Show Your Work! Book Trailer

Can’t see the video? Watch it here→

Show Your Work! is a kind of sequel — if the last book was about stealing influence from others, this one is about influencing others by letting them steal from you.

So it made sense for the new book trailer to echo the last one. As I joked then, I sort of hate book trailers, so I decided to make a cute dog video disguised as a book trailer instead.

The thing I hate about most video production is that it just takes too much money and time. I made this trailer in two afternoons, using equipment I already owned, with software that came standard on my iMac — I shot the footage with my Panasonic Lumix, made the animations in Keynote, recorded the music and voiceover in Garageband with my Blue Yeti USB mic, and hacked it together using iMovie. (I do NOT recommend ever using iMovie for anything, but I knew it would work for what I had in mind.)

I thought I might show a little bit of my work, below. (See what I did there? Ha.) It ended up getting a little long, so skip to the end if you just want takeaways.

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Scenes from a book-in-progress

“The disorder of the desk, the floor; the yellow Post-it notes everywhere; the whiteboards covered with scrawl: all this is the outward manifestation of the messiness of human thought.”
Ellen Ullman

I’m writing a new book. It’s my third book, and the weirdest one for me so far, because I’m writing it the way you think of someone writing a book: I had an idea for a book and now I’m sitting in the same room every day all day and trying to write it.

Neither of my other two books were made this way. Newspaper Blackout was “written” the same way I’d always made blackout poems — one at a time on my lunch break and my commute to and from work. The only difference was that I didn’t post them to my blog and I made a hell of a lot more of them than usual for about 20 weeks, then half of those pieces were thrown out and the rest were pieced together into a sort of narrativeSteal Like An Artist began as an hour-long talk written in a hotel room which was mostly adapted from over five years of online writing, that talk was turned into a 4,000 word blog post, then over two months of nights and weekends I expanded that blog post into 10,000 words and about 30 or so illustrations.

Both those books presented themselves as books after being something else online. This one is like starting from scratch.

This is what the book look liked a month or two ago — just a big stack of index cards and a few notebooks full of scribbles.

A few weeks ago I jumped over to handwriting on sheets of cardstock — essentially, really big index cards that I could then shuffle and play around with. (Above are the stairs leading up to my office filled with an insane, completely unsustainable marathon day’s worth of writing.)

I’m still working, slow and steady. I’m not quite ready to talk about the subject of the new book yet, but as I alluded to yesterday, I think it picks things up nicely from Steal, and if you’ve been following my Tumblr or my “Show Your Work” videos you have some major hints.

Right now, that messy office above is cleaned up and in the corner under the guitars is a baby swing waiting for a baby. My wife is about a week or so away from giving birth to our first son. With the baby coming, I might be pretty quiet for the next month. (I’ll probably still be updating my Tumblr and posting a baby picture or two or three on Twitter.) I’ve been told that becoming a parent lights a fire under your ass like nothing else, so we’ll see what happens!


how to make a newspaper blackout poem on the ipad

Note: this post has been updated since 2010.

People always ask me when I’m going to develop an iPad app for Newspaper Blackout. I’ve always told them that I don’t want to because I think there’s something magic about feeling the newsprint in your hands, smelling the marker fumes as you make your poem.

Even though I still prefer the old analog way, there are times (mostly on the bus or out on the porch or lying in bed) when I don’t have a newspaper and a marker in front of me, so I’ve been experimenting with making them on my iPad.

Here’s how I do it, if you want to play along…

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ding / gone / the wichita is dead / now what? / home to obscure old Kansas / and regular life

See also: “I Am So Over The Rainbow

* * *

I broke down and bought an Iphone yesterday.

Like any tool, first you get it, then you figure out what to do with it.

If you follow me on Twitter, you saw the following 3 images today, all taken real-time with the Iphone camera and posted online with Twitpic (#1, #2, #3) while I was making the poem.

newspaper blackout poem in progress

newspaper blackout poem in progress

newspaper blackout poem in progress

When does the poem become the poem? When you make that first connection? (Here, it was linking “dead. Now what?” and “Wichita” and then finding “ding” in “including”.) When it’s completely blacked out, “set in stone”? What about leaving behind evidence that could point to other, better poems? Does seeing the process kill the magic?

All questions that popped in my head. Also: what else could we do with this?

What about crowd-sourcing? What if I got stuck on a poem, took a picture of the article, and asked Twitter what my next step should be? Who would the poem belong to?

* * *

Pre-order the book

Become a fan on facebook!


In neat little rows in Adobe Bridge (which has been a total life-saver):

171 Blackout poems

This is just the “yes” folder. It needs to be whittled down to 150 or less and sequenced.

52 in the “no/maybe/blog” folder.

224 total.

It’s still 26 shy of my goal of 250, but there’s only a month until the manuscript is due, so I might have to just end up short. So it goes.

Here’s what the Photoshop grunt-work looks like:

Clean Up

Wish me luck.


buddha tattoo design

About a million years ago my buddy Nate asked me if I would design him a tattoo depicting the Buddha-to-be sitting under the Bodhi tree:

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha-to-be, sits under the Bodhi tree and vows to reach enlightenment and break the cycle of death and rebirth. The demon Mara, who is temptation and death personified, attacks SG with his army in an attempt to thwart his enlightenment. In one fantastic scene, the arrows shot at SG miraculously turn to lotus petals mid-flight and rain down on him. After his army fails, Mara sends in his three hot daughters to tempt SG back to the world. Ultimately, Mara fails and SG awakens as the Buddha. This all happens over the course of one night.

And here I am, giving him a tattoo of the Buddha, but without the tree. (Or the hot daughters.) What kind of friend am I?

The real truth is, I couldn’t figure out how to put the tree in there without it totally overpowering the cool Buddha-to-be.

First, I started out with our best friend, Mr. Google Image Search:


I thought a kind of punky, badass young Buddha was appropriate for Nate:


buddha tattoo design

Now all we need is videos of the tattooing—if he decides to go through with it….



A few months ago, Jessa Crispin asked me if I wanted to submit a t-shirt design for the literary website Bookslut. So I said, “Cool, let’s do it.” Last week I finally got around to finishing.

I really didn’t want to go for the obvious slutty-girl-reading-a-book theme, so after about a dozen abandoned ideas, I sketched this one:

Decided Jefferson would be my muse (the pixellated color cartoon is from the wonderful 1993 computer game, DAY OF THE TENTACLE):

Tighter sketch:


Thought ol’ Tom needed a companion:

Sketched her:



No idea whether the design will actually get used, but there you go.