The personal journal of author and photographer Jason Pettus

#1000WordsOfSummer: An Introduction.

In which I participate in Jami Attenberg's annual summer challenge to write a thousand words every day, and take a peek at what subjects are coming ahead

#1000wordsofsummer #summer #writing #challenge #JamiAttenberg #minecraft #challenge #qumbya #communitycoop #intentionalcommunity #rarebooks #summerreadingchallenge #tweens #nostalgia #middleclasssucks #consumerism #freelancing #developmental #editor #copyediting #proofreading #selfpublishing #authors #writers #forhire #indielit


I recently went on one of my regular “gee, I should write more regularly at my blog again” kicks, especially since this year is turning out to be such a memorable one; so when the call went out recently at Twitter for writers to participate in this year's #1000WordsOfSummer challenge, I thought it'd be a perfect excuse to get back into my daily writing habit again. Started by author Jami Attenberg, the formal challenge is actually only for 14 days, which as an international group everyone is starting today (May 29th); but I may or may not try to keep up with the thousand words a day all summer long, or at least every weekday. This is how I originally gained fame as a creative writer myself, after all, was a thousand-word-a-day warts-and-all blog in the 1990s that recorded my sexual and drug adventures in nauseating detail, so I know I have the discipline to keep up that word count for a while if I wanted.

I'm doing a slow start to the challenge here on day 1, by merely looking at what subjects I'll be covering in the first week or two, and delving just a little bit into what prompted this post and what I'll be talking about. As always, the best way to get notifications about these blog posts as they go up this summer is to follow my Twitter account, although these entries also get reposted over on my profile page at Goodreads too. I still also accept signups for my weekly personal roundup newsletter, although in general I've been too lazy to put together updates for it, but maybe I'll get into better practice with this too once I get into better practice with the writing as well. You can always drop me a line at with story ideas and comments.

Minecraft Challenge: Planet 249. Middle-aged long-time players of Minecraft like myself can eventually get bored by the structure-free nature of the game, so a fan tradition has started of conceptual “challenges,” in which you voluntarily constrain yourself to certain arbitrary rules, to make the game more challenging or to follow a specific roleplaying scenario. I've written one, for example, in which Earth is dying but has figured out a way to transport a single person out to uninhabited planets far away, but can only do so “Terminator” style so that you arrive naked, with no possessions, and with no way back. You're one of the brave volunteers who has chosen to be teleported this way, to a planet designated “249,” where you will spend your life building a small city and amassing all its supplies in preparation for the generation spaceship that won't be arriving for another hundred years. I recently played a round of this again, and took copious screenshots so I could document its rules and levels.

I'm moving into a community co-op. No, seriously, I am. It's called Qumbya and it's in Hyde Park, and I'm doing a slow move-in over the course of June. Also known as an “intentional community,” the idea is that each of the 15 people who live there have their own bedroom, but otherwise share the rest of the common spaces. We all then also pay a monthly grocery fee, which is pooled so that massive amounts of food can be bought in bulk for everyone; and we all agree to take turns cooking a big nightly dinner for all 15 people, so that basically all your meals are free and dinner is prepared for you 14 nights out of every 15. In this blog post I'll be looking more into the history and precepts of the organization, and why this idea has become so appealing to me at this particular moment in my life, at 51 years old and with my former small business now having been shut down for three years.

Collecting and selling rare books continues to be fascinating. Of course, this is going to be a major issue as well at Qumbya, where I'm downsizing from a whole apartment to a single bedroom, and will have trouble storing the roughly 300 rare books currently in my collection. That prompted me earlier this year to go through and cut the price of all of them by at least half at eBay; and that turned out to be the pricing sweet spot, which has dramatically increased the amount of books I sell from one a week to one a day. This is perfect not just from a space sense but a money sense too; plus it aligns with the fact that, as I approach my tenth anniversary of being a book collector, the simple fact is that my collection is filled with acquisitions from early in my career that are only so-so, and that I'd much rather sell those off cheaply and concentrate now on a smaller collection of much more valuable books, especially now that I'm attending estate sales every week in Chicago and amassing some truly amazing finds. This blog post will look at all this, plus will delve into more detail about the three-tier system of pricing that I've found works best when it comes to rare books.

Regarding adult summer reading challenges and the overpowering nostalgia of the tween years. I'm participating in an adult summer reading challenge for the second year in a row this year, and every detail about it (from choosing the titles to acquiring them, the excitement of checking another one off the list, groggily reading a book while laying in the park sun-drunk on a 90 degree day, the cool quiet of then slipping into the public library to turn the book back in) has had me crushing hard on my ultra-nostalgic memories of summer reading challenges as a “tween” (basically eight to twelve years old). Why is nostalgia so particularly intense during these years, anyway? And why as an adult did I do so particularly well with my friend Carrie's sons when they were eight to twelve, as I do with any kids I randomly meet through the different circumstances of my life? This blog post will examine all of those subjects, and take a look at this year's reading list, themed this year as all “easy reads,” not to be confused with “dumb reads.”

Suck a dick, middle-class! and other lessons from the pandemic. I almost hate admitting this in public, but my life has actually been thriving since the coronavirus pandemic kicked into high gear in mid-March: I'm making more money as a freelancer than I ever have before; have lost 20 pounds because of cooking every day and eating healthy; have taught myself how to make tiki drinks; have become an expert at breadmaking; and am feeling emotionally fine and physically fit. And that's largely because the middle-class has been so thoroughly rejecting me from their cushy, comfortable ranks for the last couple of decades, it's forced me to live a life that's turned out to be remarkably resilient and similar to life under quarantine, which has made me laugh with evil glee as all these middle-classers' lives have fallen apart precisely because of the shutdown of all the creature comforts they so preciously withheld from me. Welcome to my world now, chumps! LET'S SEE HOW YOU LIKE IT, MOTHERFUCKERS!!! This blog post will examine the issues in more detail, including a new assessment of my computer coding bootcamp experience now five years later, and other issues that have come up during these three months so far of the pandemic with no end in sight.

The “secret” scheme to make myself an indie-lit mover and shaker again. “Secret” in quotes, of course, because it's not actually a secret at all that I've recently started doing freelance work as a “developmental editor” for self-publishing authors, basically the exact same role I performed when owning my own small press in the '00s and '10s, only this time actually making decent money instead of losing money hand over fist. I'm supplementing this, then, with a growing amount of volunteer proofreading for my buddies who still own indie presses (a whole bunch of us crashed and burned at the end of the 2010s), in order to keep my lit-industry cred up; and I'm thinking of starting up another digital magazine again, one distributed for free just as a labor of love, so that I can start getting a large amount of cold submissions in my life again and create an industry-insider list of the best authors out there currently unpublished, which would hopefully catch on among existing editors much like how Franklin Leonard's “Black List” has done in the last decade among Hollywood executives for unproduced screenplays. Will it all add up to a career by the end? I'll examine the details of this question in this blog post.

All of these will get me through the first week, or perhaps first two weeks if these actually end up needing 2,000 words to explore in depth, which I suspect many of them will. And hopefully by then I'll firmly be into the daily habit again, and will have a nice busy popular blog full of information about my new life in the co-op this coming summer, fall and winter! As always, I appreciate you coming by, and do please sign up to the newsletter below if you want to get a roundup every Friday of these blog entries, plus photos, book and movie reviews, the latest interesting links at Twitter, and more. See you again on Monday!