Thursday, March 26, 2009

Last day of the Farewell Tour (the future of the future)

Years ago:

I remember feeling young, free and so damn alive, driving I-85 into the bright lights of Atlanta listening to Outkast's "Cruisin' in the ATL" album interlude, having those four words (ok, three words and one abbreviation) speak to me like words dripping from the God of the Wasted, the Wild and the Unforgettable.

I couldn't yet legally buy alcohol but I was city-drunk, on possibilities, on potential, on hope and on reckless abandon.

(Strange disclosure to let the record show, vol 1 of what is sure to be many: I once made out with my improv teacher, a woman then about 20+ years my senior, on the top of the Equitable building.)

At the time, it-all of it, those cars those lights- felt like something that no one outside of this city would ever understand. 

And I possessed that and turned it into something. Whether that something has legs, wheels or wings-well, that's about to be tested, now, isn't it?

Bye, Atlanta. You ate some of my dreams and gave me new ones.

I don't believe in long goodbyes, I don't believe in goodbyes at all, actually. But I feel I'd be remiss without taking a second to acknowledge the give-and-take in the relationship we've had for the past 26 years.  

You gave me an almost ridiculous love for hip-hop and took my faith in the world to naturally right itself. You took my naive and impassioned love for theater and replaced it with the fledgling kernels of undying, endless self-reliance.

(also, for the record, ATL? You pumped like 8 million dollars into a PR campaign I could've improved in my sleep, but, as Tupac said, I ain't mad atcha. Wait, this is about you, isn't it, Hotlanta? I should quote a southern rapper. As such, insert all of T.I.'s "Dead and Gone" here.)

You told me there were things that would never happen, things I'd never be able to do and never be able to know, as long as I was contained within your walls, and then you offered me the opportunity to make my own path.

I'll see you again, I'm sure.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What my life is worth (last days in Atlanta)

I feel like I have a massive, mad amount of catching up to do, in terms with chronicling the Amazing Adventures Of Russ As He Moves To The North (TM). Fact of the matter is, though, I feel less "amazing" at the present moment (cue a Kanye West rant from his VH-1 "Storytellers": "Russell Stovers-AMAZING. Russ Marshalek-AMAZING. Russ, you know that company that makes the stuffed animals you buy at the greeting card stores? Are they not amazing?") than I do "in stasis". Things feel weird , because every activity I engage in in Atlanta is the "last". The "last" time I'll ever go to Your (mine?) Dekalb Farmers Market, aka the Greatest Damn Place On Earth. The "last" time I'll ever walk to the Decatur square and get angry about all the happy people. The last time I'll ever say "oh, dear, this is the last time I'm..." And really, what good does any of that serve? Basically, my brain is fabricating nostalgia at this point. "Hey, remember the time I ran into the Indigo Girls while I was shopping for coffee at Target?" No, because that didn't happen. I've run into an Indigo Girl ONCE in my entire time in Decatur (a city that they, like, own, or something. Shhhh. I'm trying to tell you something 'bout my life.). My "getting sassed by Michael Stipe" quotient is like eight times that, and Stipe lives in, like, an underground cave carved to resemble an independent coffee shop somewhere below the 40 Watt in Athens, GA, right?


Anyway, things feel weird. I'm four days from landing in LaGuardia, hopefully on-time, maybe even early (yeah, right, flying out of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is like actually attempting to coherently make your way through all of Roberto Bolano's 2666: essentially, have fun with that and call me when it's over). My entire life (six boxes of books and four of clothes) has, thanks to the child-like wondrous unicorn magic of UPS,been assigned a monetary value.

My life is officially worth $177 dollars.

I think I spent that much on the high-gravity beers that I consumed far, far too many of at my going away party...which, um, you can read about here. Basically it looked like this

only plus or minus about another 20 people throughout the course of the evening, and me seriously embarrassing myself only thrice or four times. Oh, and not all squished up due to Blogger's size restrictions. That would have sucked, huh? 

(It's flattering, though, that every person I can point to in the peripheral of that photo was there for me. I mean, that's what I *think*. Some of my friends may have just been like "ooooh crap that's right Russ's thing is here....ooooooh we better say hiiiii.......dammit he saw us" etc.)


"So Russ: your life is en-route to Queens via UPS, you've had a going-away party where you basically consumed your body weight and your bank account in alcohol AND there's four days left of your time in Atlanta, what are you going to do now?"

Well, first I'mma watch Twilight. And I did. And oh, god, it was bad.

(For the record, that whole "dazzling" vampire-in-the-sun-glittering bit was WAY less impressive than it should've been. Less "dazzling", more "I think Henrietta in styling used too much body glitter on R Patz".

Also, the acting. Oh, god, the acting. There's more sexual tension in a nursing home on shuffle board day than there was between Edward and Bella.)

And second? I'm going to see one of my favorite Atlanta bands, Tealights, on Wednesday. I wrote a brief bit about that on Resonator. You should read it. There's a song there, too, It's incredibly pretty and about traveling and I am avoiding at all costs applying it to my (worth $177!) life because that would just end with me being stupidly emotional.

Too late?

Four days left and counting.


Thursday, March 19, 2009


Not to completely overwhelm you, gentle heart, with Russ-generated content all at once, but my BabyGotBooks interview with N. Frank Daniels is up right now.

Daniels is the author of a stunning, harrowing first novel, titled futureproof. Whether you care about that or not is irrelevant; read the interview anyway, as it's one of the most blissfully candid takes on the current state of the publishing industry that you'll experience anywhere:

...More than anything because I only recently realized that the ’story’ behind futureproof’s being published was the main reason why HarperCollins decided to pursue me to publish this book.

Read the rest at BabyGotBooks.

The Old Apartment

My very first girlfriend, in 10th grade(I know, right, I was a slow bloomer but I, um, flowered, or rather, deflowered, quickly...and...often? Oh, god, very veiled reference to me being a teenage slut), was a huge fan of The Barenaked Ladies. Before you go rolling your eyes at me for ever having been involved with someone possessing such mainstream oriented rock tastes, know a couple of things:

1) I really like Fleetwood Mac. So much so that I call them "Tha Fleet" both affectionately and with reverence.

2) I really, really like u2. So much so that I call them "Tha Fleet" both affectionately and with reverence. Also I really still am convinced that I can grow up one day to be Bono.

(HELLO HELLO! See, that's me practicing to be Bono.)

Besides, this was right as the Barenaked Ladies' Rock Spectacle live album was just starting to get a push, mainly on heels of that one single on there about the fat dude from Animal Collective going belly-up at a Chinese buffet, what was it called...oh, yeah, "Brian Wilson".

Anyway, Barenaked Ladies were coming to Atlanta on tour right around the time of Miss M's birthday, and so I thought, like the good puppy dog boyfriend I was at the time, I'd get tickets for us to go see them. The morning of the ticket on-sale date, I went to my local Ticketbastard affiliate (aka the grocery store across the street from the trailer park, excuse me, mobile home community) and proceeded to ask the woman behind the customer service desk for two tickets to the Barenaked Ladies.

Her mouth dropped. "Son, what you wanna see?" she asked me.

"Um, the Barenaked Ladies. Two tickets, please, to the Bare.."

I couldn't finish. She was laughing so hard tears were streaming down her face. "Y'all be wantin' to see some buttnekkid women? Charlene, Charlene get outta the office and come out here, this kid wants tickets to see some buttnekkid women!"

Needless to say, Charlene came out and also marveled at the fact that I was apparently willing to pay $25 plus service charge for tickets to see some, ahem, unclothed members of the female persuasion. They laughed. They hooted. They hollered. They slapped various parts of their very large bodies and chuckled 'til we were all red-faced. Make no mistake, though, I was not amused.

(I was also probably wearing an Indigo Girls t-shirt at the time, which makes things all the worse, always. )

The show was sold out anyway.

All of this is a roundabout way of introducing the fact that, a week and a day prior to relocating from Atlanta to New York (you know, the place they make the salsa), there are a couple of photos from my Flickr account that I need, for my own emotional sanity and mental house-keeping, to put here and caption.

Soundtracked, appropriately, by...

....the Barenaked Ladies' song "The Old Apartment"

The Old Apartment (Live Album Version) - BARENAKED LADIES

As we were cleaning out the industrial, converted-icehouse studio that had held our lives for the past 2/12 years, for me, this song kept playing in my head. A friend/excellent photographer and I recently went back to Icehouse take photos of me (everyone needs professional-quality Facebook photos, yes?), and it started up again. Probably because, like the song's narrator details, the location of past-home holds a certain romance for all the trials, tribulation and heartbreak contained therein. "Broke into the old apartment/this is where we used to live", and all that.


And, despite the mom-jam status that Barenaked Ladies have, well, the song's not leaving my head any time soon.

Thing 1 and Thing 2, respectively (aka the reason for this post, aka documents submitted for your review regarding what once was):

Thing 1

A living-room dumpster scene made with all the Ikea furniture that didn't go with us. That lamp, man, if I could tell you how far that lamp has traveled with's heartbreak, it's change, it's art. I call it "Merriweather Post Pavilion".

Thing 2

This, indeed, is the old apartment. Taken at 10am on the 27th of Feb, 2009. I then shut that door for the last time.

(get it, it's a metaphor?)

In the words of the Barenaked Ladies:
Only memories, fading memories
Blending into dull tableaux

It's all different from here.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Resonator Magazine presets: REStart-the birthday party

One of my other projects, Resonator Magazine (which I'm one of the co-owners of and write for under my thinly-veiled pseudonym Shaun Bateman) is having a birthday party and launching a new live music monthly, about a week after I relocate to New York city:

For more info and MP3s from all involved bands, check the Res post


Sunday, March 8, 2009

A fish with a bicycle on myspace is still a fish with a bicycle

I generally tend to shy away from posting about my chosen industry, that of publishing (if one can define "chosen industry" to mean something akin to what you'd call it if you keep sticking your finger into the exact same electrical socket, possibly with each new insertion choosing a different angle to approach said outlet, thinking that a new approach, a different technique, might warrant something other than heart-breaking, bone-frying shock), here. It hasn't really been much of a conscious effort, rather my world, after becoming "underemployed", has focused on three things: one, my moving, two, my chronicling of it, and three, finding a full-time job in New York, preferably even before I'm there.

In regards to the third, thanks to a spiffy resume remix by my good friend Wayne Fishell of the wayne fishell experiment and cleaning expert slash resume-rejiggerer for hire extraordinaire, I'm feeling as though what was told to me by the GA Dept Of Labor's Unemployment Office, henceforth called the "unemploymentarium", just might be true: things are looking up.

Don't know what those "things" are yet, or in what relative direction this "up" might be, but it's the name of one of my favorite R.E.M. albums so it has to be good.

About the rest: admittedly, I've not done a very good job of writing about that here, either. Improvements in timeliness and topicalness shall be made on all fronts. To wit, yesterday I fulfilled a year's-outstanding obligation and gave a lecture (I really don't like the word "lecture", it makes me feel like what I was doing was talking in harsh tones to a room full of 3 year olds about why one shouldn't eat dirt and that the poo poo should go in the poo poo place and all that...which, I mean, having taught for a few years, I can honestly say that sometimes rooms full of high school students need to be told the exact same things) on the topics, and oh yes I do mean topics, of book marketing, publicity and events in this weird age of skies falling in and books that you can read on your computer and social networks being more important than leaving the house, at the 2009 Spring Book Show in Atlanta. I put that bit in bold and put it right before the cut so that, in case you're finding this blog as a result of picking up one of my cards at the lecture, you know you're in the right place. Continuing on...

I'd initially been scheduled to talk at the 2008 Spring Book Show, but I ended up breaking the hell out of my foot (that's right, my foot had hell in it and it needed to be released) a week before, and as such I couldn't make it. This year, though, it felt pretty vital for me to wrap my head around what I was going to say-not having a post like Wordsmiths to tie my ship to or some other horse/nautical metaphor that means "not having a steady job means I need to get my ideas out in front of as many people as possible", injected a serious sense of urgency into me to make sure my points coalsced. Ask any of my former students from years ago, or, hell, anyone who has ever held a conversation with me ever-I can digress. I OWN digression.

As you can see, I was scheduled to begin right after Hollis Gillespie ended.

Now, Hollis is someone I'm a bit of a fan of. Reading her collections of very, very personal, very trashy and sometimes heartbreaking essays enlightened me as to the format I want my forthcoming memoir ("forthcoming" as in "whenever the hell I decide I'm going to write the damn thing so shut up") We Give Ourselves Habits In Order To Live, to take. Also, she's a huge draw consistently in this area for the exact reasons I listed above-trashy, heartbreaking, brilliant, successful, CONSISTENTLY PUBLISHED. That last one's key, by the way. In 2008, I was actually supposed to lecture concurrently to her, and it terrified me that I'd be speaking to a room full of those tiny glass bottles of Coke that convention centers love to fill the buffets with and nothing/no-one else. I have no comment as to whether or not that fear actually caused me to break my foot.


Anyway, lingering outside my classroom, going over my notes, head both in the clouds and attempting to get focused, low and behold I saw Hollis, in a rare moment of respite from book-signing/advice-giving. Without thinking, I approached her. Again, without thinking, I actually let myself speak.

"Hollis", I stammered, words falling out of my mouth accidentally like change through a hole in a coat pocket, "I...I...I'm your friend on Facebook!"

This is a nationally syndicated columnist, a best-selling author, someone who has fucking been on Jay fucking Leno for fuck's sake. Your mom's cat is her friend on Facebook, and so too probably is Tori fucking Amos.

The conversation went down hill from there as I proceeded to basically blather all over her. She took it kindly and in-stride, since I can't possibly be the only drooling idiot to ever tell her that her books have "made me think it's ok to write my story about growing up in Marietta eating ketchup off of paper plates."

I immediately had to jump, red-faced from the fan-boy moment, into a sense of authority and give my talk.

The lecture I'd prepared (and I use the word "prepared" very loosely) I titled "A fish with a bicycle on myspace is still a fish with a bicycle" as a way to frame out the thesis statement of all of my points made therein, which was this:

There's no simple solution, no easy way, no quick and fast solution to marketing yourself and your book that works for everyone, all the time, without fail. As such, authors and publishers, playing the game (which is what it is, possibly a highly-intellectual game but also one that's dirty and cutthroat) and wanting to play it well, must be ready and willing to make themselves able to play on any field, with any tools, by any means necessary, at any time.

I asked Barbara Friend Ish, who, with her Mercury Retrograde Press, is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy publisher and one of the few in the industry I've found whose ideas for utilizing new means to make reading a fully immersive and interactive experience for all involved far outweigh what current technology is capable of doing, to accompany me and offer her insights as an editor, writer and publisher. Together, we touched on a handful of points that I know we both feel are essential to the publishing world today: about the value of treating people with respect and dignity, the slow dismissal of the negative connotations of self-publishing (fuck, if Wil Wheaton's self-publishing, why shouldn't you?), and my personal feelings on how Borders is now the single most abjectly useless bookstore in existence. Mostly, though, our joint message orbited around the point that one cannot take for granted the value of relationships. With bookstores, with publishers, with publicists, with authors, the nasty, dirty, lovely game of books is all about relationships.

See, you know I mean it because I have that part in bold.

Lecture concluded, questions answered, I gave out nearly all the RussComm business cards I came with, so I feel as though it was a success. I mean, if I'd come across as an uneducated twat no one would've wanted my card, right?

I'm going to keep thinking that.

Seriously, though, I feel that a publishing shock doctrine: forcing folks to wake up into cold water and realize that the industry has changed so much that adaptations, accommodation and assimilation must be made and made immediately, that there's no time to sit and ponder the ramifications of, for instance, a Facebook page, helps way more than it hurts. But by that same token, there is not, and there will never be, one hard and fast answer to what's going to "properly promote books" or "save" publishing. Although, if one vendor at the Spring Book Show I happened to overhear is to be believed, the salvation for the entire publishing industry will come in the form of crockpot cookbooks.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

The night of the eggplant parm

In the past few days, I have moved. Vacated one life and am now in a holding pattern until the next begins. Scary times strange steps and a lot of the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs record holding my hand in a way the first one didn't but the last one more than did.

This is where I'd post a picture of the page from my old black spiral Mead notebook on which I scrawled, in landscape orientation (that's a little page layout humor, yo!), "I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE NOT TO GO BACK TO YOU. NO MYSTERIES.", but I got freaked out living in a moment between past and the future like that Kate Bush song says and deleted my entire old Flickr account the other night, so that picture's long fucking gone.

I don't think I have the emotional or mental reserves at the present moment to get to anything major. Too tired. Too hung over. Too much of one thing and not enough of another, with all of that being some sort of obnoxiously vague metaphor for something. I'm reaching here, people.

Rather than have this sound like a bad LiveJournal...

...I'll give a big "thank you" to the super-awesome Megan "SuperBadass" Volpert and the restorative powers of her eggplant parmesan for making the tail end of a really, really long set of days something that will eventually inspire a self-referential prose piece entirely composed as a parenthetical aside and called "(Had never really had eggplant parm before but even if I had 'twould not compare, nor shine as bright nor flicker like the firefly's tail glistening against that reflective surface, to this incredible creation of magic and wonder and OMFG IT WAS GOOD Y'ALL)".

(Side-note about parenthetical asides: an ill-executed one will fucking keep me up at night. While reading an advance copy of Jennifer Egan's The Keep, I came across a passage which was prefaced by an open parenthesis...that was never closed. Ever. Now, granted, that's why Advance Reading Copies, or ARCs in the stupid world of stupid publishing that I love so stupidly with all my stupid heart and it makes me so angry and frustrated and I even love that and anyway I digress, have gigantic slappy copy all over them reading "THIS IS AN UNFINISHED COPY. UNFINISHED. IT MEANS NOT DONE. NO ONE HAS PROOFED THIS EXCEPT FOR THE INTERN, AND WE FIRED HER THOUGH REALLY WE SHOULDN'T HAVE SINCE SHE WORKS FOR FREE AND AS SUCH IF WE POPULATED ALL OF THE PUBLISHING HOUSES JUST WITH UNPAID INTERNS WE COULD SAVE PUBLISHING"-because, um, they've not been proofed. So typos happen. Words are misspelled. The ARC I have of the forthcoming English translation of the late Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played With Fire has a bunch of oddly typeset underscores prefacing random words. But when a parenthesis isn't closed? How is someone raised on a diet of modern and post-modern lit and literary criticism NOT supposed to just ASSUME the entire book, from the open parenthesis on, ad infinitum, doesn't take place as an aside? Seriously, I say this with as much calmness as I can muster when even thinking about it makes my hands shake and brow sweat again, the unclosed parenthesis in the ARC of The Keep kept me up all night, tossing and turning. To assuage my fears, I had to both reassure myself that the next time a closed parenthesis appeared it would, in turn, close the initial open one also AND hunt down a finished copy in a Borders later to prove to my obsessive-compulsive brain that, in fact, the entire book actually did happen in real-time and not as some digression.)

In the fridge right now sits this:

A tiny bit of left-over love from the night of the eggplant parm. A little more of that, and a little more thought-gathering, and I'll be ready to, erm, write down the bones? I think after this year I'll never be allowed to say that again.