Category Archives: American Fraternity Man

UCF Book Fest

The UCF Book Festival schedule is out!

Check it out here, and be sure to visit my two panels/events.

The first is: How Fiction Writers View Orlando with Burrow Press, at 11 AM on Saturday, April 5 (on the UCF Arena main stage).

The second is: The Life of an American Fraternity Man with Nathan Holic, at 1 PM, in Room Cypress B.

All is free to the public, and copies of my book will be available (for sale by the UCF Bookstore). Yes, I’ll obviously be signing copies.

Other Notes:

I unearthed another review of my book. Check it out here: Quite Spectacular.

And I wrote another column, which is currently up at the UCF Today web site: it’s called “The Anxiety of ‘Read It Later.'” I’ll post links when it goes to Huffington Post and Context Florida, also.

Oh, and finally, I’ll be leading a workshop called “Revising Your Novel” on April 1, at the Orange County Public Library. More specifics on this very soon.

Ahh, January

Start of the year. Time to clean out the closet to make room for all the new crap you got over the holidays (including the new, larger pants you’re now forced to wear after having torn through the bottom of the last pair).

In the spirit of Spring-cleaning and de-cluttering, check out my latest column, “The Struggle of Digital De-Cluttering”, here at Huffington Post, and here at UCF Today. You can also download the podcast version and listen to me read at WUCF here. There is an ALF reference, and a Boyz II Men reference. So.

And in the spirit of starting the year off right, and positive, and excited, let me share with you some upcoming dates that, should you be interested in hearing me speak or read, you might want to jot down real quick-like.

Friday, February 14: Blank Pages Conference at the University of South Florida

Reading and Book-Signing (time TBA)

Saturday, February 15: Florida Writer’s Conference at UCF

1:00 PM – Panel and Book-Signing with Vanessa Blakeslee and David James Poissant

Wednesday, February 19: Bentley College, Boston MA

12:00 PM – Guest Lecture

Friday, February 28: AWP Conference

10:00 – 1:00: Book Signings at the Beating Windward Press table (Table K12)

1:30 – 2:45: “Building a Space For Comics in the Creative Writing Program” (panel)

3:00 – 4:15: “Writing Comics the AWP Way” (panel)

April 4 – 5: UCF Book Fest

Panels and Book-Signings (times TBA)

 

Oh, and I’ve been remiss about posting various book reviews for American Fraternity Man that have popped up across the inter-tubes. So here are a couple links to articles and reviews, if you’d like to read what others have written, or if you’re still on the fence about whether to invest the paltry sum of $15 into my son’s college savings account.

Orlando Weekly suggests AFM as a great holiday gift idea (I’m a little late in sharing this, but hey, Valentine’s Day is coming up, right?)

Dudette Reads (book blog) reviews AFM, says that: “As a graduating senior at university, a lot of the very pressing issues were raised, so I would definitely recommend this book for university students. At the same time, I think anyone can benefit from reading it for the laughs but also for the heavy inspection of fraternities that shows that no matter how well stereotypes hold up, things aren’t always as shallow as they might seem to be to outsiders.”

TNBBC (The Next Best Book Club) contributor Lavinia Ludlow lists 15 Views of Orlando Volume II: Corridor as her top selection for the year 2013. Hot damn.

There were a few more here and there, so I’ll post links when I remember. Until then, happy January 16th, everyone!

American Fraternity Man – A Halloween Excerpt

AFM Cover Spread-WEB

In honor of Halloween, a short excerpt from my novel American Fraternity Man (with some never-bef0re-seen “deleted” material that had been left on the cutting room floor, but which I’ve recovered for this extra-special blog posting), in which the narrator (Charles Washington) enters his ex-girlfriend’s sorority house on the evening of Halloween. Ever seen a sorority house on Halloween? It is indeed an experience. Here you go:

 

A girl named Elizabeth Safron answers the door, recognizes me, puts hand to mouth. “Oh my God, Charles.” She’s wearing a bright orange t-shirt with a black screen-printed jack-o-lantern face smiling wide and gap-toothed, the shirt three sizes too large and sweeping down over her black leggings like it’s a skirt. “What are you doing here?”

“Hoping Jenn was home,” I say.

“Well,” Elizabeth says. She closes her eyes, likely searching her mind for an alibi, somewhere Jenn can be instead of right here, but she wasn’t prepared for this.

“Can I come in?” I peek my head through the doorway. There are plastic pumpkins lining the hallway, each stuffed with Lemonheads and snack-sized Snickers, each pumpkin painted with the letters of a different fraternity. Beyond the hallway is the living room, and from this angle it’s all hair spilled across couch cushions, legs on arm rests, flashes of denim and cardigan.

“Um. Sure,” Elizabeth says, but I’m already inside, not even waiting for her to walk me to the living room and the couches and the TV and the girls.

I know this house almost as well as my own, remember when the wallpaper was stripped away and the walls were re-painted lavender, remember when the plantation shutters were installed in the new cafeteria. I remember each couch, the way they feel when you’re the only man on them surrounded by a dozen sorority girls. I remember evenings after date nights, watching Eight-Legged Freaks or Scream 3, and I remember the drunk girls who would walk into the house late-night, coming home from the bar with boys they didn’t know, douche-bags who’d plop onto the couches and make comments like, “This is what a sorority house looks like?” and “What’s it gonna take to get some three-some action, eh?”, the other girls on the couches going nervous until I said, “He tries to get past the stairwell, I’ll tackle him,” and then the relief. Charles to keep us safe. Charles the good boyfriend. Charles the Protector. I remember the boxes of Cap’n Crunch that seemed to appear magically whenever the girls sat down and turned on the TV, conjured from hiding spots behind the couches, Goldfish too, and Oreos, the accompanying “I’m such a fat-ass” remarks while girls stuffed face with Crunch bars. Other comments, too: “Ahh, these panties give me such a freakin’ wedgie!” and “Oh my God, Dana is passed out naked on her bed upstairs! Can someone go wake her up or something?” Days when they forgot a boy was present, days when I was transplanted into the sorority world, followed by nights when Jenn faced the same at the NKE house: dozens of dudes watching Monday Night Football and throwing Doritos at one another and farting and wrestling one another in the grass of the backyard, comments like “I’m soooo gonna fuck that Ashley girl. Oh, shit. Forgot you were sitting there, Jenn.”

The living room—the long sweeping couches, the HDTV mounted to the wall but still surrounded by a massive and unnecessary espresso-colored entertainment center, shelves and cabinet lined with stuffed animals and framed photos. This feels more like home than anywhere I’ve been in the last six months.

When I turn the corner and enter the frame, there are only three girls seated before me, and all three gasp.

“Charles,” Jenn says. She might be the last to see me, to register that it is me, as she was looking down at her cell phone and typing out a text. Her hair is shorter, so light that it’s damn-near platinum, bangs falling over her black headband and slashing down her forehead like icicles. “What…what are you doing here?” she asks.

“In town for the day,” I say. “Not glad to see me?” I force a sheepish shrug, my posture and face suddenly like the Monopoly Man when forced to pay his poor tax.

“Charles, I…”

The other girls are still staring with the same faces they’d have if someone came into the house and told them that Florida had split from the continent and was now drifting on a collision course with Cuba. Ten minutes before, they were thinking of Halloween parties. Spread out on the empty cushions are the bits and pieces of half-costumes, a tall pair of clear heels, a Hooters shirt, a pair of bunny ears. Ten minutes before, they were timing the exact moment they’d need to leave the living room and head upstairs to start getting ready for the night’s parties, cramming their tight bodies into fishnets and long white gloves and three inches of glittery top or bottom. They were thinking, “How will I be able to walk across campus in these stripper heels?” and “Can I even sit down in the short leather skirt of this Sexy Cop outfit?” They were thinking, “Why do guys get to dress up as whatever they want, but I’ve got dress like a slut?” They were also thinking, “Is my costume slutty enough?” And then: Charles Washington appeared.

The Reviews Are In…

I’ll be flying to Chicago tomorrow to say goodbye to a much-loved uncle. I write a great deal about the struggles and difficulties that we face when attempting to be “the right kind of man” in a culture that’s tugging us in a thousand different directions, a thousand different conceptions of manhood, and I should say that my uncle was definitely one of those guys who epitomized everything you’d want in a man, a family member, a father, and he didn’t even make it look tough. Great man, and we’re all going to miss him.

I’d planned to write a couple posts over the last two weeks to spotlight some different Nathan Holic links and interviews, etc., but the virtual world of my blog has to take a back seat to the real world. I figured I’d gather these links into a single blog post, and post them into various pages throughout this site, and boom: you’ll have them all in one place, and I’ll still catch my flight.

So what’s happening? What’s new for me?

“Don’t Critique Me”: I read with Chicago author Lindsay Hunter at Functionally Literate in downtown Orlando this past Saturday. The video should be available soon, and I’ll post it when it’s up (Lindsay was freakin’ awesome). We were old grad school cronies, too, so in anticipation of the event, I wrote an essay for the Burrow Press blog in which I found my old fiction workshop critiques for her stories, and then critiqued my own critiques. Check it out here. If you’re a Lindsay Hunter fan, you should also check out The Drunken Odyssey’s podcast interview with her, which was recorded directly before the Functionally Literate event.

Review in Scene Sarasota: Sarasota’s arts & culture magazine, Scene Sarasota, just ran a great review of 15 Views of Orlando in their September issue. They wondered if there would ever be a “15 Views of Sarasota,” to which I can only tell the online world: if there’s a demand for it, we’ll do it. But you’ve gotta let us know. And you’ve gotta get Stephen King on board.

Interview at Knightnews: I spent about an hour talking with the folks from Knightnews.com, the online news hub for University of Central Florida students. It’s an attractive site, very multimedia heavy, and I got the chance to talk about American Fraternity Man, the culture of the National Fraternity, the hazing and alcohol culture at campuses across the country, and my own thoughts on both student and administrative successes and failures. It’s a video, so watch on the device of your choice.

American Fraternity Man reviewed: the first reviews of AFM are in, and while I’m always nervous/anxious for each one, I’ve been really happy with what folks are saying about my book. Here are some quick quotes and links:

“This book is hard to put down…It is a reminder of the complexities of this system, but most importantly a reminder that, at the core, relationships and influence are the most important and most effective tools we have when developing students. American Fraternity Man is everything you love and hate about fraternity life. It is a great story for anyone who knows what it is like to be miserable, challenged, and still love their job.”- Association of Fraternity/ Sorority Advisors, “Essentials” Newsletter
“American Fraternity Man is many things at once–funny and tragic, pro-Greek and anti-frat, bildungsroman and travel narrative, indictment of whiney millenials and the adults who made them that way. For GDIs (I’ll let you read the book for a translation of that abbreviation), the novel is a window into a world that is often misunderstood, even hated, but whose inhabitants are no less human, whose stories are no less worthy of telling.” – Dianne Turgeon Richardson, Sundog Lit
“I feel that all college students should take the chance to read this book…This book was an eye-opener to me…” – Books With Bite
Okay, so that’s the link round-up for this week!
It’s awesome to get great reviews, but I’ve gotta tell you: it’s just awesome that people are reading the book. So if you’ve been to any of my readings lately, or if you’ve picked up the book, or if you’ve finished plowing through it: thank you so much. I don’t take any of this for granted, and I appreciate any support you’ve given me.

Functionally Literate

functionallyliterate

(Hope to see you there! Super-stoked about this, especially because it might very well be the last reading at Urban ReThink. So come. Be part of history.)

Book Trailer – American Fraternity Man

The first American Fraternity Man book trailer is on the YouTubes.

Share and share alike!

Soon, I’ll write a posting about my experience with book trailers, my feelings about book trailers as a genre, etc. But right now, regardless of the final effect of such marketing efforts, I’m just really excited about this final trailer. I think it looks great, and really captures the complex nature of the book. Let me know what you think!

 

Marketing My Writing Part IV: Blurbs

It is with great pride that I submit to you the following statements about American Fraternity Man, written by authors for whom I have tremendous  respect:

The culture of Greek life is both skewered and embraced in this take-no-prisoners coming of age novel from debut author Nathan Holic. Here, you’ll meet one character who has reached the conclusion that goodness is just and that evil is easy to spot. But for Charles Washington, the dynamic hero of this compelling story, right and wrong are slippery things. In the end, it’s a pleasure to tumble into Charles’ world, even as we watch that world pulled out from under him. American Fraternity Man is, at once, satire and seriousness itself. But, more than anything, it is a compulsively readable book, a thrilling ride, beginning to end.

David James Poissant, author of The Heaven of Animals

Nathan Holic writes with the precision and confidence of a true badass. Hide your valuables and DIG IN.

 –Lindsay Hunter, author of Daddy‘s and Don’t Kiss Me

In a transnational tour of the college scene, it’s Man versus the Fraternity World, and even the parents are too drunk to drive. Nathan Holic offers a fast-paced and multifaceted look at campus Greek culture and what it might take to effect change from within.

Alex Kudera, author of Fight For Your Long Day

Three simple statements, and they appear unassumingly enough on every press release for my novel, tucked into a corner or a margin or a final paragraph; they appear on the book itself, one on the back cover and the other two just inside the front cover; they appear on the publisher’s web site, and they appear on the web site’s of booksellers, and they appear (just one, or maybe all three) on posters and flyers for release parties and readings and appearances…

Three simple statements for which I am incredibly grateful, and which I share endlessly, and boast about loudly, and yet collectively they constitute (for the first-time novelist…you know, me) one of the greatest sources of anxiety in an emerging writing career.

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These types of statements, known in the writing/publishing/editing industry as the genre of the “blurb,” feel–to readers–as commonplace and simple as the book description itself. Perhaps they’re borderline invisible, taken  for granted in the same way that we often take for granted excerpts of movie reviews on DVD boxes. “Of course there’s a critic out there who liked the movie,” we say, and our eyes glaze over the quote.

But–to writers/publishers/editors–the blurb genre is not something to be glossed over. It’s a genre that evokes strong feelings, and it’s endlessly complicated and (maybe I’m just a nerd here) endlessly curious.

*

As unassuming as the blurb seems, many find it to be absolutely vital to establishing a book’s credibility. It is an ethical appeal (ethos, they say in the composition classroom), with the blurbing authors lending the totality of their brands to this newly published book. Sometimes the reason is obvious: Peter Straub (an esteemed and celebrated horror author) writing a blurb to endorse newcomer Benjamin Percy, authors of similar content or subject matter speaking just a few sentences and propping one another up (a la Bill Clinton and Barack Obama).

Sometimes the connection is not always obvious. Looking at my bookshelf, the spine of Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End (a humorous but deeply empathetic look at lives in an advertising office) shows a quote from Nick Hornby (“Terrific,” he says, and it’s easy to see why his endorsement is so important, since Hornby writes humorous but deeply empathetic novels) and also Stephen King (“Hilarious,” King writes). But wait…when was the last time you picked up a Stephen King novel and thought “This one is going to be a laugh riot!”? In this case, perhaps the publishers were looking to reach a new audience; perhaps the Stephen King crowd could be convinced to step outside their boxes.

Examining the blurb more closely, though, we might also ask further questions: was this blurb for some sort of mutual benefit? Stephen King, after all, began his quest for “literary” (and not strictly “horror”) recognition in the early 2000s, editing The Best American Short Stories and publishing regularly in The New Yorker. He wanted to be known as something more than just an easily dismissed horror writer, and in fact, in his book On Writing he dedicates an appendix to his “reading list” of the past several years…a list that includes a wide variety of genres and shows King as being well-read not just in thrillers and horror novels, but also in literary fiction. Does this blurb help King’s growing reputation as a literary writer? The blurb might have been genuine, but it was a statement that bolstered the brands of both writers.

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This type of thinking, of course, leads you down this dark and difficult path whereby you start imagining “mutual benefits” everywhere, strings pulled, favors called upon, authors weighing whether to lend support based upon whether said support will boost their own brand. There’s an essay by Rachel Donadio from The New York Times a few years back called “He Blurbed, She Blurbed,” which calls into question the “business” of blurbing. This article shows us something far more disturbing than just a favor, though: she highlights a company called Blurbings LLC, which helps authors to find blurbs. Donadio’s discussion of the intricacies of the blurb business are far more nuanced than my own ramblings here, as she interviews editors and agents to get their take on whether blurbs are truly “worth it,” with some of them answering wearily that a moratorium should be placed on blurb-hunting. Destroy the genre!

Brad Listi, on his Other People podcast (which I listen to religiously, and which–strangely–seems to touch on topics just as I’m dealing with or pondering them in my own life) spoke at length about his own experience in blurbing. For his debut novel, Attention. Deficit. Disorder., he was honored to receive a blurb from poet-junkie Jim Carroll of Basketball Diaries fame. Listi allowed himself to imagine a life in which he became friends with Carroll, and (his mind drifting to fantasy) the two of them hanging out in LA with Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg (from the film version of the book), a whole new life stemming from Carroll’s blurb that Listi’s novel was “a perfect book.” Listi, however, never met Carroll…and now doubts that Carroll ever read the book at all, the blurb instead the result of Carroll’s editor giving a favor to Listi’s editor. The realization (on the podcast) is depressing, especially since Carroll is now dead, and really there’s no chance to ask and to learn the truth.

Clearly it’s a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t proposition. Get a blurb, and there will be some inherent distrust over why the authors are listed on your book cover (just a favor?); there will be questions over whether they even read the book, or whether it’s all just marketing and advertising and branding, and whether there’s any honesty whatsoever in the entire blurbing game. But if you don’t get a blurb? Well, now your book looks barren. Now it looks as though you have no one who will step up and endorse you. You are a resume without references. You are a movie that has “not been screened for critics.” You could have the best book ever written, but somehow the omission of the blurb–the unassuming, innocuous blurb–is a glaringly obvious reflection of your book’s terribleness.

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So anyway. These were the thoughts on my mind as I imagined the blurbs I would seek, the authors I would ask.

My publisher actually told me that I didn’t need blurbs. “I’ve never bought a book based on a blurb,” he said.

Maybe that should have been encouraging? Maybe he was trying to relieve my anxiety? I don’t know. All I could think, though, was that some readers do put a lot of stock in the blurb. For a first-time novelist, at least. Nobody’s buying Philip Roth based on a blurb, probably, but if a reader is intrigued by my book, my first novel, and then they see Stephen King’s “Hilarious!” on the cover, maybe that pushes them over the edge and the reader gives me a chance?

(No, Stephen King did not call my book “hilarious.” But you’re free to believe it if you want!)

So I had to have blurbs. Really, it wasn’t even a question. If they helped me to reach new readers, then I needed them. It took me seven years to write and publish the damn novel, so I wasn’t going to skip out on this one last little step.

But blurb requests (no matter what) are favors, a request for someone else to read and evaluate your work and then (potentially) offer a statement, and I hate asking people for favors. When I ask a favor, I feel like I’m basically saying “Your time is less valuable than mine,” and/or “I want something from you for free,” which I know isn’t always the case…but that’s what I’m always thinking, at least…I’ve spent a lot of time over the past decade (ever since I started grad school) building relationships with writers I appreciate and admire, getting to know other authors and becoming a part of a larger literary community where we lend support and share advice and commiserate, etc., and when you start asking for favors, you can put a lot of strain on those relationships. You can come across as a “user,” someone who takes and takes and builds up a ridiculous credit card debt but never makes a payment. I mean, my novel is 450 pages: requesting blurbs meant that I would be asking someone to read a brick-heavy book that would consume several weeks of their lives, and to then write really nice things about it so that I could capitalize off their name/work.

Not to mention: what if I started asking other authors to read and blurb my work, and they responded simply with “No thanks, I don’t really like your work.” (Or something more polite, but still equally deflating.) That was a devastating thought, to be rejected once again even as I was about to be published.

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I still find it remarkable that I found three authors–David James Poissant, Lindsay Hunter, and Alex Kudera–who think enough of me to not only read my work, but also to have written blurbs for me that are so perfect that I can nearly recite them all by heart.

I’ve never met Alex face-to-face, though we’ve corresponded for awhile because I’ve been (for a couple years now) enamored of his novel Fight For Your Long Day. I only worked one semester as an adjunct instructor (the subject of his book), so I’m not completely immersed in the lifestyle his book describes, but still, it’s a piece of social commentary about our university culture that needed to be written, and he rendered it perfectly.

longday

And Lindsay Hunter? She’s emerging as one those “voice of our generation”-type writers. And she had her own new book to worry about (it should be released in the next couple of days), and she just had a baby (she read my book and wrote the blurb in the weeks before her delivery; her blurb labels me a “badass,” but seriously, Lindsay’s the true badass here).

hunter-cover

And I’ve written enough about David James Poissant in my “Reading Books While Burping My Baby” column that he probably thinks I have a creepy man-crush on him, so I’ll hold off on further praise here…(except to say that I can’t wait for his short story collection to be released next year).

animals LM Cover

All the arguments over blurbs. All the anxiety. All the nervousness, the internal/external debate. The articles I’ve read, the spines and dust jackets I’ve studied. The fear over asking for favors. And what, in the end, am I left thinking? What am I left feeling?

Happiness. Seriously: I complicate and over-think everything, but I feel only happiness of the most uncomplicated sort. Gratitude that these authors lent me their names and their talents, yes, but every time I read those blurbs and see those names: just pride and happiness. Poissant read my book twice, in fact, and remains the only person to have read the original draft (my MFA thesis, which he checked out of the UCF Library) and the final manuscript. And–knowing that I really have no return favor I could possibly offer him–he said amazing things about my book, and then made it a point to send another email to reassure me that he meant every word. How can that not make you happy?

I have a feeling that, should I become further immersed in the world of publishing, blurbing might eventually take on the slimy, you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours feeling outlined in the article I shared. It might feel ickier and ickier, and maybe dishonest, with each new book or each new publisher or each new blurb or whatever. Maybe in twenty years I’ll wonder whether an author actually read my book before I blurbed. But right now, no matter what any reader/writer/editor/publisher thinks of those statements on my book, those blurbs make me feel like I’ve made it…like I’m a real author, with a good book to share with the world…who wouldn’t believe it, after all? Those are some incredible authors who have told you so.

The Drunken Odyssey

Just prior to my book release party this past Saturday, I sat down with John King, host of the literary/writing life podcast “The Drunken Odyssey.”

It’s a fun conversation. We talk about my book American Fraternity Man, and fraternity life in the state of Florida, and hazing, and alcoholism, and road trips, and mixed-media literature, and–best of all–I sing the praises of the clever Rebecca Martinson (the now-famous “deranged sorority girl” whose email has since been read by Michael Shannon, Gilbert Godfried, Morgan Freeman, and countless others, perhaps making it the single most talked-about piece of “fraternity/sorority literature” since Animal House). Don’t you want to hear me say the word “cunt punt” just once? I mean, seriously. If I said that while Heather was around, I’d get punched…but with a glass of wine, and sitting in John King’s studio: let the curse words fly!

Here’s the link. You can download the single show, or–better yet–you can subscribe to John’s excellent podcast through iTunes.

odysseybanner4

When you visit his site, do him a favor. Click on the “Audible” link and get a free audiobook download. It’s also the easiest way to support the show financially (and costs you nothing!).

Goodreads

American Fraternity Man is now on Goodreads.

Help a brother out, and add it to your “want to read” or “currently reading” (or whatever) shelves. And whenever you’re finished, just give it a little rating and/or review. There are a few things that make me truly sad in this world: an empty playground in the middle of winter, a silent birthday party, and a book on Goodreads with no ratings, and no one reading. Oh man, that’s sad stuff.

And if you don’t have a Goodreads account, start one up. It’s free and easy, and since they’re now owned by Amazon and collaborate constantly with Facebook, they’ll soon be taking over your life anyway…so might as well be proactive about it, right?

Goodreads

Release Party

Flyer

 

Be there.