Inhuman Swill : Page 33
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Novelophobia

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I don't know why I've spent so much of my life being afraid to write a novel. All these years I've figured I was afraid of failing at it, that the short story was my natural form as a writer.

That was all ridiculous, and easily disproved had I stopped to think about it. Back in 1994, I wrote a 170,000-word novel in about eight weeks while I was between jobs. I holed up in my apartment and wrote eight to twelve hours a day. On my most productive day of that period, I wrote 8,500 words. The Revivalist was a huge, sprawling, shambolic, undisciplined thug of a novel, but it wasn't entirely bad. I never sold that book, but I also never did the subsequent work that was necessary to turn it into something saleable.

Clearly I didn't have a problem writing. What I had a problem with in the years that followed was getting off my ass and committing to doing the work.

Don't get me wrong. I did a lot of work in those years. I wrote a 250,000-word memoir, which through subsequent drafts I revised down to nearly half that size. I wrote and sold a bunch of short stories and a couple of novellas, but my one or two longer projects ran out of gas. I kept psyching myself out with the idea that I didn't know how to write a novel, and for the most part I kept that fear to myself.

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Reading on video

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The great folks at Essay Fiesta have posted video of the memoir excerpt I read for them at the Book Cellar on April 19th. This is a segment from The Accidental Terrorist called "Gluttons for Punishment":

(Damn, that was over my time limit. Thank God I didn't exceed the YouTube limit of ten minutes.)

Essay Fiesta is a monthly reading series that benefits the Howard Brown Health Center, hosted by Keith Ecker and Alyson Lyon. Please come out to the Book Cellar in Chicago on the third Monday of every month to support the series.

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Difficult Times Francis

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I want to offer sadly belated congratulations to friend and former CD Mix of the Month Club compatriot Francis Heaney, who made his Sunday crossword puzzle debut in the New York Times this past, er, Sunday. Way to go, Francis!

Now if only I were a subscriber so I could test my mettle against Francis's by-all-reports-monstrous puzzle.

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Friday Wiscon reading

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If you'll be at Wiscon tomorrow afternoon, I'll be part of a terrific group reading at 4:00 pm in Conference 2. The participants include Carrie L. Ferguson, Nicole Lorenz, Chibi-Evil and me. Here's the program description:

Disappearing Acts Reading | Conference 2 | Friday, 4:00-5:15 pm Come on in, sit down and get comfortable—we're only going to erase certain important things from the world. You don't need those stars, do you? Oh—you'll miss the words, surely, but we'll read that one last. Trust us. We're only ending the world here.
I was originally planning to read from Cast a Cold Eye, but given the theme it might be more appropriate to read a bit from my in-progress-but-nearly-done novel Endgame.

This will be the first group reading of the whole convention, so please come over to Conference 2 and help us make it a success. Looking forward to seeing you there!

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It's been so long since there's been constant bright sunlight in Chicago that I am startled every time this week that I walk indoors and see that the phosphorescent hands and numbers on my watch face are glowing.

Of course, this is the time of year when I don't need that feature so much...

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Hungry bear

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Where's mine?
[sung to the tune of "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath]

She's my hungry bear
She's the little dog with the golden hair
She'll just sit and stare
Anytime I'm eating and I won't share

Nobody feeds her
She just stands there and pouts
(do do do-do-do do-do-do do-do-do)
She's gonna starve soon
Of this she has no doubts
(do do do-do-do do-do-do do-do-do)

Hey there, hungry bear
Your bowl's full of pheasant and ground-up hare
Ain't no cheese on there
So you walk out with your nose in the air

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E-blast from the past

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Today is the 114th running of the Boston Marathon. I am reminded of this because I've started receiving race alerts via text message for a runner named Jen Stronge. So has Laura.

I wish Jen Stronge all the luck in the world in finishing strong in the marathon this morning. But I never signed up to get her alerts, and I wish they would stop. My guess is that she has the same chip number that Laura had last year, and the fine IT staff of the Boston Marathon never cleared out the alert requests from last year's race. Which makes them, for today anyway, some of the dumbest fucks in the tech industry.

To repeat, Boston Marathon IT crew—you suck.

UPDATE: It's the bib number that's the same as Laura's from last year—18649. A dumb, dumb programming mistake, friends. And who's paying for all those bad text messages?

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Chicagoans, please come out to the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square this Monday, April 19, for the monthly Essay Fiesta reading series!

I'll be reading a humorous personal essay in company with Cameron Esposito, Jim Pickett, Bryan Bowden, and Rebecca Rine-Stone. It's all to benefit the Howard Brown Health Center, so come on down, have a laugh, and join the raffle or make a small donation.

It all takes place:

Monday, April 19th, 7:00-8:30 pm @ The Book Cellar 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago, IL 60625
For more info, click here. Hope to see you there!
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Laura's off to Florida through Tuesday for work, and I'm going to do get as much writing done as I can. The only breaks will be for taking care of Ella (who went to the groomer yesterday and now looks like a Muppet) and a special team-trivia competition this afternoon to benefit One Tail at a Time, a local dog shelter. One Tail's Medical and Finance Coordinator, Jeff Kitchen, is also the quizmaster at our regular Wednesday night pub trivia event.

If you're in Chicago and have some free time this afternoon, come on down! The event kicks off at 2 pm this afternoon at KINCADE'S BAR & GRILL, 950 W. Armitage, right at the Brown Line stop. (The event has moved since the blog post above, so don't go to Kendall's.) I'm not sure whether or not there's room for more teams, but if so it's a $100 entry fee for your team of up to 5 people. You can add a sixth team member for another $20. And if the roster is already full, have a beer and cheer. Do it for the puppies.

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The wages of fear

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It's 2010, and America has finally started dragging itself into the 20th century's world of social responsibility. We have a health-care reform bill, and that's a thing to celebrated. Meanwhile, as you will have heard, a few opponents of progress are doing their best to drag us back to the worst parts of the 19th century*, as in these incidents (as reported in the New York Times) against House members who voted for the reform bill:

At least two Congressional district offices were vandalized and Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a senior Democrat from New York, received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families.

Ms. Slaughter also reported that a brick was thrown through a window of her office in Niagara Falls, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, said Monday that her Tucson office was vandalized after the vote.

The Associated Press reported that the authorities in Virginia were investigating a cut propane line to an outdoor grill at the home of a brother of Representative Tom Perriello of Virginia, after the address was mistakenly listed on a Tea Party Web site as the residence of the congressman. Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan and a central figure in the measure's abortion provisions, reported receiving threatening phone calls.

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