Interview with Recent Alum Tyler Gobble on Living the Writer’s Life and Winning a Book Award

TGOB

Tyler Gobble graduated from Ball State University in May 2011. He is a multi-hat wearer for Magic Helicopter Press and host of the Everything Is Bigger reading series at Malvern Books in Austin, TX. He has plopped out four chapbooks, with two others called Other People’s Poems (Radioactive Moat) and Collected Feelings with Layne Ransom (Forklift INK) forthcoming, and his first full-length will be out from Coconut Books in the fall of 2014. He likes disc golf, tank tops, and bacon, and yes, in that order. Feel free to mosey a message over to gobble.tyler@gmail.com for whatever reasons.

1. What were your aspirations after graduating from Ball State with a Creative Writing major?

That “were” says past tense, so trying to scan my brain three years prior. HMMMMMM. Let’s start with why a CW major in the first place okay—basically, to get to know the BSU CW staff and student folks better (Guilty! I’m a people person!). After shuffling through a few maybe majors, my first steady relationship major was English Education. Thanks to that, I wound up in an intro-to-CW class with Sean Lovelace—one of those wacky, super necessary professors with a ponytail, a wild imagination, and a good heart. It was of the summer course varieties, the heat and the getting real stoked on new-to-me writers (I think I was 19) (Also, I got introduced to disc golf–THANKS SEAN—an activity I hold dear) (I’m a disc golf person!).

And then I zoomed closer, realizing how rad (and thus lucky us!) our faculty was (is!). Sean Lovelace! Peter Davis! Todd McKinney! Mark Neely! Jill Christman! Jared Yates Sexton (no longer a Cardinal, but still WOW THAT GUY)! Cathy Day! And more! These are totally fantastic teachers AND writers AND humans. So how could I not get stoked to study awesome writers with these awesome writers on a daily basis? How could I not sip smoothies with Peter Davis in the Atrium and decide, I’M GOING FOR IT, I’M A CREATIVE WRITING MAJOR?

But what did I want from it? To write a lot. To maybe do an MFA program (hopefully next year…Come on UT! PICK ME!). To develop writer pals to talk with (then and forever). To have a solid foundation as a poet (and more importantly as a human!) as I stepped into the real world. To be able to escape from the real world. To feel more comfortable (no, more uncomfortable, disjointed, wild, about—for!—writing—and living!—a lot). To be happy.

I guess I never learned my lesson about exclamation points!

2. What types of jobs did you find available with your degree?

I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a joke, but I’ve heard more than once that “an English degree prepares you for any field.” That can’t be true, obviously—I’m a terrible doctor, I’m a terrible lawyer, everyone I love is in jail!—but it allowed me to be a better interviewee (job-style, not this, I’m probably coming across as a doofus, and HEY I probably am!), a better employee (critical thinking skills! ideas galore! a little nuts!), and a better person (true, most majors will probably get you pumped up in human-being-ness, but for me, studying English/CW unleashed me in a crucial way).

Since graduating, I’ve had solid/fun jobs in tutoring, at public schools, at an independent bookstore, and as a convincing freelance laborer on sites such as Craigslist and TaskRabbit.

But more importantly than $$$, my degree (or rather the experiences and folks leading to it) pumped me up for one of the happiest lives I could’ve imagined for myself (THANKS). I’ve had positions for a chunk of magazines, presses, and blogs, such as The Collagist, Magic Helicopter Press, and Vouched Books. Professors such as Michael Meyerhofer and Todd McKinney taught me invaluable lessons in sincere/good ways to interact with editors, fellow writers, and even myself as a writer. The most valuable thing I (l)earned from my degree in Creative Writing wasn’t the slip of paper to hand to future employers; it was the inescapable realization that humans are vastly underrated, complicated, and driven to be happy (even when they mostly somehow lead themselves to the un-). It taught me how to better deal with these contraptions.

3. What resources did you use to find employment within your field?

I’m hesitant to jabber about jobs too much (both my experience and faith in job-as-number-one-priority is lacking), but I will lend some experiential blips. Okay.

As far as $-making jobs, I’ve been hovering around education/tutoring type stuff. It does, of course duh Tyler, depend on the area in which you live (Muncie, Indiana vs. Austin, Texas vs. Elwood, Indiana—that tiny crevice that raised me). But being familiar with your field(s) of interest AND your surrounding community is always necessary, I do dare say.

Let’s take this wacky recent relocation (dislocation?) to Austin, Texas: I’d never stepped foot in Texas before the day I turned the key in my apartment here (reason for move: partially for love, partially for disc golf, haha). So, I snagged freelance gigs and odd jobs, which pushed me through neighborhoods and neighborhoods, meeting funny/cool/sometimes-scary folks, teaching me a little more, real quick about this unfamiliar spot. As I learned more about AUSTIN TEXAS and its education circles and lit crowds (my interests, see!), it became much easier to search out jobs, know where to look, and which ones to care about (i.e. apply for).

If you’re looking for the list type, for me these are them places: Craigslist (yes, for real), TaskRabbit, local school district websites, local folks, Careerbuilder (surprisingly useful if you give it a solid chance).

As for happy-making opportunities, I’ve mostly been hovering around folks I like in the lit scene for my whole time as a poet or whatever, extending out from these great BSU professors. I work to be a literary citizen. And of course, BSU’s own queen of literary citizenship, Cathy Day, has been extending beyond the literary citizenship course she taught at BSU.

But what do I have to say? All my happiness has come from finding the writing I like, enjoying it, and interacting with it/others/the author about it—publishing Stoked and chapbooks through Magic Helicopter Press, interviewing folks and blabbering about books at Vouched Books, running that reading series here called Everything Is Bigger, the bookstoring. I tweet and I status. I e-mail a lot! I don’t always know why, but I know it makes me happy and sometimes it makes others happy, and I know brilliant/loving/fun people because of it all, okay.

4. Can you talk a little more about your job at the bookstore? Does it involve doing publicity?

Yup—Malvern Books here in Austin, Texas. It’s a new shop (just propped open its doors last October), focusing on books from independent presses, mostly fiction and poetry (a bunch of good stuff in translation, too!). Joe Bratcher III is the main man, owner that is, rerouted himself recently from book publishing (Host Publications) to book selling (this here Malvern).

Basically, a couple days a week, I hang out and chat up these books I love (quick recommendations: 1. Bob, or Man on Boat by Peter Markus 2. The Warmth of the Taxidermied Animal by Tytti Heikkinen and 3. Li’l Bastard by David McGimpsey) and make sure no one starts a fire and run that monthly reading series called Everything Is Bigger.

There’s already a gal that does Malvern’s “publicity” stuff—social media, blogging, emails—full-time, so I don’t play that position no, as much as I love being the point guard. But yes, of course, I do make “deliberate attempts to manage the public’s perception” of the store, as some fancy online dictionary put it. My cover photo on the Facebook is the glowing Malvern Books sign (what’s more public than the Facebook?!). I toss out flyers and business cards as I scoot around town. I yammer and yammer about the store and its books and the rad employees and my series. I’m very public about how much I love and appreciate this store and how much I believe this city needs this store, as much as the store needs the city to prop it up.

5. Can you tell me about your recent book award?

Yup. Still hard to believe sometimes, but my first full length poetry collection, More Wreck More Wreck, or maybe MORE WRECK MORE WRECK, won Coconut Books’ Joanna Cargill Prize for a First Book, alongside the incredible Alexis Pope. MWMW will plop off the tree next fall.

I just checked to be sure, but a few of the poems in the book were actually written while a senior at Ball State. A couple from a special topics course with Mark Neely. A couple from an independent study with Todd McKinney. Purty cool those poems haven’t self-combusted yet!

Anyhow, yes, the book. Coconut does two (free!) poetry book prizes a year, one for a first book, one for a non-first book. I had submitted to the Cargill Prize in 2012 as well. Same book, I guess, title and half the poems probably, but it did not win (obviously). It was a finalist, tossed back with great feedback from Coconut captain Bruce Covey. After slicing in new poems and getting further help from rad pals (a couple former Cardinals even! Chirp chirp!) I sent it again last year to that awesome contest. Then, voila!, Bruce calls and says, YOU. Sometimes, I just stare at the dirt for hours.

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