Category Archives: Writing

Babes from Outer Space

I was talking to a friend the other day about the stupidest piece of hackery I’ve ever done. And I’ve written some really stupid pieces. But this one beats them all by far, I think. Maxim paid me well–this particular piece paid out a couple of thousand–but I was so wrong for them as a contributing editor. Yes, I was a contributing editor.

Sample from the article:

“Nyah”
Devil Girl From Mars (1954)
Played by: Patricia Laffan
Home planet: Mars, a major source of ’50s paranoia.
Diabolical plan: To kidnap strapping Scottish men and get herself knocked up, pronto.
Advantages: Has the urge to merge in a big way. [I REALLY DOUBT I WROTE THAT LINE, BUT I MIGHT HAVE BEEN LAZY]
Bonus for submissive types: Can trap laddies in a powerful force field, and has a 12-foot-tall hench-robot named Chani to do her dirty work.
Disadvantages: Is prone to saying snotty, emasculating stuff like “It amuses me to watch your petty efforts.” Should she judge you too old and flabby for breeding, she sics Chani on you.
Typical come-on: “I can control power beyond your wildest dreams. Come! Come! And you will see!”

I still recommend Devil Girl from Mars, though.

An article I wrote is up on Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood

I love Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood; I think it’s one of the best on the Web, maybe because it’s so focused: it’s concerned with true stories that take place in New York City.

How Mr. Beller describes my piece:

“From Kobe, Japan to New York City (and Back Again)
As the young son of the American Consul-General to Japan’s industrial center, Meakin Armstrong endured anti-Vietnam War “Yankee, Go home!” protests, a best friend who hanged himself, and a sad lack of Frosted Flakes, for which Fruit Loops is no substitute. Growing up American in Japan must have seemed strange, but not as strange as coming home to encounter his own country for the first time, only to find out that he, like the Japanese, find the gaijin a little bit odious.”

InDigest fiction

The fine folks at Indigestmag.com have put up a short story of mine, The Missing Years. It’s from a novel I’ve been working on. The story is an early draft.

It’s so good to read something from the novel. At least it’s good for me, because lately I’ve been writing stories inspired by 1990s power ballads. The stories vary wildly from the novel (for one thing, the “power ballad” stories are meant to be funny).

Maybe I should stick with the novel? The novel is set in the South. The power ballad stories are, too, but. . . I digress.

InDigest is such a nice magazine. Take a look.

I’ll be in Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood on the 14th



I’ve been asked to participate in a reading tomorrow, the 14th. It’s for the Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood Reading series, at the Happy Ending Lounge on 302 Broome Street, at the intersection of Broome Street and Forsyth Streets.

Before going into details, I have to say I love the (I think) unintended pun on the Citysearch site, which calls the lounge the best new bar in the city, etc:

“Happy Ending’s former life was an erotic massage parlor and has now been transformed into a club with two floors, each with its own feel.”

From the publicity for the series:

We are very pleased to invite you and yours to the newest incarnation of the Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood reading series, beginning this Valentine’s Day (Thursday, Feb. 14) and continuing the second Thursday of every month at 8:00 pm. The location is Happy Ending.

Author and Open City Founding Editor Thomas Beller founded the Webby Award-nominated Web site mrbellersneighborhood.com in 2000. The site publishes stories about New York City life that follow in the tradition of Joseph Mitchell and E.B. White—slices of life, portraits of memorable characters, scandalous encounters with public decadence and heartwarming displays of civil courage.

Readers on February 14th are Laren Stover, Nora Maynard, and Meakin Armstrong. The host is Patrick Gallagher. The reading begins at 8:00 pm.

Nora Maynard’s work has appeared in The Rambler, CHOW, Apartment Therapy, and other publications. She has received fiction fellowships from the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, the Ucross Foundation, and Blue Mountain Center. In 2007 the Bronx Writers’ Center/Bronx Council on the Arts awarded her the Chapter One prize for an excerpt from her novel-in-progress, Burnt Hill Road.

Laren Stover’s first novel Pluto, Animal Lover was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award. She has written for The New York Observer, The New York Times, Bergdorf Goodman Magazine, Deutsche Vogue, and Bomb.

Meakin Armstrong is a screenwriter, magazine editor, and freelance writer working on his first novel, Kings of the Wild Frontier. Among the awards and grants he received is a “waitership” to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2007. He is also contributor to the book, New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (Dist U of Chicago Press, 2007) and is the fiction editor for Guernica: A Magazine of Art and Politics (guernicamag.com).

Happy Ending is located at 302 Broome Street, at the intersection of Broome Street and Forsyth Street. The phone number is 212-334-9676

Reposting: 2007 Bread Loaf waiters are doing a reading


It’s called the “Orphan Reading” because, well, it’s a long story.

Anyway, many of the 2007 work-study scholars, writers who received a “waitership” from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, are having a reading during AWP, the big writers’ conference, convention, and blah blah. This is strictly unofficial. Unsanctioned. We’re reading together as friends.

It’ll take place in Brooklyn.

Pacific Standard
8:30 pm Feb 1, 2008

Find it here

Readers (more or less and given in no particular order)

Aaron Balkan
Avery Slater
Shane Oshetski
Greg Wrenn
Matt Siegel
Dave MacLean
Julia Kudravetz
Lindsay Bernal
Emily Perez
Jenny Hill
Jennifer de Leon
Meakin Armstrong

We’ll have to somehow start a bonfire.

What It’s Like to be a Bread Loaf Waiter

I’d hoped to blog a bit from Bread Loaf.

I’d hoped to document the “waitership” experience. I’ve been been given this once-in-a-lifetime scholarship, and I wanted to document it, minute by minute.

No go.

There’s just too much is going on. Too much work.

But I have got to say: except for Dave Koch’s account, a lot of what people say about the Bread Loaf waiter experience is incorrect. They’re often journalistic accounts. The other, more personal accounts are self-pitying (yes, it’s hard work). Still more are condescending (those little hard-working waiters! Look at what jerks they are!). Some whine about the place and its various hierarchies. Others are a bit too much in awe.

I’ve been both a waiter and a contributor (but as contributor, I had something called a conference grant. Conference grants have no glamor—you’re a given a cut-rate to attend and told that you’re talented, that’s it).

So I can say as a person who’s experienced both sides of Bread Loaf, the life of the waiter isn’t an easy one. That was the biggest surprise: I’d thought waiters had the smooth life, riding shotgun on the road of life. Before I’d been a Bread Loaf waiter, I thought when I wasn’t seeing those guys around, they were going to secret, glamorous parties. Clinking Champagne glasses. Laughing in exclusive cabins, eating better food.

No. No, they weren’t: I now know that they were either sleeping or hiding from the local authorities. Or working like hell.

Should you go to Bread Loaf if you’re not accepted for a waitership?

Yes.

Just create your own fate and ignore your insecure tendencies, whatever they are. Don’t be a full-bore networker. Instead, read your work at the Blue Parlor. Get to know the people around you. Read their work. Prepare for your workshops (in other words respect the other writers in your workshop). Don’t act desperate. Don’t talk for too long to the agents and others in attendance.

And for god’s sake, don’t suck up to the waiters. It makes them (or maybe I should say, me) feel weird. The waiter has no power at all and probably doubts his or her talent, too.

There’s a lot going on at Bread Loaf. You get exhausted. You get “Bloaf” or “BLARS”—it’s not a spa trip. Read what Michael Collier has to say about it, here. There is so much to learn and experience, you don’t need a waitership.

Really: YOU DON’T NEED A WAITERSHIP.

In any case, go to the bonfire (night of the waiter readings, in the woods in the back of the barn), but also go to the waiter reading before that (really, go to the waiter readings, they’re often the most interesting readings).

And when you’re at the bonfire, remember: the waiters have to buy the alcohol themselves, so don’t suck it all down. Instead, go into town at some point and buy some of your own and share it. Bring it to “the pigsty” where the male waiters live and party (it’s in the building that houses the barn, on the ground floor, in the back). It’s a great place to make friends, because early-on in the conference everyone goes there, including fellows and so on.

Or better, out-class the waiters, like the people in Annex are doing. They seem to be having their own (better) party every night—with Hendrick’s Gin, no less.

Or don’t go to the parties. It’s not all about drinking. It really isn’t. Play Scrabble instead, or something. No need to fall into some predetermined behavior. But get to know people. I’ve made some very good friends here. You can keep to yourself, but you’ll be wasting your money.

For everyone, Bread Loaf is like this: you arrive on the mountain, surprised that so many people feel the same way you do about books and reading and writing. And you want to be with those people night and day.

But don’t be under the impression you’ll have time to write. It’s not a residency. So get to know people. Really, get to know people.

Should you attend if you’re accepted as a waiter? YES. Just bring Advil. Lots of it. You’ll make the best friends you’ll ever have. Weirdly, I feel like I’m friends even with Dave Koch, even though I’ve never met him. I know he knows all about suffering (and busing tables), so we’re friend on some level that’ll last forever.

The fellows are the best reason to go. The first time was here, a fellow named Naeem Murr gave me some of the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten, in a one-on-one discussion.

Peter Orner in yet another discussion gave me confidence. Pia Ehrhardt has given me more than I could ever give back. I’ll always be grateful to all of them.

And also:

Bring protein bars: the food can be iffy and tedious.

If you REALLY NEED TO MAKE A CELLPHONE CALL and can’t Skype it for some reason, go out into the field across the street from the main building and look for a large rock on the left. Climb up on it, stand there, and look like a jerk. You’ll get reception. That was my personal discovery. I take credit (or blame) for that.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments. 

Avail soon: “New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg”


A book I contributed to, New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg, edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger, will be available shortly.

Published by Reaktionbooks and distributed by The University of Chicago Press. PR from the Reaktionbooks site:


Acclaimed historian Marshall Berman and journalist Brian Berger gather here a stellar group of writers and photographers who combine their energies to weave a rich tale of struggle, excitement, and wonder. John Strausbaugh explains how Uptown has taken over Downtown, as Tom Robbins examines the mayors and would-be mayors who have presided over the transformation. Margaret Morton chronicles the homeless, while Robert Atkins offers a personal view of the city’s gay culture and the devastating impact of aids. Anthony Haden-Guest and John Yau offer insiders’ views of the New York art world, while Brandon Stosuy and Allen Lowe recount their discoveries of the local rock and jazz scenes. Armond White and Leonard Greene approach African-American culture and civil rights from perspectives often marginalized in so-called polite conversation.

Daily life in New York has its dramatic moments too. Luc Sante gives us glimpses of a city perpetually on the grift, Jean Thilmany and Philip Dray share secrets of Gotham’s ethnic enclaves, Richard Meltzer walks, Jim Knipfel rides the subways, and Robert Sietsema criss-crosses the city, indefatigably tasting everything from giant Nigerian tree snails to Fujianese turtles.

It’s a long way from old Brooklyn to the new Times Square. But New York Calling reminds us of what has changed – and what’s been lost – along the way.


Available from Amazon
Link

Waiting tables at Bread Loaf, 2007

It just doesn’t have a ring to it–hey, I’m going to Bread Loaf! I’m going to be a waiter!

Usual Response: Uh, cool. You’re waiting tables at a bakery?

Me: That’s the name of the mountain! It’s a writers’ conference!

Usual Response: Weren’t you a waiter, like years ago? Aren’t you over being a waiter?

Me: But this is cool! It’s the oldest, best writers’ conference! It was founded by Robert Frost!

Usual Response: And you’re going to wait tables? Wait on a bunch of writers? They don’t tip well, I bet.

Me: It’s an honor!

Usual Response: An honor. Is cleaning the toilet an even bigger honor?

Me: Really, it’s an honor!

Usual Response: Whatever man….

Me: Really! I swear! It’s a work-study fellowship for fiction!

Never a prophet in your own country. Antonya Nelson was a waiter. Langston Hughes was a waiter.

Bet they got the same shit, too.

An insider’s account on what it’s like to be a waiter at Bread Loaf, from Slate

Another insider’s account, but from the point of view of the social staff

What Rebecca Mead of The New Yorker had to say about it

A short film about Bread Loaf, on what it’s like on the mountaintop


The background blah-blah

I’m a writer.

But:

I’ve erased everything that was here because I found it so appalling.

I’ve never kept a diary (on a regular basis, that is) for the same reason.

I have had just about all I can take of myself. — S. N. Behrman

I write about books, movies, travel, and interesting people. I’ve written for both Maxim and Good Housekeeping (that’s a gamut), Reel.com, Time Out New York, Museums New York, Museums Boston, Four Seasons magazine, USAir Magazine, TV Guide, for a book called New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (2008, U of Chicago/Reaktion Books) and many others–most of which are not on the Internet.

I’ve been writing forever: I was an editor at my high school paper, and arts editor of my college paper, and even founded my school paper in 6th grade. I have an MFA from Columbia in screenwriting. My work has been (ugh) optioned. “Development Hell” it was. I also worked on countless short films. Such as this and this. I wrote and directed two sync-sound 16mm films that played such festivals as Chicago, and elsewhere.

I’m an editor for Guernica magazine , where I edit fiction, along with the occasional nonfiction piece.

I have blogged for Guernica HERE. Mostly the pieces are about Republicans. And they’re a rant. Yes, I know that.

Search my name, you’ll see I’m a signer of petitions (signed it–just one–in Union Square, unaware that it would be broadcast around the world.) And that I’ve written for magazines. Sometimes the stuff shouldn’t be on the Internet

Because I didn’t sign a contract that allowed it.

This shouldn’t be on the Internet either (because again, I didn’t sign a contract that allowed it).

Sometimes, it should

I write mostly because of these demons. They offered my a Faustian bargain: fun at school in exchange for 10 years of paying it off. Not on the internet: my fiction. That’s what I do. I’ve read here
Link
and here

and here

and here

and here and elsewhere in little places around NYC.

I’ve also gotten a 2005 partial scholarship to Summer Literary Workshops in St. Petersburg, Russia.

and a 2006 Conference Grant
to here

And a “waitership” to Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2007.

UPDATE: More about me in this autobiographical piece I wrote for the Web Site, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, an essay called, “From Kobe, Japan to New York City (and Back Again)

Also have a few more stories out there on the Internet and a page on The Atlantic. This entry is an old one.