Happy New Year!
As an editor and author, I meet and work with a lot of artists in a lot of different capacities. I read with them, I edit for them, I teach them in my online Bizarro workshops. I get to see and hear a lot of fiction and bear witness to a lot of talent. Sometimes, though, somebody’s gumption and commitment to improving their genre and the work they do is uncanny and deserving of special attention. I figure this blog is a good place for me to highlight the people you should be watching for in this New Year.
1. Autumn Christian
Autumn is a writer and a game designer of immense talent. Working with her on her book Crooked God Machine, I got to know her special brand of surrealistic Southern gothic and she has a future so bright, she’s gotta wear shades. Her cover photo on this web page has this covered. If you’re looking for a surreal Flannery O’ Connor with a Trent Reznor heart in her ribs, then you need look no further. She impressed the hell out of me and everyone else at Bizarrocon. Working with me in my Bizarro workshop, she has under the duress of some of my most intense exercises generated some amazing work. She can make you feel for a sentient zombie slinky, which is damned impressive. Her book We are Wormwood merges mysticism, coming of age, surrealism and abject despair to build an unforgettable world. It’s a beautiful piece and you will find more works oozing with beauty, dignity and passion coming from her in the future. Look for her kicking more ass and taking more names in 2015.
2. Danger Slater
Danger Slater is a Bizarro humorist and internet personality. He’s a hell of a guy, charismatic, giving and a lot of fun to be around. At this year’s Ultimate Bizarro Showdown, he displayed a kind of comedic conviction that you rarely see and is not afraid of putting himself out there or making you laugh at a bad joke or laughing at himself on Jeremy Maddux’s Surreal Sermons podcast. Danger Slater is a scholar and a gentleman and you should check out his work. This year he will be sure to do big things and blow up. Pork bellies. Gold bars. Danger Slater. Invest in these things.
3. Elle Lothlorien
Elle is a rare breed, to say the least. And I’m not talking dachshund. Romance fiction is a thankless bitch goddess. It puts you in a sea of smiling shirtless cowboys trying to sell your work on its wit and charm without boring yourself to the point where you want to put a bullet between your eyes. When I get a romance novel client, it’s funny because your first instinct would be to think that these authors will just want you to mark up their margins and then cut and print so they can get their shirtless cowboy money and buy more dresses with giant shoulderpads for their cover photos. But I have found in working with romance novelists, they are willing and able to take feedback, to take risks and to try and move the genre forward and exceed instead of meeting audience expectations. One client of mine, Carol Maloney Scott working on her book There Are No Men, worked with me on development stem to stern, taking critiques that made her book harder to write but better for more readers and really impressed me. But this is not about Carol right now. Elle Lothlorien cares enough about the quality of her humor to send me her books one chapter at a time. Most people, I would douse with gasoline for doing this but Elle’s commitment is always impressive. Her book Gilding the Lilypad was named one of the best in its genre of 2014 by Kindles and Wine and there’s a reason for it. Elle is committed to preserving the fine art of screwball comedy and writing shit that doesn’t bore her and won’t bore you.
4. Tony McMillen
I enjoy some of the films of Wes Anderson. There are times when his pastel whimsy, gentle 70s rock soundtracks and cast of quirky players make me want to shove a bottlerocket up in his Moonrise Kingdom. Tony McMillen’s Nefarious Twit gets into Wes Anderson country, with a taste of Steely Dan and a sly wink at the whimsy level. It’s the story of two brothers and an enigmatic young lady heading into Mexico to kill their father, the children’s author Nefarious Twit. It’s a road movie, a dysfunctional family comedy and a subtly askew portrait of the literary life. This book is mature, dark, funny, well written and exciting and it has been an honor helping him prep the next edition of it. It also comes with a bunch of beautiful illustrations, since it is, after all, a pastiche of the innocence of children’s literature. Tony is going to do big things.
5. Jennifer Robin
It takes a special kind of artist to bring people to tears with a Facebook post or turn a doughnut shop into the Serengeti. Jennifer Robin is that type of artist. A stalking tiger of a writer, full of sharp insight and whirlwind artistic intensity, Jennifer is an intense and powerful performer and a poet of heartbreak, banality and strangeness. I have had the honor of sharing dockets with her and knowing her and it has been an immense pleasure. She’s unpredictable and fierce and in 2015, you’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of her. Search for her on Facebook to find a driven artist who turns social media into guerilla theater and confessional poetry of the highest order. If you’re around Portland, you can find her at any number of events and shows she does.
These five artists will make your year a bigger and better one. I hope you and your work also get to prosper in the New Year. If you need help with that, I’m here for you. Happy New Year. Conquer it.