Nudity, which is your basic kitchen sink's worth of poems of no definable cohesion other than they're new to the neighborhood; and Loma Prieta, a series of persona poems based on the 1989 San Francisco Bay Area earthquake. The former has a lot of humor, the latter, needless to say, is much more serious. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and while my own experience of the quake was benign, I was haunted by testimonials in print of those who weren't so lucky, and later newspaper articles about those who died. Loma Prieta focuses on giving the victims voices.

I'm also writing a batch of new songs for my band, The Injured Parties' second album. Our debut, Fun with a Purpose, which was mixed by Mark Nevers (Lambchop, The Clientele, Calexico) in Nashville, is due out later this year.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

The clean bathrooms. I find that literary types are very careful urinators, urethrally if not always literarily.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

C.J. Laity at ChicagoPoetry.com has been an ardent and sometimes controversial presence on the local scene for many years; any discussion of the state of Chicago poetry that deducts him from the equation is sorely lacking. Also, tooting my own horn, Fractal Edge Press, Wayne Jones' local imprint that published my chapbook, I Am Spam, deserves a shout out if for no other reason than for the sheer number of titles Wayne's put out in a short period of time. Also Puddin'head Press, Featherproof Books, Switchback Books, and Teachers & Writers Collaborative Press.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

I'm gonna go for two: Marc Behm, who died last July, and Alden Nowlan, who died in 1983. Behm was an American expatriate, living in France, probably most famous for writing the treatment for Help! But it was his series of surreal and creepy neo-noir novels, such as Eye of the Beholder and Queen of the Night, that really grabbed me. Nowlan was a Canadian poet and novelist, also little known in the US, who's a particular favorite of mine.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

“Blinded by the Light,” for sure – the Manfred Mann's Earth Band version, not the original by Springsteen – because with all the literary talent on display at Pilcrow, I'm sure we'll have to squint our eyes. Also because Mann's singer pronounces “deuce” like “douche.”


Donate and Win!

In the funny world of "it takes money to raise money," we are trying to raise money to be able to properly fundraise for NOLA Libraries and get all the little odds and ends it takes to have a festival.

The plan is to have a fabulous event on Saturday night. We have an award winning Jambalaya cook on board, we are picking a playlist, and we have authors galore creating Rebuilt Books. At the event we will wine and dine each other, bid on the artwork, laugh out loud and at the end of the night write a big ol' check to NOLA Libraries.

How can you help? We are in the process of raising $1500 to put towards extra food, extra beer, printer cartridges and other unforseen things. Each person that makes a $25 donation via ChipIn between now and May 1st will be put into a drawing for a gift certificate to Wishbone! For every $25 you donate, you'll be entered for another chance to win.

Mmmm, Wishbone. Yes, it is in Chicago, but you're coming here in May or you live here or you need a reason to come here, right?


Five With Amy Guth

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Since the "Five With..." interview is open to any author involved with Pilcrow Lit Fest, and well, I'm an author and I'd say I'm rather involved. I thought it was perhaps teetering on garish to interview myself, but more than one person asked when my interview would be up, and so, well, why not? Here goes nothing.


For today's "Five With..." interview, I present yours truly, Amy Guth, author of the novel Three Fallen Women and the forthcoming novel, Light of Waters Brought. And, you know, the one who said, "Hey, guys, we should have a lit fest!"

1. What are you working on now?

Doy. Pilcrow. It's been a large undertaking, but I've enjoyed it thoroughly-- from scribbling ideas on brunch napkins, to hocking everyone for things to fill the swag bags with, to finding venues for panels and parties, getting the logistics for all the programming to line up, making sure everything was done as eco-friendly as it could be, finding organizations and vendors to partner with, and convincing everyone else to come along for the ride-- well, Pilcrow has certainly had my focus since I decided to go for it. It's been great so far; I can't wait to see how festival weekend goes. I have nothing but high hopes. I've been thrilled with how positive of a response Pilcrow has gotten from everyone, fellow authors, publishers, venue owners-- man, even the lady who donated some of the table linens for the New Orleans Public Library fundraiser was so excited that she squeaked! But, now that most of the heavy lifting is finished, I need to figure out what to wear. And, I need to disassemble my novel, Three Fallen Women, for the Rebuilt Books event at the NOLA Public Library fundraiser.

But, it hasn't been all Pilcrow all the time. I recently finished editing an essay collection, Emotionally Pantsed, by Katie Schwartz. My second novel, Light of Waters Brought, is making its way into the light of day later this year, which I'm very excited about. Also, I've been working on my third novel and just started tinkering with two non-fiction projects-- one a biography that will likely take me a few years to research and write and the other a more memoir-format thing based on the assortment of unusual day jobs I held at different points in my life. I'll be continuing as host of the Fixx Reading Series here in Chicago this year as well, and hopefully many years to come, and editing an anthology of the first year's guests. And, of course, wrapping my head around next year's Pilcrow Lit Fest. Already. Can you believe some folks are already asking me about next year?!? I joke. I love it. Next year is going to be even better. Pssh, I'll have it down to a science by then!

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

Wine and schmooze, all the way. I think I'm really charming after a couple glasses of pinot grigio. Keyword: think. See for yourself during Pilcrow, I'm sure. No seriously, I am a big fan of literary festivals. The things we do, whether on the creation or production side of writing, lend themselves to isolation far more than they do to, say, community-building, so I've always enjoyed being around a lot of other people who understand that so well at festivals. I've left every festival I've attended with the best feeling of connectedness and met some of the most interesting and wonderful people and made some great friends at each festival. And, I've become familiar with all sorts of books and authors I might never of otherwise know.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

Well, self, that's a tough one. I certainly haven't any intention of playing favorites. Especially not after I invited all of you folks here to Pilcrow. That said, I think Featherproof's mini-books are a fabulous thing, and such a creative idea. I am really into what Bloof Books is up to, and really love the we're-all-in-it-together-ness of their authors' touring efforts. Soft Skull Press has always put out books I've liked and they've shown Pilcrow a lot of love, and obviously I'm a big fan of my publisher, James Stegall of So New. Wait, speaking of Featherproof-- does the kid in this clip look like a young Jonathan Messinger to anyone else? Not the wicked baby, the older kid. Maybe? You think?

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

Hell, I don't know. I can barely hear myself think-- all I can hear right now is my upstairs neighbor having sex. Let's see, if I could put, say Tom Robbins, Chuck Palahniuk and Don DeLillo all together at one lit fest, I might be high on life for years. Final answer.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

Well, you know me, such a Morrissey/Smiths fan, so A Rush and a Push and The Land is Ours.

I'm looking forward to seeing all of your smiling faces in May!


Five With Gail Konop Baker

Today's Five With guest is a newcomer to Pilcrow Lit Fest, Gail Konop Baker, author of Cancer Is A Bitch, Or, I'd Rather Be Having A Midlife Crisis.

1. What are you working on now?

I’m writing a proposal for a book called ANATOMY OF A MARRIAGE.

Sex Love Sex Sex work Sex Nest Sex Kids Money Work Exhaustion sex Money Work Boredom Temptation Baggage Trauma Regret obligatory sex Frustration was that sex? Temptation Re-negotiation… or Bust.

My husband hasn’t seen the tagline yet…

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

The palpable synergy of people gathering in the name of loving the word.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question but I do love small presses and lit mags and really they’re the only ones who have ever paid much attention to my writing… but I think I’ll say Literary Mama because they took a chance on my Bare-breasted Mama column and didn’t censor, didn’t try to rein me in. And they pride themselves on providing voice to the edgy, the unconventional, the marginalized, the other.

Also, I’ll add Amy Guth. I get a sense she has the energy to move and shake and make things happen...

4. Thanks, Gail! Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

Grace Paley. I know she’s dead but I met her years ago at Dan and Whit’s in Vermont (Dan and Whit's?-ag) before I was published and after she gave one of her amazing readings and talks and said something like (and I paraphrase), Don’t write unless you have to, unless you feel it in your sternum (and she pounded on her chest). I didn’t realize at the time that I probably didn’t feel it strongly enough in my sternum, that it took years of struggle for me to feel it so intensely in my sternum that I thought I might choke. And I guess I wish she could see me at my first lit fest as a published writer. Also she always gave a reading that took the top off of my head.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit fest this year, what would it be?

Not to be self-serving but I’d pick “Mother’s Little Helper” from the CANCER IS A BITCH playlist (yes, there is a playlist that goes with my memoir). Originally I included it at the end of the book but it wasn’t practical to keep it in but if you e-mail me I’ll send you a CD of it!


Chicago Public Transport + Google Maps = The Awesome

Pilcrowers, we have excellent news! The CTA and Google Maps hooked up and we get to reap the benefits. We can now figure out how to get from point A to point B on Chicago public transport using Google Maps!

Here is the blog post announcing it and a video explaining it better than I ever could.



Pilcrowers are no slouches, I'm here to tell you. Let's see... skimming some headlines... Lauren Cerand was quoted in Time Out NY, Jami Attenberg wrapped up her book tour to support The Kept Man, Anne Boles Levey wrapped up the Cybils Awards for this year, Rachel Cline's My Liar came out and seems to be doing well, Elizabeth Crane just finished a whole slew of readings back east to promote You Must Be This Happy To Enter, Peter Davis is doing a little poetry goodness with the ladies from Bloof TONIGHT in Indiana, Jonathan Messinger reads from his Hiding Out on Wednesday night in Chicago, Two Dollar Radio kicks it at good ol' Morningside Bookshop this weekend in NYC for the new novel 1940, Megan Stielstra has a few shows coming in the next few weeks in Chicago... and what else? Pilcrowites, shout out. What are you up to between now and the festival?

Five with Pete Coco

Please welcome our next "Five with..." guest, Mr. Pete Coco, half of Please Don't literary webzine.

1. What are you working on now?

I'm writing a novel about a guy who lives at home and figures out how to recreationally overdose on his father's cholesterol medication. That's the beginning, anyway.

More short-term, I'm finishing up the second chapter of Axl Watch, Please Don't's serial-collaborative noir. I'm also starting on preliminary designs for my personal website, petecoco.org.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

If you care about writing and reading, you do so against the grain of the larger culture. Maybe that makes us noble, but only just a little. More than anything else, it just makes us lonely. These are pretty solitary endeavors, after all. So we get together now and then, pull a chunk of time and space out of the larger continuum and seal it off for party and conversation. I think that's pretty reasonable.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

There are so many good answers to this question. I'm always checking the catalogs of presses like Soft Skull, Akashic, Graywolf, McSweeneys, Future Tense, etc. With so many indie presses you know you're getting a labor of love, and that's meaningful. There's not enough money changing hands for this to be a cynical business.

I work in an academic library, and the other day I had occasion to pore over like ten shelves of Dalkey Archive back titles and select a bunch for our collection. The depth of that catalog is just astonishing, and I can't think of a press that better demonstrates the vital necessity of independent media. As self-evidently worthwhile as so many Dalkey titles are, most couldn't get in the front door of mainstream publishing. I don't want to demonize mainstream publishing for that, exactly, but it's vital that we have an alternative to that business model, a flood channel for art's sake.

Because, you know, art and commerce, blah, blah, blah. It's an evil pairing sometimes, those two.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

The best book I've read in ages is Dan Chaon's "You Remind Me of Me." It's been four months, give or take, since I finished it and I still think of it every time I sit down to write. It embodies this cosmic tenderness to which I think all writers should aspire. Or at least I aspire to it, anyway.

I hear Steve Earle has finished a novel. He's always been one of my favorite storytellers so that's a book I look forward to reading. If you want a nice, compact object lesson in story structure, his songs aren't a bad place to start.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

If I were in charge, I'd have to think up some elaborate justification for choosing something off this acoustic Peter Tosh album, "Talk Revolution," that I've been enjoying lately. It's lo-fi and sparse and just pretty damn great.

Also, while working on Axl Watch I've had occasion to watch the video for "Estranged" almost daily for the past couple months. So that song is on my brain. When I'm walking the dog, for example. We'll turn a corner and suddenly that menacing, plaintive guitar lead floods my consciousness.

Shut Up, I'm Talking

One of the cool things about being involved in Pilcrow is that I'm suddenly much more aware of readings, book launches and author events going on around the country. Also, my friends are more aware too and are starting to send things my way.

Last week I went down to UIC to the Jane Addams Hull House to see Adam Mansbach read from his new book, The End of The Jews. He was the featured speaker for a class, but lucky for me the reading was open to the public. I'm only a chapter in, so I can't give you a review, I can just tell you that I went.

Coming up in New York, Gregory Levey (the best friend of a friend) is launching his new memoir Shut Up, I'm Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government -- A Memoir. I wish I could go, alas, I don't live in New York. Maybe you do?

What readings are you hitting this month?


Five With William L. Bryan

For our next guest on Pilcrow Lit Fest's "Five With..." interview spots, I'm happy to introduce all of you to William L. Bryan.

1. What are you working on now?

My lovely and talented writing partner (one Angela Gant by name, to be found all over the Pilcrow pages) and I are working on a horror screenplay. It should have been a vampire movie, because it is sucking the life right out of us.

Individually, I am working on a YA novel about a boy whose dog is possessed by a being from another dimension who has to try to help the boy save the universe.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

You learn so much by listening to people talk about whatever they want to talk about – literary festivals are particularly wonderful in this regard because so much discussion is logically about writing that my interest is more than prurient. Even the most obscure perspectives on the craft can be helpful.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

I have to give respect to D-Town’s own Joyce Meskis, who owns the Tattered Cover, America’s best independent book store and is the Director of the University of Denver Publishing Institute, who has done and continues to do more for the literary scene here than any other ten people combined. Steve Church and some other very talented people have started a literary magazine called The Normal School which drops this fall – they have a lot of really cool stuff on tap for the first issue, so I am looking forward to that.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

David Simon, because if I can take anything back to The Wire, I will. Joolz Denby. Nick Arvin – I think he owes me beer.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

Everybody wants to make this meaningful, but I figure if it gets played at every event, I just want it to be something that does not suck. It should be a Chitown artist because that’s part of what Pilcrow is all about, so I considered some of the greats – My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Material Issue, Liquid Soul, The Wesley Willis Fiasco, Molemen, The Bomb. I finally settled on Big Black’s “Bad Penny.” It’s brilliant, short, crude and who embodies the spirit of independent Chicago arts more than Steve Albini?


Live from The Fixx

I'm sitting in the middle of The Fixx Coffee Bar and we've just applauded the last poet of the April reading. This is the last reading before the reading the night before the Pilcrow Lit Fest.

OMG! Can you believe it? I can't, but it is coming.

So I'm sitting back here, looking around the room and imagining what this room will look like when it is filled with Rebuilt Books, supporters and authors dressed to the nines and smelling Jambalaya.

It is going to look great and you will look fabulous. I promise!


Five With Jill Alexander Essbaum

Our next guest for Pilcrow Lit Fest's "Five With..." interview series is Jill Alexander Essbaum. She's coming to Pilcrow this year from her home in Europe. Not too shabby for us, right? Nope.

1. What are you working on now?

A book of poems I'm calling (L) O V E R.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

The belly-up-to-the-bar-ness of them, the conversations that take place not on panels but over ice clinking around in highball glasses. Finally, meeting the people you've been reading, emailing, hearing about. The antics.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

I'd be a fool to not mention No Tell Books headed by the extraordinary Reb Livingston and Neil Ellis Orts' press NeoNuma Arts-- they've published me, loved me, cajoled me, and worked very hard to bring me (and many other fabulous authors) into print. There's also Pilot Press, Coconut Books, Bloof Books-- so much goodness to be had these days! The cup runneth over!

4. Speaking of Bloof, some ladies of Bloof are reading here in Chicago tomorrow, Thursday April 3rd at the Fixx Reading Series. What a coincidence! Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

Hmmm. John the Revelator.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

Carole King: "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?"