Sunday, July 30, 2017

Cover for Julia Stoops' Parts per Million


Recently, I was privileged to design the front cover for Julia Stoops' novel Parts per Million, due out in April of 2018.



Parts per Million is a fast-moving novel full of fascinating characters and loads of relevance. The manuscript was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize. Here's what publisher Forest Avenue Press has to say:

When John Nelson abandoned his government job to join a scrappy band of activists, he didn’t realize trying to save the world would be so hard. His ideals remain strong, but his optimism is wearing thin. His fellow activists—computer hacker Jen Owens and Vietnam vet Irving Fetzer—still think he’s a square. And their radio show can’t compete with the corporate media.

Parts per Million, Julia Stoops’s socially conscious, fast-paced debut novel, is set in Portland, Oregon, in 2002. As the trio dives into anti-war protests and investigates fraud at an elite university, Nelson falls in love with an unlikely house guest, Deirdre, a photographer from Ireland—and a recovering addict. Fetzer recognizes her condition but keeps it secret, setting off a page-turning chain of events that threatens to destroy the activists’ friendship even as they’re trying to hold the world together, one radio show at a time.

As well as being a fantastic writer, Julia is a fine artist. I'm in love with Julia's art! It's ethereal and geometric and gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Check out her work here

As an artist, Julia had a vision for her book that included interior illustrations, and publisher Laura Stanfill loved the idea. Julia chose artist Gabriel Liston to create the art. Gabriel is a fabulous artist who shows with Froelick Gallery in Portland. Check him out here. Julia and Gabriel are hard at work on the illustrations for Parts per Million now, consulting closely so that the end result is as close to Julia's vision for the book and its characters as possible. 


Together, and with the help of consultant Kristi Wallace Knight, they've mounted a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the artwork. Check it out here. There are more fabulous art samples like the one above, and more info about the project. For folks interested in supporting the project, there are some really amazing and unique thank you gifts, including zines, patches, original illustrations, even professional feedback for writers by publisher Laura Stanfill!

There are 13 days left to go for the Kickstarter campaign, and they are already well on their way to meeting their goal.

I can't wait to see the book in its finished form with Julia's lovely writing and Gabriel's lovely illustrations and Laura's great interior design work. The book will hit the shelves in April of 2018. Here's a taste!

So unbelievable. We get home from a big firebombing only to play host-with-the-most with some random stranger. What the hell was Franky thinking? He’s a goddamn house sitter, not a hotel manager. Of course Nelson, being ambassador from planet Dork, is into it right away. And Fetzer caved in like five minutes! Bunch of rescuers.

The woman Frank so generously invited into our headquarters stands in the doorway, looking around like she’s hungry and there might be a buffet conveniently laid out somewhere among the filing cabinets and desks.

“Stay there,” I tell her. Last thing I need is her snooping through our stuff.

Fetzer stands in the middle of the basement with his gut sticking out and his hands on his hips. “She can go over here,” he says, and walks down to the end, like we’re supposed to follow. There’s that old camp cot against the wall. He eyes the pipes along the ceiling and strokes his chin. “We could string wire, rig up curtains. Out of sheets.”

“What for?” I say.

His voice goes quiet as I get closer. “She’ll want privacy. I have a feeling she’ll be here more than one night.”

“Nope. No way.”

He picks up a stack of folders off the cot, then looks back at her leaning in the doorway with her arms folded tight. “She’s sick, see?”


On his birthday: early journal entries about my brother Frank, with spelling errors intact and my own commentary in green


1979
December 31—Frank and Mom found a stray puppy and brought it home a month or something after Gertrude died. But we aren't going to keep the stray. I call her Shoepolish.

1981
September 19—Today we went to see the play "West Side Story." It was great. We got autographs like we did in Oklahoma. We had almost the same seats, In front. At the rumble where the 2 leaders are supposed to be dead Frankie yelled out (during silence) "Are they dead?" [He shouted this in the theater during the dramatic silence following the two men falling dead. The whole theater burst out laughing and I remember one of the dead actors on stage trying not to laugh.]

1982
September 30—Edina's birthday. We went to the French Pantry for Edina's birthday. Alaine (a waitress) teaches sign language. She gave us name signs. Mine's an "E" (left hand) rubbing my right arm. (I like to make music). Edina is 2 "E"s signing "talk". Frankie is an "F" with the 3 last fingers chomping the thumb for Pac-Man.

December 7—The McLittle Theatre is going to do "Best of Friends" in Feb. when noni & Coco come out. I'm Jenni. Frankie's Jonathan, Heather's Susan Evans, Edina's Dad, Shena's Mom & Mara's Mary. & I just can't wait! It was soooo! windy at night!!!! [The McLittle Theatre was what we called ourselves when we did plays and made the parents watch. Of note here is that Frank played Jonathan, a character who died pretty close to the beginning of the play, and my sister Edina got stuck playing the dad.]

1983
January 1—It is now 1983. [I wrote the number 3 at the stroke of midnight.] Happy New Year! I resolve to be a nicer, more outward person. I am a shyish person, but I resolve to become less shy. We had a party at my cousin Heather's lake house. It was my family, Heather's & the Macys. We took a boat ride & had a foot ball pool. Frankie & Ev Macy won!!! When we went to the dock there was slush on the ground!!!! (This is California!) I prayed for snow & in a way I got it!

February 3—Gayle of course wasn't at school today. I hung around with Julie Davenport & Kristin at lunch. They wanted me to play a mean trick on Frankie. I didn't.

February 24—The rapid precipitation and thunder and lightening were simultanious at around 3:00 today. Frankie and I ran to the van, the rain pouring around us. I had double warmth because of the use of my 2 coats. Gayle wasn't at school so I remained solitary untill she arrived. We had bells and during it, a drill for earthquakes but there wasn't the slightest tremor. Gayle & I talked about dumbfounding & stupefying dreams we'd had. After school we had hot chocolate. It had an aromatic eroma and was sensationally delicious and warm with cream on top. I played video games on coleco and helped Frankie with homework. Through it all, I deduce, precicely that it was a fairly chaotic day but alittle chaos makes the eazy easier.

March 1 Today I went outside & sang in the rain. I sang the song "Here comes the rain" that I made up on Feb. 27th and just (from that) sang anything I thought of (about the rain). I'll always sing. My life is like a musical. A long time ago I sang a circus song. Frankie & his friend were making a circus for Heather & I to see. I got up and starting singing about what you need for a circus. Heather joined in on a 2nd verse and we sang just like a musical. I loved it. I've sang about what to do (A song called "What shall we do today", I've sang about when Mom wouldn't understand me (A song called "What do you mean by that) etc. I always just sing. My life is a musical.

April 10—I went to Shena's. We watched 3 movies. The Incredible Shrinking Woman", "Somewhere in Time" & "Annie." I did a large sermon outline. We have 2 new games. "Oink" & "Space Panik" I played "Star Wars" with Frankie.

May 10—I went to the orthodontist. I got an impreshion of my teath, learned all about what they're going to do. Shena came over. We started talking over "old times." Frankie went to the SanDiego Wild Animal Park. At the bird show a bird took a dime out of his hand. In the cat & canine show a dog took a necklace from him. In the elephant he lied down while an elephant crouched over him.

May 15—We (Shena & I) had 2 doughnuts each when we came to my house to get some Atari cartages to play at Shena's house. I went with Shena & Peg shopping for a shirt for Shena to wear to model some homemade pants in a fashion show. At home, we had (my family) strawberry-short-cake for dessert. Frankie & Edina got new bikes. Frankie is trying to learn how to ride his. I saw "An Officer & a gentleman" again.

May 21—Today was really part work, part play. (The play part was more) I finnished cleaning out my clothes. I cleaned out my room & vacuumed it. I listened to my play tape reciting my lines 2 ½ times. Afterwards Dad, Frankie & I went to the park to help Frankie ride his bike. When we came home it was time to swim. Frankie & I swam. Mom came in once. In the morning Edina, Frankie & I went to yum yum's for doughnuts. We walked. As I walked down the sidewalk I felt the love in the morning air. I saw 2 "planet of the Apes" movies.

May 25—At school today during P.E. a giant swarm of bees swarmed around the play ground. I had a good piano lesson. A kid in Frankie's class (Matt) punched Frankie & he hit the ground on his chin. He (Frankie) now has a big bump on his chin. He also, at home, got stung by a bee. What a day he must have had!

June 9—I did my science project & got a 97. I said an extemporaneous speech about Frankie.

June 10—The 8th grade got our year books today. I got it signed by alot of people. In the back Mom had "Roses are Red violets are blue Gigi graduated - yahoo; yahoo!" put in & "Edina & Frank did good too….".

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Anatomy of a birthday card: July, 2017


Sometimes when Stephen and I do birthday or anniversary cards for each other, we're able to take an image and simply change the faces out with our own or update in small ways. Sometimes one of us gets a bee in her bonnet and has to collage something together using more than one or two images. This year, I had an idea to have Stephen in a garden with a paintbrush, painting flowers into existence. When I googled to look at initial images of pretty women (because, you know) in gardens, I came upon all these old fabulous illustrations for seed packets and catalogues.






There wasn't a single that suited me best, so I created my card by cobbling together pieces of different illustrations.

For the outside...


...and...


And for the inset...



The backgrounds and flowers came from the first two illustrations (one of which, you'll notice, isn't a seed packet or catalogue but a farm annual) (incidentally from a company who shares names with Stephen's grandmother on his mother's side, the one who was a great influence on him, encouraging him to be an artist; it was one of her married names... she had a few... she led a very interesting life. Stephen wrote blog posts about  Elizabeth Pennington Foster Matson Alberts Dahm Burpee here and here) (where was I?) (to get you up to speed, I started this sentence saying the backgrounds and flowers came from the first two illustrations...) and I cobbled together the wording from the wording on these as well. Then with the inset illustration, I had to expand the area of the peas and that took more cobbling. As did photoshopping out background lettering and details and expanding the space of the outside backgrounds. So, yeah, this card took a good long time.

The illustration for the inset, interestingly, is an ad for a stove company. But it worked great as a stand-in for one of those insets of impeccably-dressed ladies in the garden. I'll admit, I allowed Stephen's face to be probably a tad larger than it should have been. It was small enough as it was and, with making him a woman, I was losing clarity and recognizability when I reduced it, particularly for the printing of the card, and the primary goal is to create something that is Stephen.

The image I used for his face was an outtake from a Madeleine Prévert photo session:


We drove out to the Oregon Country Fair for his birthday yesterday, and had a picnic breakfast of sandwiches and cava in the parking lot as we waited for the fair to open, and he opened his card then.


He was surprised when I told him a little bit about the process and told me it looked like I'd just put his face on a single illustration, so whew, I knew I'd done what I'd set out to do. But if you want to see something really pretty, you should see Stephen's little flower garden along the side of the house, the first of much more gardening to come for our still new home.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day journal entries early in my life (or the entries from the dates most close to Father's Day) with spelling errors intact and my own commentary in green


1978
June 8—A Boy was wating water and throwing rocks at Me Mara and Edina.
In my early days, I often only wrote once or twice a month. Most of these early year entries are not on Father's Day but whatever came closest. I have no idea what wating is supposed to mean. 

1979
June 27—I got a permonent (perm) my first.

1980
There was no June entry at all for 1980.

1981
June 14—Today I'm 12. I got a radio and a disk. I also got a bra but it's the wrong size so I have to change it. I still nead to change my personality at school. Maybe everyone will forget it, and I can start over next year. Wish me luck!
No Father's Day entries yet, but I was sure not to forget writing on my birthday.

1982
Ah, the first actual father's day I wrote on - yay!
June 20—I got 2 new coins from Isriel, from Shena for my collection.
OK, so no mention of Father's Day or Dad. Sorry, Dad. 

1983
June 19, 20, 21—I was at home at Heathers and back home again. I saw Heathers new house. I finished Marna and started Misty.
Annnd another entry that encompasses Father's Day that didn't mention Dad at all. I found time to write about the two stories I was working on (because obviously I was a great writer) but I couldn't find the time to sneak in a "Happy Father's Day"? Hey, Dad, did I mention I'm sorry?

1984
June 19. Alot has happened since my last entry. On Friday, we had our last Amnesty meeting [the one club I was in, in high school, Amnesty International]. I had to say goodbye to Jason Lamm, who was the one we always called mouth, and Kevin who we called Speady Gonzales and Tim, and Bob and that red-haired kid who's always there. Of course, I'd see Paul today. Over the weekend, I met Heather's friend, Chelle. She's really neat and we all had a great time. I had my algebra final yesterday (I bombed) and World Cultures (C) and English (?) today. On Friday night I was really angry. I had a period. I had to say goodbye to Mr. Ward, today. On Friday, he gave me, as a gift and a reminder of everything, one of his lunch bags & he autographed it. I gave him a short letter today thanking him and telling him how beneficial it has been having him as a teacher & a friend. On the weekend we found an injured duck & today we found a baby bird. We took the duck to the wild animal care center & the bird's still here.
OK, am I ever going to bother mentioning my poor, neglected father in here AT ALL? For the love of god. This is supposed to be a blog post about my dad! How can I do that if I spent my entire childhood being an ingrate of a daughter?

1985
OK, finally! Jeez! Here's the first time I get an actual Father's Day entry in my youthful career as a journaler. Better make it count!
June 18, morning— Day before yesterday was, infact, a most peculiar day. Peculiar? Well, filled. I can say that for it. It was a very filled day.

First, I did a little writing. I wrote a little card-thing for dad. It read:

“F is for the fairness you give

to us when we fight.

A is your amusing humor,

R is you’re always right.

T is for your teaching us;

always do your best.

E is for just everything

R is for the rest.

Happy Farter’s Day.”

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Dispatches from the pet hospital, the book launch, the design awards, and more; or, A very full week


Actually a week and a half, because while I was thinking about how full one week could be, another half week went by.

Sometimes all that happens in your week is that you set up an air conditioner and a couple of book cases. Then a new week starts and a Monday work day is followed by the seemingly mundane fact of a small bit of foam on the floor of your office upstairs. I said to Stephen, kind of jovial: "Someone yorked on the carpet" and went to clean it up.

Tuesday, after at least two more, increasingly weighty pukes the night before and another I found in the morning, we were off to the vet where they took blood and X-rays. Nicholas wasn't eating and was in obvious distress. On the way to the vet, me in the passenger seat with Nicholas curled on my lap, I saw a billboard advertising a medical study to stop dogs from being poisoned, followed a little farther by a building off the freeway called something like Cherished Pets, touting itself as a "pet cremation and funeral center."

Wednesday. All tests negative and Nicholas still not eating, not drinking, looking up at me on shaky, spindly Chihuahua legs with tail tucked. The vet said go to Dove Lewis for an ultrasound. We knew Dove Lewis from the time, years ago, that Nicholas ate a bit of a dog toy and it lodged in his intestine and he had to have surgery, and this was looking scarily similar to that time. Driving to the place, Nicholas curled on my lap again, Stephen said, "Oh god, I never saw that before," passing by Cherished Pets.

Park the car, head up the pavement to the animal hospital. The wall along the walk is all individual bricks engraved with the names of beloved departed dogs and cats.

Green vomit on the floor of the animal hospital. Ultrasound. Animal Planet on silent on the big screen TV in the waiting room. Consultation in one of those little rooms, and yes: obstruction in the intestine. The very jolly animal doctor said, "We're going to get him into surgery and get that puppy out!" Would the vet really have said "puppy"? I don't know. That's how I remember it.

We were back to Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary where it just so happened to be our vet's surgery day. We left Nicholas there and Stephen dropped me off at work, where I looked at spreadsheets for about three hours and waited for Stephen to call from home saying the vet had called to let us know whether Nicholas had survived.

You can't help it. You look at the phone and picture the way it will ring and how Stephen's going to have to tell you the vet called and she's sorry, there was nothing she could do.

The photo on my computer desktop was Nicholas. I sent an email. The little profile picture in the corner of the message was Nicholas. I jumped on the project management program we use and made a comment on a to-do list of one of our graphic designers, and the little profile picture next to my comment was Nicholas.

I picked up my phone to check for messages in case something awful had happened and Stephen couldn't bear to call me and could only broach the subject in a text.


It was 6ish when the phone rang. Heart pounding. Stephen's "Hello!" was cheerful, so it must be OK. He said he'd called the vet and they were still in surgery, so he had to leave now to pick me up in time to get to the vet before they closed. We drove over. We waited. The girls behind the counter were all cheerful so it must be OK.

When they finally brought him out after surgery, Nicholas was belly-shaved and dopey, the tip of his tongue peeking out of his mouth. We took him back to Dove Lewis for an over-nighter, and drove home to sleep alone. I went to the store for comfort food and we sat in front of the TV and I ate half a frozen pizza.

Thursday. June 1, my nephew's 18th birthday. It was also the day they announced the PubWest Design Awards. Crazily, I won the gold in the small format cover design category for my book cover of Jamie Yourdon's novel Froelich's Ladder.

I'd never won anything before, except for the Easter egg coloring contest at the grocery store when I was a kid, and that time I'd tied for first place with a girl who made rainbow-colored starbursts all over her egg.

There was a link to the PubWest awards page, and people were sharing it on Facebook and I was so honored, but I couldn't concentrate on anything but Nicholas. When we brought him home, we took him out in the backyard to pee and he immediately threw up in the grass. The last time he had this surgery, the recovery was just as bad as the stress of the surgery itself, with lots of hours of doggy distress and a trip or two back to Dove Lewis because he seemed to be healing up so poorly.

Dr. Prull said the critical thing in this first day after surgery was that he eat and keep it down. We gave him some of the special diet the vet gave us. He refused it. We let him rest. We gave him some of the special diet. He refused it.

Finally, Stephen called the vet and left the message that he wasn't doing well and wouldn't eat. I sat in my office upstairs with Nicholas at my feet in a nest made of his doggy bed covered in towels and blankets. The pain medication made him sleepy and he didn't seem to be in as much discomfort as the last time, but he wouldn't eat, which meant we couldn't give him his antibiotic and we thought for sure we'd be taking him back to Dove Lewis for the night.

I said to Stephen,"When she calls back, let's ask if we can try giving him cottage cheese," which was part of the bland diet they'd suggested before the surgery.

Stephen said, "Just try it."

So I did. And he ate it.

Joy. It wasn't until Nicholas started eating again that I finally shared the lovely news about the award. Clicking share was somehow like saying cheers and sipping champagne to Nicholas.


Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Me at my computer doing design work, sometimes with Nicholas in his nest on my lap, sometimes with him asleep at my feet. The ritualistic feedings, hiding pills, squirting antibiotic in his mouth with one of those syringes. At night Stephen slept in the bed and I slept upstairs curled up on three pillows on the floor with Nicholas in his nest next to me with the cone on. He had one of those blue cloth cones, but he still hated it, and I'd wake up here and there in the middle of the night always to find him lying, eyes open, staring at me.

Other bits of life happening around all of this. Our realtor gave us fresh cut peonies for a vase on our dining room table. I had a visit from writer Alex Behr with an advanced reader copy of her book Planet Grim and a handmade pillow as an extra thank you for the design work I did on her book cover. On facebook there were pictures of more advanced readers, this time for the second in Jeff Johnson's Darby Holland crime series, which I also did design work for. There were literary readings we couldn't go to. And protests and antiprotests in downtown Portland, and don't even get me started on politics, with tweets and covfefes heading into Comey's testimony.

Monday. Back to work while Stephen stayed home with Nicholas. It was the first time I'd left him since the surgery. At the door on the way out, Stephen made an impatient face before I could say anything and said, "Don't worry. I can take care of him." In the car, I put on my seat belt, switched on the radio and put the car in gear, one hand out instinctively to protect Nicholas, invisible, in the passenger seat, as I pulled out of the driveway.

From work, I emailed Stephen at two hour intervals asking for progress reports.

Tuesday was a scheduled day off because I was speaking to a graphic design class at PSU. It was a wonderful hour and a half in which I showed slides of various book covers and outtakes and told stories and took questions about inspiration and process and working with publishers. There were, oh, fifteen to twenty students, all eager and interested. They asked lots of great questions. It was fun to talk about my self-taught, DIY process, fun to tell them that they undoubtedly had more skills and knowledge, already, than I do and yet, look what I can do, meaning my gosh, look at what they can and will be able to do.

I told about the first time I used Adobe Illustrator: "I was so excited about the program, but there was something wrong with it! There was a pen tool but when I tried to draw with it, the line turned into this weird object, and there was an eraser, but it wouldn't erase anything in my pictures!"

Big laughs from these students who knew exactly what I meant. I felt glowy inside. These were my people.

Wednesday, a full week since the surgery. Nicholas in his bed on the kitchen floor as I cooked breakfast and lunch. His recovery was so much better than the time before. So much better. He rarely seemed uncomfortable. He rarely seemed at all interested in the incision place. I worked all day and then that night was the first time we left him alone by himself, to go out and celebrate Bradley K. Rosen and his novel Bunkie Spills.


I spent years in Tom Spanbauer's basement reading, critiquing, and having a love affair with that book as I sat next to Brad at the workshop table. Brad's reading that night at Powell's City of Books has got to be one of my favorite book launches ever. (Thank you to Laura Stanfill for these pictures.)

One hundred plus people packed the place and Brad's reading was quirky and hilarious and heartfelt, and he had complete, self-deprecating command of the audience. Doug Chase's intro was perfect. Brad's entrance, playing a harmonica like Bunkie, was perfect. His "reverse moment of silence" where he got the whole crowd to holler admiration to Tom Spanbauer, was better than perfect.

And it was an evening of such community. His Dangerous Writing friends, other writing friends, musician friends, Oregon Country Fair friends, family.








So much to pack into little over a week. And more, still. Some things I feel jinxy to talk about, some things that I feel best to just give a quick line to because of their import. A loved one's pregnancy. A loved one's senior class project, which I just read. A loved one in the hospital. A loved one getting married (today) (now). Yesterday was the ten year anniversary of the death of Stephen's father, which I can't quite believe. Ten years. Last night we got together with the family and went around the room and talked about him and told stories. What everyone said: I'll just say it was beautiful.

Saturday now. Me on the computer. Nicholas curled up in his bed at my feet. This morning, as I slept in (in bed with Nicholas for the first time since the surgery) we had our first hummingbird visit to our garden.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

How to set up a Haier HPN10XCM portable air conditioner


Step 1: Heft thousand pound air conditioner up stairs to the furnace that is your office space.

Step 2: Turn on space heater which doubles as a fan and turn dial to Fan-Only so you roast just a little less while you work.

Step 3: Lay out all pieces and read instructions as to which piece is which, speaking each item out loud for maximum learnability.

Step 4: Sweat.

Step 5: Try to figure out how to fit three plastic things together to create "window panel assembly" to fit in window but window is tiny and there's no way all three panels together will fit in window. Two panels together (main panel plus one extension panel) will fit in window but instruction book doesn't say you can use two panels, only three, and you don't want to disobey instruction book. Try putting two panels in window. They fit, but the window opening is vertical, and when you let go of the two panels, the extension piece slides back down inside the first panel. (You have missed the part in the instruction book about using blunt-tip screws to secure panels together.)

Step 6: Read part in instructions instructing you to use enclosed strips of foam to cover edges of extension panels. Instruction book doesn't state whether  "edges" means long edges or short edges.

Step 7: Repeat step 4.

Step 8: Watch many YouTube videos. These videos will omit the part of the instructions you didn't understand where you can use the blunt-tip screws to secure panels together (which, in your defense, you missed because the vague language made it sound like the screws were to secure the panels to the window).

Step 9: Realize you've got the space heater set on Heat rather than Fan-Only and say the eff word and repeat sweat 4, I mean step 4.

Step 10: Finally understand the thing about the blunt-tip screws. Remove two blunt-tip screws from screws packet.

Step 11: Realize you forgot to stick the foam pieces to the edges of the plastic panels that will end up in a landfill someday with the rest of all this god-forsaken plastic stuff. Stick foam pieces on panels.

Step 12: The blunt-tip screws are now lost.

Step 13: See step 4. Also consider crying a little.

Step 14: Sit down and start to write a blog post about it because fuck it. And, hey, this is more fun. Feel proud of yourself and begin to gain a warm feeling of self-recognition.

Step 15: The window panel assembly is now lost. 

(You should really be a better housekeeper.)

Step 16: Locate window panel assembly and, miraculously, blunt-tip screws and take it all, with screwdriver (wow, you're a genius, you remembered to bring the screwdriver), to window. Sit in blast of hell from window and lay two-part assembly upright in window, being careful to keep panels fully extended, reach for first screw and – how the goddamn hell are you supposed to keep the panels extended and screw in the screw at the same time with only two hands? Every time you go to screw in the screw, the extension panel falls down. The screwdriver is one of those magnetized ones, and you try just using one hand for the screwing but then the fucking screw falls out. OK, fine, stick your fucking foot out through the fucking hole in the plastic window panel and use your fucking big toe to hold the works together while you use both hands to screw in the fucking screw.

This works.

As you go to secure the second screw, a crow dives in a black flash right past your window, passing so close you can see the feathers, swooping in a great arc toward the grass and then flying off into the sunny neighborhood.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

City of Weird contributor: Andrew Stark


I hadn't known Andrew Stark before accepting his story "A Code for Everything" for City of Weird. My reaction to his submission was one of those instant love affair things. I probably fairly knew I'd accept it from paragraph one. The story does all the things that make my brain happy. It's a wonderful mix of nerdiness and heart. It plays with science (yum) and and philosophy (yum) and language (yum), and is told through the lovely deadpan voice of a robot dog named Barney.

It's a story that took a little extra care for publisher Laura Stanfill to typeset as it contains phrases like:

w0+w1∑j=1tγt−jCRj+w2∑j=1tγt−jEVj+w3∑j=1tγt−jRPEj

and

産業技術総合研究所

Another example of the delicious nerdiness in the piece: Barney the robot dog and his companion (also named Barney) live in various homes throughout their life together, and Barney the dog describes each of these homes down to the exact latitude and longitude. As an example of just how nerdy I also am, when I was editing City of Weird, I created a Google map and plotted out every landmark and plot point I could think of in every story. It helped me to root out some errors in a couple of the stories and it allowed me to track how much of Portland I was covering, but mostly it was just me nerding out on this book I was gathering together. Along with finding and plotting out such City of Weird landmarks as Kelly's Olympian, the clock tower at the Amtrak station, Powell's City of Books, the Poppy Lounge, the unnamed haberdasher in Jonah Barrett's "Alder Underground," and the site of the former haunted Burger King on Burnside and Broadway (along with LOTS of other landmarks - I really nerded out), I was able to paste in such spots as:

45.522202° N, -122.618054° W in Laurelhurst

and

45.496224° N, -123.121649° W outside Forest Grove

and find out where Barney and Barney lived. And of course, these places were exactly where they were supposed to be.

"A Code for Everything" is the only story in City of Weird that unquestionably takes place in the future, and it is one of a handful of tales in the collection that would consistently make me cry.

Andrew was raised on the Ojibwa Indian Reservation in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He has lived and worked in Chicago, Montana, Los Angeles, and Portland. I met him briefly when he lived in Portland during the creation period of the book, but by the time it was published, he'd moved out of state again.

His work has appeared in various publications, and he is co-founder of LOST WKND, the international literary arts and culture publication based in Minneapolis. You can check out LOST WKND here.

Recently Andrew's story "A Code for Everything" was one of four City of Weird pieces to be adapted into radioplays by Cynthia J. McGean, and produced and directed by Sam A. Mowry of Willamette Radio Workshop. The first live performance of these plays was on stage at the Kiggins Theater in Vancouver, Washington, and the pieces were beautifully adapted and performed. Sam A. Mowry, also a radio actor for WRW, gave an expert performance as Barney the robot dog, voicing him exactly as I have heard him in my head, and pacing the piece beautifully, getting lots of laughs from the audience and bringing the story to a heartfelt close.



The second and final live performance will be this Saturday, May 20, at 3 o'clock at the UFO Fest in McMinnville.

I didn't even know we had a UFO Fest! I'm excited.

In the meantime, here's a taste of Andrew Stark's lovely work:

The child, Barney, names me after himself. He seems timid at first, when his parents bring me back to their 2,350-square-foot Cape Cod at 45.522202° N, -122.618054° W in Laurelhurst. They walk me in and set me down. My olfactometer picks up 1,622 different odors, including jojoba in the woman’s perfume, and alarm pheromones emitting from the child. He peeks from around the corner; I wag my tail and yip. Although I understand fifty languages, my communication is limited to barks, howls, and mammalian semiosis. Eventually, he approaches and strokes my head. The tactile sensors lining my skull allow me to respond, and I close my eyes. Likewise, a number of sensory corpuscles near the surface of Barney’s hand send discriminative sensations traveling up the posterior columns in his spine and into the medial lemniscus of his brainstem, causing the electrical membrane potential of certain cells to rise and fall, opening channels and allowing for an inward flow of sodium ions. Once the sensations reach his medulla oblongata, a number of axons synapse with a number of neurons in his gracile and cuneate nuclei. He smiles.