Seth Sawyers


Doing drugs on the beach in the winter

A new one, a short one, up at Full Grown People, an online creative nonfiction magazine that consistently puts out great writing.


A sports-talk show spirals quickly out of control

This one was especially satisfying. I’ve been trying McSweeney’s Internet Tendency for, and this is a little embarrassing, 10 years. I finally made them laugh. If there are any other writers out there who’ve been trying the same publication for a long time and who finally break through, I’d love to hear from you. Keep at it. Eventually you’ll hit it just right.

Maybe America

Maybe America’s like a really great treehouse you build way out in the woods away from the parents where the kids can try to be their best selves. And despite some pretty bad mistakes, they mostly try to make it so that everyone gets a turn sleeping in the treehouse. Or at least they try to try, or try to try to try. And then a bully, because he wants the treehouse, he comes along and tells them the treehouse is on fire, and that he’s the only one with a garden hose, and half the kids believe him. But the treehouse isn’t on fire, and in fact it’s doing pretty good. (I’ve had one beer, though it was a big one.)

Writing advice

Sometimes it seems like there’s as much good writing advice out there as actual good writing, but that’s OK. Here’s a good one: novelist and short story writer Jim Shepard says: “Follow your weird.”

From Ramona Ausubel’s terrific essay about her path to becoming a writer, up at LitHub:

With only the outer layer of skin from before

From Haruki Murakami’s novel Sputnik Sweetheart:

“So that’s how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us–that’s snatched right out of our hands–even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to the end of our alotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness.”

You Wish to Obtain a Parking Permit for Zone 1

Sometimes stuff gets rejected but it still pleases me. This is a funny one, or is supposed to be. So here it is. 

You have indicated that you wish to obtain a parking permit for Zone 1. First, you are required to present a valid driver’s license, in person, at our office located at 200 Washington Street. Listen carefully, as our hours have changed. Our office is now open only on Thursdays in months ending in “-arch.” On occasion, it is necessary to close our office unexpectedly. Consult our website for updates on these closings. Note that the website is available between the hours of 3 a.m. and 3:45 a.m., and is available only in Spanish. Also note that our website is currently down.

Second, we require proof of your automobile’s current registration. Remember to have
your registration certificate notarized. As of the first of this year, note that the person
notarizing your registration certificate must be certified with the State Board of Authorized Notaries. To verify that the notary notarizing your certificate is certified, complete Form 999995.6K&. This form must be notarized. Note that this form is currently unavailable.

Listen carefully to instructions in regard to payment, as these have recently changed. You must make out your check or money order to The Department of Transportation and Parking Enforcement, Regulation, and Taxation: Permitting, Administrative, and [unintelligible]. Note that this department no longer exists. Note that we no longer accept checks. Money orders must be notarized. Note that due to recent budget cuts, staff members handling money orders are currently furloughed and that all applications containing money orders cannot be processed. Money orders must be for exact amounts.

Note also that we have issued the maximum allotted number of parking permits for Zone 1 and that applications are currently closed. If you wish to be added to the waitlist, visit our website. Note that the waitlist is available only to those applicants who have completed forms 100-T, 100-TT, and 100-EZ, available at the public library branch most inconvenient to you. Note that all public libraries are currently permanently temporarily closed.

Finally, note that Zone 1 has been absorbed by Zone 2. If you wish to apply for a Zone 2 permit, hang up and listen to this recording again. Goodbye.

Talking with Geoff Wyss

I had a great time talking writing with Geoff Wyss. We met at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference back in 2013 (we were suitemates in a dorm, which was something we discovered only halfway through the thing) and I’m glad we met. Writing-wise, he’s about polar opposite of what I’m trying to do. And, to be clear: he’s already mastered what I’m trying to to–traditional “moralist” fiction with traditional story arcs and so forth–and now he’s waist-deep in something else. He’s an exciting writer, and one of the smartest, quickest guys I know. Also he’s terrible at squash. I have no idea if that’s true. I’m sure he’s great at it. He’s just the only guy I’ve ever met who plays squash.

Here’s our talk, up at the Baltimore Review:

That other religion

I don’t know why–let’s blame the act of getting older–but I’ve gotten back into baseball again. So, as one does, I’ve been watching introductions to games one of past World Series. Relics, time capsules of how actual, non-acting humans moved, looked, talked, is one of the best parts about things like Youtube. For all its straight-up time-waste properties, you can get something out of it, too.

So, early 1980s (I’m talking Orioles-Phillies in ’83 and Tigers-Padres in ’84):

  • So many more black ballplayers and so many fewer Latinos. It’s remtumblr_mb0suxMX2P1qhqxuso1_1280arkable.
  • So many mustaches. My dad had one back then and I guess so did every other dad in America. Everyone looks like they’re doing a Magnum P.I. impression.
  • The lighting in the parks is so much spottier or thinner than it is now. Look at the now-razed Tiger Stadium. It looks like a high-school field, the way it’s lit. In general, though it’s only been 30 or so years, the logistics, the surfaces of the game have been super-charged. Obviously, with money. Everything’s shinier now. I suppose this comes with the fact that every game now is on TV, of course. Back then, I remember you’d be lucky to get a game a week on TV. When every blade of grass is on display (and shot on better cameras under better lights, etc.), you’re going to make sure that blade of grass looks good.
  • The pitching is so much slower. Everyone now throws seventeen billion miles per hour.
  • The names! Chet Lemon. Sparky Anderson. Al Bumbry. Jack Morris. Like a peek into a world that feels familiar but which is just past what we can touch.
  • Finally, the atmosphere, the parks, the broadcasts, well, they’re so much more milquetoast. Baseball’s never been very cutting-edge (it’s not the NBA or the NFL) but, still, everything feels like it came from, you know, a studio in Springfield, Illinois. Though I’m sure that someone in 1984 looking back on broadcasts from 1954 would have had a similar reaction. This culture of ours, it keeps on zooming.

The Flickering Images that Stay with You

We’ve all got our own recurring images, the scenes, the smiles, the shots, the words. Turns out Susan Sarandon, especially from Bull Durham, she’s stuck with me. And not just because of the baseball (or the Whitman). But for a certain kind of woman: confident, sexy, smart, yearning. Sure, it’s 80s rom-com stuff, standard in a way, but somehow she elevated it, burrowing inside some soft part that yearns to be Crash Davis. I bet there’s a whole generation of us, maybe two.


BULL DURHAM, Susan Sarandon, 1988

One about trying to go home, in WhiskeyPaper

A short one up over at WhiskeyPaper, called “Cumberland Briefly,” about trying to go home again, about shots of Lord Calvert, Nintendo games, and about trying to not feel so strange.