Death and Robots: Words of a Blog Fiction Writer
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
Okay, so Alison, in December, readers of the blog Girls are Pretty had to deal with something that they had apparently never seen before. The man behind this blog, his name is Bob Powers, he's here with us now.
ALISON STEWART, host:
Mr. BOB POWERS (Blogger, Girls are Pretty): Hi, Alison.
MARTIN: Bob, he'd been putting up a new short story on his blog Girls are Pretty every weekday, every Monday through Friday since 2002. That's a new piece of friction that he was creating five days a week for six years or so. In December, he took a little hiatus, then he returned to it, and he's doing it again - every weekday, writing and posting a new short story. Poignant and funny, sometimes sardonic - the short narratives, they pack a punch and they continue to surprise his readers. And we're glad you're here Bob, thanks.
Mr. POWERS: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: So the stories on your blog, Girls are Pretty, they all fall in a certain format. And it says somewhere on the site, come to this Web site every single day and you will know what to do.
Mr. POWERS: Correct.
MARTIN: What does that mean?
Mr. POWERS: It's - the way it's set up is every day is a new holiday. Like, you know, climb on to the top of the bus day or something like that. And then the story that I write to follow tells you exactly how that holiday is to be celebrated in a, you know, rather specific manner.
MARTIN: The best way to illustrate this is just to have you read some of these for us, if you don't mind.
Mr. POWERS: Sure. Love to.
MARTIN: This first one I think you're going to read is Fill Your Pockets with Glitter and Confetti and Then Step in Front of a Speeding Bus Day.
Mr. POWERS: Okay.
MARTIN: Go for it.
Mr. POWERS: (Reading) Your coat and pants pockets should be overflowing with glitter, and you should also have big handfuls bunched up in your fists and wads of confetti stuffed in your shoes and socks. This way, when the bus smacks into you, the glitter will burst in a fat, twinkling cloud, enveloping the entire bus in the shiny rainbow-colored beauty. The bus will roll right over you and then come to a stop. The door will open and the driver and some passengers will file out to the street. They won't be looking at you. They'll be looking up at the sky, at the granules of rainbow and all that confetti showering down upon the street as if someone just won a war. They'll watch it all fall down, turning the street where you died into something magical.
It's looks like a fairy tale, the bus driver will say.
The driver and the handful of passengers following him will approach you to find out whose death it was that brought such enchantment upon the world. They'll look at you in your ripped and bloodied Gap jacket and your Levis jeans and Nike sneakers, one foot wrenched backwards, and they'll be silent. The angel looks just like them. The angel is out of shape, even. The angel that God just summoned back to heaven still has a Philadelphia Phillies hat on his head. Glitter will continue to hover in the air and all of the passengers still on the bus will have their gaping mouths pasted against the windows, watching you as if a yellow light is going to shine down and carry you up to God. One of the passengers will push her way out the exit of the bus and fall to her knees on the street. She'll pray in Spanish.
Happy Fill Your Pockets With Glitter and Confetti and Then Step in Front of a Speeding Bus Day.
MARTIN: So this is kind of a new fangled - you know, when I was growing up, my mom always had those calendars. Those, you know, quotations of the day.
Mr. POWERS: Page-a-day calendars. Yup.
MARTIN: Yeah, yeah - page-a-day kind of thing. So is that what this is intended to do?
Mr. POWERS: Yeah. It's what I originally, way back before - I had the idea before I knew about blogging, and I used to think it would be a neat idea for -if I could somehow figure out how to glue a whole bunch of pages, you know, make a page-a-day calendar. But, obviously, I had no idea how to do that or even how to sell an idea like that. And then once I found out about blogging, you know, I just started the thing and I some - I couldn't stop. It's, you know, the first time I ever had, you know, endurance in this kind of thing, and it worked out.
MARTIN: And you do this Monday through Friday. And this is self-imposed?
Mr. POWERS: Yeah, yeah. Originally, it was every day for about the first three years, I never skipped a day. And then, finally, I came to my senses and slowed down a little and started to - you know, actually I needed to work on other projects and, you know, take my focus a little bit away from this.
MARTIN: Why did you take a hiatus recently?
Mr. POWERS: Again, I was working on my next book. That's coming out in May. But it's - I just needed to - sometimes I can feel like it's draining all the, you know, all the writing that I'm going to do. Like if I put it on to the blog, I might be wasting something that could be going to a project that I'm working on. In other instances, though, I ended up going back to like this. I also sometimes this turns on kind of the faucet for my writing and, you know, gets it flowing.
MARTIN: We're going to keep you over the break. But really quick, can you read a really short one for us…
Mr. POWERS: Sure, sure.
MARTIN: …to take us over the break?
Mr. POWERS: This was a recent one. Tuesday, December 11th. It's called You're in a Raft Day.
(Reading) Today, you're going to wake up in a raft, speeding along some rapids towards a giant waterfall and you won't remember how you got there. You drink too much. Happy You're in a Raft Day.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: We're talking with Bob Powers. The man behind the blog called Girls are Pretty. He writes a short story every day, puts it up on his blog. He's here in studio, talking to us about what it takes to do that challenges, the joys.
Stay with us. You're listening to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
STEWART: Welcome back to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. We are on digital, AM, FM, satellite and online at npr.org/bryantpark, along with Rachel Martin. I'm Alison Stewart.
And coming up, I don't know it you're into the politics over the weekend, but it got a little U-G-L-Y between senators Clinton and Obama. We'll explain. And Mike Huckabee, he brought the funny to "Saturday Night Live."
MARTIN: He did.
STEWART: He did, indeed.
(Soundbite of laughter)
STEWART: We'll get to that very shortly, but we're going to continue out conversation.
MARTIN: We are. We're talking with Bob Powers. He's the man behind the blog Girls are Pretty. He writes a short story every darn day and puts it up there. And we were just talking about the fact that you took a break. You've been doing this for like six years, and you took a hiatus to focus on some other work.
Mr. POWERS: Right.
MARTIN: But was there a part of you that missed that daily practice?
Mr. POWERS: Well, I didn't even really intend to start it up again when I did. What happened was I ended up - I was sending an e-mail to some friends and I sent it out and then I reread it, and I realized I just been writing the blog to them. Like I hade written - you know, I was just commenting on a movie or something. And it was a blog entry. And, you know, I was doing it without thinking about it. You know I think I, you know, it's a habit now.
MARTIN: It's become a part of you after that many years.
Mr. POWERS: Yeah. And so I just threw it up on the blog and went back to it and, you know. Yeah, it's hard to give it up, definitely.
MARTIN: I want you to read another one. This one is my favorite of your work.
Mr. POWERS: Oh, great.
MARTIN: I haven't read everything you've written, but I really like this one. It's called That Pile of Clothes Looks like a Person when the Lights are Out Day.
Mr. POWERS: Great. Okay.
(Reading) When you turn the lights out, that pile of clothes on your chair looks like a person. Tonight, you're going to start talking to it.
I'm going to call you Jesse, you'll say, because I've always wanted a friend named Jesse. Jesse, I once saw a little boy drowning in a cold river and I did nothing. I just kept walking because I didn't want to risk my own life to save him. The next day, I learned that the boy was in a car with his parents and they'd driven off the road and into the river. The parents managed to swim to shore, but the boy got caught in the current and was dragged away from them. His parents felt like they killed their own son with their reckless driving. I know because I used to sneak up to their house at dinnertime and listen to them through the open window while they fought and cried over their meal. I did that every night for a couple of months, Jesse. Then I decided that what's done is done, and there's no more point in worrying over what I didn't do. I still think about that kid a couple of times a day, and I don't sleep, but I say that he wasn't my soul to save. Not my responsibility. You don't think I'm a horrible person, do you Jesse? Say nothing if you don't.
The pile of clothes then takes corporeal form and manages to wheeze out the words: coward. I have strained to become a man for just an instant in order to say that to you. Coward.
Then the pile of clothes goes back to being a pile of clothes. Tomorrow, you're doing laundry.
Happy That Pile of Clothes Looks Like a Person When the Lights are Out Day.
MARTIN: That's a sad story, but it's funny. There is this tension in your work, though. It's very sad. It's very funny. How do you come up with these ideas? Do you just wake up and you say, oh, of course. The pile of clothes shall become a person. That's what told me about the time I didn't save that kids life.
Mr. POWERS: I'm betting I was staring at a pile of clothes when I came up with that. You know, it's, you know, my office doubles as my closet. So - but yeah. It usually - the ideas come to me. I have to sit down first to actually get ready to write. Like it's not like I have ideas lined up before I go in. It's kind of - in that way, it also feels like a little bit of, it's almost a therapy in a way…
Mr. POWERS: …because I'm getting something out that I didn't know was there, you know. But yeah. I usually just sit down and something will strike me and I'll try to jump off from that road. Jump off point.
MARTIN: Do you have any ideas what February 25th, 2008 is going to be day?
Mr. POWERS: Today? Oh.
Mr. POWERS: Did I print it out? I think I did.
MARTIN: Today has already happened?
Mr. POWERS: Yeah, it's up there. It is finished. See if I got it for you.
MARTIN: Just tell us the title of what we're suppose to do today.
Mr. POWERS: It's Go and Save a Boy From Himself Day.
MARTIN: Ah. That's profound.
Mr. POWERS: It's, again, not a very happy one.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: Bob Powers, the man behind the blog, Girls are Pretty. Thank you so much for coming in.
Mr. POWERS: Thank you very much for having me.
MARTIN: For reading some of your work with us. We appreciate it.
STEWART: And Rachel, you got to do double duty for us. I know you have some more news headlines, huh?
MARTIN: I do.
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