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.


Take my Prose Writing Workshop, 2018

Following the super-successful writing course that occurred last year, I’m teaching another prose writing workshop this spring. This time I’m changing a few things around, including the time of the week and venue. I’m excited about the details:

The Gint Aras Prose Writing Workshop
Wednesdays, April 4-May 23, 7:00-8:30
L!ive Cafe and Creative space
163 S Oak Park Ave, Oak Park, IL 60302
Cost: $440

Interested parties should register quickly. Last year’s workshop slots filled in after only a week. The way you register is by sending me the tuition via PayPal. The first eight people to send me tuition and their names will be registered. Because there are limited slots, and because I need to get organized, all registration purchases are final.

The prose workshop will also feature a reading and presentation of our works, held right at L!ve Cafe. The reading preparation will include coaching in public presentation skills, reading practice, pacing and contact with the audience.

If you’re stumbling on this blog for the first time,  you can learn more about me here.

My workshop is not based on any expectation I have of what writing “should be” or any aesthetic I favor. Instead, I use a method that asks writers to consider their goals and what methods or techniques best help achieve them. While I write literary fiction and essays myself, I’m a hungry reader and have plenty of experience with genre fiction, memoir, philosophy, etc. The only limitation is that participants write in prose. I will not offer commentary on poetry.

A word about L!ve cafe:

We’re renting the space after hours, which means the whole cafe is entirely ours! This includes the services of a barista who will serve amazing coffee, tea and food. L!ve Cafe is conveniently located steps from the Green Line (Oak Park Station) in beautiful Oak Park.

If you have any questions, please email me.

o

 


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.

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.

 


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Reading tonight in New York!

I’m in New York for tonight’s episode of Pen Parentis, the New York literary salon for writers who are also parents. Fitting for this hot day, our theme is “Love”. How did the organizers know I don’t write about anything else?

I’m joined by the mega-talented and enormously successful Jennifer Probst and Marcy Dermansky. The reading is in the ultra-swank Andaz Hyatt on Wall Street, where literary nerds rub elbows with masters of the universe. In the meantime, Jennifer, Marcy and I will entertain questions about how parents can carve out time to write.

Copies of The Fugue will be available for purchase, and I’ll be happy to sign your copy, along with all the copies you buy for the people you love.

If you’re in New York, I hope you’ll show up.

andaz-wall-street-a-concept-by-hyatt-entrancePhoto of the Wall Street Andaz Hyatt. 


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Register for the Northwestern University Writers Conference

Conference registration is now open! The full schedule and bios can be found here. Facebook users can find the Facebook page here. Interested parties can register online and take advantage of early registration rates through July 21. The conference takes place between August 17-19th on Northwestern’s downtown Chicago campus, 339 East Chicago Avenue.

On Saturday, August 19th, I’ll be leading a workshop titled Ear Training for Writers. Here’s the description from the website:

This workshop considers the skill of listening to people speak for the purpose of writing dialogue. Just as observation skills are important to develop for the purpose of description, there are techniques writers can use to hone their dialogue-writing skills. The workshop will work with recordings of conversations and also provoke participants into brief conversations about random topics. Participants will consider how word choices, rhythm, diction and syntax contribute to character.

I’m also available for manuscript consultation. For information about that, please click here.

Of course, the conference features exciting keynote speakers and special performances.

Stuart Dybek is the keynote speaker on Thursday, August 17. His presentation is entitled A Kiss Crosses the City. (Those of us who worship The Coast of Chicago will know what that’s referencing.)

On Friday, August 18, Ines Bellina, Lindsay Hunter, Parneshia Jones, Fawzia Mirza, and Megan Stielstra will give a keynote discussion, Tell it to the Page and Yell it to the Sky: On Writing and Performance.

On Saturday, August 19, the live lit storytelling show You’re Being Ridiculous has put together a fantastic lineup of performers.

Each evening features special events scheduled in connection with the conference that faculty, attendees, as well as the general public may attend.

8/17 – NU Graduate & Faculty Reading @5:30pm

8/18 – TriQuarterly Reading @5:30pm

8/19 – People’s History of Chicago event featuring Kevin Coval and local guests @ 5:30pm

In short, nobody can fuck with this.

800px-University_Hall_Northwestern Photo of University Hall from Wikipedia.