Sunday, November 27, 2016

City of Weird contributor: Jonah Barrett

The note that accompanied Jonah Barrett's submission for City of Weird (which I didn't read until I'd decided to accept the piece, since I was reading submissions blind) contained some really interesting insight into the origins of his story.

While mostly being inspired by all the times I’ve visited Portland with my friends, the story is also based off the Lowline project that’s taking place in New York – an initiative to convert an old abandoned trolley system into a lush underground park using solar technology. The Lowline project was originally called “Delancy Underground.”

"Alder Underground" reads like a transcription of posts taken from a Tumblr blog. I noticed that lot of the old weird fiction tales are written as "found journals," and I thought that a modern day version of that might be akin to something like live-blogging.

Here's some info on the Lowline project. It sounds really cool! Although after you read Jonah's story, you might want to reconsider ever going there...

What really intrigued me, though, was what he said about live-blogging somewhat mirroring the "found journal" aspect of the genre of "weird fiction: (defined as a sub-genre of speculative fiction popular during the late 19th and early 20th century blending supernatural, mythic, and scientific tropes). One of the reasons I fell in love with "Alder Underground" was the voice of that live-blogger, It's a fresh, youthful voice, equal parts sardonic and sweet, and it's the perfect early-Twenty-first century answer to the first person accounts of alien invasions and spirits and monsters popularized by the lovely, pulpy stories in weird fiction.

8:15 a.m. 
We are taking a train down to the City of Roses, or whatever they call it these days. I told Aisha that I’d pay her back for my ticket but I think she knows I’m full of shit. Will buy her a coffee or something as payback. 
#PortlandDaycation #Free triiip #Gonna buy all the bird books

The live-blogging thing was a really fun device, and along with the immediacy that the time stamps brought to the tension, I thought the constant Tumblr commentary by the narrator who is sucked down a water tube into an underground biosphere filled with poisonous newt creatures said a lot about our society today, how we are so obsessed with social media, how we really don't feel like we're living our lives unless we're broadcasting them.

3:41 p.m. 
We have transcended the Weird element and’ve passed on through to the realm of the unreal. I am having a hard time swallowing what just happened—what’s still happening.

Also I’m very surprised that my phone still works.

Here's a totally cool thing: a sketch Jonah made when he was world-building, which he shared with me. It shows the layout of his biosphere and a simple rendering of how it works. I love getting a window into writers' processes, and this was a really neat window into his.

Along with being a writer and filmmaker, Jonah is the editor of The Evergreen State College's literary and arts magazine, Vanishing Point. He also edited the anthology Menagerie, due out next year. It's described as, "a collaboration from over 25 artists and authors presenting 30 illustrated stories and poems about monsters. Subjects include ghost secretaries, lake beasts, anxiety demons, garden mermaids, time travelers, drunk princesses, savage harpies, alien babies, middle school witches, angel hookups, simulated lovers, extinct beasts, and mothers from another dimension."

Jonah says he began work on Menagerie just a month before I put out the call for submissions for City of Weird. Feels kind of like these books are cousins! Keep an eye out in the coming months. Jonah gave me a sneak peek, and I can tell you, it's going to be a really fun book.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

a moment in the day: stain

The back room of Crush Bar is packed for tonight's event of the Burnt Tongue quarterly reading series. Stephen and I sit at a little round table at the back of the small room, he with a burger and a cocktail, I with a shameless plate of nachos and a glass of red, and ahead, through the crowd dappled with flecks from the overhead disco ball, Kelly Jeske stands on stage at the microphone, reading her essay - stories of betrayal, of death, of burial, of rage, of rising up, of life in this new world.

A lot of tonight's essays have been about life in this new world. One particularly favorite piece was entitled "The Morning after the Tangerine Apocalypse." We're preaching to the choir, yes, but it feels good to be here in the midst of all these good people, all feeling the same horror. The evening started with a shout, a communal primal scream that host Daniel Elder led all of us in bellowing up to the rafters or to high heaven or to the abyss, one very satisfying word: fuck.

With all of this, I'm only slightly distracted by the fact that I seem to have dripped wine on my top. One small spot of darker purple on the lighter purple fabric. I thought I'd done so earlier in the evening, only to look down later and see it gone. Then even later, damned if I didn't do it again, and it must be for real this time, because - wait - look down and... what the hell! It's gone again!

Both times this magic happens, I only let it lightly brush across my consciousness because the reading pulls me back in and holds me hard, Kelly Jeske, reading about burial, she and her young daughter burying a dead mouse in the yard. Not as a funeral per se but, "to see deconstruction and transformation that happens deep below the surface."

"The morning after the election," Kelly reads, "she surfaces out of sleep, uncovers her warm brown body, eyes shining. She says she fell asleep before Hilary became president."

A huge tear, one of many tonight, jumps from my eye. It seems to have so much force that it misses my face entirely. It lands, yes, on my shirt. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

City of Weird Contributor: Brian Reid

A few of the stories I chose for City of Weird I chose for their pure, unadulterated fun, and Brian Reid's "How I Got this Job" was one of them. The story is also very weird and very Portland:

It's SantaCon day, and Phil is a cop on the beat, charged with keeping the peace at the corner of Burnside and 23rd. What's SantaCon, you say? Well, maybe you don't say, but in case you do, let's let our narrator, Phil, explain:

What it’s supposed to be is a protest against corporations, false icons, and mind control of the masses—it’s a Portland thing. 

What it is, is three hundred or more drunks dressed in filthy Santa Claus costumes, invading strip clubs, running out on bar tabs, and riding bicycles into cars, through pedestrians, and off bridges—it’s a Portland thing.

As you can tell, Phil isn't too fond of SantaCon. And he seems to have a bit of a hard-boiled attitude about Portland as well. But in the course of this particular day of festivities, who does Phil happen upon, trailed by a crowd of revelers in Santa suits, but the one true Santa!

OK, not quite like that ^. On SantaCon day in Portland, St. Nick is a little different. Here are Phil's words again, and what you need to know about the scene is that Phil and his partner Chauncey are sitting in their patrol car with the lights flashing as the crew of Santas ascends:

Maybe it’s just that all the other Saint Nicks are so dirty, but this Santa is so clean, it’s like he’s glowing. The little sack he’s got slung over his shoulder doesn’t have a wrinkle in it, like it’s been pressed. Even his black belt is shiny. The guy’s so clean, you’d think, ‘Hey, maybe it’s his first SantaCon; maybe he’s new to the game,’ but all the other Saint Nicks are clapping him on the back and jostling each other to get closer to him—this guy’s the head Santa. 

Well, shiny Santa sees our flashing blue lights and holds out his arms to keep the rest of the Santas back. He looks right at us and, swear to God, he’s got a twinkle in his eye.

“Hey, boys,” he says to his Santa minions. “On Christmas day I give toys to all the good girls and boys. What do I do the other three hundred and sixty-four days a year?”

“Raise hell, Santa,” they all start shouting. “Raise hell.”

Santa smiles benignly, motions the common Kris Kringles back behind him, and reaches into his little sack.

Chauncey and I reach for the door handles.

Santa, looking right at us, calls out, “Here’s a present just for you!” He pulls a can of beer out of his sack, hefts it, winds up, and hurls it. We’re out of the car in time to see the beer can in the air. His aim is off, it’s too high, but it stops in mid-air, then shoots straight for the car, and damn if the thing doesn’t accelerate as it goes. It smashes into the windshield so hard, it sets off the airbags.

A beer-toting renegade Santa Claus with super-human strength? Reading submissions blind, I didn't know until the stories were chosen who wrote what, but when the blind was removed, I wasn't surprised to find that "How I Got this Job" was written by Brian Reid. I knew him from my Dangerous Writing fiction group, and he can be very, very funny. Though I hadn't recognized his voice while reading submissions, I was very pleased to find that he was the writer of this very weird and funny story of holiday mayhem with a film-noir-esque narration.

He'll be reading from "How I Got this Job" at the Corkscrew Wine Bar for the Plonk Reading Series' Christmas/winter-themed City of Weird event. That's coming up on December 7th. 

Here's an octopus in a Santa hat.

And Brian's very interesting bio below. Look for more weird and funny stuff from him in the future.

BRIAN REID was weaned on the acerbic dry humor and innate storytelling of the Scottish Highlands. His childhood in Australia colored his writing with a love of the ridiculous and a dedication to irreverence. As a teenager he moved to Chicago, where he learned how to take a punch. He worked at the Federal Reserve Bank for almost twenty years, which taught him perception is more important than reality. Brian escaped the Fed and moved to Oregon to pursue his life-long dream of writing fiction. He plans on writing many novels.

Friday, November 18, 2016

a moment in the day: in line

In line at the store, I hear this conversation, between two men behind me, about the state of the world and their actions within it, Portland style.

Guy 1: I'm going to the protest tonight.

Guy 2: What are you protesting?

Guy 1: Trump's a jackass.

Guy 2: You can't protest that Trump's a jackass.

Guy 1: Sure I can.

Guy 2: You have to protest something that can be changed.

Guy 1: Ah, fair enough.

Guy 2: I forgot to shave this morning.

Guy 1: Mmm.

Guy 2: You going to do No Shave November?

Guy 1: I'm going to do No Shave Trump. I'm not going to shave until he's gone.

Monday, November 14, 2016

City of Weird Contributor: Suzy Vitello

Suzy Vitello's story in City of Weird is one of the weirdest weird stories of all. I have a hard time describing it. There's this sort of corporate ghost that lives on a bridge and appears in the form of a flower and it steals...

OK, I don't even think I can try to explain it without giving away too much, but suffice it to say that narrator Emmy, about to turn 16, is also about to be given a very odd and inappropriate birthday present by her father. She doesn't know what to expect, except that he has promised "fireworks."

Dad handed me the keys to the Leaf and told me to head to the Willamette. “The Hawthorne Bridge,” he said. “We have to get there before midnight.” 

From the passenger seat, Dad kept staring at me the way someone who hasn’t seen a beloved family member in five years would. Finally, I cranked my head and said, “What?” 

“It happens so quickly. One day, you’re holding a bundle of love, and then, just like that, you’re letting them drive the car.” 

I rolled my eyes. Dad was really good at making everything about him. 

At 11:56 we reached the Hawthorne Bridge. Dad said, “Take the inside lane of the deck. We have to park under the penthouse.” 

There were orange cones blocking the middle lanes. “But . . .” I said. 

First thing you should know about being a successful grownup is barriers were made for others.” 

I navigated the Leaf in between the cones, and rumbled along the metal grate. 

Dad said, “Okay, stop.” 

Was this where the fireworks would be? Dad had money, but not that much money. 

I stopped the car in the middle of the bridge, underneath the little house, and Dad said, “Turn off the engine. Stay in the car until you’re instructed otherwise.” 

“By who?” I said. “Instructed otherwise by who?” 

Dad said, “What’s about to happen is for your own good. Remember. I love you.”

I've been a fangirl for Suzy Vitello for a long time. I particularly love the way she writes young characters. She is somehow able to put a teenager on the page without making her feel fake. She gets the angst and the sweetness and the matter-of-factness, all of it rolled up into an authentic voice.

One of the things that Suzy manages to do in her City of Weird story "The Deflowering" is write that teenage voice into a very adult story, one that contains a lot of humor and weirdness but still explores some really heavy subjects like women and girls' ownership of their bodies and the dangers of corporate America.

I'm a big fan of her young adult Empress Chronicles series, which began with the novel of the same name in 2014, followed by The Keepsake last year. The series is written from two different points of view - Liz, a modern-day Portland teen and Elisabeth of Bavaria, a princess from one hundred and fifty years ago. The stories of these two girls are interwoven, and magic and danger abounds. More info is on Suzy's website here.

Suzy also wrote the novel The Moment Before and the short story collection Unkiss Me. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in Mississippi Review, various anthologies, and literary journals. She has been a prize winner in The Atlantic Monthly Student Fiction Contest, and was a recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts grant. She holds an MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles. She'll be reading from "The Deflowering" tonight at Annie Bloom's Books.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

City of Weird Contributor: Doug Chase

When I announced open submissions for City of Weird over a year and a half ago, a lot of friends from my writer's group (Portland's well-known Dangerous Writers, led by the inimitable Tom Spanbauer) were eager to submit pieces. Because I knew friends would submit and I needed to be objective, I vowed to read all submissions blind, and I barred myself from being in the basement (our sacred Dangerous Writing workshop space) when any of the stories were being read and discussed.

This was kind of easy because group began at four, and I always came late because of my work schedule. I'd arrive and head down the back steps, past the banana plant, to the basement door, open it up and peek in. Across the room: a huge table ringed with writers with stacks of pages, a flurry of voices: "Nope! Sorry! Out!" And I'd be back up the stairs to sit on the porch and wait for discussion of the secret story to end.

Here's one really weird thing about the blind that I imposed upon myself. Never once did I recognize a writer's story when I was reading submissions. Even when I knew his or her voice, style, pet themes. Never once. Take Doug Chase for example. I'd been reading and workshopping his novel, had been listening to his very particular voice for years and I had no idea. I remember when my decisions had been cast and publisher Laura Stanfill turned off the blind, and I scrolled through the names and titles of the stories. When I came to the name next to the story "Squatty and Weasel Boy," I think I said, "Wow" right out loud.

Accepting Doug felt slightly problematic as not only were we in a writing group together, but we both work probably ten feet apart from each other at Powell's. It felt a little like accepting my brother. Would it seem like I was playing favorites? But the story was just too perfect for the book. It was creepy and funny and scary and sad and just the right amount of gory, and it did just what I was looking for: it used one story to tell another.

I liked asking myself two linked questions when reviewing stories. 1. What is the story about? 2. What is the story really about? Separating the piece into layers of meaning and depth.

1. What is "Squatty and Weasel Boy" about: a misfit loner who inadvertently kills a homeless man  asleep in the giant industrial trash compactor behind the Burger King where he works, and then, for the next twenty years, is haunted by his ghost.

No one could see Squatty except me. He was always there in my Burger King. He hopped around the seating area, up on tables, stared right in the faces of the customers.

They never knew, except they would complain. It got real cold, and it got real smelly. Bags of garbage smell. Dirty unwashed man smell. Smashed up broken bone bloody smell.

While the customers were distracted by the cold and the stink, Squatty would eat a couple of their fries.

2. What is "Squatty and Weasel Boy" really about: how we are haunted by the connections we fail to make with each other.

I look back at my time at the Burger King and it doesn’t seem real. More like a week than twenty-five years. Like it was me that haunted the place and not just Squatty. I don’t know how it all worked. The rules of ghostology. Because even before I killed him, Squatty was all about me. He haunted me.

Half a ghost. You look at all the homeless people, some of them so far gone. A lot of half ghosts out there that haunt the places where they used to live. Not dead, but not allowed into the real world.

You know what I mean by real world. The world of going to a movie or the mall, sitting in a restaurant with your friends. Not worried about what they think. The world where everything fits, your clothes, your family, everything.

I was half a ghost, too. My whole life half a ghost and I never understood until the end of it.

Another reason I was drawn to "Squatty and Weasel Boy" is that it's based on an actual piece of Portland urban legend. The Burger King where our narrator Weasel Boy works is the one that used to stand on Northwest Broadway and Burnside, and legend has it that it was haunted "by an unknown entity." There was also a story that a homeless man had been crushed to death in the hydraulic trash compactor sometime in the 1980s. Doug took both these stories and mixed them together and ran with it. Here's a picture of that Burger King in its heyday (ghost not shown).

Photo courtesy

I looked on the internet to find a site that talked about the ghost story, but I didn't find anything much other than what I've already said, but I did find this story about Burger King selling Whopper-scented cologne.

You can find stories and essays by Doug Chase online at Nailed Magazine, The Gravity of the Thing, and The Tusk. He will be reading at the City of Weird event at Annie Bloom's on Monday, November 14.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

City of Weird Contributor: Justin Hocking

I think I first met Justin Hocking when we read together at the old Blue Monk bar for one of the launch events for the book Portland Noir back in 2009.

Yes, I just jumped onto an old journal (that was back when I had time to write extensive stuff down about my life) and looks like though he and I both attended the initial launch event at Powell's a few weeks earlier, I only saw him across the room and met him later at the Blue Monk reading. Not that any of this is all that interesting, but I'm glad I peeked, because in looking at the entry for the event he and I shared, I came across a little bit of gushing I'd done to myself about Justin's Portland Noir story, "Burnside Forever":

Photo by Leann O'Rourk
Just opened the book up to see where he read to and got sucked into the story. It’s so beautiful. There’s so much to it, such voice and such twisted reality and the stories are brief and they ribbon around each other and they emerge and they ribbon again. It’s so full of longing.

Notwithstanding the fact that I got a little purple with that description, I really did count that story among my favorites in the book. Here's the first line:

1) Fuck Hawaii.

See what I mean about longing?

I was so excited when Justin's book The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld won the Oregon Book Award. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and dip into this beautiful memoir about ambition, loneliness, uncertainty, the joy of surfing, and his obsession with Herman Melville.

Here's a great review about it from the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld was also selected for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers program, and named as one of “Ten Brilliant Books that Grab You From Page One” by the Huffington Post.

Justin is a co-founder and lead instructor of the Certificate Program in creative writing at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, and also teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University. He has won a Humanitarian Award from the Willamette Writers for his work in writing, publishing, and community building.

I recently had the honor of being asked to read his entire City of Weird story "Vampire" on the air for OPB's Think Out Loud. It's a beautifully understated, funny, poignant tale of an aging vampire. Matthew Korfhage of Willamette Week said, "In one of the collection's best pieces—"Vampire," a deadpan commentary on hipster aging by Justin Hocking—the 'vampire seriously regrets not buying a house in Portland when real estate was affordable, back in 1896.'"

Here's a taste:

Recently the vampire has been struggling with heart palpitations.

When the vampire meets someone new, especially a taller, handsome, more accomplished vampire, he feels a hot sting in his guts, a hammering in his chest. The vampire worries he might come apart, or have a heart attack.

His doctor prescribes him beta blockers. They help with public speaking and social situations, but they give him a piercing headache.

By the way, Justin will be reading from his story for the City of Weird event at Annie Bloom's on Monday, November 14.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

a moment in the day: getting dressed

I'm pawing through the bright colors and stripes and prints in my dresser, looking for a black shirt. Pull out a folded-up black lump, but that's the camisole-like thing Stephen calls a ballet top: too pretty. Pull out another folded-up black lump and get halfway across the room before I unfold and see the Powell's logo on it - too cheery - and turn around again. Finally, at the very bottom of the drawer is the t-shirt I never wear because it's too short and my stomach peeks out if I'm not careful. I grab that and then the ballet top too - two layers means the stomach won't show, but also, I can't have too much black this morning.

Silly drama queen gesture, but I don't know how else to be in the country today.

I know people who depend on the Affordable Care Act.

I know people Trump consistently maligns: people of color, people who came here illegally to escape terrible lives, people with disabilities, women.

It's weird to be a woman and wake up to a Trump presidency. I've always had/fought this worry that I actually am lesser because I'm a woman. I'm smart enough to know this feeling is wrong, but it lives in me anyway, nestled among all the tiny bits of phrase like the aforementioned "drama queen" that help teach and reteach us that we are lesser. I feel this even more so this morning, slightly embarrassed by the prints and occasional ruffles of my girl clothes. I know that my response to that very wrong-headed embarrassment should be to stand tall and flaunt those prints and ruffles and skirts, but this morning, I just want to throw on a black shirt and sweater, my black rain jacket, take the dog out and disappear in the dark.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

City of Weird contributor: Jonathan Hill

Jonathan Hill was one of the very few contributors I invited outright to give me a piece for City of Weird. This is, mind you, after I had done a lot of hinting (a lot) and a lot of hoping and, when the submissions period closed, discovered that he hadn't submitted anything.


Just kidding.

I wanted two specific things when I hinted (shamefully) at Jonathan Hill. First, I wanted a graphic story. Not graphic as in too much sex or violence, but as in graphic novel, you know, a comic story. Not comic as in humorous but as in... sigh, what do you call these things? But I wanted one. An anthology isn't Portland without one.

Second, I wanted a Jonathan Hill story. I've followed his career and have loved his stylized imagery and his quirky imagination for a long time.

Google him and you discover out that Jonathan Hill, also known as Baron Hill of Oareford, is a British Conservative politician and former European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, and... um...

But the real Jonathan Hill is a cartoonist and illustrator who teaches at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. He graduated as valedictorian of the Savannah College of Art & Design in 2003 with a degree in Sequential Art, and I have no idea what that is, but I'm sure it's something amazing. Since then, he's been freelancing for all sorts of clients including Hollywood Entertainment, the Viet Nam Literature Project, the Willamette Week, Fantagraphics Books, Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics,, Roar Comics, and Sagacity.

In 2011 his first graphic novel Americus was published by First Second Books. The writing was done by M. K. Reed and the art by Jonathan. OK, get ready because I'm about to throw down a bunch of awards and nominations for this book. It was chosen as an ABC New Voices 2011 title, a Fall 2011 Junior Library Guild Premier Selection, and was winner of the NAIBA's Carla Cohen Free Speech award, becoming the first graphic novel to win the award. It was also nominated by the YALSA as a 2012 Best Graphic Novel for Teens, The first chapter of Americus was published in the Papercutter comics anthology and was nominated for an Ignatz Award.

Jonathan has illustrated for lots of great projects, but here's a favorite of mine: the sweet, tiny picture book My Brother the Dragon, published by Tugboat Press and featuring art by Jonathan and writing by Galen Longstreth.

I like to give a little excerpt from each author's story to give a tiny taste of the voice and imagination that I fell in love with, but that's hard to do with a very short comic tale. But suffice it to say that Jonathan Hill knows about spacemen, and in his beautifully-stylistic classic-with-a-twist  tale in City of Weird, when these guys come..

Portland may start out like this...

But it ends up a little more like this.

Jonathan will be showing off his work at the City of Weird Wordstock pop-up reading on Saturday, November 5, at one o'clock, in the Stevens Room.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

City of Weird contributor: Kevin Sampsell

Having a story by Kevin Sampsell in City of Weird has a funny sort of deja-vu to it for me. A very sweet deja-vu, because seven years ago, we were in a similar situation with the roles reversed when he accepted my story for the collection he was editing, Portland Noir. I very much had Portland Noir in mind when mulling the theme for City of Weird - both play with popular, often-deemed-campy genres, both are centered around Portland.

Though he and I worked for the same giant city-block-sized bookstore, I really didn't know Kevin when he accepted my story back then, but in the years since we've become friends and I've been a great admirer of his work, including his memoir A Common Pornography, and his novel This is Between UsBoth books are made up of lovely, quirkily-written bite-sized pieces that offer a glimpse of insight and then end, leaving you hungry for the next and the next - making both books so hard to put down even if it's late and your eyes are tired - and these fleeting, hungry glimpses finally coalesce to give you a detailed, profound and surprising picture by the end of each book. His City of Weird story "In Transit" does the same thing.

Along with these books, there are so many others that Kevin has his hands in, including the short story collections Beautiful Blemish and Creamy Bullets, the collection he edited called The Insomniac Reader, and A Common Pornography, the 2003 chapbook of the same name as his 2010 memoir and said to be a "memory experiment," recording details from his childhood.

But that's not all. His fiction and essays have been published in numerous places including Quick Fiction, LIT, Hobart, Opium Magazine, McSweeney's, Nerve, Failbetter,[3] Pindeldyboz, Night Train, Poets & Writers Magazine, Relix, Portland Monthly, The Rumpus, Best Sex Writing 2010, Best American Essays 2013, and the Associated Press.

But that's not all. He's also the publisher of Future Tense Books, one of the oldest micropresses in the country, publishing terrific stuff like Monica Drake's The Folly of Loving Life, Chloe Caldwell's Legs Get Led Astray, and Wendy Ortiz' Excavation. His next book, I Sing the Song by Meredith Alling is out this month.

But that's not all. Kevin is also an accomplished collage artist. You can check out his work on his website here.

He's got a show up right now at Rudy's Barbershop on SE Division. You can check it out through the month, and there will be an event on the 17th. The Beauty of Passing Through.

But that's not all. OK, that's all. OK, no, it's for sure not all, but jeez, it's a lot!

I find it so interesting that Kevin is doing collage now, because that's exactly what his writing seems to do - take small pieces that feel disparate and set them down next to each other, arrange them in a way that creates this odd, quirky, fascinating whole.

Last year, City of Weird was included in the curriculum of professor Thea Prieto's Introduction to Horror Fiction class at PSU, One of the students wrote a short piece on Kevin's story "In Transit" for the school's Chiron Journal. That piece is here - and note, there are spoilers.

Here's a little taste of the story.

I never look anyone in the eyes on the MAX train. The last time I did, a man talked at me for the next thirty minutes about his lost cat. He kept stressing the fact that the cat had yellow paws, as if that was a rare thing. Maybe it is. I don’t know. I’m not going to Google it or anything. 

Another time, a guy with long hair, a denim jacket, and a big crystal on a necklace said he didn’t like the way I was looking at him. I was only looking at his necklace, so I tried to be nice and said I liked his crystal. He took his crystal off and put it in his pocket, as if punishing me. I couldn’t look at his pretty crystal anymore. “I’m a window,” he said. “Look at me like I’m a window.” 

I looked at the window.

Kevin will be reading at our City of Weird event for Wordstock's Lit Crawl® on Friday. November 4, at 7 pm at the Oregon Ballet School.