Introducing: The New Bizarro Author Series
Front: Kevin L. Donihe
Back: (from left to right) DW Barbee, Eric Mays, Patrick Wensink, and Kevin Shamel
For the past 5 years, there has only been a limited number of bizarro publishers out there and they are publishing only a limited number of books each year. Maybe one or two of these books released per year were by new authors, making it incredibly difficult to break into the bizarro genre unless you were friends with multiple people involved. Being a writer myself I felt this wasn’t right. New writers should always have the opportunity to at least submit. But understanding the publishing side of things, I know that publishers have a limited amount of time and prefer to focus on the writers they already have. For one, I know Rose O’Keefe, publisher of Eraserhead Press, just doesn’t have enough time to take risks on new authors.
So I spoke to another bizarro author, Kevin L. Donihe, and together we pitched an idea to Rose O’Keefe: The New Bizarro Authors Series. It is an imprint of Eraserhead Press, but Rose doesn’t have to invest any time or money into it. The two of us, and the writers involved, do all the work. I design the books and put up the money for them, and Kevin L. Donihe is the editor in chief, who goes through the grueling selection process and edits those he selects to near perfection. Not only does he put a lot of time into the editing process, but he is also always open to submissions and will publish EVERY manuscript that is worthy of publication (as long as it meets our criteria) no matter how many titles are already scheduled for release each year. In other words, Kevin is a saint.
The New Bizarro Author Series is like no other publishing process out there. It isn’t so much about publishing writers as it is about testing writers. Rose O’Keefe wants to publish new bizarro writers, but she doesn’t like to waste her time with authors who don’t have what it takes to succeed. A book might be great, but if the author has no ambition, no promotional sense, and no commitment to the bizarro genre and community then she doesn’t want to work with them. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know which authors lack drive and commitment until after she starts working with them and it is often a waste of time. So the New Bizarro Author Series isn’t just good for the authors, who are given a chance when they wouldn’t have been given a chance before, but it’s also good for Rose because she gets to see how well these authors do once they are given the opportunity to get their books out there. The results are often surprising.
There are rules to the New Bizarro Author Series. For starters, the author can’t have any other books out. Chapbooks, poetry books, nonfiction books, and self-published books don’t count. Secondly, the work has to be bizarro. Thirdly, it has to be a novella or short story collection of 15,000-30,000 words long.
In 2009, the first four authors in the New Bizarro Author Series were published: Eric Mays, Patrick Wensink, Kevin Shamel, and David W. Barbee.
Each year, all the NBAS books are released at the same event: BizarroCon. So the new bizarro authors are all expected to attend. The first night of BizarroCon, the new bizarros are gathered together and are introduced to one another, as well as to myself, Rose O’Keefe, and Kevin L. Donihe. Their books are then presented to them. Then they are given their challenge: they have to sell 200 copies of each of their books in a single year. Using their own drive, innovation, and team work skills, they have a year to show the rest of the bizarro scene what they are made of. They will be judged on their drive, their character, and how many copies they can sell. What they get out of it will depend on how well they do…they might get a 5 book deal with Eraserhead Press. They might get picked up by a smaller bizarro press like Lazy Fascist, Swallowdown, Deadite, or others. Or they might be forgotten completely.
So far the NBAS has been working quite well. Over BizarroCon weekend, the first four authors bonded almost immediately and have been a strong team ever since. Even though they are in competition with each other, they have become close comrades in arms. I wish them all the best of luck.
Let me introduce you to these authors and their books:
Kevin Shamel is the first of these authors that I’ve met. I met him at a reading in Olympia, WA, about 8 months before I met the others at BizarroCon. Since then he’s become a great friend and he’s always excited to talk about the writing and publishing world, something I can go on about for days nonstop. I also like him for his topnotch cocktail-making skills and his belief that you can’t be too old to have a mohawk (his young son has a matching mohawk). His strengths over the other NBAS authors is that he has the most energy, the most time on his hands, and is close enough to Portland to get involved in the Portland bizarro scene and participate in local bizarro events. When he does readings, he does a demented puppet show with audience participation. It’s a sight to see. His book is called Rotten Little animals, and it’s kind of like a “Meet the Feebles” type of story about these talking animals who decide to make a snuff film. The inclusion of zombie cats is a plus. Many people have said this one is the weirdest book of the four.
Patrick Wensink is selling the most copies of his book so far. Perhaps because of the great title: “Sex Dungeon for Sale,” perhaps because he has the most professional-looking cover art, perhaps because it was praised by Joey Goebel, or perhaps because he’s just an awesome writer. Either way, he’s doing something right and has a big lead on the other NBAS. The book might also be doing well because it is a collection of comical short stories, and let’s face it: comedy sells. It is pretty rare in literature, since most writers take themselves too seriously, but readers just love humorous books. Like Christopher Moore, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Kurt Vonnegut, people can’t get enough of it. That’s probably why Patrick Wensink is the leading NBAS author and Mykle Hansen is the leading bizarro author (at the moment). Patrick is also a hilarious guy to be around. He’s a member of an improve comedy troupe and a big fan of my favorite sketch comedy show: The Upright Citizens Brigade. Any fan of UCB is a friend of mine. Plus, he was a Portlander for a while and might come back to visit us regularly. Patrick’s strengths over the other bizarros is probably his sense of initiative, sense of humor, and most importantly his results. When it comes down to it, results matter most.
Eric Mays was the one we were least optimistic about… at first. His book is about Kafka and Shakespeare, and was originally titled “Kafka’s Shakespearean Tragedy,” which made many people I know groan out loud. Before Kevin read the submission, based on the title and concept only, he told me “There’s no way I’m ever going to accept something like this.” It seemed like the kind of book that gets rejected by bizarro publishers over and over again. However, after reading it Kevin said “I MUST accept this.” And everyone in the bizarro scene who has read it, especially those with literary sensibilities, say that it is one of the most impressive bizarro books to come out in a long time. So, according to the scene, this guy is a brilliant writer and gives bizarro a good name. I’ve even heard people say if we can get more writers like Eric in bizarro then bizarro might actually become a respectable genre. While I could care less whether or not bizarro becomes respectable, it’s still nice to hear so many people back this guy, because Eric is one of the nicest guys out there. A passionate, lively, friendly, fun guy to hang out with, Eric is the kind of writer who you’d love to have a beer with. Or five. His strengths over the other NBAS authors is that he’s probably the best reader due to his background in theater (he can really bring his characters to life), he can appeal to high brow audiences as well as lowbrow audiences (because of his use of humor), and he’s also considering moving to Portland to join our local scene here, which is always a huge plus since Eraserhead Press puts a lot of attention into local bizarro writers. His book, now titled Naked Metamorphosis, has been described as “witty and whimsical.” While it’s hard to sum up the plot into a pretty one-liner, it will appeal to fans of Kafka, Shakespeare, and British comedy.
David Barbee is the underdog of the group. A lot of people are routing for him, but he’s had the least amount of success so far. He’s been a part of the bizarro community longer than any of the others, for a few years I believe. He was the only previously published author, because he had two self-published books out. He immediately impressed Kevin and I by taking his books out of print in order to submit to the new bizarro author series. That is the rule: you can submit to the New Bizarro Author Series if you have self-published some of your books, but you must first take them out of print. The thing is we never expected any self-published author to ever do this. If you had self-published a book would you be willing to forever take it out of print just at the chance to get published by Eraserhead Press? Not many people would be willing to do that. To this day, David Barbee is the only submitter who has ever had the guts to do this. Most self-published writers who have wanted to submit to the NBAS have whined and complained and tried to convince us to change our rules just for them. But David did it without a second thought. David’s strength over the other bizarro writers is his commitment to bizarro. He’s not only said he’s committed, he’s shown us this. Commitment combined with results are the two biggest things Rose is looking for. All David needs are the results. His book, Carnageland, is like reading a fun hyper-violent cartoon. It is a lot like a bizarro Invader Zim, with sex and violence.
So these are the first four New Bizarro Author Series writers. I highly recommend supporting these authors by purchasing their books. You could be the deciding factor for whether these writers get a deal with Eraserhead Press or disappear into obscurity. So help a new writer out.
Also, if you are a writer and would like to submit to the New Bizarro Author Series, go to www.eraserheadpress.com to find out how you can contact Kevin about submission info. If you haven’t read a lot of bizarro, I recommend checking out both of the Bizarro Starter Kits before submitting.
So far there have been a couple books accepted for this year’s batch of NBAS titles, including Nicole Cushing’s “How to Eat Fried Furries.” If you want to be a part of this series, now is a good time to try.
This entry was posted on February 3, 2010 at 11:06 am and is filed under Bizarro Authors, Bizarro Books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.