After Janice and I sold our manufacturing business in 1996, I ended up (after being a very bad office manager for some very good lawyers) working for a series of conservative Mennonite wood manufacturing companies as “that creative guy.” My role was to do the unseemly work of marketing and advertising. Come up with some shit. You know… imagineer. (Aiyyyeee! That word is like giving an AMC Gremlin to the head designer at Ferrari.)
Before I go on, let’s check the relative humidity here. As a “creative guy,” I’m somewhere on a scale. I am not likely to be named Artistic Director for Exile magazine; not likely to die my hair blue (both of them); not likely to get in a scrap with David Cronenberg because my ideas are, “too out there, Toews!” At the same time, my ideas were more than enough “out there” to send the sucking-up-to-the-boss running dog types scooting like scalded greyhounds for the dark corners of the break room, where they would loudly rattle their dog-collars and profess to be regular folks incapable of such wild ideas.
Anyway, today I find myself somewhere between my old scramble for existence (marketing and advertising) and my new scramble for existence (literary fiction). And no, dog-collar people, the two are NOT the same.
I am working diligently to complete my manuscript and set my collection of short stories loose on the world. There is a hurry-up-and-wait aspect to this and during the in-between times, I get restless. Something that occurred to me in a slightly Cronenbergian moment was a set of icons that offered a graphical depiction of the themes present in my made-up stories. I used my prodigious Paint.net skills to render a 4X4 grid of images.
The result is the orderly graphic collage that headlines this post. The effect appeals to my Andy Warhol gene and I like how the iconography drops hints like a visual Johnny Appleseed. I have not spent time getting the size and hue and style at a harmonic pitch, but it’s good enough for a concept. It imagineers. (Ugh.)
And that’s where I find myself—wallowing like a hungry Menno in the nether region between artistic expression and INTEGRATED MARKETING. My old prof at York (the Pepsi-Challenge guy, Alan Middleton) would be pleased but I’m pretty sure my publisher will heave a big sigh.
Anyway, that’s my sitch. I am (just barely) smart enough to listen to my publisher and ignore my fond memories of Prof. Emeritus Middleton’s old lessons (“Put lye in the Coke…” JUST KIDDING!)
But you know that inside my busy little blue head, there is a steeplechase going on with wild ideas running around like crazed dogs.
- Product placement in Mennonite movies
- Posters of dangling kittens wearing the T-shirts (it can’t be ALL about dogs!)
- Fridge magnets of Menno Simons wearing one of the T-shirts (it can’t be ALL about David Cronenberg!)
So, be ready to buy the book. First 100 purchasers get a free TRAVEL MUG.*
*Also just kidding. Shipping extra.
My collection of short stories, “Pinching Zwieback” (At Bay Press) will launch in FALL 2023.
2 thoughts on “Exile on Barkman Avenue”
If you find a place that takes story collections, I want to know. My first is coming out this year from Bridgehouse or something in England. It will be three years since submission. I’d like something faster if it exists.
I assumed your story was non-fiction. Yes?
Hi Doug! My collection is “auto fiction” I suppose; fiction based in part on personal events. (And also hybridized versions of the stories of others.) I’ll shoot you a note about publication. Cheers, mjt