Liquid Ink

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


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Youth scholarship available for prose workshop

Registration for my prose writing workshop ends early April 7th at 2:00 PM. A generous donor has made a scholarship available for the first young writer, aged 16-20, to claim it. It’s for half tuition, or $210.

To claim this scholarship, be the first person to register for the prose workshop by emailing me here. I’ll send you my PayPal info.
Details:

Prose Writing Workshop, with Gint Aras

Friday nights, 6:30-8:30, from April 7-May 26

Upstairs Apartment and Lounge, Buzz Cafe

905 S. Lombard, Oak Park, IL

Open to writers of any level, aged 16 or older

Registration ends after 8 students have registered, or at 2:00 on April 7.

Cost: $420

Hope to see you!


Photo by Bennorth Photography


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Readers ask: Why don’t your stories have endings?

This question came a while ago from someone who has read almost every available work of fiction I’ve ever written. While my novel, Finding the Moon in Sugar, saw very few reviews, several reviewers commented that the book had no ending. Reviewers of The Fugue have not made similar comments…not that I remember. But the reader asking the question felt the final paragraph of The Fugue is even less an ending than the final bit in Finding the Moon.

I find this really fascinating. It goes completely contrary to my process and point of view. I don’t feel I can really start writing something until I see how it ends. I’ve said in many interviews that The Fugue started out as a vignette of a man repairing a window. I didn’t know I had a novel until I imagined the very final scene. The horror and displacement convinced me I had a novel.

All this aside, my endings don’t offer resolution. I find resolution to be among the greatest contrivances in literature. I don’t think of narratives or time in linear terms, but if we do think this way, a cliché applies: all roads lead to the same destination, and that destination is a mystery. There’s a difference between writing the last word of a text—always an energizing moment—and resolving the narrative’s problem. A good ending is one that leaves the reader feeling obliterated or provoked. It is not one that leaves the reader with the delusion that now s/he “understands something” or, worse, “understands everything.”

There’s no way to answer this question in detail without discussing the actual endings. As a person fascinated with love and death, I write about not knowing. One of my most important themes, I think, is ignorance, especially the kind of ignorance we can’t perceive. So I don’t try to answer any questions in my fiction. My fiction is a way for me to express my ignorance, and my endings work to that end.

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Video: live interview

This is about a 24 minute video of me answering moderator Amy Danzer’s questions following my reading at The Looking Glass Bookstore in Oak Park, Illinois on February 18, 2016. Yes! That gorgeous bookstore in the background is right here where I live. It’s worth visiting just to see the decor (and to  buy a bunch of books, obviously).

In this video, I answer questions about why I’d want to write a literary fugue, what place setting plays in my writing, how art helps with trauma, and what audience I had in mind while writing.

Enjoy, and do share.

Also, be sure to check out my fledgling YouTube channel. It’s sure to grow as I gather more videos.


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Two Chicagoland readings, back to back

The good people at the Morton College Library have agreed to host two readings next week. I’m very happy to present my novel at the library, which has benefited my writing tremendously. Obviously, The Fugue is set in Cicero; these are the only readings I have planned in my hometown, so they should be special.

During these readings, one in the late morning, January 25th, the other in the early evening, January 26th, I’ll have our students in mind, and I’ll talk about writing as a lifelong craft and profession. However, they are free and open to the public!

The Morton College Library is on Morton College campus, almost right in the middle. Head through the courtyard/amphitheater, enter through the glass doors and take a left in the vestibule.

3801 S Central Avenue, Cicero, Illinois

The following hyperlinks will take you to Facebook event pages where you might RSVP. Of course, you don’t have to. Just come, and bring a friend!

Session One—January 25th, 11:00 AM Morton College Library Cybercafe

Session Two—January 26th, 7:00 PM Morton College Library Cybercafe

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Photo by Morton College Library.


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How I landed my book deal (in only 15 years)

I’m happy to announce that the pre-launch for my upcoming novel, The Fugue, is underway. You can find pre-order information here at the CCLaP website. I also encourage people to check out what kind words Jason Pettus, CCLaP’s owner, left on the novel’s Goodreads page. “This is the literary novel for those who love literary novels…”

The Fugue started out back in 2000 when I was a student in New York. One night I wrote a vignette titled “Juri’s Window”. Juri was a painter and sculptor living in Amsterdam, perhaps in the mid 90’s, where he collected unemployment benefits and sculpted from trash. The vignette was simple: a description of a window Juri put together out of glass bottles and the remains of a discarded fence. I looked at it as a writing exercise.

But this character pestered me, kept appearing in my work. Soon the name had changed to Yuri, and he had a family, a girlfriend. Later, I moved him from Amsterdam to my hometown of Cicero, and his family gained a complex history of flight and displacement. Eventually he’d been accused of arson and murder. I realized I had a novel.

I messed around with various drafts for years. But in the summer of 2006, at that time working in Bloomington, Indiana, I felt the book, clocking in at about 135,000 words, was finished, and I started trying to sell it, going about it in the traditional way, sending cold queries to strangers.

Mind you, obsessed with The Fugue, I had not published a single piece of short fiction at that point. I don’t know how many rejection letters I collected—for a while I had been assembling them in a scrapbook, but in time I had no place to put them, and far from motivating me, they were just trash mail, most of them the usual form rejections. What kept me writing queries were the nibbles. This Midtown agent asked for the first 50 pages; that Chelsea editor asked for the manuscript. Now another agent wanted the whole thing. After reading, she told me her colleague might be a better fit and forwarded the text along.

The people who read it in whole or part all said about the same thing: “You don’t have a platform, and this book’s too difficult to market.” I took to heart that they didn’t say, “Your writing is shit.” It left me enough to maintain the feeling that I could be a writer. But I hung up The Fugue as a failure and set it under the bed, so to speak.

In the summer of 2007, I started writing Finding the Moon in Sugar, a project that occupied the years leading up to my first child’s birth in 2009. And then I took on smaller writing assignments, including a stint with The Good Men Project.

Part of the reason I self-published Finding the Moon in Sugar was to get my name out there. I wanted to have something gripping but fun to read from during events, and I thought the best way to learn how to market a book—a work of literary fiction, to the point—was to get out there and try to do it.

Last autumn, 2014, I was reading from Finding the Moon at RUI, a reading series here in Chicago. I hoped, at best, to sell a couple of copies, maybe learn about some new writers. At the bar, Sheffield’s, I ended up sitting next to a man, Jason, who had a lot to say about selling books. Turned out he had a publishing house. After my reading—I read the scene when Andy hears opera music for the first time—Jason asked me if I had any short stories. Sure, I said. I have plenty. But when I checked out his website, I figured, what the hell. Maybe I’ll tell him about The Fugue.

This holiday season, the book that started out as a vignette will hit the shelves and e-readers. In anticipation, have a look at the cover. It’s gorgeous:

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The tender hell of unrequited adolescent infatuation

I’m pleased to announce that my latest work of short fiction, titled “Nothing Extraordinary, Nothing of Note,” is now available in Issue Seven of The St. Petersburg Review. This is a story inspired in part by my Zen practice but also by a brief return to central Illinois when I attended an academic seminar and got to spend the night in Urbana.

The story’s main character is Milt Ilsa, an optometrist and socially awkward amateur poet who spends his time obsessing over lines he knows are loathsome. He has virtually no social life and lives a mundane, tiresome daily routine of meals in diners and visits with patients. One day, of course, he’s met with a realization—it actually happens while he is masturbating—that provokes an experience not unlike a satori, or a Zen awakening, in which the impermanence of all things becomes ultra-clear to him.

Here is a sexy excerpt:

The other woman Ilsa had known only as a teen. This was Deanna, the freckled and red-haired girl for whom he had felt the tender hell of unrequited adolescent infatuation. The youths had never shared any more than a few awkward dances at their high school mixers, nights when Deanna had come with actual dates while Ilsa had to muster all his courage just to show up to the gymnasium, then clench his raging heart into a fist and ask Deanna for a single slow dance. Sure, she sometimes sat with him at lunch, but she did it out of conceit, to feel how powerfully he wanted her. Ilsa knew but sat hoping for some miracle of Cupid. On Homecoming and Prom nights, Ilsa would lie in his boyhood room with the tortured thoughts of what Deanna was doing with the imbeciles who always took her out. On the spectrum of imbeciles, they were far worse than Ilsa, the sons of the Caltoon’s wealthiest: doctors, lawyers, one guy a former college quarterback, another the owner of a factory that packaged frankfurters into plastic.

Although he had never even kissed Deanna, and while he had last seen her more than two decades ago, he still fantasized about her, imagining an adult woman between twenty-five and thirty. The helplessness he felt to these automatic fantasies could actually drive him to fury. This Tuesday night he wanted Melanie, but as if on train tracks, his consciousness left her bed and curled down to the valley station where thoughts of Deanna waited. Of course, he imagined Deanna far more often than Vera.

Interestingly, he often didn’t touch her in his fantasies. The thought of her sitting naked for him at breakfast or on a boat in the middle of an isolated lake could drive him to agonizing climax. In a reoccurring fantasy, he saw her posing for him in a birch forest as he photographed her body, her pubis unshaved, a few yellowed leaves in her wild, frizzy red hair. He was having that fantasy now, himself in the birch forest, a fully manual 35mm Leica in his hands, Deanna leaning against a tree, then arching her back and lifting her arms toward the forest canopy. Now she knelt for him, knees pressing into soft moss, mouth open only gently, green eyes a shade lighter than the verdant background divided by narrow white trunks. For the next sequence of shots, she spread her legs and flashed an intoxicating glance, allowing him to adore her, remaining wildly beautiful for him, freely giving her beauty over so that he could possess it in photographs, return to it whenever he wanted, whenever she was absent.

Purchase Issue 7 here, or order it from your favorite bookstore in July.

Photo on 6-24-15 at 9.51 PM


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My 5 year-old daughter explains fiction and non-fiction

My daughter came home from kindergarten earlier this week to tell me she had learned the difference between fiction and nonfiction in the school library.

“Really? What’s the difference?”

Her answer was a hodgepodge of Lithuanian and English, as it tested the limits of her vocabulary in both languages. I’m paraphrasing it:

“Dad! Fiction would be like this. Look at this tube.” She showed me my wife’s skin cream. “Look. If it’s fiction then you say, Okay, there’s an elephant, and he lives inside here with Strawberry Shortcake and all the Little Ponies and they fly and get their candy and cakes from the bakery, a good one that never closes and where you can have anything you want, but you don’t need to bring money. And then, outside, you can have an umbrella and sunshine and shower sprinkles and a hot air balloon all together at the same time, and you can sleep if you want to, but only if you want to. If it’s fiction, you don’t need to sleep. And you can make anything you want, and you can put it anywhere. Everything fits inside everything and you can always have a place for anything no matter what it is. Everything’s together. It can all be inside the tube and outside the tube and everywhere all the time.”

“That’s quite correct,” I said. “But what about nonfiction.”

“Well, nonfiction.” She shrugged. “It’s a tube. With skin cream. That’s all. It’s just real..”

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