Goodbye, Nervous Apprehension

1. Nothing makes me thirstier than walking to a bar on a rainy night. 2. Lots to see on stage within three hours or so. 3. Christina Blue Crow volunteers at the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) with Heald.

Writers, bartenders, Pavement fans, staff from Portland Literary Arts, artists, volunteers from the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), and the people who love them gathered at Backspace for the release party of Michael Heald’s new essay collection, Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension.

The place was crowded with intention, like an airport before a big holiday weekend. Heald and Lisa Wells were on the hook to read, and Vanessa Veselka was slated to sing. Members of around fifteen different bands were scheduled to spend time on the stage. The night started for me when the Backspace bartender with a mohawk handed me a Lagunitas IPA. I wandered through the crowd with a cold hand and a camera, looking for familiar or interesting faces.

1. Tatiana Ryckman, whose flash fiction recently appeared on the Tin House blog, with Ian and Julia, who appear in Heald’s essay “It Should be Mathematical.” 2. Olivia Croom, Evan P. Schneider, Bryan Coffelt, and Kevin Sampsell gathered near the far end of the bar.

According to the Wikipedia entry I just made-up, Michael Heald celebrates the partnership between writers and publishers to make literature a compelling experience, as well as a finished product for the rest of us to buy, sell, and trade. I’m not sure if this was what he envisioned for Perfect Day Publishing. Maybe someone will ask him that during an interview.

1. Kristi and Alyssa work with Scott Aronson. All of them are co-workers with Heald. This might be on the GRE one day.

Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension is taken from a Stephen Malkmus song. I haven’t had time to read the book since I just picked it up at the release party, but I’ve diligently scanned the blurbs, read the Portland Mercury review, and created a Stephen Malkmus Pandora station. I think my R.L. Burnside station was a little more energetic, but I’m kind of getting into the Malkmus after my third cup of tea. It might sound different in the summer.

1. I have no idea what these women are saying, but I agree with them. 2. Lisa Wells reading some recent poetry written in Iowa. 3. Aaron Robert Miller designed the book’s cover and came up with the limited edition letterpress Malkmus bookmark idea.

I overheard two very different conversations while deciding if I wanted another IPA. One conversation was about cars made before 1990. The other one started with a woman saying she wanted to study writing, but she also wanted to study social work. Lisa Wells took the stage ten minutes later.

Wells took a break from poetry school (Iowa Writer’s Workshop) to help celebrate Heald’s new book. Her hand-on-hip and matter-of-fact tone won silence from most of the crowded room within seconds. She read a few poems and engaged in stage banter which seemed to work out thoughts by explaining them to the audience, lending a real-time authenticity and sense of trust to the moment. Her poem, “Envy,” described two Iowa students staggering home in the snow and getting intimate in a very temporary, student-furnished rental. I felt guilty for seeing them so clearly in my imagination.

1. Heald’s final words were accompanied by this man’s guitar, which stayed on the stage to complete the next band. 2. Angela and Alex are Pavement fans who probably stayed until the final note of the last band.

Heald admitted to tearing up the last time Wells brought him on stage, but he wasn’t going to do it again. Instead, he talked about his writing journey through Nicaragua and a few hearts, until he ended up in Portland. The book’s first essay, which began, “Stephen Malkmus is standing on my front lawn,” walks us through what happens next. I’d prefer you read his words rather than mine to get the rest of the story.

Writing is an experience as well as a finished product. That’s what I’ll be thinking as I read this book and continue to write my own story.


— Judith Ossello lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Find her at

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