• Q&A With WriteByNight Consultant Brad Tyer

     

    Brad Tyer, consultant and coachBrad Tyer (Missoula, Montana) is a veteran journalist and editor. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, he’s reviewed fiction and nonfiction for the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the New York Times Book Review, and the Village Voice Literary Supplement, among many other publications. He’s served two stints as managing editor of the Texas Observer (where he oversaw literary coverage), and one as editor in chief of the weekly Missoula (Montana) Independent. He’s been awarded a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant, and a Fishtrap writing residency. His nonfiction book Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape (Beacon Press, 2013), earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was named an honor book in the Montana Book Awards.

     

    Where are you from?

    I was born in Bryan, Texas, where my dad was in grad school at Texas A&M, and grew up in Houston. I’m a seventh-generation Texan, so Texas will always be where I’m from, but I spent the better part of the 2000s in Missoula, Montana, which stole my heart and added a new pole star to my emotional geography.

     

    How did you get your start as a writer?

    Working at a bookstore, of course. Brazos Bookstore in Houston, specifically, where I finagled the opportunity to interview Oscar Hijuelos (The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love) in the stockroom before a reading in 1989. I turned that interview into a piece for a local newspaper and just kept writing.

     

    What is the hardest part of writing for you?

    Starting. Once there are words on paper, the fun work of making them sing can begin.

     

    What is your strangest writing experience?

    As a fledgling journalist in the early ’90s in Portland, Oregon, I pitched the local alt-weekly a story about getting tattooed for its “Spring Adventure” issue. The editor bit, and I stole the idea for my new tattoo from novelist Harry Crews, who famously had “How do you like your blueeyed boy Mister Death” — a line from E.E. Cummings’ poem “Buffalo Bill’s” — tattooed on his arm. As the tattoo artist was inking the line on my arm, she suddenly stopped and cursed herself, almost giving me a heart attack. She’d misspelled Cummings’ already confusing “blueeyed” as “blueyed.” The error gave me a great hook for my story and forever marked me as a writer and editor with a typo on my arm. Years later I read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (okay, I read half of it) and was surprised to find a character named Skull, whose own typo-ed tattoo read: “HOW DO YOU LIK YOUR BLUEYED BOY NOW MR DEATH?!” I like to think Wallace may have somehow stumbled across my article — published four years before Infinite Jest — and found himself amused enough to repurpose it as a cameo in his magnum opus. But who knows?

     

    What is your favorite word and why?

    “Need.” Because it can mean so many different things to so many different people in so many different circumstances.

     

    What’s the last book you read and what did you think of it?

    My Beautiful City Austin, by David Heymann, an oddly compelling hybrid of apparent memoir, ostensible short story and aesthetic critique, simultaneously lyric and concise, whimsical and authoritative, and written, interestingly enough, by a professional architect.

     

    Where do you see the world of writing and publishing heading?

    Everywhere at once. In other words, fragmenting into a thousand different directions, each one accompanied by its own new set of challenges and opportunities. There may have been better times for getting paid as a writer, but I doubt there’s ever been a better time to write.

     

    Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

    The best ideas come when you’re doing something else (unless that something else is watching Netflix). Take a walk. Ride a bike. Paddle a canoe. Keep a notebook or digital recorder handy, and use it when no one is looking. Spend as little time as possible staring at blank screens.

     

    Interested in working with Brad? Request a free consult now




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