I once read with some of the Baltimore literary crew on a tour with Dogzplot at the Jersey Shore. It was a ton of fun and meant a lot. Interviewing Justin Sirois for this week’s column got me feeling sappy, which is hard to do.

Q: (Nicolle Elizabeth for Fictionaut): Hey Justin I see you are an admin at the Baltimore Juggernaut Fictionaut group. waazaaaaaaaaaaa? (elaborate on that)

Yeah, there’s so much amazing literary work going on in Baltimore, I figured I’d start a group on Fictionaut, but we really haven’t used it quite yet. Soon, though.

As for the scene in Baltimore, Michael Kimball and Jen Michalski run the 5:10 Series which is vital to the fiction community, and a new fiction series started up at Atomic Books. Tao Lin packed the place. Gregg Wilhelm masterminds City Lit, and there’s a bunch of great poetry series, but we’re here to talk about fiction, I think. What’s the difference these days? Good poetry sorta reads like good innovative fiction, anyway.

Baltimore also has Los Solos run by Jackie Milad and Bonnie Jones which showcases experimental performances/music with a text based slant (typically) – it’s a brilliantly curated series. Ric Royer runs the Lof/t and brings in innovative writers/performers from all over.

Then there’s our press Narrow House and the behemoth known as Publishing Genius. It’s all very huge in a small way. So yeah, there’s a Baltimore Juggernaut… smashin’… shit…. up.

You are both a short writer and novelist, have you found other Fictionaut writers want to talk mostly about shorter works or are people talking about longer works as well?

MilkingSicklesCOVERforPDF.jpgWell, the only collection of short fiction I have published is named MLKNG SCKLS (Publishing Genius) which is “deleted scenes” from a larger project, a novel named Falcons on the Floor. So naturally, when readers are interested in those short works, they ask about the novel. Both genres feed one another in a healthy way. But that’s what I intended. SCKLS functions as a trailer of sorts for the novel.

Hopefully SCKLS will get a publisher interested in putting out Falcons. We’ll see. People won’t stop reviewing SCKLS, and that’s ridiculously amazing – you can read more here: New Pages , Book Slut, Big Other, John Dermot Woods, and Matt Bell.

I need to mention that these are stories about Iraqis fleeing Fallujah during one of the worst sieges in the history of modern warfare. I wrote them with the help of Iraqi refugee Haneen Alshujairy; she currently lives in Cairo.

You are also a designer. Have you found that other Fictionaut contributors want to talk mostly about writing or has cover design and web design such as the design of how literary journals on the web are laid out come up for discussion at all? If not, it would be neat to talk about how this can affect writing positively here.

People do ask me about design all the time, but not as much as my writing. I like it that way. Book and cover design is something I love and hope to keep doing, but writing comes first – always has. Both forms of media do compliment one another, though. Creating appealing design work for the writing community is helpful in a number of ways, and it’s gotten my name out there as a person willing to help make writers’ great work look even better. That’s a bonus.

Hire me to do a cover. I’m inexpensive. Really. Do it. Hire me.

You can see a portfolio of that work here.

Have you ever been to Falkenhan’s hardware in Baltimore? I worked there in the basement. Ask me about drywall. Have you ever been to the Paper Moon diner? I worked there too. Tip your waitress.

I was helping an ex-girlfriend move a bed once and we needed twine or rope. Falkenhan’s might have been the closest store for that because we went there, moped about the dank shelves, and felt nerdy for being nerds in a hardware store. Supporting small places like that is essential, especially in a small city like Baltimore. I’ll go back. Wish you still worked there so we could play touch football with rolls of duct tape.

Tell me anything else you want here. What do you really do at the F’naut group, get serious, showcase yer stuff!

We’re tarring Baltimore up in a real way and more writers should move here. Seriously, it’s manic. And it’s cheap enough so that we can run small presses and own houses. I’m going to go publish someone’s great novella right now through Narrow House with Jamie Gaughran-Perez and Lauren Bender… there… we did it. Told you so.

Nicolle Elizabeth checks in with Fictionaut Groups every Friday.

  1. Steven

    Great interview.

    I lived in Baltimore for a while about three years ago and I had no idea any of this was going on. Try as I might, I couldn’t find much of anything literary there outside of JMWW and some poetry open mics. Nice to see so much happening there now though!

  2. david erlewine

    great stuff. i LOVED the paper moon diner. should have gone there more than the 10 times i hit it. the meatloaf, oh, the meatloaf.

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