Thursday, 27 June 2013

We've Moved...

All of us here at ATWN want to thank our readers for making the first six months of All The Write Notes so much fun! But with such a great response from authors, artists, and bands, we decided a change in address was needed.
So stop by our new digs at...

ATWN Interview: Arlo Aldo's Dave Manchester

Alt-folk. Alt-country. The new Americana.  Some of my favorite recent music finds have been dancing around somewhere between those labels.  Neko Case, The Avett Brothers, The Low Anthem, and The Lumineers to just name a few.

A new discovery is Arlo Aldo hailing out of Pittsburgh.  We were lucky enough to get in touch with David Manchester to get to know a little about the band and to catch up on books and music.

Arlo Aldo's album, Zelie, was released this past February and you can buy it (and give it a listen) right HERE.

First things first, tell our readers a little bit about Arlo Aldo.  I'm certainly getting a taste of the new Americana upon listening to Zelie.

Well… we're a down-tempo, melodious, extremely attractive, intelligent, and modest band based out of Pittsburgh, PA. We like long walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, and can easily be bribed with bottles of good whiskey.

Give me a book that lines up well with the themes/stories that you're speaking to in Zelie.

That's a great question. I don't' know if I can come up with just one book. Perhaps "Welcome to the Monkey House" by kurt vonnegut? Our songs cover so many different themes involving love, loss, growth, birth, hope, and a man walking across a high wire in New York City. I feel like Vonnegut's collection of short stories does the same? 

Let's get right to the nitty-gritty, if we are snooping around your house (or tour van) and start to peek at the books you have lying around, what are we going to find?

I'll be honest, you'd be way better off snooping in our drummer, Brandon's, house. He's way more literary and is a writer himself. I'm terrible at reading. It's one of those things I wish I had more diligence for. I love Haruki Murakami and have read almost all of his books. I went through a Nick Hornby phase, Tom Robbins was a popular one on my night stand, too. My largest collection, though, would be by Joeph Loeb and Tim Sale. They collaborated on several Batman graphic novels. Yup… I'm a comic nerd.

If there were an author that you could collaborate with on a song, who would that be and what would you hope that they'd bring to the experience?

Haruki Murakami, hands down. His depiction of depression in Norwegian Wood was one of the most accurate and beautiful things I've ever read. Havingstruggled with depression myself, it seemed to reflect my own experience amazingly. I'd really hope that he would bring his ability to capture emotion and a person's internal struggle. Those are pretty universal themes throughout a lot of my songwriting.

As aspiring writers, our readers are always looking for people to commiserate with through the struggles of telling stories.  Can you give us some insight into your writing process and then how does that eventually translate into a finished song?

Writing lyrics has always been a source of pride for me. Probably because I can't write anything else worth a damn. My poetry is abysmal, and I don't think I could even comprehend what it would take to write an actual story. As for my lyrical process, though, I usually start with singing along to whatever chord pattern I'm fiddling with. I find the notes themselves help guide me as to what the theme of the song will be. Once I get an idea of my subject, I just sing. I see what comes out, what feels right, and then when something seems to click, I frantically search for any kind of scrap to write my ideas on. After I have a first draft, I give it a day or two and then look at what I've written. That's when I really start to think about what I'm trying to say. What words are better suited? What sounds more intelligent, less obvious? Is there a better way to say what I'm trying to convey to the listener? That's when things really get flushed out and perfected. Sometimes this happens quickly. Other times, the process leads me to realize that it's just a bad song.

What are some of your struggles as a songwriter?

I'm constantly afraid I'll run out of songs. I'll run out of chord patterns, transition, and nothing original will come out anymore. I'm worried about my lyrics being trite and obvious. But I think those are normal concerns with anyone involved in any kind of creative endeavor.

For our readers who are working on writing books for younger readers, what is a book that really stands out for you from your childhood?

Honesty time… I was a horrendous reader growing up. I was "that guy" that was too lazy to even read the Cliff Notes and just fudged my way through tests in junior high and high school. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to suck it up and read. He'd be better off for it.

What was the last book that you bought?

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. I'm a stay at home dad, so my reading priorities have shifted a bit.

Who is an author that you find yourself consistently going back to?

Haruki Murakami, hands down. For some reason, his style and quirkiness just appeals to me.

What do you think that aspiring writers can learn from musicians such as yourself/yourselves?  And, to piggy-back on that idea, what do you think that musicians can take from writers?

What can writers learn from me? Hmm… Do it because you love it. Don't worry about how many people have read your piece or how many places you've been published. If you enjoy writing, write. Don't' take yourself so seriously and don't necessarily be too focused on the end goal. I'm on my 6th album and have yet to receive my phone call from Sub Pop, but playing and writing music is too much fun, and too much of a passion for me to stop just because I haven't hit the "big time." As far as what I can learn from writers, that's easy. Read more. Learn from other people's writing and experiences. I've been trying to do that more with my song writing, but I believe that there is so much more out there that I can glean, and I respect writers that can really get into someone else's head to create a story.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Setting the Stage with Music


I think a lot of people forget how important setting is when writing a story. Not only is it where and when the story takes place but it can also be personified, as if it's a character in and of itself. The setting is also a foundation, a place to ground our characters and a jumping off point for plot. And sometimes, the setting is the antagonist, is what evokes the most emotion out of characters. 

Listening to music that echoes the ambiance of the setting helps me create a more believable story by infusing the feels from the music into my manuscript. It also helps me create a more authentic response from my main characters thus making my readers FEEL. And that's what it's all about - making a reader feel something.

So, I thought I'd share with you a few songs that have been helping me create different environments, whether I'm writing or outlining.

** indicate the video featured

Setting - Mysterious, questionable: **Dots and Dashes by Silversun Pickups and 
The Lightning Strike by Snow Patrol

Setting - Enemy territory: **Supremacy by Muse and Skin to Bone by Linkin Park

Setting - Traveling: Bright Lights by Thirty Seconds to Mars and (older but still good) **Learn to Fly by Foo Fighters 

Psst...if you haven't seen this video for a while you should watch'll make you smile.

Setting - A new, exciting location: Diluvia by Freelance Whales and **We Are the Tide by Blind Pilot

This band is AMAZING live. If you don't know them, you should. Great chill tunes and mega talented.

Setting - Close, comfortable quarters with the main characters love interest: Closer by Tegan and Sara and You and I by Paper Route

What current tracks/albums are listening to as you create or think of setting in your writing?
Keep writing! Cheerleader out, yo! 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Lost Art of The Mix-Tape

I'm going to date myself here and tell you, I'm a child of the 80's. There were many great things about the 80's and none of them include mall bangs, wearing two pairs of socks at the same time or biker shorts. The list of good things is long, but at the top of it for me is the mixed-tape.

For those of you youngins that read this blog, a mixed-tape is one of those marvels that is a lost art. Nowadays, you can make a playlist 500 songs deep with a general theme and then hit shuffle for the perfect blend of songs anytime.

A mix for moods - Blue, happy, angry, love, fun. A mix for occasions - running, driving, cleaning, sunshine, rain, party. A mix for people - Mom, Dad, Kid one, two or three.

But this all began with the mixed-tape. So what makes the mixed-tape such an art form?

First, you had to have the right equipment. Either a tape to tape or eventually a CD to tape and then eventually you could make a mixed-CD. Second, you didn't have a hundred songs to get your point across. On a tape, five to six, sometimes seven per side if you got the long playing tapes. Twenty or twenty-two on a CD. You had to not only find the songs with the right sentiment and lyrics, but also you had to consider the length of each song and how they fit together to maximize the amount of songs.

You weren't just making a statement, you were making an audio scrapbook, a moment in time. A music album is called that for a reason. It's a set of pictures you can hear.

Then there was the order in which they were placed. And you had hard choices to make over which song really conveyed what you wanted to say, what you needed to hear. I mean one Led Zeppelin song, while conveying the right thoughts, would take up the place of two or sometimes three songs.

Lastly, the cover art. Did you list out the songs? Draw a picture and let the recipient be surprised as your genius was musically revealed? Use all the colors in your scented marker pack? So many choices.

Now of course, I make playlists for all my books and characters. I have all those playlists listed above. But once in a while, I long for the days of the perfect mix of ten or fifteen songs.

What does this have to do with writing? What finally makes it into your book is your mixed-tape. You'll have a hundred ideas and side plots and little things that go through your brain and maybe even into your first draft. But in the end, you revise and whittle it down to just the perfect mix of words, thoughts and ideas to convey the perfect story. Then you put it in order and find the perfect cover to hold it all in.

While the art of a literal mixed-tape is soon to be completely lost, at least writers are keeping those ideas alive with their stories, their playlists and the influences music will always have on the written word. 

Until next time, love and music notes, Angi

Monday, 17 June 2013

10 Questions with...Tripwires

With Tripwires fantastic debut album, Spacehopper, out today in the U.K. and hitting North American store shelves June 18th, we are ecstatic to have the U.K. psych-rock band on A.T.W.N.

10 Questions with...Tripwires

What was it like, being from the small town of Reading in England, recording your debut album in Brooklyn?
Recording in Brooklyn was great for us. We wrote the album in the comfort of our homes, but recorded it in an alien environment. Sometimes it’s easy to get too comfortable recording demos in your own practice space. I would definitely say going to a crazy new place influences the way you approach things. When recording this album we wanted to make a little world, stepping out of a place that you are used to into a new environment certainly helps this process.

What are some of the lyrical influences that show up throughout your debut album Spacehopper?
There’s a lot of snapshots of youth, growing up, songs built from little experiences. In terms of themes, loss and the feeling of being lost appear quite a bit.

One book, and one band…
Book – The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky.
Band – Aphrodite’s Child

Favorite Neil Young track?
There really are too many. They change every week. Currently I would say ‘I believe in you’ off of After the Goldrush.

Does what you read have an impact on your songwriting?
Photo Credit: Carl Sagan
I can’t say any particular book has ever had a direct influence on our songwriting. It’s nice to appreciate a different way of expressing emotion though. I wouldn’t say lyrically we are much of a ‘story telling’ band, perhaps a little more self-conversationalist.

Star Wars or Star Trek?
Neither. Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ everytime!!

What was it like working with Nicolas Vernhes, who has produced albums for Animal Collective, Bjork and Dirty Projectors?
It was pleasure to work with Nicolas. He has recorded some amazing stuff with Deerhunter and Animal Collective previously, and the opportunity to work with him was something we couldn’t pass on. All of his stuff has great texture to it, and like us, he is a sucker for adding weird noises over the top of quite nicely constructed pop songs.

 What are the reading habits for the band like on the road?
I’m currently reading ‘The wind-up bird chronicle’ by Murakami.
When we were away earlier this week, I had it in the van and it started getting read by two others. You could say that book currently has 3 bookmarks in it.

Is there an author/musician you would love to see at one of your gigs?
Neil Young and Thurston Moore. Hand in hand, that really would be something.

Is there a band that played the Reading Festival that really inspired everyone?
I guess the Nirvana performance in ’92 still gets talked about today. We hadn’t even started school then, so didn’t see it. The DVD looks quite something though!

Thanks to Tripwires for taking the time to stop by ATWN this week. Tripwires debut album, Spacehopper, can be ordered through Frenchkiss Records, or iTunes.  If you would like to connect with the band, check them out on Twitter and Soundcloud.

As a treat, the band is offering up a free download of their atmospheric track, ‘Catherine, I feel sick’ from their debut album which you can buy from the links above.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

I'm a Bust A Move Kind of Writer

I'm one of those people who's wanted to be a writer since I was old enough to understand what it meant. Throughout my childhood, I wrote story after story and shared them with everyone I could. 

And then I stopped.

I mean, I wrote all sorts of dramatic emo journal entries and some pretty terrible, angst-filled poetry throughout my high school years. But stories? No way. 

It's not that I didn't have ideas. Characters, plots, and settings were constantly tumbling about and weaving themselves together in my mind. But nothing seemed big enough. I was convinced that if I was going to write a book, it had to be amazing. It had to be absolutely life-changing for every single person that read it. People would read my book and WEEP. They would share it with their friends. It would be studied in schools and quoted in daily conversation. Hemingway? Steinbeck? Faulkner? Chumps. 

Whatever I wrote had to be a masterpiece, and if I couldn't achieve Nobel Peace Prize Level Greatness, I was wasting my time.

I quit creating stories for years. YEARS. I kept reading, of course, but I gave up on writing completely. Why even try to live up to the kind of pressure I was putting on myself? 

Then one day, it hit me--sometimes, it's enough just to be entertaining.

Think of it this way: 

Does anyone think Young MC was trying to create life-altering art when he was writing Bust a Move?

It's a song about a guy who tries and tries to get a girl and fails because he can't dance. There's no deep,  hidden message there, but come ON. It's Bust A Move. It was a huge hit. Young MC won a Grammy for it and and people still love it, over twenty years after its release. 

Compare that to John Lennon's Imagine.

This song challenged listeners to imagine a world "with nothing to kill or die for." It was a message of peace, asking all of us to look past our differences and come together as one. It's listed as number three on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

One is fun and light, the other is a poetic, political statement. The two songs are different in nearly every way possible, and people loved them both.

There's just as much value in writing an entertaining story that the reader can escape in as there is in writing the Next Great American Novel. Every book should be entertaining and engaging, but not every book is going to make the reader feel all the feels and end world hunger.

That's it. That one, simple realization changed my life, you guys. I gave myself permission to tell whatever kind of story I wanted to tell in whatever way I wanted to tell it, and BETWEEN was born.

Trust me. BETWEEN is of the Bust A Move variety, not Imagine.

Writing is hard enough without putting unreasonable expectations on yourself. Whether or not you're the next J.K. Rowling, your writing still has worth. You'll never know if readers will connect to your world, your characters, or your prose until you finally take the plunge and commit to your story. Don't give yourself excuses to quit--look for reasons to keep going. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Island Tunes

Ok, y'all, I've been on vacation for a solid week. Out of cell and wi-fi range (it was spotty at best) in the islands. Specifically, the Abacos.

And it was awesome.

Here's a visual:

Yup, it was as gorgeous as it looks.:) It was our first family getaway in years (since the birth of boy #4), and it was all we could have asked for--and then some.

As we chilled out on the boat or on the dock, we played tunes. Our main choice? Jack Johnson. We've seen him in concert, and he's AMAZING live. And we listen to him all the time around our house.  His music was a perfect island fit.

Which got me thinking...what are the tunes that perfectly capture that summer vibe?

Classic summer island tunes call for Jimmy Buffett--like Cheeseburger in Paradise, Margaritaville, or Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.

More recent tracks (by an artist with country roots but channeling Buffet's laid-back vibe) are Summertime and No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem by Kenny Chesney. (Kenny rocks in concert too, btw. I've seen him take a huge venue and turn the whole scene into an island party.)

Other picks? Summer Vibe by Walk Off The Earth, Waves by Blondfire, and La Mar (The Ocean) by The Beautiful Girls. All strong contenders for a sweet summer song.

I could go on, but I'll stop and turn it over to you.What tunes would you add to a summer tunes playlist? What song--or artist--best captures the feel of summer for you?

(For more tunes, check out my Island tunes playlist)

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Super Obsessive Playlists and Welcome to the Medicine Tribe

If you don’t recognize me at all, it’s because I’m new to All the Write Notes. (When this post is over, you can thank--or blame--Jay Spencer for my arrival) I’m so totally not new to music and writing, though. In fact, they’re just a few of my favourite obsessions (you might recognize part of that last line—just a friendly nod to Frank N. Furter). I was going to do a playlist as my first post. Then I realized it wouldn’t quite work out. Then I thought, maybe I could do an interview. But that will have to wait for another day.

You see, I’m—in a word—swamped. Funny I should mention that word. One of my musical obsessions just happens to be Swamp by Talking Heads.

But I digress. I’m not here to talk about the Talking Heads.

By now, you might be asking yourself, “Why can’t he do a playlist?” Well, It’s because the playlists I create for novel writing mostly consist of ONE SONG. Yep, that’s right. I’m so obsessive that I will listen to just the one song—over and over again ad infinitum—for an entire novel. Don’t try to do the math, it will boggle your mind. 50,000 words x 3 minute song divided by 15 chapters…let’s see, carry the 4 and multiply by the number of years…yeah. Fugetaboutit.

There is a catch, though. I don’t spread my novel writing over years. I write my novels in 48 & 72 hour marathons. So, although it sounds like madness to listen to the same song on repeat for the entire duration of a novel…it really only amounts to 72 hours at the most. That’s only, like, 1,400 plays. That is NOT obsessive. I do a little thing called the Muskoka Novel Marathon every July. It raises needed funds for the local literacy network, but it’s also an amazing retreat wherein thirty writers barricade themselves into a room for 72 hours and attempt to write complete novels.

I’m an addictive personality. If you know me, you know this. So…for my first marathon, I listened to Anthem by Leonard Cohen for 48 hours straight. What came out of the marathon was a finished novel called Sebastian’s Poet. Now I could create a playlist link here for that marathon, but I don’t see the point. Nothing is sadder than a one-song playlist. If you were to scan the pages of Sebastian’s Poet, you would probably notice that the boy’s ‘poet’ is a reincarnation of Leonard himself. I mean, it’s ridiculous. Anthem is just such an incredibly awesome song, though. It drove me to write that novel non-stop for 48 electrifying-ly amazing hours.

After that marathon was over, I contacted Leonard Cohen’s people. I wish I could say I had my people contact his people, but I’d be lying. I received permission to use, ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ (Anthem lyrics) as the epigraph to the novel. To go one step further, I then got it tattooed on my arm. Yeah, I’m not obsessive.

That novel also has a real-life celebrity in it. Gordon Lightfoot shows up in the last chapter. One of the last orders of business that Lightfoot’s agent, Barry Harvey, did before his death was provide me with permission to use Gordon as a character in the novel.

I should let you know right now that my tangents are so wide and chaotic, they require a bus route. So, you’re either on the bus or off the bus (my nod to the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test). This post is actually about my favourite NEW obsession. Let me introduce you to Medicine for the People (and the song I will have on repeat during this July’s Muskoka Novel Marathon!)

 (click on the album covers to go to MftP's website)

I stumbled upon Medicine about a year ago, and from that point on the obsession has slowly taken over my life. After I obsessed over their first album ON THE VERGE for several months, they were kind enough to recently release their second album DARK AS NIGHT. This band, and their peaceful reformative vision, really pumps my blood. They are FolkMusic2.O Or, rather, 11 on the volume knob of my obsession scale. Before I totally lose you, I’m going to leave you with something from their new album. ALOHA KE AKUA will inspire you to sit. To write. To marathon that next novel. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself suddenly writing Hawaii in as the novel’s setting.

Here’s a challenge for you. As a writer, can you pick just one song? Choose the definitive one-song soundtrack for your work in progress. And spin that puppy ad infinitum until you keystroke THE END on your novel. It’s transformative. Really.

You can follow NAHKO, the lead singer of Medicine for the People, on Twitter: @NahkoBear

 Nahko Bear & Medicine for the People

When you become a fan of MftP (and you will) you will call yourself #MedicineTribe on Twitter. And it will be good.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Are You Trying to be the Singer, Songwriter and Producer?

When I was little, I had this idea that singers always wrote their own songs. I thought it was incredible that one person could write, sing, arrange and produce a song or a whole album. 

Of course, I grew up and learned that was not how it worked.

It takes a whole team of people, normally, to write hit songs–or any song, for that matter. You have the artist, the songwriters, the musicians, the producers, etc.

When people collaborate, great creative product is produced.

As an introvert, I say that cautiously. I like owning my own work. I like sitting in front of my laptop, writing my own story for hours and hours without interruption. But there always comes a moment, when I've created a problem in my story that I can't solve on my own.

For example, I've been working on a story that is set in more of an ancient Rome setting. I came to a point in my story, where I wanted to collapse a structure. But I wanted it to be the only building that collapsed and I didn't want any kind of natural disaster to have anything to do with it. If my story was set in a modern era, I'd have just had a character blow it up–but that wasn't going to work for this story. 

I happened to be explaining this dilemma to a friend, who isn't a writer but has always been patient with me when I start talking about my projects, and he said, "What if there was an unstable catacomb under this building and it collapsed, causing the building to collapse?"

I had been thinking about this scene for DAYS and here he was, he'd listened to my problem for all of five minutes, and he had a solution!

Needless to say, I have a catacomb in my story now.

Talk to people about your work. Let them read it too. I've always been painfully shy about letting friends read my work–not because I think they'll tell me it's great when it isn't. They won't. But because they'll think it's so ridiculous, they'll never be able to look at me the same again. 

But that's foolish too. 

An author does not have to write, sing, arrange and produce their book all on their own. It's a team effort, but only if you let it be.

Friday, 31 May 2013

ATWN Weekend Covers - May Playlist

Preview of our new look
coming soon...
This past month we started something new on our Twitter account called "ATWN Weekend Covers." On the weekends throughout May we tweeted some of our favorite cover tracks along with the hashtag, #ATWNWeekendCovers. The obvious next step...a playlist for you! So, for those who are always in search of something new to listen to, we will be creating a monthly playlist on our YouTube channel from our tweets and posting it here at the end of each month.
In our inaugural #ATWNWeekendCovers playlist, we feature covers by artists such as Stereophonics, Gorillaz, The White Stripes, and The Joy Formidable. Enjoy, and keep your eyes out for our new look coming this week!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

My Newest Obsessions

Please excuse me for this super short post. The last few weeks have been insane around my house. I was out of town, then we had family visit, then my husband went out of town. Then I got sick, and right in the middle of all that, a new book idea just won't leave me alone. Oh, and then there is also the fact that I'm 28 weeks pregnant (YAY!!!) and we are expecting our third little boy this August.

And then, in the midst of all that excitement, my husband introduced me to two new-to-me artists: Alpha Rev and Passenger. I cannot get enough. I find myself sitting and listening to the lyrics over and over again. Do the singers really mean the words they are singing to be taken literally or are the meanings deeper? I LOVE IT.

If you haven't already discovered one or either of these, definitely check them out!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Query/Submission Playlist


amusement parks,leisure,rides,roller coasters,tracks,picnics,recreation

Querying to find an agent or being on submission to editors can be simultaneously 
heart-wrenching and joyful.
Scary and liberating.
Puke-inducing and fulfilling.

To help you survive as you dig your way through the query trenches, searching for that perfect agent, or endure weeks of awaiting news from editors who love your characters like their own children, as you do, I've put together a playlist. This playlist echoes the emotional trauma I endured while I queried and 
am currently embracing *sarcasm* as I have a novel out on submission to editors.

1. Beautiful Day by U2 - because the day you send your finished, polished manuscript that you've labored over for hours over and poured your heart and soul into is, indeed, a BEAUTIFUL DAY!

2. Dragula by Rob Zombie - the first three words: Superstition, Fear, & Jealousy. You're freaked out. You wish upon a shooting star, cross your fingers, say a prayer, stick needles in a voo-doo doll, you do anything and everything to bring you and your manuscript good luck. You're scared. And those witches who get a major book deal on their first novel and only querying 5 agents suck. (Besides, it's Rob Zombie.)

3. Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine - "And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off." You have a lot to be happy about. You've finished a frickin' book! Stop pouting, shake that devil off, and dance!

4. Dancing Queen by ABBA - You are elated. You want to celebrate. You just want to dance and sing.

5. It's the End of the World As We Know it by REM - It hits you - what if your manuscript sucks? What if you have no talent what-so-ever and you've just been fooling yourself? It's the end of your world.

6. Swim Until You Can't See Land by Frightened Rabbit - No. Stop being a Debbie Downer. Just keep going. Stay the course. Don't give up.

7. Faith by George Michael - Because ya gotta have-a faith, faith, faith- ah!!! (Have faith in yourself and your work.)

8. Gogal by Gonzales - This song plays in my head as I'm staring at a blank wall. I'm numb to all emotion. It's all so overwhelming I try to shut if all off. I shut down.

9. Get Up! by by Korn (feat. Skrillex) - Shut the *@#% up, GET UP! What are you saying? Stop it. Get your $#*+ together.

10. Alcohol by Brad Paisley - Self explanatory. You've gotten to the point where you just need a stiff drink.

11. Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys - After a drink, you can conquer the world. Your book is going to break records, you are going to be famous. This girl (or guy) IS ON FIRE!!!

12. Up In the Air by Thirty Seconds to Mars - Your not quite so on fire. You realize exactly where you are. You're up in the air. "Up in the air, chasing a dream so real. I've been up in the air."

13. This Too Shall Pass by OK Go - This will be over at some point. Not just the searching for an agent or editor, but the feeling that you suck as a writer, that your dream will never come true. It will pass.

14. Just Say Yes by Snow Patrol - At the end of the day, you want one person to JUST SAY YES!

This is the emotional roller coaster one can feel while querying/on submission....

And that's just the first day!

Just hang in there though. You can do it. Cheerleader out, yo!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

ATWN Interview: Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis

Speedy Ortiz/photo by Noe Richard                     

So, for our readers who don't already know, the band's name comes from a character in the Hernandez brothers' Love and Rockets comics.  I went through a phase in high-school where I couldn't get enough of indie comics and Love and Rockets was one of the first to open my eyes to what could be done outside of superheroes and spandex.  When did you develop a relationship with comics?

I've read comics as long as I could remember. My mom bought me MAD Magazine when I was a tiny kid which pretty quickly turned into collecting comics together, learning how to draw characters I liked, and eventually drawing and writing my own stories.

In doing research for this interview, I happened upon what I believe is your Goodreads page and noticed a lot of graphic novels.  Some you loved (Watchmen) some you didn't (The Walking Dead).  Some of our authors are working on graphic novels of their own.  What is it you look for from a great graphic novel?

Ha, I forgot that existed... I set up that account half-assedly and was ultimately unimpressed with the service. Kind of like Pandora or Netflix which only ever recommends me things I already know. I'm all for zombie stories but I find 'The Walking Dead' (at least the book) to be 2D, underdeveloped, misogynistic. I don't feel for any of the characters on 'The Walking Dead' (and by necessity of the plot) they're totally disposable. The most memorable things about them are their hair-dos, their accessories, their weapons. If you have a great story with weak characters, no one's gonna give a shit. Interesting characters are necessary. That should go without saying. Someone page Robert Kirkman.

So, lets get to Speedy.  What is it about the character, Speedy Ortiz, that struck such a chord that you decided to name your band after him?

A few people close to me died in 2011, and at the time I was reading Locas, and I remember feeling impressed with the way Jaime Hernandez portrays grief in "The Death of Speedy Ortiz" and the stories that follow it. More so than Speedy, I was interested in how Maggie and Izzy and the rest of the people close to Speedy continued to live their lives after his death, the way Hernandez hints at their grieving processes, and how the narrative continues so abruptly after he dies (we're led immediately from Speedy's ghost haunting his sister to a scene about Hopey on tour).

You have a background in poetry.  What poet, past or present, do you think would fit in nicely as a member of the band?

We once played a show that ended with a reading from Wendy Xu, whose new book 'You Are Not Dead' is one of my favorites of the year. It would be cool to do another show like that. Wendy Xu, wherever you are, please eat sandwiches with us.

I've asked other artists this same question so I'm curious what you think.  I know that as an aspiring novelist, I spend a lot of time wrapped up in music.  I write important scenes to songs.  I use songs to try to get into some of my characters' heads.  It plays an important role in what I do with words.  I've always been of the opinion, beyond actually writing lyrics, that there is a special kinship between authors and musicians.  Still, I can't really play much of anything on my guitar (which doesn't stop me from shredding it up with my two kids).  What is your take?  Do you see music and writing as being partners?

To be honest I've never really seen my writing and my music as connected. I have to focus so intently when I read and write that I can't even really listen to music when I do so. I'm jealous of my friends who go into a coffee shop for a day and knock out huge chunks of their novels while listening to an iPod, because for me that's way too distracting.  But I do enjoy books and poems that use music as their subject matter and I read a lot of music criticism.

The majority of our readers are pounding out words on their keyboards to try to tell stories and we all go through a variety of processes to get those stories out.  What does your process look like when you are songwriting?  Where do you struggle?

Almost always I compose music first and the lyrics fall into place afterwards. Sometimes I'll come up with a line when I'm walking around or in the shower or whatever. Sometimes I'll fill in the rhythmic blanks with phrases I've jotted down in a notebook. I'm lucky in that a lot of it comes automatically to me through association. As far as where I struggle, editing is not my strong suit. Once something's done I typically let it go without changing anything. But sometimes I'll be performing an older song and be like, "Man, I really wish I'd changed this shitty line right when I first wrote it, but now we've recorded it this way and now it's stuck and now I have to embarrassed every night." So I take some live liberties and change the lyrics for that, which is kind of a revisionist history. Not that anyone can understand what I'm saying anyway.

My rock soul was shaped in no small part by Sonic Youth.  You recently toured with Thurston Moore.  What was that experience like?  Did you happen to catch what books he was reading?

The shows were with Thurston Moore & John Moloney's Caught On Tape duo, which is improvisational, so the sets were different every night, which was nice. Super talented, both of them (obviously) and really interesting performers. Didn't snoop anyone's books but I did pick up a cool compilation CD from Ambrose Bye, a friend of Thurston and John, who was along with them for the dates. It's called Harry's House and it's got work from Eileen Myles and Anne Waldman, Thurston too. Pretty cool.

In another nod to our readers, many of which are writing books for a younger readership...think middle school and high school...what's a book from your childhood that really stuck with you?

As far as middle and high school, I don't think I had a big YA reading phase. I liked beat stuff in high school and got super into Burroughs (story of every teenager's life). I loved Murakami. I definitely read a lot of manga in middle school. I probably have every Sailor Moon book. Oh, I probably got into Animorphs too, now that I think about it.

There's an interesting thing happening right now in the world of books related to self-publishing.  E-readers have really opened the door for almost anyone to get a book out there into the hands of the public.  With that addition to the market, there's been a backlash against self-published authors.  For years and years and years there has been a DIY scene in music and it doesn't seem to have that same "You don't know what the fuck you're doing" vibe that lingers around book publishing.  Your band itself began as a bedroom project.  Why do you think the music scene has really embraced that spirit of self-promotion while DIY publishing is struggling with legitimacy?

This is probably tough for me to answer since I don't know a ton about self-publishing literature (outside of homemade zines and chapbooks, that is, which are totally legitimate!). My depressing analysis is that for whatever reason, as a member of both literary and musical communities, it seems that less people (at least in my mid-20s age demographic) are invested in supporting literature, independent or mainstream, than are interested in supporting music. Maybe it's an issue of attention span and time commitment. I know that when I bring chapbooks to shows, which I make in a limited run and give away for free, we're more likely to sell out of $10 EPs at the show than to get rid of all of the free chapbooks.

If I jump into the backseat of your tour van and start poking around through your stuff, what books am I going to be dragging out of your duffel bags?

Right now I'm reading Dorothea Lasky's Thunderbird, which she signed for me at AWP (I got totally starstruck). Last tour I read some Oliver Sacks, some Wallace Stevens, some comics, some shitty goofy guidebook about touring. I have Joseph Ceravolo's Collected Poems in the wings for the next tour, and a couple other dumb pop science books.

Monday, 20 May 2013

10 Questions with...Team Spirit

This week at A.T.W.N., I have the pleasure of sharing an interview I did with Passion Pit's former synthesist & remixer, Ayad Al Adhamy. Ayad has gone out on his own and is now the frontman for the amazing Brooklyn based "rock-n-soul" band, Team Spirit. Let's get to it...

10 Questions with...Team Spirit

Ayad, what’s the biggest difference for you going from the back of the stage on keys with Passion Pit, to now being the lead with Team Spirit? 
The need to be in better physical shape! Singing, ripping guitar and flailing around on stage is quite tiring... Also the responsibility with leading a band into battle!

What was it like opening for the amazing Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable?
It was great! I’ve played with them in the past countless times (I even started a label to release their EP in the US!) and it was amazing to see them just rock out relentlessly. It was amazing!

Hardcover, Paperback, or Kindle?

For those who are new to Team Spirit, tell us what bands have helped to influence your sound?
Thin Lizzy, Rolling Stones, The Replacements to name a few...

Movies or Books while touring?
Movies/TV shows. Ive exhausted most of TV by now... Currently watching Game of Thrones, Vikings and The Following.

Comics or Novels as a kid?
I was a little bit of both - I did have a serious comic collection - favourites included Cable and Deadpool series.

Avengers or Justice League?
Hmmm loaded question? In essence it could be Marvel vs DC... as a kid i was heavily into Marvel but never liked the Avengers. However the Justice League animated movies are pretty rad... Justice League!

Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Non-fiction, or fiction based on fact... But sometimes Fantasy, which I guess is total fiction...

One book, and one band.... 
Fatherland by Robert Harris is a great historical crime fiction book... I read it way back in high school and I remember loving it. And the band “Guards”!

Last question: What was the main source of inspiration behind your self-titled debut EP “Team Spirit”?
Freedom! And rock n roll!

Thanks to Ayad Al Adhamy for taking the time to stop by All The Write Notes and chatting. If you would like to keep up with the band, you can check them out on Facebook and on Twitter. You can pick up Team Spirit's debut EP here, and check out their live dates here. Trust me, Team Spirit's energy is amazing and they put on a show not to be missed.

Jay Spencer is a MG/YA writer, Visual Art teacher, music and book blogger, an extremely tall husband, and father to two amazing kids. If not at the rink or on the court with his young kids, he would gladly talk to you about any genre or decade of music, and anything Marvel or Star Wars.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

My Love for Singer/Songwriters + GIVEAWAY!

I love music. We all know this. I create playlists for everything in life--I have playlists called Move, Dance, Smile, Cry, Girls Night, Football, name it, I've probably created a playlist to cover it.

I'm not a hipster. I like it all. My iTunes library has everything from The Black Eyed Peas to The Black Crowes to Blakroc. I can find something to appreciate in most songs (even that newish Britney- song where she has that ridiculous accent--it's awful, but I can TOTALLY dance to it).

(Also if you happen to know WHY she has that accent for this one specific song, please share. It literally creeps into my mind at the worst times and I simply need to know.)

While I'm not particularly attached to any certain genre, I always always always love singer/songwriters. There's something about knowing that the person performing a song designed every piece of it, you know? From the melody to the lyrics to the instruments involved--the song is exactly how he or she planned it. That song MEANS something to the artist, and it changes the listening experience for me completely. I have so much respect for a person who can find inspiration in something--an idea, an emotion, an event--and turn it into art.

I can do that with words. People who can do it with music fascinate me.

My friend Chris Weiss is a local singer/songwriter and an award-winning guitarist. He plays fingerstyle steel string guitar and sings as well. His music includes sounds of bluegrass, folk, jazz, gospel, classical, and blues. As a musician, Chris has been influenced by everyone from Bill Monroe to Dave Matthews and from Cole Porter to John Scofield. His music has been compared to the likes of Alex Degrassi, Phil Keaggy, Waylon Jennings, and James Taylor. "I take those as great compliments, but you really need to hear it yourself," he says. "My music means different things to different people."

Chris gave me a copy of his album, Reflections, and I've spent the last week listening to it while I outlined my next book (aka, BETWEEN PART DEUX). At this stage in the process, when I need to seriously focus and plan out a story, I like to listen to something laid back and meaningful, with as few lyrics as possible. Instrumental is best, so the lyrics don't distract me from what I'm working on. I typically turn to jazz or classical playlists to get me through this part.

Chris's CD came at the perfect time. The majority of the songs on Reflections are instrumental and it's exactly the type of album I love to plot to--smooth rhythms, great melodies, and filled with emotion.

As a matter of fact, I liked it so much, I'm giving one away! To win, just leave a comment on this post with either 1. your favorite singer/songwriter or 2. your favorite type of music to listen to when you're writing. (And also the answer to that Britney question I had earlier.) Don't forget to include your email address or twitter handle so I can track you down if you win.

I'll use to pick a winner from the comments. This giveaway will close Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 12:00pm NOON EST.

If you'd like to get to know Chris better, (and you do--in addition to making good music, he makes me laugh all the time, plus he's just a super nice guy), you can follow him on Twitter and check out his Facebook page!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Radiohead - An Interview with Author Evan Roskos

Today at ATWN, author Evan Roskos stops by to talk about his love of everything Radiohead, his critically acclaimed book Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets, and Evan offers up some fantastic giveaways for our readers, and Radiohead fans. Let’s get started…

How did you get introduced to Radiohead?
A UFO descended from the stars and landed in my backyard. A small creature, looking basically like the stereotypical grey alien creature of popular culture, only with a more pallid face and the crackling voice of an English adolescent, placed a cassette tape in my hands. The creature left without a word. The tape contained no markings, but the music needed no words to tell me it was the glorious sounds of some far off land. Also, I borrowed a copy of Pablo Honey from my friend Valerie, dubbed it, and started saving up to buy a legit version after the first listen. I never looked back, but I yearn for that alien to return and apologize for knocking the limb off of our tree.

How many times have you seen Radiohead play live?
Five times, all post Kid A. (They only played one Philadelphia show when I was in college, but it was during the summer so I didn’t get there.) I have dozens and dozens of phenomenal bootlegs thanks to the internet. Even though you didn’t ask.

What is one song by Radiohead you couldn’t live without?
Oh, man. I don’t know. There’s so many. I mean, “Let Down” is pure and wonderful. “Bloom” is amazing. “Arpeggi” and “Street Spirit” and “There There” and “Paranoid Android” -- I can’t choose! I won’t choose! I’ll just say “Creep” or the cover of “Nobody Does it Better” to annoy people.

Are there lyrics to a Radiohead song you wish you had written?
Not really—writing is so particular to a person’s sensibilities that I’d never be able to match what someone like Yorke has written. I mean, I’ll always love my own writing best of all because it’s mine. But I’d rather have Yorke’s lyrics with the band’s phenomenal music.

Kid A or The Bends?
There’s this really obscure German import of the band jamming to some Miles Davis that’s better than both of them, but you probably haven’t heard it.* The Bends. But not by much. I mean, it’s like picking between two different but perfectly wonderful desserts. Some days I want chocolate pudding; other days I want mint chocolate chip ice cream. Either way, I win. With The Bends there’s a stronger nostalgia for me, though I introduced Kid A to my wife and that’s her preferred album. So maybe I should say Kid A to avoid marital strife. No! I’ll remain true to my inner Radiohead nerd, who will always be single and awkward around women! I felt that the live versions of Kid A had a better tempo than the record. A little more raw and aggressive. After listening to the concert bootlegs all summer in 2000, I was surprised that the album itself had a slower pace, despite how layered and beautiful it sounds. So, The Bends.
*This is a fabrication.

Atoms for Peace or Thom Yorke’s solo album?
Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser. But in this case it’s like picking room temperature tap water or room temperature bottled water. I have no issues with Yorke’s interest in his side projects and I do enjoy The Eraser. I have yet to really fall in love with anything related to Atoms for Peace.

Paranoid Android or Fake Plastic Trees?
PARANOID ANDROID. Paranoid Android is easily a top 3 Radiohead song. Fake Plastic Trees is the song I play on my acoustic guitar when I’m reminding my wife I’m sensitive and poetic. It’s basically the pale, British version of Colt 45.

Have you ever been caught dancing like Thom?

What did you think of the “pay what you want” formula Radiohead did with their album “In Rainbows”?
I actually bought the special edition with all the cool artwork and the bonus CD, which was a great deal since worldwide shipping was included. I remember talking to a guy I knew who worked in the music industry and he chalked the whole thing up to a publicity stunt that overcharged fans for the special edition to subsidize the people who were going to clearly pay nothing for the album.  That conversation...sickened me.
I thought it was a cool idea and certainly an idea that would work for a band with a huge, web-friendly following. It fit with Radiohead’s various online experiments (the TV station, the webcasts, the rabbit-hole website designs). I was disappointed that they didn’t release full information on the results, as they had claimed they would. The reports were that the average price paid was pretty low. I expected that, since there are plenty of people who don’t believe in paying for music, but hoped for full disclosure anyway.

What were you listening to when you wrote Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets?
It was 2010 when I wrote it and my son had been born that spring. So, lots of upbeat stuff: Los Campesinos!’s Romance is Boring, Jonsí’s self-titled debut; Murder by Death’s Good Morning, Magpie; and Menomena’s Mines. Also, obsessively and less upbeat in many ways, The National’s High Violet.

Would James, the MC in Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets, like Radiohead? What about the imaginary pigeon therapist, Dr. Bird?
James actually has a moment where he puts on a Radiohead shirt but is hesitant to wear it to a party he’s attending that night for fear it’ll seem like he’s trying to be cool. (Though, I suspect RH doesn’t get teenager cool points. They seem like REM in the 90s: dad rock. YES, I SAID IT. LET’S ALL JUST ADMIT IT’S PROBABLY SOMEWHAT TRUE PERHAPS.) Anyway, James’s friend Derek sees the Radiohead shirt and makes a face. “I just find them boring,” he says to James, who replies: “Well, is the SHIRT boring? It doesn’t play music.” That exchange in the novel is 100% for my friends who know I’m a huge Radiohead nerd. Dr. Bird prefers the work of Andrew Bird not only because it’s an easy joke, but because the work is atmospheric and lyrically complex and most importantly: sounds great on sunny days. Have you ever see a sad pigeon on a sunny day? Hell no you haven’t.

Photo Credit: Radiohead
Favorite album cover by Radiohead?
OK Computer. That album cover is carved into my eyeballs. I have a print of the artwork from that era on my wall. I also once made a Windows 98 theme based on Radiohead artwork from The Bends and OK Computer. It even had sounds. Spent a week perfecting it. What a horrendously awesome waste of time. I could’ve been talking to girls!

What other bands/artists do you like?
I have a weird collection -- it’s not deep or hipster-obscure. It’s somewhat commercial and random. I can listen to any of these bands in the same week: Andrew Bird, Neutral Milk Hotel, System of a Down, Björk, Murder By Death, Menomena, PJ Harvey, The Mars Volta, Talking Heads, DEVO, David Bowie, Beck, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Los Campesinos!, Jónsi…. Nevermind the 90s standards (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains) and other classics (REM, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin).
So. Yeah.

Photo Credit: Poetry Foundation
We couldn’t have an interview with you and not bring up Walt Whitman. Tell our readers, who may be unfamiliar with his poetry, why they should read his work.
Simply for this line: “Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow and delirious juice” More seriously, though: Walt Whitman is a tough sell -- he doesn’t write short, compact poetry, so it’s not like a Robert Frost poem where there’s a clear point in a compact number of lines. Whitman uses archaic language and the structures of his poems don’t make themselves apparent immediately. He writes about America in all its variety -- the good, the bad, the true, the gory. He celebrates everything. He’s in love with the human body, its strength, its sexiness, its vigor. He never really gets pessimistic, even when he starts writing about the Civil War. He celebrates the passion of soldiers, the bravery. He says it is lucky to die just as it is lucky to be born. The universe is a vast, fascinating thing just as a blade of grass is a vast and fascinating thing. He believes we should learn from experience not from books. And yet he writes a book to tell us this. “Do I contradict myself?” he asks. “Well, I contain multitudes.” There’s something so vital and exciting about his poetry, especially when digested in snippets as James does in the novel. Whitman has little mantras, nearly perfect life-affirming, glorious statements that don’t require that you decode. He’s often smashing you in the brain with these truths. He’s not for everyone, but he’s one of the most positive poets I’ve ever read, constantly looking to the world and celebrating something. The perfect poet to read on difficult days or bright sunny days. I highly recommend the site Especially to read the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass which is, in my opinion, the superior version (Whitman revised the book a number of times in his lifetime, but the poetry gets a little stodgy as he ages). Also, Walt Whitman’s America by David S. Reynolds is a great book about 19th century America and how it influenced the poet.
Thanks to Evan Roskos for taking the time to stop by All The Write Notes, and now it's time for the giveaway! Evan has graciously offered our North American readers two chances to win...
First: The Mega winner will receive a signed copy of Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets + Radiohead postcard from Amnesiac promotion + 1 copy of a high quality Radiohead bootleg from the winner's preferred era (Bends/OK Computer OR Kid A/Amnesiac OR In Rainbows).
Second: Our second place winner will receive a signed copy of Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets and a journal featuring a Walt Whitman quote on the cover.
Amazing!!! Now,  if you aren't one of the lucky two to win, or you just can't wait to read Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets, it can be purchased at any local indie-book store, or through Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. Now if Evan has you craving more Radiohead, then check out the amazing fan-site At Ease on the web, or on Twitter.

Jay Spencer is a MG/YA writer, Visual Art teacher, music and book blogger, an extremely tall husband, and father to two amazing kids. If not at the rink or on the court with his young kids, he would gladly talk to you about any genre or decade of music, and anything Marvel or Star Wars.

a Rafflecopter giveaway *The Giveaway is for North American addresses only. Sorry.

Do you have a band like Radiohead is to Evan? If so, we at ATWN would love to hear about it. Leave us a comment below...