Wyl Villacres is the senior editor for Chicago Literati, and managing editor for Chicago Literati Books, as well as a fiction and nonfiction writer, and live lit performer. Get to know Wyl better through the following Q&A.
How do writing and activism overlap for you, and what do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
Back when I was a political blogger, the two overlapped pretty obviously. I started blogging—for those who don’t know—right around the time that I made the news for starting a petition, leading a march on the mayor’s office, and eventually going to jail during a political protest. I stopped blogging around the time that I became disillusioned with politics as a whole, just about a year ago. And I always feel like when people ask this question, they are expecting me to give some great answer about how the power of protest sparked something in my fiction or how I try to explore political points inside my fiction. But it’s not quite like that. My activism left me with a bad taste in my mouth, a chip on my shoulder, and a defined split between who I used to be and who I am now, which I feel like works its way into my characters. I like to write about characters who are torn between worlds of hope and action and a world that shits down your throat every time you raise your voice. I like to show the humanity of getting kicked down.
What’s the significance of maintaining a community of writers both on and offline?
I fucking hate writing. I’ve made that known on numerous occasions. I hate it because it feels like this solitary struggle where you fight and fight against yourself, editors, and other writers for this one shining moment in the sun where your work gets read by a handful of people, maybe, and then you have to start the process all again. Or at least that’s what it found like when I was using my Twitter account for talking mostly about my poop and how drunk I was. Then I started following anyone who was published alongside me, anyone whose work I admired, and people I thought I could learn something from. And I started to talk to those people, either tentatively or gushing my love for them. And then people started doing the same for me. I’ve had strangers that read my essays find me and tell me how much they meant to them. I’ve talked about rejections and found others who will stand in solidarity. I’ve made people I am almost willing to call friends, all through at-replies, hashtags and favorites. This community makes writing not seem like such a Sisyphean task. It makes me not want to just jump off of a bridge anytime I can’t find a plot I like. I just start tweeting and someone is there to answer.
In person is cool too, I guess. I’m a loner, though, and I prefer to relate to people through the cold glow of my computer.
Chicago Literati is branching out into book publishing. Could you tell me a little about how that idea came about, and your role as managing editor?
So, one day I was reading Andrew Buttermore’s blog and thought to myself, “Why hasn’t anyone made this into a book yet?” So I texted Abby and said, “I would like to publish this book. I would like to put the Chicago Literati name on it. I will take care of everything. Yes?” and she said ok and here we are. I think that when people say that “the novel is dead” they’re right. But not like they think they are. The physical book isn’t dead, and the form isn’t dead, but it’s time for something new to take the spotlight for a while. I think the short story collection is where it’s at, and I think physical books are too dry. The medium doesn’t help the message. Design can do wonders, but what I wanted to do was make a book that felt like you were interacting with it, not just passively reading it. So that’s why I wanted to start this whole project.
My job is to do all of the things. I’m editing the book (we’re on our second round), I’m designing the book, I’m printing and binding the book, and I’m going to be selling the book. Hopefully I’ll get some help along the way, but my role is to just BE the press.
With your trillion other jobs, when do you find time to write?
I don’t sleep, so that helps. I usually try to pound out some words between ten and midnight. I also have carved sacred moments (Wednesday afternoons) that are reserved solely for writing in the coffee shop. Also, I have long train and bus rides to read, which is like writing but gives you words instead of takes them from you.
Are you working on anything now?
I’m finishing up my first story collection. I’m writing a few essays for a few performances. I’m kicking around the idea of editing an anthology. I don’t like to be bored.
What writers or publishers do you think are doing new and interesting things right now?
This would just turn into me talking about my friends. And I would inevitably forget someone. So I’m going to say EVERYONE IS AWESOME. YOU ARE ALL PUBLISHING WONDERFUL, KICK ASS, BEAUTIFUL WRITING THAT MAKES ME CHALLENGE MY OWN. And all of my publisher people, KEEP PUTTING OUT THEM GOOD AUTHORS.
What story, essay, article, etc. are you currently most proud of?
I have been publishing a good deal of both essays and stories recently, so I’m going to cheat and give one of each.
My favorite essay as of late is Play On in Big Truths. I got to spend a month working with Amanda and Troy and they are magic people who believed in me, my work and my story. They are seriously some of the coolest people who made me feel better about telling a story I was unsure I really wanted to put out in the world.
My favorite short story lately is The Bees in Control Lit Mag. It’s flash fiction, vaguely Kafkaesque, and fun. The magazine is also a first time venture by the editor and beautiful! I had a great time trying to stay within 700 words.
Wyl Villacres is a human being from the Midwest. He is the managing editor for Chicago Literati Books, a mediocre cook, and a terrible video game player. His fiction has been featured in Bartleby Snopes, the Friend. Follow. Text. anthology, Sway, Whiskey Paper, Eunoia Review and Control Lit Mag. His non-fiction has appeared in Time Out Chicago, Good Men Project, Hypertext, and Thought Catalog, and Big Truths. His voice has been broadcast over microphones (when they work) at 2nd Story, Reading Under the Influence, Write Club, Two Cookie Minimum, and Silver Tongue. Learn more at wylvillacres.net.