Join me in northern Virginia for a weekend of literary panels, lectures, and the sorts of chicanery one would expect from thousands of bibliophiles in a concentrated space.
My panel is titled “I Will Survive: Exploring the Human Condition in the Face of Chaos,” and I’m joined by Adam Nemett (We Can Save Us All) and Jason Gray (Radiation King). In the Merten Tent.
Oh, and the festival lineup includes David Grann, David Wallace-Wells, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Amazing, right?
After years of moderating panels, tabling for BOMB, and serving on the Bookends Planning Committee, I will attend this year’s BKBF as a certified novelist.
“If We Didn’t Laugh, We’d Cry: The Comedy of Tragedy,” 11am, North Stage: I’ll be attempting to match wits with Binnie Kirshenbaum (Rabbits for Food) and Rai Hage (Beirut Hellfire Society). Moderated by Rick Moody.
“Un-True Crime,” 2pm, Borough Hall Courtroom: I’m moderating a discussion with Joyce Carol Oates (My Life as A Rat), Nicholas Mancusi (A Philosophy of Ruin), and Lauren Wilkinson (American Spy).
I’ll be sharing some flash fiction at Andrew Lloyd-Jones’s acclaimed series Liars’ League. And by me, I mean an actor will be reading the pieces aloud, which takes some of the pressure off. Also! I’ll be running a brief trivia game, so bring your thinking caps and outsized confidence.
I’m joining the August edition of the best reading series in the Hudson Valley. Come for the reading, stay for the DJ , drinks, and dancing.
Also reading on Saturday:
SARAH ELAINE SMITH is the author of MARILOU IS EVERYWHERE (a novel), and I LIVE IN A HUT (poems). She has studied at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Michener Center for Writers. Her work has received support from the MacDowell Colony, the Rona Jaffe Wallace Foundation, and the Keene Prize for Literature, among other generous entities.
NICHOLAS MANCUSI has written about books and culture for the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, Daily Beast, NPR Books, and other publications. His debut novel, A PHILOSOPHY OF RUIN, was released in June from HarperCollins/Hanover Square Press and has been praised by the New York Times as “riveting fun to read.”
ADAM TEDESCO is a poet and video artist. He is the founding editor of REALITY BEACH, a journal of new poetics. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Fanzine, Fence, Gramma, jubilat, Laurel Review and elsewhere. His full-length poetry collection, MARY OLIVER, was recently published by Lithic Press.
I’m thrilled to be running an online course in mastering the first-person voice. We’ll convene by video chat and go deep into the mechanics and magic of creating a fully-fleshed fictional narrator. The course will also include one-on-one consultations by phone. Note that spots are limited, so it’s best to sign up early. (And why not: use the discount code RYAN10 to save 10% on the course fee.)
Mondays, 8-10 p.m. ET / 5-7 p.m. PT
Aug. 5 - Sept. 23 (No class meetings September 2nd and 9th)
The official course description:
The first-person voice in fiction is a live-wire between your characters and the reader. When it works, the reader feels the buzz behind the prose.
Throughout this workshop, we’ll use observation, empathy, and diction to craft sentences that bring out our character’s particular, unique humanity (or inhumanity, if you want to go dark). And we’ll practice the time-tested method for achieving a memorable, effective first-person voice in fiction: revision, revision, revision.
We’ll look at examples of voice in fiction, ranging from the comic to the tragic, from the to calm to the monstrous. Our readings will include work by Donald Antrim, Kazuo Ishiguro, Lydia Davis, Martin Amis, Halle Butler, Gunnhild Øyehaug, Karan Mahajan, Mariana Enriquez, Matthew Klam, Garth Greenwell, and more.
We’ll also discuss texts from outside of literature, looking at how a single paragraph can convey a politician’s obfuscations, a celebrity’s attempt to charm, or an essayist’s regionalisms.
You’ll walk away from this course with a better understanding of the fundamentals of fiction, including character, story, and plot, as well as how voice relates and directs all of these aspects of craft.
- Learning the fundamentals of fiction, including character, story, narrative development, and the technical aspects of craft
- Each student will workshop two stories (or novel samples) during the course, and receive written feedback from me and fellow students
- Becoming a sharper reader, seeing how writers like George Saunders and Sam Lipsyte achieve their effects—and learning how to spot the writers and books which can inform whatever it is you’re working on next
- Learning how to work through the Fear of the First Draft and love the revision process
- Practical advice on the “practice” part of the writing practice: learning how to maintain voice (and discipline!) for months- or years-long writing projects
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Every so often the good people at Catapult host a marathon writing weekend, bringing in guest authors to talk about craft and the highs/lows of publication.
This iteration kicks off with a panel discussion on the peaks and valleys of publishing your debut novel. I’ll be joined by Julia Phillips (Disappearing Earth), Regina Porter (The Travelers), and De’Shawn Charles Winslow (In West Mills).
The panel is free and open to the public, while there is a fee for the weekend programs and workshops. Full details can be found here.
I’ll be hosting Courtney Maum and her novel Costalegre, which has been racking up pre-publication notices all over. We’ll talk Peggy Guggenheim, Mexico, upstate living, writing advice, and maybe even horses.
About the book:
“[A] spectacular high-wire act that dazzles and devastates.”
—Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel
Sinuous and striking, heartbreaking and strange, Costalegre is heavily inspired by the real-life relationship between the heiress Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen. Acclaimed author Courtney Maum triumphs with this wildly imaginative and curiously touching story of a privileged teenager who has everything a girl could wish for except for a mother who loves her back.
It is 1937, and Europe is on the brink of war. In the haute-bohemian circles of Austria, Germany, and Paris, Hitler is circulating a most-wanted list of “cultural degenerates”―artists, writers, and thinkers whose work is deemed antithetical to the new regime. To prevent the destruction of her favorite art (and artists), the impetuous American heiress and modern art collector, Leonora Calaway, begins chartering boats and planes for an elite group of surrealists to Costalegre, a mysterious resort in the Mexican jungle, where she has a home.
The story of what happens to these artists when they reach their destination is told from the point of view of Lara, Leonora’s neglected 15-year-old daughter, who has been pulled out of school to follow her mother to Mexico. Forced from a young age to cohabit with her mother’s eccentric whims, tortured lovers, and entourage of gold-diggers, Lara suffers from emotional, educational, and geographical instability that a Mexican sojourn with surrealists isn’t going to help. But when she meets the outcast Dadaist sculptor Jack Klinger, a much older man who has already been living in Costalegre for some time, Lara thinks she might have found the love and understanding she so badly craves.
Courtney Maum is the author of the acclaimed novels TOUCH and I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN HERE WITHOUT YOU, which were both selected by such outlets as O Magazine, Time Magazine, The New York Times, Glamour, Marie Claire and others as one of the best books of summer. (TOUCH was a New York Times editor's choice and an NPR Best Books of 2017 pick.) Her chapbook NOTES FROM MEXICO is part travelogue and part eulogy and is available here. Her short fiction, book reviews, and essays on the writing life have been widely published in outlets such as The New York Times, O Magazine, Tin House, Electric Literature, and Buzzfeed, and she has co-written films that have debuted at Sundance and won awards at Cannes. At various points in her life, she has been a trend forecaster, a fashion publicist, and a party promoter for Corona Extra. She currently works as a product namer for M·A·C cosmetics and other companies from her home in Litchfield County, CT, where she founded the learning collaborative, The Cabins which will take place again in the summer of 2020. Courtney has two new books forthcoming in 2019: COSTALEGRE (Tin House), a novel about European surrealists fleeing World War II, and BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOOK DEAL: A writer’s guide to finishing, publishing, promoting and surviving your first book (Catapult), a humorous guide to help aspiring authors navigate their debut publishing experience.
About the book:
"An unforgettable debut. Mancusi is a writer to watch."
--Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
A young philosophy professor finds himself in the middle of a drug-running operation after his personal life derails in this taut, white-knuckle debut for fans of Breaking Bad
Oscar Boatwright, a disenchanted philosophy professor, receives terrible news. His mother, on her way home from Hawaii with Oscar's father, has died midflight, her body cooling for hours until the plane can land.
Deeply grieving, Oscar feels his life slipping out of his control. A seemingly innocuous one-night stand with a woman named Dawn becomes volatile when, on the first day of classes, he realizes she is his student, and later learns that she is a fledgling campus drug lord. To make matters worse, his family is in debt, having lost their modest savings to a self-help guru who had indoctrinated Oscar's mother by preying on her depression. Desperate to help his family, Oscar breaks with his academic personality--he agrees to help Dawn with a drug run.
A Philosophy of Ruin rumbles with brooding nihilism, then it cracks like a whip, hurtling Oscar and Dawn toward a terrifying threat on the road. Can Oscar halt the acceleration of chaos? Or was his fate never in his control? Taut, ferocious and blazingly intelligent, A Philosophy of Ruin is a heart-pounding thrill ride into the darkest corners of human geography, and a philosophical reckoning with the forces that determine our destiny.
Nicholas Mancusi has written about books and culture for the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, Daily Beast, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Newsday, Newsweek, NPR Books, American Arts Quarterly, BOMB magazine, and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn.
Nothing says Monday like discussing dark satire in the basement of a bookstore. Join me at McNally Jackson for the Manhattan launch. I’ll try my best to look like a Soho Cool Guy.
I’ll be joined by Jason Diamond (Searching for John Hughes), the only man who can recommend a good blazer, a good Fugazi b-side, and a good local cocktail joint.
I used to live in Seattle, where I saw hundreds of rock shows. I’ll try and bring some of that energy to this event. Expect flashpots, cover songs, and frequent exhortations of “How’s everybody feeling tonight? You ready to rock out?!”
Also, it should be mentioned this reading’s at ELLIOTT BAY BOOKS. I’ve spent countless hours and plenty of paychecks there. At some point a single tear will roll down my cheek.
In conversation with Steph Opitz (Wordplay, The Loft Literary Center)
I’m returning to my hometown to read at the bookstore I gave all my money as a teenager. (As they say: time is a flat circle.) Here’s hoping all my high school friends like buying multiple copies of hardcovers.
An offsite event with Books Are Magic.
After you get married and turn thirty there aren’t many opportunities to gather friends for a big ol’ party. So I’m taking the opportunity to do so with the NYC launch for Riots I Have Known. Bring your dancing shoes and your A-game.
With Isaac Fitzgerald (Buzzfeed’s AM2DM, Pen & Ink, Knives & Ink)!
Celebrate the publication day in the best bookstore of the Hudson Valley. There will be wine, there will be revelry, there may be a brief reading.
This is my local independent, run by the generous and incredibly hardworking Anthony and Amanda. I can’t imagine a better place to ring in publication.
Join me for the inaugural edition of Minnesota’s largest literary festival, produced by The Loft Literary Center (and directed by the great Steph Opitz).
My panel is “Laugh So You Don’t Cry: Social Satire as a Survival Mechanism,” at the Western Bank Stage. I’ll be joined by the brilliant Mark Doten.
The official description:
We live in a time that sometimes seems fraught with political strife, environmental crises, and terrorism on all fronts. What can ordinary people do to survive? Stay stricken in disbelief or... imagine the worst possible outcome and laugh about it! Ryan Chapman (Riots I Have Known) balances a laugh-out-loud prison riot with the seriousness of mass incarceration in his debut novel. Mark Doten (Trump Sky Alpha) imagines a modern-day reality of a nuclear war, a destroyed planet, and a cult leader addicted to social media. These two writers will discuss how social satire puts levity into their subjects.
Produced as part of Wordplay.
Everyone’s favorite literary trivia game returns to Minneapolis! Nerd Jeopardy is just like the game show, except all the questions concern books (and book culture), the players are tipsy, and nobody wins any money. The winners do receive free drinks and books, which is still something.
Anyone can play. Multiple teams will compete over categories like Debbie Downers of Literature, The French, Children’s Books, and Famous Jerks. With special guests Mark Doten, Julie Schumacher, and Jennifer DuBois!
I’ll be in conversation with Lincoln Michel as part of Rough Draft's monthly Writer's Retreat series. I’ve had the pleasure to know Lincoln for years, and I can’t wait to nerd out with him in front of a crowd.
Lincoln Michel‘s fiction has appeared in Granta, Oxford American, Tin House, NOON, Pushcart Prize anthology, and elsewhere. His essays and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The Believer, Bookforum, Buzzfeed, Vice, The Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. He is the former editor-in-chief of electricliterature.com and a founding editor of Gigantic. He is the co-editor of Gigantic Worlds, an anthology of science flash fiction, and Tiny Crimes, an anthology of flash noir. His debut story collection, Upright Beasts, was published by Coffee House Press in 2015. He teaches fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College. He was born in Virginia and lives in Brooklyn. He tweets at @thelincoln.
Sponsored by Aevitas Creative Management
Two of your favorite online literary sites are turning 10 this year, which is basically 100 in Internet years. Help Electric Literature and The Rumpus move into double digits and celebrate a ten years of championing new voices and creating a home for literature online. Six of our cherished contributors will read on the theme, “It’s my party, I’ll cry if I want to.” Then we’ll hang out, have drinks, eat cake, and reminisce about the last decade. You would cry too, if happened to you!
Free drinks and birthday cake (while supplies last).
Readings from Kaveh Akbar, Marie-Helene Bertino, yours truly, Bonnie Chau, R.O. Kwon, and Talin Tahajian! Readings will begin promptly at 7pm and conclude by 8pm.
Everyone's favorite literary trivia night returns! It's just like the game show, except all the questions concern books, the contestants are tipsy, and um, nobody wins any actual money. Multiple teams will compete in categories like Debbie Downers of Literature, From Page to Screen, and Famous Jerks.
Want to play? Create a team with two to five friends and practice answering in the form of a question. Prizes include books, free drinks, and the respect of your peers.
Just like the game show! Except all the categories concern books and everyone's tipsy.
Categories may include the classics, science fiction, movie adaptations, children's books, you name it. Ever wanted to yell "Who is Proust?" in a bookstore with an IPA in hand? Come on by.
Anyone can play. Multiple teams of three will compete for free drinks, prizes, and everlasting glory.
New York City is increasingly a difficult place to love—and to leave. We're inviting writers from both in-state, out of state, upstate, and downstate to tell five minute stories about the dealbreakers that have led to their departures, or their commitment to never leave (yet...!).
An Official Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Event.
Sponsored by Kingston Writers Studio, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and Longreads.
I’m moderating the BKBF panel “Passage of Time” with Martin Amis and Dubravka Ugresic. I will be doing my best to stay out of the way of these two brilliant minds as they discuss literature, immigration, Trump, and Nabokov.
From the Festival’s site: Join distinguished international authors Martin Amis and Dubravka Ugresic as they discuss the indelible lessons of the passage of time on their lives and work. While Amis’s The Rub of Time considers many of his formative cultural and literary encounters of the past 30 years, Croatian-born Ugresic’s American Fictionary revisits the destruction of the Balkan wars of the early 90s through the disorienting perspective of her American exile at the time.