Saturday, July 30, 2011

Laura Ellen Scott, On Reading

"Reading is travel. I read to go. This probably means that everything is travel writing."

{Laura Ellen Scott's debut novel, Death Wishing, will be released by Ig Publishing in October 2011. Her collection of 21 creepy little stories, Curio, is available for free download from Uncanny Valley Press.}

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Emily Rapp, On Reading

"I suffered from insomnia as a child. During those all-night benders of wakefulness, I always reached for The Little House on the Prairie series. Sitting on the windowsill and staring out the dark window, I was comforted – and quite possibly kept awake – by this frontier family’s tales of hardship. Blizzards, famines, crops ruined by neglect or a fatal miscalculation. These were books with real stakes, the only kinds of books I've ever enjoyed reading. I would read three and four books in one night, obsessively plowing through them. And thus my obsessive reading habit began. I still eat books – at least one a week – and whereas I used to read to escape my life, I read now to enrich it. I read to learn what other authors have done differently, sometimes badly. I read to learn about the world through the eyes of another human person telling a story, real or imagined or both. I believe that reading is one of the deepest human connections we make in our fragmented world – being inside the theater of another person’s mind and heart is a unique and terribly human experience. Reading – this authentic connection between author and reader -- is not just an insomniac’s go to activity, it’s also a way of staying human in an increasingly inhumane world."

Emily Rapp is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir, and many essays and stories. She currently teaches creative writing and literature at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Her next book, Dear Dr. Frankenstein: A Love Story, is about her journey with her son Ronan, who is dying of Tay-Sachs disease. Visit her website here, and her blog, Our Little Seal, can be found here.}

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Noah Eli Gordon, On Reading

"I’m watching a recent episode of That Metal Show online, co-hosted by Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson, who interview mostly forgotten heavy metal stars. That the show focuses on a genre that peeked in popularity two decades ago fills the whole production with an air of dejection. Every conversation here hinges on nostalgia; it’s all past tense. Tonight, one of their guests is Sebastian Bach, Skid Row’s original singer. In a segment called Stump the Trunk, where audience members ask Eddie Trunk obscure metal trivia questions, Bach suddenly skitters across the set to stand next to Jim Florentine, who is taking questions from the audience. The move seems unscripted, and although Florentine appears a little surprised, he offers Bach the mic.

Okay, I have a question for Eddie. Eddie, you used to work at Atlantic Records, right? Megafocre, part of…they were distributed by Atlantic. Okay, so you signed Ace Frehley. Is that correct? Correct. I would like you to name the three songs that I sing on Ace’s record Trouble Walkin’. Eddie answers, but he can’t name all three, so according to the show’s rules, Bach gets to reach into what’s called Eddie Trunk’s Box of Junk and pull out a prize. These are mostly promo materials, new CDs, box sets, musical biographies. Bach reaches in, rejects the first few things he pulls out. Okay, Jim Norton’s Disciple, I’ll take this, he says, tapping the CD cover. Yeah, that’s a good one, Florentine interrupts, His new CD, Despicable.

Disciple. Despicable. I feel an instant kinship and affection for Bach, who appeared not to have noticed his mistake. Ten years ago, on stage at a karaoke bar, surround by other grad students, I belted out as best I could Skid Row’s power ballad '18 and Life.' What I lacked in skill (any sense of melody and the ability to carry a tune) I more than made up for with gusto—throwing a fist in the air and swinging the mic stand as though each gesture were a giant, tactile exclamation point for the lyrics flashing from white to yellow across the monitors. I didn’t have to read the lyrics. I knew all the words by heart. I still do. Although I wouldn’t have admitted as much when the song was first released in 1989, a year I was dead set on developing what I then thought of as taste—the ability to carry a dual-consciousness, projecting one set of values publicly, while cradling an often incommensurate, personal, and private stance on the very same things. In other words, if it’s popular, it’s obviously bad, so don’t let on that you’re among the unenlightened lumpenproletariat, no matter how much joy you get from singing along to Skid Row in your mother’s basement.

Disciple. Despicable. Bach glanced at the cover of the CD in his hand for just a second, just long enough to read the text there, but he got it wrong, and with Florentine’s correction I felt something else, even if Bach didn’t—shame. Bach’s mistake is the same one I’ve made again and again. In the classroom. At meetings. Among friends. The mistake that’s lead me to shy away from reading publicly anything I haven’t already gone over in private. At the bar, it didn’t matter what words were scrolling across the monitors. I’d already committed the song to memory. It’s all past tense."

Noah Eli Gordon is the author of several books, including Novel Pictorial Noise (Harper Perennial, 2007), which was selected by John Ashbery for the National Poetry Series and chosen for the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award, and The Source (Futurepoem Books, 2011), a book marking the results of a multi-year investigation in constrained bibliomancy and ambient research. He's an Assistant Professor in English at CU-Boulder's MFA program in Creative Writing.}

Monday, July 11, 2011

Stephen Graham Jones, On Reading

"The trick with reading is that it's its own end. You eat to get nutrition, you breathe to get air, you jump the fence to get the frisbee, you run to get away from the dog, you lie about how big the dog was to impress somebody, you — you write to try to make the world make sense, at least for a few pages. With reading, though, you read just to read, don't you? Sure, maybe it makes you smarter, or convinces you of this or that, or has tricks you can steal, or makes you laugh or cry or cringe, or challenges you in necessary and surprising ways, or connects you to somebody four hundred years ago, or four hundred miles away, or takes you somewhere so much better than where you are now, and leaves you a different person than you were when you opened that book. But none of that's why you opened that book, is it? You opened it just to read."

{Stephen Graham Jones has ten books published, across a lot the genres — always looking for more, too — and four or five or six more coming, and probably a hundred and thirty or so stories published. He got his PhD from FSU and now teaches in the MFA program at CU Boulder, and, the summer he was twelve years old, after reading every Reader's Digest and National Geographic since 1957, he finally had to resort to reading the labels off cans in his grandparents' pantry, making himself hit each word, just to make it last longer. More at}

Paul Lisicky, On Reading

"I'm taking note of breaths, phrases, lists and their components. I'm looking out for disjunctions and associations, the pattern of thinking in a paragraph. I'm steeped in the work of the senses: the scrape of a knife against a plate, the smell of mulch dropped on the ground. Sometimes I'm not even taking in the facts I'm supposed to be taking in, the stuff of plot or cause and effect. But I'm inside a current, definitely. I'm a particle in a stream of sound, a wave pushed this way and that. How often does it come to us? Once, twice in a year? But I pick up new books in the hope of getting that back, that raw state where we're simultaneously escaping the world and feeling more present in it."

{Paul Lisicky is the author of Lawnboy, Famous Builder, and The Burning House. His work appears in recent issues of The Iowa Review, Black Warrior Review, Story Quarterly, The Rumpus, and Lo-Ball. He teaches at NYU. His collection of short prose pieces, Unbuilt Projects, is forthcoming in Fall 2012. See his blog, Mystery Beast, at}

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Richard Thomas, On Reading

"Part of what fuels me as a writer is the world around me. I need to get out into nature, interact with people, ride a subway train, or sit in a coffee shop. But I can't travel to Mars, or go back in time, I don't want to be a serial killer, or live in a van down by the river. So in addition to film and television, I read.

And I read a lot. So far this year, I've read 33 books. Part of that is because of my MFA program, and part of that is because of my book reviews at The Nervous Breakdown, but mostly it's my desire to find new voices, and to revisit old friends. And I read everything, I'm no snob. I'll read books off the NYT bestseller lists and I'll read books from tiny independent presses. Doesn't matter. I read just about every genre out there (sorry romance) from fantasy, science fiction and horror to neo-noir, literary and steampunk. I read big names like Stephen King and John Grisham, as well as new indie authors like Amelia Gray, Mary Miller, Lindsay Hunter, and xTx. I read dark fiction from people like Stephen Graham Jones, Benjamin Percy, Paul Tremblay, Brian Evenson, Craig Clevenger, and Craig Davidson and I read literary masters like George Saunders, Flannery O'Connor, and Mary Gaitskill. I read short story collections, and memoirs and non-fiction too. And don't forget graphic novels.

My point here is that whatever you write, read other genres. You can learn something from every style of writing. Pick up the tension that horror writers need. Study the narrative voices of literary giants. Pour over the technology that science fiction put before you. And learn to create new worlds in fantasy, or build on our own with magical realism.

And if you're not a writer, just a fan of writing, just a reader? First, God Bless you! But also, don't be afraid to expand your horizons. Some of the best books I read in 2010 were by authors that I had never even heard of before. Step outside your comfort zone.

I read for entertainment, I read to experience things I could never do in my real life, and I read to embrace the voices of other authors. There is nothing more intimate and personal than reading a book—the details and emotion fusing with your real life. I read for all of that, and more."

Richard was the winner of the 2009 ChiZine "Enter the world of Filaria" contest. His first novel, a neo-noir, speculative thriller entitled Transubstantiate, came out in 2010 (Otherworld Publications). He has published over 40 stories online and in print. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in such publications as Shivers VI (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, Warmed and Bound (Velvet Press), Murky Depths, PANK, Pear Noir!, 3:AM Magazine, Word Riot, Dogmatika, Opium, and Vain. In 2011 he was awarded a residency at Writers in the Heartland. Richard was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize and in his spare time writes book reviews at The Nervous Breakdown.}

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mathias Svalina, On Reading

"Reading is my mind. Through reading, I think. The text creates my thinking. There are discrete bodies & experiences of the mind. There is no discrete mind. Reading is my mind in other minds & other minds in mine. I am reading Samuel Delaney’s Dahlgren & my mind is a new mind. I cannot think what I think without Samuel Delaney’s Dahlgren. I am reading Juliana Spahr’s Well Then There Now & my mind is a new mind. I cannot think what I think without Juliana Spahr’s Well Then There Now. Noah Eli Gordon’s The Source is made up of text from thousands of other books that he read & cribbed from. I am reading Noah Eli Gordon’s The Source & my mind is a new mind of his mind in others’ minds. Noah Eli Gordon cannot think the things that become The Source without reading & I cannot think what I think without Noah Eli Gordon’s The Source. Reading reminds me that the true experience of thinking is that no thinking is interior, that knowledge is ontologically relational. Reading reminds me that the mind is composed in all things."

Mathias Svalina is the author of one book of poems, Destruction Myth (Cleveland State Poetry Center), one book of prose that comes out July 2011, I Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur (Mud Luscious Press), & numerous chapbooks. With Zachary Schomburg he edits Octopus Magazine & Octopus Books. Visit him here for more information.}

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ben Spivey, On Reading

"I read for inspiration and for enjoyment. If I'm at a place with my writing where my words are not doing what I want them to do or the words I'm putting together don't excite me how I'd like them to excite me I then need a new focus, a new start, something like resetting a typewriter to get back to where I was. I then dig into my piles of books, staring at them, flipping through them, looking at first sentences—book after book until I find the correct one to get caught up and lost in—I can then create what makes me whole again."

{Ben Spivey is the author of the novel Flowing in the Gossamer Fold (Blue Square Press 2010). He blogs at}

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bonnie Jo Campbell, On Reading

"The relationship between writing and reading is simple for me. When I write, I empty my head onto the paper. When I read, I fill my head up again."

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the novel Once Upon a River (July 2011, W.W. Norton) and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. She was a 2009 National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for her collection of stories, American Salvage, You can check out her website (and photos of her donkeys) at and her writer’s life blog, “The Bone-Eye" at}