VOTM: What's the most unusual experience you've ever had at a reading?
BYLOOS: I have done a bunch of readings, but have yet to experience a truly embarrassing or otherwise grueling touring / reading moment.
That said, I do have a few experiences of having to read my own work, which often crosses the line into perversity and can make some people uncomfortable. Not on purpose, of course, as in--that was not my intention in writing the work. More often than not, if I'm writing to entertain myself, or to make myself laugh, then my sense of humor will dictate that the work comes out extra bizarre and perverse.
So at one reading down in Long Beach, I created a bill featuring two other of my favorite people and writers, both of whom have work that can be a little blue. So we start with reader number one, Michael Roberts, whose work features a line about a winking asshole. Pan across the crowd and see some rather serious looking faces, some parents and unfortunately children (who were all dutifully warned ahead of time), and a general look of slight embarrassment. Next up, Maggie Wells, who spins a yarn of a poem about Corey Feldman obsessing over himself and maybe even having a conversation with his genitals. That created a new threshold for the crowd, which had thinned out ever so slightly. No regular people were laughing. And the writers were all laughing. The work must have been just for them.
I go up next and read a story in which the main character is writing a letter to his now ex-wife, detailing his sexual exploits, all of which have occurred since he left the relationship. The tone of the letter is so innocent, so playful and full of hope, if you really dig that deep. But on the surface, it's way over the top. No other way to say it. And that over-the-topness culminates in a description of a porn film that fits squarely into the genre which the narrator refers to as "Nativity Bukkake." I had been working with a colleague of mine on creating visuals for the readings: slide shows combined with video, etc., in an effort to create a more memorable and performative piece of entertainment, something even more special than a reading. We had staged a phony jack off club meeting, and the footage from that shoot, which was really brief and surprisingly enough not sexual at all, (just extra weird and hilarious), corresponded to a section of the story that I think may have been too much for people that night.
It felt like I had broken into a church and faked being a priest, and read the story to the congregation for the sermon. I mean, it was like I had hurt some people's delicate sensibilities, maybe forever. I felt bad for a few minutes and then realized, Wait--this is just me. Accept it. Otherwise, stop writing.
VOTM: What's something you've done for seven years?
BYLOOS: I waited seven years before restarting Smalldoggies Magazine. Almost exactly that long between the last print issue in 2003 and the resurgence of the website, reading series, small press and eventual podcast, which happened last year in 2010. Why so long? So much other stuff going on, as usual. Working on a painting career. Having the last of my full time jobs. Relationships. Distractions. That kind of thing. But the dormant period has ended and the thing is alive once more.
MATTY BYLOOS's first collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss, was published in 2009 by Write Bloody Books. His work has been published on or in: We Who Are About to Die, The Nervous Breakdown, The Fanzine, Orion Magazine, Pop Serial, Sparkle and Blink, The Portland Review, Everyday Genius, Housefire, among others. He is the editor and publisher of Smalldoggies Magazine, and co-hosts (along with Carrie Seitzinger) the Smalldoggies Reading Series in Portland, Oregon, where he lives and works. He is currently working on a novel set to be released in early 2012 by Housefire Publishing.