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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Thanks to the Chicago Writers Association

I was thrilled to attend the award ceremony last Saturday night (January 14) at The Book Cellar to mark the Chicago Writers Association 2016 Book of the Year Awards. It was really a lovely evening, with one of the most amazing cakes I’ve ever seen, and wonderful conversation afterwards.

The complete list of winners is available here. The Fugue won an honorable mention. Here I am with Gerald Brennan, owner of my publisher, Tortoise Books.

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Photo courtesy of the Chicago Writers Association.


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My new publisher

I’m thrilled to announce that my novel, The Fugue, has been picked up by Tortoise Books, a very specialized publisher with keen attention to detail. They’re here in Chicago, and I couldn’t be happier with how I’ve been treated by them.

In terms of content, the new book is, barring a few minor typographical adjustments, identical and tells the exact same story as the version originally published by CCLaP. Tortoise decided to redesign the cover and layout, and the result is a more classic feel. I love the paper its printed on. It smells the way old libraries used to.

Now…there are still first editions floating around out there. If you were totally in love with the old cover—it was a photograph I took in The Netherlands, in an old church converted to a bookstore—you might contact The Book Table or City Lit Books in Chicago. Those copies stand to become the rare versions.

If you immediately want this, the 2nd edition, your independent bookstore can order it for you. You can also get it at Amazon, and it’s available on the Kindle (or, with an app, on any device). I’ll be reading from and selling copies of this new version in New York on March 30th and in Seattle in April.

Fugue Full

The front

Cover Fugue 2 single


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Readers ask: So…what’s a fugue?

Among the challenges I faced trying to sell my novel, which took about a decade, was that my title, The Fugue, refers to something obscure. I actually fought with this title for a long time, and I came up with other ones, some of them embarrassingly bad. Obviously, no alternative title satisfied (for reasons I think most readers will—even without learning what those titles were—understand if they investigate the novel).

Still, I want to say some things about my title. Just the other day, at a library, a woman looked at a Fugue postcard I had given her and asked, “How do you pronounce that?”

This is how: /fjuːɡListen here.

What does the word mean?

One reason I found the title attractive was that the word has multiple meanings, and I explore all of them in the novel. I’ll guess most people will associate the word with music, primarily a polyphonic composition technique. Here’s how a character in the novel—she’s a teenage music student—understands a fugue:

Lita knew what a fugue was, a composition of usually two strands—voices—of music that borrowed short melodies and phrases from each other. It was like a game where melodies played side-by-side and pretended to be each other, or sometimes even became one another. They could weave together like braids or plaits, then split up and come back together again.

There’s also this educational You Tube video called What Is a Fugue? It really explains why these kinds of compositions are fascinating.

One of my favorite musical recordings is this one here, Ashkenazy playing Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues. While listening to that music with a friend in my Manhattan apartment back in 2000, I wondered out loud if it could be possible to write a work of literature on the principles of a musical fugue. Soon enough, I tried my hand. Whether or not I succeeded remains to be seen.

Of course, the word has other meanings. It’s a synonym of flight. That’s to say an attempt to escape, to flee a threat.  One fate of those in flight is displacement. The Fugue deals with an entire community of displaced persons and their children.

The last meaning is difficult to discuss without a spoiler, so I’ll say little about it. When I was taking psychology classes in Urbana, Illinois, I learned about conditions known as “transient” or “dissociative” fugues,  or “fugue states”. This National Geographic article tells of a contemporary case, and this book presents fascinating case studies. These days people think of the psychological states as forms of amnesia, but I’ve heard arguments that they are forms of schizophrenia or identity disorders. One thing seems common: in all cases, the person suffering from the condition has endured a horrifying trauma.

The book launches next week. I hope you check it out.

 


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Book launch reading and gathering

I’m happy to announce that my book launch reading will take place at City Lit Books in Logan Square, here in Chicago, on December 17th at 6:30. Come purchase a copy of The Fugue, have it signed, meet me and support an amazing independent bookstore.

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I won’t be giving a traditional reading (the kind where a writer stands in front of people and mumbles), but will instead talk about the process of writing a long book, one that took fifteen years to publish. Interestingly, some of the topics The Fugue deals with are more relevant now than they were when I first started the manuscript: the sociology of refugees, a culture of fear and secrecy, and the search for meaning in a society whose institutions are failing. Of course, I’ll  read short sections.

There will be a brief musical interlude featuring world-class violinist Maria Storm. She’s going to play Bach’s Fugue from the Violin Sonata in G minor.

Afterwards, I hope interested parties will come along for a drink down at The Owl.

Help me figure out how much wine to get by announcing your wish to attend this event. Click here.

 


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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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My publisher’s 2015 catalog

I’m happy to announce the release of The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography’s (CCLaP’s) catalog.

This year, the indie press will publish a very ambitious book-a-month, ending the year with my novel, a book I’ve been working on (and off, and back on again) for over twelve years. I’m still shocked—thunderstruck, rather—to know it’ll be in readers’ hands by the end of the year. And the publisher has some very flattering things to say about it, which I hope you’ll find by checking the catalog.

In the meantime, check out the rest of CCLaP’s titles. It’s humbling to be on a list with these people, all of whom I admire, some of whom I’ve read with before: Ben Tanzer, Karl Wolff, Matt Fuchs, Steven Garbas, Matt Rowan, Joseph G. Peterson, Daniel Falatko, Leland Cheuk, Douglas Light, Mike Sauve, Kendra Hadnott and Michael Strelow. Also in the mix is the anthology of “City All-Stars,” young writers working in Chicago these days.

Also, have a look at the extraordinary cover art. Take this example:

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Now, what’s my book actually about? The novel’s titled THE FUGUE. It’s a family epic that spans several generations and takes readers from Western Ukraine and Lithuania to a poetically treated Cicero, Illinois of the 2nd half of the 20th century. The main character is a metals sculptor—most would probably call him an outside artist—convicted of murdering his parents. The book begins with his release from prison, and the novel’s narrative then travels through various strands of memory, some reaching way back into the years of WWII.

Anyone who liked Finding the Moon in Sugar will be very interested in the novel. I will be working very hard to promote it, and I hope I can have your support.