Actor James Franco is also, you might know, director James Franco, and musician James Franco, and model James Franco, and MFA-holder--make that double-MFA-holder---James Franco, and, yes, poet James Franco.
Franco, who earned an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College and an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College, has long been interested in writing. His work has appeared in Esquire, McSweeney's, and elsewhere, and he is the author of "Palo Alto," a collection of stories, and "Strongest of the Litter," a poetry chapbook.
Graywolf Press of Minneapolis will publish Franco's debut poetry collection, "Directing Herbert White," in April of 2014. Graywolf poetry editor Jeffrey Shotts said in a press release that Franco's poems are, in part, "a series of portraits of American successes and failures from within Hollywood. ... But they are also smart and highly aware notes of caution of what can happen when the filmed self becomes fixed and duplicated, while the ongoing self must continue living and watching."
He has also appeared in the movies "Milk," "Pineapple Express," and "Howl," in which he portrayed poet Allen Ginsberg.
Nick Flynn's memoir, "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City," was a brutal, moving account of working in a homeless shelter, where he is reunited with his estranged father. The book won a PEN Award and was translated into 13 languages. (It also gave newspaper book editors a headache, because its title could not be printed in most papers.)
The film "Being Flynn," based on the memoir, came out this year and stars Robert DeNiro. Flynn and his wife, actress Lili Taylor (who also has a role in the film) will be at the Walker Art Center on Saturday for a screening of the movie, and a discussion to follow. The event begins at 7 p.m. Saturday and costs $15; tickets are available online.
The event is sponsored by Common Bond Communities, the College of St. Benedict, and Graywolf Press, one of Flynn's publishers.
Here, via e-mail, he talks about where he writes, the unusual project he's currently working on, and his views of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Describe your writing room.
I’ve been moving around a lot these past few years (these past few lifetimes?) and so I write wherever I can—on airplanes, in cafes, while my daughter draws beside me. Right now I do have a small studio in my apartment in Brooklyn, but it functions as a place to get ready to write, rather than a place to write in. My books are there, images relevant to what I’m working on—it’s where I load my backpack for the day.
What is your writing strategy—do you have rituals that you maintain?
The only strategy I know of is to write every day, which I don’t always do, because sometimes I just can’t, for various reasons that seem out of my control. Lately I’ve been learning how to edit short films, using a really basic program, but it still takes time. I trust that something will come from the time I put into it, something for my writing. I guess that is a strategy—put attention on something else while waiting for the words to come.
How do you get past writers’ block (or the distraction of the Internet)?
The internet doesn’t distract me much, though I know it is a gaping hole that could suck me in at any minute, though I am answering this question on the internet right now. But I assume you mean the rabbit hole of following one link to another,
which I did quite a lot of for a recent project (“The Ticking is the Bomb”), and it seemed to work fine. Wikipedia is pretty amazing.
Do you have a favorite book from childhood?
There’s a book called “The Magic Monkey” which I was fascinated with as a child—I wrote about my relationship to it in “The Ticking is the Bomb,” and as I write this now I realize I want to find it and read it to my daughter. It would be nice if it meant something to her as well, but of course I can’t control that.
What books do you re-read?
Beckett’s plays. Rebecca Solnit. Dickinson. A good poem is meant to be read a hundred times.
What’s on your desk?
Today my desk feels pretty cluttered, but I do hope to clear it off soon, once I figure out what I’m doing next (since I wrote that I cleared off my desk and now all there is are the pages of a book I found on the beach this past summer, a book that someone started a fire with—each page is burned in a way that looks like a wing. I don’t know what will become of them).
Where are you right now? Describe what you see.
I’m in Brooklyn, I see a doorway into our kitchen where we took the glass doors off the hinges and put them into the basement when we got here, five years ago now. I see the hinges still hanging there, with the pins still in them, as if one day we will decide to carry the doors back up and rehang them, which will never happen, ever.
What are you reading right now?
I just reread “Seymour, An Introduction” (Salinger), because I’m going to talk about it to some grad students at Brooklyn College in a couple weeks. Or they will talk to me about it.
What’s been the best place so far to do a reading?
The best place is always somewhere where some percentage of the audience has at least heard of you, and some lesser percentage has even read something you’ve written.
What authors have inspired you?
I get inspired by my friends, and if a friend is a writer that is even deeper.
“Another Bullshit Night in Suck City” is such a great title. Did it pain you to have it changed?
The film always had to be its own thing, I always knew that, and I also always knew that they could never use the title (because of the MPAA, a strangely powerful semi-religious cabal). It caused me a few sleepless nights, sure, but I knew the film itself was solid, and so went along with it, because there was nothing else really to do.
PEN American Center has announced the winners of 18 literary awards, which will be presented Oct. 23 in New York City. The awards--fellowships, grants and prizes--range between $3,000 and $25,000 each and in total amount to nearly $175,000.
Here are the winners, with links to Star Tribune reviews, when available:
PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction:
"Good Kings Bad Kings," by Susan Nussbaum
PEN/Robert Bingham Award for First Fiction:
"Zazen," by Vanessa Veselka
Runner up: "Leaving the Atocha Station," by Ben Lerner (Coffee House Press)
PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction:
PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award:
"The Information," by James Gleick
Runner up: "Moby-Duck," by Donovan Hohn.
PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation Awards for an American Playwright in Mid-Careerand a Master American Dramatist:
Christopher Durang (master dramatist) and Will Eno and Adam Rapp (mid-career playwrights)
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
"Arguably," by Christopher Hitchens
Runners up: "Alibis," by Andre Aciman, and "Lives and Letters," by Robert Gottlieb
PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sportswriting
"Bottom of the 33rd," by Dan Barry
Runners-up: "Room for Improvement," by John Casey; "56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports," by Kostya Kennedy; and "Raceball," by Rob Ruck
PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing
PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography
"Catherine the Great," by Robert K. Massie
Runner up: "A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother," by Janny Scott
PEN Open Book Award
"The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India," by Siddhartha Deb
"Water Puppets," by Quan Barry, and "Oil on Water," by Helon Habila
PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship
PEN/Steven Kroll Award Honoring the Author of an Illustrated Children's Book
"Never Forgotten," by Patricia C. McKissack
PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry
PEN Award for Poetry in Translation
"Negro Marfil/Ivory Black," by Myriam Moscona, translated by Jen Hofer
PEN/Edward and Lily Tuck Award for Paraguayan Literature
"Versos de amor y de locura," by Delfina Acosta
PEN Translation prize
"Stone Upon Stone," by Wieslaw Mysliwski, translated by Bill Johnston
PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation
Margaret Sayers Peden
Griffin is a graduate of Hamline University's MFA program in writing for children and young adults and she teaches at the Loft. You can read more about her here.
Meanwhile, Minnesota poet Ed Bok Lee has won an American Book Award for "Whorled," his collection of poetry published last year by Coffee House Press. "Whorled" also won a Minnesota Book Award. The Star Tribune review (which you can read here) called the book, "devastating and grandstanding, word-drunk and built for speed."
And, finally, two Minnesota high school seniors have won James Patterson awards in an essay competition. Fifteen students across the country won first-place awards, including Luke Mielke of St. Paul, and twenty students won second-place awards, including William Theriac, also of St. Paul.
The essays must answer the question "How has your favorite book inspired you?" and winners receive $1,000 and $500, respectively, to spend on books. The money is sent to a bookstore of the students' choice--in both cases, Common Good Books in St. Paul--and an account is established in their name.
What a fun, fun prize.
Congratulations all around!
There is something slyly satisfying about being deep in a book and happening upon a literary allusion or a nod to another writer. You stop. You read it again. You feel so darn smart that you got it. And then you look around for someone to share it with.
I spent most of the weekend reading St. Paul author Jim Heynen's new novel, "The Fall of Alice K.," which will be published in the fall by Milkweed Editions. I was cruising along, taking in the story of the Iowa farm girl and her growing romance with a young Hmong man, when Bam! Did that say what I thought it said?
Alice and her boyfriend are planning to go for a drive--away from the small town where everyone knows them, where everyone (except the boyfriend) is Dutch, to a nearby community "where the mailboxes had names like Brekken, Holm, and Rezmerski."
I think when I got to that sentence, I yelled, "Hey!" and then had to go find my husband and read it to him.("You know, Bill Holm, and his wife, Marcy Brekken, and his best friend from grad school, John Calvin Rezmerski.") (He just nodded politely, as any good husband would.)
A few chapters on, there was another, even slyer allusion:
"Mr. Vic also had them read stories by an older guy who grew up around Dutch Center and wrote stories about farm boys. Little tiny stories that were about as long as a sneeze and that some people thought were funny. Mr. Vic said he was the 'Hemingway of farm life.' Ho hum. Alice didn't have much use for this guy's work. Too much animal cruelty. In one of his stories, his farm boys threw live cats from the top of a windmill with homemade parachutes on them."
You probably know who Heynen is really talking about here; the "farm boys" reference is a good hint. If you need to, click on the link to see. And then look around for someone to share it with. Yell, "Hey!" So delicious. Book pubs in September. Watch for it.
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