On Comedy, Immersive Research, and the Underrated Value of Experience in 2019
“During one of my first open mics in New York City, the comic running the mic tapped me on the elbow after my set and said, “Hey, you’re funny!” She sounded surprised.
I was, too. Being funny wasn’t my main goal. I was there to spy on comics, trying to experience the highs and lows they faced while chasing their dreams, while doing standup as research for my forthcoming novel, No Good Very Bad Asian, which features a famed Chinese American comedian.
After writing a first draft in 2010, I wanted to validate what I had written and go beyond what I could learn from reading standup memoirs and listening to WTF with Marc Maron. I started with classes. But the first thing you learn from comedy teachers is that if you’re serious, you need to write jokes constantly and chase stage time (anywhere: open mics, bar shows, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, subway platforms, you get the idea) several nights a week, if not every night, for years on end—it’s the only way to get better. Comedy can’t easily be taught; it must be done.”
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Where we go deep on Survivor…
“The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.”
Read the rest here.
Talking about some recent books I didn’t like at all!
“Leland Cheuk and I must have known each other much better in another life. In two years of this column, this month is the first time a writer has answered more than one of my questions the same way I would have. His frustration with the conformity of large presses and writers who write about being writers is very much my own, and we may be the only two serious readers on earth who don’t like 2666.
Cheuk is the author of Letters from Dinosaurs, The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong, and the forthcoming No Good Very Bad Asian. He’s also the publisher of 7.13 Books, which you should be paying attention to if you aren’t already. Added to all this, he’s just a nice dude. Which is how I know that none of the hates he outlines below are personal.”
Read the rest here.
In the Kenyon Review Online, I talk to author Kristina Marie Darling about literary citizenship and 7.13 Books
From Kenyon Review Online’s Publisher Spotlight:
KMD: What does literary citizenship mean to you and how does it shape your editorial decisions, approach to book publicity, and engagement with the larger community?
LC: I suspect that most writers, whether emerging or mid-career, can feel the reality that books are declining in importance in our culture. The industry has become more corporate and commercial. And there are more entertainment options than ever. Sales for adult fiction, for example, are down 16% in just the last 5 years. The literary world is a relatively small niche. Consequently, a certain level of evangelism is required to keep this niche thriving. As a small press, we try to make editorial decisions the old-fashioned way—based on the strength of the manuscript, and the originality of the premise and execution. The main question I try to answer while reading is: Why hasn’t this type of book been published already? As for publicity, there’s more noise than ever, and there are formidable structural barriers in the book supply chain that prevent small presses from achieving large-scale sales, namely corporate distributors. Literary citizenship is critical for small press books. We rely on other authors and emerging writers to review our books and interview our authors. I used to review books, most of the time for free, just for the writing credit. I continue to interview small press authors, blurb their books, and post about books on social media. This evangelistic work is all sadly unpaid, but vital to the literary community. If we don’t feed the fire, the fire dies.
Read the rest here.
“Oh-em-gee, you have to try the Okay Spa,” said my editor friend Nicole as we left the coffee shop. “It’ll relax you like never before. It’s…beyond.”
“This isn’t a prostitution sting, is it?” I joked.
She slapped me playfully on the arm, sending spasms from my shoulder blades down to my kidneys. I was in bad shape. Working 100 hours a week just to make rent. I could no longer vouch for the quality of my story pitches. For a men’s publication: thirty-seven reasons why it’s healthier to pee sitting down. For a literary magazine: you’ll be shocked why bookmarks are bad for books. For an Asian arts review: why so-and-so is the next great Asian, middle-grade, steampunk autofiction novelist. Each a thousand words for $10 a piece. I was beginning to think that my chosen profession was an elaborate way to commit seppuku without having to sully steel.
Nicole handed me a gift card. “Trust me,” she said, “you won’t regret.”
Read the rest over at Bending Genres.