What Will Fill the Void? pt. 4: Ink Press Productions

In these dark days of an Origami Zoo Press on the brink of closure, many of you may have been clawing at your bookshelves, screaming at your stucco ceilings, wondering what on earth will ever be able to fill the void when we go. It is with that in mind that we embark on a multi-part interview series entitled WHAT WILL FILL THE VOID? wherein we spotlight other small and/or independent presses we love (and hope you will love too!). You can check out part one, with Michael J. Seidlinger of Civil Coping Mechanisms, here, part two, with Justin Lawrence Daugherty of Jellyfish Highway, here, and part three, with Leesa Cross-Smith, here.

Today we chat with Amanda McCormick and Tracy Dimond of Ink Press Productions! IPP comes highly recommended by our very own Laura van den Berg, who has a beautiful letter press printed novel excerpt available from IPP!

Origami Zoo Press: Who/what/where is Ink Press Productions?

Ink Press Productions: Ink Press Productions (IPP) is a collaborative effort based in Baltimore created and directed by Amanda McCormick and Tracy Dimond.

IPPlogoOZP: What are your goals as a press? You put an emphasis on “blurring the lines of writing, visual, and performance art.” How do you go about doing this?

IPP: Tracy and I are an ambitious pair in that we have many evolving goals for IPP. I think maybe the most important goal we have is sticking with our inclination to collaborate no matter how the “structure” of the press might change over the years. Our emphasis to blur the lines of genre in writing, visual, and performance art really comes from our collaborative process. We really try to disarm our pride and embrace each other’s creativity, and allow the art to go where it needs to go.

To deconstruct the phrase, “disarm our pride,” approaching each opportunity and project with a sense of openness, not relying on past success, has allowed us to maintain a flexibility. This is part of how we blur expectations. Precedent doesn’t decide what we do, an interest in creating something decides what we do.

OZP: What do you like about handmade books? How did you get involved in book arts/letter pressing? What are some of the benefits and challenges of that model?

IPP: There is a lot to like about handmade books – the freedom of non-traditional design, the chance to problem solve in a physical way, the ability to use non-traditional material, and the fact that they are visually interesting not-typical book-objects. From a publisher’s perspective, producing handmade books is a great way to get the writer involved in the design process. The handmade book-object is another way to communicate “book.” It speaks to the fact that the books we create are deliberate at every step. In this, we are able to further blur these lines of genre. Because we are so physically and conceptually attached to the book, we are able to constantly think how our books are performing while they are visual and literary entities. With the publication of handmade books, we are able to connect the body to our art in a unique and beautiful way.

In a way, the fact that we got involved with book arts and letterpress right around the time that Tracy and I met is the reason IPP came into being. Instead of adding to the stacks of perfect bound (and yes, equally important and often beautiful) books, we knew from the beginning that we were after something different.

Most of the benefits for us also exist in the challenges. Producing handmade publications can be complicated. We have to consider monetary resources as well as human power and the fact that certain types of books do require quite a bit of precision and craft – how do we play into our talents and work with our limitations? I that in system of restraint, the bud can really bloom.

OZP: What do you recommend for a new reader? What’s the ideal Ink Press “starter kit”?

IPP: We actually sell an IPP “gift pack” that includes our most recent publications, plus an assortment of handmade journals, prints, and ephemera. Besides that, I would encourage people to check out How to have a day by Megan McShea and All The People by Stephanie Barber (both included in “gift pack”). We published both of these earlier this year – they are great examples of our collaborative effort and genre-blurring sensibilities!

OZP: What’s in the works for the near (or distant) future?

IPP: O the future! the pure conglomerate of time we can never determine since it is always out of reach though we can hope to do everything right. Over the past three years we have been working hard to establish IPP, to give it focus but also enough flexibility to support our experimental art making. Of course, we hope to keep this going – which means we are doing a lot of foundational organizing in the near future. We want to be conscious of how IPP can be a sustainable endeavor, a life if you will.

Something we’ve agreed on in conversation is that “It’s still kinda strange to think that we have this thing that we built just because.” Both of our lives have changed dramatically in the three years since we established IPP. We’re still looking to create books that represent work we feel is vital to the world, but we’ve been moving a lot towards creating experiences for people. We hosted a genre bending variety show in late September. We paired twelve Baltimore area artists, then asked them to create a 5-10 minute performance. We’d love to do more of that – bring elements from different disciplines to a one of a kind performance. This takes a lot of time, but it’s so worth it.

As for projects, right now we’re really focused on promoting the press and our publications – we want our books and prints in the hands of people – this is where they thrive. Part of our efforts to do this is providing some deals for holiday shoppers. In addition to that, we’re excited to be pairing up with The Walter’s Art Museum on two book related events in 2016. We’re also planning to publish a couple books in the coming year and we’ve got a collaborative issue of espresso ink with Infinity’s Kitchen in the works. There are probably many things we haven’t thought of yet, I’m sure! Stayed tuned / Join our mailing list for updates.

OZP: Given unlimited resources, what dream project would you love to undertake?

IPP: An artist hostel-house-studio-print shop-event space! One of my longtime dreams has been to direct such a multi-faceted organization that not only supports collaboration and genre-blurring art, but also gives opportunities for artists of various backgrounds to come together with their skills and labor and create a family. One of the things we hold in high regard is the idea that money isn’t the only way to create a value system. In the ideal version of this dream project, we would operate collectively and provide artistic resources for people who might not have money but are able to contribute to the organization in other ways.

One of the projects we’d love to do in a space like that would be A GIANT HOUSE BOOK. It would be amazing to take an entire house structure, paint all the walls white, then allow people to contribute their stories by using their entire bodies to paint. Things would be constantly blurred or added to. I would love for this to be an ongoing project. Visiting artists in the hostel could perform site-specific work in this book-house. This brings the art and artist to a very personal level, something Joseph Young and Amanda discussed at the closing talk for his gallery exhibit.

***

Amanda McCormick is an outdoorsy, genre-blending artist. Some of her roles are printer, poet, performer, writer, and bookmaker. She is also the founding curator of Ink Press Productions in Baltimore.

Tracy Dimond co-curates Ink Press Productions. Her latest chapbook, I Want Your Tan, was released in May by Ink Press. She is also the author of Grind My Bones Into Glitter, Then Swim Through The Shimmer (NAP 2014) and Sorry I Wrote So Many Sad Poems Today (Ink Press 2013).

Ink Press Productions (IPP) is a collaborative effort based in Baltimore. Our mission is to blur the lines of genre in writing, visual, and performance art through the publication of handmade books, manual printing, and experimental events. Check us out online inkpressproductions.com.

AWP sale for those of us at home

Not attending AWP this year? That’s okay. You can still get our books on sale…and then they’ll arrive right on your door! You don’t event have to go through airport security with them.

Grab any of our longer fiction chapbooks for $5 each–the same deal you’d get at our table in Minneapolis!


Titles


Or, you want a couple of our books at once? How about a 2-for-1 sale? Grab any two of our titles for $8!


Twofer: List 2 titles below


 Just because you’re not going to AWP doesn’t mean you have to miss out on getting some great books–and for cheap!–in the convenience of your own home. No awkward networking conversations necessary.

 

Holiday Sale at the Zoo

Origami Thanksgiving

Enjoy your turkey leftovers with some great literature!

To celebrate Thanksgiving and Lena Bertone’s forthcoming chapbook Behind This Mirror, we’re having a special sale. Preorder Lena’s book and get any other OZP title for free! Please note: purchasers of the two-for-one deal will receive their books in January when Behind This Mirror is released.


Title of 2nd Free Book


Want more OZP books for the upcoming holidays? We know you’ve got a lot of friends to shop for. Order any 5 OZP books for $20!


5 for $20: List 5 titles below


Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Zoo!

 

The Anne Valente Interview (pt. 2)

[This is the second part of a two-part interview. Check out the first part here!]

Anne ValenteOZP: There are multiple stories in the collection that deal with sexual violence (“By Light We Knew Our Names,” “Minivan,” and, on a somewhat smaller scale, “A Taste of Tea”). Tell me a little bit about what role that plays in your work. Notably, the latter two stories are narrated by men, and I want to know what led you to these stories, in which the narrators come to realizations about certain violences they have either committed or been complicit in. “Minivan,” for instance, could’ve easily been narrated by Jane, but it’d be a completely different story, of course. And in a perhaps unrelated, perhaps not, question, why did you decide to name the collection after “By Light We Knew Our Names”? It’s one of the darker stories in the collection, if not the darkest, but it also, to me, feels like the most important. I’m just curious about how you see it representing/interacting with the collection as a whole.

AV: While writing these stories, I think I was coming to terms with some of my own realizations about gender violence – five years ago, when these stories were written, I don’t know if the same conversations were happening about microaggressions and rape culture. I don’t know that I had the language to properly identify what I was experiencing while walking down the street or sitting in classrooms or even socializing at supposedly civilized dinner parties. Exploring this violence in part through male narrators felt like an exercise in understanding another side of this, but also perhaps in broadening the exploration of gender violence beyond the experience of women. Other violences appear in this book too – violence against animals, against the planet – and I don’t think these things are disconnected from one another. Some of these stories explore violence as a means of simply identifying it and naming it, and I think the collection’s title comes from this sense of self-identification, of finding a voice.

OZP: I see place doing a lot of work very subtly in this collection—often it’s essential to the story (as in “By Light We Knew Our Names” or “Everything That Was Ours”), but a lot of times, while it doesn’t factor into the plot itself, it provides a lot of interesting and necessary texture, particularly in the natural landscapes that surround the characters. What role do you feel place plays in your stories?

AV: Place is essential to my fiction. I feel very tied to landscape as a human being, and by extension, I suppose my stories do too. Given the magic in some of these stories, I feel that there’s so much magic in nature – we have scientific explanations for why trees turn or why birds migrate, but I still feel like there’s some mystery in this. These things are nothing short of miraculous. Beyond the wondrous qualities of landscape and nature, I think rich description of place also connects to this line between the tangible and the intangible in fiction. In many cases, I believe that less description allows for the reader to fill in the details, and in the cases of horror or magic, to provide a far more imaginative reading or explanation than the author ever could. But in other cases, abundance of description can highlight and enhance the unknown. Setting and place work this way for me, as tangible markers of environment and landscape. We know exactly where we are – what kind of grass we’re sitting on, what kind of light streaks the sky – but we have no concrete explanation for why war occurs, why sexual violence exists, why a strange sound breaks through our windows every night. I appreciate the grounding presence of place in the face of the unknown.

ByTheLightWeKnewOurNames_ValenteOZP: I’m a big music collector—I think I’m one of the only five people left who still buys CDs—and I tend to think of collections of stories like albums in that I’m very interested in the sequencing of stories, what stories open and close the collection, what are the centerpieces (or “singles,” if you will). While they overlap somewhat in tone and ideas, your stories here are very different and follow very different people, and it seems like a different order could change how we read it entirely. How did you go about sequencing the stories in the collection? Was it easy to pick first and last stories? Were there stories you knew needed to be together (or, alternately, stories that needed to be spaced out)?

AV: I definitely thought hard about the order of these stories. Originally, the stories progressed from childhood to adulthood in terms of their narrators, settings and content. This order still prevails in the collection – we begin with the children in “Latchkey” and end with a middle-aged couple in “Mollusk, Membrane, Human Heart” – but I thought much harder in finalizing the order about the particulars of this progression. For instance, “Until Our Shadows Claim Us” was originally placed near the beginning because it’s about a group of children who believe they’ve summoned a neighborhood phantom. In revising the collection’s order, however, I realized that this story is far more elegiac and not childlike at all. The collective narrators are retrospectively remembering their childhood from the vantage point of adulthood, and with great grief for what they’ve lost. For this reason, this story felt like it should come near the end. I made similar choices with other stories. Beyond large-scale concerns of narration and content, I also looked at the final lines of stories as they transitioned into the opening lines of the next, watching out for matches in the patterns, voice and sound of the language.

OZP: What are you reading right now? Anything you recommend?

AV: I just finished Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped, which was haunting and devastating. I couldn’t put it down. I read it in one day, something I haven’t done in ages. I’m also reading John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van and Jac Jemc’s A Different Bed Every Time.

OZP:And finally, what have you got in the works? What’s next for Anne Valente? Do you have any new stories in lit mags we should check out?

AV: I’m currently working on a series of short stories about the city of St. Louis – reimaginings of the city’s history and major events, as well as continued focus on place through research into Missouri trees, birds, wildlife, weather. One of these stories just appeared in The Normal School, and another is forthcoming in One Story within the next few months. I also recently completed a novel about a series of mysterious house fires that erupt in a community after a school shooting. A brief excerpt of this is out in the newest issue of Threadcount.

Fortnight of Valente: By Light We Knew Our Names sale

ByTheLightWeKnewOurNames_ValenteWith October comes the fantastic, exciting release of Anne Valente’s debut collection, By Light We Knew Our Names from Dzanc. We hope you’re as excited as us to get your hands on this book, and just in case you needed a little extra push, we’re offering Valente’s fantastic OZP chapbook, An Elegy for Mathematics, for only $4 when you purchase By Light We Knew Our Names.

Simply email us a receipt showing you’re purchased By Light We Knew Our Names, then use the PayPal button below to get your discounted copy!

Please note: any orders received without a receipt indicating a purchase of BLWKON will be ignored and refunded. If you want to buy An Elegy for Mathematics at regular price, go here. We also still have a few UnArchived Special Editions left, which includes audio from the book, an ebook version of the text, digital copies of all the artwork for your social media fix and bonus story-inspired artwork, notes and packaging. Get ‘em before they’re gone!





SUPER BRIAN OLIU 64: The Interview (World 1-1)

To celebrate the release of Leave Luck to Heaven, we sat down with Brian Oliu to discuss the happy occasion of his first full-length book. We conducted our interview at the origami turtle sanctuary, where Brian and I glued paper spikes on the paper turtles to make them look like origami Koopalings, and Brian gave me the scoop on book sequencing, Missed Connection crossover commercial, and, of course, Nintendo. And stay tuned for part 2 of the interview later this week!

And if you aren’t already sold on Oliu’s work, read this interview and then check out our fortnight-and-a-half sale (goes ‘til Monday!), where you can get Level End free with purchase of either Leave Luck to Heaven or another Origami Zoo title.

Brian Oliu Approaches!Origami Zoo Press: Reading Leave Luck to Heaven, especially after having read a bunch of these pieces individually as well as inLevel End, I was really interested in the sequencing. I often think of collections the same way I think of albums, so it was fun to pick up on threads that carried throughout or little connections between the pieces. It was also interesting to note where the sequencing differed from Level End. What was your thought process when ordering the pieces in this book? Some are obvious, like “The Final Boss” at the end, but I’m curious to hear how you went about putting the whole thing together.

Brian Oliu: I always had a strange idea of how it went together: I knew that I wanted to put “Super Mario Bros” as the first one, because of it being the most recognizable game. The rest of it was kind of scattershot, though I knew I wanted certain ones to be towards the end, as they had a bit more ‘finality’ to them, at least in how I created them. Some of the pieces that I wrote later on were towards the end, solely because I think I had a better idea of what the project was at that point. Whenever I set out to work on a larger project, I never really know what it is until I get there (as Didion says, I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking), so I think the project was more concrete when I wrote, say, ‘Blaster Master’. Mike also helped with some of the sequencing as well: he was able to see connections between pieces that I couldn’t necessarily see, so that was extremely helpful.

OZP: Your work is very non-narrative (much like a lot of early video games), so how do you see all these pieces fitting together beyond the initial conceit? Should this be read as a cohesive unit? Or could someone pick and choose pieces to read individually? Should we assume the speaker is always the same? I don’t want to assume it’s you simply because you write nonfiction—often it seems as if you are speaking as the games personified.

BO: There are certainly moments where it seems a bit more cohesive beyond “hey! This is a book about videogames!” Obviously there is a theme of death here, of growing up, of trying to make sense of the world through this other world that is inhabited while we play games. The way I see everything is that all of these things that I’ve written about are true: whether they are in my own life or in the “game life” they do exist. The artifice exists in the blurring between the two: all writing is nonfiction in the same way that all writing is fiction—I remember things differently than other people, which makes it true, but I am still crafting something out of it that isn’t exact, which makes it false. The speaker embodies all of these things: there’s me as a child, there’s me playing games as a child, there’s me looking back at those two people, there’s me trying to embody those two people. It’s pretty wild—I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of avatar lately, as I’ve been working on this book about NBA JAM; that in games we are always trying to take the form of someone much larger in life than we are, but what happens when the game is over? What effect does that have when we disconnect?

OZP: What’s the ideal way to read Leave Luck to Heaven? All at once? Little by little? Read aloud? Given infinite time and resources, I’d love to actually play all of the games as I read along…

BO: My work is pretty exhausting to read! I don’t know if someone can necessarily sit down and read it in one sitting: it’s a giant chunk of text that bounces around a whole lot. I think someone can sit down and read the pieces individually and still get the whole concept & idea. Ideally, you should do what I did when I was writing, & play the game for a bit, try to beat it, & then read the essay. I had a lot of fun when the individual pieces were being published where I recorded myself talking over a speed-run. I felt like that was a pretty interesting way to “take in” the piece. If anyone wants to play the game that I’m writing about, feel free to call me & I’ll read it to you over the phone.

bookcover_final_2AOZP: The fact that you write nonfiction, and very explicitly say it’s nonfiction even though you’ve published pieces under other genres (just about every genre at this point, I think), also made me kind of see connections between this and your other work, particularly the Missed Connections chapbook, So You Know It’s Me. I’m thinking specifically of “Donkey Kong,” where a girl with a scarred wrist is mentioned alongside the number twenty-two, and “Gradius,” where everything is falling into the river. Do you see these works as connected? Do you see all your works as kind of existing in the same universe? Obviously, they are essays, so aspects from your life might always repeat, but it was really exciting to imagine all the crossover potential and all the ways your different works might interact.

BO: I think that when you write memoir/nonfiction these worlds have to exist in the same universe: I live in the same town, I have done the same things, I am still the same writer. It’s funny—we love finding those connections in fiction: I think of how there’s a belief that all Pixar films operate within the same universe, but the same should be true in nonfiction. If I’m not mistaken, I wrote those pieces around the same time—I started So You Know It’s Me as a “break” from writing Leave Luck to Heaven; to try something new & to stop thinking about videogames so much. One of the first things I tell my students is that you don’t just get one chance to write about what happened to you: you can write about that in different forms for the rest of your life. So, it makes sense that a lot of these things go together. This also just gave me a fantastic idea for a “Brian Oliu Remix” project, ala John Barth’s LETTERS, or Daft Punk’s Alive.

OZP: It was also interesting to me to read these because we’re a video game generation or two removed… My first console was a Nintendo 64 (though I played plenty of SNES at friends’ houses), but the NES was before my time really, so a lot of the time reading I was imagining how these essays would be different (and similar) if they were written about N64 games, or even the current generation of games. It seems like a lot of the fun, surprising aspects of your work are really influenced by how early games often had confusing or nonsensical aspects since game designers were still kind of figuring out how to make them (and graphical limitations often meant bizarre choices had to be made). I think I read that Mario only had a moustache in the original Donkey Kong because it was too hard to draw a mouth! And that’s crazy to me, because that moustache is so iconic. But that’s the kind of thing that seems emblematic of the logic of your essays, which often feel like the confusion of being a kid and growing up mashed-up with the confusion of early video games. As games get more realistic, they might be harder to use as artifacts to make sense of real life things that don’t make sense (if that makes sense). How do you think those early games influenced this book?

BO: I think part of the reason this book works is because these games didn’t have much narrative beyond “Save the princess! Save the world! Go right!”—I will share with you my greatest influence in writing this book, which is this YouTube video of a kid creating an absolutely insane narrative while playing Sonic the Hedgehog. The kid was completely dissatisfied with the story that was given to him (which sucks, let’s be real), and so he crafted this absolutely batshit movie trailer (complete with Bon Jovi) to take the place of what is occurring on the screen. In a way, the older videogames were like novels: they asked the reader to create the world on their own. Newer videogames, we hear, are just like feature-length films: not just because of the graphical prowess or the idea of dramatic storytelling, but because they take away that interaction from the player. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do love the idea of modern videogames as entertainment medium, but I still miss the basicness and strangeness of the 8-bit era.

Super Brian Oliu 64: The Interview will return… on Thursday!

FORTNIGHT OF OLIU

bookcover_final_2ATWO-FOR-ONE SALE

You may have noticed that pretty much every Origami Zoo Press writer is running things this year—everybody’s got books coming out, snagging huge publications and just generally doing good things in the writing world. We hope to spotlight all of our writers this fall, but over the next two weeks, we’ll be focusing on Brian Oliu, whose first full-length book, Leave Luck to Heaven, was just released by Uncanny Valley Press.

As you may know, Origami Zoo Press published Level End, which we think of as kind of a playable demo of Leave Luck to Heaven. We also are running low on copies Level End, and we want to put it in the hands of anyone who doesn’t have it yet, so: for the next two weeks, order any print Origami Zoo Press title and get a copy of Level End free! Alternately, if you bought Leave Luck to Heaven, email your receipt to origamizoopress@gmail.com along with your mailing address and we’ll send you Level End at no cost!

We all need a little more Oliu. Take advantage of this offer before you lose your last life!

Important Origami Update!

Origami-Arthropod-Press

If you read David Orr’s New York Times review of an up-and-coming poet’s debut collection, you may have caught a half-familiar name:

…if James Franco were just another M.F.A. student struggling to catch the attention of the two part-time employees of Origami Arthropod Press, he’d probably be reading this piece and fuming about all the attention being given, yet again, to James Franco

No, I’m not talking about James Franco, whose name does sound vaguely familiar now that you mention it. I mean Origami Arthropod Press! Now, it may seem like a simple nod to tiny presses everywhere that just so happens to obliquely (or coincidentally) reference us specifically, but in reality, Mr. Orr had inside information.

Yes, it’s true: due to our lawsuit with the origami animal instruction book Origami Zoo, we’ve been forced to change our name to Origami Arthropod Press. We’d like to thank Mr. Orr for the shoutout, even if it let the cat out of the bag a little too soon!

We’d also like to emphasize that James Franco need not fume! He has our attention! We’ll take this time to also announce that we plan to only publish chapbooks penned by Mr. Franco from now on. Mr. Franco, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome to submit your next 27 manuscripts at origamizoopress@gmail.com.

Origami Arthropod Press: a press that seeks the best and most innovative work from both established and emerging James Franco.

Camp OZP: Day 2

Hey there, campers! Head Counselor Sam Martone here, with another installment of Camp OZP!

IMG_6730The next activity in my formally playful fiction workshop deals with the epistolary form. Stories and novels in the form of letters have existed for as long as there’s been a word for fiction (probably longer!), but it’s still a form that sees a lot of action today, despite declining prominence of snail mail in this age of direct messages and Skype calls. Just check out this fantastic story: “P.S.” by Jill McCorkle.

Here’s the first paragraph:

DEAR DR. LOVE,
By now you have gotten several letters from me and this will probably be the last. I don’t care that you never respond. In fact, I’m glad that you don’t, because if you did, a response would show a weakness in your professional ethics. In all my other letters, I have been trying to explain myself a little better because I always felt that maybe you liked Jerry more than you liked me. And what about human nature makes us all want to be the one liked the most? In those other letters I was still trying to convince you that I was the right one, but the truth is that now so much time has passed I just don’t give a shit. The right/wrong stalemate is what keeps people in your office for way too long. I thought I might settle things in my mind by writing you this final letter. And I will tell the truth—not that I haven’t told the truth in the past, I have, but let’s just say I also lied.

As you keep reading, ask yourself: what language does she use to imitate the letter form? Are there any moments that break from that or violate the form? How does she handle revealing information without making it feel like blunt force trauma exposition? What does the voice tell you about this character? I like to point out certain things to my students. For instance, right off the bat, even if we don’t know who this Dr. Love is, we know she’s written to him several times before with no response. I also like to point out that she calls this her final letter. If we were to map this story out on the traditional plot diagram, the fact that she says this is her final letter is our “one day.” It’s what makes this letter the story worth telling.

IMG_9419Today’s exercise is best to do with a partner. Each of you, individually, write a story in the form of a letter from one character to another. The writer of the letter has got to want something specific. This can be something tangible (a new car, a cup of sugar) or less so (love, to be left alone). Focus on how you can use the voice to make this character distinct. Avoid clunky exposition—remember that the person your character is writing to presumably already knows who he or she is, so no “As you know, I am your uncle.” Make the letter about a page long. Then, trade with your partner, and write as the letter-receiver character responding to the first character. Happy writing!

Camp OZP: Day 1

Hello everyone! Origami Zoo Editor Sam Martone here, writing from deep in the wilderness of Vermont. I’ve managed to get a wifi signal by building a router out of birch bark, twine, and an old bottle cap, but who knows how long it’ll last, so I’m here to give you a look at what I’m doing up in these beautiful rolling green mountains for a new weekly blog event called CAMP OZP!

IMG_0164Two nights a week, I teach a workshop on formally playful fiction, so in addition to the accompanying pictures included mainly to make you jealous, I’ll be recreating offering some summer reading/writing prompts based on what I teach. As an introduction, we’ll be talking about Craig’s List Missed Connections stories, as inspired by Brian Oliu. We usually begin the workshop by posing the question “What is a story?” Does it have to follow the classic Freytag’s triangle we learn in English class? Does it have to have dialogue? Characters? It’s worth noting that Oliu’s Missed Connections are lyric essays, although they can be read as either fiction or poetry, further complicating how we think of stories and how we define fiction.

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Now for your Camp OZP writing prompt: Go to Craig’s List Missed Connections for your hometown and read some, then read these Missed Connections by Brian Oliu. Look at what language and formatting Oliu adopts from the real Missed Connections. Then look at where his pieces depart from the “actual” Missed Connections. Now, pick a location in your hometown and write your own Missed Connection! You can try to replicate some of Oliu’s rhythm or language, or you can take it an entirely new direction. Happy writing!

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Interested in seeing all the Missed Connections by Brian Oliu? Order So You Know It’s Me from tiny hardcore press! Need even more from Brian Oliu? Get his new book, Leave Luck to Heaven, from Uncanny Valley Press!