The Next Big Thing! Part One

typewriter girl

My friend, Angela Still, is an insanely talented writer and generous friend, so when she asked to include me in her Next Big Thing post, I was thrilled. Not only would people get to hear about my writing, I’d also get to shout out the brilliance of some lovely writing folk.

Five writers and some Julie stories. Perfect. Sitting down today to write this post, I realized that the only thing that could make it any more perfect is the use of the phrase Typewriter Girls.

Why, you ask?

Well, I like old typewriters. They are like portals to a time that, for the most part, sits unnoticed all around us. Sure that old granite bank sits on the corner of town, repurposed as an Urban Outfitters. The hospital burial ground is now a dog-walking field. Centuries-old, dry stone walls even tumble along the edges of nearby trails, marking the path for all those passing North Face and Merrell hiking boots.

Typewriters, though, are nothing but themselves. Each lettered key and roll of inked ribbon declares and exclaims. You can’t even stack the damn things. Unlike today’s thin-bodied laptops, their shape extrudes into the space around them.

Used to be many women used these engines of word power with some regularity. The result was a tidy stack of someone else’s correspondence. In the main, only the men got to actually imagine the words.

Today’s Typewriter Girls are of an entirely different sort. They may not pound on a die-caste set of keys,but they bend the inked ribbon to their will all the same.  Today, I get to talk about a few of them along with some equally talented men. In honor of this special moment, I’ve decided to wave my magic writing wand and crown all these fabulous writing friends, men and women alike, Typewriter Girls of the most desperate and powerful sort. Trust me. It’s a good thing…

Katie Bickham
Despite some attention-hungry newspaper columnist in search of website hits, poetry is not dead. And Katie Bickham is the kind of poet you’ll never mistake for someone lying in a box. She makes me want to run out and listen to all those poems waiting to be heard. She makes me want to rush down to Shreveport and join that Undead Poets Society of hers.

Katie’s Blurb: The Missouri Review was gracious enough to name ten of my poems from a larger collection as their Editor’s Prize selection in poetry this year. They will be printed in the journal’s Spring 2013 issue, and I will be reading them at the University of Missouri in April at an awards gala.

The poems are part of a series called The Belle Mar. The Belle Mar is a fictional plantation in South Louisiana (loosely based on a real one called The Belle Rive). Each poem in the work takes place in a different room in the house in a different year, though I sometimes bend the definition of the word “room,” as some poems take place in slave barracks, sugarcane fields, staircases, and the like.

All my life I have felt stretched between a deep love of my home and something very near disgust for it. Am I who I am because of Louisiana’s grim history, or in spite of it? These poems try to shrink this question into the manageable microcosm of a house, with the house bearing witness to the ugliness, beauty, the hatred of others, the hatred of self, and the ghosts that haunt its own walls. How have we changed? How have we failed to? If we think of our own hearts as having many chambers, many rooms, which are the ones we keep locked? Which are the ones we, ourselves, are locked inside?

I hope to have the entirety of The Belle Mar completed mid 2013, at which time I may, out of emotional necessity, begin writing romantic comedies, bad porn films, or commercial jingles. Happy reading!

Taylor Preston
My favorite thing about Taylor? Books. Um, yeah, books. Taylor is this sweet, low-key guy from South Carolina who happens to write hard science fiction with an increasingly dark bent. He likes to do lots of nice everyday-type stuff. He even tailgates. Yeah, you heard me right. The guy does this thing called tailgating with his South Carolina friends. But most of all with Taylor, it’s writing. And books. And not just any books. Taylor has a nose for these off-the-beaten-path writers who seem to fit were his writing is trying to take him. And he has a knack for knowing when they might fit you as well.

Taylor’s Blub: My latest novel The Singularity War, is currently in search of representation. It’s a kickass space opera/spy thriller that’s chock full of AIs, monsters, and exploding spaceships. And really, what’s not to like?

My short story collection, Blood Red Mars, is available on the Kindle. Five adrenaline-charged stories of science fiction and horror. Explore a domed colony plagued by high-tech gang warfare, rogue nanotechnology, and a virtual underworld ruled by the Solar System’s deadliest criminals.

And don’t just take Taylor’s word for it. As Nancy Holder, five-time winner of the Bram Stoker award says, “[Taylor’s collection is] inhabited by great, three-dimensional characters, skillfully crafted, and a page-turner. I was riveted, worried, engaged…Well done!”
I’ve read plenty of “Taylor” stories and I agree with Nancy; he’s absolutely worth the read.

Kelly Stuart
I first met Kelly in my M.F.A. program, or, to be more precise, I noticed her. Unlike the rest of us socially stumbling writers, Kelly was usually striding off to some secret musical destination, her cello in tow. She would do as she pleased, was my initial impression, and one that, with time, hasn’t changed. Kelly moved to Alaska in the middle of winter in search of material for her novel. She kayaks along her beloved California coast. She bikes, enjoys a good drink and is just generally badass. And, I hear, she now has short hair. Because, you know, short hair is cool.

As well as her novel, The Ice Walker, Kelly’s stories and environmental essays have been published in Reed and The MacGuffin. She has a bachelor of music in Cello, and recently shared the stage with Paul Elie in his talk about his novel “Reinventing Bach,” playing cello to illustrate parts of his lecture.

Kelly’s Blurb: Set in both Boston and Alaska my novel, The Ice Walker, follows the story of Aviaq Fiennes, a half-Inuit, half-white student from Nome as she tracks down the cause of a professor’s death in the Charles River.  The biracial character of Aviaq straddles both the traditional and modern worlds. As a former music student at UA Anchorage now studying glaciology at Boston University, she hides a disturbing past left behind in Alaska.

Aviaq’s look into a professor’s mysterious death takes her not only on a journey from the halls of academic Boston to the sweeping tundra of her home and back, but also into the dark recesses of her own memory and the shadowy motivations of the people she trusts.

Ashley Johnson
Ashley Johnson is the kind of woman who always seems put together. She’s got that “former ballet dancer” vibe going for her and seems in all ways everything I am not. (Okay,  I admit it. I’d love, just once, for someone to tell me I looked “put together.”)  Really, from the first moment I met her, I thought she was nice, the “let’s be friendly while we both wait in the lunch line” kind of nice. And then I heard her read, and, well, realized I’m not always such a good judge of character. That girl burned the house down and all inside gladly died. Her words were amazing and dark and sexy. Oh, and set in the Paris catacombs.

Ashley’s Blurb: I sat down with my stories a few weeks ago and told them “Look you guys, if you want to keep staying here, you’re going to have to pay rent.” So, I sent them out into the world to see if they could get some work.

The first candidate shows promise—two personal rejections so far. Notable qualities about this story: lots of dead people. Just kidding. Actually, no I’m not—the story takes place in the infamous Body Worlds Exhibit. These people aren’t just dead; they’ve been filleted, turned inside-out, even hung by their blood vessels from the ceiling.

The second candidate also has dead people, dead French people, who reside in the catacombs of Paris. Also, there’s sex. I have high hopes for this one.

Meanwhile, there’s a diva novel and she refuses to go out and get a job until she’s “been revised.” I give her as much attention as I can; she’s even seeing a few of my trusted mentors for additional tweaking. But, don’t tell her, I’ve started working on my next novel and I think he’s going to make a good roommate.

Typewriter Girls

I love how these men and women are driving their writing careers forward. You know what I really, really love, though? That man or woman, they are all, each and every one, Typewriter Girls, forcing the ink to their will.

Up Next Week: Part two of The Next Big Thing, in which I discuss my fifth and final writer and answer some questions about my own stories and my very own self.

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