Big Other Reaches One Million Page Views!

One Million Dots (detail) / Robert Barry. 1968

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Q and A: Writer Matthew Simmons, Seattle

Q and A With Matty ByloosIn Q and A, I try to get at something valuable from my fellow writers, by asking just a single question.

Installment #3: Matthew Simmons, Seattle, WA.


At what point can you tell that an idea is worthy of becoming a short story? Or similarly, at what point does a short story appear to be asking to become a novel? Consider this a process question, as much about the specifics of your writing practice as it is about how you let the work decide what it needs to be, and if there are lessons to be drawn from for others.


I find that I really only have one way of determining whether or not an idea is a short story or not. You have to take the idea to the page and work it out there. I don’t really take notes or create outlines. I know a beginning because it sounds like a beginning. I tend to know an ending because it feels like it’s there imbedded in the beginning. And the rest of it is all the writing and the looking at the page and the hitting of the delete key and the talking out loud and the shaking my head and the standing up and sitting right back down and the standing up and walking to the kitchen and the getting coffee and the coming back and the typing and typing and typing and hating and typing and loving and typing. Continue reading

Q and A: Writer Gabriel Blackwell, Portland

Q and A With Matty ByloosIn Q and A, I try to get at something valuable from my fellow writers, by asking just a single question.

Installment #2: Gabriel Blackwell, Portland, OR.


What kinds of things do you take into consideration when preparing for a reading / performance, especially when there has been no specific prompt? Do you factor in audience? Do you prepare multiple sets and gauge the room in real time before choosing, let’s say, slightly humorous over more serious work? Do you favor brand new writing over material that’s a bit more “tested”?


I read aloud while I’m writing, more or less constantly (I’m reading this aloud now), so my voice seems to be a part of the thing already. That’s my preparation. I already have a pretty good idea of what “sounds good,” at least to me, just from the process of writing it. Continue reading

Q and A: Writer and Musician Rob Gray, Portland

Q and A With Matty ByloosIn Q and A, I try to get at something valuable from my fellow writers, by asking just a single question.

Installment #1: Rob Gray, Portland, OR.


You are a musician as well as a writer. How much attention do you pay to the musicality of language, at the level of the sentence or otherwise, when you write? Do you read your work aloud before deciding whether or not it’s finished? Does the way something “sounds” get as much privilege as the way it looks on the page, or the way it reads in your head?


The musicality of language is important and something I try to pay close attention to. Most people probably pay attention to it, at least on a subconscious level—the way a sentence is balanced and how comfortably it sits on the tongue. Language and rhythm go hand in hand and it is pretty easy to navigate those waters relying mostly on instinct — whatever comes naturally and feels right. These days I do not get particularly excited about rhyming or repeated patterns of rhyme, though they can often be helpful and interesting tools to explore. I guess one rhymes a lot more when writing a song than a piece of fiction. It just happens more naturally in that arena, but it doesn’t have to. Sometimes the best thing to do is to set up a pattern and then turn your back on it. It can catch readers/listeners off guard, which is usually a good thing. Continue reading

Winner of Big Other’s 3rd Contest!

Robert Lopez has chosen Matty Byloos as the winner of our third contest. Matty will soon be the proud owner of Lopez’s books Part of the World and Kamby Bolongo Mean River. Contestants were asked to write up to three sentences without any hyphens, apostrophes, quotation marks, or periods (the opposite of the “constraint” used in Kamby Bolongo Mean River).

Congratulations Matty! And thanks to all the other participants.

Here’s the winning entry:

And so he thinks; this is a very important distinction to be made, between the moment itself and the very nature of the person, between language and intention: perhaps an end…

But an end between what two points?

Between the what and the who of anything, of any situation, any decision: an otherwise empty space, or an excess of emotion!