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Dennis Cass Wants You To Be More Awesome...Regan Smith Wants You To Be More Awed

Call me a bad English student (I only majored in it for the babes), but I really don’t enjoy talking about the “classics” that much outside of a classroom anymore. Partially because there aren’t any over exuberant TAs around to nod while I’m talking and make me feel important, and partially because there are just way too many newer, cooler writers to talk about instead.

 

This weekend at the Storefront Meghan, Jamie, and I had the pleasure of hanging out and throwing down (beers, down the hatch, that is) with some of the Twin Cities’ most hip-hoppin’, be-boppin’ local literati. I’d call them the “new fresh faces,” but they’re not really new to anyone who was cool enough to know them before us and they’re not really fresh because that word is creepy. Also because they’re older than I am, but we won’t get into that (some writers can be slightly age-sensitive for some weird reason. I, at least, think forty is the new ten, but I guess that’s just me).

 

If you weren’t lucky enough to hobnob with the celebrities this past weekend I’ll save you the trouble of softly weeping about your total losery-ness tonight and introduce you to some of the cool kids table right now. I contemplated including a picture of each person in this blog, but I’d have to go steal them off Facebook and that just seems to cross some sort of line that probably shouldn’t be crossed--at least not until I’ve invited them to my super sweet b-day party and we’ve bonded over confetti and our mutual love of Ring-Pops for a few hours, anyway. I think I’ll just include some pictures of animals instead.

 

All of these people are great for varying reasons, but perhaps the greatest collective thing about them is that while all are immensely talented performers and writers, none seem to take themselves too seriously. In a profession where snobbery and pretension run rampant, it’s incredibly refreshing to see people who do what they do and be what they be, and can still maintain a sense of humor about it.  

 

First up, the awesome man who wants you to be more awesome, too:

DENNIS CASS 

 

“I'm a writer, teacher, alligator, and mama-papa coming for you.”

 

The man’s Facebook “Write Something About Yourself” block (can that just be the new “About Me,” please?) has Bowie lyrics in it. If that doesn’t say it all for you right there then try checking out his superbly designed blog “Dennis Cass Wants You to Be More Awesome.” A self-described “secret blend of ideas, advice and support for writers and artists,” the blog shares tips and encourages discussion about all sorts of writerly/creative topics. Watch his video “Book Launch 2.0” to get the full picture of his genius, then get yourself to one of his readings post haste.

 

JOHN JODZIO

 “You’d forgotten this feeling; you’d forgotten how all of these things cradle your body, how they surround you, how they stop you from being pulled into the center of the goddamned earth.”

We first met Jodzio at the Opium Literary Death Match back in April. He was “the other John,” the one we were hoping our John (Gordon) would pulverize in the final round of the literary feats of strength. Unfortunately it never got to that point, with humorist extraordinaire Brian Beatty ultimately taking the “#1!!!” crown, but we were able to console ourselves knowing that we had just gotten our first glimpse of a truly gifted writer. Jodzio’s first short story collection, If You Lived Here, You’d Already Be Home launched in March with the help of cool cat publishers Replacement Press. I won’t even attempt to describe how wholly incredible the book is, since there are a wealth of rave reviews published each day that do it way better; but I can tell you to get your hands on this collection. Now. In the meantime, visit the official John Jodzio website to check out all the IYLHYABH press, events, news, etc.

 

MAGGIE RYAN SANDFORD

“It started to go bad when someone brought up leprechauns. The scary kind, like from the movie Leprechaun, and Leprechauns 2 and 3, and Leprechaun 4: Leprechaun in Space, Leprechaun: In Da Hood, and Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood.

A funny girl in a sea full of guys, Maggie Ryan Sandford is exactly what I have always been hoping some chick would finally be. Hip, tough, and entirely devoid of that obnoxious need some female humorists have to constantly point out a bunch of lame gender differences all the time. I had a pretty good feeling last weekend when I found out that we had both published articles in response to a 2007 Vanity Fair piece entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny” by that adorable young ruffian Christopher Hitchens; and my feelings were officially cemented minutes later after hearing her deliver an impeccable reading of her excellent story about a half-dog.  Sandford’s work appears regularly in The Onion, Comedy Central Insider, and on MNArtists.org. You can catch her spot-on readings for yourself at any number of literary events around town.

ETHAN RUTHERFORD

 "The sound of iron walls adjusting to the underwater pressure around you was like the sound of improbability itself: a broad, deep, awake-you-from-your-stupor kind of salvo. The first time we heard it, we thought we were dead; the second time we heard it, we realized we were.”

I still can’t get over the fact that for the four months I had Ethan Rutherford as my creative writing TA back at the U of M in 2008 I was completely and utterly oblivious to the insane sweater-vested talent walking around right in front of me. Gifted with what can only be described as the perfect writer’s voice (he’s also the lead singer in a band too. Totally rad, right?) Rutherford’s live readings bring his work to an entirely new level. Pretty amazing considering his writing has already been published in Best American Short Stories Anthology 2009, Fiction on a Stick, and Esopus, among others. Aside from being a great writer/performer, Rutherford is also by far the best writing teacher I’ve ever had--and I know that the countless other U of M and Macalester students who’ve been lucky enough to take a class with him would agree. Visit www.ethanrutherford.net for more info. 

 

Some other worthy belles of the ball that I need to Facebook stalk more:

 

JEFF KAMIN

 The mad genius behind Twin Cities’ boozy book club Books and Bars. Loud, excitable, and unbelievably quick-witted, Kamin is a personality to be reckoned with. A multi-talented writer, performer, and father to boot; I haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing his improv-acting laced hosting talents at a Books and Bars meeting, but you better believe I’ve got my googley-eye glasses polished for the August 24th discussion of Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun. See you there, $2 Surly Furious in hand. http://booksandbars.com/

MIKE FOTIS

Minneapolis based comedian Mike Fotis is an actor, writer, and teacher for the oldest satirical theater in the United States, Brave New Workshop. He performs regularly throughout the Twin Cities and has a humorous foodie blog (foodie blog? humorous? yes!) called mykitchenfailures.com.

WE BECAME ACTORS

Headed by vocalist Jesse Stensby and guitarist Christian Dahlager, the Minneapolis band was kind enough to play a stripped down acoustic show at the Paper Darts storefront last Saturday night through sheets of rain and screeching sirens. According to L’etoile Magazine, “their high energy, danceable brand of rock n’ roll is just the thing to get your weekend started!” Considering that no less than four tornadoes touched down the night they tore it up for us, I’d have to agree. www.webecameactors.com

 

For more information on any of these people or to find out about readings and events, use the newest hit search engine, “Google.”

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