Pixelated is the digital, double-blind, lit-inclined conversation series.
In each episode we put two writers on a sort of blind-date, and have them interview each other. The result? Who the hell knows. All conversations are 'manuscript-first', meaning they were typed as you see them.
Episode IV: "Bigger fish to fry"
In the fourth installment, I set up Dolan Morgan (above) with Colin Winnette (below). They discuss publishing with small presses, dealing with rejection, Jesse Ball, monster erotica, day jobs & more.
Andrew: Welcome to the fourth installment of PIXELATED. I’m here with Colin Winnette and Dolan Morgan. Colin has a book coming out with Two Dollar Radio in June, HAINTS STAY, and has recently released another with Les Figues Press, COYOTE, which came out in January. Dolan’s debut story collection, THAT’S WHEN THE KNIVES COME DOWN, released late last summer with Aforementioned Productions.
Andrew: It appears that Colin has never met a form of writing he hasn’t liked, or an independent press he hasn’t wanted to publish with—in the past five years he’s released books under five different ones. Dolan’s fiction, on the other hand, hasn’t met an aspect of reality it wants to disturb, distort or destroy. You guys make me equally uncomfortable in distinct, yet commensurate, ways. So, I decided it would be great to put you both in this little chatbox here and make magic.
Andrew: But first things first, some housekeeping: a note to our readers. You may notice this format is slightly different than that of past PIXELATED episodes. Well, that’s because it was recored using the latest, greatest, up-to-the-minute technology—a private chat room.
Andrew: Now that that’s out of the way, would you each a) each kindly describe your current environs (including where you actually are), and b) confirm whether you have ever met?
Colin: Hey, Andrew. And nice to meet you, Dolan!
Colin: a) I'm in my study in California. It's a friend's birthday, so there are a lot of people on our roof right now.
Dolan: Hey there! Nice to meet you too Colin.
Colin: The walls in here are blue and there are books in various places.
Dolan: I'm at my dining room table, which is new.
Dolan: And I don't think we've met. Am I bonkers?
Colin: How are your dining room chairs, Dolan?
Dolan: They're fantastic. Shiny, black.
Andrew: Colin—are those sounds giving you FOMO?
Colin: I don't think we've met either. I'm familiar with your name, though. Pleased to be talking with you.
Andrew: There's nothing like roof chatter to really pour on the FOMO.
Dolan: I want to be on the roof.
Andrew: Dolan you're in Brooklyn, no?
Colin: Not at all. I was up there until just a moment ago and it's nice to take a break and reset with a glass of water.
Dolan: Yeah, Greenpoint.
Dolan: My landlord has been shoveling snow for maybe one million hours.
Andrew: I have a theory some people actually like shoveling snow.
Dolan: I believe it is her favorite thing.
Andrew: They say they hate it, even to themselves, but it accomplishes some deep task inside of them.
Andrew: That's what she'll miss most about this world?
Dolan: She will formulate a way to take it with her no doubt.
Colin: I like it on occasion. I don't like HAVING to do it.
Andrew: Where in CA are you Colin?
Andrew: If you don't mind relinquishing that information.
Colin: Not at all.
Andrew: I've got a specific question for Colin re: publishing through many presses.
Colin: Deep in the Mission.
Andrew: Is it out of preference or circumstance?
Colin: Hmmm. Both, I guess?
Dolan: They're both wonderful presses.
Andrew: It's true.
Andrew: Have you found major differences?
Colin: I've never thought of it as a project, never thought through the overall impact of publishing this way.
Colin: Thanks, Dolan!
Colin: Between each press?
Andrew: Without going into specifics, what are the specifics?
Colin: When you're working with smaller presses, you're working with people who are doing it (for the most part) for personal reasons.
Andrew: And you're saying those personal reasons differ widely?
Colin: So that really flavors how they run things and how the books wind up looking, feeling, etc.
Colin: They're shaded differently, even if they appear similar.
Andrew: I'm just going to keep on asking until I get the impression I'm asking too much: what are examples of those personal reasons?
Dolan: Those two outlets have a really distinct look and feel, too.
Colin: That's true, Dolan!
Dolan: You know them when you see them on the shelf.
Andrew: I love LFPs logo—so musical
Colin: Well, the most extreme example would be someone like Spork Press (who did my second book).
Colin: They're in it to do whatever the hell they feel like doing. They're cowboys.
Colin: And they just make beautiful books.
Andrew: How'd you end up at Aforementioned, Dolan?
Dolan: I have a few of those here at my home. Nice to hold. Sturdy.
Colin: So I saw one of their beautiful books and read it and it was incredible poetry (Zach Schomburg's From the Fjords) and I thought
Colin: I want to write a book for these guys.
Colin: They do a fantastic job.
Colin: But up front they were like, we're going to do this our way.
Colin: I didn't even see the cover until a box of books arrived.
Dolan: Aforementioned published a story of mine years ago, and when they geared up to start doing full-length books, they reached out to me, and the timing was right.
Colin: I just had to trust them and put myself in their hands.
Colin: And they did a fantastic job.
Colin: Sorry, I'm typing too slow!
Dolan: Ha, no worries. Time is out the window here.
Colin: Did you have the stories ready then, Dolan? Or did you take that opportunity to put something new together?
Andrew: Dolan—you mean you'd just finished THAT'S WHEN THE KNIVES COME DOWN when they contacted you?
Dolan: OH, yeah, they were long finished. I'd all but given up on finding a home for them together.
Colin: Had you been trying for a while?
Dolan: Yeah, I'd sent it out to quite a few places, but nothing clicked.
Colin: Such a terrible feeling!
Dolan: And I love Randolph and Carissa at Aforementioned, so it was an easy decision.
Colin: I'm glad it finally found the right home.
Andrew: How did you each you deal with (the inevitable) rejection of pieces you'd submitted?
Dolan: I sort of dig rejection!
Dolan: IT's part of the process.
Colin: Haha. True.
Dolan: Means things are happening.
Dolan: I'm much more weary of periods of inaction and silence than rejection.
Colin: It's complicated, ya know? It's like, sometimes I've got something I know is good and everything I would want it to be and when someone rejects it I feel totally fine about it. Because it's just not for them.
Colin: Other times, I get a rejection and I look at the story and I'm like, yeah, that could really be doing more.
Andrew: Yeah—so it's harder when the rejection actually means something?
Andrew: I mean, obviously.
Colin: And OTHER times, I get a rejection and I'm like...oh...well...I guess I'm just a fucking terrible worthless human.
Dolan: Haha, yes.
Andrew: What do you do to prove, once again, you deserve your plot on earth?
Andrew: I mean, to yourself
Colin: I'm honestly not sure I do, Andrew.
Andrew: Like, make eggs...or?
Andrew: Got it.
Andrew: Time will tell I guess.
Colin: Like "deserve" is a rough word to use.
Colin: I don't feel entitled to anything.
Dolan: Yeah, I'm not so sure about deserving anything, or not deserving anything either.
Andrew: I redact that word.
Colin: But there are things I value and I like to think I work hard at them, because they mean something to me.
Dolan: When I feel like junk, I just try to do something that seems foolish or untenable.
Andrew: I'm always curious to find out what objectively successful writers think of their work.
Colin: Haha. Like what?
Andrew: Like what?
Colin: Jinx. You owe me a coke.
Andrew: Send me your address offline
Andrew: (Good time to mention this series is sponsored by Coca Cola products)
Andrew: (They contacted me directly, so weird.)
Dolan: Hmmm, it varies! Like I'll just think of something that seems just kind of absurd to write about. A tasting review of politicians. Basing a story on some math equations. How do elements have sex.
Dolan: I don't know. Just anything that feels like I'm out in the ocean a bit.
Andrew: Sounds like you're using writing as escape
Dolan: From writing.
Colin: Or proving to yourself that you can do anything and you're not trapped doing the shit that doesn't feel good.
Andrew: People don't talk about writing as escape as they do about using drugs as escape
Andrew: Yeah that makes sense
Andrew: Do you think you're getting better at rejection?
Dolan: Most of the stuff I end up finishing functioned initially as a kind of release valve for how impotent I felt about what I had planned to be writing.
Dolan: I'm terrible at planning.
Colin: Haha. Yeah, I'm anti anything that makes writing feel tedious.
Andrew: Let's change gears to something more positive: What have you read recently that you loved?
Dolan: I just finished A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball. Loved it.
Andrew: I'm currently reading Silence Once Begun!
Colin: Oh shit! I really want to read that.
Dolan: That was my favorite book from last year.
Colin: I love his books.
Colin: SOB is so good.
Dolan: One of my favorite writers is Kobo Abe, and Ball really seems to channel the same things I like about Abe's work.
Colin: I think he would love to hear that.
Dolan: Jesse, are you listening?
Colin: Did Abe write Woman in the Dunes?
Colin: Very cool! That's a good one.
Colin: Man, I'm struggling with the question, Andrew.
Colin: My reading lately has been just all over the place.
Andrew: Nothing you've really loved recently?
Colin: I loved The Worm Ouroboros by ER Eddison.
Colin: Great stuff.
Andrew: Is your new Ball an ARC, Dolan?
Colin: My reading has been guided by a lot of weird impulses and assignments lately.
Andrew: A fan of fantasy Colin?
Colin: Yes, but not a big reader of it.
Dolan: Yeah, ARC. I just looked up this Worm book. Looks great.
Andrew: Kobo Abe has some stellar glasses.
Colin: I read the Eddison as a part of an interview series I do. I never would have picked it up otherwise (simply because I probably wouldn't have heard of it).
Colin: It's a real treat.
Andrew: That was the Eddison?
Dolan: What happens?
Colin: I love it.
Colin: I just ask a writer I admire to recommend a book and then I read it and we talk about it.
Colin: I used to do it for Buzzfeed, now I'm doing it for Electric Literature.
Dolan: Oh, that's a great format.
Colin: Purely selfish motivations, for sure, but it's produced some cool things, I think.
Andrew: That's a great idea.
Dolan: I have no idea how to move from one moment to the next, so it's great when people give me things to do.
Andrew: From wiki "Like the Ouroboros, the story ends at the same place as it begins, when the heroes realize that their lives have little meaning without the great conflict and wish that it could continue, and their wish is granted."
Colin: I talked to George Saunders about Henry Miller's autobiography Timebends. And Roxane Gay about Claire Vaye Watkins. John Darnielle recommended the Eddison.
Colin: Spoiler alert.
Colin: Exactly, Dolan! Especially when it comes to the question of what to read next.
Andrew: Yeah whoops.
Andrew: I think once a book's been out for 90 years you don't need the spoiler alert
Andrew: Who else/what other books have you done Colin?
Colin: For sure.
Colin: Lots! Alissa Nutting on Sara Woods. Tiphanie Yanique on Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Brian Evenson on Beckett. Amelia Gray on Barry Hannah. The list goes on.
Colin: They're all archived at colinwinnette.net/interviews
Colin: There's one with Joe Wenderoth on William Carlos Williams that is really, really great.
Dolan: I remember seeing that Alissa Nutting/Sara Woods one. Yes!
Andrew: Very sweet.
Colin: Dolan, what're you working on now?
Dolan: I'm moving back and forth between a few different projects. The one I'm most excited about is, somehow, a monster erotica piece. You know this genre?
Dolan: Like, Moan for Bigfoot?
Colin: Hahaha. Like Tinglers?
Andrew: OK, for the readers, please give a definition for "monster erotica"
Colin: Like, "Bigfoot Sommelier Butt Tasting"?
Colin: Or am I...way off base here?
Dolan: Haha. Well, there are many books out there that feature, essentially, some kind of monster basically raping a lot of people. They're pretty deplorable, but somehow make a lot og money, too.
Dolan: I mean, it's mind boggling.
Andrew: OK, I'm guessing a lot more e-books than physical
Andrew: So your piece is on this phenomenon?
Dolan: Ebooks, definitely. And I think Moan for Bigfoot was pulling in $30,000/month at one point.
Colin: I'm thinking of a specific author, Chuck Tingle.
Dolan: Ahaha, Chuck Tingle!
Andrew: The name Chuck Tingle is too perfect.
Dolan: His book titles/covers are...something to behold.
Andrew: Holy holy shit
Colin: Haha. Have fun, you guys.
Andrew: Are you writing this on spec or did someone assign this?
Colin: Or are you writing one of these?
Dolan: You'd think one would only take this on if they were forced to, but
Andrew: "Dr. Chuck Tingle is an erotic author and Tae Kwon Do grandmaster (almost black belt) from Billings, Montana. After receiving his PhD at DeVry University in holistic massage, Chuck found himself fascinated by all things sensual, leading to his creation of the "tingler", a story so blissfully erotic that it cannot be experienced without eliciting a sharp tingle down the spine."
Dolan: So, yeah, I'm writing one now, and nobody forced me. It's about giants?
Andrew: Oh, I thought it was non-fiction *about* monster erotica, but you are *writing* one
Andrew: A short story?
Dolan: I initially tried to write one, just as a lark, in the style of the ones that already exist, but I just couldn't brnig myself to do it.
Dolan: Novella, so far.
Andrew: How long until Oyster respects the genre and lists alongside Literary and Fantasy?
Dolan: I have the Oyster app on my phone, but I haven't crossed the river into actually using it yet.
Colin: So you're taking the genre and giving it the Dolan Morgan tweak?
Colin: What...is Oyster?
Andrew: The Netflix for books.
Colin: Google results have been unproductive.
Andrew: Dolan—is that you trademarking something?
Dolan: Haha, yes.
Andrew: It's funny Moan for Bigfoot has been so commercially successful and yet has only yielded 14 Amazon reviews
Colin: Because people are like..."What more is there to say?"
Colin: What can I add to this?
Colin: It's perfect.
Andrew: It's like rating the sun.
Dolan: Yeah, it's like The Bible.
Colin: Oh, I've got some beef with the sun.
Dolan: You'll be smited for any addendums.
Andrew: Please rate the sun out of 5 stars.
Dolan: Ahab was going to punch the sun at some point, I think, but he got distracted.
Colin: Bigger fish to fry.
Colin: Sorry. I'm a few beers deep. I shouldn't have allowed myself to type that.
Andrew: OK—here's a question.
Dolan: No, it's good. We're all in this together.
Colin: Dolan, do you have a day job?
Dolan: Sometimes, you know, it's nice to let go of the past. Like in The Lion King.
Dolan: Yeah, I work with schools and teachers.
Colin: In what capacity?
Dolan: I help people develop curriculum and structure their school to support recent immigrants.
Andrew: Public or private?
Colin: Ah. Nice. That sounds rewarding and difficult.
Dolan: Public, and yeah, it's fun.
Dolan: What about you?
Andrew: I take it from your website you are at least bilingual
Colin: Were you born in the US?
Colin: yeah, I work at the Asian Art Museum in SF. I'm their Writer/Editor.
Dolan: I was born in New Haven, yah.
Colin: What drew you to that work?
Dolan: To schools? Well, I worked as a school teacher for many years, and then I thought I was leaving, but it turns out I didn't.
Dolan: And the type of work I do now gives me a lot of free time.
Dolan: Or at least, a little more control over my schedule.
Dolan: Which has been helpful.
Dolan: How did you end up at the museum?
Colin: Oh, nice. Yeah that's critical. I'm 9 to 5ing it now, which is difficult. But I like the gig.
Colin: Luck, really.
Colin: I moved to SF right after grad school and took a job at a bookstore.
Colin: I was writing freelance on the side.
Colin: Got a steady gig writing copy for a kids' hospital in Stanford.
Colin: Then I met someone at a friend’s birthday party and told her I was doing that work and they were looking for a temporary person at the museum.
Colin: I somehow landed that and then they turned the position into full time.
Dolan: I would live in a museum if I could. Let me sleep under the stairs!
Colin: A rags to riches tale.
Colin: They're beautiful stairs.
Colin: And the collection is phenomenal.
Andrew: Guys—it looks like we're at time.
Andrew: Closing remarks?
Colin: Cool. Nice talking to you, Dolan.
Colin: And thanks, Andrew, for coordinating.
Colin: Sorry I bungled the timing this morning.
Andrew: Sure thing. Thanks a ton you too.
Dolan: Nice talking to you guys too!
Andrew: No worries.
Dolan: This has been fun.
Dolan: I'm going to read the worm book.