Sunday, 27 January 2013


Today, in my continuing quest to post properly during 2013, I am privileged to share an interview with my fellow writer, Nate Tower. Because I'm lazy & he’s better at it than I am, here’s how he describes himself on his website ( :

               Nathaniel Tower is a writer, teacher, runner, coach and juggler. He is the founding editor of the literary magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has been published in over 200 online and print journals and has  been nominated for numerous awards. In 2011, Muse ItUp Publishing released his first novel, A Reason to Kill. Several months later, his first novella, Hallways and Handguns, followed. A collection of short fiction tentatively titled Nagging Wives and Foolish Husbands is set to be released through Martian Lit during  2013.
                In November 2012, Nathaniel set a world record by running a mile backwards while juggling in 8 minutes and  22 seconds. The record has been confirmed by The Book of Alternative Records.  Nathaniel currently resides in the Midwest with his wife and daughter. 
Ok, just for the record, Mr. ‘Man of a Thousand Hats’, it is so hard to know where to start with you,  there’s so many things I want to ask. You seem to do just about EVERYTHING!
First, completely unrelated to your writing, tell me about juggling. I spent a summer trying to learn how to but the end result was …I’m hopeless. Really, really, window breakingly hopeless.
Joanna, thank you for having me on your blog. I just started my own not too long ago, and I already know the difficulty of trying to come up with new ideas. Everything's already been done, right? Anyway, to your questions:
I picked up juggling when I was about thirteen. My brother showed me how after he learned how to do it in a high school theatre class. So I did it for a while, learning a few tricks. Then, like all good things, I went quite a few years without practicing. I'd show off every once in a while, but if you can't do many tricks, no one cares after about thirty seconds. It's just the same thing over and over. I've only been really serious about juggling for the last few years. I guess it's one of those things you never forget how to do. Honestly, it's not that hard to learn. It just takes patience and the right method. There are quite a few different ways to learn. Youtube has a ton of great tutorials. Of course Youtube has them. Youtube has everything. I've picked up a lot of tricks from watching those videos. The box pattern, the shower, the penguin, Mills mess, etc. You definitely get better with practice. I just bought five new juggling balls. I just have to learn how to get the fifth one in there.

And that leads me to the next fascinating thing: Juggling while running. BACKWARDS.
Well, I'm a runner. I'm a juggler. Might as well do them at the same time. I'm sure the first person to put peanut butter and jelly together was considered a revolutionary. Maybe even a heretic. And if you can run forward while juggling, might as well try it backwards. Right? Plus, the backwards records are easier than the forward records. At least for me they are. Some people just can't run backwards. They're afraid something is going to jump out and get them. The first time I ran a mile backwards while juggling, I fell several times. I tripped over a goal post that had fallen onto the track. But I got up and finished that mile! Joggling is actually something that's been going on for quite some time. Did you know they have an official Joggling Olympics every year? I hope to attend one of these days.

I guess I need to get on to the main purpose behind this interview, your writing. One thing I admire about you is the fact that you work well in so many different formats: flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels and even a serialised novel that’s still in progress. Is there one you prefer? Is your writing process different as you approach each one? Do you have a  specific ‘process’ as such?
The process changes daily. I write whenever I can. Sometimes I write on scraps of paper while driving. It's quite dangerous actually. I shouldn't do it. But when I get the idea, I want to get it down even though I know I'll still have the idea later. When you think of writing a story about a boy whose hands are made of oats, the idea doesn't just disappear.
I don't think I have a particular process for any particular format. I just write, write, write. I like to write in big chunks, to get down as much as possible at a time. I rarely outline. Sometimes I'll put down a "here's what happens next" note at the end of a chapter. For short stories, I prefer to write the whole thing in one sitting, then give it a rest for a day or two, then come back and take it apart. The serialized novel might be my favourite to write (hey, why did my Microsoft Word just autocorrect to that crazy British spelling of favorite? It didn't have a problem with my "serialized"). It's such a blast to come up with these crazy cliff-hangers at the end of pretty much every chapter. Gotta keep the readers coming back, right? It's hard to come up with so many twists though. I like writing weird stuff. Things that I'm pretty sure no one else could come up with. That's my favorite thing to write.  

You’re much younger than me (we won’t discuss by how much!) and you seem to have produced a vast amount of work in that time. I can pinpoint the exact moment when I knew I wanted to become a writer, did you have a ‘moment’ like that? When did you start writing?
I've always been interested in writing. When I was six or seven or eight or something like that I had a crappy poem published in one of those stupid anthologies that accepts every poem sent in as long as you promise to buy the book. Of course, being six or seven or eight, I didn't know that. I just thought I was some literary god. So I went on to write a bunch of terrible stories about warlocks and junk like that. And, just like the juggling, I stopped writing for a while, for no reason really. Then I just started doing it again. I guess the moment you're talking about was a discussion with a co-worker about the greatest first lines in literature. I knew they were really only great because of the work that followed (no one would care about "Call me Ishmael" if it was a teen vampire romance novel). But I was motivated to write the best first line ever. Hasn't happened yet. But I haven't stopped trying. Actually, I do have the best opening line ever written, but there's nothing after it right now, so it isn't an opening line. Maybe someday.

Was it a long journey to publication for you? Tell us how that worked:
Like all newbies, I had no idea what I was doing at first. I bought one of those big heavy books and started sending out manuscripts (in manila envelopes!) to all these big time publishers. I was pretty naive back then. Of course, none of them took any of my stuff, and eventually I discovered that there were thousands of internet publications that didn't charge fees or require manila envelopes and SASEs. So I started sending out things through email. I was tired of spending all the money on postal costs anyway. My first ever acceptance was a story called "Hindsight of a Friend." It was picked up by a little blog pub called Darkest Before Dawn, which is still going actually. He, here's a link if you want to read what my writing was like five years ago: I was so proud. My wife and I went out to a fancy dinner. I was a published author! We actually had the dinner plans already. But now there was reason to celebrate and order that extra glass of wine! Magically, another 200 or so acceptances followed. Very few of those were celebrated with fancy dinners. It's a good thing. We'd be broke now. I still get rejected a lot now, of course. Doesn't everyone? But I don't cry for hours like I used to.

What other writers do you admire craftwise? Who do you like to read?
I don't want to waste time reciting the typical canon of famous authors (except Donald Barthelme—I must mention Barthelme!). I'd rather focus on great writers I enjoy who deserve more exposure. Andrew Stancek is great. Susan Tepper. Chris DeWildt. I wish I could name a thousand authors. I hope none of my favourites are offended when I leave them off. Oh, Stephen V Ramey for sure. Everything of his I've read is dynamite. He just came out with a new collection called Glass Animals that I'm looking forward to reading. I love reading short stories. I don't discriminate based on name or reputation. Just give me a good short story.

Let’s talk about Bartelby Snopes, the online Lit magazine you started in 2008. What led you to start it? What do you look for when you choose the pieces you print?
Frustration is what led to the birth of  BS. Too many days waiting for form rejections. I wanted personal feedback. I wanted it in three days. That's the mission of Bartleby Snopes. As far as what we want in our stories, we have a big list of turnoffs on our site. Besides not doing those things, we want to see stories that make us say, "Damn. I wish I had written that."

What has surprised you most about your life so far as a writer?
Two things come to mind. The first is how much I've changed in such a short time. When I look back at stories I wrote five years ago, very few of them seem like things I could write today. Not saying they're bad stories. Just saying I don't think I would have written them. Mostly it's a stylistic thing I guess. But it's not like five years is a long time. It's not like my life is that dramatically different now. I do have a kid now, but I feel like my perspective on the world and whatnot is pretty much the same. So why is my writing so different? Can I blame it on climate change?
The other thing that surprises me is how awesome everyone (almost everyone) in the writing community is. For the most part, there's just so much love and support. With so much competition going on at each individual journal, you'd think writers would be cutthroat, would hide their writing secrets. Nah. Everyone wants to help everyone else. Someone should make a reality television show where a bunch of writers are living together. I think it would be a riot. Or boring as hell.

I read in an authorised bio of Robbie Williams that he's been known to occasionally shut off all the lights in the recording studio and get naked in the sound booth while singing. He says it helps him when he really wants to nail a song. How do you shake things up if you feel stuck or that the writing has become stale?
Besides being naked when I write? I mean, how could anyone write with clothes on? Well, I like to make masks of what I think my characters look like. When the writing gets stale or stuck, I put the mask on and try to act like that character. Surprisingly, I find that most of my characters look exactly like me.

One last question for you. If you could hang out with two famous authors, one alive, one dead, who would you choose and why?
Easy. Dante. He'd take me around hell with him and we'd drink port or something like that. Maybe smoke cigars. I'd teach him how to juggle while we watched the tortured souls. Huggling. It sounds like it's juggling while hugging, but it's actually juggling while you're in hell. Then we'd try to visit with a few famous writers. See which ones are there. Then I'd abandon him and write my own Inferno.  
And alive, alive-o? Definitely James Franco. We would read poetry together at a coffee house and he would be flocked by female admirers who would walk away in disgust and disappointment after hearing his poetry. No one would ask for his autograph. On our way out of the coffee shop, a group of people would recognize me as the world record holder for the backwards joggling mile. After they left, I'd tell James that it's okay. "At least you've got that acting career," I'd say while patting him on the back. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

I could  kiss frank zappa

Frittering away some time on FB a few days ago... (What? On FB??) when I remembered that I promised last month (#queue suitably ominous music)  on the eve of the END OF THE WORLD…that I’d write a blog post 2x a month if we all woke up in the morning.

(Silly me. I had every faith that we would, indeed still be here, and was only using it as a stick to poke myself to action.)

So here is number one post of January. OMG I have 23 more to go 'til this time next year…(slitting my wrists now)

I could kiss frank zappa…..

honestly, I could.

I love Meg Tuite ( ) In the last 2 years since committing myself to serious efforts with regards to my writing, I have been so blessed to encounter  amazing, talented, kind people from all over the world. In some instances to even be published alongside them. Meg is one of them. She posted this quote on FB

‘Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.’  Frank Zappa

POW!  I read it and had one of THOSE moments.

If like me, you are fond of beautiful words that feel luscious in your mouth when you say them, you might say it was an EPIPHANY. (Say it! Really, it feels great in your mouth. But I also love the feel of: Squish. And Amanuensis, which I think is a most beautiful word)

Say it again:

 ‘Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.’

Short. Sweet. True.                          
I loved Frank Zappa as a kid. My dad used to play him a lot. He made me feel a bit naughty. He wasn’t buttoned up. He wasn’t regular. He was weird. Different. Interesting. Loud.

He shook people up.

All the things I aspire to be and do.
(okay, yes, I realize I am already weird & loud...)

This year I haven’t set any resolutions (NOT a word I am in love with BTW) for the new year.
Basically my mantra is MORE & LESS.
MORE of the good.
LESS of the destructive.
Easy peasy.

So, figure out what your norm is. Kick it in the ass. Turn it on its head. Give it a good talking to.

Just don’t buddy up to it and spend your evenings curled up together eating popcorn and watching Netflix.


And for the record…if I actually was allowed the blessed privilege of kissing a Zappa, you could wrap DWEEZIL up and have him ready for me this weekend.  (***sigh***)
.... and tell him to bring those eyebrows.