Feb 23, 2010

What is "TwitLit?"

Meet Jason Pettus.

I met Jason Pettus, founder of The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, at the Pilcrow Lit Fest in 2008. This well-spoken intellectual is intrigued by quality literature and film and has dedicated his life to promoting the arts. He is intricately involved with the Chicago literary scene and is a strong supporter of self-publishing. On the CCLaP website, Jason reviews books (including self-publications) and movies, discusses artistic movements, and interviews authors via podcasts.

“CCLaP is currently a one-person operation, put together by me, Jason Pettus; for those who don't know, I studied photography at the University of Missouri in the '80s and '90s, and then became a full-time creative writer myself once moving to Chicago in 1994. Among other fun experiences during those years, I […] received a grant from the Illinois Arts Council; released three novels, two travel books and a host of miniature "chapbooks;" went on numerous American tours and two European ones; […] all while remaining a self-publisher the entire time and without once hiring a publicist or agent.”


Recently, Jason became interested in how Twitter can be used as a publishing tool for short literary expressions. So he came up with the “TwitLit” experiment.

“CCLaP Publishing is happy to announce "TwitLit," the center's first-ever story series. Written as a collection of haiku-like chapters, each no longer than 140 characters, TwitLit stories are first published serially through the short-message service Twitter.com, then published here as high-quality, printable poster versions.”

What the project means to me?

I was thrilled when Jason asked me to be a part of this project. In the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with short fiction. I want to see how much of a story I can tell in the least amount of words. It’s similar to writing poetry. Every word is important. Every word is a gem.

You can follow my TwitLit story “Cat” starting March 10th.

Do you want to get involved?

“CCLaP is always on the lookout for intriguing TwitLit projects, ranging from 10 to 50 parts; simply email Jason Pettus at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com with your submission.”

Feb 22, 2010

Interview with Robin Sneed

I had the pleasure of reading one of the first copies of Flowergirls, A Mirroir by Robin Sneed. This debut novel is a beautiful and intimate mesh of memoir and fiction.

"Robin Sneed was born in Los Angeles in 1962. After an eight year career in television as a child, she went on to have a 17-year career in corporate hell. A Physics major, activist, and adventurer, her greatest accomplishment has been to well and truly love another."

Erotic, brash, and sometimes profane, Flowergirls, A Mirroir, will change the way you think about marriage. The eighteen-year chronicle of two women who fall passionately in love through years of socio-political upheaval and change in Los Angeles, will leave you believing in the intrinsic sanctity of the heart.

I always want to know the story behind the story. What inspired you to write this book?

The love of my life, Rebecca, inspired me to write Flowergirls. After she died in 2001, I went through a very rough time of it in grief. It was truly devastating. We had talked about me writing a book, and so, I did. Although I have always written, it makes absolute sense that my first novel would be about our lives together. I created a couple of fictional plots in the book so that I could express my grief without writing about her death. I wanted to write a very alive book as a gift for Rebecca. A book with an ending she truly deserved. God, I love that girl.

While I was reading, I felt like I was eavesdropping on the lovely relationship between these two women. I think the diary form enabled this closeness between the reader and the main characters. Why did you choose to write it as a diary?

I kept a diary early in our relationship, although sadly, I do not have it now. I wanted the very present tense of a diary...while writing Flowergirls, I was working through grief, and by writing the book in largely journal form, I could get 'close to the blood' as I like to say...it was an intense experience working that way...exhausting even...to let myself get into that space and relive those days...it was also very healing.

Flowergirls, A Mirroir is a hot and steamy love story. Were you worried about family members reading it?

I never thought about that. Flowergirls is our story and one we wanted to tell. I have express permission from Rebecca to write of our erotic connection...we wanted to 'throw the doors open' as Beck would say. This is an interesting question because...I think that kind of self editing probably gets in the way of a great many potentially brilliant books making it to the stands.

Someone asked me this question in an interview and I thought it was timely due to the recent incline in self-publishing. Why did you decide to self-publish this book?

Because I don't like asking for permission. When I wrote Flowergirls, I wasn't even thinking about publishing. It took me a couple of years to let go of it. At any rate, I don't like the idea of asking permission to share what I write...most especially with this book.

I seem to always have one or two stories in my head, even as I’m working on a current project. What are you working on now?

I'm working on a second novel, The American Daughter. This book chronicles my life growing up in Los Angeles in the television industry. About knowing I was gay, about my father being in the military. I was a small child during the 'hippie movement' and during a resurgence in feminism. It has a lot to do with being a child who was thrust into the world of entertainment, and there was a dark side to that. At that time, I desired nothing more than a life in science and philosophy. I think many women felt that kind of longing growing up, for whatever circumstances they were thrust into. And during all of that, I'm feeling that I'm a boy in a girl's body! The American Daughter is a book about the resilience of dreams and natural inclination; one does not have to win the Nobel Prize nor solve world peace to know intellectual and spiritual.

Feb 16, 2010

Flash Fiction Story for Valentine's Day

Nina wanted you to believe that it was merely hormones. That's why she reacted so violently. It was just her time of the month. It wasn’t. Nina wanted you to believe that she didn’t already know about the pen. She did.

She already knew when you first met in the break room, which always smelled of burnt coffee. She “accidently” bumped into you, splashing scalding coffee on your favorite Spiderman tie. This led you to apologize with that Irish guilt of yours, even though it wasn’t your fault.

Nina said, “Well, now you’ll have to take me out to Starbucks,” which would have been cute in her Oklahoma accent if she hadn’t been so congested due to seasonal allergies.

“Sure,” you said because you have never said no to anyone.

Nina wanted to believe that you fell madly in love with her at that moment like you said you did two months later, but she just couldn’t. Falling in love was inconsistent with her life so far.

Nina found your Myspace page almost a whole year before you met, back when you were still working in medical records and she was a part-time medical assistant. She knew then.

You had fallen on one knee in a spastic moment of adoration in her favorite, used bookstore. You were asking her to be you one and only. You didn’t have a ring so you put a twist-tie around her finger.

Nina said yes because she really didn’t think there would be anyone else since there had never been before. Her life was straight-forward like a shopping list. Plus she was almost sure that she loved you.

You had asked Nina to move in and she started doing your laundry right away. She liked to fold your warm briefs into triangles. She bought you colored and striped underwear. She hated tighty-whiteys.

That was how she found the pen, with its tell-tale inscription. To Ben, with Love. From Kari. You had forgotten to take it out of your pocket. It was a dull silver and black. She picked it up gently as if it might burn her fingers. Nina held onto it for two weeks while you tore through the entire apartment, your stomach caught in whirling circles. You lost your appetite. You couldn’t imagine where you had misplaced it, but didn’t mention it to Nina. You didn’t know that she already knew.

Finally, Nina confessed but with a tone that made you feel like the guilty party. “Look what I found,” she said accusingly. And, immediately after, “when were you going to tell me?” As if you had hidden it from her on purpose, proving that you were a liar like all the others.

“It’s nothing,” you retorted, reaching out for it. Nina tightened her grip. “I’ve just had it forever. It’s like a lucky charm.”

Nina almost felt bad but then she remembered. “Really?” Nina asked because she already knew who Kari was. “It doesn’t mean anything? Then you won’t mind if I replace it with a nicer one?”
Then she threw the curve ball before you had a chance to respond: “Who gave it to you?”

You abruptly opened the refrigerator. “What do you want for dinner?” Nina knew all about this avoidance trick. She had used it before. Nina just wanted you to admit it out loud. This monster that she had known about for over a year. She just wanted it said so it wasn’t a secret anymore.

“Please,” she pleaded.

“Don’t you trust me?” you asked. Nina thought it was such a cliché that she didn’t want to answer. But that wasn’t the only reason.

“I want you to get rid of it,” she finally admitted.

“No.” You snatched your corduroy jacket off the hook. “I need to get some air.” Nina could see that you were shaking. She wished she could make herself very small and crawl inside you and see what was really going on.

As soon as the door shut, Nina threw the pen on the hardwood floor that was impossible to keep clean. When it broke she started breathing again.

Nina knew that you were running along Lake Michigan. That’s what you always did when she wanted to talk about you. About your past.

Nina fixed the pen and told you it was just her hormones. She went crazy at that time of the month. She didn't bring it up again. It's two years later and she still pulls out the hidden marriage certificate with the names: Ben Holden and Kari Inson. She traces the names with her finger. She wonders if you even know that it’s missing from your desk drawer.