Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


The writer who doesn’t read books

I was at a book sale and signing event recently, sharing a table with another writer. The bookstore, located in a place with virtually no foot traffic, was near-empty, and the only people who came to our tables were interested in getting our signatures so that they could use them to enter a raffle the store had organized. My table partner and I spent the time talking about the usual things: book marketing strategies, the publishing industry and our current projects.

Eventually, I asked the guy, “What are you reading?”

He shrugged and said, in a tone so casual to be almost dismissive. “Eh, I don’t really read books. I’m just not really into them right now.”

I had no way of preparing myself for this. The guy was young, in his mid-20’s, right at the age when I had discovered writers who would remain favorites for the duration of my life, whose influence on my writing will never evaporate. He was at the age when I—no children or frightening responsibilities in my life—read between two and three hours each day, towers of books on my nightstand, desk and toilet tank. To this day, I don’t ever leave the house without a book in my bag, so I simply couldn’t hide my shock. “You don’t read?”

“I mean, I do research for projects. I like to study, mostly, so I get stuff from the internet. But I just don’t read books right now.”

I started stuttering. Perhaps I appeared offended. The experience was painful, stinging, unfathomable, inexplicable…I felt strain in my stomach and was overwhelmed by an urge to clench my teeth. “So, how do you work on craft without looking at stuff written by people who are better than you?”

“Eh, I get feedback. I’m in a writer’s group.”

“And…these writers. Do they also reject books? Do they ever tell you things like, ‘Your writing reminds me of such and such?’”

“Maybe they like books, but we don’t talk about it. The group is all about writing, so we focus on that.”

I sat with his answer for many minutes, feeling the silence stretching between us like a bungee cord about to kick back with the force of a falling elephant. I imagined the guitarist who did not listen to guitar, the painter who did not look at paintings, the doctor who rejected convalescence, the teacher who had nothing to learn. On any level, in any environment, the sculptor who had no use for sculpture would be considered a buffoon. If a singer came to a singing coach to reveal she had no interest in listening to song, the coach should send her packing. Yet this young man sat cocksure and certain of his intrinsic talent. Reading would be an admission of either weakness or incapacity.

I finally asked him, “How do you rationalize selling books to people when you don’t want to buy or consume books yourself?”

“Yeah, I get that point. I mean, it’s true, I guess, kinda. But I just got so many things on my plate. I don’t need to read someone else’s stuff to sell my own.”

I realized I was the only person to have ever asked this man that question. His education and culture must have reinforced his position as reasonable and rational. Still, I’d have a much easier time with the pharmacist who knows her wares are poisons just as I could get my head around the grocer who sold high fructose corn syrup without ever eating it himself. But…dude…these are books.

Books.

In America, in the 21st century, it’s not just the president and his followers who don’t read. Some writers have also joined their ranks.

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Photo of a contemporary book burning from Wikipedia.


Reading from Ghetto Blueblood

In January, I had the pleasure of reading at Waterline Writers, among the most welcoming communities for writers. The venue at Water Street Studios is worth visiting on its own.

Fans of The Fugue and Finding the Moon in Sugar might be curious to know what I’m working on now. This reading offers a sneak preview. This excerpt comes from a recently completed manuscript, titled Ghetto Blueblood, which I’m currently shopping.

Yes…my beard was shaved. My kids had lice, so I sliced it all off as a precaution.

Enjoy. If you’re an industry professional who stumbled on this and became interested, please contact me.

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Signed copies of The Fugue for the holidays

The good folks at Chicago’s Volumes Bookcafe will ship a signed copy of The Fugue anywhere in the United States. Interested? Just click here and place your order directly with Volumes Bookcafe. You’ll be supporting a small press, an indie writer, a small business and an independent bookstore all in a single click. Proceeds from The Fugue also go toward the education of two beautiful children (mine).

Those of you who’ve read The Fugue know what an absorbing experience it is, and you certainly know someone in your life who’d like to take the trip. If you order before the 13th of December, I might even be able to personalize your order.

Besides The Fugue, Volumes is offering many titles signed by Chicago-area authors. They include Rebecca Makkai, Charles Finch, Megan Stielstra, Camille Bordas, Mary Robinette Kowal, Linday Hunter, Jac Jemc, Giano Cromley, Alex Higley, Melanie Benjamin, Deborah Shapiro, Nate Marshal, Maryse Meijer, Jamie Freveletti, Kevin Coval and others.

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Literature has always been a form of resistance. In the current climate, reading in order to have your point of view irrevocably changed is a radical act. Sharing literature is an act of radical love. Get out there and love.

My secret to avoiding procrastination

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Here’s my video response to the challenge, 30 seconds to impress. I don’t know if I’ve impressed anyone, but it was a fun thing to try making.

Beyond the point I make in this video is that I’ve come to embrace procrastination as part and parcel of the writing process. My meditation practice has revealed some things about procrastination that are actually worth thinking about.

What do I actually do when I procrastinate? Usually, I’m going over writing scenarios in my mind.

Sometimes I’ll waste time on social media. Of course, these days, I’m writing about an issue, racism and bigotry, that I get to study when I look at social media. I follow very few cat video people, and I’ve long-since blocked or unfollowed people and pages consistently full of drivel.

Other times, I’ll procrastinate by listening to music or—I mean this sincerely—by grading student work. It’s easy to say, “I have work to do that pays me money,” when in truth I’ll turn to grading because it’s a careful means to help me avoid some crucial decision or difficult moment my writing is about to reveal.

That’s the most common reason I procrastinate. It’s because my writing is about to show itself to me, and that’s often a terrible moment. What if it sucks? You come face to face with yourself in your writing. If that frightens me more than news about our narcissist president, his unfortunate followers or the general decline of our culture and collapse of our values, I know I’m onto something.

Procrastination, then, is a teacher.

Sneak preview of my next book

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I’m currently working on a memoir about my upbringing in Cicero.

I have shared virtually nothing of the manuscript, neither with family nor friends, and I hardly talk about it with other writers. Earlier this month, on November 7th, I read an excerpt before an audience at Tuesday Funk.

Enormous thanks to Eden Robins and Andrew Huff, the brains and savvy behind the reading series, for having me again. Reading at Tuesday Funk is always a treat.

 


To hear a Republican politician’s prayer

With so many of our leaders once again offering thoughts and prayers following another mass shooting, I find myself wondering what those thoughts and prayers sound like.

What are you praying for, and what does the shape of your prayer reveal about God? When people lie slaughtered, today in Texas, yesterday in Vegas, the day before in Orlando, what words do your hearts send to God? When school children are sliced and diced by weapons designed for no other purpose, how do you shape a prayer?

You cannot possibly have been praying for these shootings to cease. If you’ve been begging Please, Lord, stop the killing—so many times now to have lost count—you should naturally be doubting your faith. That prayer isn’t being answered. If you believe all things happen through God, the slaughters are obviously part of His Great Plan. Your prayer, then, is a hopeless breath, slain silent in the chaos of so many rifle reports and final cries before death.

Do you pray for the souls to find heaven as the bereaved find solace in the wake of our sins? How does God hear that prayer, and only hours after you’ve prayed for further donations from those who profit from America’s addiction to weapons and fear? How does God allow comfort to the grieving when tomorrow yet another parent will lose her child, yet another son his dad, all part of His Great Plan?

Do you pray for the killers to burn forever in hell? Oh, but you couldn’t. That wouldn’t be Christian.

Your prayers aside, honestly, what are these thoughts you keep sending? What are you thinking? Do you imagine the children strewn across the floor of a classroom splattered with blood? Do you keep in mind the portraits of those shot and trampled during a concert? Do you note their names, think of their humanity, wonder what they might have done the next day, had the gunman’s plan run aground? Do you imagine your own loved ones—or, perhaps, you yourself—shredded by the weapons your political allies peddle?

Or do you think the bereaved can now be counted on for votes? Because, let’s face it, in this dangerous country, where every Fate and Fury can buy a gun, they’ll need guns to keep them safe. And who’ll protect their access to guns, the very guns that kept their loved ones safe in school, at the concert, in church and on the dance floor, if not you, messenger of God, disciple of the word? Where would America be without you?

Where would God?

Prayer

Photo of Praying Hands by Albrecht Dürer from Wikipedia.


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Reading this Tuesday: Tuesday Funk, Chicago

If you’re in Chicago this Tuesday, I hope you’ll join me at The Hopleaf for Tuesday Funk #110. The exciting lineup includes Parneshia Jones, Henri Harps, Jeff Ruby and Britt Julious

I’ll be reading an excerpt from my manuscript-in-progress, which I expect to finish by the end of the year. I have not shared a single word of this manuscript with anyone yet, so Tuesday Funk revelers will be treated to a public premier. My current project is a memoir that deals with perceptions of race, and links between racism, trauma and forms of abuse.

The vitals:

Tuesday, November 7th.
Admission is free, must be 21 to attend.
Doors open at 7pm sharp, show starts at 7:30pm. 

5148 N. Clark St., Chicago

Please RSVP on Facebook — and if you haven’t yet, please like Tuesday Funk’s page so you get their announcements right in your stream.

This is me writing at Volumes:

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Photo by Rebecca George.