Read Meet Author: Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf
One of the more active participants in Chicago lit today is Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf. He edits the highly addictive and time absorbing on-line lit journal Fiction at Work. When not filling the work days of people around the world Tobias is also the Assist Editor of Green Lantern Press. His latest project is a full-length collection of stories being publish by the intriguing new non-profit organization Another New Calligraphy.
When I say active I also mean physically, Tobias will be involved in four different readings this month and it all started with this weeks ANC reading with Megan Milks and music from two fantastic local bands. If you missed that reading he will be reading at Quickies on June 9th, at Quimby's on June 26th, and at The Orange Alert Reading Series on June 28th.
Recently, Tobias took some time of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): You are involved in an exciting new Chicago-based organization called Another New Calligraphy. I've listened to the album by A Light Sleeper, I've seen Megan Milks' Chapbook, but I am dying to know what you are contributing to this non-profit organizations ambitious line-up. How did you get involved with Another New Calligraphy, and what is your contribution?
Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf (TAB): Robin contacted me through Facebook, saying she'd read a story of mine online (I'm still not sure which one) and asked if I had anything book length. I did, and I sent it, and they liked it, and so a collection of 31 stories is coming out. They will be in a little box, on individual cards. I've seen the artwork for the slipcover, and it's the coolest thing ever in the world. Ever.
The only downside is that because she contacted me through Facebook, and because you contacted me through Facebook about reading at Orange Alert, I feel like I can never ever get rid of Facebook....
OA: Speaking of exciting Chicago projects, what is new with Green Lantern Press? What does an assistant editor handle?
TAB: Well, the gallery is closing for a while, but should reopen in a new space next year. And the books part of the operation should continue rolling along. Sometime this fall The North Georgia Gazette will be coming out, which is a manuscript from a 19th century arctic expedition. It's a handsome book, with lots of artwork and other little extras. As for what an assistant editor handles, I checked all the copy to make sure it matched the original (it's an old book, which doesn't exist in electronic form, so the other assistant editor, Lily Robert-Foley, had to type it up). I also wrote the Editors' Note, explaining some of our editorial choices.
Another project coming up is a collaboration between the Green Lantern and Fiction at Work. We're putting out a chapbook in an addition of about 250, with 25 to 30 of the best stories we've published at FaW. That should be out end of this year, or early 2010. All stories accepted for publication on the website are considered for inclusion in the book, so to any writers reading this: submit!
OA: Every week I try to read as much on-line fiction as possible, and I have to say Fiction at Work is one of the most original concepts that I have seen in awhile. Where did the idea to structure the journal the way you have come from? That "Boss!" button is the coolest thing!
TAB: Well I had this boring job, see, and I was bored a lot, see, so I would print out stories from the Internet, and then hide in the bathroom and read them. It was a good solution because I like reading stories, but it was a bad solution because I don't like hiding in the bathroom, and the stories were usually on the long side, which meant I had to hide in the bathroom for a long time. So when I decided to start an online journal, I wanted it to serve other such office-trapped types.
I have friends who say they read 0 to 2 books a year, and I imagine there are offices all over the land with similar people, all of them wasting time at work with YouTube, The Onion, etc., and I think there should be a site that gives them good fiction to read. That's why I want FaW to have short, engaging stories. I want to appeal to an audience that is generally oblivious to fiction, unless it's in the form of Harry Potter or John Grisham. The advantages of reaching that audience are that the office workers will be happier and smarter, and the writers will be exposed to a new (and monied) audience. It seems like most small journals are read exclusively by other writers, which is kind of a circle, and I'd like to break that circle. So that's the lofty goal. I'm not sure we're there yet.
OA: What are your thoughts on the Chicago literary scene?
TAB: I think it's the best literary scene in all the land. It's also the only literary scene I'm really familiar with. It seems like there is often pressure to justify living in Chicago if you want to be a writer (or actor). But I think people in New York should be justifying living with 5 roommates, or in a tiny hovel. I also think that because Chicago is seen as less glitzy, that there is more focus on writing. There aren't many points to be scored by attending the right party in the right outfit, so everyone just tries to write good. People in New York might disagree with me, but if they come after me I can just hide in my spacious, sunny apartment, that I have all to myself.
OA: You have a blog, but don't update it often. Do you think it is important for writers to have blogs? I've heard of publishers telling their authors to start blogging.
TAB: I don't know about blogs. I just don't know. They are a great replacement for mass emails, because you can announce things on them and not worry that you are bothering lots of people who really don't want to hear from you. But sometimes they are just a distraction. You put up a blog post, and sometimes there is a feeling that you've done some real writing. But most of the time you haven't. Most of the time it's just blather about losing your sock in the laundry, so I think most of the time blog's are just a distraction. When I blog a lot I end up just linking to things I found interesting, but there are already millions of people who just link to other sites, and I don't need to add to the chorus.
For other people though, that's not true. Some people have really good blog posts. I don't know. I guess I think it's good to have a blog, but it's not a good idea to pour too much energy into it everyday.
OA: What's next for Tobias Bengelsdorf?
TAB: I don't know. Maybe something more lucrative than writing for no money. I might take up industrial espionage. Do you know any secrets?
OA: If you could sit down to coffee with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be?
TAB: Benjamin Franklin. Writer, printer, revolutionary, beer fan, scientist, inventor. He seems like maybe an obvious choice, but I think you could have a great conversation with him about any topic at all.
OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
TAB: I mostly listen to "Mainstream Alternative." That is, The White Stripes, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, that sort of stuff. You know, not Britney, but also not stuff that requires devoting your life to music to find out about. I also like "Alternative Country/Folk," like Josh Ritter, and Blanche. And Blues, especially Delta, like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, etc. Oh, and classics too, like The Beatles, U2, the Rolling Stones, Dylan. I saw a Dylan concert last summer. As we were leaving, this person says, "well, it was good, but his voice isn't what it once was." Cause yeah, his beautiful singing voice and perfect pitch are what he's always been known for.
For more information on Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf please visit his blog.ShareThis