Help Keep an Indie Magazine Thriving

imagesArmchair/Shotgun, as you may know, is a blind-submission, print-only literary magazine. A/S publishes fiction, poetry, and beautiful artwork, thanks in large part to the efforts of the unpaid staff (all of whom have demanding day jobs). Full disclosure- I co-founded this magazine and was a managing editor for years. But I think I can say impartially that A/S publishes amazing material, and does great things for independent literature in Brooklyn and beyond, not only by creating a venue for new voices, but by reaching out and helping to build a literary community through events like the Brooklyn Book Festival and LitCrawl.

Looking forward to the next five years, A/S has big plans, including nonprofit status, subscriptions, and expanding to new cities, but the magazine needs your help to get there. That’s why A/S has launched an IndieGoGO campaign.

The world of independent publishing ain’t easy, as many of you know, and while many “independent” magazines thrive with angel donations from large corporations such as Amazon, A/S is turning to you fine folks– the lovers of amazing writing from new and established authors– to help independent publishing continue to thrive.

What Your Support Helps Pay For:

  • Printing Issue 5, featuring the stories and poetry of Woodlief Thomas, Devin Kelly, Rob Adams McKean, Patricia Murphy, Juan Ramirez and more, plus brilliant color to show off the art of Avery McCarthy and Dan-ah Kim
  • Shipping costs to help us reach new audiences
  • Fees to aid the transition to nonprofit status for long-term fiscal health

So please, if you have a few extra bucks, kick it over to the A/S IndieGoGo campaign. A small contribution really goes a long way. And if you’re in the Brooklyn area, come out to the Greenlight Bookstore Indie Party this evening and raise a glass with us, and/or stop by the Armchair/Shotgun table this Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival to say hello, buy one of our rad t-shirts and try out our nifty typewriters.


“Who sets these rules anyway?” On the Merits of Innovation

Here’s an interesting piece about Chet Baker (a favorite of mine), who, according to his critics, may have been talented, but wasn’t really an innovator. Chet was a pretty boy, playing smooth, listenable, not-particularly intellectual West Coast Jazz while his East Coast counterparts where actually honest-to-god changing music forever.

Frankly, the word “innovative,” when applied to fiction, makes me flinch. It’s my wariness of writers who break the rules before they know how to follow them (or indeed what the rules are). Appearing experimental can be a short-cut to being taken seriously. It’s the emperor’s-new-clothes problem. True innovation make look like crazy crap when it first arrives on the scene, but so does crazy crap. It can be difficult to distinguish brilliance from b.s.

I often gravitate toward more formal pieces of writing– traditional story structures– when I look for new clients or pieces for Armchair/Shotgun (and let it be said there seems to be less room, market-wise, for experimental stuff in children’s literature, though this is changing, I think). It’s so very difficult to tell a compelling story that makes your reader *feel* something– to be able to do that and *also* change the medium? Forget about it.

But amazing, totally new, experimental and innovative stuff *is* out there, recognized or not, and for our medium to thrive and grow, we need it. When I first read Dolan Morgan‘s short piece Infestation (A/S No.1), I was turned off by its odd structure– but the fault was mine for being a poor reader. Morgan truly was innovating. Upon rereading, and deeper reading, I saw he’d found a new way to talk about loss, and the result was strange and beautiful.

So whaddya think, gang? How important is it to innovate, as an artist? Do you try to innovate with your own work, push the boundaries of the medium, or no? Must all artists be innovators, or at least try to be? And what is our responsibility as readers? How far do we allow an author to draw us into uncharted waters?

Kiss Me, I’m A Geek

Geek Love

They say the only true love is Geek Love.

Well, they don’t, but they might after this party.

So you know how I co-manage that totally rad magazine, Armchair/Shotgun? Well A/S is jazzed to co-chair this scintillating Lit Crawl event. You should join us, as well as the discriminating bon vivants on the list below, at PowerHouse Arena on April 1st.

The $15 admission includes one drink and a $5 credit at the powerHouse Arena. Proceeds benefit Lit Crawl NYC. Featuring a lineup of bookish guests, including Emma Straub (Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures) and Teddy Wayne (The Love Song of Jonny Valentine), and an Event Committee of editors, publishers, and publicists from the lit world.

Purchase tickets here.

Or, if you’re into the whole social media thing, see the Facebook event.

Geek Love Event Committee:

Co-Hosted by Emma Straub & Teddy Wayne*

Paul W. Morris, PEN American Center
Suzanne Russo, Lit Crawl NYC

Justin Alvarez, The Paris Review
Elissa Bassist, The Rumpus
Amanda Bullock, Housing Works Bookstore
John M. Cusick, Armchair/Shotgun
A. N. Devers, Writers’ Houses
Fernanda Diaz, OR Books
Mark Doten, Soho Press
Rachel Fershleiser, Tumblr
Katie Freeman, Riverhead Books
David Goodwillie, American Subversive
Brigid Hughes, A Public Space
Maris Kreizman, Slaughterhouse 90210
Michele Legro, Lapham’s Quarterly
Andrew Lloyd-Jones, Liars’ League
Halimah Marcus, Electric Literature
Lincoln Michel, Gigantic
Richard Nash, Small Demons
Steph Opitz, Council of Literary Magazines & Presses
Stephen Pierson, Canteen Magazine
Sarah Reidy, The Other Press
Tom Roberge, New Directions
Rachel Rosenfelt, The New Inquiry
Benjamin Samuel, Electric Literature
Evan Simko-Benarski, Armchair/Shotgun
Rob Spillman, Tin House
Hannah Tinti, One Story
Karolina Waclawiak, The Believer
Joel Whitney, Guernica
Greg Young, The Bowery Boys

You may enjoy Master Wayne’s author drink review with A/S, here.


Recommended Reading: “The Kill Sign”

“I pass churches starting to fill up with black-suited people and I wonder what good that is. The mysteries of Jesus, the everlasting life, all that, what are we supposed to do with it when we can’t even figure shit in this life out? The dying won’t stop right here and now. I don’t know what heaven will do for a dog, anyway. I drive on past the steeples.”



Read this gut-socking story by Marvin Shackleford, originally appearing in Armchair/Shotgun,  featured in this month’s Recommended Reading, presented by Electric Literature. Marvin is a literary dervish, whipping up all sorts of verbal froth out on his Texas Panhandle farm. I was so thrilled to include his story “The Kill Sign” in Armchair, and double-thrilled it’s now featured in E-Lit’s awesome online program.

I highly recommend you make your day a little more spectacular, and read it.

Armchair/Shotgun’s Live Radio Drama; 61 Local, MAY 19TH!

flash gordon

This Saturday, May 19th, in conjunction with Lit Crawl NYC,  Armchair/Shotgun (including yours truly), along with authors Dolan Morgan, Zachary White, and Alanna Bailey, will perform a radio drama… Live! On Stage! With Sound Effects and Everything! at 7PM sharp at 61 Local. (Or whenever you have acquired your beer…) And we’ve chosen the ever iconic… drum roll please…Flash Gordon! There will be EVIL scientists! And TERRIBLE monkey-men! And, of course, BEAUTIFUL maidens! (You’ll have to forgive the excessive use of exclamation points. But, we think you’ll agree, Flash Gordon deserves a lot of exclamation points.)


61 Local
61 Bergen St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
7PM for 45 minutes


Zachary White‘s ‘The Story About My Coat’ appeared in Issue 2 of Armchair/Shotgun. He lives in Brooklyn.

Dolan Morgan‘s work appears in Armchair/ShotgunContraryFieldThe BelieverThe Lifted Brow and others. In exchange for his book, Google Place Reviews, he throws people’s money away in the street.  For more information visit him at

Alanna Bailey is a Native Los Angelino transplanted in New York City where she is a Marketing Consultant by day, and a WordSmith by …well, most the rest of the time… She graduated from Eugene Lang in 2008 with a Bachelors in Cultural Studies & Media and Creative Writing. She firmly believes that every single person’s individual story is their strength; and is worth being told–and heard.

John M. Cusick is a co-founder and managing editor of Armchair/Shotgun. He is the author of Girl Parts (Candlewick Press, 2010), and the forthcoming Cherry Money Baby. He is also a literary agent with Scott Treimel NY. He is currently writing a musical about the MTA.

Vicki Lame is Armchair/Shotgun’s resident publicist. She is also an editor for St. Martin’s Press in New York’s historic Flatiron building and has previously been published on Thought Catalog. She lives in Brooklyn.

Laura McMillan is a managing editor of Armchair/Shotgun. Her most prominent stage role was as Hamlet in her high school’s production of Tom Stoppard’s ’15-Minute Hamlet’. The actual production lasted approximately 20 minutes due to excessive giggling and an extended swordfight. She resides in New Haven.


The after party will also take place at 61 Local.

Pictures From Last Night’s Armchair/Shotgun Panel at Greenlight

Last night I moderated this event at Greenlight Books in Brooklyn. I’ve always wanted to be a moderator!

Our fabulous panelists were Paul Morris, formerly of BOMB, now Director of Membership, Marketing, and Literary Awards at PEN American Center; The Atavist founding editor Evan Ratliff; fellow lit-agent Erin Harris of Irene Skolnick; Halimah Marcus, Managing Editor at Electric Literature; and Tess Knoebel, Founding Editor of Abe’s Penny.

Thanks to Armchair/Shotgun managing editor Laura MacMillan for snapping photos.

We packed the house!

I was terrified I'd drop my iPad. So I put rubber cement on my fingertips.

Evan Ratliff of The Atavist and lit agent Erin Harris.


For a play-by-play of the night’s festivities, check out this great coverage from Electric Literature.

My Lit Mag in NY Times Magazine

As you may recall, when I’m not writing novels or battling forty-story robots from the future, I also co-manage a literary magazine. I’m so proud and honored that Armchair/Shotgun is listed with nine other “Literary Heirs” today in New York Times Magazine.

“What distinguishes these 10 is that they’re not only intello-chic statements for your side table. They’re also really good reads.”

Read the whole piece here.

And FYI: I’ll be moderating Armchair/Shotgun’s panel discussion at Greenlight Books on March 5th, featuring Abe’s Penny and Electric Literature, along with several other super guests. Come join us!

A Very Armchair/Shotgun Christmas

Hope ya don’t mind if I talk about a magazine near and dear to my heart.

As you may know, when I’m not writing or agenting, I co-edit the Brooklyn-based literary magazine Armchair/Shotgun. Like most folks in the indie-lit-magazine world, I’m mostly in it for the money:  the amphibious limos trolling rivers of champagne, the Mil V-12 helicopters dropping parcels of cash wrapped in gold leaf into my dollar-sign-shaped rooftop pool

But seriously folks, few things in life give me greater pleasure and sense of meaning than publishing the superlative contributors of Armchair/Shotgun. A/S is a great little-big mag, and we are fortunate to work with some of the most talented poets, artists, and authors I’ve ever met (and I don’t say that lightly). These are artists I believe in. I believe in their talent and their drive, the sincerity of their work, and their consummate execution. Which is why I may ask you, dear reader, to consider purchasing a subscription or copy of Armchair/Shotgun this Holiday Season.

Printed on paper and available in bookstores, Armchair/Shotgun is a shareable, lendable, book-markable, spam-free reading experience. Its whisper-net connection is so quiet it’s not even connected to anything. The battery never runs out. The text is readable under any light source. You can access a new story or poem instantly, just by turning the page. And who doesn’t feel a little sexier with an indie BK lit  mag on their coffee table?

Eh? Eh? You know what I’m talking about.

So this Holiday Season, please consider the gift of an Armchair/Shotgun Issue or Subscription. Every dime (I mean it) contributes to the next issue’s printing costs and promotion. I wouldn’t steer ya wrong. This is worth the $10. But in case you don’t believe me, here’s what other folks think:

“Many of the pieces illustrate grassroots story-telling at its very best – with three contributors making their début bow – and there is a freshness and a spice to this collection that brings to mind the originality of the Beat generation.”
-Rory O’Sullivan, Sabotage Reviews
“…a bold statement in this twilight time of print… packaged with an artful and comforting sense of the importance of quality.”
-Tony Abbot, The Lit Pub
“[The Issue 2 release was] one of to most genuine readings I’ve attended since moving to Brooklyn. I’m now a fan.”

-David Backer, Luna Park Review

What I Learned from Fat Vampire

Coming back to a project after a three-month hiatus has been a real head trip. With that much time away from CHERRY MONEY BABY, I feel like I’m reading with fresh eyes.

Having just finished Fat Vampire, I’m marvelling at how author Adam Rex keeps a dozen plot-lines vibrating at once, without ever getting tangled. A flaw I noticed in this draft of CHERRY is what I call front loading: essentially, starting every major and minor plot line, and introducing every character, in the first ten pages. The result is like  a band where everyone’s playing at top volume. After all, in a novel some story elements are Lead Guitar while others are Backup Vocals or, say, Cowbell. A novel needs to be mixed down so everyone can be heard in consort. I needed a good sound guy.

So I’m editing like crazy, while simultaneous working on something Super Secret as regards Girl Parts. More on that one soon.

Oh and hey. If like me you’re a big fan of Ron Charles’ Totally Hip Video Book Reviews, you should check out Armchair/Shotgun’s exclusive interview today. It, too, is Totally Hip:

A/S: According to your Wikipedia page, you’ve been with the Washington Post since 2005. Can you describe what developments in the literary world / your daily horoscope inspired you to augment your written criticism with the Totally Hip Video Reviews?

Ron Charles: As any viewer of the Totally Hip Video Book Review can tell, I developed this web series for the kickbacks, the cranberry juice, and the women.

Read the whole thing here.