If you’re interested in the writing workshop I’m leading, click here.
I was interviewed in anticipation of this weekend’s reading at Water Street Studios in Batavia, IL. You can read the whole interview here.
The reading will take place this Sunday, March 19th, at 7:00 at Water Street Studios: 160 S Water Street, Batavia, IL
Hope to see you.
So…I got to talk to Rick Kogan on WGN Radio last night. It was an extraordinary experience, and I have more to say about it than I’ll be able to include in a short blog post.
Rick Kogan is a journalist and radio personality with almost six decades of experience covering Chicago. He has spoken to and written books about idols of mine, and when it comes to the subject of Chicago, is clearly among the most knowledgeable people alive. To have sat in a studio chair next to him equals one of the most fucking amazing experiences of my life. To hear him call my book Algren-esque, Dostoevsky-esque and Dybek-esque on the air left a strange, giddy tremble in my hands that has yet to go away.
It was also humbling and head-spinning to find myself in the Tribune Tower. While I had walked past the building countless times, I had never been inside. Yesterday, I rode my bike down Madison from Oak Park, past the former site of Fort Dearborn, over the Chicago River, then I walked up to the tower with a sense of awe and connectedness to the history of my city. So many great people (and, to be fair, some extraordinary and colorful assholes) had walked through those doors and worked in that building.
I’ll say it was equally exhilarating and intimidating to step up to the receptionist and let her know I was scheduled to talk on the radio. I thought only babble or drool might exit my mouth once someone gave me a microphone. But it all worked out. You can listen here, and please do share with the book lovers in your live.
Next Thursday, Feb. 18, I’ll be reading at The Looking Glass Bookstore in lovely Oak Park, IL. The Looking Glass is a gorgeous bookstore, only two years old, located less than a block from the Oak Park Avenue Blue Line station.
The Looking Glass, 823 S Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park, IL. 7:00.
There are two quality pubs down the street, and I hope to join some friends and strangers for a beer afterwards. Hope to see you!
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:
The first blurb for The Fugue, my forthcoming novel (December, CCLaP) is a kicker:
Gint Aras’ epic novel is nothing less than a tour de force masterpiece. In a morality play that takes place against the bleak backdrop of Cicero, Illinois, we see the lives of an amazing set of characters (“displaced people”) haunted by nightmares and dark obsessions. Like a musical fugue, the complex recurring thematic materials of the story carry the reader on a nail-biting journey that sustains incredible suspense until the very end of the novel. The imagery is masterfully portrayed throughout, and the deep sadness of the story is also juxtaposed with the possibility for beauty and redemption. All I want to do now is read it again!
Grammy nominated international performing and recording artist
The most difficult question a student ever asked me is the topic of this week’s True Community, my weekly column about men and education.
The article deals with questions virtually any middle class father and husband will face. How can we improve ourselves and our capacity to provide and father when self-improvement requires sacrifices of time and money, the two things we need to be effective fathers and providers?
Please read and share. Cheers.
Photo by MsSaraKelly