On March 6, I’ll be moderating a panel on writing and cultural exchange programs, specifically focused on Sozopol Fiction Seminars and Bulgaria, with Kelly Luce (Pull Me Under, FSG), Christopher Castellani (Leading Men, Viking), and Eireane Nealand at AWP in San Antonio. On March 5th on Los Angeles at a conference on eco-criticism sponsored by INCS (Interdisciplinary Nineteenth Century Studies), I’ll be presenting a paper on Amitav Ghosh’s Petrofiction and The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Our discussion at AWP will center on our experiences in Bulgaria through Sozopol Seminar created by the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation.
Ben Bush is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a 2017-2018 Fulbright Fellow to Bulgaria, and a Dornsife Fellow at the University of Southern California creative writing PhD program.
His fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review (PDF), The Literary Review (PDF), Yeti, (excerpt), The Fanzine, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and The Dogs (an exhibit catalog including writing by Dennis Cooper, Dodie Bellamy, and Kevin Killian.) His non-fiction and interviews have appeared in Salon, Bookforum, The Believer, Flavorwire, Los Angeles Review of Books, Poets & Writers, San Francisco Chronicle, Alternet, Bitch, and Conversations with William T. Vollmann (University of Mississippi Press).
He has received fellowships and scholarships from the Truman Capote Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, Wesleyan Writers Conference, Kimmel Harding Nelson, Key West Literary Seminars, Sozopol Fiction Seminars, and Poets & Writers / the New York State Council on the Arts. He was a finalist for the 2019-2020 Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellowship. He has served as managing editor for McSweeney’s podcast the Organist and the website the Fanzine, and ran the Hoyt Commission reading series in New York City. He has taught creative writing in Morocco, Bulgaria, and at the University of Iowa.
An interview I did with Louis Chude-Sokei has become a lushly produced episode of The Organist (from McSweeney’s / The Believer / KCRW). Per The Organist: “The Nigerian-Jamaican- American writer Louis Chude-Sokei on black cyborgs, black blackface, and the intersections of race, technology, and robotics.”
“A lot of the kinds of questions asked about artificial intelligence and robots: Can they think? Are they just mimics? Are they capable of original thought? Do they have souls? Can they have souls? These are the same questions that were asked about negro slaves.”
I just returned from my time in Bulgaria as a Sozopol Fiction Fellow. Along with author Angel Igov, I co-moderated a panel discussion “For the Editing: With Love and Fear” featuring the legendary Barbara Epler, head editor at New Directions; Anna Kelly, commissioning editor at HarperCollins (UK); Anne Meadows, commissioning editor at Granta and Portobello Books (UK); author Georgi Gospodinov; and Manol Peykov, editor at Janet 45, a Bulgarian literary publisher of beautifully designed books in the McSweeney’s mold.
With seminars held in a cliffside art gallery on the Black Sea and two days of readings and panel discussions inside a 24-hour bookstore in the Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, this was really one of the best run events I’ve ever attended. I was impressed by the kindness of our hosts, the talent of the Bulgarian writers, and the sense of community the program fostered. I particularly enjoyed a bilingual reading in Bulgarian and English in which fellows got to hear their work translated and read aloud by their peers. It was a genuine honor to be a part of all of this. Photos by, I think, Anthony Georgieff. To learn more visit the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation (EKF).
I wrote and illustrated a brief (and now very surely outdated) guide to doing interviews and recording them for this book designed for kids wanting to start their own zines. It includes some rad artists and comic book types, such as Souther Salazar Ron Rege, Dave Kiersh, John Porcellino, and Anders Nilsen. It was edited by the equally skilled pair Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson and published by Houghton-Mifflin. Pick up a copy here.