Alumnus Christopher Newgent has been getting a lot of attention lately. If you attended the second night of the In Print Festival of First Books, you may have heard Artifice Magazine editor James Tadd Adcox drop his name when discussing things young writers can do to be involved in the literature world. Newgent was recently featured in an article for the Indy Star as well. What’s all the buzz about Christopher Newgent? He is the progenitor of Vouched—part reading series, part blog, and part indie lit vendor. Vouched exists “to spread and promote small press literature by peddling literary wares at art events and farmers/flea markets around Indianapolis,” according to Newgent. He states, “Every book on my table is a book that I’ve personally read and enjoyed and want other people to read and enjoy.”
That last line explains where Vouched gets its name. Newgent only peddles literature he’s passionate about, and when you’re at a Vouched table, you have the refreshing feeling of knowing you can ask the him anything about his titles and he will have an answer. He exudes excitement, and this makes him approachable and helps to create a whole Vouched experience that is especially positive.
Newgent’s innovative project provides a breath of fresh air in the bookselling world, especially for those interested in contemporary literature. Vouched has even gained so much support that it has begun to spread to other states. Laura Relyea, another BSU alumnus, is working on launching her own Vouched table in Atlanta, Georgia. There’s also talk of another table getting ready to spring up in Nashville, Tennessee. Of these new Vouched tables, Newgent says, “My plan for it is ultimately to allow each tabler to be autonomous, able to choose and stock their own vouched titles…” This means that each Vouched table operator will make their own choices as to which books they sell. By allowing this freedom of choice, Newgent is ensuring every seller will have that same, trademark Vouched passion, which has been instrumental in the project’s success.
You can find Newgent and his table at First Fridays at Big Car Gallery, occurring on the first Friday of every month. Vouched Presents, a reading series, is having its fourth event on May 15th, and will feature BSU professor Peter Davis and Michael Schaivo. There will be another Vouched Presents reading on July 18th, featuring DOGZPLOT, an online literary journal. Newgent sets up his table at other events here and there as well, which he posts about at Vouched Online.
This Friday, January 14th, Professor Cathy Day will read from her memoir Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love. The event will be held at the E.B. & Bertha C. Ball Center at 10:00 a.m. Day will discuss the different ways sports have informed her writing, her teaching, and her life (her memoir pairs the Indianapolis Colts comeback season with her experience as a 30-something professional looking for love).
Date: Friday, January 14, 2011
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Place: E.B.& Bertha C. Ball Center, 400 Minnetrista Blvd, Muncie, IN 47303
Cost: No charge, but reservations are required.
*Please call 285-8975 for more information and to make your reservation.
The second event this weekend is Vouched Presents: Matt Bell, Sean Lovelace, Aaron Burch, and Andy Devine. This reading will take place at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday, January 15th, at 7:00 p.m. Matt Bell was part of last year’s In Print Festival, representing the editorial portion of the Q&A panel. He has recently released a book of short stories titled How They Were Found, and is the creator and editor of The Collagist, an online literary magazine. Our very own Professor Sean Lovelace will be reading as well, so this is a great chance to hear his work and pick up a copy of his chapbook How Some People Like Their Eggs. The Vouched Presents reading series is put on by Ball State alumnus Christopher Newgent, who gave us a great interview on his project Vouched Books and how he balances his passion for writing with his working life, which you can read here.
Date: Saturday, January 15, 2011
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, 1043 Virginia Avenue, Suite 5, Indianapolis, IN 46203
Attending events like these can really bolster the college experience, so take advantage while you can!
Christopher Newgent graduated from Ball State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing in 2006. Newgent puts his degree to use trying to improve his city environment of Indianapolis by bringing independent literature to the public at art and music events. He generously agreed to share those experiences with us here at the English Department blog, as well as his experience balancing a working life with creative passions.
Can you share a little about what your job is and what sorts of duties it entails?
I work as a technical writer for Aprimo, Inc., a marketing software company in Indianapolis. My job is primarily writing the online Help—how to perform specific functions in the product. I’m about to start taking over localization efforts, which is business-speak for getting the product translated into other languages.
How did your English major at Ball State prepare you for such a position?
The fact that it had “writing” in the title helped, but it actually took a bit of salesmanship to convince the hiring manager that I could take a creative writing major and succeed as a technical writer. There’s a hefty difference between creative and technical writing, but the overlap exists in consideration of audience and precise language. BSU has professors who really excel at teaching these two aspects—Mark Neely, Sean Lovelace, and Andrew Scott particularly come to mind.
Can you explain a little about Vouched Books—how it came about and what your aims and ambitions are for the project?
Vouched is a project to promote independent literature in Indianapolis. It started with the idea of setting up a flea-market-style book table at literary and art events, and shilling small press books that I’d read personally and wanted to champion. It grew from there to include the Vouched Presents reading series and Vouched Online, where I and a handful of contributors link to work published in online journals that we like—curating our little corner of the literary internet, essentially.
As for ambitions, I should probably sit down sometime and really make a list of them. It’s all sort of grown organically so far, to be honest. I don’t have any dream of opening a brick & mortar bookstore, or making it a financially viable endeavor. I just want to promote some work that I really believe in by people who don’t have much of a budget to promote beyond the internet. And the way I’ve found to do that is to go where people are who appreciate art and words, but likely don’t know independent literature exists. If a legit opportunity arises to make Vouched my full-time career, you can bet I’ll own it, but right now, it’s just a hobby; an exercise in literary citizenship.
How do you balance your working life with your literary pursuits/passions?
Honestly, the only way to find a balance is the classic cliché—show up to the page every day. Make time for it. Ideas will never be the problem. A story can come to you when you’re driving to your aunt’s for Christmas. The problem will be sustaining the drive to sit down when you get home from your aunt’s and punch out a draft without having the deadlines you have in school, the drive to write for yourself instead of a grade. It’s easy to be an idealist in college, to think you’re writing for yourself then, but you’re not, and that’s okay. And you’ll find that out a year or so after graduation. Your life will get busy, you’ll have a new roof to afford, a spouse to adore, maybe kids, college loans, a car that breaks down. And unless you say, “No matter how busy life gets, I will write 750 words a day,” you’ll eventually be reduced to jotting an occasional line on a napkin until one day you wake up and remember you wanted to be a writer once. With all faith, you’ll pull those napkins out from the drawer you were keeping them, and start writing.
Are there any other projects, on the web, personal, or otherwise, that you’re involved in?
For the past almost two years, I’ve been working on founding INDYCOG, a blog that grew into a nonprofit organization that works with Indianapolis to promote cycling. But I’ve recently taken a lesser role in that as I focus more on Vouched and other endeavors.
You seem to be very active on the web, as well as knowledgeable about web-based material. What are your thoughts on the web’s effect on literature and how people are adapting to it?
I’m actually working on an essay/guest post for HTMLGiant discussing the explosion of independent music in the late 90’s due to the internet, and how I see the current independent literary community doing the same thing now, albeit a decade late. I think literature is behind the curve in adapting to the web, likely because of the taboo online publishing has had until recently. But, I think as online journals build their legitimacy, as more and more writers and publishers learn to use the internet to promote and build community, the more opportunities will present themselves to literary authors, especially emerging authors. But let’s face it—romance and celebrity memoirs will always outsell literary works, just like even though you hear all sorts of independent music on commercials and TV shows now, Nickelback still outsells Sufjan.
What are some books you’re reading right now, and what are some titles to look for that may be somewhat under the radar?
I’ve just started writing a novel, so I’ve turned my attention to those a bit, reading Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. There’s kind of a lack of novels in the small press world. I just started Matt Bell’s How They Were Found, and I recently finished Mark Neely’s Four of a Kind, both of which deserve to be read. If you’ve not read Sasha Fletcher’s When All Our Days Are Numbered yet, then you’re without. And, if you want to learn how to craft a sentence, Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler.
Top five literary blogs…GO!
In no particular order: HTMLGiant, Bark, We Who Are About to Die, PANK Blog, Big Other.
Any parting advice/wisdom you would like to offer to the students of BSU?
You are not alone.