Blackout Poetry Creator Back in Cleveland for Speaking Engagement
Author Austin Kleon started working on his writing career while a librarian at the Mayfield Branch.
Billing himself as a "writer who draws," author Austin Kleon also does a fair share of public speaking as well. The former Cleveland Heights resident and Mayfield Branch librarian will be here Saturday, June 9 as part of his "Steal Across America Tour."
His latest book, Steal Like an Artist, addresses things he wishes he knew about being creative when he first started out.
"The big idea is that you are a mash-up of what you let into your life," Kleon said. "Nothing in creative work is entirely original. You steal bits and pieces of inspiration from your life, take that, add your own ingredients and turn it into something new."
Although he's on a book tour, his talk, set for 1 p.m Saturday as part of the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest at Gordon Square in Cleveland, will be on "Writing: The Secret Weapon of Any Career."
"It's kind of an out of the ordinary talk," he said. Whether you're a designer, artist or musician, you still need to be able to write well, he explained.
"Everyone has to send emails and blog," Kleon said. "Writing is one of the main ways you communicate with your colleagues, you communicate with your fans."
Kleon said people become good writers by being good readers and he read everything he could while working at the Mayfield Branch Library from 2005-2007.
"It was part-time, 20 hours, and I had unlimited access to books and half of my week to work on my writing or my drawing," he said.
That's also when he started writing blackout poems, which would eventually be the subject of his first book, Newspaper Blackout, in 2010. He took articles from the New York Times and redacted works with a permanent marker to create his poems.
"It's kind of like if the CIA did haiku," he said. "It looks like a redacted government document."
Now a resident of Austin, TX, Kleon said he moved there when his wife, Meghan, was hired at the University of Texas. However, he credited the creative community in Cleveland for helping him along as a writer.
"Dan Chaon, who teaches at Oberlin College, is a terrific novelist and lives in Cleveland Heights. He would invite me to good readings in Oberlin or at Mac's Backs," Kleon said.
Kleon said he enjoys good support from Workman Publishing Company for Steal Like An Artist, a New York Times bestseller, but he had to first build his audience through Newspaper Blackout.
That meant being an active part of the online community through things such as his blog. Kleon said that's the great part about being an artist in the Internet age – there are no gatekeepers you have to go through to find an audience.
"You have the ability as a creator to reach the audience directly," he said.
That also involves hitting the road for speaking engagements such as the one at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest.
"My day job has become talking about my work," Kleon said. "I also sell the blackout poems as fine art prints. I kind of have this weird hybrid career."