Eric Smith discusses Inked and the Philly Lit Scene

timthumb.phpEric Smith appears to be always running through Philly. He has written The Geek’s Guide to Dating and co-founded the popular website Geekadelphia. When not writing at a city cafe, organizing the Philly Geek Awards, or emceeing a local story slam, Eric is making books shine for the independent Philly publisher Quirk Books. He has just published his own YA novel, INKED, and agreed to answer a few questions about writing, tattoos, and all things us literary types like to geek out about.

Jim: Tell us about your new YA novel INKED.

Eric: Sure! INKED is a YA fantasy novel that takes place in a world where, once you come of age, you’re forced to get magic tattoos that tell the world what you’re best at. It marks you, and you’re destined to do that thing for the rest of your life. Farmer, soldier, whatever. The story centers around a teenager that doesn’t want his future set for him, and the misadventures that happen as a result.

timthumb.phpJim: What inspired you to write about tattoos? Was there a flash where you said, “this would be a cool story?”

Eric: A friend of mine is a tattoo artist, and when he was working in Philadelphia, he made a comment about all his tattoos. On how he’ll be a tattoo artist forever, because of the way he looked. It was a joke, but it got me thinking a lot about that idea. It sort of spiraled out from there.

Jim: Are you inked?

Eric: I am! Quotation marks on my wrists, and Jules Verne-inspired tattoos on my left arm. When I was a kid, his books were the first ones I really fell in love with. Despite how my mom feels about the tattoos, they are kiiinda her fault.

Jim: Where can we find INKED?

Eric: It’s a digital exclusive release with Bloomsbury, under the imprint Bloomsbury Spark. It’s available via all major eBook retailers. You can pick it up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBook, etc. An audiobook will also be coming out in the next few months via Audible.

Jim: How would you describe the Philly literary community to someone new in town?

Eric: Very warm and welcoming. I feel like everyone is eager to connect with one another, and just as eager to celebrate the success of each other. Folks like Lillian Dunn at The Apiary are always trying to pull people together, and super editor / writer Sarah Grey always seems to have a great networking event going on. Once you catch wind of something happening, go. Meet people. When you’re in, you’ll never want to leave.

timthumb.phpJim: You’ve written The Geek’s Guide to Dating and co-founded the popular website Geekadelphia. What advice can you share on embracing our inner geekness?

Eric: Hm, I guess to just let that geek flag fly, you know? You never know where your passions are going to lead you. No sense in bottling them all up. Embracing and promoting all the geeky things I care about led to so many great things in my life. Awesome friends, a platform that helps launch my career in publishing, first real book deal and an agent… just do it!

Jim: I know you’ve hosted a First Person Arts Story Slam and judged last year’s Grand Slam. Is there a most memorable story you’ve heard at a storytelling event?

Eric: You know, it’s hard to think of one specific story, but I can tell you my favorite storytellers. I cannot get enough of Marjorie Fineberg Winther. My goodness, that woman has me in tears every single time I see her. She’s hilarious.

I also adore any story that my friend Andrew Panebianco tells, whether its on stage at a First Person Arts event or at happy hour. He’s one talented guy.

Jim: One envisions Quirk Books being a truly hip company. Can you give us a glimpse of what it’s like to work there?

Eric: It’s one awesome hub of creativity, that’s for sure. A group of really passionate people working on projects they adore day in and day out. We have a lot of fun bringing our fun books into the world. It’s like one big happy geeky family, that place.

Jim: Not to rush you, since INKED has just debuted, but do you have ideas on your next writing project?

Eric: Well, I’ve been fussing over a sequel manuscript. I definitely pictured Inked as a series. So, lots of editing to do there, as I work to get it into shape. Right now, that’s it.

Thanks for having me, Jim! :-)

To learn more, and to check out upcoming INKED events, check out Eric Smith Rocks! You can download the book from Amazon by clicking here.

Books on my Christmas Wish List

It’s Thanksgiving morning, so time to make my Christmas wish list! Here’s the books I’m hoping to find under my tree this year, along with a list of books I recommend with some tongue-in-cheek suggestions on who might enjoy each book.

MY WISH LIST

imagesRedeployment by Phil Klay – My friend Eli, a former Marine, read this short story collection over the summer and highly recommended it. Having just read Tim O’Brien’s classic The Things They Carried in the past year (an amazing collection), I’m anxious to see what direction Klay takes. Klay won the National Book Award for fiction this year, and short story collections don’t win that often.

imagesStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – I picked up Emily’s first novel for my wife a few Christmases ago, and then was lucky enough to meet Emily and get her second novel when she did a reading at Steel City City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville. When my friend Pat told me he enjoyed her new post-apocalyptic novel, I placed this on my list. Emily was nominated for a NBA this fall also.

imagesThe Mom Squad by Christine Weiser – Christine, one of the co-founders of Philadelphia Stories and the author of Broad Street, recently published this novel about a stay-at-home mom who uncovers corruption at Philadelphia City Hall. If you read her previous novel, you know Christine writes fast paced plots with humor. The cover is reminiscent of Charlie’s Angels, so you know this has to be fun.

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

Here’s some of the books I enjoyed this year, with a humorous note on who the book might make a good gift for:

2903a3a42a1e4a0f316013844df1f86aThe Blessings by Elise Juska – This fractured novel follows members of the Philly-based Irish-American Blessings family through their lives. Beautifully written, Elise captures the small sad moments in their lives as well as the pivotal family events. Recommended for your Irish-American Catholic friend or relative who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, particularly if they still attend church.

photo-26Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain – I know this satirical novel was on my list last year and I love it enough to still recommend it. My book club hated it, a very literary friend hated it, but my Aunt Peggy thought it was hilarious. The plot is set on Thanksgiving day, at the Dallas Cowboys game, as a platoon of soldiers are being celebrated for a firefight they survived in Iraq. This novel has tons of expletives, and I found myself laughing and in tears, often in the course of one paragraph. Recommended for that macho friend or relative who loves reading The Onion and drops the occasional F-Bomb.

lifedrawing3DLife Drawing by Robin Black – This is a dark and quiet novel, set in Bucks County, PA. The antithesis of Billy Lynn’s Long Walk. A woman and her husband, both artists, struggle with their marriage when a neighbor moves in next door. Recommended for that brooding, self-reflective serious middle-aged bookworm.

CannedCanned!: Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can by Russ Phillips – This beautiful coffee table book explores the craft beer scene’s revival of beer cans with photos of craft beer cans from every region of the country. From Phoenixville’s Sly Fox Brewery to Wild Onion Brewery’s, we see how craft beer is marketed with colorful images of everything from beautiful women to Grateful Dead logos. Recommended for that friend who you always meet at Victory, Side Bar or TJ’s or your buddy that works in graphic design.

imagesThe Spirit of Gin: A Stirring Miscellany of the New Gin Revival by Matt Teacher – I reviewed this comprehensive gin guide for the Town Dish this fall and I’ve been a bit obsessed with this book ever since. Matt Teacher provides gin recipes, gin history, and insights into famous gin bars and distilleries. Not only is this book fascinating to read, but it makes a great reference guide and looks great sitting on your coffee table or on your wet bar. Recommended for that person who is always pulling out a new bottle of liquor and mixing drinks when you visit.

unnamedWest Chester Story Slam: Selected Stories 2010-2014 – I recommend this because it contains 40 true stories told by people who have become friends over the past five years. Several stories are hilarious, such as Luke Stromberg’s story about a missing wheelchair and Kevin Ginsberg’s story about getting lost in Camden. Others are touching, such as Karen Randall’s Lettuce story and Jessica Kupferman’s remembrance of her mother. Recommended for that relative who is always telling good stories, or that buddy you always discuss The Moth or This American Life with.

COMING IN 2015

10670103_10204953133365665_7366139958525587162_nCommunion by Curtis Smith – I saw Curt read an older essay of his at the Rosemont Writers Retreat this summer, and it was awesome. I later read another essay he wrote on Faith and enjoyed that as well. As someone who grew up Catholic, I think this collection will resonate with me. I love the fact that Curtis and I both attended Kutztown University also. Unfortunately, Communion won’t be released until Spring 2015. Maybe in my Easter basket?

What books are on your Holiday Wish List this year and what do you think I missed?

What is “Books in Bars?”

BIBWhen my friend Linda Ortino and I started discussing holding an event at her family’s bar/restaurant, Ortino’s Northside, I thought we should try something different. QVC viewers will recognize Linda. She was a QVC model for many years (See her photo from a Nolan Miller show below!) and is now an on-air guest with a variety of products. She was always a blast to work with in the studio. I haven’t seen Linda in years, so I’m excited to visit!

Anyway, you might be asking, but what is “Books in Bars?”

“Books in Bars” is simply a happy hour for people who enjoy reading books. Think of it as a networking event for book readers – in a bar! You won’t have to listen to an author read. No highbrow literary diploma needed. Did I mention the event is held in a bar? Just enjoy happy hour specials while discussing books with other avid readers. Meet other book lovers and learn about their favorite books, authors, and genres. You may walk away with a larger “To Be Read” list.

For the Sunday, November 9th event, the Ortino family is generously offering a 1/2 price appetizer menu, 1/2 price Margaritas, and $3 Craft Draft Specials. Ortino’s Northside is located at 1355 Gravel Pike, Perkiomenville, PA. Books in Bars will run from 3pm – 6pm. Their phone number is (610)287-7272.

Each Books in Bars event will feature two writers with recently published books. On Sunday, November 9th, the writers will my friend (and former QVCer) Robb Cadigan, who is the author of the popular novel Phoenixville Rising. I’ll have a few copies of Shoplandia, my novel inspired by QVC. Yeah, you can buy a book if you would like, but there is no pressure. Writers happen to enjoy talking about books in bars.

Books in Bars will be an occasional series. We have chatted with bar owners about holding possible future events in Phoenixville, West Chester, and Media. To sign up and receive email notices about upcoming Books in Bars events, click here. Also, if you are on Twitter, reach us at @BooksInBars.

Here’s a photo of Linda (center) all ready for a Nolan Miller show.

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Writer’s Digest quotes my #nanowrimo advice

Are you doing #nanowrimo this year?

I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month twice over the years and blogged about the experience back in 2010. In their latest issue, Writer’s Digest quoted me about the experience, which is kinda cool. On newsstands now! If you’d like to read my entire post blog post about #nanowrimo, click here. If you are hunkering down this November to partake in #nanowrimo, good luck! WRITERSDIGEST

Thanks, Shoplandia Readers! Loving these tweets!

Twitter makes me happy. So much fun to see responses and reviews pop up during each Twitter check-in. Thank you. If you haven’t read Shoplandia, order your copy today.

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Philadelphia Inquirer reviews Shoplandia

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Thanks to the Philadelphia Inquirer for their recent review of Shoplandia. The online version of the article was titled: ‘Shoplandia': Delightful exploration of the glitzy, manic world of home-shopping TV. Holly Love’s review ended with this gem: “Despite a smiley-face ending, this novel is worth its weight in all the gold, silver, and crystal jewelry now on clearance prices until midnight. Give me 10,000 copies. I’d gladly give it a go selling them on QVC myself.” You can read the full review by clicking HERE.

My One Question for David Lynch

IMG_3270Okay, total geekboy moment for me tonight. Film director David Lynch returned to his college stomping grounds – Philadelphia – for a retrospective. Lynch attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts several decades ago. I was lucky enough to sit in the second row of the Prince Music Theater where he was interviewed before a screening of his film Lost Highway. During the interview, he took questions from the audience, so I asked him, “Can you tell us about how your time here in Philly influenced your work, and what you think of the city now?”

Lynch responded by recalling a building near his apartment that was completely covered in black soot. He then said, “Every place had a kind of a mood but swimming in the atmosphere was huge fear and a chance for big violence. There was a feeling of corruption, there was a feeling of despair, there was feeling insanity. And it all sort of swam together. Now the city seems much brighter and cleaner and more ordinary to me.”

Directly after my question, David Lynch was asked about how he ended up with a role in Louis CK’s show Louie.

IMG_3286“I think there were about fourteen people ahead of me for that role, and they all turned Louie down. Louie wrote me these letters, and I turned him down a couple of times, and he wrote beautiful letters, and then I read the scripts and the scripts were really great – really great – and Louie said they came pouring out in one continuous waterfall. I was really impressed. I didn’t want to do it because it’s a very frightening thing to act and I don’t like to travel too much and he got me to go from LA to New York and go into a hotel and act, so he is a pretty incredible guy.”

One more note: I’m pretty happy that I refrained from blurting out that I had gone to see Blue Velvet alone on Valentine’s Day the year it came out and the cashier slipped me a candy heart with my change which was strange and I sat in the Roxy Theatre in Philly and almost walked out at the first set of disturbing scenes but then ten minutes later I was laughing hysterically at the famous Dean Stockwell party scene and then ten minutes later I was sniffling as Jeffrey Beaumont lay battered in his room and that I left that movie theatre that day in shock and had to walk across the city back to my apartment at 9th and Lombard, which was the most frightening experience in my adult life.

Yeah, so I’m pretty happy I refrained blurting all that out.

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