There's Something Kinda Punk Rock about You, TC Boyle

I stopped by Tom's office yesterday to get his signature for my qualifying committee forms + also shoot the shit. I haven't chatted with him in quite awhile except for the occasional email. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed. Among the many highlights of our conversation, we talked about:

1. Tom's relationship with John Cheever at the Iowa Writers Workshop (IWW) who apparently was always drunk all the time, but was also gentle, insightful + brilliant considering he got kicked out of high school for smoking + never returned.

2. Tom's relationship with Raymond Carver, who he said, like John Cheever, drank and smoked all the fucking time. TC Boyle told me that for a while, Iowa was distancing itself from Raymond Carver, but that he + all of his classmates thought that Carver was a genius + that once the NYT Review of Books starting heaping a shitload of praise on Carver's work, the IWW asked him to teach a workshop.

3. Lan Samantha Chang, who Tom calls "Sam." I confessed to Tom that I wasn't particularly impressed with Hunger + that I'd read other Iowa fiction writers that I was much more impressed with. Tom said he hadn't read Hunger, but agreed that he didn't think she was an amazing writer based on the stories he'd read of hers, but he also argued that she had the hardest job in creative writing, which is probably true. I wouldn't want that gig. Too much pressure, man.

4. Dave Eggers, who Tom said was one of the nicest guys in the business. Not a great writer or a great reader, for that matter, an evaluation I happen to agree with having met Dave at his book signing at the Notre Dame Literary Festival back in 2006, but by all means, an important writer if for no other reason than his 826 volunteer organization, the creation of McSweeney's, The Believer, his political engagement of Sudanese causes + his annual Nonrequired Reading Anthology are all awesome, important + amazing literary things that make this world a better place. But in terms of Eggers's reading persona, that's a totally different deal. In fact, Tom mentioned that while he liked Dave Eggers a lot as a person, he found his performance as a public reader left much to be desired, in part because instead of actually reading his novel to his audience/fangirls/fanboys, Eggers mostly talks about random shit, cracks jokes, tells stories, which Tom sees as belittling Egger's own writing. And I have to say: I agree.

Near the end of our chat, I told Tom that I knew there was a reason that I always wanted to work with him when I was working on my MFA: --There's something kinda punk rock about your attitude as a writer that I really enjoy, I said, in part because it happens to be close to my own vision, though I lack the awards.
--Oh, they'll come, he said, and someday when your novel is getting a lot of buzz, you'll have to deal with all of this too.
--Well, anyway, I guess I see a kindred spirit.
That's when Tom smiled, we shook hands + said goodbye. It was a perfect chat with TC Boyle.

Dave Eggers Is a Cool Dude

When i met Dave Eggers in february at the Notre Dame Literary Festival, i thought he was funny and charismatic, and i respected the way he was using his celebrity to draw attention to genocide in the sudan, but i thought he was way too busy to follow up on his promise to me. for those of you checking in for the first time, after chatting with him for 10 minutes or so, i told Dave Eggers about a few africa pieces of mine, a memoir and a chapter from my novel, and i asked him if he'd take a look, and he said, i'm be happy to, send them to mcsweeney's and tell the editor to forward them to me, so what's your name?

Anyway, so i sent him two pieces and waited. that was in february and it's strange cuz i was just thinking recently, man, he's never going to read those two pieces, and i deliberately sent him two short pieces, one is 4 pages, another is maybe 5 pages cuz i know he's mad busy. well last night, i got two emails, one from the mcsweeney's editor and another from Dave Eggers' assistant, both saying, i'm so sorry, your email got lost in the shuffle. mcsweeney's editor rejected a story i sent him in february, but told me to send him more fiction, and he also wanted me to know that he just recently read the email i'd sent him 6 months ago and he forwarded it to dave. and then dave's assistant, michelle, also sent me an email saying, Jackson, we're so sorry about this, we know you sent this email 6 months ago, but i want you to know that right now Dave's in the sudan, but he wanted me to tell you that he got your two pieces and he's going to read them when he can.

You know, it almost doesn't matter if Dave Eggers doesn't publish what i sent him. just the fact that he stayed true to his word and the fact tat he remembered me, and that he sent his assistant a personal mesage for me, makes me really happy.

Now, if Dave Eggers will just pick up either of those two pieces, i'll be ecstatic for the rest of august inshallah.

Anyway, right now, i have mad respect for Dave Eggers. he's a true mensch.

25 Things I Totally Didn't Need to Number But Did Anyway, because It Looks Cleaner

Wow, the world really is coming to an end:

1. kpg and d split up--well, for now anyway--and i'm still in shock and disbelief about it.

2. hassan, one of my fave novel characters, is about to be killed. yes, it's capital punishment time at the bliss house. sad times.

3. i think about erika alot, and i've only gone on one date with her and i'm trying to understand what that means, especially in light of the fact that em and i are so magical together, and kelly and i hit it off so well. i have my theories about this, but i'll think about them more first before i syndicate them to the world.

4. ND lost to fucking WINTHROP in the first round of the NCAA tournament. ah, like i really care.

5. i haven't gotten a single new story published in 2007 and i'm starting to freak out a little bit. i mean, 2006 was pretty good for me: blazevox, syntax, right hand pointing, the pittsburgh review, 3:am magazine, soma literary review, the taj majal review--i think, writer advice, ink collective. . . but so far, for 2007: nothing, zilp, zilch, nada, rien, nanimo! man, i hope that changes soon. I'd like to add to my meagre publishing history. i mean, as far as i'm concerned, i haven't done shit yet.

6. in two months, i'm pretty much on my own again, and i'm headed either to chicago, atlanta, new york, japan, or possibily to a free-love cult where you do nothing but smoke pot and sleep with hippy twins all day.

7. after seeing kelly's 2 new tattoos, i'm fucking envious. i want another tattoo.

8. i haven't had sex since october. . . at the end of march--if i have to wait that long--it will be 5 months. god, how depressing.

9. related to #8, i'm absolutely, positively, dreadfully sick of porn.

10. part of me wants to move to morocco and work at an orphanage. not joking.

but, i do have faith that ONE or more of the following things will work out:

1. dave eggers will pick up one of my stories, or at least write me one nice sentence i can hang on the wall, right above my bed. hey, look at that, i'll say to my next lover, dave eggers wrote that, i'll say, it says "sorry," she says, i know that, i say, but dave eggers wrote that, i'll explain

2. blood lotus, contrary magazine, tarpaulin sky, wordiot, diagram, narrative, quickfiction, pindeldyboz, the new yorker, miranda literary review, void and lost magazine, hayden's ferry review, greensboro review, indiana review, nimrod, another chicago magazine, puerto del sol, smokelong quarterly, verbsap or the furnace review could pick up one or more of my stories, which would make me feel alot better about the world at large

3. 9th letter might pick up my memoir, if jms likes my story, and that would be awesome

4. 1/4 after 8 could pick up "blank sheet of paper." i mean, it could happen

5. april might be the month that i find out i won the playboy, atlantic or vanity fair contests. . . well, i'm just saying, you never know

6. one of many of my other fave lit journals could surpirse me and pick up a story i just assumed they'd lost, or used as surrogate plates for their annual spring barbecue

7. michael martone could surprise me and say, jackson, this story is so good, i think i've found a home for it. hey, it could happen

8. i could either win the sparks prize, get the colgate writer-in-residence fellowship, get the emory fiction fellowship, or move to japan, maybe osaka, and that would be something to write in my blog.

9. i might get a new tattoo

10. i could get a yaddo fellowship

11. lynn nesbit could finally put me out of my misery and take me on as her agent.

12. i could be getting laid a month from now, or be madly in love.

13. kpg could be getting laid a month from now, or be madly in love, this time, with a gorgeous woman.

14. kpg and i could be roomates, possibly, if we both moved to chicago.

15. the weather will get warmer

Yes, it occurs to me that maybe only #9, #13and #15 will happen, but i still have faith in the other numbers, in my life, and in this universe. even so: come on other numbers! you can do it! every number gets a fair chance in my book, you hear me? i want EVERY number to be a winner!

AWP Conference in Atlanta + Cave Canem

Busy week, man.

I spent 3 days in Atlanta for the AWP convention where i also:

Became friends with the editors at one story, one of my fave lit journals

Became friends with the non-fiction editor at 9th letter

Became friends with the crew at where i might become their online journal critic

Hung out with Tony d'Souza who i admire for his Chicago connections, his impressive work ethic, even if he IS a complete and absolute hustler

Talked to the editors of at least 10 different journals that i have pending submissions at

Became friends with some of the mfa students at alabama

Went and heard Robert Olen Butler read

Met utahna faith in a flash fiction panel discussion, the editor that published my story, "City Lunch" in the fantastic international online journal, 3:AM Magazine

Listened to Lily and the other Chiasmus Press writers (including Lance Olsen) give an awesome joint reading (+ free mimosas, a def bribe for such an early morning reading).

Went to michael martone and john barth's reading in the crystal ballroom of the Hilton Hotel--mm stole the show, man. I bought 2 of mm's novels and chatted with him at the book signing. he even sent me 2-3 emails in the past week. He's a good guy that way.

Talked to one of the poetry editors at Tin House--jc was his name, i think

Played air hockey and won (Holla!) against Pei-Lin Lue, the Managing Editor at One Story

Met Atina, one of the fiction editors at red hen press, one of the better indie presses, this one, out of LA

Met fred ramney, one of the publisher's at unbridled press, who gave me his card after i told him about my novel and the interest that publishing luminaries like Lynn Nesbit has shown the manuscript so far.
--And we take agented and unagented fiction, he explained.

Picked up something like 25 free lit journals from the AWP Book Fair

Smoked 3 cigarettes (bad Jackson!) and drank lots of Heineken--all of which tasted fantastic

I submitted stories to:

Michael Martone
quick fiction
the greensboro review
mid-american review
missouri review
9th letter
dave eggers
cream city review
tarpaulin sky
colorado review
smokelong quarterly
blood lotus
miranda literary review
word riot

Also, i went and heard Cornelius and Yusef Komunyakaa read tonight at the Cave Canem conference reading.

The Day I Met Dave Eggers

Today i met Dave Eggers,

And he was hella cool. the Q and A session was interesting. i asked him about the literary value of entertainment versus craft, commercial versus literary in his writing and he said that it was really important for his writing to be entertaining, that he liked contemporary writers like barthelme, david foster wallace and rick moody alot, that experimentalist do wonderful, smart things with form, but they don't have a sense of humor. . . which is often so true . . and he wanted that in his writing.

And then tonight, at the book signing, i talked to dave and valentino for maybe 5 minutes or so, i told dave how i volunteered in west africa.

--where were you in africa? Dave asked.
--burkina faso.
--oh, really?
--yeah, i said, and what's crazy is, when i moved to portland, i end up translating for this mauritanian refugee at his political asylum interview at the INS because i speak french and i'm used to the africa french accent, and it was there that i realized how powerful language can really be.
--yeah, totally, dave said.
Valentino nodded.
then i told dave how i just recently sent a story to McSweeney's and asked him if he might consider taking a look at it.
--sure, he said, i've love to. you'll want to resend it because it's already in the machine, but i'd love to take a look, especially if it's about burkina faso. just tell the editors i asked you to send it to me.
--cool, i said,
--what's your name? he asked.
--jackson bliss.
--jackson BLISS? he said incredulously.
--yeah, i said.
--and oh valentino, i went on, i want you to know that i wrote my congressmen several years ago on behalf of darfur and he was one of the congressmen who helped passed legislation.
--the sudan act.
--yeah, that's the one, i said.
--thank you.

I shook valentino's hand, dave shook mine, jackson was very very stoked.

When i came home, i read what dave eggeres had written. In:

He Wrote:

[picture of a strange blob] <-----Robert, IV


He Wrote:


so good to know you're here.

Of course, Dave Eggers is being a smart-ass and he writes random stuff like this in everyone's book, but i appreciate the evolution between the first lower case jackson with a period and the second uppercase jackson with an exclamation point. pathetic, i know, but these little things matter when you're an emerging writer. and until dave eggers and me are sharing the same stage or interviewing each other for TIN HOUSE magazine, i'll take this small little moment of writerly connection.