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Scott McClanahan talks book tours, performance, and publishing

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This interview first ran on The Rumpus. You can read it in full here. Below are a few excerpts.

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Collected WorksI first became aware of Scott McClanahan when Lazy Fascist Press released his short story collection, The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan Vol. 1, in May of 2012. The cover looked a lot like a Penguin Classic and it made me laugh. Who was this guy, risking a lawsuit? I asked myself. It was clever, reckless, and endearing. However, it wasn’t until a year later, with the release of Crapalachia, published by Two Dollar Radio, that McClanahan’s words were put in my ears.

The subtitle, “A Biography of a Place,” highlights one McClanahan’s strengths—capturing place. Many of his stories are set in West Virginia, the state from which he hails, but to think of him as a regional writer would miss the point. McClanahan, in all his work, explores people—and those people exist everywhere. A keen observer of the world around him, McClanahan often taps into the characters who populate his family, breathing life into them, and exposing their motivations, their frustrations, and their struggles with the day-to-day.

Through the stories of his Grandma Ruby, a true matriarch; his uncle Nathan, wheelchair-bound from cerebral palsy; and the neighborhood kids who play pranks on unwitting strangers, Scott draws readers into a world that is both harsh and relentless, but also full-hearted and smirky—a cold reality with a sense of humor. Now, just out with Hill William, a short story collection from Tyrant Books, McClanahan shows once again that words can mesmerize.

Defying the laws of geographical assumptions, Scott spoke with me from California—early in the morning on the East Coast, a punishing hour on the West. He assured me that I hadn’t made him get up; he still hadn’t been to sleep.

Rumpus: No one has to go out on tour unless you get paid a lot of money for your book and the publisher says, “You need to go do this,” so what made you decide to take the trip?

McClanahan: Well, I did that kind of Southern leg with my friend Chris Oxley. He played the guitar part of the time. It’s a good show—you’d love it if you saw it. Then I also did, with some friends of mine, what we call the the Future Dead Friends tour last fall, and that was through the Midwest. People were smoking crack, but why do I do it? It’s um…oh gosh…yeah, that’s a good question. Maybe I should think about it a little bit more and I wouldn’t have the financial difficulties that I’m having. ‘Cause they’re not big tour budgets by any means.

Crapalachia

I stayed in a place in Mississippi called the Ole Miss Motel and it was a den of prostitutes and pimps. It really was. I’m talking P-I-M-P as pimps. I almost went into the wrong room one night, and they came and let me know I was going into the wrong room. Big girls with black eyes type of thing.

So it’s fun that way but, this is my answer: I think it’s important for writing to connect back to actual people rather than somebody—you know, a big publisher in New York telling you you should like something. Because you know this is a game, you’re a publicist as well. We know it’s a game. Somebody knows somebody who knows somebody, and all of a sudden you’re in Cosmopolitan or something talking about your book. I don’t want to be in Cosmo. Well, that’s not true. I do, but only if I’m on the cover.

I think it’s important to connect back to individuals who are out there—and by “out there” I mean, we’ve had cultural movements that have been in the middle of nowhere—Memphis, Tennessee in the 1950s, right? Absolutely nowhere, and they’ve not only changed American culture but they’ve changed the culture of the world. These bunch of country boys at Sun Studios. And so I think when you are out there and you read for people and you see people, there’s not that disconnect of literature with a lower case L—it’s not literature, the oral word. It’s Carl Sandburg, it’s V. Lindsey, it’s Dylan Thomas. It’s attempting to get back to that place…oh, I don’t know.

Shit, that answer makes no sense.

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Hill WilliamRumpus: Your stories have a darkness to them—or they could be very dark—but there’s something that keeps them from going to this place where you’re buried. I’m going to reference that movie again but you were saying how you had this story about a dog that you thought was fun, but the whole audience was devastated.

McClanahan: Yeah. It’s a different perspective. You bring up a dog that committed suicide and some people aren’t going to find that humorous. But it’s all those things together. It’s like your daily existence. Are you in New York?

Rumpus: I am.

McClanahan: So, you know, you’re about to get on the train and go into work and probably within an hour, an hour-and-a-half, you’re going to have all different experiences. Oh my god, like whoa fuck, whoa haha, that’s hilarious, but that happens anywhere really. But I think those are the good things. It’s like being in a relationship. Like, you hate the person, you love the person. There’s darkness there, there’s lightness. That’s part of any relationship—a real, a real relationship.

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Rumpus: What are you working on now?

McClanahan: The Sarah Book. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. The hardcover is going to cushy like a pillow. You know how some children’s books are like? So you can dream on it or use it as a sex aid. Sometimes people need to sleep instead of reading.

Written by Gabrielle

January 15, 2014 at 7:06 am

Favorite Podcasts of 2013

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headphonesMy good buddy David over at Largehearted Boy every year rounds up year-end lists featuring books and music. On his suggestion, here’s my list of the podcasts I couldn’t stop listening to.

By the Way with Jeff Garlin
Possibly the best find of the year has been By the Way, Jeff Garlin’s new podcast. Recorded live at Largo in Los Angeles, Garlin sits down with his talented friends to discuss all sorts of things. Garlin’s laugh alone makes this one infectious but the conversations will keep you coming back. If you’ve not been listening to it, your 2013 has been a wash.

Longform Podcast
Longform journalism has been making some noise lately and, along with Longreads, the site Longform has done much to propel it into the public consciousness. What might not be as known is that they have a weekly podcast where they interview journalists about their work. The conversations range from particular stories the writer has worked on to how they make ends meet between jobs. I look forward to it every week.

Other People
Just over the 200 episode mark and still going strong, Other People, hosted by Brad Listi, is one of the best author interview podcasts out there. Not content with a simple conversation about the writer’s latest book, Brad delves into childhood memories, the writing process, and anything unique to his guest’s experience that they’re willing to discuss.

Book Riot
Literary website Book Riot started a podcast this year and it quickly became one of my favorites. Every weekend I look forward to the bookish banter of co-founder Jeff O’Neal and Senior Editor Rebecca Schinsky. Together they parse out the week’s publishing and literary news, discuss the latest book gadgets, and go over the week’s new releases. Always fresh. A must-listen.

Late Night Library
If you’re reading this site, there’s a good chance you can never hear enough about publishing. Late Night Library is an organization based in Portland dedicated to promoting book culture, especially the indie sort. On their podcast Late Night Conversation, along with writers they interview industry people about their various positions and how it works within the chain of events, manuscript to bookstore.

Pop Culture Happy Hour
Hosted by NPR editors, producers, and critics, Pop Culture Happy Hour is a casual conversation about the week’s pop culture news. The chemistry of the co-hosts, their familiarity with each other, is most-endearing. Perfect way to kick off the weekend.

Design Matters
I became aware of Debbie Millman after Maria Popova highlighted her book, Brand Thinking, a collection of interviews with design and advertising creatives. A look into these minds was fascinating, in large part due to Millman’s knowledge of the industry and her subjects. On Design Matters, a podcast hosted by Design Observer, Millman brings her impeccable research and optimism to the conversation.

Slate
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Slate has perfected the podcast. Duration, format, everything. They’ve nailed it. While there are four main shows — the Political Gabfest, the Culture Gabfest, the Double X, and for all you sports fans, Hang Up and Listen, hosted by Stefan Fatsis, Josh Levin, and Mike Pesca — they continue to explore themed series. There’s Lexicon Valley, which discusses language, the monthly Audio Book Club, and, most recently, Mom and Dad are Fighting, a frank and honest look at parenting.

Gweek
The popular site Boing Boing has a number of podcasts on their roster. One of my favorites is Gweek, a show where editor Mark Frauenfelder and friends bring authors, artists, and other creative types on to discuss their work. Some recent shows include interviews with Clive Thompson for his book on the Internet, book designer Chip Kidd, and Wired magazine founding editor Kevin Kelly.

Six Pixels of Separation
If you’re the least bit interested in where business and creativity meet, Mitch Joel’s interviews are a goldmine.

Also recommended:
Stuff You Should Know
Recommended if You Like
Next Market (a podcast about podcasting)

Written by Gabrielle

December 24, 2013 at 7:11 am

Week in the News for November 18

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Here are this week’s interesting publishing and media stories. Add your favorites to the comments section.

E-books, E-readers, and Apps

  • In Russia, 95% of e-books are pirated. A company has developed an app to stop the trend. All Tech Considered
  • Self publishing is big in Germany and has helped Amazon dominate the e-book market. Publishing Perspectives
  • E-books are increasingly popular holiday gifts. Forbes

Tech

  • The Internet is a valuable distraction for this writer. New York Times
  • How technology changes language. Prospero
  • 18 games for typography fans. Mashable

Social Media

  • 10 surprising social media facts. FastCompany
  • 5 tools for identifying online influencers. PR Daily
  • Derek Thompson reviews the video sharing site Upworthy. The Atlantic
  • The semantics of online advertising. The Guardian

Media and Publishing

  • Publishing experts debate the future of the book. Publishers Weekly
  • A roundup of independent print magazines and interviews with the editors. New York
  • Brief interviews with very small publishers. The Morning News
  • Five female writers discuss sexism in the literary world. Brooklyn Based
  • Reality TV shows for writers are cropping up around the globe. The Guardian

Lifehack and Business

  • How to build a strong team at work. Fast Company
  • How to build a balanced creative team. 99u
  • 10 brands that changed the world. AdWeek
  • Coca-Cola is aiming to kill the press release. PR Daily

Writing and Grammar

Podcasts

  • Author, publisher, and Powell’s bookseller Kevin Sampsell talks to Brad Listi. Other People
  • Media strategist Ryan Holiday talks to Mitch Joel. Twist Image

For fun

Written by Gabrielle

November 22, 2013 at 10:25 am

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Week in the News for November 11

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Here are this week’s interesting media and publishing stories. Add your favorites to the comments section.

Social Media

  • Daily Facebook activity among younger teens is in decline. AdWeek
  • Jenna Wortham wonders if Facebook is fading. Bits
  • Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, talks about his new venture, Medium. NYT

Media and Publishing

  • John Oliver leaves the Daily Show for HBO. AdWeek
  • BuzzFeed Books promises positive coverage. CJR
  • 10 technological innovations in TV broadcasting. Stuff of Genius

Lifehack and Business

Writing and Grammar

Podcasts

  • Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper and lead developer for Tumblr. NextMarket
  • Tim Stevens, Engadget’s former Editor-in-Chief. RIYL
  • Tech columnist David Pogue talks about leaving The New York Times for Yahoo! NextMarket

For fun

  • The experiment that led to the concept of “thinking outside the box.” io9
  • Do our brains find certain shapes more attractive than others? Smithsonian

Written by Gabrielle

November 17, 2013 at 11:39 am

Link roundup for the week of October 28

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Here are some of my favorite stories and news items from this week’s publishing, media, and tech reporting.

E-books, Readers, and Apps

Tech

  • Researchers and designers are proposing new keyboard layouts for thumb typing. The Atlantic
  • How to crack a Wi-Fi password (and protect your own) Lifehacker
  • You don’t have to leave your gadgets behind to get away from it all. GadgetLab

Social Media

  • Facebook dominates in logins; Google makes gains [infographic] SocialTimes
  • At 300 million users, Google+ activity remains in question. Digits
  • Is Facebook failing marketers? Digiday
  • Facebook is looking to develop better consumer tracking technology. WSJ
  • Has Twitter changed the role of the literary critic? NYTBR

Media and Publishing

  • World Book Night US announced their 2014 selections. WBN
  • Random House acquires Figment, an online writing community for young readers. Jacket Copy
  • Editor & Publisher’s 2013 EPPY Award winners. E&P

Writing and Grammar

  • Five best free online word processors. Mashable
  • How to polish your writing. Poynter
  • When to use the passive voice. CJR
  • Tim Kreider on writing for free. New York Times

Lifehack and Business

  • How anxiety leads decisions astray. HBR
  • Top 50 executives who make wheels turn.  AdWeek
  • The structure of a 60 second pitch. Fast Company
  • Tick is a new to-do app. Lifehacker
  • 7 apps for a faster commute. Mashable

Podcasts

  • Former editor at Esquire and GQ, now editorial director of nonfiction at Random House, Andy Ward. Longform

Misc.

  • The science of a great subway map. FastCoDesign
  • Best Longreads accounts on Twitter. Mashable
  • Paintlist, a new app by Dutch Boy, recommends paint colors based on songs. New York Times
  • New iPhone app Knoala is a repository for toddler playtime ideas. Techland

Written by Gabrielle

November 1, 2013 at 6:42 am

Link roundup for the week of October 21

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Lots of interesting media, tech, and publishing news this week. Here are just a few things that caught my eye.

E-books, Readers, and Apps

  • Competition in the tablet market is increasing. NYT
  • 97% of newsstand apps are now free. AdWeek
  • New moms spend more time on smartphones than other adults. LA Times
  • Using metrics to boost e-book sales. MediaShift

Social Media

  • Five tips for promoting your online events using social media. Social Times
  • Facebook rolls out a new feature to help publishers increase engagement. Facebook

Media and Publishing

Writing and Grammar

Lifehack and Business

Podcasts

Misc

  • Most popular coffee brands on Twitter [infographic] All Twitter
  • Abraham Lincoln liked infographics. Elements

Written by Gabrielle

October 25, 2013 at 6:46 am

Link Roundup for the Week of October 14

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TelegraphHere are just a few things in the media and publishing world that caught my eye this week. Add your favorites in the comments section.

E-books, Readers, and Apps

  • Oyster iPad app has arrived. GalleyCat
  • Judge appoints monitor to keep eye on Apple’s e-book business. CNET
  • Five useful apps. Aliza Sherman

Social Media

  • One year later, Medium is changing the way writers write and readers read. MediaShift
  • Video sharing site Upworthy pairs emotional content with catchy headlines to spread social awareness. New York Times
  • Online mentions: New York Times vs. Mashable [infographic] SocialTimes
  • Twitter revenue more than doubles in third quarter. Bloomberg
  • Does real-time marketing work? AdWeek

Media and Publishing

  • Debut ratings for MSNBC’s “Up Late with Alec Baldwin” TV Newser
  • Willa Paskin reviews “Up Late with Alec Baldwin” Slate
  • A look inside the life of New York City newspaper hawkers. CJR

Writing and Grammar

Lifehack and Business

  • Five prefixes to use in your email subject lines. 99u
  • Use your email autoresponder for maximum productivity. FastCompany

Podcasts

Misc

Written by Gabrielle

October 18, 2013 at 6:49 am

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