Wednesday, January 11, 2017

City of Weird Contributor: Adam Strong

I've known Adam Strong and his writing for years. We shared space in Tom Spanbauer's Dangerous Writing workshop through drafts or partial drafts of two novels a piece. One of the best examples of the weird magic that reading submissions blind had on my story-choosing experience for the City of Weird anthology was that I didn't recognize Adam's voice when I read his submission. Later, after I'd accepted the story and was dipping into the editing process, I couldn't believe I hadn't recognized that voice. It was so him. Not only that voice but that story. They say as writers we're always writing one particular story, just in different ways, and the story embedded in "Always" is so Adam Strong that I'm truly amazed I didn't pick it out as his.

What I focused on, when first reading, was the tone of the piece. It's an intensely moody story, with this heavy, relentless music punctuated by the narrator's use of the name of the woman he is addressing, the woman he's telling his story to.

Shaneen, it’s late. Almost closing time at Kelly’s Olympian, and once again I’m waiting for you.

I was struck by how obsessive that music felt, and how that obsession wound around all the lush and particular imagery in the piece.

I know you love Kelly’s because of all the neon. Kelly’s written in an arc, above Olympian, on top of the symbol of a club, wings and 1902, the year the bar opened. This town, Portland, is all neon. I only come out at night, so neon is how I find my way around this place. Neon signs, for off-track betting, or liquor, famous crawfish or silver dollar pizza, a vacancy sign that’s never been on.

Very early on, I realized that I wanted "Always" to be the very last story in the collection. I'd like to tell you why, but that feels way too spoilery. But it was one of the very first decisions I made about the shape of the book, before I knew which story was going to come first, before I knew I was going to break the book into sections and what those sections and themes would be.

Along with "Always," Adam has had stories and essays published in Noisehole, The Class Who Fell in Love with the Man, Our Portland Story, Intellectual Refuge, and elsewhere. In fact, here's one of those elsewheres: Nailed Magazine, with a standalone piece called "Deadbird Redbird," excerpted from his novel Bella Vista

Adam also curates a quarterly reading series called Songbook PDX: a Literary Mixtape, in which writers read stories they've written about music that has terrified or inspired them. I've read at one and sat in the audience for others, and it's a total blast, because after each writer finishes reading, Adam plays the song the essay is based on. It makes for a wonderful night of story and music and the music adds a lovely personal touch to the experience of each reading. The event takes place at American Legion Post 134 in the Alberta Arts District.

Here's a cool blog post fellow City of Weird contributor Sean Davis wrote about his experience writing for Songbook PDX.

Adam does other great things, too. He's a husband and father. He teaches digital arts to high school students. He's a videographer, including an ongoing stint as house videographer for the Burnt Tongue reading series. Some of his work can be found here.

Adam will be reading "Always" for the City of Weird event coming up on Friday, January 13th, at Post 134. The Post is open right now, through Monday, as an emergency warming station for the homeless, so folks interested in coming are encouraged to bring donations of canned food, socks, hats, gloves, or blankets to donate to the guests of the Post.

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